Hi All, New to this group.  Already learned alot.  Question of the day:  New or used espresso equipment?  The coffee roaster/supplier I'd like to deal with wants me to buy my equipment from them, but that means a rather large down payment, then payments for 12 - 18 months on new equipment.  I'd rather buy higher-end used equipment up front, but I'm concerned about service and training, etc. I am new to the entire coffee business.  Thoughts please ... 

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Julie Stewart said:
I have learned alot. The striving for excellence is what it should be about, I agree, but no one starts as an expert. You all had to start somewhere.

You are right. But we also didn't start by opening a cafe. Do it right on day one or don't do it.

Kudos for coming here to ask... so many don't even bother asking. Sorry that this advice is not what you wanted to hear.

I agree with much that's been said already, and have only a couple of things to add.

Though quality is a theme here, it is for a reason. Please don't dismiss this community's concern with quality as being all about concern for the bean. We're not high-horse snobs, unhappy that yet another of the unwashed masses are daring to open a coffee shop without proper experience. Though the community is called Barista Exchange, there are many cafe owners, suppliers, and other industry professionals here. We're speaking from a pretty broad base of experience. We've seen firsthand what works and what doesn't.

It breaks my heart to see cafes fold... its an ugly process that consumes peoples' savings and morale. I do work for quite a few shops, and know lots of people - nice people that had great intentions, concepts, work ethic, and business plans, that I'm watching go through this process right now. The line between success and failure is razor thin. The truth is, a great many shops are in the process of failing right now. Its been a rough year or two, and many, many cafes are running in the red as we speak - they'll only survive as long as the owner can find more money to funnel in... or someone to take the shop over.

Make sure you understand what the life of the cafe owner will really be like, and prepare yourself for it. Talk with some owners that you know well, look in their eyes when you ask them. Let me suggest that you not plan for the cafe to provide you with much, if any, income for several years. In many cases, the staff takes home much more income than the owner. Plan ahead and make provisions, so that you can hold on long enough for things to stabilize. Then work like crazy to learn as much as you can.

All that said, do not open until you are confident that you can do it right from day one. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and people's experience in the first week is critical. Word of mouth will be your best friend and worst enemy.

Good luck, and feel free to continue to ask us questions. We'll help however we can. After all, if you choose to open, your shop's eventual success is in all of our best interests.
Whether or not I agree with what's been written, HARSHNESS is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY here.

Don't forget that Julie is talking about sinking HER MONEY into this business and this business is also a quick way to LOSE YOUR SAVINGS.

This is business. Sink or swim. Do or die. When asking for advice, being "nice" is not part of the equation.

That said, I think Julie needs to reconsider her timeline. Right now, there are too many factors working against her' Lack of experience, lack of knowledge, blind desire, misleading suppliers - everything is working in conjunction against her.

