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The Ultimate Checklist To Start A Coffee Shop

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This is an overview of most of the equipment you’ll need for opening a coffee house. Keep reading to learn more.

I once considered opening a coffee shop and have decided to condense my research into this guide. That way, you’ll know what to know when beginning your journey.

I’ll cover the different machines you’ll need. From there, I’ll talk about pricing, factors to consider before buying, and brands you may want to consider.

Keep reading to learn more.

Key Takeaways

  • Bare essentials include a coffee maker, grinder, and beans.
  • Coffee machine prices range from $1,000 to $30,000.
  • Coffee grinder prices range from $1,000 to $20,000.
  • Optional devices (e.g., automatic tampers) could add thousands to your budget.
  • Consider optional devices to improve productivity for high-traffic shops or stands.
  • Total costs for your business will range from $1,500 to $330,000.

Coffee Business Checklist

Here’s most of the equipment you’ll need when starting a coffee shop, café, or other business that’ll serve coffee:

ItemReasoning
Coffee MakerTo make the coffee
GrinderTo grind your beans
Automatic Espresso TamperSaves time when tamping beans.
Coffee BeansCritical for achieving a specific taste.
Coffee RoasterCould save money and gives you control over bean roast profiles.
Other EquipmentScales, cleaning materials, etc.

The following sections will provide estimates of what you’ll pay for every device, piece of equipment, or other item mentioned. I’ll explain what to consider when shopping, who should get each item, and more.

Dive in to learn more.

1. Commercial Coffee Machine

Entry LevelIntermediate LevelExpert Level
Price$1,000–$4,000$4,000–$10,000$10,000+
Best For Small coffee shops, carts, & officesCoffee shops & cafés serving more than 200 customers daily.High-traffic shops

The amounts of coffee each machine group can serve are estimates. However, expert-level machines will always work better for high-traffic shops due to having better construction and features to ensure longevity.

We have a different guide that’ll provide examples of machines you’ll find in these various ranges.

Don’t know how many customers you think you’ll have?

Most people won’t. Thus, you may want to rent various machines in the beginning.

If you rent a 1-group machine and end up having hundreds of customers during your rushes, you’ll learn to upgrade to a 2- or 3-group machine. Certain features (e.g., PID controller) may seem appealing on paper. But when renting, you may learn that it’s not critical for your business.

Otherwise, consider renting or leasing if you have an idea of your needs. They’ll save you money. We compare buying versus renting and leasing in a separate guide.

In short:

  • Buying is best for saving money in the long run.
  • Leasing is best for scaling.
  • Renting is ideal for testing machines.

Most shops will want espresso machines to serve drinks like Americanos, macchiatos, lattes, and whatever else. If you want to expand into areas such as nitro cold brew or nel drip, you’ll need separate coffee makers.

Because such machines can’t make espresso-based beverages.

You’ll need to replace commercial espresso machines every 6 to 15 years [1]. Depending on how you treat your machine. We go into ways to make your machine last longer in a separate piece.

Here are our recommendations for espresso machines:

Figure out what drinks you want to serve, then get a commercial machine that fits the required brewing method or desired taste. For smooth, less acidic drinks, you’ll want a commercial cold brew or nitro cold brew maker.

What do you need to consider when buying a commercial coffee maker? Let’s see.

1. Factors to Consider When Buying a Commercial Coffee Machine

For most types of coffee machines, you’ll need to consider the following factors:

  • Price: What’s within your budget.
  • Capacity and size: Whether it fits on your counter and how large the water tank is.
  • Brand: Determines customer support and warranty policy.
  • Extra features: Quality-of-life additions that’ll improve taste and productivity.
  • Energy efficiency: Higher up-front cost, but lower electricity costs.
  • New vs. used: Lower price, but questionable reliability.

When it comes to espresso machines, you’ll also need to consider these factors:

FactorDescription
Number of Group HeadsDetermines how quickly you can serve guests
Recovery TimeCooldown time between brews.
Thermocycling vs. Dual BoilingHow long it’ll take to heat your machine.
Temperature StabilityWhether your machine’s temperature is consistent.
Boiler TypeDetermines how long it’ll take to heat the machine and whether it can heat frother at the same time.
FeaturesQuality-of-life and flavor improvements.

A group head in an espresso machine directs pressurized water through coffee grounds, extracting flavorful espresso. The more of these your device has, the more people you can serve per hour. But it also results in a higher cost.

They’re also what you attach your portafilter to. I’ll talk more about portafilters under the “Other Equipment” section.

