Catering to the rise in mobile baristas

Coffee Machine Solutions has the perfect solution to go off-grid and turn your location into your office.

In a traditional café setting, baristas are confined to the bench while loyal consumers make a special trip for their morning caffeine fix. Coffee Machine Solutions (CMS) Co-Owner Greg Sparkes says times are changing with baristas taking coffee to the people and the rise of mobile coffee vans and bikes.

“There’s been a large resurgence in the popularity of mobile coffee vans, cars, and push bikes, mainly because of the flexible lifestyle,” Greg says. “People continue to find the places where coffee demand is not yet met, and are taking the opportunity to set up shop before school, on sports days, or at an event.”

CMS is a distributor of Fracino coffee machines, United Kingdom-built espresso machines that have been a staple arm of the CMS brand since 2010. Since receiving Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) Gas Certification AS 4563-2004 in 2014 for its one and two-group machines, the company has seen a 500 per cent increase in sales for the gas-powered machines.

“We’ve seen exponential growth,” Greg says. “Hardly anyone wanted to buy a machine without appropriate certification, but now that the three-group Fracino machine has finally been granted and deemed safe for use in Australia, it’s popularity is soaring.

“We’ve worked hard for three and a half years to gain the certification on the gas-powered Fracino dual fuel machines. Nobody else in Australia or New Zealand has that seal of approval, so CMS is very happy to be the official distributors in Australia, and announce to the public that its machines are safe and ready to use.”

CMS supplies coffee machines to some of the largest mobile coffee companies in the country, including Retail Food Group’s Café 2 U and The Coffee Guy, Di Bella Coffee, Xpresso Mobile, and The Mobile Coffee Group.

All these brands utilise Fracino’s range of one-group, two-group, and three-group machines, in particular the Fracino Contempo volumetric Dual Fuel machine, and more recently, its retro two-group lever machine, a popular model for Kombis and mobile carts reminiscent of the 1950s. Both machines can be powered with liquid petroleum gas (LPG) burners or electric elements to heat the boiler. If there is electric power available when customer queues are 10-deep, users can even run both the element and the gas burners together for optimum strength, or as Greg describes it, “a machine on steroids” for high volume output.

Traditionally, Greg says mobile operators rely on large generators as their power source, often using expensive and high volumes of diesel to run their devices, including espresso machines, which are one of the greatest users of energy.

“Generators are big, smelly, and noisy to run and councils aren’t generally a fan of their exhaust. Many operators aren’t aware that there are suitable gas machines options available that perform better than other gas models on the market and are reliable and cleaner than diesel.

Typically, Greg says, gas-powered sceptics need convincing when exploring the idea of using gas, but when they see what the machine is capable of first-hand, they do a quick backflip.

“Some have a preconceived notion that gas-powered machines are under powered and aren’t as effective to handle large output volumes, but they’re the most powerful gas-powered machines in the world – and the perfect option for a customer with a limited mains supply,” he says.

One of CMS’s clients, an independent operator, spent about $100 a week on diesel to power his $10,000 generator, and since switching to Fracino’s LPG machine, is spending only about $20 a week on gas.

“Once past the installation, the result is a cheaper mode of operation,” Greg says. “He is saving about $100 a week to produce about 2000 coffees.”

Another customer produces an average 450 to 500 coffees each day using his Fracino machine, which he runs purely on gas.

“Clearly volume is no barrier for this machine, and he has no restrictions,” Greg says. “In fact, a three-group model has been added to the range to answer demand from the increasing mobile coffee market, and run purely on gas, it’s nearly twice as powerful as its two-group counterpart.”

It’s not just coffee vans utilising the Fracino machines. Greg says many food vans serving coffee have found it the ideal solution and have happily swapped or downsized their generator for gas bottles.

Once the machine is connected to a gas bottle just like a BBQ, and switched on, the machine runs very similar to an electric model, with the main difference being that the heat source is a gas burner under the boiler as well as an element inside the boiler.

The Fracino dual-fuel two-group machines can be fitted with 2000-watt (10-amp) or 4000-watt (20-amp) elements. Fitting a 2000-watt element allows the operator to connect to normal 10-amp power sockets. Greg says this is great for pre-heating the boiler before leaving home in the morning and connecting to supplementary shore power, no matter what amperage is available.

The LPG-fuelled burner on the two-group machines is equivalent to a 3.4-kilowatt electrical power rating, and is fitted with electronic ignition and flame failure device. A heat shield encapsulates the heat of the flame around the boiler to protect the machine’s internal elements from heat damage, which Greg says is far more efficient and powerful that historical gas machines. No additional service requirements are needed, just a standard preventative maintenance schedule to ensure the machine runs to peak performance.

Greg says it’s important to remember that mobile units with a gas source can still be affected by atmospheric conditions such as a cold wind, which will make a machine less effective and impact boiler pressure, but if all weather conditions remain equal, the machine runs similarly to a normal electric two-group machine.

To comply with ANZ Gas Certification standards, operators using the Fracino gas machine will need to have a gas fitter sign off on the installation to ensure the gas storage cupboard is fitted correctly.

Greg and Ross Morris started CMS in 2009, first doing machine services, before extending the services to technical support and becoming a machine distributor for a large range of coffee machine equipment. CMS now has supply agreements with more than 20 manufacturers, supports nearly 30 brands, and supplies its machines to builders and fabricators to custom design and install mobile coffee vans.

The business continues to evolve. In 2016 Greg saw a gap in the market for the creation of mobile coffee bikes, and established Coffee Bikes Australia in collaboration with CMS and Fracino Australia.

For baristas and café owners wanting to test their calf strength and start their own coffee business for as little as $2000 start-up, and $315 per week, then this is the ideal solution for a ready-to-go coffee bike and mobile business.
Gas-powered Fracino dual-fuel machines are fitted onto the back of the bike. Ditch the generator and rely on a single battery supported by solar power with just 300 kilograms combining the bike, cart, machine and grinder, water tanks, battery, and all other equipment.

“Mobile operations are appealing because of their flexibility, and I see their popularity only progressing,” Greg says. “When you can match efficiency with a powerful machine, then you’ve got yourself a pretty neat little office.”

For more information on the Fracino dual-fuel machines, call national distributor Coffee Machine Solutions on 07 3857 0300 or visit www.coffeemachinesolutions.com.au