Essential Cafe Equipment List: Equipment Needed to Start a Cafe
Essential Cafe Equipment List (Appliances, Tools, Essentials)
Thinking of bringing a new cafe to your local community? Opening a cafe is a process that has dozens of steps, large and small, but can be incredibly gratifying and fun. One of the most important steps is figuring out exactly what cafe equipment you’ll need. Cafes are often smaller than full-service restaurants, and they typically have smaller menus. But with a wide range of coffee beverages on offer, there’s some equipment that cafes need that other food businesses can do without.
As part of your café’s business plan, it’s important to consider what equipment is essential for your operations and budget for the costs of the equipment you need. Start building a list of all the essential equipment for your new café with this guide.
Coffee Shop Business Plan Template
What Equipment Do You Need In a Cafe
Cafes are so much more than a powerful espresso machine and a well-trained barista. There’s a whole host of other equipment necessary to produce your coffee and light fare.
- Coffee brewing equipment
Cold brew toddy
- Ranges, Grills, and Ventilation
- Freezers and refrigerators
- Coffee bar accessories
- Food prep surfaces
- Food prep equipment
Pots and pans
Storage containers and shelving
- Safety equipment
First Aid Kit
Food grade chemical supplies
Chemical Safety Data Sheets
- Restaurant point of sale system
- Kitchen Display System (KDS)
Table service essentials
Paper boats, plates, or clamshells
Napkins or Linen
How Much is Equipment for a Café
According to industry leader Crimson Cup, adding specialty coffee service to a bakery or café can cost $25,000-$75,000 on top of the up to $300,000 price tag on equipment for a small restaurant. It’s important to budget for all the necessary café equipment you’ll need to start operations. To keep your budget in check, it can be helpful to explore restaurant financing options.
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Things to Consider Before Buying Cafe Equipment
Investing in the right equipment for your café is critical to the success of the business. Decide which pieces of equipment to prioritize and which you might compromise on when budgeting for all the equipment you’ll need.
The quality of certain pieces of equipment, such as ovens, coffee brewers, and even the ice machine can be critical to the success of your recipes. Select equipment that is high-quality and durable, researching large purchases before making any major decisions. Consider who will maintain the equipment and how comfortable they are with repairing those pieces.
Even if you have the luxury of a large café space, buy equipment that will fit where you need it and be accessible in your kitchen or coffee bar. Consider the amount of counter space your cooks and baristas will need and here bulky coffee and prep equipment will live.
3. Planning Your Kitchen
A line cook or barista is only as efficient as the kitchen or line they are working on. Planning the layout of your coffee bar or kitchen in conjunction with your chef or head barista is a good idea so that space works for them. Consider consulting a kitchen planner for advice on how to set up your kitchen and coffee bar so that they create a desirable experience for your employees and guests.
4. Use and Cleaning
Some coffee and kitchen equipment will last a lifetime if maintained properly. Consider asking your supplier about maintenance and select equipment for how easy it is to repair. Train your staff to clean equipment properly so that it stays in top condition. Look out for the NSF symbol on food equipment which ensures that it meets food safety certification standards.
Quality equipment is critical to the success of your café and building a rapport with your equipment supplier is a good idea. Many towns and cities have local restaurant supply stores that, for a membership fee, offer premium ranges of commercial equipment at near-wholesale prices. The best suppliers will be honest about the technology and safety of the products they sell and provide everything you need – installation, maintenance, and repairs.
Sourcing Restaurant Equipment
Sourcing equipment is half the battle. Once you have a comprehensive list and a vision of your fully-equipped bakery, start shopping around. Local restaurant wholesalers often have good deals, or you might lease from a reputable online retailer, or rent equipment until you can afford to invest.
New vs. Used Equipment
New equipment might always seem like the best choice, but some expensive (and essential) pieces of equipment might be better used. Consider finding an oven or deep freezer that has been maintained over the years and plan to keep it up – you’ll save up front and over the course of your venture.
Are you building a coffee focused grab-and-go spot or a cozy neighborhood café? Decide which equipment to prioritize based on your business model – splurge on the espresso machine to attract commuting hipsters or focus on the ovens and ranges needed for your grandma’s bread and soup recipes to keep a steady base of customers. Buying used equipment might save you some money upfront but cost more in maintenance and repairs later.
