Coffee Shop Equipment Checklist
How to choose the right equipment for your new coffee shop...
'Stop do not pass go, if you don't know Your Why!'
So many people start in the wrong place when they want to open their coffee shop. The two things we get asked more than anything else are; 'What coffee should I use?' and 'What coffee machine should I buy?'
This is not where you should start.
You must above all else have the answer to these questions:
Why am I opening a coffee shop?
How will my passion for the business shine through?
What is going to make my coffee shop different and attractive?
Who is my ideal guest?
What's my ideal location where my new guests love what we do?
Once you have a clear understanding of these questions, then it's time to start choosing the rest. Your answers will inform the products you sell and the look and feel of the coffee shop and the equipment you need.
Choosing the right equipment can be tricky and costly. Tricky because of the sheer volume of choice available and costly because the purchase price is not the only cost to consider when making a decision. Choosing the wrong equipment could cost your dearly over the lifetime of your business without you even realising.
The speed of production is only as fast as its slowest process, so having a bottleneck in your coffee shop will limit the number of guests you can serve, and at peak times speed is paramount to customers.
So let us have a look at each piece of equipment in turn, and yes we will start with the coffee machine.
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For this article, we are assuming that as you are opening a coffee shop, that you will be looking at a traditional machine rather than a bean to cup. This will offer you full control over your coffee and allow you to dial in your shot.
How many heads?
They say that two heads are better than one, but in coffee machine terms three heads are what you need unless your projected sales are very low, at say less that 50 cups a day, then two heads will be enough.
At the other end of the scale if you are expecting to be constantly busy then having two two head machines is better than having a four head machine. It will allow you to steam more milk and have two baristas working simultaneously.
High or low heads, depends on your cup size, we prefer high heads as you can get larger cups underneath easier.
Electronics - some new machines are computer controlled, allowing you to adjust temperature, pressures & flow rates with precision. They are obviously more expensive and inherently less reliable, with more to go wrong. So unless your 'why' tells you that this level of control and variability is needed and that your team will all be trained in how to get the best from this extra level of control, we would steer you away from these.
If you are serious about tea, then you need a water boiler. The choice used to be simple, but with the advent of instant water systems like Quooker, it's been made a little more challenging.
However, if your plan includes top class teas and pour-over coffee, then an instant water system may well be the solution.
There are two main types to choose from, the automatic on-demand grind or the batch grinder with a hopper for the ground coffee.
Then, in general, the bigger the grinding burrs and the more powerful the motor, the better. You don't want the motor or grinding blades getting hot in use.
You will need at least two grinders, to be able to sell decaf and more if you want to include a guest coffee on your menu.
We would always go for an on demand machine, with the ability to programme the amount of coffee dispensed. These machines are the most expensive however in daily use they will save you money and improve consistency by accurate dosing and reduce wastage.
If you want to sell frappe's or shakes, then you need a blender or two. The blender of choice is the Blendtec, however, there are plenty of others out there. Similar to a grinder the bigger the motor, the better but it is also important to be able to replace jugs and be able to repair the motor.
To give your blenders a longer life you should recess them into a counter, they will last twice as long as they will not get moisture into the motor as easily.
Depending on your style of offer you many need a few different ovens, a good quality industrial microwave is worth the investment, 1500 watts min, with programmable settings. If you plan to bake off your pastries, rolls and bread or make cakes and muffins, then a convection oven is what you need.
A valuable addition to your set up would be a high-speed oven such as a TurboChef or Merrychef Eikon Range. They can cook up to 15 times faster and can be pre-programmed to cook a vast range of products from Pizza to the humble toastie. They can replace a traditional panini grill and allow you to heat up products at the same time as it takes to make coffee so the customer gets their whole order at the counter saving you time delivering it to to the table.
Choosing the correct furniture will maximise your sales in three ways. Firstly by being congruent with your style of coffee shop and attractiveness, it will entice people to come through your doors in the first place. Secondly, the level of comfort will either encourage a quick turnover of tables or a longer stay, depending on your needs as a business.
Finally, the number of covers you can accommodate can be maximised with the correct size of table and chair. Including stools too, is an effective way of increasing the number of covers without compromising space.
Having a commercial dishwasher is a must. The shorter the cycle, the better, under counter dishwashers are excellent, but if you are planning to be very busy and have space, then a passthrough unit would be the order of the day.
Remember that you will need a water softener and a model with a waste pump too.
Selling iced drinks though the summer is great business so you will need an ice machine. The minimum requirement we recommend is 50kg, but during very hot spells you will need even bigger.
Buy a good make as well, some of the cheaper models are not fit for purpose, and will cost you more in the long run.
You will need sufficient storage for your ingredients and milk, as well as a display cabinet. The number of fridges and freezer you need will be determined by the style of the coffee shop you are planning to open.
If you are intending to make food on site then you will need more room.
In our experience, the stock you keep expands to fill the available fridges and freezers so start with the minimum you think you need as it's quick and easy to get another fridge or freezer if your needs change and you have space.
Chest freezers are cheaper to run, and having fridges with glass doors make it easy to see what's inside.
Don't forget the burglar alarm, and always put in CCTV that can be viewed remotely. Because of the amount of cash coffee shops take they can be attractive to thieves. You should also get a safe to store the cash, and always leave the till draw open when you are closed so that potential thieves can see it's empty.
Choosing the right till system can be a minefield. There are some very cheap tablet options available, but in our opinion, they should be avoided.
Your till needs to be robust and reliable and be able to provide you with sales data by line, hour, day, week, person. As well as this it needs to be easily scalable if you want to expand, allow you to add new lines, alter prices and allow remote access.
Finally - where do you buy all this expensive equipment?
If you are buying new, then a reputable supplier who offers an excellent guarantee and can service is preferable for coffee machines, grinders and tills.
Renting/leasing or try before you buy from U-Select are kinder on your cash flow while ensuring you still have the first class equipment.
Buying second hand should be done with caution, there are certain pieces of kit we would never buy second hand, including the coffee machine, the ice machine and dishwasher, these can be a liability and cost you a lot more in the long run.
Danny Mayer, the author of Setting The Table, says you should consider your suppliers as a partner in your business, someone who can advise and support you, after all, their success is linked to your success.
We help new coffee shops get off the ground and open smoothly and we have put an equipment checklist together that you can download here
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