But I'll stick with the equipment question. New is usually better. However, it can come with higher upfront costs. You can mitigate those costs and get the equipment that you desire by working with a leasing company to finance your capital equipment. Instead of deducting the cost of the equipment over a term of many years, your company can expense the lease amount against your yearly taxes - which in many ways, is much more effective than simply purchasing the equipment outright and writing off the depreciation. Talk to your accountant about the potentials.
Hey Julie, I want to offer any help I can give you over the phone. I do a mobile coffee shop now & after 15 years in this, I finally have some time available! I dont have a 6AM till 10PM 6 day a week shop & now primarily spend most of my open hours on the weekends. Plus this is my slow season. So if you would like to call me & talk about some things, feel free too.
As to the equipment, most everyone has given their suggestions & they are all good ones. This is a great group & You'll learn a ton. My quick insite into it is that I dont personally trust used equipment unless I know where its been used. Water conditions are a big one. You can look at the outside of the machine & see what kind of condition its in but you cant see inside of it. It could be a timebomb waiting to go off on the inside but look great outside & if you dont have any experience in the industry you wont know how to spot those problems or how to deal with them when it comes down to it. What I always suggest to save money is a manufacturers refurbished machine. This is a machine that has been returned to the manufacturer & they have gone through it & fixed it up internally to be back to virtually new. Every machine I own has been refurbished & I've sold quite a few refurbished machines to other shops & homes. You can usually save a good amount of money & have a machine that I personally would be more inclined to trust. Plus they usually carry a warranty (not as long of a warranty as a new machine but something) Now grinders & coffee makers Ive always bought used but I know how to work on them & I can see immediatly if the grinder needs a new burr & I can replace that. Espresso machines are different & I would buy a refurbished (or new) before a used from someone I dont know. I wouldnt even buy a used machine from an equipment dealer unless they are known for dealing in good used equipment. I know how hard I am on my machines (I travel & have had machines freeze & fall off their carts in the trailer) and I wouldnt be willing to buy a used machine from myself!!
I know all of these guys sound rough & maybe rude but they all are in the business & know how hard it is. Know what it takes & know how many shops dont make it. They want to make sure you are ready & dont fail & thats why the are being tough. I personally have had to possibly loose a new business deal thats going to be great but they want me to be ready to do it in a little over 2 weeks & I cant pull it off & offer the best quality I can so I had to forgo that decision until the summer & hope that I dont lose it all together because Im having to wait. But I dont want to screw it up by trying to rush things.
So if you would like to talk, please give me a call & Ill help you any way I can. I want every independent coffee shop to succeed & to do a great job. An independent doing a bad job hurts us all!

Mitch Buckner
Bella Caffe Fine Coffee & Espresso Catering
901.833.4276
bellacaffe@gmail.com

Hi,

So this thread is more than a year long now and I am in the same position as Julie was then. I don't know if July had succeeded in her mission (I hope she did and I would love to see her inputs here, now that she is supposedly experienced and running her shop).

I have been an coffee enthusiast for many years but I'd admit I am nowhere near claiming that I am an expert or ready to open a business, but I do want to do it because I believe one can learn a lot by reading, drinking, asking, and self experiencing (home equipment)  etc. I do care so much for quality that it drives me crazy sometimes (and my friends will attest to my striving to get them the best coffee possible with what I have). But nothing (or no one, will all due respect of course) will teach you more than your own experience by plunging right into it. Sure it should not be done carelessly. It should be thoughtful especially on the finance side as this is the blind side for most business of this type. My concept is to open a small bar within an existing business (not coffee related). The capex is very little (relatively speaking) so is the risk, so I can concentrate on quality coffee and building it up. I do however want to take thorough training (4-5 days) before I actually open it, so I would appreciate recommendations on a fabulous roaster that gives excellent training program too.

I am too, looking to lease or buy refurbished but not less than looking at the finance of it, I want to talk machines and reputation of them being reliable. So distinguished members, from your own experience, if you had to go and do it all over again which equipment you would buy in a heart bit and why?

I am looking to buy a 2-group dual boiler (with PID), 2 grinders, 2 regular coffee brewers (one for decaf:-)), etc.

Thanks very much for your help.

IMHSO descriptions such as "expert, professional, etc" are tossed around way too much to carry any weight. I've seen people involved in coffee for years and still not "get it" to any degree. We have many customers that think it's just a matter of pushing a few buttons, that anybody can stand behind the equipment and make it happen. I simply tell them that great products being created consistently doesn't just fall out of the sky.

 

Hanan, I applaud your thinking on reading ALOT, lots of sampling, etc. Visit a few local roasters (if applicable) and do some cupping to see how different coffees taste. Even visit a few coffeeshops and ask to hang out behind the bar to see what others do and what the end result of their labor is. Some may be OK with this and some may not.

 

Not to start a pissing match, but I feel as if dual boiler/PID machines are more hype than anything. May make consistency a bit easier when you start out, but not the do all/end all in the espresso world. Instead, look for a machine/brand that has a good reputation for build quality, longevity, performance, etc.  

