How to Open a Coffee Shop on a Budget

How to Open a Coffee Shop on a Budget

December 9, 2018

How to Open a Coffee Shop on a Budget. Buying the right equipment.

We’ve supplied a lot of coffee shops over the years at Kitchenall. With a small menu that requires a limited equipment investment and modest space requirements, a coffee shop is one of the simpler and more accessible food service options to start with. If you’ve planned well and find some success you can easily add menu items to grow the business with only a few minor equipment additions that will drop right into your existing layout.

In Part 1 of this article we will outline the basic equipment supplies you will need to coffee shop, with a priority on finding new, well priced, good quality equipment to fit our budget of $17,000. In Part 2 we will tell you how to design the coffee shop, finalize your equipment list, and get everything installed.

Before we start measuring and making sure everything fits, it’s important to put together a list of the basic equipment we will need. This will give us our baseline cost. Later when we get to the layout stage we will make minor adjustments to sizes but this should result in only minor price changes so there should be no surprises. Most coffee shops operate with electric power only, so we will not consider gas equipment in this guide.



Equipment Categories: RefrigerationDisplay Cases , Coffee Equipment , Stainless Steel and Sinks, Light Cooking Equipment (optional)



Commercial Ice Machine

A quality ice machine is essential to any coffee shop and will likely be your second most expensive item (the espresso machine is first). Most small to medium size coffee shops will purchase an undercounted ice machine in the 200lb to 300lb range. You will be tempted to buy a similar looking 100lb machine to save money, but don’t do it. You can’t have too much ice but you can easily have too little. If you will be doing any blending then buy on the higher end of the range. The vast majority of our coffee shop customer purchase half cube, air cooled machines. The half cubes work better with ice coffee and the space does not get hot enough to warrant a water cooled unit, which would only result in a monster water bill each month.


Our Pick: Coldline ICE250 250lb Undercounter Ice Machine: $1495

The Coldline ICE Series ice machines have been our most popular units over the last 2 years. They cost about 30% less than some premium names like Ice-O-matic or Manitowoc, but we actually get fewer warranty requests on them. In short, the Coldline ice machines just work, and thats why recommend them.


Undercounter (Worktop) Refrigerator

Most coffee shops have extremely tight space requirements so you will need to cram your refrigeration in where you can. An undercounter refrigerator with a finished stainless steel top provides you with quick access refrigeration and a spacious workspace in one place. The top should be durable enough to cut on, blend on, and make drinks on. Some users like to slide this under a counter or worktable but you can also just work right on it.


Our Pick: Coldline TUC48R 48” Undercounter Refrigerator: $1295

We are picking Coldine units based primarily on their solid price to quality ratio, but there other factors. This Coldline worktop features an all stainless steel interior where others might be white plastic, its 29” front to back depth measurement will fit will in tight spaces, and a durable 2” S/S work surface that can take a beating. 24” Depth worktops are also available if your space calls for an even narrower unit.



Alternative: Coldline UBB-24-48GY 48” Back Bar Refrigerator

If you’re really tight on space and require sliding doors rather than swing, a sliding glass door back bar will work. These units have the same durable top as the TUC48 worktop, but with sliding glass doors. Back bar coolers do not traditionally come with wheels, but you can get them installed if desired.




Reach-in Refrigerator:

A solid door Reach-in is a back of the house staple of any food service business. A single door reach-in with 23 cu ft of space should be plenty for a small to medium size shop, particularly if you have an under-counter up front.


Our Pick: Coldline CFD-1RE Single Door Stainless Steel Reach-In Refrigerator: $1295

Factors to consider when purchasing a reach-in refrigerator, other than the price: does it have a stainless interior, does it come on casters (wheels), can I add extra shelves, does it have a quick recovery time? Meaning, if you are you are frequently accessing the unit can it get back down to temp quickly. The Coldline CFD units check all of these boxes and they come at a good price.




Reach-in Freezer:

(Optional) Commercial upright freezers will cost a little bit more than a refrigerator, and may not be a requirement. We often get requests for combination refrigerator freezers and we always tell people that, while they are available, it will be functionally the same but much cheaper to simply buy a refrigerator and freezer and put them next to each other.


Our Pick: Coldline CFD-1FE Single Door Stainless Steel Reach-In Refrigerator: $1495

The same things that make a good commercial refrigerator make a good freezer. A durable stainless interior for easy cleaning and fast recover time are important.




Downgrade Picks:
Marchia CF2 Countertop Glass Door Freezer: $795

If a large freezer is overkill consider a compact glass door freezer or an inexpensive chest freezer and save $1000





Coldline CF30 30” Chest Freezer: $279

If a large freezer is overkill consider a compact glass door freezer or an inexpensive chest freezer and save $1000





Glass Door Merchandising Refrigerator

Many coffee shops don’t have a refrigerated merchandiser but they should. A small food print glass door refrigerator is an easy way to dry customers off the street and increase impulse sales while your customers wait.


Our Pick: Coldline G10 Single Glass Door Merchandising Reach-In Refrigerator: $849

The G10 is a cute, small, unassuming glass door merchandising refrigerator with attractive LED lighting and a nice price tag.

