Coffee is the second most popular beverage in the world, next to water. People are enjoying coffee now more than ever, and most of them are grabbing their coffee on the go to accommodate their busy lifestyles. Mobile coffee carts are one way to get coffee to the masses quickly, conveniently, and in places that may have not have been previously possible before. They have been popping up in corporate office buildings, on the streets, at farmer’s markets, and wherever people need their daily dose of caffeine. With their recent rise in popularity, If you have ever wondered how you could start a mobile coffee cart, here’s how…
To build a mobile coffee cart in five steps:
- Decide on the dimensions of your cart
- Gather your materials and tools.
- Get your generator, cords, and panels together.
- Install your sinks, plumbing, and drainage.
- Attach your espresso machine, grinder, blender, and coffee maker.
In this article, I am going to walk you through the steps you will need to take to build a mobile coffee cart of your own. I will also list the materials and equipment that you are going to need to get your cart built. This article will include everything you need to know to build your own do-it-yourself mobile coffee cart so you can start bringing coffee beverages to the masses.
Decide On the Dimensions of Your Cart
One of the most important decisions that you will have to make regarding your mobile coffee cart is what size you would like it to be. The size of your mobile coffee cart will depend on a few things. Are you going to offer a variety of coffee beverages? If so, you are going to have to have a cart that is large enough to hold all of the specialty equipment needed to make these beverages. Will you be traveling large distances with your cart? If so, you may want to consider a smaller, lightweight cart that can be pushed for longer distances than a heavier cart.
Finally, where will you be operating your cart? If you plan on selling coffee outdoors, you are going to have to build a cart that is large enough to house a generator to supply your power. However, if you are going to operate a mobile coffee stand inside of a large office building, you may be able to skip the generator and shoes to plug your equipment into a wall outlet. For these reasons, it is of the utmost importance that you have a plan regarding your mobile coffee cart before you decide to build one. Once you have decided on your dimensions, it’s time to go shopping for your materials.
Gather Your Materials and Tools
Now that you have decided on what type of mobile coffee cart you are going to operate, and where your cart will be operated, it’s time to gather your materials and tools to start building it. Let’s start with the frame of the cart. I have found that the best material to build your cart’s frame is square metal tubing. This material is sturdy enough to hold all of the equipment that you are going to have on your part but lightweight enough to not add extra weight to your cart. A simple sheet of plywood will suffice for the top of your cart. A thickness of 1/4 inch will be 30 enough for your coffee-making equipment, yet light enough as not to weigh your cart down.
I would personally opt for bolting my cart together, as opposed to having it welded together. A cart that is welded will be sturdier, but a cart that can bolt together is easy to assemble and disassemble. You can also choose plywood for your side panels that hide all of the inner workings of your coffee cart. You will need a table saw to cut your plywood to the desired length, and a jigsaw to cut the holes out where you are going to place your sink and your coffee-making machines. You can use a drill to put a pilot hole in your wood before you start cutting with the jigsaw. Finally, a ratchet set with sockets will help to bolt your mobile coffee cart together.
Get Your Generator, Cords, and Panels Together
If your coffee cart is going to be truly mobile, you will have to have a silent generator to power the many different machines you will need to serve your customers their coffee. My Generator has composed a list of the top coffee cart generators currently available. These generators include the following models:
After you have attached your generator to your cart, you are going to have to decide as to what material you want to use to protect that investment. As I mentioned in the previous section, you can use the same 1/4 inch plywood that you used for the top of your mobile coffee cart as panels for the sides of your mobile coffee cart. This can add a little extra weight to your cart, but there is also a benefit to this. If you use the same plywood for the top of your card and the sides of your cart, it will match nicely and give your coffee cart a more upscale look.
Install Sinks, Plumbing, and Drainage
Once you have all of the appropriate holes cut into the deck of your coffee cart, it’s time to install your sinks. Most mobile coffee cart owners will use a three-sink setup. However, you can always choose a four-bay mobile electric sink for your coffee card. Your local laws and regulations will determine how many sinks your mobile coffee card has to have, as well as your personal needs. The next step to assembling your do-it-yourself mobile coffee cart is to install your plumbing and drainage.
