Need advice on the best espresso machine options for espresso catering business

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-thru's 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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As a short side note: I'm all for making the espresso cart as 'light weight' as possible.. even to the point of considering a propane powered, lever machine (though I don't know the effects of running it indoors, ambient temp-wise). I'd prefer not to run a generator, if at all possible, but will consider it, if needed. Optimally, a Yeti cooler with dry ice to handle milk duties, extension cord for grinder and water pump - obviously, the jury is still out on the espresso machine - BUT, I would be open to a propane-heater, lever machine. So, classy.... :D

You can look into an adapter that allows you to take the current from 2 separate currents of 110 to power your 220. I haven't done this as I work out of a truck with a built in generator but I know coffee caterers that have. You might end up with some long extension cords snaking around to get all the power you want but it still might be better than running a generator and the power cords that would be necessary with that as well.

@Sid,

Thanks for the idea.. I'll look into it.

Hey Jesse -

I wouldn't do propane for your catering machine - just for liability while inside client businesses / homes / etc...  We actually do use a couple of GS/3 for more coffee centric events (ones that we are not going to be doing 100 drinks per hour, etc.).  

Otherwise, we use the Rancilio Epoca which, in fact, has been one of our most successful catering machines (we started out on Simonelli Appias before the GS/3). You also might look into the Unic Mira.  It is a HX but I have heard that it has a very constant shot temp.

Just remember that when it comes to your machine, you want to get in serve and get out quick (and efficiently)!

Hope this helps.

JD / EVOKE

Jesse,

What did you end up deciding on? I'm also looking into a 110 machine for a coffee catering business. I had considered a commercial 1 group Linea, but after attending SCAA, I'm a fan of the new Linea Mini. 

We use a astra pro machine and a astra steamer pull shot on one and steam on the other works great for us. One pull the shots and flavor and pass it off for the steamed milk  we do all 8 s che

ck us out javasensations.com

I like them because the are light weight easy to repair if needed and are pour overs.

We were considering the GS/3 but after talking with some reputable service companies, and learning about their reliability (or lack there of).. we moved away from that direction. Ultimately, we were planning on going to a 2 group lever machine. But, in the end we put the entire business on hold for some other family goals.

I loved our last Linea, but I haven't seen the specs on the Linea Mini's boiler sizes... those might be a concern, if you plan on serving a long line of people.

Best of luck to you!

Aside from the catering aspect, you should possibly consider better grinder(s). The GS/3 is probably too good for the super jolly. And the mazzer adjustment may have you pulling your hair out in an outdoor environment as temperature and humidity changes. .While I drool over a GS/3 for catering, perhaps it isn't the most practical choice. I found the GS/3 steaming to be quite slow when I have used one. Perhaps it was the way it was set up, but I have heard similar concerns from others. One dealer told me you have to remove the no-burn wand for proper steaming speed.

ProMac makes a 2 group 110V machine. There may be others. I sold one to a customer for farmer market use, and it worked quite well, no lack of steam. Hx yes, and a two person lift.

Another dual boiler single group portable machine is a dalla corte SUPER mini. It makes very good coffee, rotary pump, and has a tidy footprint, which will be a consideration for catering. We use this for catering all the time.

You might just get away with one of these rather than two, if you set up your menu appropriately.. I find we can serve 75 to 100 drinks an hour, we make it more manageable by serving small cups - 7-8 oz cappa with single shot, make them two at a time. Two double spouted portafilters, one is getting loaded while the other is pulling. Then you don't have to worry about a slow(er) grinder.

Hey Group,

I posted this recently in another post, but it looks like it might do some good in this thread as well. 

I own a coffee truck in Albuquerque. http://www.greenjoecoffeetruck.com

I use an Astoria Divina 2 group semi.

 

Here's the pros and cons: 
1. Pros: Workhorse. Can pull shots, pull shots, pull shots. In fact, I pull so many shots from it, I named it after my tank in the Army, "Dirty Duece"! I have a two group with two steam wands. I can work on 4 drinks at once, which is awesome when I need to bang out a long line. It's dialed in and super easy to use. Which makes for quick work. My business focuses on a good and fast cup. This allows for both. 

2. Cons: Draws a lot of power. I'm mobile, so this is a concern for me. But I bought it with the thought of brick and mortar later on...so, its a problem now, but hopefully not one later :) It takes 4400 watts. As of now, I'm unaware of how to power that with anything other than a big ass generator. So, it requires me hauling around this 200 lb genny everywhere I go. That blows. 

80% of the time, I don't need that big of an espresso machine. In my opinion, I probably overpurchased my espresso machine. Meaning, I probably could get away with only one group. But, when I work movie sets or have long lines, it's nice to have that second group. 

 

Here's a few notes:

1. It does not have a built in grinder

2. It draws 4.4kw

3. Its 220v

4. Weights 138 pounds dry

5. Takes 15 minutes to warm up

 

I paid $2,400 for a refurb...

 

Hope it helps!

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