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Espresso Machine recommendation for espresso catering
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revivemktg
Senior Member
revivemktg
Joined: 1 Jun 2014
Posts: 1
Location: Texas
Expertise: Professional

Posted Sun Jun 1, 2014, 6:26pm
Subject: Espresso Machine recommendation for espresso catering
 

Hey gang,

First off, thanks for all the great posts, although I haven't 'registered' to be part of the community til now, I've enjoyed reading, learning and reviewing the various posts and forums here.

My wife and I are preparing our business plan for an espresso catering company and are not sure what machine to select.

SIDE NOTE: A little about 'us'. We're coming into this with "eye's-wide-open" having ran coffeehouse/drive-thrus before.. though catering poses it's own unique set of challenges, we feel confident that we have the support, knowledge and resources to make it successful. We are somewhat experienced in coffee having owned/operated a successful coffeehouse and roastery (in the saturated PNW, of all places), a drive through/micro roastery and have consulted on a couple of other coffee shops.

Back to the machine selection.

My thoughts: we buy one or two La Marzocco GS/3's, a couple Super Jolly's and call it a day. Now the fun part: a close friend owns a fairly good sized espresso tech business - repairing and serving many of the larger accounts in our area. He said, to my hearts dismay, that the GS/3 is NOT recommended for commercial use (By LM) and would be nothing but trouble. He believes them, unlike the GS/2 and original GS it replaces, to be entirely junk. He said he replaces the brains in them, "All the time".

Our goal: have 1 or 2  single group espresso machines running at 110v via a commercial extension cord at the event we're catering. Now that I'm questioning the purchase of the GS/3's... it might look more like 2 machines running at 220v off a generator (located in the trailer).. ugh.

So, I hope there are some espresso catering veterans here that can shed some light on what might best fit our needs. Our needs being: ability to consistently produce milk based drinks (8 to 12oz) for up to 200 people, within a 4 hour period, or so. We'll have separate carts for blended drinks, so the espresso cart only needs the ability to produce properly steamed, milk based drinks.. one after the other.. all day long, if needed.

There it is. The dilemma ..  is the GS/3 something we should consider? If so, will it keep up? Wear out? Should we consider a 2 group, 220v machine instead? I'm cool with running a generator, if that's what it takes to deliver on quality and consistency.

As far as price.. under 10k for the machine, would be ideal and I'd prefer a dual boiler (I know, I know, HX fans unite and flame this post, but I've used both and prefer the added stability and ease of use in a DB :D)
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calblacksmith
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calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,775
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 Mon Jun 2, 2014, 10:51am
Subject: Re: Espresso Machine recommendation for espresso catering
 

No flame here, I really don't care.
I advise going commercial two group and I suppose that leaves the Lenia as pretty much the default choice.

Whatever you choose to do, go with a machine that has local support for you. That is much more important than the makers name on the front.

I also advise to go with a better grinder. There is nothing wrong with a SJ but most shops use them as a back up or a Decaf grinder. For a main grinder, you may want to consider a Major or better class of grinder. The Swift works well with LM and is a good match for the Lenia.

 
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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JasonBrandtLewis
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JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,391
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Mon Jun 2, 2014, 12:06pm
Subject: Re: Espresso Machine recommendation for espresso catering
 

If you want to use La Marzocco machines, I would never suggest a GS/3¹ -- get a 2-group Linea and don't look back!  On the other hand, before you go ahead and pull the trigger on one, I'd take a look at the machines from Kees van der Westen as well.  And here's why:  catering is different than running a drive-thru, and -- as with a café -- the "show" is part of the deal . . . and Kees van der Westen makes stunningly beautiful machines (IMHO).

That said, you know what your truck/van will look like, and if the customers can't see the machine, there's no point in spending anything on looks:  get the Linea.  

At a minimum, I think you are correct:  get two Super Jollys (used if you can, just buy new burrs).  That said, I'd look toward getting something better if it's in the budget . . . something like a Mazzer Robur-E will seem like overkill, and while a café might be busy enough to justify it, your catering business probably won't be (but we can hope!).  A Mazzer Major would be better (or better yet, a Major-E), and use the SJ for decaf, as Wayne suggested; other options would include things like a Compak K10 Fresh, or Ceado E92, or a machine of similar capabilities.

Why do you think you need two machines?  Is one for "back-up"?

_______________
¹ Hell, I'd prefer to have a Linea 1-group to a GS/3 for home use . . .

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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takeshi
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takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
Posts: 976
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
Grinder: Super Jolly
Roaster: Amaya Roasting
Posted Mon Jun 2, 2014, 2:19pm
Subject: Re: Espresso Machine recommendation for espresso catering
 

revivemktg Said:

My wife and I are preparing our business plan for an espresso catering company and are not sure what machine to select.



Back to the machine selection.

