I'm looking at doing a few small coffee catering events this year and i'm curious to see what type of setup people are running. Mainly the lowest cost single group machines that can handle a decent work load.  I've been looking a NS Mac, and a few others. Budget for the machine and grinder is about $1000.

 

Probably would be doing weddings with 200 people or less, and maybe few farmer's market type events where I would be serving basic cappuccinos, latte's, and americanos.  Maybe a bottle or two of vanilla/caramel syrup.

 

What i have in mind:

Single group espresso machine plumbed to one of those big blue water jugs and a dump bucket for the waste water

Mazzer mini grinder

10 oz paper cups

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I'm spoiled at the moment as the company I work for uses an LM GS/3 and a super jolly with the big blue bottle plumb job for catering. If you have a way to swing that I highly recommend it :)

 

Otherwise, I would say find a machine that has a good recovery time. The Mac would be good, dunno how portable a Rancilio Silva would be or if it would be in your price range but you might be able to find a used one at a good rate. Obviously since you are using a one group machine and can only make a drink at a time, eliminating as much time as possible in between the drinks you make will be crucial to pleasing your clients.

Yeah, recovery time, differences between two boilers, and combinations with heat exchange all had me confused.  Aside from going with an obvious big name like LM i was hoping people could suggest what machines they have found work well from personal experience.

My Fiorenzato Bricoletta handles small catering events well. Does require 20amp 120v circuit, which is why it recovers so fast and hence works for catering. We use 8oz cups though 10oz might be ok depending on production speed you want. I'd re-think Mazzer Mini, grinds too slow. You'd regret it when hit with lines.

 

If buying equipment new $1000 won't be enough for a capaple catering espresso machine and grinder. If buying used maybe barely.

 

Silvia or any other SBDU machine (single boiler dual use) would not work at all. It takes 3 to 4 minutes to make ONE beverage with steamed milk.

I use an Appia from Nuova Simonelli 110v with a Nuova grinder.  They work great together. I use a flojet with a 3-5 gallon water jug.  Recovery depends on how you pace your drinks.  10 oz cups work great.  syrups, cocoa, tea, condiments.....and don't forget a cart!!  good luck!!

We don't do much catering but I agree completely with Mike: Minis are too slow.  In fact, I don't even consider the Mazzer Mini, Kony or Super Jolly for production.  Mazzer Majors are excellent, as is the Robur (albeit very expensive).

 

For me, I prefer the Mazzer Major and the Compak K-10

greg, i started out nearly 9 years ago doing events with a mobile unit...bought a single group semi-automatic astoria ($4500 new), and an astoria grinder ($800 new).  the espresso machine mostly kept up with demand, except in the few instances when the line grew to 15+ people and the recovery time seemed sometimes like forever!  i have seen alot of ads listing equipment for sale, some of it at real good prices...evidently alot of people seem to come and go in this business, unfortunately.  there's some kind of general public attitude that says the coffee biz is an easy wave to ride.  yikes!  but back to equipment for a second...i had also bought a new commercial coffee brewer (unsure of the name, maybe a fetco)...would never buy one again.  it brewed coffee quickly, but lacking in flavor.  it brewed too fast, and as a result, the coffee really never had a chance to steep as long as it should have.  after that, i bought $20 mr. coffee brewers (or some similar brand), and have been pleasantly surprised by not only by their good brewings, but also by their durabilities and reliability while under constant demand.  best of luck, hope this offers a bit of insight!

 

sage

the coffee hound

laurel fork, va.

greg, had another thought to share:  even though i am using a single group espresso machine, i do offer 12 oz lattes and cappuccino, and can make them simultaneously by pulling long shots of about 2.75-3.0 ounces each.  the espresso stays rich and full of texture, and you can bring in $6.00 for the two drinks in under 3 minutes.

 

best,

 

sage

I would figure out what your total budget is first. You can skimp on a few of the smallwares (pitchers, shot glasses, printed menus, cups, etc) but when it comes to the equipment, get the right stuff from the start or you will regret it.

It's like skiing, you can have the best boards ever made but if your boats suck, your day is going to suck.

As you have heard, you will need to be willing to spend more than $1,000 on your grinder and machine. As someone else mentioned, we too used Appia from Nuova Simonelli (and still do on several of our mobile bars) and grinders. Minimum, you will need about $3,500 for a 110v, 1grp Appia and an MDX Grinder (new of course).

Speed and process are going to greatly be determined by your menu. We always tell our development clients to keep quality ahead of all other things.

Good luck!
I think i can get it all for under $1500.  I've seen a used appia for $1200, no bids on ebay, and you can buy a used grinder for $200-400 (the mini probably is too slow). I'm a craigslist/eBay nut so there is no way I would pay even 50% of retail on this stuff. Definitely won't skimp on the grinder and machine though.  The other stuff, maybe.

My only tips would be to watch your power usage...between the machine and mazzer you'll be tripping the system every other time you pull. Just make sure wherever you're plugged into can handle the load.

If you can up your budget a little you'll be able to do something like this--- (lever machine, gas powered, all other electric run from marine batteries w/ converters!)

 

Hey, I know this thread is dead, but I've started an espresso catering business, and was wondering what people are doing in terms of water. Do you by 5 gallon jugs of filtered water for each gig? Do you have a filtration system and filter tap water yourself? What is the best softness level for machines to be safe with? Sorry for all the questions, its just not easy to find answers like this. Thanks for your help

sage said:

greg, i started out nearly 9 years ago doing events with a mobile unit...bought a single group semi-automatic astoria ($4500 new), and an astoria grinder ($800 new).  the espresso machine mostly kept up with demand, except in the few instances when the line grew to 15+ people and the recovery time seemed sometimes like forever!  i have seen alot of ads listing equipment for sale, some of it at real good prices...evidently alot of people seem to come and go in this business, unfortunately.  there's some kind of general public attitude that says the coffee biz is an easy wave to ride.  yikes!  but back to equipment for a second...i had also bought a new commercial coffee brewer (unsure of the name, maybe a fetco)...would never buy one again.  it brewed coffee quickly, but lacking in flavor.  it brewed too fast, and as a result, the coffee really never had a chance to steep as long as it should have.  after that, i bought $20 mr. coffee brewers (or some similar brand), and have been pleasantly surprised by not only by their good brewings, but also by their durabilities and reliability while under constant demand.  best of luck, hope this offers a bit of insight!

 

sage

the coffee hound

laurel fork, va.

Hey Tim. I definitely recommend that my clients set up a jug filling station. This way they know what they are using and can control it. I do believe it's cheaper as well, though that may depend somewhat on what kind of water you start with.

I have had clients have machine function issues when what was supposed to be just filtered drinking water (even labeled as such) turned out to be 0 ppm distilled instead. Your espresso machine's autofill system will not run properly on this and your espresso will taste terrible.

Detailed water composition is a pretty big topic, but speaking broadly you want to use potable water that is around 2 grains of hardness or less and has been filtered to remove odor, chlorine, and sediment. It should taste good as well. Your machine's installation spec sheet should state this - if you've misplaced yours you can probably find it on the manufacturer's or importer's website.

Looks like your municipal water is from a well but not terribly hard, so probably just a small softener and filter will do for you. Testing will give you a better idea, and is pretty easy with inexpensive test strips.

Hope that helps. Good luck!

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