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jennfabu
Senior Member


Joined: 5 Feb 2014
Posts: 2
Location: United States
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Wed Feb 5, 2014, 1:20pm
Subject: Need a Little Help :)
 

Hello Coffee Geek Community!

I am a Community director at a church and we would like to start offering Lattes, Cappuccinos, and Mochas for our congregation. We are trying to start small and build. We have a designated space ready to go, but I am trying to figure out what equipment I need to get started. We are on a limited budget for a machine, and I am certainly open to purchasing a quality used machine. We anticipate 30-50 cups a week. We already have a coffee vendor for our normal brewed coffee that we offer for free, and they can provide us with fair trade espresso beans. I am just having difficulty figuring out what level of machine to buy. I am afraid a high end home machine will not last long enough or be efficient enough, but I hardly think we need to invest thousands as we are looking at just starting out small on Sunday mornings and Weds nights.

Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

Jenn
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Buckley
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Jan 2011
Posts: 423
Location: Internet
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Wed Feb 5, 2014, 2:27pm
Subject: Re: Need a Little Help :)
 

Dear Jennfabu,

You mention three espresso/milk drinks.  You are not specifically asking us about espresso machines, although that is one approach.  Another is the Keurig or Flavia approach with coffee pods or packets.  If you buy an espresso machine, someone would have to learn to use it and it would require periodic maintenance.  A Keurig or Flavia would also require maintenance.

New posters are often reticent to give out their location, for privacy reasons.  This is understandable, but it somewhat limits the advice that can be offered.  If you live in a large city, I would suggest finding out who repairs coffee machines for restaurants and businesses and find out if there is a used machine that would fit your budget.  Practically, I would suggest going with something like a Flavia machine that uses Alterra coffee packets, especially if you are considering buying something new.  We have two of these in our apartment building and they produce passable social coffee and espresso/milk-like drinks.  This is a coffee 'arts and science' forum, but I am assuming that you are not aiming to set up to be the best cappucino in your community but rather just to make available a cup that the general population would consider passable quality.

If you live out in the county, there are usually one or two coffee-industry-suppliers within driving distance, but I will bet that your choices are limited.  Coffee machine suppliers run the gamut from those who only wish to add you as a client and will push to sell you something new with one (overworked) person on staff as the repair "expert" on one end of the spectrum all the way to messy-looking shops with a dozen machines being repaired at any one time and shelves filled with refurbished machines for you to try out and choose.  You would have to follow your own nose on where you would place your trust.  Friendliness and sincerity always rate high with me.

A third option is to buy something at a commercial going-out-of-business auction.  This is fun and I have done this, but there is the risk that what you buy may need expensive repairs.

If you wish to share more specific information you may get more specific advice.

Buckley
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,864
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Wed Feb 5, 2014, 3:24pm
Subject: Re: Need a Little Help :)
 

Location, Location, Location,

it matters.

If you are local, I may be able to help out. I am in So Cal.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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jennfabu
Senior Member


Joined: 5 Feb 2014
Posts: 2
Location: United States
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Thu Feb 6, 2014, 8:34am
Subject: Re: Need a Little Help :)
 

Buckley,

I am in East Lansing, MI across from Michigan State University, and while my goal in life is not to make the best cup of espresso ever tasted, I would like to think I can learn enough to make it better than my community's current competition which is Starbucks and a regional chain called Biggby. Our ultimate goal with this project is to open a coffee shop/bistro in our downtown community, but we have to start with the community around us and that is our congregation. It is a good place for us to start and perfect our methods while becoming self-sustaining. We have a couple of students who have worked as baristas who can help us initially as we look at entering this arena, but I like to think I can learn a thing or two from this forum as it is comprised of people passionate about making a superior cup of coffee and the people here seem much more knowledgeable about the equipment needs to make this happen.

I have considered the Keurig machine, but we have had one in our space and I am not impressed with the durability of the product, and the K-cups are more expensive than I would like them to be for what they offer. We also have a policy of only serving Fair Trade items in our church community, and I don't know that I can find the quality I want in a K-cup. We have used Green Mountain for the other Keurigs in the church and it is, as you say, passable-ish, but I would like to do better.

My reason for contacting this forum is that the people here already know what is good. I don't have the capital to invest in something that will break in 3 months or will produce a poor quality beverage for our customers. I want it to be better than what they can get next door at Biggby for slightly less than they charge next door.

