What about that budget?
If you have been following along, you will remember I originally budgeted just $20k for all my café and roastery equipment. Initially, I was looking to split the 20 down the middle, half for café, and half for a coffee roaster. This ended up being much more difficult than I thought, and some rearranging in the budget became necessary fairly early on. Throughout the summer I kept an eye out for a used La Marzocco espresso machines and in doing so gained a good idea of their value. It seemed that the available machines cost anywhere between $4-7k depending on the model, number of group heads, and condition. Now, there are plenty of espresso machines by other brands available, but I was committed to spending the extra cash on a reputable machine, as well as one with alittle bit of character. In addition to the espresso machine, I needed a bulk grinder, espresso grinder, fridge, and Point of Sale terminal, as well as a whole bunch of little things no one wants to read in a list. Luckily, a few weeks after returning home from the summer I found a local bakery/café that was upgrading all of their equipment and wanted to sell everything I needed for a nice little bundle. So after some negotiation I was able to obtain a La Marzocco 3 group FB80, two Mazzer espresso grinders, and 2 bulk Bunn grinders for exactly $10k, perfectly within budget.
The coffee roaster on the other hand did not come so easily. During the summer I had read up on several small batch profile roasters, and in the end felt Mill City Roasters was the best option due to their strong customer service, helpful video content, and price point. So I put my down payment on a 2 kg roaster sometime in June hoping it would ship early that fall. However, at the time, Mill City, was undergoing their CSA approval process which would allow the sale of their products in Canada. Although they warned me it may be a lengthy process, I figured I had enough lead time that it would be a none issue. After several updates during the summer it was beginning to look like the roaster would not be ready in time for fall, or even Christmas. In hind sight a later roaster arrival would have been totally fine as the entire project ended up falling off any form of planned timeline. But at the time, I was very concerned about the late arrival and felt the CSA approval process could drag out for months . When I voiced my concerns with Mill City they understood and suggested a refund on the down payment as it was hard to guarantee a day the CSA approval would complete. I was very happy to deal with such reasonable people. and really appreciated their respect for my timetable. If any one from Mill City is reading this, thanks again!
Although I was bummed out that I wasn’t going to get a Mill City roaster, my tight timeline allowed me to mentally justify an increase in the roaster budget. I decided to look at Diedrich Roasters, which are considerably more expensive, but have an extensive history, a great industry name, and are based out of Idaho, just a hop skip and a jump away from me in BC. Diedrich's close proximity would allow me to easily attend one of their Coffee Roasting Profile courses as well as pickup the roaster myself and save on the shipping costs. When I contacted Diedrich, they happen to have a IR 2.5 Roaster coming off a trade show circuit for sale, allowing me to skip the 13 week production line lead time. I will be the first to admit that perhaps I was abit hasty changing coffee roasters, but it really seemed like everything was lining up perfectly so I decided to go where the momentum took me. In the end, the Diedrich IR 2.5 would cost me around $20k, which is almost double what the Mill City roaster would have cost. In addition, there would be some extra costs associated with the border, tariffs, and importers that we will get into later.
Salvage and Sand
One main feature I wanted the bus to highlight was the use visible wood throughout the interior, primarily in thick wood countertops. With todays lumber prices I simply could not afford such a thing, so my initial plan was to mill up some yellow cedar with my Alaskan mill and chainsaw. However, a much better opportunity presented itself through my Brother, Nicholas, who works for a company that specializes in engineered wood panels. These panels are called Cross Laminated Timber, or CLT and are very strong and as such are used in applications traditionally reserved for steel and concrete. The Plant that makes these panels is located in Penticton, and they were willing to allow me to look through their cutoff pile and salvage what I could. So some time in November I drove out there with my chainsaw and a book of measurements to see what I could find. Once out there I realized finding the panels would be no problem, but cutting them down to a manageable size to move into my truck would be a formidable task. Luckily Nicholas joined me for the day to help find the wood, measure it out, and safely move it to my truck.
Since the panels are cross laminated, cutting them was unlike bucking a natural tree in that the panel would not flex or pinch but would then suddenly release at the end of the cut, sliding the huge panel down the pile. The whole time we were there I was worried one of us would get pinched between sliding panels, and either be horribly injured or simply just kicked out for being reckless without any wood! This did not happen of course and I was able to get all the wood I needed for the counters, tables and more. So with my truck riding the line of a legal load I headed home to fine tune the rough chainsaw cuts, and start sanding!
