Starting a Mobile Coffee Cart

samuelfnch

New member
Nov 6, 2018
1
0
So lately I've had the major itch to start my own side coffee cart for hire (I work fulltime as the head roaster for a micro-roaster in central KS). What my vision is that I offer only a select view espresso drinks and drip coffee at farmers markets, weddings, parties, etc.

The whole thought is pretty daunting since I don't know where to start! So here's some basic questions that I'm wrestling with:

1. a high quality single group espresso machine? I'm wanting to fund the whole operation myself, so I'll be buying it used.
2. good starter espresso grinder?
3. what are the required features? does it need a water source for a hand washing sink or rinser?
4. best way to brew drip coffee with limited space?

Any feedback would be great!
 

Musicphan

Active member
May 11, 2014
1,508
2
Kansas City
1) really depends on the budget you have and what type of image you are projecting (if that's important)
2) again - budget?
3) Not sure what your asking... most machines will be plumed or use a Flojet for mobile application For a flojet you need water and electricity.
4) What volume?
 
Agreed, budget is as important as the requirements.
It is easy to spend $20,000 on a fitted-out coffee concession trailer.
A coffee cart for a mall, where you have available electricity would be cheaper.
I do believe we could help much more if you detail the requirements and budget.

A lot of mobile coffee stands use an Astoria Gloria Lever espresso machine (or an Astoria Rapallo Lever).
The advantage is that it can run with a propane-only option.
An electric espresso machine would require a powerful generator.
You will already have enough uses for plenty of electricity without adding an espresso machine.

On the subject of water, you can get a propane water heater with the added advantage of minimal electricity requirement.
There are several outfits that sell 3 sink + hand sink self-contained equipment (concessionsinks.com for example).
All depends on your definition of "coffee cart".

Espresso grinder for a single group? The usual suspects. Mazzer mini? Rancilio Rocky? You get what you pay for.

Drip coffee? I use a BUNN CW15-APS, simply because it doesn't require plumbing, even though it's not that great.
I would definitely recommend doing pour-over because it delivers a high-quality cup with cheap, small equipment.
Problem is that pour-over is time-consuming if you are doing plenty of business.
I favor the Bonavita Wide Base Immersion Dripper.
While not actually a pour-over, it produces a very similar, more robust cup and is not so time consuming.

I hope this helps.
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,592
4
Central North Carolina
I have to disagree on that as years ago my wife/I operated a full blown mobile setup. Espresso was the main focus (of course milk based drinks were in demand) as well as fruit smoothies, chai, etc. We had LOTS of daily customers that appreciated that we weren't a brick/mortar sit down type place and we did tons of event vending as well. Of course we did have the occasional customer that wanted a can of soda or bottle of water, but it was rare. Mobile coffee vending definitely has a solid place in modern society, same as a hot dog/pretzel/bagel vendor...
 

topher

Super Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2003
3,735
13
Boca Raton
I have had loads of coffee from carts and never really a bad experience. I've also seen carts that have seating. Where is that coffee shop that you would rather associate? I did notice that they don't have any customers hanging out. I personally do not hang out in coffee shops and to be honest in the 30 years I have been in the business a majority of customers are take away.
 

kafeniaz

New member
Jun 27, 2019
9
0
شیراز
Thanks. It was interesting
I used this method to make coffee and gave people good coffee. Thanks again
 
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shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,592
4
Central North Carolina
I found it when I Google "best coffee environment surroundings" images, not a single cart picture showed up...:coffee:
I am sure things will be different if I search "coffee quickies for coffee junkies" instead.

A lot of what you find on Google searches is simply opinion based, nothing more. A mobile setup really fills the bill in certain environments, demographic locations, etc. When we ran our mobile setup at a daily spot many of our customers didn't care to sit back and relax, the just needed something to make their morning go a lot smoother and be able to get it on the go. We also setup vending for all sorts of events from marathons, to fall festivals, birthday parties, street fairs, etc. Brick/mortar and scenic places have their place, but are no better than mobile vending, just different.
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,592
4
Central North Carolina
Well, just like everything in life: there is first choice, second choice, third choice, ..., ..., no choice (have to take it)...
If you really care about something, you don't want to make it dirt cheap: the reason Italians don't want Pizza Hut in their country.

Do explain... with our mobile setup we had an awesome 2 group Nuova Simonelli machine/grinder (Italian high quality) that I controlled manually for every extraction as well as texturing the milk by hand for every single drink. Nothing done volumetric/automatically... I kept the grind dialed in on the hour throughout the day by consuming 5-8 doubles on average daily in order to ensure the espresso quality was spot on. I sourced high quality coffees from a local roaster and never used anything that was more than 2-3 weeks post roast and went to visit the roastery to pick up our order the day it was roasted/bagged. For the entire van the water was softened/carbon filtered when the tanks were filled and I sanitized the water tanks, lines, sinks, icemaker, hot water heater, etc. on a very regular basis. How would you possibly think any corners have to be cut when comparing mobile to store front? To operate we had a propane home sized generator if needed, but most locations we had electric for cheap/quiet operating...

Funny thing Italy... they did create espresso, but it took die hard American purists to make it better than the Italians could do it. Well, same with pizza I imagine!
 
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shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,592
4
Central North Carolina
For the yuppies that lack skill, intelligence or determination to make great coffee at home yeah Charbux is the answer. Howard Schultz has said many times they sell an experience, which is true as their products are seriously lacking. For those of us that actually care about every step involved from the farm to the demitasse environment means little as in I can sip espresso anywhere, while doing anything.
 

shiftbicyclecafe

New member
Dec 2, 2016
2
0
We use a 2 group1963 Faema e61 that is heated with propane, a Burco gas water boiler a small on demand water heater for hand washing and dishes, a small inverter/battery ,to power the espresso grinder and espresso machine pump (AC) along with a small marine refrigerator and RV water pump (DC). No generator necessary, can run all day with no worries.
 

voltagecoffee

New member
Dec 19, 2019
9
0
I think it's a fantastic idea. Espcially in cities such as Philadelphia that are very cold. Sometimes the only way to walk for more than 10 minutes is with a cup of coffee!
 

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