Sol Coffee Mobile Espresso Bar
Winner 2018 Best of Design Small Spaces Architect’s Newspaper
The idea of Sol Coffee emanated from the financial benefits of running a coffee shop which is not at the whim of a lease. By going mobile the spirit of the shop can be taken anywhere and to join the thriving food truck culture in the Front Range. The problem with food trucks is they are typically not well designed for food service with tall, small service windows and little relationship between the patron and food preparer. And with generators buzzing, adding fumes and noise to the environment, the conditions are less than optimal for a culinary experience.
Sol Coffee is a 3rd wave coffee shop with an open bar and unique ambiance and combined merged the benefits of a food truck powered by solar energy. The platform is a classic Toyota camper left for dead which we striped to the frame. The challenge was to make a full service shop in such a small space and make it socially and aesthetically connected with the guests. We dropped the floor so that patrons were close to eye level with the barista. We then opened the back of the truck with a door that doubles as a canopy so that the space is fully accessible.
The design of the truck is unapologetically contemporary using materials and massing that is evocative of the snow capped mountains. The polycarbonate skin is lightweight but allows light to make the interior feel larger. At night the interior glows like a lantern which makes Sol Coffee seem more like a pavilion than a food truck.
The mechanical challenges were how to incorporate a full service coffee bar into a small space with very limited energy capacity. The bar is built around gas fired commercial lever pull espresso machine complimented by a commercial refrigerator, microwave, coffee makers, etc. Hot water is provided by an on demand unit which also utilizes propane.
The truck is broken to two compartments, one is the bar side and the other is for mechanical and storage. Three 340 wall solar panels are incorporated on the roof which was designed specifically for them. They feed for now traditional lead acid batteries which run a 2800 watt hybrid inverter. If we ever need to supplement power we can run a generator for a short time which is powered directly to the batteries from the inverter rater than powering the entire truck. This allows us to run a small 1000 watt generator rather than a 3000 watt unit.
Solar off grid system, so no noisy generator
A translucent skin lights up at night
Lowered floor for better visual connection with patrons
Open counter for a more intimate coffee interaction