According to Espresso Outfitters, here are three plumbing features you should ensure that your mobile coffee cart is equipped with:
- Check Valves – These are a great idea for your mobile coffee cart because they keep your water supply pressurized.
- Shut-Offs – These valves allow you to make repairs to one machine on your coffee card without having to decommission the rest of your machines.
- Accumulator Tanks – They hold extra water in the line, keeping the water at an optimal 45 PSI, and causing the pump to cycle less.
Attach Your Machines To the Cart
When you have finished assembling the frame of your cart, and have attached the deck and the side panels, it is time for the fun part. You will now start attaching your machines to your cart. Whether you decide to serve one type of coffee beverage or multiple varieties of coffee, the choice is yours. One suggestion that I may offer you is that when you are designing your mobile coffee cart, always be sure to arrange your machines in a manner that is conducive to a good workflow.
You won’t believe how many times this is overlooked, and mobile Baristas are left reaching here and there when their machines could have been arranged in a manner where all of their work could have been done in a clockwise fashion. Having a good workflow is essential to your productivity, and your productivity is linked directly to your bottom line. I have always found that a good layout for a mobile coffee cart includes an espresso machine, a bean-grinder, a sink, and a drip coffee maker. However, the choice is yours. See our recommendations for equipment right here.
Building a mobile coffee cart of your own is a great way to get out in the public, serve them some delicious coffee Beverages, and make a living while doing so. It all begins with deciding what type of beverages you are going to serve, and where you are going to serve these beverages. Once you have made this decision, you can start designing your cart. After you have gathered all of the necessary materials and tools to build your cart, it’s time to start putting it together.
Your generator and your plumbing may not be the most fascinating parts of your coffee cart, but they are some of the most important. Treat them accordingly. After you have installed your sinks, your plumbing, and your power source, you will need to attach your machines to the cart. Whether you choose to serve espresso or a variety of coffee beverages, always make sure that your machinery is positioned in a manner that encourages good workflow. This is essential for productivity. I wish you all the best of luck in building your card, and in getting your mobile coffee business off the ground!
Frequently Asked Questions
The cost of starting a mobile coffee business can fluctuate, depending on the permit and regulations you are required to have, as well as the materials you use to build your cart. The Machinery you choose to put on your car can also make a significant impact on your mobile coffee cart budget. However, the average cost of starting a mobile coffee cart business is approximately $30,000. Get more info on starting a mobile coffee cart business here.
There are many different locations where you can set up a mobile coffee cart and make a decent living. They seem to be popping up everywhere now. However, according to the website e-importz, here are the best locations for your mobile coffee business:
Highly visible and easily accessible locations.
Near Movie theaters
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun
My adventure in coffee began when I first launched my first coffee shop back in the early 2000s. I had to figure out so many things on my own and to make it worse within 2 years of opening two large corporate coffee chains moved in just blocks away from me!
As I saw smaller and even some larger coffee shops in the neighborhood slowly lose customers to these giant coffee chains and slowly close up shop, I knew that I had to start getting creative…or go out of business.
I (like you may be) knew the coffee industry well. I could make the best latte art around and the foam on my caps was the fluffiest you have ever seen. I even had the best state-of-the-art 2 group digital Nuova Simonelli machine money could buy. But I knew that these things alone would not be enough to lure customers away from the name brand established coffee shops.
Eventually, through lots of trial and error as well as perseverance and creativity I did find a way to not only survive but also thrive in the coffee/espresso industry even while those corporate coffee chains stayed put. During those years I learned to adapt and always faced new challenges. It was not always easy, however, in the end, I was the sole survivor independent coffee shop within a 10-mile radius of my location. Just two corporate coffee chains and I were left after that year. All told the corporate coffee chains took down over 15 small independent coffee shops and kiosks and I was the last one standing and thriving.
Along the years I meet others with the same passion for coffee and I quickly learned that it is not only “how good a barista is” that makes a coffee shop successful, but the business side of coffee as well.
Hence why I started this website you are on now. To provide the tools and resources for up and coming coffee shop owners to gain that vital insight and knowledge on how to start a coffee shop successfully.
Stick around, browse through my helpful blog and resources and enjoy your stay! With lots of LATTE LOVE!