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Thread: Sub $1K setup for a church cafe... options?

  1. #1
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    Sub $1K setup for a church cafe... options?

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi all,

    My church is looking at options around setting up a basic cafe for after our services!

    In short, funds are limited, and use will largely be restricted to one or two windows each week, and at a guess, might need to pump out around 25 to 30 coffees/hot chocolates (give or take) over a half hour period. There may not be massive time pressures to pump them out super quick (i.e. a 3 group monster going hammer and tong), but obviously a Sunbeam 6910 is going to be ill equipped on a number of levels.

    So, the options main in my thinking, that I'd welcome input on, are:
    Option 1 - Second hand 2 group commercial machine via well known auction/sales websites. Pro's: up to the task in terms of delivering high volume of coffees required. Con's: I realise this option is an absolute minefield and comes down to sheer luck terms of getting a good one, or getting an overworked, abused example. Verdict: if cheap and clean enough, and can view working, perhaps work the gamble...

    Option 2 - a variation on option 1 is to find a supplier/technician who can supply a decommissioned/change over cafe unit recently taken of a cafe. I understand it may be possible to hit such a place up for a suitable machine and potentially have them give it a service/once over before handing it on to us. Pro's: more piece of mind than option 1 that we know the history of the machine, and have had it checked over and serviced prior to purchase. Con's: I'd imagine it might be difficult to source such a machine within budget, and ultimately it still carries some of the same risks as option 1. Verdict: appealing if the price is ok. Any recommendations on such companies in Melbourne (I think there's one or two I've noticed selling machines on ebay so I'll start there I guess!)

    Option 3 - a smaller single group commercial/semi commercial hx machine. I've spotted a few machines like this where they make have had a limited time of service in a low volume commercial setting (bakery, etc) and/or seen more use in a domestic setting. In this case, lower volume of work and higher level of care might be assumed (i see this the 'pro'... but as always, buyer beware... do your homework etc etc). My biggest query ('con') is whether a semi commercial hx machine (say, for example, a La Cimba M30 single group) is capable of pumping out 30 coffees in as many minutes?

    Now i understand there'll be people wanting to suggest dripolator, aeropresses, moka pots and what not. I understand the logic of these options, but ultimately the average consumer can justify spending $2.50 on a cappuccino, whereas a drip/aeropress coffee etc would be a hard sell... therefore these types of options have been considered and ruled out... heck, we even have a fair bit of consideration to a bank of pod machines! :-D

    Anyway, any experiences, added thoughts I may not have considered, or other advice on the options I've outlined would be appreciated!

    Cheers,
    Damien

  2. #2
    Senior Member Vinitasse's Avatar
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    I was recently tasked with helping a local church source a similar set-up. Using a very popular auction website, I managed to find a decent 2 group Rancilio for $475 and a brand new Boema RR45 grinder for just $353. 9Bar Espresso Services gave the machine a once over for just $190... thus bringing the total to $1018. However, you then have to factor in the cost of installation (a plumber for water input and drainage and a sparky for the 15 or 20A circuit and hook-up), a decent tamper, tamper mat or stand, knock box/tube, milk jugs, cleaning ancillaries (brushes, powders, blind filter), cups and saucers, latte glasses, set-up and training equipment (scales, timer(s), shot glass) etc........ These things add up and bring the cost far beyond the $1000 budget you're talking about. On top of all of this you still have to factor in the cost of coffee, milk and training hours needed to get the budding baristas up to scratch.

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    Have you considered an automatic machine? The Saeco Royal would be a good idea. Brews and steams simultaneously (also has the best auto frothing spout that I have ever seen on an automatic machine), no real need for additional equipment or training, easy to use and not very expensive. Near new examples can be found for around $1K-$1.5K and second hand they are much less.

    I own 3 of them, one has 17,000 coffees on it and the others are both over 10,000, still going well. The Royal Coffee Bar is also available in a plumbed in version. The most popular variant is the Cappuccino and are easier to find. Spare parts are also pretty cheap if you ever need repairs done.

    If you get hold of some quality medium roast beans, grind as fine as possible and dose 1 click from the maximum I reckon most people would be happy with the coffee it can make.

    I'll probably be murdered for uttering such blasphemy like this on this forum but the truth is, it's a properly good machine and is well suited to your application.

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    I agree with Vinitasse,
    2 group commercial machines come up all the time and very cheap in comparison to home machines,
    they are work-horses that pump out shot after shot and will steam large jugs of milk with no issues.
    You can easily push out 4x single flat whites/ latte's in under 2 minutes with little effort.

    As for getting a dud one, there is very little to go wrong in them, especially if you get one with simple manual switches instead of circuit-boards and volumetric programming.

  5. #5
    TOK
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    You must be an eternal optimist

    Commercial reality: Any commercial machine that is still deemed to be good enough to be serviced or repaired as required and be sent out on another cafe client cycle will be valued at way over the client's stated budget. Anything that can be reused and is still "serviceable" gets used because it saves buying a brand new machine at brand new cost. Only old rubbish goes out at such a low price.

    Any ex commercial machine in the sub $1000.00 price bracket especially geriatric age machines such as old bezzera with corrugated bodies and rancilio Z models to name just two, may still work but are guaranteed to make abysmal coffee. And every time you request a service call it is going to be around 100 big ones for the call out plus the work. And they will be frequent. So to buy an el cheapo machine at a sub budget price is not where the spending ends over time.

    People that buy from auction sites at convenient prices need to know what they are dealing with and or have their eyes wide open about the idea that they are probably buying a project and are up for it.

    I gather the Church group doesn't want a reconditioning project, it wants to drop a reasonable functioning machine on the bench and make coffee. Not everyone that owns a coffee machine knows anything about it other than how to make coffee (and many cant even do that), much the same as many people that drive cars....they don't do services or repairs...they just drive 'em !