Upgrade Pick: Marchia MDS250 24” Open Air Grab and Go Refrigerator: $2095

An open air grab and go takes impulse sales to the next level by reducing all obstacles to purchase. This narrow unit is handsome and small enough for any coffee shop but can hold a variety of refrigerated drinks and foods including yogurts, salads, desserts and even sandwiches


Refrigerated Draft Dispenser (Optional)

Serve your iced coffee, cold brew or nitro straight from a tap with a refrigerated draft dispenser. Traditionally thought of as draft beer dispensers, these units have found a new purpose in coffee shops around the country. They are easy to set up and can fit any number of half, quarter, or smaller keg varieties for multiple flavors. a single door unit will come with one tower and tap but the tower can easily be exchanged for a 2 or 3 tap tower for about $100

Our Pick: Coldline UDD-1 Single Tower Draft Dispenser

Our experience with these draft dispensers is that all of the makes and models we sell work equally well, so this choice is based on the price. The Coldline just costs a little bit less than the rest.





Dry Countertop Bakery Display

Before you serve refrigerated foods, you may want to start with a dry bakery display case. A dry case is essentially a glass or acrylic box with shelves. There is no mechanical or electrical component to it. Since its all glass and its sits on a countertop LED lighting is not even needed. In the long run you will find the real glass cases will hold up longer than the acrylic displays, which you’ll find scratch and discolor over time.


Our Pick: Marchia CA45 Countertop Dry Bakery Display Case: $149

Display an assortment of breads or up to 24 muffins comfortably in this small true tempered glass countertop display case a shelf and 2 rear access doors. Real glass means it won’t scratch. 2 rear access doors allow access to the top or bottom independently. Curved glass design looks great and the rubber feet allow it to sit securely on any surface.


Refrigerated Bakery Display Case

Serving pastries from a nice looking refrigerated bakery display case as an easy way to bump up revenue without adding complexity to your space. A small floor model height bakery case can present you customers with an assortment of mouth watering desserts in an attractive but unimposing package. A counter height case is typically under 50” tall and can stand alone or fit nicely under a counter. If you have the space you can add a matching dry, non-refrigerated case for breads. If your space just can’t fit a floor model display case, there are plenty of affordable countertop refrigerated bakery displays available to choose from.

Our Pick: Marchia MB36 36” Refrigerated Bakery Display Case: $1995

Marchia displays are known for putting good looks into a small reliable package. At only 26” deep this display can fit into the smallest café and look good doing it. It features a curved glass and stainless steel finish with beautiful LED lighting from the top and under each shelf. The unit is short enough that you can still utilize the top, whether it’s to interact with customers or to present breaks or croissants in a dry countertop display case. Finally, Marchia units are powerful enough that they can hold a lot more than pastries. Salads, sandwiches, drinks and even cream cheese and other dairy items are right at home in here.

Downgrade Pick: Marchia MDC120 28” Countertop Bakery Display

For a space that just can’t fit a floor model bakery case, Marchia’s MDC line of countertop cases is the next best thing. With a curved glass design and sliding rear access, it brings good looks along with function to your business. Just like the floor models, the countertop models are plenty powerful for other foods and are even used by big chains like Legal Seafoods.





Espresso machine

Any serious coffee shop or café will need an espresso machine for espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos, but which one? Espresso machines can range widely in price based on brand, with a 2 group unit selling anywhere between $2000 and $10,000. While we get the draw of showing off your Marcozzo espresso machine, it’s out of our budget and we doubt your customers care that much anyway. Instead of paying for a logo consider a perfectly capable but less flashy espresso machine from Cecilware or Magister and put the $4000 you just saved toward the rest of your coffee equipment.


Our Pick: Magister ES70 2 Group Espresso Machine

The Magister has everything you need and nothing you don’t. Its a sharp looking perfectly capable espresso machine with durable stainless steel body, 220V power, dual handles, steam nozzle, and programmable voiume dosage. The only thing it doesn’t have is that Marcozzo sticker.



Coffee Grinder

Offering coffee from freshly ground beans is a must. Fortunately grinders are a relatively inexpensive and easy to use item that won’t require much space. Grinders will come in two types, espresso and regular. The regular coffee grinder will require two hoppers to accommodate regular and decaf coffee.


Our Pick: Regular Grinder: Bunn LPGE Douple Hopper Low Profile Grinder

This double hopper grinder grinds regular and decaf in a package thats only 17” high


Our Pick: Espresso Grinder: Cecilware HC-600 Venezia II Espresso Grinder

Cecilware is a non non-sense manufacturer of mid-range coffee equipment and the HC-600 is a safe long term choice



Coffee maker with hot water dispenser

There are many options for coffee makers and they cover a wide range of price points, yet they all ultimately do the same thing. A Curtis twin coffee brewer that brews straight into Thermal Airpots will run upwards of $2000 while a Bunn our over coffee maker that drips into decanters will set you back only $600. Since we are on a budget we are going with the pourer unit and 2 independent airpots that can hold the coffee hot for longer periods. We are also buying it with a line for hot water, which means one less device in our shop and a few more dollars saved.


Our Pick: Espresso Grinder: Bunn CWTF-15-3 Coffee Brewer with 1 Lower Warmer, 2 Upper Warmers: $622

With 2 upper warmers and a lower warmer you can have plenty of coffee going at once. The built in water line makes hot water a cinch. And the price is right




Lets not over think this, we need 3 or 4 reasonably priced airpots to keep our coffee warm. Something with a lever rather than a push button will keep things moving.


Our Pick: Espresso Grinder: Grindmaster ENALS30S 3 Liter Stainless Steel Lined Lever Top Airpot

Stainless, lever, under $100. Done.