Recovery time refers to the cooldown time between making shots. The lower the cooldown, the more drinks you can make quickly. But also, the more expensive the machine.

Thermocycling is better than dual boiling since it has no recovery time but costs much more than machines with double boilers.

Temperature stability refers to the temperature consistency within your espresso machine. Factors such as the type of boiler and insulation used will affect this.

Speaking of boiler types…

You’ll have several boiler types available:

  • Single boiler: Cheaper, but can’t brew and froth milk simultaneously.
  • Thermoblock: Affordable, heats quicker than single boilers, but still can’t brew and froth at the same time.
  • Heat exchangers: Can brew and froth simultaneously, but not ideal for commercial environments.
  • Dual boilers: Most expensive, but can handle a lot of foot traffic.

Always opt for machines with dual boilers if they’re within your budget. They allow for simultaneous frothing and water heating, which reduces the amount of recovery time between drinks.

They also pair well with PID controllers. A feature that’ll optimize your machine’s temperature consistency. However, machines with such a feature cost much more and may not be ideal for smaller shops.

But getting a machine with pre-infusion will prove helpful to most shops. It’ll apply low amounts of pressure to coffee beans before brewing, extracting more flavor from your beans.

Automatic backwashing is another valuable feature for high-traffic environments. They’ll prevent scale and coffee residue buildup while saving time cleaning your machine’s group head.

Moving on.

2. Great Commercial Coffee Machine Brands

Here are a bunch of coffee machine brands I recommend for coffee shops:

Not all these brands will work well for all purposes. For instance, while Bonavita coffee makers serve high-quality coffee, they’re better for home and office settings. Where you won’t have hundreds of people waiting for drinks.

Compare each brand’s warranty policy, pricing, and features. From there, you’ll know who to choose.

I’m exhausted typing about commercial coffee makers. Let’s move onto the next device you’ll need.

2. Commercial Coffee Grinder

Entry LevelIntermediate LevelExpert Level
Price<$1,000$1,000–$4,000$4,000+
Best For Small coffee shops & cartsCoffee shops & cafés serving more than 200 customers daily.High-traffic shops, coffee roasters, & wholesalers

The above are estimates of prices for coffee grinders. We have a separate guide that dives further into what contributes to the cost of these machines.

To summarize, smaller coffee shops, cafés, and carts will pay less for machines that can’t serve as many customers.

If you have no idea of how many customers you’ll serve, consider renting a commercial grinder. Doing so will give you a test run of different grinders without dealing with the maintenance yourself. Since the rental company does it for you.

It’ll cost more money, but you won’t need to trap yourself in a lease. Nor will you have to blow a bunch of money on a potentially expensive grinder that’s overkill for the amount of traffic in your shop.

Anyway:

Commercial coffee grinders are the spine of a coffee house. Without one, you’ll have no way to grind your beans. Unless you purchase pre-ground beans, which could potentially cost you a lot more.

Depending on how high quality of grinder you get, you’ll need to replace them every 5 to 10 years [2]. And you’ll need to replace the grinder’s burrs once every 6 months. Or once every “X” weight.

Here’s an example of what I mean. The Pinecone Foxtail Commercial Coffee Grinder’s burrs will require a replacement after grinding 8–10 tons of coffee. The amount your machine can support will vary.

Check the manufacturer’s manual for details.

Regularly replacing commercial coffee grinder burrs maintains consistent grind quality, preserving flavor integrity. This enhances overall coffee quality and customer satisfaction, crucial for business success.

Our recommendations:

Industrial coffee grinders are the most expensive, but are worth the enormous price tag if you’re running a business that grinds hundreds of pounds of coffee per hour.

Retail grinders grind less coffee per hour and are more suitable for grocery stores, where they let customers grind their own beans.

And commercial grinders are for everyone else.

What do you need to consider when buying a grinder for your coffee business? Keep reading and find out.

1. Factors to Consider When Buying a Commercial Coffee Grinder

Here’s an overview of what you’ll need to consider when shopping for a commercial coffee grinder:

FactorDescription
What it’s Used fore.g., grinding massive amounts of beans to sell.
Burr ShapeBurr shape and material.
Hopper CapacityThe amount of beans your machine will store.
Additional FeaturesFeatures to improve grind quality or user experience.
Build QualityHow well it’s put together.
BrandWarranty, customer service, and such.
MotorHow fast it grinds beans.
Doser vs. DoserlessGrind on-demand or pre-measured amounts.
NoiseHow loud your machine is.
Burr MaterialWhat material was used for your burrs.

