Are you about buying used coffee equipment for your shop or to resell for profit? If YES, here are 30 helpful tips for buying used coffee shop equipment.

Opening a coffee shop business can be a fun and exciting venture. But opening a coffee shop is not the only way you can launch into the coffee business. You can also choose to sell coffee shop equipment.

These days, a lot of entrepreneurs focus their attention on selling used coffee shop equipment instead of selling brand new ones. They look out for businesses that are closing shop, or for one reason or the other are offering up their coffee shop equipment for sale, and buy them up. After buying these equipment, they now sell them off to other coffee shops, on their own terms.

Selling used coffee shop equipment is indeed a very profitable business, but you have to beware of what you are buying so that you do not make a mistake that will end up costing you your profits, capital and even your small business.

For this reason, we have provided you tips on how to purchase used coffee shop equipment that you want to buy and sell to other users, as well as things to look out for when buying these equipment.

8 Most Important Equipment Needed in a Coffee Shop That You Can Buy

If you want to start buying used coffee shop equipment for sale, you have to first of all know what you will be dealing with. These are some of the coffee shop equipment that you should be looking out for.

  • Espresso machines – An espresso machine is the most important investment a coffee shop owner can make. People don’t typically come to coffee shops for plain, black coffee. They want lattes, cappuccinos and mochas. These espresso-based coffee drinks are what typically drives revenues in a coffee shop – and all of them require a quality espresso machine. As a buyer, you should put a lot of interest in purchasing this equipment.
  • Espresso coffee grinders – for a coffee shop, an espresso machine won’t be good for much without the proper grind of quality coffee beans. When you grind coffee, the surface area increases to expose the oils and soluble particles that give the final cup its distinctive flavor.

You need grounds of consistent size to produce consistently awesome coffee. Espresso grinders produce the ultra-fine grind required for espresso machines to work their magic. These machines are also very important in a coffee shop.

  • Commercial coffee grinders – Espresso and latte drinkers will drive the coffee business in terms of revenue, but there are also regular Joes who like their coffee plain and black. For these people, coffee businesses need grinders, and you need to also buy these products for sale.
  • Gourmet Airpot Coffee Brewers – this is another equipment you need to look out for in your business of buying and selling used coffee equipment.
  • Commercial Blender – try to get high-quality, commercial blender with a cover for frozen espresso-based drinks. The cover noticeably decreases the noise and will increase your retail price.
  • Refrigerators – coffee businesses also need a commercial, one- or two-door, under-the-counter refrigerator placed immediately under the espresso machine. Though refrigerators can be gotten in other places, but you if see one that is a great fit for a coffee shop, then coffee shops would love to take it at a good discount.
  • Water filtration system – A cup of coffee consists of 98 percent water, so water quality is critical. If your water has a high mineral content, your espresso machine will be ruined in less than a year. This is why most coffee shops will require a filtration system. You should also have these in stock too.
  • Dishwasher – a dishwashing solution is a critical piece of equipment for a coffee shop. Because most customers enjoy drinking their café lattes out of real coffee mugs, so there is always a need for a washing system. But as a coffee shop equipment buyer and seller, a dishwasher may not be a priority for you. There are more important things to focus on.

30 Vital Tips for Buying Used Coffee Shop Equipment for Sale

Here are some tips on how you can successfully buy used coffee shop equipment that are in good condition that would fetch you enough money when resold.

1. Make friends with the screwdriver

when going to inspect used coffee shop equipment, like a used espresso machine, it is a good idea to go along with a screwdriver. You will need it to screw panels off and check on the conditions of the machine you are about to buy. You should endeavor to look an equipment over thoroughly before you make a purchase.

2. Look out for blown parts

Once you are able to take the panels are off with your screwdriver, you should look at the boiler to see if it is blown open, or has any evidence of bulging. Boilers are expensive to replace, so any espresso machine that has blown a boiler tank, means the machine was abused or it really failed. You should stay away from such a machine as it is not worth the purchase.

3. Rust is a red flag

Next check for rust, if the protective cover for the electrical, and computer area is covered with rust, you have several problems right there. One being a serious leak that may, or may not been fixed, and second, the computer or the electrical has taken on water at some point, and most likely shorted out.

