This question may seem rudimentary, but I am curious what everyone's espresso bar layout looks like.  I am in the process of designing a layout for my new coffee company and am trying to decide how to arrange the knockboxes, pitcher rinsers, and grinders.  Would love to hear and see how you guys set yours up.  Thanks in advance.

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Quick question: 

Have you picked a roaster? 

A good, quality focus roaster will be more than willing and able to help you with nearly every aspect of your service. From bar layout to cups and lid distributors. 

If you haven't picked out a roaster, I'd love to talk with you about it. I own Pearland Coffee Roasters which is located just 15 minutes south of Houston. 

Please reach out at your convenience. 


jeremy [@] pearlandcoffeeroasters [.] com

No offense to Jeremy but...

I can't recommend the roaster route for bar design.  Yes, an experienced roaster may have some people who know their game well enough to help you with layout suggestions, but to get down into it, you'll really need an engineer or architect (preferably with foodservice and coffee design experience, or at least open-minded to such) to take care of the nitty gritty (depending on your jurisdiction).

But if your roaster has real-world cafe operational experience (and I discount those specialty roasters who don't have cafe operations) then there may be a valuable exchange of ideas.  

First off, do you have operational experience?  Do you know what works and what doesn't? What are your ideas for improved workflow?  Have you spent time visiting other coffee places and checking out their layout and flow?  

And don't discount the chains. Starbucks is the king of operational layout. Their model depends on the highest traffic flow and processing that traffic in the shortest amount of time.  Spend time examining their shops. In fact, I just picked up some design ideas at a local Starbucks this weekend that I will start working on with one of my millworkers next week.

Otherwise, have a look in the forum archives. There's been discussion here before about just this topic and I've even posted complete layout drawings of our current space.

Good Luck!

BTW - Jeremy, I'll be in Houston Saturday night to check out TexMex if you're around.

This is a great tip, Jay. Don't assume that just because your local chain store uses a superautomatic that you take cues from their layout. The larger-scale workflow concerns are bigger than the little details anyway.

The grinders go next to the machine, as do the knockbox, dipperwell, dump sink, pitcher rinser, etc.

Minimize steps, excessive motion, bending, staff crossing paths. Locate the things used for the same task in close proximity. Make a giant scale drawing of the bar and mock-up workflow steps to complete different drinks.

Also, build in as much flexibility as you can. One thing I hate about recessed knockboxes and pitcher rinsers is that they really lock you in to a layout.

Just a couple of quick thoughts... more later.

Jay Caragay said:

...And don't discount the chains. Starbucks is the king of operational layout. Their model depends on the highest traffic flow and processing that traffic in the shortest amount of time.  Spend time examining their shops...

Oops... meant to say "Don't assume that since the chain store uses superautomatics that you SHOULDN'T take cues from their layout".


Definitely agree with the comments about fixed knockboxes, though a well-placed pitcher rinser doesn't need to be moved.

And I definitely agree with the mockups. In the early build stages of Spro, we built full-frame mockups of our layout to see if the feel was right and if there was enough workspace.  Definitely worthwhile and saved us some money in the long run.

We took over a Caribou and re-skinned it, their bar layout was excellent. Drainage for spills, piping for drain hoses from the machine things that even after operating for 5 years we would have never thought of. They were running super autos on the bar we put a three group with at Rubur in place of two super-autos, worked out very well.

Thanks everyone for your replies.  Does anyone have a diagram of how your bar, or an efficient espresso bar should be laid out?  I would really like to see some different setups but am having trouble finding pictures or diagrams.  I would also love to see the plumbing diagrams if possible.

Jay is nearly correct except for Starbucks...I have designed hundreds of coffee & espresso bars and there are none exactly the same; casework details and ergonomics are essential to productive support and layout designed for YOUR space. 

One word of caution with regards to Starbucks, I would recommend against drawing inspiration from stores built between 1998 and 2002, in regards to bar layout (pretty much any store under 1400 sq ft, and a DT).  Most of these were pretty poorly laid out.  I know, I worked for the company in Store Development.  And yes, I am aware (in case anyone wishs to correct me) that these stores are refreshed on 5 and 10 year cycles, however the bar layout is rarely touched.  I have stores in my area that still have portafilter marks on the SS counter top from when the Mazzer grinders were there a decade ago.  Newer stores in the last 5 to 7 years are pretty good design.  And much of the fit and finish depends on the builder as well.   

My layout is in a truck and maximizes a very tight space

3 recommendations 

Espresso machine facing customer 
Everything in reach of barista (water, dump station, and ice) 

Proper counter height

Sorry Jay, 

Under very different circumstances, I would have loved to meet up for Tex-Mex, but I had a beautiful baby girl girl this past Wednesday. 

Let me know the next time you'll in town. I'd love to catch up with you. 


No worries.  Congratulations on your new daughter!

Ended up going to El Real (it was okay) and then over to Downing Street for some whiskey, a cigar and ended up meeting a nice couple from the area to chat with for the evening.

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