I covered “what it’s used for” in the previous section. Industrial machines are for wholesalers and bulk bean sellers. Commercial machines are for shops and cafés. Retail grinders are for retail settings.

Burr shape will determine your bean consistency. Most commercial grinders use flat burrs. Meaning this point isn’t as critical to consider.

Hopper capacity determines the number of times you’ll need to refill your hopper throughout a workday. More expensive machines will have larger hoppers but require fewer refills.

Some grinders will have 2 separate hoppers, which makes them ideal for grinding multiple types of beans (e.g., medium roast and decaf).

Additional features you’ll want to consider include:

  • Integrated cooling: Keeps your machine cool despite constantly running (essential).
  • Grind by weight: Ensures consistent grind weight.
  • Stepless grind adjustment: Precise control over grind size.
  • Touchscreen interface: Can offer more control over your machine.

Such features will add more costs to your machine but will likely improve your bean grind’s productivity and quality. Determine your business’ needs, then see if such features will meet them.

Higher-quality machines use better-quality parts and have better quality control, thus the higher cost. But they’ll last longer before requiring a replacement. Potentially saving you money in the long run.

I’ll talk about brands in the next section.

The motor determines how fast it’ll grind your beans and whether it’ll support a particular grind. For instance, you’ll need 1,200–1,500 RPM coffee grinders to achieve fine grinds for Turkish coffee and espresso.

Doser coffee grinders can help speed up grinding by dispensing pre-measured amounts. Doserless provides coffee on demand. The former usually costs more but could make lunch and breakfast rushes smoother.

Noise determines how loud your machine is. If you want a quiet vibe in your shop, you likely won’t want a roaring grinder preventing customers from hearing each other.

And here’s a comparison of different burr materials:

MaterialSteelTitanium CoatingCeramic
ProsMore affordable and durableLess likely to overheat and breakLess likely to overheat
ConsProne to overheatingCoating may chip and mix with beansLess durable

You’ll find various types of steel. For instance, the Mahlkönig DK27 has tungsten carbide steel. This material is much more durable than titanium. As tungsten carbide has a hardness of 8.5 to 9. While titanium has a 6 [3].

Let’s circle back to brands.

2. Excellent Commercial Coffee Grinder Brands

Here are a bunch of coffee grinder brands I recommend for coffee shops:

Baratza grinders don’t work well for commercial purposes. But if you’re someone who owns a small coffee cart and serves fewer than 20 customers an hour, you could get away with it.

Otherwise, you’ll want to compare each brand’s warranty policy, machine build quality, and pricing.

Here’s a machine that’s not required, but it’ll improve productivity.

3. Automatic Espresso Tamper

Avg. Price: $600-$1,500

Coffee shops with high customer demand and a focus on efficiency often benefit from automatic espresso tampers.

An automatic espresso tamper machine is a device designed to streamline and automate the tamping process in espresso preparation. It consistently applies the exact amount of pressure needed for tamping beans.

Tamping is a crucial step in making espresso, where baristas tamp the ground beans in the portafilter to ensure uniform extraction. The automatic tamper replaces the manual effort typically required for this step.

Here are the best automatic espresso tampers you can buy.

Pros of having this type of machine include:

  • Consistency: Ensures a consistent tamp for every shot, reducing variations in flavor.
  • Time Efficiency: Speeds up the espresso-making process, especially during peak hours, improving customer service.
  • Reduced Barista Strain: Minimizes physical strain on baristas, promoting a healthier work environment.

Reasons you may not want it include:

  • Cost: Higher initial investment and maintenance compared to manual tampers.
  • Adjustability: Some automatic tampers may have limited adjustability for different coffee blends or preferences.
  • Dependency on Technology: Malfunctions or breakdowns in the machine could disrupt workflow, requiring technical support.

If you’re still reading this section, then you’ll need to know what leads to a good espresso tamper.

Factors to Consider When Buying an Automatic Espresso Tamper

Consider these factors when shopping for an automatic espresso tamper:

FactorDescription
Tamper SizeEnsures compatibility with portafilter dimensions.
Manual vs. AutomaticDetermines user involvement and speed of operation.
Convex vs. FlatInfluences extraction uniformity and flavor profile.
Grinder CompatibilityWhether it’ll work with your grinder.

You’ll need to ensure the tamper size of the machine matches your portafilter’s size. Otherwise, the automatic tamper can’t work.

There are manual espresso tamper machines. These will cost less and not require electricity, but they’ll need more time and effort to operate compared to automatic ones.