Remember espresso machines mix together two things that really hate each other; water and electricity. If there is rust or water stains, or a bigger clue the board is black from being scorched, you have a machine that is not going to work, and a new computer board for these machines are not cheap. It is also best to stay away from this machine.

4. Check the lines

Another area to look into when examining a used coffee shop equipment you want to buy is to look at the lines and wires. Check the water lines, and copper tubing, make sure there are no kinks, bends, or solder marks. If they are, make sure that these do not reduce the quality and overall performance of the machine.

5. Look at the water pump

Check the water pump, see if it has any scale in, this can cause the pump to seize up. Water pumps do not come apart easily, and if it does not spin freely when you turn the shaft inside the pump, well, that is another very costly item to replace on your now growing list. If you think you can handle it, then, no problem, but beware lest you unwittingly increase your repair bill, as you need to repair all these before you sell the equipment.

6. Look at the heating components

Check the heating element, see if the connectors are blacken from being blown by the heating element inside the boiler tank, or if the contact on the boiler is burnt, this is a sign of a potentially bad heating element, and again, not so cheap to replace.

7. Check for the company plate on the machine

Check the company plate on the machine you want to buy, if it is indeed and heavy and expensive one. This company plate will typically provide the age of the machine, if it is over 10 years of age, or the plate is missing, stay away from it.

More than likely, it will be extremely difficult to find parts for it, because the company has made improvements, and moved on, making this machine obsolete. They simply don’t make parts for it anymore, and you will have to rely on used parts for it, if you can find them, and there is no warranty on those parts at all.

8. Conduct a review

When you see used coffee shop equipment that have been listed for sale, it is best that you conduct your review on the equipment before making any commitment. Review photos and descriptions of the equipment offered for sale and ask questions if needed and where necessary.

9. Look for signs of poor maintenance

When buying a coffee shop equipment, you should endeavor to look out for signs that the equipment was not handled well. If the equipment bears such signs, then that could be a red flag for you. This will tell you that the equipment would need constant maintenance in the future. You should look out for pictures or other signs of condition that contradict sellers’ claims, like a machine described as lightly used but the chrome is worn off the steam wand.

10. Read reviews and threads about repairs and user experience

If the equipment was listed online, you should endavour to read up reviews and thread that were created for the equipment. You should also research on user experience with a similar coffee maker. Reviews alone can tell you a lot about what you are buying.

11. Research street price

In order not to be cheated by the seller, you should know the real value of what you are about to buy. For this reason you should visit shops that sell used coffee shop equipment and find out what a similar equipment goes for. This will save you are lot of regrets in future.

12. Estimate possible costs of repair

What you are buying, in all reality, is a used product, so there is a very high chance that you need to make some repairs before you can see this equipment off to the end user. For this reason, you need to estimate how much you will need to spend on repairs before you think of buying a used coffee shop equipment. If you do not do this, you may end up buying an equipment that would end up costing you more in repairs than what you can sell it for.

13. Consider parts availability and cost

Another thing you need to consider when buying a used coffee shop equipment is if the parts are still available in the market. being that the manufacturers of that product have moved on and made upgrades that is a huge likelihood that the parts of that equipment may not be available in the market, so you will need to rely on used parts. To run away from this problem, ensure that the equipment you are buying still has the parts in the market.

14. Look out for buyers comments

This is another tip you can make use of if you are buying your used coffee shop equipment online. Look at actual buyer comments in the seller’s feedback listings to make sure there isn’t some pattern of not satisfying customers. Any seller that has history of disappointing customers must be boycotted, no matter what he or she is selling.

15. Establish good reputation

This is also for people buying from the numerous online forums that sell used coffee shop equipment. If you are buying from a participant in a coffee forum, make sure this is someone who has an established history and good reputation. It is not to your benefit to dabble with people with questionable characters online.

16. Make sure the seller knows how to properly ship a machine

Know that if your coffee machine is shipped wrongly, it would end up causing more problems for the equipment and in turn it would cost you more to repair, or even to send back to the seller. So you need to verify that the seller knows how to ship delicate equipment so as not to damage it.

