TommyV Senior Member Joined: 23 Feb 2014 Posts: 2 Location: Island in the sun Expertise: I like coffee
Posted Sun Feb 23, 2014, 2:30pm Subject: Equipment advice for new cafe
I was hoping to get some advice on what equipment to go for in starting up a new café. The café will be on an island in the grenadines (Caribbean), where the competition is very limited. We want to serve good coffee, but don't want to go over the top in spending on coffee equipment because we don't think it will be that big a slice of sales. We are assuming less than 100 coffees a day (and that's in peak season).
I'm an espresso lover, but have little experience outside making espressos at home on domestic machines. After a lot of 'web' research we're looking at going for a NS Appia two group automatic and an electronic mazzer jolly grinder, plus a mini for decaf. There are only two other places on the island that do espresso based coffees, both of which use low end machines (not sure what they are but I know they're 2 groups around the $3000 mark), and use either starbucks or lavazza beans imported from the US. We have found a Caribbean bean roaster we can import fresh coffee beans from, so hopefully we'll be ahead on that side of things.
The main consideration to take into account are that our baristas are likely going to be uninterested in coffee, so we want to be able to automate as much of the process as possible to ensure consistency.
Posted Sun Feb 23, 2014, 2:45pm Subject: Re: Equipment advice for new cafe
I was in Barbados last summer. We found one cafe, fortunately not too far from us, that served decent espresso drinks. The baristi we met were pretty proud of their skills and service…so it was also a pleasure to go there. So, maybe you shouldn't discount the motivation of your employees before you even give them a chance to perform? I mean, if you expect them to be lazy SOBs, maybe that's what you'll get, but if you look for energetic, enthusiastic people, maybe you'll find them? You should probably be prepared to send them off for real training too, since you don't really have the skills to train them to work in a commercial environment.
. Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
Buckley Senior Member Joined: 25 Jan 2011 Posts: 423 Location: Internet Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Mon Feb 24, 2014, 4:30am Subject: Re: Equipment advice for new cafe
I am always saying this to startup posts: all machines breakdown or need maintenance. Where are you going to take your machine to keep it running and to minimize downtime? There may be a reason why the other cafes use low end machines (same brand for each, or different?). They may have wisely scoped out the situation and went for something that would be easy to service. If your NS Appia is a product of web research only and not some local research, as well, you make be ultimately sticking yourself with a 'white elephant'. These things are notoriously expensive to crate and ship, even domestically, and the tariff is getting even worse. It might be different if you own a boat and sail often. Speaking frankly, have you merely reconnoitered your neighbor cafes or have you sat down with them and discussed the logistics of the coffee business on the Grenadines? Also, as a traveler, I talk often to the cafe owners when I frequent/sample their business and I always bring up the subject of supporting quality local roasters. I am not campaigning for a cause - just trying bring some 'souvenir' beans home with me. Almost always, I learn that the 'we support local roasters' does not bring in any business, but offering name-recognition coffees does, to a significant extent. That is what they tell me. That may be why your neighbors offer Lavazza and *$. Most resort cafes owners with whom I have had these conversations choose Lavazza precisely for this reason.
TommyV Senior Member Joined: 23 Feb 2014 Posts: 2 Location: Island in the sun Expertise: I like coffee
Posted Mon Feb 24, 2014, 5:52am Subject: Re: Equipment advice for new cafe
Thanks for the responses guys,
Don't get me wrong about the staff, I am trying, and expecting to find young, energetic and enthusiastic employees. But this is not Barbados, and a lot of the people I would want to employee leave the island. What I want to do is make sure that the process is as automated as possible just in case. I wont be able to send them off for training, it would be too expensive and complicated with visas etc, and the staff turnaround will probably be high. I have another idea for that though, which will be the subject of another post ;)
I also understand about the importance of machine maintenance. There is no chance of getting any machine serviced locally, so I'll either have to do it myself or ship it out to the US - for this reason reliability is very important. From what I have read NS machines are very reliable, and the Appia seemed to be more appropriate than the larger machines for my small operation - any advice on this welcome.
