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If your interest in coffee is strong enough, you may be considering opening your own shop. This process is, understandably, not as easy as it may appear. The key to coffee shop success, regardless of location, is to keep production costs as low as possible. You’ll have to do a lot of research on products, tools, and consumption trends, and you’ll need to figure out where to get the best shop equipment on the market.

 

When you’re ready to start making equipment purchases, you may wonder where to begin. This list is curated to reflect what most shops have upon opening. In includes standard equipment as well as a few items you may otherwise neglect.

 

Automatic Drip Machines—Standard drip brews are the bread and butter of coffee shops; block coffee will account for some 30% of your store’s sales, so you want to invest in a coffee maker that will pull its weight. When choosing, ensure your model is durable enough to produce a high quantity, quick enough to meet demand for busy times, and large enough to produce sizeable batches. Most successful coffee shop owners suggest keeping three or four blends available at a time.

 

An Espresso Machine—Most coffee drunks customers are likely to order have espresso. You’ll need an excellent espresso machine to meet both production and taste standards. Understand what makes a good espresso machine, and shop smart. Industrial espresso machines can cost a lot of money, so be sure to know what you’re getting into. For additional reference, see our Guide to Shopping for an Espresso Machine.

 

An Industrial Coffee Grinder—Most shops will keep unground beans in inventory. This will allow them to stay fresher for longer periods of time. Adding an industrial grinder to your shop equipment list is essential for producing great, fresh coffee.

 

Refrigeration System—You’ll need to keep food and dairy products fresh. This requires refrigeration in both display cases and in units behind the bar. When designing your shop, be sure to consider where and how you will install your refrigeration system.

 

All other coffee shop equipment—from food products and glassware to shelving and toasters—should be purchased after these initial tools. The rest of your purchases will depend on the type of coffee shop you want to run. Do you want to offer food and smoothies? How much merchandise do you want to sell? Answering these questions should provide a guide for your remaining equipment purchases.

Whether you’re a coffee professional or a passionate recreational lover, extraction tastings are imperative for introducing yourself (or clients!) to a new coffee product. Hosting extraction tastings is an excellent way to draw customers into your shop, and doing them on your own is a great way to better understand the complexity of coffee flavor. To do an extraction, all you’ll need is coffee, scales, a grinder, and an espresso machine—tools you likely already have if you’re reading this blog. You can run experiments with any coffee and grinder.

I recommend starting with a typical espresso recipe. The flavors will likely be balanced, providing you a great “middle of the road” taste for the experiment. Don’t worry about shot times; as long as your grinder is calibrated to make the typical recipe taste great, size and time won’t really matter. The trick here is to make espresso to weight. To do this, grind, weigh, distribute, and tamp your usual dose into the basket, making sure to be as accurate as possible with dose weight. Tare your cup on a small set of scales. Start the espresso shot and place the cup and scales beneath the spouts. As the espresso begins to brew, the weight will increase. Stop the shot when the scale reads between two and six grams less than your target yield. Follow this process to make seven espressos with the same dose and different yields. I like to use intervals of 4 grams (a typical espresso yield is 40g).

 

Now, it is time to dilute. The longest shot will be the weakest, so you should dilute all other espressos down to the same concentration. The shortest shot will be strongest, so it will need the most water. Add appropriate amounts of water to each espresso so they are roughly the same number of grams. At the end of the process, you will have seven espressos of similar strengths but with very different extractions.

 

Now comes the fun part: the tasting! You will now have a neat flight of espressos. The first two will be the most aggressive, and the middle (the fourth) will be the “correct” balance. Taste each and record anything that comes to mind. This is a great activity for coffee professionals and enthusiasts, and I hope you enjoy the tasting process!

 

Name: Bellden Cafe

Neighborhood: Bellevue

This café serves up quality coffee with a charitable twist: they support a rotating cast of local nonprofit organizations. They offer these nonprofits a space to discuss their work, providing café staff as volunteers, and donating proceeds from the sale of specialty items. In addition to coffee, visitors can enjoy pastries, sandwiches, salads, acai bowls, and toasts.