17. Avoid sellers who ignore your questions

This is a big red flag for people who are buying their used coffee machine online. If a seller is not answering questions, chances are that he does not know much about the product, or that the equipment has more issues than he is letting on. If you would go ahead with the purchase, tell the sell that you want to inspect the equipment first before you hand over the cash.

18. Hidden angles

Another set of sellers to boycott are those sellers that refuse to show pictures from many angles, including inside the machine. You need to inspect the product from all angles so as to form an informed opinion.

19. Beware of misrepresentations and double talk

Misrepresentations and double talk, such as “the seals look good,” but “I haven’t tested it”, should make you wary. If the machine hasn’t been tested, for sure it hasn’t been taken apart to look at the seals.

20. Check out damaged or discontinued equipment section 

When you are buying used coffee shop equipment, one place you should look out for is the damaged or discontinued equipment stores. Here, you are technically buying new, but paying used prices. Check out stores that sell restaurant equipment and even have a look at big retailers like Best Buy.

These retailers often have equipment that comes to them already damaged. Sometimes it’s scratched or dented, or sometimes they get discontinued equipment that is not sold in retail any longer. But in most cases, all of this equipment is brand new and fully functioning.

21. Beware of low seller feedback scores

Low seller feedback score should make you wary- but don’t trust all high ratings either, especially if the seller’s feedback is based on recent transactions, many low-cost sales, and mostly items other than espresso gear.

22. Avoid partial testers

Sellers only partially testing the machine or testing it in a way that can damage it (turning it on without filling with water to see if it heats up) should be avoided too. This is because their careless attitude is usually done to hide some inherent problems. You should demand that the equipment be tested the proper way and should go through the full testing routine.

23. Buy from Auctions

Auction houses usually take the time to perform detailed evaluations of the equipment before they sell it. They are obligated to do so, because they are the ones that are pricing the items. So it might cost you more buying from an auction than directly from the restaurant owner, but at least you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what condition the equipment is in.

Another good thing about having these evaluations is that you can then bid on items online that are being sold across the country without having to go out and see them to confirm their condition.

24. Avoid seller who end auctions early

When buying from an auction, you should beware of sellers who end auctions early. Sellers who end auctions early when offering an item with no reserve (no minimum acceptable purchase price), are usually phony.

25. Don’t buy outside the protective envelope

Craigslist and eBay both warn potential buyers to avoid offers to make a private deal, especially when depending on the seller to ship the item to you. If nothing arrives, you may be left with no options.

26. Check how it works

You can come across a seller who will tell you, ‘well it worked when they last used it, and it typically is in storage…’. If you can, before purchasing this item, get them to fire it up on the spot in front of you, let it run for an hour, and pull some shots from it, just to make sure it’s functional.

If it is currently on, and always has been on, turn it off for a few hours, then fire it up, and check for leaks. Many machines don’t leak because the mineral deposits are jamming the leaks due to pressure, get rid of the pressure, and they loosen up.

27. Avoid early bidding

If you are buying your coffee shop equipment at an auction, you need to get the loswest price possible so that you can get some capital when you sell it. For this reason, you need to avoid early bidding which drives up the price. Wait and see how the tide turns before you jump in.

28. Ask about backflushing and descaling

Ask for a test shot, or test steaming. Check machine cleanliness (eg milk crud on the wand). It is common sense that anyone passionate enough about the machine he or she is selling will take good care of it and will tell you about the known issues. A filthy machine does not leave much to be desired.

29. Evaluate the seller as much as the machine

Do they look like they keep things generally clean and neat? Is their home or car clean? Some espresso machine owners are very careful with maintenance, others are not, and that probably extends to their other possessions as well.

30. Just go with your gut

When all has been said and done, the next thing for you to do when making a used machine purchase is to go with your gut. Your gut will probably tell you which machine to take a risk on and which not to take a second look at. So, when you have fulfilled all other criterion, just settle with what your instincts say.