7. Financing or Leasing
Financing or leasing equipment can be a good option to get your business started and take on less risk until you’re sure the model will succeed. Lease payments can be tax-deductible just like equipment purchases and allow you to be financially liquid as you open your café.
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Ultimate Cafe Equipment Checklist
1. Coffee brewing equipment
Quality coffee brewing equipment is one of the primary investments you’ll make for you café. Not all brewers and machines are equal – choose equipment that will let you deliver the quality of coffee drinks that you want to serve.
Espresso is coffee extracted with pressure in addition to hot water. Their reserves also power the steam wands that make steaming milk for lattes and cappuccinos possible. Espresso machines are huge investments and require regular maintenance to operate in top condition for decades.
Drip coffee is the biggest seller and usually the largest driver of profit for coffeeshops and cafes. Treat your beans right with a high-quality commercial drip brewer and insulated coffee tanks that keep coffee steaming hot for a few hours.
Coffee grinders are notoriously inconsistent and difficult to maintain even at the commercial level. Conical burr grinders, a pair of gears that crushes rather than cuts roasted coffee, are preferred to blade grinders for their consistency. As with any equipment, maintaining and especially cleaning coffee grinders of built-up grounds and oil is crucial for their longevity.
Pour over coffee methods are popular because of the control they afford the barista over the brewing process. Ceramic and glass V60 sets and the classic Chemex pour over set are the two top contenders in most specialty coffee shops and, while inexpensive, these fragile pieces should be handled with care.
Cold brew toddy or keg taps
Cold brew and iced coffee are contemporary staples of café menus. Brew your own cold brew with a toddy system, including a fine mesh filter bag and a bucket with a spout to brew in. Some cafes use keg taps and source iced coffee and cold brew in kegs delivered by local roasters.
The cookies, cakes, bread, and muffins that you serve with coffee in your café require ovens to bake. Decide on a commercial convection or combination oven that will work for your baking needs and fit into your café’s kitchen.
Convection ovens circulate heat to ensure that your bakes are consistent and as a way to speed up bake times. Combination ovens circulate heat and create steam, perfect for baking crusty bread or steam roasting vegetables and aromatics.
3. Ranges, Grills, and Ventilation
Induction burners generate an electromagnetic current to heat a surface. Magnetic metals transfer heat the best and can be used to heat glass or other surfaces. Induction is a sustainable, versatile, space-conscious, and cost-effective option, especially if your café menu won’t require enough sautéing or simmering to warrant multiple burners.
Operating a kitchen requires enough ventilation to ensure that the space, and your café, don’t get filled with the heat and smoke from ovens and ranges. Consider the size and space of your kitchen and ensure that your ventilation system has enough power to keep smoke and hot air out of the space you or your cooks have to work in. Ventilation is crucial for providing a safe kitchen environment.
Great for reheating or quickly steaming, microwaves are powerful kitchen tools that cafes often rely on to heat pastries. There are also powerful combination convection microwaves that are perfect for keeping bread crusty or pastry crisp during reheating. Plan and budget for your café’s microwaves even though they are inexpensive.
5. Freezers and refrigerators
Storing gallons of milk for coffee drinks in addition to all the ingredients and components of your café’s recipes requires considerable refrigeration and freezer space. A space with a walk-in cooler might be advisable, but some cafes operate with several large commercial coolers.
In addition to storage, there will probably need to be a couple of refrigerators under your coffee bar to store milk, syrups, and garnishes for use on the line. Refrigerators, like all equipment, will last a long time if properly repaired and cleaned. For instance, the intake and exhaust of such units get clogged with dust if not cleaned regularly (and grinding coffee makes cafés extra dusty) which can damage the machine.
An ice maker is essential for making iced coffees and serving cold coffee and tea drinks. Crushed ice is popular with some baristas but cubed iced is standard. Clean and maintain your ice maker just like other equipment and be sure to train staff to avoid contaminating ice with spilled liquid or broken glassware – and on how to properly clean the machine when they accidentally do.
6. Coffee Bar accessories
Steam pitchers, bar spoons, espresso shot glasses, scales, water kettles, whisks, espresso tamps, and all the rest – the little necessities needed to craft coffee and tea drinks add up. Invest in quality accessories just as you would the rest of your equipment. The design of milk steam pitchers, the espresso tamps, and water kettles all influence your baristas’ performance and the quality of drinks.
7. Food prep surfaces
When planning the layout of your coffee bar and kitchen, remember to provide surfaces for your baristas and cooks to work on. Working on a bar where there is no place to set things down is a challenge.