My thoughts: we buy one or two La Marzocco GS/3's, a couple Super Jolly's and call it a day. Now the fun part: a close friend owns a fairly good sized espresso tech business - repairing and serving many of the larger accounts in our area. He said, to my hearts dismay, that the GS/3 is NOT recommended for commercial use (By LM) and would be nothing but trouble. He believes them, unlike the GS/2 and original GS it replaces, to be entirely junk. He said he replaces the brains in them, "All the time".

Posted June 1, 2014 link

As always with these threads -- start with your service provider.  If you intend to use your friend's business then check with him.
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Angman
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Angman
Joined: 8 Apr 2012
Posts: 239
Location: Vancouver BC
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Strega, MCal, Cimbali M20L
Grinder: K10 Fresh, HG One 83mm,...
Vac Pot: Nope
Drip: Technivorm, Hario Woodneck,...
Roaster: Hottop 8828P
Posted Tue Jun 3, 2014, 2:45am
Subject: Re: Espresso Machine recommendation for espresso catering
 

The La Spaziale Vivaldi II is also a good option and more than half the price of a GS3 as well.   Small and lightweight as well which might be nice for catering.  As for the la marzocco machines I also agree on a Linea over a GS3.  Never understood why that machines so popular.  

Have you considered a 2 group lever as well? They look great and can pull amazing shots.  Most can be built to run 110/220v AND have a propane option as well.
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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,030
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Tue Jun 3, 2014, 7:04am
Subject: Re: Espresso Machine recommendation for espresso catering
 

Go old school, Lever that used gas or electric. They now have a 2 and 3 group.

http://londiniumespresso.com/~londes/lever-espresso-machines

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

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boar_d_laze
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Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,257
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Tue Jun 3, 2014, 8:45am
Subject: Re: Espresso Machine recommendation for espresso catering
 

The only machines I know of which fit your desired 110V 15A profile are La Cimbali M21 (aka Junior) 1 groups. Of the various models only the Casa has pre-infusion.  They're very nice (had one at home for four years) and an excellent machine for low volume commercial use.  And given their boiler size they're very fast steamers with very fast recovery.  But I don't know if a pair could keep up with your steam production requirements.  Three could, but that would mean another barista.    

La Spaz Vivaldis don't have nearly enough steam for what you want.    

There aren't many prosumer DBs with enough steam other than the GS/3.  (FWIW, the GS/3 was actually designed for catering.)  The others (that I know of, anyway) are the Slayer, Synesso and Van der Western Speedster.  But all three are way too expensive for your purposes and the "prestige" of best equipment doesn't translate in catering-marketing very well.    

Levers, whether made by Londinium or anyone else, are way too slow.  Fast levers are rated at 3min/drink/group.  But the reality is a lot closer to 4min or more.  That means you'd require four groups to match the production speed of a single HX or DB group.  Levers also require more barista training, which is important unless you're going to be the only barista.      

A PID controlled, double boiler machine won't give you anything much for mid-volume catering that a good HX won't either.  Your best option will probably be a multi-group, automatic HX with built-in pre-infusion.  You're almost certainly looking at 220V 30A service to run one.  

Most 2 groups can handle your steaming needs, but they're really only wide enough for one barista at a time.  A very fast barista can do around 1 milk drink/min in bursts, which doesn't seem fast enough for your projected volume.  You could go with a 3 group or with a 2 group at your principle station, and a 1 group on a different cart.  

The usual suspect manufacturers include Astoria, Elektra, Faema, La Cimbali, La Spaziale (S5 and A series) and Nuova Simonelli. I'd look very closely at the NS Aurelia II 3 group (just under $10K, retail) because SIS (NS's version of pre-infusion) is so forgiving of imperfect puck building skills; and anything which makes it easier on the staff is a good thing.  

But... perspective.  Given how competitive the espresso market is, any given machine will perform about as well as every other machine, with the same feature set at around the same price.  I think you should concentrate on ease of use, steaming, and production capacity.  

You should also concentrate on staff.  Given your expected volume, you'll need at least two well-trained baristas and a runner during the crush.      

GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER
Most of us pay too much attention to (and money for) our machines and not enough to the grinder.  
Grinders in the Mazzer SJ class aren't good enough for what you're trying to do -- except, perhaps, as a second, decaf grinder.  

If you're looking for ultimate "in the cup" quality you want a big conical.  Ceado E92, Compak E10 Fresh, or Macap M7D (the Mazzer Robur E is comparatively too expensive).  

But considering you're planning on a huge percentage of milk drinks, the best options is probably an big flat.  Given that you're going to be doing volume, the "on-demand" style is the only one which makes sense.  Those which jump to my mind are the Ceado E37s; Compak K8 Fresh; Mahlkonig K30 Vario (grinds like a big flat, despite its burr size).              

