Check out some of the best espresso machines for your food truck and things to look out for before making a purchase
Coffee is a very popular product as you can see by the numerous coffee shops lining the high street. Food trucks are also getting in on the action and selling coffee as an addition to their main food offering or as a product from a dedicated coffee truck.
However, when selling coffee from a food truck, mobile van or any type of mobile coffee business for that matter there are things you will need to consider that differ slightly from if you were making a purchase for a fixed location coffee shop.
Considerations such as the space limitations of a food truck and the type of power you need to operate the coffee machine such as electricity or gas.
So to take some of the guesswork out for you I’ve contacted Wogan Coffee, who is a coffee specialist with over 50 years of experience and put together a buyer’s guide for things to look out for before making a purchase and 4 of the best commercial coffee machines for mobile vans.
- Buyers guide
- Fracino Bambino Auto Fill Coffee Machine
- LA MARZOCCO GS3
- Conti 202
- Conti X-one
- Key takeaway
Not only did we rely on our own knowledge of mobile coffee vans we also contacted Wogan Coffee, which is a coffee roaster and coffee machine supplier with over 50 years of experience to get their take on the best coffee machine for food trucks.
Gas vs electric powered coffee machines
In terms of the best machine for a mobile coffee business, this all depends on the power available onsite and projected footfall.
Certainly, the easiest option many people will push you to is gas-powered coffee machines. However, these come with their own pitfalls and completely separate certifications along with additional equipment (gas bottles). The group heads also tend to run super hot and have brew instability which is not ideal when trying to create a great espresso.
Electric espresso machines tend to be built for brew stability and high output and have the ability to make coffee as fast as you can make it! They are also a very efficient use of power whilst maintaining steam pressure and not burning the hell out of the coffee
If you can get at least a 3000 watts from a silent generator or a 13amp or even a 20amp hook up at events, Wogan Coffee recommends an electric-powered coffee machine, in particular, the Conti 202 and the Conti X-one, which we will review below.
Space & groups heads
When operating from a mobile van, space will be at a premium so it’s important to strike a balance between a coffee machine that’s compact and one that can produce the amount of volume for your needs.
If you want to sell coffee to supplement your main food offerings you can probably get away with a coffee machine with one group head. If on the other hand, you need a coffee machine for a dedicated mobile coffee truck you will need a minimum of 2 groups heads to produce the amount of coffee needed for high footfall areas.
Check the dimensions of your food truck and the space you have available dedicated to making coffee before you make a decision on what model to buy.
Other equipment needed for a mobile coffee machine
The coffee machine is obviously the main piece of equipment but there are a number of other items you need before you can start serving the lovely cup of coffee.
Mobile coffee machines and grinders come hand in hand and you will need one to grind your beans down to make that lovely espresso.
There are quite a lot to choose from but seeing as a coffee truck is a commercial enterprise go for one with a large capacity (500grams upwards).
Coffee Hit has a wide selection of coffee grinders to choose from.
Water pump & clean water bottles
As you will be mobile you won’t have a mains water supply to draw water from. This means you will need a 5-litre freshwater container pressurized bottle water pump system to get the water from the freshwater bottles up to the coffee machine.
And if you intend to have coffee as your main product you may want to invest in a couple more water bottles to make coffee for large numbers of people without the need to keep refilling.
Propane gas bottles
If you go for a gas-powered coffee machine then you will need additional propane bottles to create the steamed pressure needed to make espresso.
If you go for an electrically powered coffee machine for your coffee van then you will need a constant and steady supply of electricity. You will therefore need a minimum of a 13amp hookup onsite or a 3000-watt silent generator.
Here is an article on some of the best silent generators for food trucks
A water softener helps protect the performance of your espresso machine over time from scaling problems caused by hard water.
Brackets to fit into the van
As the coffee machine will be mobile and therefore transported there is always the risk of damage while in transit.
For this reason, the mobile coffee van has to be fitted with a bracket or specially fabricated jig to keep it in place and secure.
A coachbuilder (food truck manufacturer) should be able to install this for you. Alternatively, you can get a third party metal worker to do this for you. This costs around £500 for design and build.
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Best coffee machines for food trucks
1. Fracino Bambino Auto Fill Coffee Machine
- Power (watts): 2700
- Dimensions (cm): H48/W38/D50
- Weight: 35kgs
- Steam Boiler Capacity: 4 litres
- Thermosyphonic circulation
- high-pressure rotary pump
- brass safety valves
- Pump pressure gauge
- Compact design
- Best budget
- Energy-efficient/ low wattage
- Relatively lightweight
- One group head
- Basic features
- Light commercial/Low-volume machine
First up for mobile van coffee machines is the best value Fracino Bambino Auto Fill Coffee Machine.
It’s lightweight and compact making it a good choice for small spaces such as food trucks and has a relatively low power drawdown of 2700 watts.
This model also has “Thermosyphonic Circulation” which ensures the group head is kept constantly hot which is good when making espressos, and it has a rotary pump which means it offers a more consistent pressure, is quieter and has a longer lifespan than coffee machines which use vibratory pumps.
