There’s too much under-utilised coffee equipment in the coffee community. Here’s what we can do about it.
We’ve started a marketplace for baristas to buy and sell used coffee equipment — it’s called United Baristas.
— United Baristas (@UnitedBaristas) March 1, 2015
We’d been looking for a solution to enable commercial and specialist coffee equipment to be easily sold and bought within the coffee community. Just about every roaster and coffee shop has at least one piece of equipment sitting in the corner gathering dust.
The idea is that under-utilised equipment could be sold so that it is more productive with a new owner. This is better for the buyer, the seller, the coffee community — and the environment.
We thought it’d be productive to start this Medium so we can unpack our thinking for those of you that are interested. In this first post, we’re starting at the beginning and explaining a few things about why we’re doing what we’re doing. Your feedback is very welcome, just leave a note or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why is there unused coffee equipment?
There are a number of reasons why coffee equipment is under-utilised. We’ve taken the view that it’s primarily driven by the introduction of new technologies.
As manufacturers develop improved equipment, we upgrade. Technological improvements have greatly lifted the quality of the coffee — something we wish to see continue — so it seemed necessary to facilitate the sale of used, but still useful, equipment; rather than attempt to stifle the purchasing of new equipment to achieve our environmental objectives.
There are lots of other reasons why equipment is under-utilised. Good places can go bad, and bad places can go out of business resulting in disused equipment; it can be easier (and more cost effective) to replace, rather than repair, equipment; good routine maintenance sometimes isn’t performed leading to more defunct equipment than is necessary; and trends spread quickly through the community resulting in baristas upgrading, often whether they need to or not.
In many cases, this under-utilised equipment can be put into service again with routine maintenance or minor repair.
Selling under-utilised equipment is good for everyone
There are a number of reasons why re-circulating coffee equipment within the coffee community is a good idea.
Coffee equipment often has lots of valuable components that use natural resources in their production. Furthermore, a numerous components aren’t easily recycled. Extending the working life of coffee equipment as long as is practically possible is better for the world.
Selling equipment frees up cash. Under-utilised equipment is poor capital allocation, which slows business growth and impacts profitability.
Makes upgrading easier and more affordable
If there is a clear path to selling used equipment, it makes the decision to purchase new equipment more straightforward.
Better quality coffee
The industry and community wins when a larger proportion of available equipment is more productively used. Then everyone has greater access to better equipment which creates the opportunity for rising levels of coffee quality across the community.
Linking buyers and sellers
At any given time there’s a broad selection of equipment available to sell as well as a number of prospective buyers looking for items. At present, equipment is sold primarily through three methods:
Much specialist equipment changes hands through word-of-mouth. This is great for buyers and sellers who are well connected. The advantages are that there are high levels of trust between the parties; however, more recent entrants into the community can struggle to source used equipment (they’re likely to be the very people that’d most benefit from being able to buy good, used equipment). Also, personal sales make it difficult for market pricing to develop, creating a wide variation in pricing for similar items.
Social media channels
Listing equipment for sale on social media has become commonplace. It benefits from increased reach over one’s personal network, but lacks options for equipment to be categorised or searchable and fails to create timely notifications for prospective buyers.
There is a significant volume of specialist equipment available for sale on the generalist marketplaces, such as eBay and Gumtree. However, without a clear listing structure and the sheer volume of other listings, it is difficult for potential buyers to become aware of listings that might meet their requirements. Consequently, these marketplaces are not regularly used by the third wave community. On the positive side, these marketplaces have the resources to develop trust between parties through the buyer and seller protection offered through PayPal and community ratings (features we like).
We hope United Baristas can combine the benefits of all these existing methods (and mitigate their weaknesses) to create a marketplace that serves the coffee community.
Facilitating market pricing
What’s your used 2-year old, 2-group espresso machine worth? Or what about that pour over dripper? By better linking buyers and sellers we can facilitate the creation of a more fluid market and, theory goes, that should help establish a market determined price for used equipment. This is better for business owners who can better manage depreciation costs and fairer for everyone who buys or sells equipment.
Maintenance, repair and restoration have to play a key role in recirculating coffee equipment. One of the key reasons equipment is taken out of service is that its repair is cost prohibitive. As every cafe operator knows in situ service is expensive: it includes fuel, parking and congestion charges as well as time and parts. By enabling equipment to be sold that requires service or repair, United Baristas can get equipment into the workshops of technicians who can in turn return it to working condition and on sell it to businesses or consumers who will use it. We hope this will prove more cost effective and provide a path for more equipment to be put back into service.
Through working together we give old equipment a new lease of life, free up capital and enable more baristas to make higher quality coffee. This is better for coffee drinkers, businesses and the environment.
Home baristas are also welcome
One of the interesting facets of speciality coffee is the rise of home coffee making. This presents two interesting needs. Firstly, home baristas are increasingly purchasing commercial equipment for use at home. United Baristas helps businesses easily sell their used equipment to consumers and consumers to more readily access specialist equipment. Secondly, there is more specialist home equipment being developed by manufacturers, which will need to be on sold at some stage during its working life. United Baristas welcomes baristas of all levels.
We hope you’ll join us
Our network is growing quickly. The best thing you can do is sign up to United Baristas. It’s free to sign up and you can opt to get daily or weekly emails highlighting the latest listings.
Sign up to United Baristas Marketplace marketplace.unitedbaristas.com
Sign up to sell your equipment or be informed about the latest listings.
If you’ve got any questions, feedback or ideas, feel free to contact us.