Hope this helps,
Rich
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skydragondave
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Joined: 18 Feb 2013
Posts: 167
Location: Ontario, Canada
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Commercial Only
Grinder: Commercial Only
Roaster: Has Garanti HG5
Posted Fri Jun 6, 2014, 7:40am
Subject: Re: Espresso Machine recommendation for espresso catering
 

revivemktg Said:

Our goal: have 1 or 2  single group espresso machines running at 110v via a commercial extension cord at the event we're catering. Now that I'm questioning the purchase of the GS/3's... it might look more like 2 machines running at 220v off a generator (located in the trailer).. ugh.

So, I hope there are some espresso catering veterans here that can shed some light on what might best fit our needs. Our needs being: ability to consistently produce milk based drinks (8 to 12oz) for up to 200 people, within a 4 hour period, or so. We'll have separate carts for blended drinks, so the espresso cart only needs the ability to produce properly steamed, milk based drinks.. one after the other.. all day long, if needed.

There it is. The dilemma ..  is the GS/3 something we should consider? If so, will it keep up? Wear out? Should we consider a 2 group, 220v machine instead? I'm cool with running a generator, if that's what it takes to deliver on quality and consistency.

As far as price.. under 10k for the machine, would be ideal and I'd prefer a dual boiler (I know, I know, HX fans unite and flame this post, but I've used both and prefer the added stability and ease of use in a DB :D)

Posted June 1, 2014 link

Hi,
50 cups per hour is not huge volume to be honest. I can think of a few single-group machines that would meet that demand and the GS/3 is one of them, I have a client using two of them for office catering on a cart and they have been for years. Given the cup quality of a GS/3 the earning potential of these machines more than covers repairs due to maintenance. And they are very portable. You can bring them to the 15th floor of an office building and set up right inside a boardroom, giving you more serving options.
The Simonelli Appia is also very capable for onsite catering. It is a little bit heavier, and the cup quality marginally less, but a good barista can serve perfectly good espresso on them. And no special power requirements again means you can take the machines right to the event without requiring a trailer. This gives you more flexibility in accepting catering jobs.
Commercial levers are not slow at all, I don't know where that information came from. I sell these machines for a living and have two of them in my own kitchen, I also have a client running a two-group on propane exclusively on a Vespa Ape so I know what its ultimate cupping capacity is. I have never taken nearly four minutes even to serve a latte macchiato with a lever machine. Direct lever machines such as the Cremina and Pavoni Europpicola require you to pull the lever down to extract a shot. CMA commercial levers are spring-type, which means you pull the lever down to pre-infuse and gently release the lever allowing the spring to push the piston down toward the coffee. While this is happening you steam your milk. There are two advantages to using a lever machine for catering: Firstly, the pressure profile and your ability to manipulate pressure during the shot means you can successfully extract shots using certain single-origin beans. Secondly, machines with optional gas burners allow you to achieve temperature stability comparable to electric 220V machines with just a propane bottle and a small inverter to power the autofill circuit. You can run two groups at full capacity using a propane bottle and a standard branch circuit without worry of tripping the breaker or turning down a job because 220V service isn't available.
I would not recommend a two-group 220V machine because of portability issues (they're very heavy) and the fact that 220V means you have to turn down more catering opportunities, or run a big, expensive and smelly generator in your trailer.
For grinders, run the biggest one you can afford, but stick to the blue-chip manufacturers like Mazzer, Macap, Compak and Mahlkonig because there is aftermarket support for them. The easier it is to get parts, the less downtime.
Good luck
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,391
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Fri Jun 6, 2014, 7:48am
Subject: Re: Espresso Machine recommendation for espresso catering
 

skydragondave Said:

50 cups per hour is not huge volume to be honest.

Posted June 6, 2014 link

While I agree with almost all of what you said, doing one latte every 72 seconds for 60 minutes* is neigh on impossible in real life on a 1-group machine -- especially if one is working solo.  Even with one person only steaming milk, and the other only pulling shots -- well, OK, who assembles the drinks? -- well, you know what I mean . . .

_______________
  • This obviously ignores the concept of "ebb and flow," meaning you aren't going to have one customer ordering a drink every 1.2 minutes; sometimes you'll have a long line, while at other times, an individual may be able to walk right up to the trailer and place their order.

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,257
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Fri Jun 6, 2014, 8:13am
Subject: Re: Espresso Machine recommendation for espresso catering
 

Catering 200 people for four hours, is not 50 drinks per hour.  It's more like 150 drinks per hour, during the crush; and 300 drinks overall.  

Making one drink on a lever is nothing like making twenty drinks on a lever.  If you think levers are as fast as straight-pump machines, you're entitled to your belief -- but it's wrong.    

In your mind, what's an acceptable length of time for a guest to wait in line for a latte during a catered event?

You have to remember that in addition to the actual line in front of the machine, there's an "invisible line" composed of guests who wait to get in line until it's short enough.  Just like those standing in line, they're not getting happier while they wait.  

If you were catering an event for 200 people which included a liquor bar, do you think a single bartender could handle it?  Two?  Three?  Drinks are quicker than lattes.  

Explain to me why the "cup quality" of a drink made on an Apppia II is "marginally less" than one made on a GS/3.    

Rich
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