As I mentioned in my original post, I am not opposed to buying used machines; however, I need to know what machines to look at. Researching on the internet is daunting as there are so many brands and machines out there. It is impossible for me to research them all. I came across this site, and it seemed like it could be a good source for me to gain a little knowledge and get a little help making the most important decision for our venture.

Thanks!

Jenn
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CMIN
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,391
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Thu Feb 6, 2014, 9:02am
Subject: Re: Need a Little Help :)
 

Your problem will be if you want espresso, even "decent" espresso, your going to have to look at a commercial semi-auto and grinder setup, and fresh beans (vendor beans are always bad and stale, doesn't matter if organic fair trade when they pry weren't roasted right to begin with and have sat in bags for months). Superauto's just suck for espresso period.

How much would your budget allow for a machine and grinder? Or a superauto for that matter?

btw my wife went to MI State and our house is Spartanized ;) , even the dogs have Spartan jerseys to wear when a game is on lol . Was just up there a few months ago for the Buckeye and State game in Nov.
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,172
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4, Pharos,...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Thu Feb 6, 2014, 9:22am
Subject: Re: Need a Little Help :)
 

CMIN Said:

Your problem will be if you want espresso, even "decent" espresso, your going to have to look at a commercial semi-auto and grinder setup, and fresh beans (vendor beans are always bad and stale, doesn't matter if organic fair trade when they pry weren't roasted right to begin with and have sat in bags for months). Superauto's just suck for espresso period.

Posted February 6, 2014 link

Consider also that *$$, which you're trying to surpass, uses high end super-auto machines.  True you can one up them by using good beans (as opposed to their charcoal flavored one), but as Chris indicates, the results are unlikely to be all that satisfactory in meeting your goals.

CMIN Said:

How much would your budget allow for a machine and grinder? Or a superauto for that matter?

Posted February 6, 2014 link

...and, answering this is a fundamental necessity, if you want advice that's tailored to meet your needs.

Also, given your needs, you're going to want a plumbed machine.  Do you have plumbing where you intend to set up, or will you have to do a "cart-like" set up?  If you have to do it cart-like, you'll have to figure in some extra cost for a pump and accumulator.  In either case, you should include $100+ for a modular water treatment system.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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jmays
Senior Member
jmays
Joined: 25 May 2004
Posts: 26
Location: shreveport louisiana
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: la pavoni bar v2
Grinder: faema mpn
Posted Thu Feb 6, 2014, 10:04am
Subject: Re: Need a Little Help :)
 

I have seen la pavoni bar and pub machines on ebay from between 1000 to 1500 with 2 groups, I love my la pavoni bar and have had it in my home for 11 years and had no experience with commercial machines when I picked it up so don't be discouraged if you dont know much about them.

I have read people feeding there machine water from water bottles and waste water being emptied into a bucket and you can get a small pub pavoni on 110 volts so no special electrical work needed either.

I've seen just this week a commercial machine on ebay for parts or repair but can be had cheaply and with a little tlc could be put back in service,.

as far as the grinder goes can you can find a used one on ebay again for 250 bucks,

the beans can be mail ordered from places like klatch coffee roasters, thats where i get mine and the beans are fresh roasted and the crema  on the shots fill the shot glass and the taste is sooooooo much better than any beans that you can buy prepackaged, you will pay a little more per pound though, I get the 2 pound bag of the klatch house espresso beans and they last me 2 weeks and with shipping i end up paying 15 dollars a pound, starbucks beans are 12 dollars a pound and you have to drive there to get them and waste the gas for not so good beans.

You really want to Wow people with great crema filled shots then this is the way to go.

I guess that it will all come to you eventually if you just keep looking, I would stay on craigslist and ebay and wait for a deal.  the grinder i've used for years now is the faema mpn  picked it up on ebay for 250 and has been great.

jeff
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,864
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Thu Feb 6, 2014, 10:49am
Subject: Re: Need a Little Help :)
 

Mi is has a fond spot in my family, I was born in Detroit, my parents were from the surrounding communities, my father is an alum of M (Go Blue!) With all that though, as I am so far, I can not help in person. I have a 2 gp commercial machine I could have made a good deal on but due to it's size and weight, shipping would kill it.

Used commercial equipment is around. For anything that even has a hope of keeping up and has any kind of life, it is going to cost a bit of change, even used. The grinder is a HUGE part of the process and a used grinder that is minimum for your needs would start in the $500 range and go up from there in the retail market.