Stainless steel prep counters are classic in kitchens because they are easy to sanitize and won’t transfer unwanted heat to products. Poured concrete is a cost-effective alternative to stainless and is just as durable, but there are lots of other alternatives like wood and granite. Decide what is right for your cooks and baristas.
8. Food prep equipment
The small appliances, utensils, mixing bowls, and microplanes that you’ll need for you coffee bar and café kitchen are a big consideration.
Knives are a central part of cooking culture and a good chef and her knife move as one – invest in a set of knives and learn how to keep them sharp for both safety and efficiency in the kitchen. You’ll also want a sharpening stone to keep your investment in good condition.
Quality cutting boards make a noticeable difference in the prep experience – boards with lips around the edge to keep liquid on the board or those that have handles for easy handling are restaurant equipment favorites.
Pots and pans
The kinds of pots and pans you use will likely be decided by personal preference and necessity but consider choosing quality pieces that will become assets to your café’s kitchen. Pots and pans are valuable, essential equipment that lasts a long time when maintained properly.
Mixing bowls come in a variety of materials that each have benefits and setbacks – plastic, stainless, ceramic, or glass. Decide which combination works for your bar’s equipment list.
Food processors are great for liquefying soups and sauces and ensure that you get an even chop or mince – a worthwhile investment.
While they can be expensive, commercial blenders are reliable and powerful machines that will allow your baristas to produce smoothies and frozen coffee creations.
Stand mixers take some of the hard work out of mixing large batches of cookie dough and brownie batter. While these powerful machines make baking a breeze, they should be treated with care and maintained for longevity.
Storage containers and shelving
Storage is always a must, for safety and organization, and the cost can add up quickly. Storing dry ingredients like flour, sugar, spices, and coffee have specific needs. Store ingredients for dishes and drinks near the spaces where they’ll be prepared for customers.
Consider storage for all this equipment, too. The small appliances and accessories all need place in your bar. Keeping things organized will help your baristas and cooks to work efficiently.
This is probably the most important category – the rest. All the coffee filters, spoons, shakers, mixing cups, and anything else you’ll need to outfit your cafe for operation. The little things add up so it’s crucial to plan and budget for them. And when thinking about tiny items that are easily misplaced, buy backups.
9. Safety equipment
All restaurants are held to food safety standards and must have certain equipment on hand, such as:
First Aid Kit
Food grade chemical supplies
Chemical Safety Data Sheets
Sinks are necessary for prep, cleaning, and disposal and in kitchens sinks must be dedicated for use. You’ll need to equip your bar with a couple sinks and a few more in the kitchen.
Three compartment sinks are a common way to meet food safety standards for washing and sanitizing cutlery, service ware, and kitchen equipment – wash, rinse, sanitize.
Disposal sinks, also often called bar sinks, are conveniently located to catch any liquid you need to throw out from washing or
Dedicated handwashing sinks must be available for employees in a kitchen space or on the coffee bar so that employees can maintain safe food handling standards.
Restaurant point of sale systems provides a technological answer for a lot of the complexities of operating a bakery or any restaurant business. Crucially, they provide a way to integrate inventory management, budgets, sales reports, and communication between the front- and back-of-house operations. Keep everything running smoothly with cutting edge interfaces for service and convenient logistical solutions.
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Kitchen display systems will let your cooks know what customers are ordering in real time. Your KDS sends orders to bartenders from servers or from both to the kitchen. They are integrated with your café’s point-of-sale system to keep everything in order and maintain smooth, efficient service.
13. Service ware
Serving lattes, hot coffees, and sandwiches for customers to have in your café requires glass wear, cutlery, and dishes. Choose pieces that capture the aesthetic vibe and convey the ambiance of your café will considering which will be most durable for consistent use by baristas and customers.
Paper boats, plates, or clamshells
Necessary for grab-and-go or take-out services, single-use service wear is an expensive cost of operating a restaurant or café. Single use paper and plastics are costly and deciding whether to spend more on eco-friendly take-out packaging is a challenge.
Single use and permanent utensils are surprisingly expensive for restaurants and cafes – plastic cutlery adds up and permanent utensils are prone to being lost (or accidentally trashed) by customers and employees.
Napkins or Linen
Crumbly pastries and frothy coffees are inevitably messy. Be sure to provide, and budget for, a way for your customers to clean themselves up.
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