7 Things to Look Out For When Buying Used Coffee Equipment

  • Look out for things such as dents, large scratches, or broken components, which may significantly impact the aesthetic appearance of the machine. These can considerably reduce the amount you can ask for such equipment.
  • Electrical components and wiring, monitors, Teflon lines, valves, connectors, nuts and bolts have to be accounted for and inspected. Any malfunctioning or underperforming parts must be replaceable so that the machine can work like new. The boiler, solenoid valves, steam wand and controls should be your main points of focus.
  • Test the machine to ensure that it brews and steams at the correct temperatures, that it heats up within the proper time frames and dispenses hot water as needed.
  • In the case of super-automatic machines, inspect the grinder to ensure that it has been appropriately calibrated and that the settings yield the correct results. Clogs, leaks and loose parts should send a warning signal that the machine is will be a lot of trouble.
  • Inspect it’s insides and look for scale, or mineral deposits from fittings, or any other area. If it has a tendency to leak, it will leave a signature. Check the wiring, for fray’s, burnt marks, and wiggle them a bit to make sure they are flexible.
  • Get the make, model, and year it was built, and do some research to find parts for it. If parts are not available, then think twice about buying it.
  • Last, but not least, you need to look out for if the machine got a complete cleaning and polish before you buy it. That a machine has been thoroughly cleaned and polished does not mean that all is well with it, but seeing a well cleaned machine sends a good vibe. I mean, if a seller is not careful enough to clean his machine before putting it up for sale, you can imagine other things he neglected.

7 Best Places You Can Get Used Coffee Shop Equipment That You Can Resale

  • Used Restaurant/Coffee Shop Supply Stores

If you are living anywhere near a relatively large city, there is a pretty good chance that there will be a used restaurant/coffee shop supply store somewhere in your area. These stores buy, sell and trade used equipment, supplies and furniture, so getting in good with the people working there could be very beneficial for you.

You can strike up a deal with them to let them know what kind of equipment and supplies you are looking for, and ask them to call you up and let you know whenever something that might interest you comes in. When these come in, you should definitely go over to see them because you never know about their condition, even though most of these stores will guarantee that the equipment will at least be in perfectly working condition, even if it doesn’t look so hot.

  • Going Out Of Business Sales

One coffee shop’s misfortune can be your good fortune. The cafe business is not an easy one. According to a study, 60% will fail in the first year and up to 80% will go under in the first three. That means that there are many discouraged coffee shop owners out there who want to get rid of their equipment in an effort to make some money back.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep track of how local eateries are doing. If you see that a local restaurant, coffee shop or burger bar has gone out of business, get in contact with them and see if they are willing to sell you some of their equipment.

  • Storage Locker Auctions

There are plenty of coffee shops that rent out storage lockers in order to keep equipment they don’t need somewhere. Sometimes these coffee shops close and the owners stop paying rent for the storage lockers, after which they are put up for auction.

But if you are going to be trying out this route, stick to the coffee shop equipment. If you see a locker with equipment you can use, bid on it. Don’t get carried away with bidding on other things that have nothing to do with coffee shop equipment.

  • Garage Sales

While you might not be able to find a lot of coffee shop-specific equipment at a garage sale, you’ll definitely be able to find something. For example, you can pick up a decent enough dishwasher, water filtration system, computer, cash register, etc.

Be sure to check your local papers and online ads on a regular basis to see if there are going to be any garage sales in your area every weekend. The people holding the sales will usually mention in their ads that there will be a lot of office equipment available to ensure that buyers looking for this type of stuff will show up.

  • Resale Stores

If you don’t really need a certain piece of equipment to be state-of-the-art, you could always check out resale stores. These are usually non-profit resellers. Restaurants, retailers and hotels commonly donate equipment they no longer need to these types of organizations and then the resale stores will sell them.

It’s a good place to look if you need items like tables and chairs; equipment that doesn’t necessarily have to be new and modern. And if you buy from them, it’s a win-win situation – you’re getting equipment for cheap and the money you have spent is going to people in need.

  • Friendly coffee shops

You should always get to know coffee shop owners in your area and become friends with them. You never know when they might be upgrading their equipment and looking to sell their current inventory for cheap.

  • Conclusion

Using these tips, and some common sense, you can quickly see if the used coffee shop equipment you are ‘eyeing’ is worth buying, or if upon your visual inspection, you discover a deal breaker, an issue that will cost you more money to fix than the machine is worth. Don’t get attached to any machine until you know for sure what it is going to do, and what it might cost to get it to do exactly what you want.

Ajaero Tony Martins