Name: Metropolis Coffee

Neighborhood: Edgewater

Metropolis is a coffee shop and roastery that services much of the greater Chicago area. They believe that great coffee comes from a line of respect, beginning with bean farmers and the love of their land. They pay fair prices for harvest (direct-trade) and offer a range of brewing methods: pour-over, Japanese cold brew, and standard drip. Their prices are some of the most affordable around. The shop is conveniently located (just off the Granville red line stop) and boasts three rooms of tables, chairs, and couches. Each room seems to have a “set” volume level—the entrance is noisy, the second room is full of discussion, and the farthest room is full of people quietly reading and writing.

 

 

Name: Oromo Café

Neighborhood: Lincoln Square

The newly-opened Oromo Café is like the United Nations of coffee—their espresso and coffee drinks feature flavors from around the world, including India, Turkey, Madagascar, and Ethiopia. You can ask the barista to spike your beverage with superfoods, such as spirulina, for an added boost of nutrition. My personal favorite is the pistachio-rose latte; it’ll run you around the price of a beer at a local bar, but it’s a can’t-miss drink. You can also get traditionally-brewed Turkish coffee and Iraqi teas.

 

Name: Barismo

Neighborhood: mid-Cambridge

Formerly called “Dwelltime,” this neighborhood café boasts plentiful seating, fine coffees, pastries, a weekend brunch menu, and affordable lunch options. Unlike in other Cambridge spots, you won’t have to fight Harvard and MIT students for a seat. However, be warned: they do not offer WiFi. This, however, makes for a cozy atmosphere—you’ll spot people reading and talking quietly throughout the café. They have outposts throughout the city, meaning you can pick up a cup of Barismo coffee in several spots throughout the Boston metropolitan area.

Name: Devoción

Neighborhood: Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Devoción’s roastery and café is an outpost of a coffee roaster in Bogota, Colombia. The shop’s beans arrive via FedEx straight from Columbia—no more than ten days after being picked, meaning this is some of the freshest coffee in the city. In fact, “freshness” is integral to their mission statement; they launched in 2006 with the goal of changing the way coffee is consumed around the world, emphasizing the importance of incredibly fresh coffee. The space itself is large, open, and features a massive skylight. Planning to stay a while? You’re in luck—Devoción priorities seating space, offering couches, stools, a bar, and several 2- and 4-person tables.

What makes a great coffee shop? Is it the quality of the coffee? Is it the pricing, or the friendliness of the baristas? We are inclined to favor the local shops we frequent (I am certainly guilty of that), but what actually makes for a good coffee shop experience? Below, I’ve included a few of my “essentials” in the form of a checklist. Use this to assess your local favorites or make a decision while travelling.

 

[ ] Good coffee matters most. Why leave your house for a cup of standard Nescafe? Why pay to drink Nescafe in public?

 

[ ] Pricing is also important. Recently, my local shop upped their American prices from $3.25 to $4.25. That is too dang high for a cup of hot bean water. I like to use this rule of thumb (applies to 12oz pours): $2-$3.50 for a drip coffee, $3-$4 for espresso drinks, and $4-$6 for “specialty” brewing, like pour-overs and cold brew.

 

[ ] You should be able to sit down. We love our favorite coffee shops for a reason. Odds are, other people are also privy to those reasons. However, some shops may reach a breaking point: they become so popular that you cannot find a seat. If your local shop has hit this precipice, start looking elsewhere; nobody wants to sip coffee while people stand around willing you to get up.

 

[ ] It should have the atmosphere you want. Nobody wants to be that pair having a heated political discussion in a shop full of people working on laptops. Similarly, you don’t want to hunker down with a Derrida text when a screaming child is just a few tables over.

 

[ ] It should have the proper amenities. Do you go to shops to read? Find a place with big, comfortable couches or armchairs. Do you go to do work? The shop should have free WiFi, ample desk space, and outlets scattered throughout.