However, this is a light commercial model and only has one group head which means it’s more suitable for a food truck that offers coffee as a supplementary menu item as opposed to a dedicated coffee truck where coffee is the main product.
2. LA MARZOCCO GS3
- Total power: 1620 min/2300 max watts
- Dimensions (cm): H35/W40/D53
- Weight: 34 kgs
- Steam boiler capacity: 3.5 litres
- Coffee boiler capacity: 1.5 litres
- thermal stability system
- digital PID controller
- dual-boiler system
- digital display
- Half power mode
- Ruby flow restrictors
- Insulated boilers
- Upgraded model
- Dual boiler
- Good range of features
- Only one group head
- Small steam boiler capacity
- Light commercial/low volume
Next up is the compact and lightweight LA MARZOCCO GS3.
Not only is this another good espresso machine for food trucks because of its compact but it’s an upgrade to the Fracino coffee machine as it offers a number of additional features.
The biggest difference is It has a dual boiler system, which means it has two separate boilers for brewing water and steam allowing for better capacity and control – Espresso and steam can be drawn almost endlessly and simultaneously from dual boiler machines without any fluctuations in pressure or temperature. The boilers also work with a “Dual PID“ which allows you to electronically control coffee and steam boiler temperature.
Other features include “Ruby Flow Restrictors” which restrict scale formation and erosion making it more durable; has an insulated boiler to help improve energy consumption and has a digital display.
The main downside with the LA MARZOCCO GS3 is like the Francini it’s built for light commercial use which means it would probably not be suitable for high levels of footfall or if coffee is the main product.
3. Conti 202
- Total power (watts): 3050 min/3500 max
- Dimensions (cm): H50/W70/D51
- Weight: 58kgs
- Steam boiler size: 11 litres
- Steam Boiler Element: 2850/3300 watts
- Shot timers
- Barista lights
- PID Temperature control
- Eco Mode
- Self-cleaning mode
- Touchpad buttons
- Extra tough powder coating finish
- 2 group heads
- Refined design
- Higher steam boiler capacity
- Larger than comparative models
Now we take a step up in group heads and serving capacity with the Conti 202.
The Conti was recommended by Wogan Coffee as one of the best coffee machines for a mobile van or mobile coffee businesses and described it as a “workhorse”.
It has 2 group heads and a large boiler size of 11 litres which means you can make more drinks per hour making it suitable for higher footfall coffee food trucks; has PID control which allows you to electronically control coffee and steam boiler temperature and has shot timers which monitor and control espresso extraction whilst improving consistency and flavour.
Other features, I really like about this model are it has an “eco mode” which reduces power consumption by up to 40% when not being used; has a self-cleaning function which is a good times saving device and has a modern feel to it with touch buttons.
The only real downside to the Conti 202 is it is a larger model than the previous 2 coffee machines which means it will take up more space in a food truck and despite it having an eco mode it is comparatively power-hungry at 3500 max watts when running. This means you will need a high wattage generator over 3500 watts if there is no access to 13amp sockets onsite.
4. Conti X-One
- Total power: 3800 watts
- Dimensions (cm): H54/W76/D52
- Weight: 58kgs
- Steam boiler capacity: 13 litres
- Flow control
- Steam levers
- Auto on/off
- Adjustable Hot Water Temperature
- Precision Pre-Infusion
- 2 pressure gauges: boiler pressure and pump pressure
- Best for high volume
- Packed with features
- High steam boiler capacity
- More features than Conti 202
- Slight bigger than Conti 202
- High-end budget
Last up and Wogan coffee’s ultimate favourite coffee machine for the food trucks and mobile businesses is the Conti X-One.
Like the Conti 202, it has 2 group heads an Eco mode, a shot timer and a larger steam boiler at 13 litres making it the best coffee machine for high volume output.
It is also packed with additional features such as a “Diagnostics” system which provides important maintenance data such as cleaning, service and water filter change reminders; Flow Control which works with the PID system to allow small adjustments to the group temperature, ensuring that coffee is extracted efficiently and consistently.
The main drawback with the Conti X-one is it’s a top-end model so may not be the best choice if you are starting out and on a budget or want to sell coffee as a supplementary product.
It also has the most power-hunger of all the coffee machines on the list at 3800 watts which means you will need two 13amp plugs or a silent generator of over 4000 watts to run it.
If you are on a budget and don’t intend to sell coffee as the main product then I recommend going for the best budget Fracino Bambino Auto Fill Coffee Machine.
It’s good for light commercial use and is lightweight and compact which means you should be able to fit this into the smallest of mobile vans. It also requires relatively low power at 2700 watts, which means you can go for a smaller generator for power if there is no main power onsite.
If on the other hand, you have a larger budget and require a coffee machine for higher volume for a dedicated coffee truck then go for the Conti X-One which Wogan Coffee highly recommends and described as a workhorse.
It has 2 group heads and a 13-litre boiler capacity which means you can make twice the number of coffees per hour than a coffee machine with one group head and smaller boilers.
It’s also packed with all the features you should need for a commercial coffee machine such as Flow control, a diagnostics system and Eco-mode to name but a few.