Thoughts on a planned espresso/coffee cart setup?

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#1: Post by luz_y_fuerza »

First time poster - I went down a bit of a rabbit hole on this site and am hooked, despite being in way over my head!

I am in the early planning (daydreaming, really) stages of thinking about an espresso/coffee cart. I would love opinions on the machines and grinders I'm eyeing, as much of it is at the prosumer/light commercial level. The plan is to offer espresso drinks, drip, and cold brew.

I want to keep the budget as modest as I can since I really have no idea if this will work. I'm also looking for equipment that is less susceptible to user error due to my limited experience (pulling shots and steaming milk on an automatic machine - it could also have been a pre-programmed semi-automatic - many years ago with very minimal training).

There is already lots of good and some great coffee in my town. I am hoping to set up for a few hours five mornings a week in a location with a lot of commuter traffic and no existing shops and draw folks that way, and, in a modest way, offer an amenity in an area where bars, restaurants, etc. are limited. So my goal is consistently good, solid coffee more than transcendent coffee at the moment.

1) Espresso machine: La Spaziale S1 Vivaldi II (approx. $2500). I am drawn to the double boiler for simultaneous steaming and brewing, NSF certification for commercial use (though I'm not sure if that's needed where I am), relatively light weight (62 lbs), and ability to use volumetrics to lock down one variable in pulling shots.

However, my concern is that the 20 amp models are no longer available new and in 15 amp mode, only one boiler is heated at a time and the brew group is prioritized, so that could interfere with steaming if there are back-to-back milk drinks. (Not anticipating huge rushes, but it's important to consider). Any thoughts on this aspect of performance at 15 amps?

I have also read that if the machine is not in continuous use, the temperature can deviate from the ideal range for pulling shots.

I understand that a water line is needed for this machine - this shouldn't be a problem as I believe plumbing is necessary on the cart anyway.

2) Espresso grinder: Baratza Sette 270wi ($600). I like the idea of being able to dose by weight directly into the portafilter in order to lock down another variable, but there are other drawbacks.

I don't see that this grinder is approved for commercial use, though - apparently it does a max of 2 lbs. of coffee per day.

I'm also considering a Vario+ ($530). The Vario W+ doesn't have a portafilter holder but there's an add-on the grinder can be placed underneath the Vario+ to allow you to weigh the ground coffee (name is escaping me at the moment) but perhaps my insistence on dosing by weight is overkill.

So I'd love to hear opinions about dosing by weight vs. time.

3) Drip and cold brew grinder: Baratza Encore ($170)

I've accepted the conventional wisdom that it's a bad idea to try to expect a grinder to multitask and to be constantly changing settings, but I've found fewer opinions/reviews on grinders well suited for coarser grounds, which I understand can be much more affordable. This one appears to be approved for commercial use.

4) Drip coffee brewer.

I haven't been able to research this as effectively but was thinking about a Bunn 23000 series to brew directly into airpots (approx. $400).

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!

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#2: Post by braxtonjens »

Great thoughts.

If you have specific questions send me a PM.

Also Caffewerks + simple cart are great resources

Two things,
Great buy in the Spaz Vivaldi! I cater events with it. And it does great on 15amp, 20 is great, but almost always is not available at the locations I've been at.

With the time in between prepping, grinding tamping 15 is plenty fast enough.

Do get a pump to feed the machine, flojet - shurflo with a good size accumulator tank to feed the machine and pitcher Rinser.

Get a better grinder for drip coffee. Fellow ode will hold up better in the long run for drip, and it's not as loud, and the coffee will taste better.
“Coffee is always a good idea”
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#3: Post by Jeff »

None of the Barata models are designed for commercial use. I'd look for something like a used Super Jolly for espresso and a Bunn G-series for filter. A Fellow Ode might hold up if you aren't pushing it too hard for filter.

The La Spaz is a solid little machine. Getting a used La Marzocco Linea Mini would be my first choice. On 15 A vs 20 A, are you always going to have dedicated 20 A power where you are?

There are several threads on dealing with water on a cart. One that I think is very good is Espresso Cart - Goodbye Plumbed In

Edit: Dosers have worked well for decades of classic espresso. While you might get some funny looks if you finger-strike across the top of the basket, it is another effective dose-control approach. At least in my opinion, weighing each dose, WDT, and all that, aren't going to significantly change the perception of quality of American-style milk drinks.

luz_y_fuerza (original poster)
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#4: Post by luz_y_fuerza (original poster) »

Appreciate the responses, recommendations, and resources!

I'm glad to hear that the Vivaldi II has held up well to this kind of use even at 15 amps. I've gotten my heart set on it a bit, though I can also see why LMLM would be a top choice for this kind of operation. I've seen it listed used at approximately $1,000 more than the La Spaziale machine, but also at 2K higher, so I'll have to keep an eye out.

We are still working on the electrical and plumbing - thanks for linking to that thread. The idea is to run the cart off battery power, which obviously presents some challenges/can be expensive (the hope is eventually to stick a solar panel on top of our vehicle as well to feed into the battery pack, but not power the whole operation), so it might make sense to opt for 15 amp circuits over 20 to lower the total power draw.

Partly, I'm working on nailing down the equipment to try to estimate electrical needs - of course the pump will be part of that, so it's probably time to delve further into the "guts" of the cart itself, even if it's not as glamorous as looking into machines and grinders.

Speaking of which, I love the aesthetic of the Fellow Ode. The prosumer "take the café home" marketing definitely muddies the waters a bit, so it is great to have insight on what I may be able to make work (with possible trade-offs in terms of equipment longevity) as well as commercial grade options.

Thanks for the perspective on the weighted doses perhaps being overkill. I was hoping that the "passive preinfusion" on the Vivaldi II would mean WDT is not needed, as well (I think I saw a thread on this question, will search for it).

I'm sure I'll have lots more questions, but will be digging into more of my "homework" first...

Thanks again!

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#5: Post by Milligan »

I've used my ode in a pinch to grind 12oz bags for friends and it is a pain in the butt. Lots of RTD needed at high volume, consecutive batches and it can easily get backed up if it is over dosed just a bit. Last thing you want is to break out the screw driver during service to clear the burrs. I think you'd be much better off buying a used G-series. They come up often used for around the price of an Ode.

Ode is fantastic at home though.

As for drip brewers. Look for used stuff for sure. You can pick up great commercial gear for 10-20% retail as long as you can inspect it in-person before buying. I got 2x Curtis double brewers on 240V with 8 large self-serve airpots for around $200. $2-3k retail for pennies. You just need to make sure you can test it locally before purchase.

luz_y_fuerza (original poster)
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#6: Post by luz_y_fuerza (original poster) »

Wow, that is quite a steal! Great advice.

I have to confess that the Fellow Ode looks so sleek that I didn't even realize the capacity is 80 grams (100 on the version 2.0). Seems like it could be great for high-end pourover depending on overall volume, but a bit of a nightmare for batch brew.

I guess what I'm taking away from these responses is that the classics are classics for a reason. I came across some other options for drip like the Eureka Mignon Filtro and the Baratza Forte BG (but at that price, just get a new Bunn G1 instead, I'd assume?) but definitely gravitating towards looking for used versions of the tried-and-true.

Thanks again!