 

I don't understand the "2 coffee brewers, 1 for decaf" thing you have going. You can brew decaf in anything you can use to brew "regular" coffee. I don't bother with decaf drip, rather going for Americanos as it's fresh, no waste and alot more efficient.

 

Get a GOOD dedicated espresso grinder, 1 decent grinder for decaf espresso and a GOOD bulk grinder for drip, press, bulk grinding for customers if needed.

Thanks very much Shadow for your prompt reply.

First a little correction, I meant to write Julie (who started this discussion) not July... So Julie, if you are reading this, please share with me, if you don't mind how did it go for you since you first turned to this forum.

Shadow,

in my area there are no roasters or myriad of places I can do what you've suggested which is a great idea. And I don't know home many owners, baristas, etc would entertain this idea of having someone observing... I think I would be getting on their skin if they'd allow it at all.

But as I mentioned, I am set on taking training to start with, just so I get more comfortable with the business aspects of making Espresso drinks for much more people than to me and my friends on occasion. That's a different routine and consistency, dexterity, know how, etc

What I meant about one brewer drip for decaf is like the grinder you suggested for decaf, same reason, I meant to keep two brewers one for regular and one for decaf. but I only said that assuming it would be required. Perhaps the brewers you are familiar with (and I am not familiar with much on that front really), allow you to quickly brew small amounts to suit the regular and decaf drinkers. I personally won't go to Decaf Espresso because IMHO it defeats the purpose but that's just me:).

So I agree with you on the reliability side and personally I am not using PID because after a while you get to know a machine and when to pull a shot, etc. But my problem is to choose the right one, which is why I turn to this and other forums to ask for experience-based opinion. I know that by throwing a few names like La Marzocco, Faema, Astoria Sibilla, etc, I probably wouldn't make a grave mistake, but I don't want to spend a lot of money upfront if I can go with a machine that costs less and I could be happy with just as much.

I really would appreciate recommendations on specific models based on experience (even recommendations of what not to choose, which sometimes is better than what to choose).

 

I'd appreciate comments.

Thx

Well if you were local to me I'd be happy to do some basic training for free. Of course not everybody is generous with their time and barista courses aren't terribly expensive.

 

I like to stick close to industry standards/Italian specs, but will surely bend the rules to achieve a particular end result. Consistency is key and one of the most important issues facing many places local to us.

 

Don't count out decaf espresso because that can cause the loss of alot of customers. Of course it defeats the purpose to any coffee loving addict, but there is a demand for good decaf espresso based drinks and people that must resort to decaf will find it somewhere. If not at your shop they will bypass you for the next one. 

 

I have commercial experience with only 2 brands... La Marzocco (Linea and FB/80) and Nuova Simonelli (Aurelia). Personally I find the Aurelia to be better suited for my needs as it's quite nice to work on and is quite the performer day in/out. Surely most higher end commercial machines are going to be similar in function, dependability, etc. Just really comes down to what you like ergonomically and what is better suited for your workload.

Following this discussion with great interest, as I too am opening within an existing business. I've been devouring coffee groups online for five years, and doing pourovers (chemex/french press/aeropress is my latest favorite, going for a Clever next) at home every day for a year. I'm a charter subscriber to Craft Coffee. I've made the pilgrimage to Murky (*cries*) and Intelligentsia. I've been to every coffee place on the northern, southern, and eastern side of a hundred twenty mile radius around me (small town on the prairie, need to do another crawl west), so I know what's offered, what's still around after several years, and what isn't being addressed. I've pulled a few shots with people who care about what they're doing but I have a very long way to go to feel comfortable with that part. I geek out over livestreaming competitions. My son is working into the industry in Minneapolis (*proud*). I've got a (fast food/family style) restaurant management background and I drool over stainless steel.

 

Thank God I can get into this slowly (she says), with the realization that it could take off unexpectedly. I'm along for the ride though and trying to prepare as well as I can.

 

And I've turned the bakery owner I'm working with into a coffee snob in Folger's land in the space of six weeks.

 

So yes, thank you for being here and thanks for any help you offer to any of us!

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