Flat tampers supposedly lead to a better espresso extraction rate compared to convex ones [4]. However, the latter is better for preventing espresso channeling. If you have a good grinder, you won’t need to worry about espresso channeling, anyway.

Speaking of. You’ll also need a WDT tool. It’s a small rake-like device to help break down coffee grounds inside your portafilter. You’ll need this no matter what type of tamper you use.

Some automatic tampers may only work with specific grinders. Contact the manufacturer or check the grinder’s description to see whether you need a particular grinder.

Most of the significant “essential” expenses are out of the way. Let’s talk about the main ingredient in your drink.

4. Coffee Beans

Coffee bean choices significantly impact a business, influencing the flavor, quality, and overall customer experience. The type, origin, roast level, and blend of coffee beans determine the distinct characteristics of the final cup.

For businesses, this choice is crucial for establishing a unique and appealing coffee profile that caters to the target market’s preferences. Additionally, sourcing high-quality beans is essential for building a positive reputation, ensuring customer satisfaction, and boosting loyalty.

There’s too much to cover regarding beans, though.

Here are a bunch of resources to help you determine the type of bean your business should use:

These guides will explain all the types of beans available, what grind types you’ll need for specific beverages, certifications, and how to take care of your beans.

You may want to roast these beans yourself. Here’s a machine that’ll help.

5. Coffee Roaster

Avg. price range: $2,000-$25,000

I wouldn’t recommend these to small coffee shops unsure about their business’ future. Get one if you’re a larger shop that wants to stand out.

A commercial coffee roaster is a machine designed to roast green coffee beans, transforming them into coffee beans for brewing. These roasters vary in size and capacity.

Ranging from small batch roasters suitable for artisanal shops. To larger machines capable of handling substantial quantities for more extensive operations.

Do you need one?

A shop that prioritizes unique flavor profiles, and wants to distinguish itself by roasting its own beans would benefit from a commercial coffee roaster.

This investment is suitable for businesses aiming to create a signature blend, experiment with various bean origins, and offer a freshly roasted product to their customers.

Pros include:

  • Freshness: Ensures the freshest coffee, contributing to a superior flavor.
  • Customization: Can create unique blends, catering to specific customer preferences.
  • Branding: Provides a unique selling point, enhancing the shop’s brand identity.
  • Quality Control: Direct control over the roasting process allows for consistent quality and flavor.
  • Increased Profit Margin: Buying green beans is generally more cost-effective than pre-roasted, potentially increasing profit margins.

Cons include:

  • Initial Cost: Expensive, requiring a significant upfront investment.
  • Skill Requirement: Roasting coffee requires expertise; hiring or training a skilled roaster is essential.
  • Space and Ventilation: Roasting generates heat and requires proper ventilation, demanding adequate space.
  • Time-Consuming: Time-intensive; staff needs to manage the process alongside regular operations.
  • Maintenance: Regular maintenance and cleaning are crucial to ensure the roaster’s efficiency and longevity.

Do you still want one after reading the above? Good. Let’s dive into the factors you should consider when shopping.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Commercial Coffee Roaster

Consider these factors when shopping for a commercial coffee roaster:

FactorDescription
Bean CapacityHow much coffee will you need to be roasting for your café?
Gas vs. ElectricWhich type of heat power is going to be best for your roast?
Fluid Bed or DrumEach type of roaster has different properties for flavor 
Size and WeightIs the roasting machine going to fit comfortably in your café or office?
Heat LevelHotter machines generally mean faster roasting
Extra FeaturesCoffee roasters can also feature a bunch of extra cool add-ons

I’m summarizing the factors below and won’t dive any further. Because we already did that in a separate guide, which I recommend reading.

Capacity refers to the amount of beans your machine can roast at a time. The larger the capacity, the higher the price and the more cups of coffee it could support.

Most coffee houses want an electric commercial roaster because it’s safer and more affordable. Mostly professional roasters (the big dogs) will use gas-powered industrial roasters. 

Drum commercial roasters typically work better for commercial use since the machines rotate the beans. This ensures they have even roasting.

Size and weight are self-explanatory. The bigger the machine, the more beans it could generally roast.

The higher the heat level, the quicker your beans will roast. But such higher levels will usually result in a higher-costing machine. It’ll also tack more money onto your electricity bill.

Extra features that could add costs to your machine include temperature and automatic timing. Both will help improve productivity and optimize your bean’s resulting roast.