Now as per any new-age home renovation blog, show, ect, this is the part where I am supposed to brag about how the salvaged wood cost nothing but alittle elbow grease. Although the sentiment is true, a little elbow grease becomes quite expensive when you have a short timeline and it comes at the cost of other tasks. In addition, moving these huge chunks of wood around to cut and sand them was extremely taxing. After a few times moving them by hand in and out of the bus, I eventually started using the backhoe to lift them up and into the bus's rear window on the second story.
My vision for these countertops was to have that thick glossy glass like epoxy you see in old timey Pubs perfectly encapsulating the wood. To achieve this look I decided to order in a new acrylic epoxy product from Benjamin Moore, knowing they have an excellent line of thick paints. Unfortunately, not only did this product costs a lot, it ended up not working at all, and added weeks to the overall build. The two part epoxy was mixed and applied within spec, and left to dry in a stable room temperature of around 18 degrees (contested by Benjamin Moore). When I returned in the morning, I found the epoxy had crystallized and left a rough sandpaper like finish across all applications. I applied a second coat hoping it would smooth out, but it too crystallized. I now needed to sand this coating off and go with a new product. In fear of a repeat epoxy issue, I decided to go with a product I knew and trusted, Varathane. Varathane is a great as it is very predictable, and offers the same benefits of epoxy as long as you have the patients to apply enough coats. In my case I was able to get six coats on before my patients ran out, but it felt good to finally close the countertop chapter of the build. After weeks of sanding, coating ,sanding and re-coating, they were finally finished sometime near the end of January, allowing the rest of the interior work to begin.
How much we Talkin Here???
Now I know its rude to talk about money, but I also know there are a lot of people interested in how much such a venture costs, and I want to be as open as possible with the hope of inspiring others to create...and for jokes. So that said, probably the number one theme of questioning I receive regarding Double Decker Coffee Roasting is, how much money are you putting in? Generally, it seems most people expect me to say I got into this for some wicked deal or life hack. When in reality its much more boring in that I simply set a goal in my early 20s to own property or a business by 30. In order to realize that goal I just worked as much as possible to load up two main bank accounts; a projects account, and a wow you really blew it with that project account, account (RRSP). Although to some people the numbers I am discussing here are not a huge sum of money, but when you work hourly labour jobs it can take awhile to add up...or at least in my case it did.
Although I saved primarily to execute a project of this type, I can’t seem to shake a voice in my head of that dink on Dragons Den that is always yelling “YOU ARE KILLING MONEY”! But at the end of the day, I want to create a business from the ground up, and if catastrophic monetary failure is a part of that lesson, so be it. I mean it is really no more of a loss than paying for a business degree and never using it. Nothing ventured nothing gained is the mentality I try to keep, and at the very least I will have a neat place to sip some decent coffee!
So lets brake things down. As far as the bus purchase went, by the time my week on Vancouver Island putting the deal together was done, buying the bus, transferring titles, insuring it, hiring a driver, ferries, and fuel to get it up to the Callaghan I was into the bus for $20k. Now a lot of people seem quite shocked when they hear this figure, but really, what are they comparing it too? Its not like there is a flooded market of double decker buses on the west coast. The market value of the bus was just what the seller wanted, as he had the only one for sale. Anyways, I find its easier to swallow when its put in the context of $20k for 480 square feet of rent free space on wheels.
With $20k invested in the space, I was not about to halfass the rest of the project. It would have been very simple to paint the inside, turn some seats around, chuck in some tables, toss in a $400 Breville espresso machine and call it a day. But I wanted to build something I could be proud of, whether it succeeded as a business or not I needed to be fulfilled by the build. Since the start of the project, the budget has been reallocated several times, but originally, I set the budget around $50k in enhancements to the already paid for bus. In order to best meet the budget I split it into four main categories: Construction cost (the roof upgrades, interior cafe conversion), Servicing Cost (electricity, plumbing, gas), Equipment Cost, and unforeseen/whoopsies.
Now anyone involved in the café business is all thinking the same thing, you think you can outfit a café and a roastery for $20k? And at the time, yes I did believe this... lets just say it’s a good thing the woopsies fund was so high.
