Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that coffee carts and mobile espresso bars are popping up everywhere! With so many portable equipment options and a relatively low barrier to entry, it’s easier than ever to become the coffee entrepreneur you’ve always dreamed of being.
We spoke with Carlos Sims, Founder and Director of Coffee at Happy Home Coffee Roasters, to see how he turned his passion into a business. Happy Home, located in Des Moines, Iowa, operates a mobile espresso bar and a roasting facility.
A Conversation with Happy Home
Carlos’ first coffee job was at a local coffee shop. While he didn’t have any roasting experience, the shop had a roaster that piqued his interest. “One day, I just asked to be trained on it. From there, my love began to grow as I saw the impact my coffee had on the shop.” Carlos recalls a special moment that made him confident he had a future in coffee. “I remember seeing people gathered over a cup that I roasted and thinking to myself, man, this is it.”
Some of the best things in life happen by accident, and that’s exactly how Happy Home’s initial concept began. When Carlos offered to serve coffee at a friend’s adoption fundraiser, he had no idea there would be so much interest in a mobile coffee bar. “Many people asked if we offered this service,” says Carlos, “and the mobile bar was born.” Since that fundraiser, Happy Home has served coffee at office parties, weddings, churches, and even in a greenhouse!
“When I first got into coffee, it struck me that it could be used to bring connection and belonging. I found myself being most at home when I was connecting with someone over coffee, so Happy Home was born.”
Operating a mobile coffee isn’t as simple as putting an espresso machine onto a folding table and calling it a day. Just like a traditional brick-and-mortar setup, ergonomics and efficiency matter.
Happy Home’s bar setup is functional whether there’s a solo barista or an entire team. The espresso machine and grinder are in the center of the bar, with the grinder to the left of the machine. On the left side of the bar is where puck preparation happens, and on the right is the hand-off area. “This allows us to seamlessly work from left to right and ensure our service flow doesn’t get too crowded,” says Carlos. “If we are really busy, we’ll have one person grinding and pulling shots, one person prepping cups, and one person steaming and pouring milk.”
Carlos also says that having a back bar for drip coffee and drink prep helps to relieve some of the congestion that can occur during busy service times. “For us, the most important factor is moving from drink order to hand-off in the smoothest way possible.”
The espresso machine is the heartbeat of any coffee business, and Happy Home chose the Ascaso Baby T Plus, a pint-sized powerhouse, to power their operation.
“We needed a machine that wasn’t going to break the bank and could keep up with the demand we saw coming to our cart,” says Carlos. “We’ve been able to serve large quantities of drinks without water or steam pressure being an issue.
The Baby T Plus pairs a thermoblock group head with a 2.5-liter steam boiler for the best of both worlds - instant hot water for brewing and powerful steam for steaming. It’s also volumetric with plenty of programming options that make the barista’s workflow a breeze.
“What we love most is how programmable the machine is. We have complete control from preinfusion to the temperature of the group head. The Baby T Plus allows us to serve the coffee we roast in the most specific way possible.”
“The F4 is our main espresso grinder, and the AllGround is our flex. The AllGround has been a surprising addition to the bar,” said Carlos. “It can serve as a really dope espresso grinder, but it’s versatile enough to grind for pour-over, drip, or even a bag of coffee if a customer doesn’t have a grinder at home.”
The Hard Stuff
Starting a coffee business is no small feat, so we asked Carlos about some of the challenges he’s faced.
“The most difficult thing about starting this company has been fighting the temptation to be concerned with what the industry says we should be doing. I’ve learned that I create the best and most authentic product when I’m simply staying true to who I am and to the things that we as a company hold as valuable. We love coffee and we can geek out about it all day, but we believe that coffee is best used when connecting people. So as a company, that has to be the filter through which we do all of the things we do.”
As the specialty coffee industry continues to grow, more and more entrepreneurs are starting coffee businesses. Carlos’ biggest piece of advice? Don’t overcomplicate things. “There are a million ways to serve people coffee, but at the end of the day, the connection you make with them is what they remember,” says Carlos. “How they feel combined with what they drink will determine if they come back or have you serve coffee at their function again. So whatever you do, make sure it doesn’t get in the way of your customer interactions.”
At Espresso Parts, we’re honored to partner with businesses big or small. We love helping make coffee dreams come true!! Here’s what Carlos had to say about working with us:
“Espresso Parts has been top-notch. Any questions or concerns I had were answered, and I was treated as more than a customer. They have gone out of their way to ensure our company has the equipment we need and that we are getting the most out of it.”
We know that choosing equipment can be a daunting task, so let us help you make the best decision for your business. Questions about equipping your cafe? Contact us today. Espresso Parts has the industry know-how to make your job easier—and your customers happier, too.