The two local places that do coffee chose their machines based on cost. Both places are notorious for serving bad coffee, all I want to do is provide decent coffee, but without investing huge amounts. I was planning on using the local roaster so I could get freshly roasted beans, and hence make better coffee - I haven't really thought about the importance of the coffee brand, thanks for pointing that out.
Posted Tue Feb 25, 2014, 8:27am Subject: Re: Equipment advice for new cafe
The NS Appia is an excellent machine. It has a reputation for being very durable. The group is very stable. The boiler is big enough and recovery time quick enough that you should be able to all but the heaviest "crush." You're looking at around four large pitchers of milk in ten minutes, before you need to give the machine a five minute rest. NS's "soft pre-infusion" approach really works. The Appia is an easy machine to operate, and is a good platform for teaching.
Speaking of which... if you can't send your employees out for training, then you'll have to learn to train yourself. And that means you need to send yourself out for some serious training. An afternoon won't be nearly enough.
Most of the world -- including Italy -- uses a lot more HXs for commercial purposes than DBs. The US is the big exception. If you were feeling bad about not being able to afford a DB, feel bad no longer.
The Appia is an excellent machine, but there are others as suitable for your purpose. Most of the big name manufacturers have competitive, commercial single groups. Elektra, Faema, and La Cimbali to name a few.
Why not a 2 group? Even a used 2 group?
Salvatore makes very nice machines, but a Salvatore would be an eccentric choice for the sole machine in a commercial establishment 2500 miles from California's Santa Ynez Valley. While you'll end up doing most repairs yourself, at least get something you can get serviced no farther away than Florida.
Given the number of places serving cafe cubano, there's got to be a very lively espresso machine repair scene in Miami. See what's available in terms of service and repair, before making your machine choice. Time is money. At the end of the day, it might be less expensive to fly a tech in and out when you have a big problem, than shipping the machine anywhere in the US -- even the Keys.
Might be worthwhile to find out if there's repair service based anywhere else in the Caribbean. Jamaica maybe?
The espresso machine is the easiest link in the chain to forge. Beans, barista skills and grinders are tougher nuts to crack.
If your dream is to make really good coffee, you'll need a better, primary grinder than the SJ to realize it. You'll probably want three grinders; the primary espresso grinder, a decaf grinder (if you're serving decaf espresso), and a brew grinder. I understand that your budget is limited. If you have to sacrifice on the machine to get better grinders, do it.
While there's nothing at all wrong with Mazzer, it's not the only choice. At least be open to other top, commercial brands like Compak, Ceado, Fiorenzato, Macap and Quamar.
No matter whom made by, an SJ class grinder (Ceado E6 and Quamar M80 are a couple of good ones) would be good choice for decaf -- but I question the economics of decaf espresso service, at least to the point that I suggest it's something you want to look into. You might be able to limit decaf to brew. It's a question of clientele. It's also a question of arithmetic. A few hundred saved on a decaf grinder is a few hundred more for your primary grinder.
If you're going to do local as well as tourist trade, and intend to sell ground beans to your customers so they can brew at home, you'll want a bulk grinder as the brew grinder. Because bulk grinders are "single dose," anyway they can be used for any number of bean types (including decaf) without extra trouble.
Here in the States, it's much less about espresso and much more about brew. Brew is also where the profit is. If you an afford it (you probably can not), consider a Bunn Trifecta brewing and grinding set up. At least look into it.
You're on Barbados. Your clientele won't be unhappy if they can't get "name," artisan US brand beans. Good coffee from anywhere would be a miracle, right? Importing foods can be tricky. I don't know what its like getting good roast coffee imported to your island. If your local roaster isn't up to snuff, it might make sense to do your own roasting.
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