Everything else you’ll need for your business includes—

6. Other Items

Here’s other equipment you’ll need to consider:

EquipmentDescriptionEstimated Price
Sweeteners & CreamersAllows you to offer different drink flavors.$5–$20 per unit or case
PortafilterHolds coffee grounds for espresso machines.$30–$100
Water FiltersProvides clean drinking water.$50–$100
POS SystemCollects payment and tracks inventory.$50+ monthly or 2.0–4.0% + $0.10–$0.20 per transaction
Storage & ShelvingStore your inventory.$50–$200 per unit
Commercial BlendersGreat for making blended drinks.$700–$2,000
Tables, chairs, and decorationsSeating & creating an aesthetic.$50–$300 per unit
DisposablesNapkins, cups, straws, etc.$10–$50 per pack or case

Unless you don’t plan on offering “specialized” drinks, you’ll need additives such as:

  • Best sweeteners: Adds sweetness to drinks.
  • Best creamers: Makes coffee taste less bitter.

Getting these in wholesale shouldn’t make too big of a dent in your budget. But may make a huge difference in obtaining customers.

If you plan on using espresso machines, you’ll also need to consider the type and size of portafilter you use. Here are some references for you to peruse:

Choosing a well-crafted portafilter and basket in a coffee shop is crucial for consistent espresso quality. A sturdy, evenly perforated basket promotes uniform water flow, extracting flavors evenly. 

The portafilter’s material and design impact temperature stability, influencing the final taste. Investing in high-quality components enhances the barista’s ability to create a superior and reliable espresso experience for customers.

For instance, while VST precision portafilter baskets cost more, they have a better design for more even extraction than the baskets that come with espresso machine portafilters.

So long as you have direct plumbing with your coffee machine, you’ll need a water filtration system for the best-tasting coffee. Such a system also helps prevent scale and mineral buildup, which could reduce your machine’s lifespan.

You could install this yourself—if you’re handy. Or you could hire a plumber (recommended), which will add another expense.

A POS (Point of Sale) system is a digital tool that handles business transactions, inventory, and sales. It streamlines payment processing, tracks sales data, and manages inventory for efficient business operations.

The system you get depends on how many customers you estimate you’ll get and what features the service has. If you’re a shop that doesn’t have many customers, you may want to consider a payment processing fee without a monthly plan.

Businesses serving many customers will want a monthly plan to save money on processing fees. Because those costs will add up.

I shouldn’t need to explain why you need storage and shelving for a coffee shop. Only get the number of shelves you’ll need to store what you have.

You’ll want a commercial blender if you intend to make blended coffee drinks or smoothies. These blenders offer higher wattage and will prove reliable for hundreds of drinks.

If you’re operating a coffee truck or stand, you won’t need tables, chairs, and decorations. Those operating a coffee shop will. Figure out your store’s aesthetic and get matching seating and decorations.

Disposables include cups, napkins, stirring sticks, and such. You could cut down on costs for disposables by offering discounts to customers who bring in reusable cups.

I’ve covered a lot of pricing, but how much will it all cost in the end? Let’s see.

How Much Will it Cost to Open a Coffee Shop?

A source I found suggests that opening the following types of coffee shops in an area outside a city center will cost the following [5]:

Coffee Shop TypeEstimated Startup Cost
Shop with Seating (No Drive-thru)$80,000–$330,000
Drive-thru only$80,000–$230,000
Seating and Drive-thru$80,000–$400,000
Coffee Cart$60,000–$125,000
Coffee Food Truck$50,000–$175,000
Coffee Bar to Existing Shop$1,500–$30,000
Café or Bakery Coffee Service$25,000–$80,000

Aside from everything I mentioned, you’ll also need to consider the following factors when opening a coffee shop:

  • Training: Cost to train new hires.
  • Real estate: Rent or mortgage price for your building, truck, or cart.
  • Payroll: If you hire team members.
  • Taxes: Income tax, property tax, etc.
  • Professional fees: Lawyers, business consultants, etc.
  • Borrowing costs: Interest from loans.
  • Shipping: Logistics fees to get materials to your shop.

The above information speaks for itself. I can’t provide specifics on the factors in the list, since these include various factors. For instance, your tax rate will depend on the city you set up shop.

That’s all.

Conclusion

Depending on what type of business you set up—coffee stand versus coffee shop—you’ll need specific equipment. Those not expecting much foot traffic will have much lower startup costs and machine requirements. While those in populated areas will likely need to borrow money to begin.

Now that you know what goes into a business, you’ll need to check out commercial espresso machines and commercial coffee grinders.

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Author

Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of TimsCoffee.com. He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create TimsCoffee.com.
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