Check with restaurant supply dealers, second hand ones, they get used commercial gear all the time and will have the best prices but you do need to know what you are looking at and for. Sure a lot of the dealers are honest but they may misjudge what you need or not understand your needs.

At first a higher end prosumer machine will likely work for you but when you step it up for a shop, you are in a whole new situation.

Don't even think of Kcup or any of those type of machines, they are very expensive to buy for what you get, they are fragile and break easily and they do not produce a very good product. The cups or pods are expensive and are not high quality.

I shop commercial auction houses for used equipment and good deals can be had but everything is going to need work to bring it up to where it should be and if you are not able to do the work yourself then the repair costs can easily make that deal very expensive indeed.

If your "baristas" have their training at Starbucks, well they are not going to be able to help you much, as well meaning and eager as they may be, Starbucks uses SuperAuto machines and the Baristas are little more than button pushers and milk mixers there, most would just stare blankly at a quality espresso machine and grinder setup, there is a lot to know that Starbucks does not teach.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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Buckley
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Jan 2011
Posts: 423
Location: Internet
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Feb 6, 2014, 10:58am
Subject: Re: Need a Little Help :)
 

jennfabu Said:

My reason for contacting this forum is that the people here already know what is good.

Posted February 6, 2014 link

Dear Jenn,
Thank you for that vote of confidence.  May I infer that what you are after is our collective experience?  To clarify: we think we know what is good but for sure we have our opinions and, to be sure, they are only opimions.  You will be the one to decide if anything good is available here for you.

jennfabu Said:

I don't have the capital to invest in something that will break in 3 months or will produce a poor quality beverage for our customers. I want it to be better than what they can get next door at Biggby for slightly less than they charge next door...As I mentioned in my original post, I am not opposed to buying used machines; however, I need to know what machines to look at.

Posted February 6, 2014 link

Granted your situation is unique but you are exactly like anyone wishing to start a coffee (espresso) business or concession.  You want a manageable outlay, a manageable learning curve and reliable equipment.  This is understandable.  You want help focusing on the most appropriate choices for your undertaking; there are too many choices out there.

I will again give you my best advice:
Sooner or later, whatever you buy will either break or drift away from optimum performance.  When that happens, you do not want to be closed down while you crate and ship a 40-80 pound machine to one or the other coast for maintenance and you will not like the shipping costs, either.  That is why I tell you to limit your choices to what is on hand, either new or used, at your local coffee maintenance shop.  Down time will be a lot quicker if someone can help you put it in the trunk and drive it to Ann Arbor or Shelby Township to someone who you know that works on exactly the brand of machine that you are using.  You will still have plenty to choose from your local coffee machine suppliers.
Just look at this forum! Ninety-five percent of the posts here are "help me with my machine/roaster/grinder".  Why?  Because all machines require more attention than we would want to give them, if we had a choice.  Also, you just may need someone to call for reassurance when the machine does nothing more than begin making a funny noise.

I did the work of googling, yp-ing and yelping "coffee machine repairs" in East Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit.  I came up with one local shop, Espresso Machine Experts.  They seem to deal in several brands, but predominently Saeco.  I bet they have refurbished models.  When I say local, I mean Shelby Township, an hour-and-a-half drive away.  There may be better and more convenient shops for you.  I would drive down to Ann Arbor, which has enough cafes.  Stop into Zingermans and several cafes and talk to the owners.  Tell them what you are trying to do in East Lansing and ask them who maintains their machines.  They are likely to be very helpful on that score.  Another vendor that advertises in your area, Standard Coffee Service, is actually located in Atlanta, Georgia.  In my opinion, this is the type of supplier that is just interested in getting you into a contract.

Once you have narrowed down your choices to what is convenient for you locally, check out CGs reviews.  Narrow it down to one, two or three machine and grinder candidates.  Once you have done this you can really make good use of this website.  If you ask very specific questions, such as concerning the reliability of a 2 year old Gaggia semi-auto versus a 1997 Saeco model so-and-so, you are bound to be replied to by the owners of these machines on this forum.

Right now your request is so broad (again, understandably) that baristas with specific knowledge sets have no reason to look inside your post.

There are several business discussions in this forum that you may find helpful, especially the ones about expecting to have a negative cash flow for the first year.

Hope this helps.  

Buckley
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