Please do yourself a favor and DO NOT buy any used equipment unless you know the exact age, where it came from, who used it, and that maintenance records are verifiable. I am only referring to anything with a motor or compressor. Used sinks, tables, counters, etc. are fine as long as they are in decent shape. Having said that be very careful regardless. You can be assured by a friend that the equipment was maintained properly and often, however did they get it used and can they get that guarantee from whom they bought it from? And how old really is it?
I point this out because I fell into this trap and had things breaking down when I did not expect it. Namely my espresso machine. I was in a bad spot then! Luckily, I had access to a one group for backup and a local guy was able to fix the other fast, but you may not be as lucky. Not to mention I had a new expense I was not counting on. I eventually upgraded to mostly new equipment when I bought the roaster, but this can be avoided by getting new equipment at the start. You will be glad you did it, trust me!
The Espresso Machine
This is the Mack daddy of the whole business, your life blood. DO NOT SKIMP ON IT! However, having said that there is the line of overkill you do not need to cross either and that depends on your anticipated sales volume. I say two group maximum. If you need more power or want a backup get a one group as well. The feasibility of a three or four group is great but it’s difficult to get more than one person working on them due to spacing of the group heads, etc. Ordinarily, you do not need more than one person pulling shots and making the espresso beverages anyway. It is almost impossible for one barista to use all four groups at one time, so you be the judge! However, that may be up to debate if you get REALLY busy. A two group is always my choice.
Semi-Automatic, Automatic or Super Automatic?
Well my choice is always the automatic because you can program them to cut off a shot at 23 seconds or whatever you choose but still do it manually.
Semi-Automatic – Requires manual shut off by the operator.
Automatic – Can program a shot duration or perform it manually.
Super Automatic – This machine will grind the beans, tamp, pull the shot, shut it off and even discard the used grounds. Yes, I am serious. Most *$ are using these to get bad coffee through their cattle call rushes. I believe you lose a lot of ‘art’ when you use one of these. They are also big bucks and costly to repair. If you have to send one for repair, you have just sent your grinder too so think twice.
Needs to be large enough for a big rush – 9-14 liters should be sufficient. You cannot run out of steam or water in a rush and with a smaller boiler that will happen! Trust me on this from experience! As stated, you can get a used two group for back up just in case if you can afford it. If your new machine goes, you can get service out rather quick and most likely a replacement for the time yours is being fixed. But you might be down a few hours or at worst a day or two till you can get service. That is all lost revenue.
The backup will be well worth it. It can also be used as an overflow in times of extreme business! Buy a machine based on the availability to get parts and service locally. Do not buy based on price alone or ‘coolness’ or ‘features’ of a machine. They are all good these days. Features will not mean anything if you cannot get local service on your machine. Top machines, in my opinion are LaMarzocco and Nuovo Simonelli. I have three Simonellis. The other thing to consider is getting one with a double boiler. This means that there is tank that holds the water which creates the steam and another tank that holds the water which is used for the shots. This system is supposed to ensure that the water for the shots stays consistent in temperature, allowing you to create the best quality you can.
It also ensures that there is always enough water available to create steam. LaMarzocco is the only machine that employs this system and their price reflects it. However, depending on whom you talk to the double boiler system is up for debate. Some say it is not a sure thing to keep the temperature constant because the second boiler is so small. I have not noticed any differences as I have worked on both machines. Nuova Simonelli’s and all the rest of the espresso machines have what is called a heat exchanger. That is, cold water is fed up to the heat exchanger and it is heated and ready for the group head to disperse it to pull a shot. I think they both work just as well. I say buy the machine that has what you need, not what you want but one that you know you can get parts and repairs for in the shortest amount of time.
Nuova Simonelli, Rancilio, Bunn. The most commonly used in my opinion is made by Mazzer (LaMarzocco). There are a couple of different models. All are good, and they last for years with proper maintenance (cleaning and burr replacement). Be sure it’s automatic and has a doser/hopper. They make a doserless model that grinds right into the portafilter and though this is freshly ground espresso, it does not work well in a rush! The units with a hopper allow the hopper to fill with ground espresso and have a lid to keep out the air. The bigger units have a bigger hopper and vice versa. Also, these have bean hoppers that you can get about 2lbs of espresso beans in.
Decaf Espresso Grinder
See above. Be sure to get one for decaf only. I have a doserless for my decaf espresso, but my decaf crowd is low.
Bulk Coffee Grinder Bunn, Grindmaster.
These are the types you see in the food store bulk coffee aisle. Be sure to get the full scale version, not the shorter one. The only difference I can see is the taller one is easier to get a bag under to grind beans for customers. The shorter one is not! Be sure to have one grinder for regular and decaf, and another for flavored coffee. Using the same for all three will make the other coffee taste like the flavored coffee. This grinder will need proper maintenance and burr replacement after so many hours as well. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on this. They come in 1lb, 2lb, and 3lb hoppers for coffee shops. The larger hoppers are just good for grinding bulk beans.
Coffee Maker (drip)
Be sure to buy for your volume. Automatic are best as they are plumbed to a water line. Pour over you need to fill manually! Bunn and Fetco are the most common. Fetco is most likely better for a dual brew airpot unit. If you get the ones that brew directly into the airpots, you will save a lot of time especially in a rush. These brewers brew from one pot to 5 gallons. It all depends on your volume and what else you may be using your brewer for. If you plan on doing a lot of catering or just bulk brewed coffee sales for meetings and such, you will need to go with a larger capacity brewer.
The newer brewers (most of them) all feature a pre-infusion and pulse brew for maximum flavor extraction. What this means is that the water is actually pulsated onto the ground coffee in little spurts rather than an even flow. This helps to allow the coffee to absorb the water more evenly and extract the flavor better.
Tagged: espresso equipment
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