    Ultimately and no matter what he reads in these types of threads, I think Damien needs to suss out a local service tech and go get some real time professional advice and actually see and feel and hear about what he is being offered by a real live person that is not hiding behind a computer screen and therefore is more likely to be honest about the standard of a machine being offered. And of course, this is the person who the client will be leaning on over time, to do service and repairs on the thing.

    This also brings to mind the other furphy that is often bandied about in forums, that in business, you go it alone and buy whatever machine you have been recommended to buy, often out of area and without regard to what they will do in future for required service backup. I guess the Church like anyone running a cafe, will require service backup, and for that reason buying from anonymous joe's behind computer screens is not really a good idea because all they want to do is offload and never hear from you again...

    Hope that helps.
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    Option 3 may be the best bet, if you can get a semi decent unit that may just need some TLC and minor parts, where you know you can easily source said parts and service manuals.

    Before going ahead with it, put a notice up at the church or newsletter? canvassing / asking for people with mechanical / engineering / plumbing backgrounds or know of such people in their family that may be willing to put in some hours over a few weekends to learn about / fix the machine together and get the church cafe up and running for free. May be a pipe dream...but you never know who is out there willing to pitch in or someone may even be looking for a new hobby or project to learn on the weekends.

    So in short make it a little church community project. Even if you were to get an older single group Boema or Rancillio and the like that may run a bit hot, I doubt that most people are going to care or notice once its drowned in milk and 2 sugars anyway. It shouldn't be to hard to source a high acid blend roasted on lighter side in Mleb that may be able to handle hotter temps.......

  7. #7
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    Thanks for all the input to date... truly appreciated.

    Just a little further info that may paint in some more of the detail, I already roast for myself, and a few friends buy roasted beans off me... so my plan would be to supply the beans and a suitable blend/roast will be determined.

    I'm also happy to volunteer my time and skills in getting things up and running... so, beyond simply trying to source a suitable machine/grinder setup, I'm more than happy to lend my general "coffee nous", and happy to donate my time and skills in terms of basic clean up/servicing that might be required to start with (group head seals etc). Once we get into more technical machine repairs/servicing, then fair to say we'd be relying on outside assistance. We also happen to have 2 or 3 church members currently working at a local big chain coffee shop. So, having already used a 2 group commercial machine in a high volume environment, I'd imagine with a little re-training, should be right to go in terms of on going operation!

    @Steve82, any experience in the sorts of machines you speak of in this sort of environment? Any thoughts on my concerns re: whether a single group machine would be able to keep up for that half-hour odd of action where there could be 25+ coffees ordered?

    I'd imagine reliability could become an issue, but I have a few domestic machines lying around (Sun-ville, single boiler/thermoblock types... oh, and a 6910 still in good running order)... would a pair of those side by side... one on milk, one pulling shots be workable? The 6910 pulls good shots (but seems slow on milk), and the Breville Ikon is good (albeit still quite slow) at milk... perhaps could work as a trial, to see if the whole concept will work, and at the same time perhaps raise a bit of funds to go towards a longer term purchase. Just an idea...

    Oh, and @noidle22, we currently have a domestic super-auto (Phillips/Saeco or something, I think... never paid too much attention, but know it's producing ordinary results). By the sound of it, this style of machine might be capable, if you get the right one. And something that I haven't done, and probably should before looking at other options, is reviewing the current auto machine's setup, beans being used etc. Perhaps the current machine is capable of better than it's currently producing.

    Thanks again to all who've contributed to date... keep it coming :-)

  8. #8
    Senior Member Vinitasse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TOK View Post
    Any ex commercial machine in the sub $1000.00 price bracket especially geriatric age machines such as old bezzera with corrugated bodies and rancilio Z models to name just two, may still work but are guaranteed to make abysmal coffee. And every time you request a service call it is going to be around 100 big ones for the call out plus the work. And they will be frequent. So to buy an el cheapo machine at a sub budget price is not where the spending ends over time.
    FYI... the $475 spent bought a Rancilio S20 in very good nick, to the point that the only servicing deemed necessary by 9Bar Espresso Services were new group seals and shower screens. The machine has been in operation for 6 months now and there hasn't been a single issue of any kind to deal with. With quality roasted specialty grade coffee and a few training sessions, the budding baristas are now cranking out some very decent cups of coffee. They were taught well and can pull stunning mahogany brown 26 second double shots, one after the other so don't go off assuming it can't be done. And... by the way... being eternal optimists fits very well in the given environment... dontcha think.

    With a little bit of luck and if you REALLY know what you're doing, the equipment can be had for the budget given. My point was that everything else that is needed will very quickly blow out that budget.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by damienh7 View Post

    @Steve82, any experience in the sorts of machines you speak of in this sort of environment? Any thoughts on my concerns re: whether a single group machine would be able to keep up for that half-hour odd of action where there could be 25+ coffees ordered?
    No direct experience , only extensive looking for my own possible projects. There is quite a few good threads on here on various S series Rancilio and those single group Boemas that pop up everywhere. Without searching again I think one or two threads doing something similar to what you propose.

    Others with more direct experience may correct me, but i cant see how one of these or similar would not do the job for you.

  10. #10
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    Hi Damienh7
    We had a 2 group 2nd hand commercial machine (installed by a local service agent) in our church cafe and it got a bad name because most folks that wanted to help did not know how to use, why or what to do, most didn't even drink coffee. In the end is was a liability in costs and was pulled out and sold for $100. Also it was stuck in one spot so that didn't work when functions were in other areas.
    They now have a commercial size pod machine, which although average in coffee, anyone can use.



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