Advice about hardware / expresso machine


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Jun 15, 2006
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Im new to the coffee business. I have a partner who wants to start a coffee shop in a very un-wired part of the country, Utah.
Utah is a population where there are many LDS, and via their religious doctrine they are forbidden to drink coffee....

Sufficed to say, I have to open a coffee house to step outside the box, and maybe introduce coffee to people for the very first time in their lives.

We want to get the best coffee machine that our money can buy. Unfortunately, we are limited to $2000 for this purchase.

I have seen many machines that fit this price range, but I want to sell the BEST coffee possible (of course).

I have heard that this brand would be a good choice: La San Marco

Any advice?

Also, in the future we want to roll out with a mobile coffee kiosk, does anyone know where there are plans for building one of these units, or where I could buy one?

Thanks in advance!
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If this helps, we are above 5000 ft, and I have been told we may need a special machine for the higher altitude.

in my experience which may be a little

a very expensive coffee maker is not necessary, Who gave you this idea? was it a salesman?

My ideas on what it takes to make a good cup of cofee.

a standard good commercial maker (about $350 for coffee) espresso (I have no idea)
great beans (fresh gourmet roasted)
a good grinder (burr if able)
good water (filtered)
A passion for coffee

This is basicaly what I think is needed to make an excellent cup of coffee
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My apologies for not being more clear, I meant an expresso machine.
The person that advised me owned a coffee cart/ kiosk and had tried many models.

I just want to try to get something very high quality for $2000 for commercial usage.
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Im still looking for some advice on this. Here are the two that I am contemplating.

ECM Giotto Premium Espresso Machine ... chine.html

Gaggia Titanium

This will be for a very small coffee shop, located in an area with a small population. The town we are in has 30,000 people in it, and they are mostly LDS (Mormons) who are forbidden to drink coffee anyway.

The nearest city has a population of about 100,000 people, and they too are Mormons.

So, I don't expect this coffee shop to ever get more than 40 patrons in one day. Although, I would surely welcome it. It just doesn't seem possible for where I live.

So I don't need a very heavy duty machine. Thats why I picked those two machines.

Does anyone have any opinions on them?
I've read that high altitude does affect coffee brewing.

If you're looking for an espresso machine to be used in a commercial setting I think there's a few things to be aware of.

One would be NSF ratings. I think a machine has to be NSF approved for commercial use. It also has to be electrical safety approved as well.

I believe there's a few under $2000 machines that are possible to be used for light duty commercial. Apart from the approvals the size of the machine and it's design have to be considered. Smaller boilers recover slower so if you're planning on making a lot of espressos a small boiler machine probably won't be able to keep up. Machines that have reservoirs that need filling might also not be a good choice for a commercial setting, especially if you expect a bit of business. Running a pump dry could damage it. More expensive machines can be plumbed in and that is a better option for a commercial setting. Semi commercial machines designed mostly for home use also wouldn't stand up well to commercial use and might slowly die out over time.

Fiorenzato makes a Bricoletta that's a rotary pump plumb in for under $2000, Chris' Coffee has a modified Quickmill machine, Vetrano, that's also a rotary pump plumb in for under $2000. The Vibiemme Domobar Super is also in the same catagory and is a well reviewed machine. They're good machines but not ideal for strict commercial use. I would get advice before buying one for commercial use.

Spend maybe $600-$1000 more and you can get a Cimbali Junior, Elektra Sixties or an Astra Gourmet, all one group machines but with monster boilers, commercial ratings and commercially capable.

Another option would be to buy a used commercial machine. You do get what you pay for with espresso machines and equipment and trying to save money in the end could lose you money depending on what you expect of your machine. I guess you have a good grinder to match with a good machine.

There's mobile coffee carts for sale on line. It's a hard way to sell espresso, from what I've read. Coffee is very sensitive to it's environment and an operator has to be pretty good to pull shots out doors where there is no control over stuff like humidity, temperature, direct sunlight...In an outdoor setting a good quality, forgiving machine would be a good investment. The Elektra Sixties has gotten very good reviews as a forgiving machine.
espresso woes.

most machines can be used at higher alts with a little adjustment. but Pug is right...if you are doing this to make money forget it. 40 patrons will not even cover payroll much less rent. I would suggest getting one of the better home machines and just not telling(ie keep your mouth shut) the inspects that you know its not up to code...I doubt they would know or even care for that matter. Also, though you probably alread know this, LDS's are fairly insular when it comes to small towns that they more or less control. They are rarely open to new things and get pretty offended when you "tempt" their youth(no I'm not bashing them). However if you are going to go ahead and open I believe I noticed a cart for sale on another post or check e-bay/craig'slist. As far as the altitude issue goes call a shop in Denver and see what they say...there are lots and lots of them.

