Over the last several years, we have seen a shift in the coffee industry as it seeks to be more eco-friendly. We’ve seen improvements in the way wet beneficios recycle water to cut down on water consumption, natural process methods have been utilized more widely both due to taste and lowered environmental impact, roasters have searched for more sustainable packaging options for their coffee and coffee shops have started offering discounts to people who bring in reusable to-go cups. So what do you get when you combine the eco-friendly coffee movement with the food truck craze starting here in Guatemala? You get ICO Café.
ICO Café, the self-sustaining coffee cart serving up great espresso to the night crowd in Guatemala City! Source: Food Trucks Guatemala
ICO Café was started by Manuel Lara Paiz and his wife Vivian Dighero Paniagua in 2014 in Guatemala after seeing a similar mobile coffee cart during a trip to Germany. Their idea was to manufacture the coffee carts using repurposed wood, equip them with solar panels to provide for their own power and cater to the food truck market, corporate gatherings and other events such as weddings. The overall goal was for it to be a self-sustaining cart which served excellent coffee anywhere without the need of a cable running into a house or to a light pole.
The ICO Café cart offers a full variety of espresso-based beverages in a mobile self-sustaining package. Source: ICO Café
I had the opportunity to travel to the capital and visit ICO Café in the downtown area of Guatemala City. There they had their mobile cart set up alongside various food trucks and we talked about their concept. The coffee cart has gone through a couple different revisions with one of most important being the addition of a British made Fracino espresso machine that operates with electricity or with gas. Previously, they had used a Rancilio machine that ran on electricity which allowed the cart to be mobile but always limited their range, restricting them to some electrical source nearby. Now, with the gas powered espresso machine and the solar panels on top to provide light for the cart at night and power for the grinder and blender, they are 100% mobile and are able to set up in almost any location.
During my visit with ICO Café in the capital. Source: Food Trucks Guatemala
So, how was the coffee you ask? I ordered an espresso and was pleasantly surprised when I was handed a well-balanced espresso with a nice crema. It was by far the best coffee I had ever had to drink in the street. The ICO Café cart is equipped to offer their customers the coffee basics of espresso, cappuccino, latte, mocha and a pastry to accompany it if the customer so desires.
A close up of the Fracino “DualFuel” with a grinder than runs on gas and electricity. Source: Fracino Central America
The efficiency of the gas system was equally surprising. The thought of using gas to run an espresso machine to me seemed like it would be a costly venture, but the truth is quite the opposite. According to Manuel, (assuming you serve an average of 200 espressos a day), a tank will last you around 6 days for a total of 1,200 espressos. Currently the 20-pound gas tank they are using runs around 60 Guatemalan Quetzales ($7.87) so the cost of gas per espresso works out to around $.01. Now that’s pretty efficient!
A basic schematic provided by Fracino detailing how to set up a mobile coffee stand using their dual powered espresso machines. The ICO Café model also includes a solar panel to recharge the battery that powers the electric machinery. Source: Fracino
ICO Café has already released the next generation of mobile coffee stands by integrating their current system into a gas powered utility cart that will make it even more mobile as the current bicycle version must be loaded onto a trailer if you’re going more than a short distance or up a hill.
The future of sustainable mobile coffee with good taste has arrived! Source: ICO Café
ICO Café has raised the bar for coffee carts in other countries by producing a fully self-sufficient model and serving excellent coffee all the while using power from the sun to run their cart.
Written by Z. Daggett and edited by N.Bhatt.
Perfect Daily Grind.