The Messy, Awful, Expensive, Best Option Around
When I first purchased the bus I knew the upstairs ceiling had water damage and would need to be removed. Although this would create a lot more work, it would also give me the opportunity to see whats up there structurally as well as improve the insulation situation. Originally, the bus had about as much insulation as a beer can. All the walls were thin sheet metal, the floor plywood, and all single pane glass windows. Having such a lack of insulation in a structure creates three main issues; an inefficient building, a difficulty regulating temperature, and condensation buildup possibly resulting in water damage. Issues such as inefficiency I will just have to swallow, after all it is a bus from the 1960s and I have no plans on replacing all that single pane glass. However, I can add insulation where it will take it and dropping the ceiling is the first step.
Being an impatient individual, I decided the best way to remove the ceiling panels was to smash them down with a hammer rather than drill each rivet out. Unfortunately this was a terrible idea which resulted in much more work. Although my way was quick to get the ceiling down, it left a mess of broken rivets that still needed individual attention to be smoothed out in order for the new ceiling to sit flush to the frame. After grinding down the remaining rivets, I decided to add some wood to the existing aluminum frame to give me more material to fasten the new ceiling to.
Once the ceiling was demoed and everything was ready to be covered back up, I started prepping for my insulation. I decided to go with a spay foam application because when properly applied it creates a seal ensuring there will be no condensation issues. All that said, there are a lot of downsides to spray foam as the kits are very expensive, difficult to get use too, and fairly unpleasant to apply. In my case, I needed two of these kits (around $600) to ensure the ceiling was completely covered. The first tank I entirely over sprayed, resulting in excess foam that needed to be removed, as well as many shadow areas that needed to be re-sprayed. The second kit went much better as I had a smoother technique and changed from the straight nozzle to the fan nozzle creating more manageable spray pattern. Although the spray foam kits where pricey, messy, and required weeks of cutting and sanding the foam down, I still believe they were the best option as they yielded a great end product that I am satisfied will not condensate. With the spray foam complete, all that was left was replacing the ceiling panels, but first....
Reinforcing the Roof
Due to the bus's original roof having minimal structure, it needed to be beefed up to handle more than a little rain. Currently, the bus has an aluminum skeleton which holds everything up right, and riveted to that is a thin layer of sheet metal wrapping it all together. My concern with leaving the roof as is is it will not be able to handle the weight of our wet coastal snow, as well as the windows could sheer due to the added compression. So how does one reinforce a structure without overwhelming it? The overall concept to reinforce the roof is simply to add a wooden hat that sits ontop of the current structure helping spread the weight out. To achieve the hat, I will build several wooden ribs which straddle the bus on key portions of the roof that currently have a frame. Once the ribs are in place they will be stranded together with 2x4 and eventually sheeted with plywood. By utilizing ribs I can match the curve of the original roof, ideally resulting in the hat structure looking natural to the bus. In addition to the hat helping spread weight out, it will also create a larger thermal barrier between the internal hot and external cold surfaces in the roof resulting in less condensation overall.
Building the hat structure was simple enough, once the first rib template was built it was easy to replicate. The main complication to this process had nothing to do with the build itself but simply with the logistics of bringing materials and tools up and down the second story structure. Now a normal person working on a roof would have had a second person there helping, and from time to time I did, but being a stubborn man it was usually just me pushing items up the scaffolding alone. Luckily, I was able to borrow four lifts of scaffolding which made getting around the bus a bit easier. However, no matter how easily scaffolding goes together, taking it apart and moving it around constantly adds days to a project. After the first de and re-assembly I began to get creative, dragging it on skis, building it in the box of my truck, and eventually ditching it all together and just using the backhoe bucket.
After getting the frame built and sheeted I was able to cut some nice curves into the front and back of the roof to add some character to the hat. As for the actual roofing material, I originally intended on using galvalume or some other flatsheet metal but eventually changed my mind in favour of a rubber membrane. The main reason for the alteration was I wanted to be able to stand on the roof incase I needed to get up there to shovel, and did not want to risk slipping off. I have built curved roofs with both materials and neither seem to shed snow great, so I went with the safer of the two options for standing on. In addition, the rubber membrane comes in a large roll, that once ontop of the structure is very easy to unroll and drape over creating an instant roof. By the time the I had finished the roof, I had burned through the majority of nice weather October had, and as I unrolled the rubber roof the first storm of the winter pushed in.
Patrick Sills is the owner and creator of Double Decker Coffee Roasting. The purpose of the Build Blog is to share the story of the physical build, its components, Patrick's growing education in the coffee industry, and the overall creation of the business. Warning: if run on sentences, poor sentence structure, or simple spelling mistakes bother you to the core stop reading! The Build Blog has a very loose format, I am a builder not a writer, just thought some people might be interested in the story. Enjoy!