Another consideration you should keep in mind is that espresso machines break down on a fairly regular basis and if there are no techs in the area you may be having to shut down fairly frequently which is never good for business.
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The unsolicited opinions and advice are welcome and appreciated.

First, I am a former LDS and the reason behind my motivations for doing this is only partly to make money. I expect only getting 40 patrons a day, but my rent is cheap, and I will be the only employee.
Im not a tycoon who is starting up businesses and letting other people run them. I am doing this for my own personal enjoyment.

If I get 40 patrons a day, it will cover my rent, supplies, and help me pay off my equipment. When I have the equipment paid for in a year, I will move to a location that costs 3 times what we pay now for rent, and it will be near a freeway entrance/exit and near a Walmart that has a lot of traffic.

The good thing about our current location, is that there is a "head shop", a tattoo shop and a mexican resturant.

So the area that we are in is already attracting the misfits of the culture.
A coffee shop will me much less offensive to the LDS than the Tattoo Shop and the Smoke Shop..

We are basically just hoping that this venture will pay for the equipment, and then we will move on to a bigger and brighter future.

But I have to admit, I am mainly doing a coffee house to attract some diversity into this LDS culture. It's so stale here! A coffee shop will hopefully attract non-LDS to live here. Atleast thats my ambition, even if Im shooting too high.

Between the Tattoo Parlor, the Smoke Shop, and some other misfit New Age businesses in this town, it is becoming much more progressive. And it's so pretty here too! I may turn into a very good thing!

Also, in the complex that we are located in, there is soon to be a gas station open next door, bringing even more traffic our way.

We'll see, and thanks for the advice!
tats and bongs

Sounds like you have a prime location.
My shop was down stairs from a tattoo shop(which got me a free back piece that you wouldn't believe for free) and next door to a head shop. Stoners and Tattoo artists drink SO MUCH COFFEE its incredible. Get in tight with the tattooist...have them do your signage and what not(the stoners are kinda worthless but get the munchies alot). It helps to have a micro-community that people know and hang out at...and people hang out at tattoo shops for HOURS AND HOURS waiting for their friends to get done being bloodied up. One of my better ventures(though this might be pushing the LDS's a bit) was a coffee bar/hooka shop. Both coffee and shisha(Hooka tobacco) have an extreemly high profit margin and its trendy and "cool looking"
"Dude its like the catepillar in Alice in Wonderland...lets go watch it and listen to Pink Floyds the Wall for the millionth time..oh wait up I wanna get a latte and about 12 dozen brownies first"

Have fun
Cool. I think good coffee is an art and sharing it is a great thing to do.

I've always been fascinated by coffee but unfortunately the traditional North American coffee culture doesn't promote excellent coffee. It's rare to find qualtiy coffee.

I'm very glad to have discovered excellent coffee through surfing around and checking out coffee web sites and forums. There seems to be a coffee culture gathering momentum in North America with excellent roasters and excellent cafes offering excellent products to an increasingly discerning and appreciative public.

I like the dedication of David Schomer and his Cafe Vivace. Coffee, specifically espresso passions like his are spreading the awareness of what very good coffee is all about. If you get into coffee to provide something exceptional to a public used to having to settle for coffee chain dishwater I'd imagine the start might be slow but you'll get a following if you hang in. Cafe Vivace is an institution to me.

Hope your venture grows. So you don't want to spend too much money now, that's understandable. Espresso can be expensive, equipment wise but good coffee in low volumes I guess doesn't have to be. There's a good article on the Coffeegeek forum about keeping a cafe going written by a business consultant who I believe specializes in cafes. The most important factors on the top of his list which determines the success of a cafe is consistency in a qualtiy product and reinvestment to maintain quality. Trying to save money by cutting costs to the product loses business and ends up losing money. With coffee and maybe more so for espresso, what you put in is more often than not what you get out. It's definitely true for espresso in terms of barista skills and equipment.
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Im excited about this community. When I was a young adult, I started doing freelance tattoos. I didn't do too bad of a job, but it wasn't my thing. My wife is an oil painter, and a media director for a large software company, so we have our artwork taken care of. But I am getting some tattoo work done in exchange for a website!

As for cutting corners. Really my motivation for going with a less expensive expresso machine isn't entirely to cut corners. I just know that a decent one group expresso machine will be plenty for the needs of this community. Anything more would be overkill.

Im certainly not trying to cheat the quality of the coffee. In fact the machine that we are looking at comes with water filtration, and we are getting a filtration system installed seperately. We are getting the best quality that we can afford for a one group machine with the highest specs.

But getting advice has been crutial. We have had friends in the coffee business. For example Main Street Coffee House in Salt Lake City are close friends of ours, and they have given us excellent advice. But we thought that we would run some ideas by the pros at this website too.

BTW- I will definately check out coffeegeek forums, and I will read up some more. But Im pretty sure that I know which machine we are going with now.

Thanks for everything!