buying espresso equipment for a newbie startup

soleil

New member
May 28, 2007
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Seattle
Hi,

Based on my research so far, here are the options as I see them for a new coffee shop looking for equipment, particularly espresso machines. Please chime in if you agree/disagree.

1) you could buy espresso machines used from the usual places online (ebay, craigslist, etc) and sometimes find machines that are only 2 or 3 years old and, so, are likely to be in very good condition.
Of course, you need to keep in mind the very sage advice posted everywhere on this forum, making sure there is good availability of parts and service in your area (or learning to service it yourself).
The obvious benefit of this option is that you can save a ton of money.
I just bought a 3 year-old La Marzocco Linea 2AV at an auction for $3500 in excellent condition.

2) or you could buy a brand-spanking new machine from your roaster and[ they'll often include 1 year of free labor and parts.
I thought about buying a semi-automatic from a roaster for $6500.
But, then I thought: that would take $3000 in service calls in one year to reach the same cost. So, then, after one year, you're at the same point-- paying for service and parts.
I've also learned that signing an exclusive bean supply contract has many perks that you don't get as a do-it-yourselfer. Roasters often provide valuable services like barista training, help with store layout and business plans, and other new equipment at huge discounts.
But, I don't think that means you have to buy the equipment from them.

So, to summarize, the way to go seems to be buying a used espresso machine as new as you can, find a good service tech, and sign a supply contract with a roaster to help you get started with training and such.

What do you veterans think? Is this totally wrong?

Soleil
 

John P

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Jan 5, 2007
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Salt Lake City
An espresso machine that's only a couple of years old SHOULD be in good condition... but doesn't necessarily mean it will be. However, for your neck of the woods, I would agree. There's a healthy amount of knowledgeable techs in your area, along with companies who sell/distribute various machines and even have basic tech repair classes.
I would use caution when buying any used machine, but if you know what questions to ask, and are handy enough to at least follow directions, then you can find some real good deals.
I would be reluctant to sign a supply contract with a roaster. If you wish to use their product, they should train you. Some of the better roasters often require that you attend training before using their product, but they wouldn't require a contract. A contract says, "I'm not confident in my product." As long as the quality is maintained from your chosen roaster then it is easy to maintain a great long-term relationship.
 
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soleil

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May 28, 2007
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Seattle
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One thing I don't understand about used equipment prices is why they're so low. You can get an almost new la marzocco linea 2av off ebay for around $4000. Yet, to buy this thing new, you'd be paying at least $10000. I'm sure service and parts are a huge factor as you usually get 1 year of parts and service included with that price. If I bought my machine for $4000, I would need to pay $6000 for parts and service in the first year of owning it to come out to the same price. And I could have my machine rebuilt for much less than that. Then, after the first year of ownership, that $10000 machine is in the same situation as me-- paying for parts and service.
Actually, I would still come out ahead if I had to have my machine rebuilt because my service tech's shop would give a 1 year parts guarantee for his work.

I wonder if there are 2 distinct commercial markets for espresso machines: one being the pros who simply say "absolutely no" to buying used and buy all their espresso machines new; the other being the penny-pinching startups who aren't interested in paying top dollar and therefore drive the price down since most demand is in the $4000 neighborhood.

I'm just a penny-pinching newbie myself and am probably just imagining all of this. So, someone please correct me.

Soleil
 
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soleil

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May 28, 2007
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Seattle
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Thanks for the advice, John P!

By the way, which roasters from my neck of the woods (Seattle) would you recommend?

Soleil
 

Coffee Guy

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Oct 19, 2003
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Seattle,Washington USA
Hey soleil:

Welcome aboard. Some of your observations are good ones. I agree with J.P. in some regards about being careful when buying used equipment. Some things may sound like a good deal when paying a lower amount for a used machine, however, you must check and see what kind of usage or the machines history especially with the tech that serviced it and if it has service records. An example would be if this machine was used in a low volume vs a high volume location. Naturally if used in a high volume location chances are the machine has more wrong with it than the lower volume location. As for eBay and Craigs List buying you have to be very careful. Because most of these machines are on a buy as is terms. Some times you might get a good one some times bad. Although you got what sounds like a fairly decent deal on your La Marzocco Linea 2AV (2 group), for maybe $1,500-$2,000 more you could have gotten a brand new machine with a year warranty on parts. Not to mention that the maintenance cost on La Marzocco's are quite high compared to other machines. I know of an outfit that bought a number of those machines at a close out and resold a lot of them at one of the trade shows here in Seattle last year. I can't speak to how many were sold and if in fact all were good machines. But in any case I believe this out fit made a killing in selling a lot of them. Keep in mind, your business is an investment that you want to make a return on, and if you start trying to take the cheap way out on everything you may find yourself in more trouble than what it's worth. I would say, spend smart, invest wisely, and keep control on waste and inventory. Those are the things you can save cost on.

Now on J.P.'s point regarding contracts, I have to disagree with your view stating, "A contract says I'm not confident in my product." Explain what you mean about that? It has been my experience that some, even though they have the best intentions to open and operate a good business sometimes fall short of expectations and close down business without warning. When this happens the roaster or distributor stands the chance of loosing the equipment especially if they sold it at a deep discount. So sometimes contracts are warranted to protect both parties.
 

John P

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Jan 5, 2007
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Salt Lake City
coffee guy:

I wouldn't buy the machine through the roaster. It's not going to be given to you, and you can find good deals sourcing on your own. Unless you had worked with, or have known said roaster and their product and operation intimately, I wouldn't want to be beholden to them.

I don't see any HUGE benefit buying through the roaster. Maintenance will have to be done by you or your local tech, and even though the roaster may be a distributor, any and all benefits can be gained by talking with, training with, and working with your chosen roaster. Your roaster should act as a great source of information, but you shouldn't feel indebted nor be indebted by purchasing the machine through them.

A symbiosis will exist: From the roaster it may be a handshake and excellent product. You return the favor by highlighting the taste they have created.
 

Coffee Guy

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Oct 19, 2003
874
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Seattle,Washington USA
Hey J.P.:

Again, I agree with you for the most part. However, I think alot depends on the first timer and how much assistance they require. I'm not suggesting that one has to purchase the machine through the roaster. Additionally it is not manditory that a customer does so, it is usually a convenience for the customer. I guess it just depends on the roaster and the level of support they offer in servicing the equipment. Good roasters/distributors have qualified tech support available if they sell a machine. One should weigh and consider all of their options before purchasing anything for their businesses. That holds true for all of their vendors including roasters. Remember as a buyer you have the control of your money not the seller.
 
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