Find out all the equipment you need to start a mobile coffee truck
Everyone loves coffee, right? It’s tasty and versatile and best of all it gives you that kick! That’s why it’s one of the most popular hot drinks on the market, which only seems to be getting more popular.
It’s also a good business if you are thinking about starting a mobile coffee shop. The profit margins are relatively high and you don’t need all the equipment associated with some food trucks.
So what equipment do you need for a mobile coffee truck? The main equipment you need for a mobile coffee shop is a dual fuel commercial espresso machine; a commercial coffee bean grinder; fridge-freezers; good quality coffee; and a POS system.
There are also a few more items your coffee truck will need to make it completely functional which I will outline in more detail In this article.
Commercial coffee machine
The first piece of coffee truck equipment is a decent commercial coffee machine that will be suitable for your mobile truck. It has to be the right size to fit inside the space limitations of a mobile unit and have the right power source.
Dual fuel coffee machines, which run off both electricity and LPG (liquid petroleum gas) are ideal for mobile catering and are typically recommended by coffee machine suppliers for mobile catering.
Depending on the size of your mobile van you will also have to decide how many “group heads” your commercial coffee machine will have. These are the handles you see which have ground coffee in and are used to make the actual coffee.
They typically range between 1 and 4 groups and the more group heads you have the more coffee you can make.
There are also a few other items you need to make your mobile espresso machine functional. Namely gas, power and water:
- A pressured water pump system is needed to get the water from the freshwater tank up to the coffee machine.
Gas bottle (propane or butane)
- Gas bottles are needed for the gas burners to create the steamed pressure needed to make espresso.
- Needed to power the control systems and water pump. This is a low power requirement and can be done with a 12v gel battery and 12v-240v Inverter if there is no access to mains electricity.
- To help protect the performance of your machine from scaling problems caused by hard water.
Fresh water container (refillable 5 litre)
- Being mobile you won’t be plumped into a mains supply, so, therefore, will need 5-litre freshwater containers. You will probably need a few of these containers if you intend to make coffee in large numbers without the need to keep refilling.
Alongside an espresso machine, you also need a commercial coffee grinder in order to bring bean to cup. These come in all sizes so again you will need to factor in the space you have available inside your coffee truck.
It’s also worth remembering if you go for a 3 or 4 group head coffee machine you may intend to have the capacity to make coffee in larger quantities. This means you need a larger coffee grinder to keep up with demand.
Good quality coffee beans
This can sometimes be an afterthought but now the right equipment to make espresso on the go you need to find good quality coffee beans.
Here are a few things to look for when choosing to right type of beans for your mobile coffee truck:
Single origin – Try to go for single origin coffee beans so you have a more consistent taste.
Arabica beans – This seems to be the most popular type of beans and coffee experts tend to recommend it.
Fairtrade – Coffee that is certified as having been produced to fair trade standards by fair trade organizations with the goal of achieving greater equity in international trade.
Next up on your mobile coffee truck equipment list is fridges and freezers. You are probably going to be serving drinks like lattes and cappuccinos which means you need to keep the milk chilled before making these drinks.
Some mobile coffee trucks also sell ice coffee in the summer months which means you will also need a freezer to keep the bags of ice in.
Three compartment sink
By law in the UK you need a minimum of two separate sinks in a food truck or trailer for different cleaning tasks.
You need one sink with running hot water for handwashing and another for washing utensils. If you intend to handle food then you may also need a third sink for washing food.
This may differ in your home country so make such to check the local laws for how many sinks you need for mobile catering.
Now you need something to serve all those lovely cups of coffee in. Aside from disposable cups and lids, you will also need stirrers, napkins and if you intend to sell iced coffee, cold cups and straws.
It’s also a good idea to go for compostable or biodegradable packaging because that is where the world is going. It’s now often a requirement by event organizers and local councils to trade and you will probably get asked a lot by your customers where you source your packaging.
Blender (coffee based smoothies)
Alongside iced coffee, coffee-based smoothies are now a thing so if you want to expand your offering and cater to some of the summer market then this might be a good idea.
Think espresso shots in a banana and raw cacao smoothie with almond milk honey and ice!
Some of the equipment you use in your mobile coffee shop will require a portable power source. Things like your, water pump, the controls on your coffee machine, your coffee grinder and blenders if you plan to extend your menu to make coffee-based smoothies.
This means you will need a portable generator. Go for a silent generator that reduces noise pollution and that has a large enough capacity to run all of your equipment, especially high wattage blenders.
Permits & insurance
To operate legally from your mobile coffee van you will need the right type of insurance, permits and licences.
The main type of insurance you need to protect yourself as a business is Public liability insurance. You also need a level 2 food and hygiene certificate and permission to trade on public land from your local authority.
Finally, you need a mobile payment system, commonly known as a POS system to take card payments from your customers. Some people will still pay in cash but a large majority of the population are now only carrying debit and credit cards.
Some well known mobile payment providers include Izettle, Sum-Up and Square.
A mobile coffee truck is a good business to have as there is still a good deal of demand for coffee which only seems to grow. It’s also a product with a good profit margin and a relatively low number of start-up equipment.
However, if you want to stand out from the majority of other mobile coffee vans and capitalise on more sales it’s a good idea to expand your coffee menu to include cold drinks for the summer menu.
When the weather is hot and sunny a lot of people want something iced cold, instead of a steaming hot Americano. This is where iced coffee and coffee-based smoothies come in and introducing them could boost your sales!