I’ve put hours of research into looking for factors to consider when shopping for an espresso maker for businesses. Hence, the guide that’s before you.
I’ll cover various features to know when shopping for commercial espresso machines.
Let’s dive in.
- Factors like new vs. used, features, & brand will increase machine’s price.
- Machines can cost thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.
- Boiler type, number of group heads, & recovery time are factors that’ll impact productivity.
- Almost all commercial machines can brew the same drinks.
Commercial Espresso Machine Buying Guide
Here are all the factors to consider when shopping for an espresso machine for businesses:
|Factor||Why it’s Important|
|New vs. Used||Affects price & reliability.|
|Size||Whether it’ll fit.|
|Direct Plumbing Connection||Would eliminate refilling reservoir.|
|Number of Group Heads||How many people it can serve simultaneously.|
|Features||Additional ways to increase productivity.|
|Certifications||Certifications or seals to meet city requirements.|
|Boiler Type||How quickly machine will heat.|
|Types of Machines||Determines how machine brews.|
|Drinks it can Brew||What you can make.|
|Cost||Amount paid for machine.|
|Brand||Affects reliability, warranty period, & more.|
|Recovery Time||Time between brews.|
|Thermocycling vs. Dual Boiling||Affects time to heat machine.|
|Temperature Stability||Temperature consistency.|
|Electricity Connection||Determines recovery time & money spent on power.|
Need recommendations? Explore our guide that reviews the best commercial espresso machines for different circumstances.
The following sections will dive further into each criterion. These may differ among businesses. However, these are universal recommendations.
Read on to learn more.
1. New vs. Used
Whether you get a used or new commercial machine depends on your budget, needs, and preferences.
If you’re looking for a reliable machine with a warranty, then a new machine is the best option. If on a budget and can find a used machine that is in good condition, then get a used machine.
Let’s compare new and used espresso machines.
1. New Commercial Espresso Machines
Here are the pros and cons for those who want to buy new espresso machines.
- Have not been used before.
- Come with a warranty.
- More reliable than used machines.
- More expensive.
- May not be available immediately due to lack of inventory.
New commercial espresso machines cost much more than their second-hand counterparts but will usually include warranties. These will ensure that if issues arise in your device (e.g., poor craftsmanship), the manufacturer will replace it.
They’re also more reliable because they shouldn’t have any hidden issues. For instance, many used machines may have problems with the boiler, while new ones won’t.
2. Used Commercial Espresso Machines
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of buying used coffee makers for businesses.
- Less expensive than new machines.
- May be available immediately.
- May not come with a warranty.
- Not as reliable as new machines.
- May have damage that isn’t visible.
Used commercial coffee makers cost less, but aren’t as reliable as buying new ones. Because you’ll never truly know what the previous buyer did with the machine unless you disassemble it.
They also don’t include warranties—unless the seller passes it to you while the machine’s in its warranty period. The lack of warranties eliminates any protection you’d have from potential issues that may arise.
Here is a factor that’ll impact your machine’s ability to perform.
The size of the machine will determine how much space it takes up in your café or restaurant.
If you have a small space, choose a compact and lightweight machine. For example, a single group head machine with a vibratory pump is smaller than a double group head machine with a rotary pump.
The size of the machine will also affect the number of drinks it can make at once.
If you have a high volume of customers, you will need a machine with multiple group heads. For example, a 2-group machine can make 2 espresso drinks simultaneously. While a three-group head machine can produce three espresso drinks at the same time.
More complex machines, such as those with built-in grinders, are larger than simpler machines. These additions mean that you’ll have more components to repair later on.
The size of the commercial espresso machine that you choose will depend on your specific needs and requirements.
Choose a smaller device if you have a small space and a low volume of customers. You will need a larger machine if you have a large area and a high volume of customers.
Another design choice that may impact your machine’s operability includes the following—
3. Direct Plumbing Connection
Direct plumbing espresso machines refer to devices that connect directly to your business’ water line. Such a connection eliminates the need to refill your water tank consistently, which could save your team members a lot of time.
Such a feature requires a rotary pump to work due to the amount of pressure it needs to operate. It also makes the machine cost more. A cost that’s worth the investment.
It also allows you to connect your machine directly to water filters, which will result in the best-tasting espresso and less likelihood of sediment buildup in your espresso machine. And reduces the need to descale.
Here’s a factor that will improve productivity.
4. Number of Group Heads
Here’s how many group heads a business would need based on the amount of people served per day:
# of Group Heads
|Cups per Day Served||<50||50–300||300–600||>600|
Typically, serving under 300 people daily requires a two-group head coffee machine. For 300-500 cups, consider three group heads. Over 600? Opt for four group heads. Note that these are guidelines, and actual needs may vary.
For instance, if your shop serves 250 cups daily, but 200 are between 8-9 am, a two-group machine may fall short. Consider other factors and choose wisely to ensure efficient service.
Bars, restaurants, and bakeries would benefit the most from a 1-group machine. Coffee shops and cafés will work better with 3- or 4-group machines . If you have the extra money and want to accommodate surges in customers from events, opt for a 4-group machine.
If you’re running a café in an office building, a 2-group device should serve your business’ needs.
Office break rooms or businesses offering complimentary coffee to guests should opt for a single group head on a super-automatic or capsule machine. That way, team members and customers could serve themselves without issues.
Want to further improve productivity? Check out the next factor.
Here are a bunch of features you’ll often find with commercial espresso machines:
|Feature||Description||Why it’s Important|
|Pre-infusion||Allows the water to soak into the coffee grounds before brewing.||Can help to create a more evenly extracted espresso.|
|PID controller||Automatically maintains the desired temperature of the water.||Important for making espresso with consistent temperature.|
|Digital display||A screen that displays the temperature & pressure of the water.||Helpful for monitoring the brewing process.|
|Built-in grinder||A grinder built into the espresso machine.||This can save time & effort, as you do not need to grind the beans separately.|
|Cleaning cycle||A cycle that cleans the machine automatically.||Can help to prevent the buildup of bacteria & scale.|
|Portafilter size||The size of the portafilter, which is the basket that holds the coffee grounds.||Can affect the amount of espresso that can be made at once.|
|Steam wand||A wand used to steam milk for lattes, cappuccinos, & other espresso-based drinks.||Can’t make drinks like lattes without it.|
|Hot water spout||A spout that dispenses hot water for tea or other drinks.||Ideal for serving tea & other hot drinks.|
|Automatic backflushing||A feature that cleans the group heads & brew chamber of the espresso machine automatically.||Can help to prevent the buildup of coffee residue & scale.|
Many commercial espresso machines will include steam wands and hot water spouts. Higher-cost machines will include features that’ll improve espresso taste such as PID controller and pre-infusion.
Features such as automatic backflushing will improve your team members’ productivity by reducing the time your team spends on maintenance. As it’ll deal with the cleaning automatically.
This next criteria won’t affect productivity, but it will affect whether your business operates legally.
Check your town or city’s equipment certification requirements for food service. As these laws will vary by place. However, most machines will carry various certifications. If you’re curious whether a machine carries a specific certification, ask the manufacturer.
For instance, commercial-only espresso machines should have the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) seal . Their seal indicates that the manufacturer built the espresso machine with materials approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Such materials ensure that approved machines won’t leak rust or chemicals into your espresso.
Read on to find another factor that’ll affect espresso consistency.
7. Boiler Type
Commercial espresso machines will typically include one of the following boiler types:
|Feature||Dual Boiler||Single Boiler||Heat Exchanger|
|Number of boilers||2||1||1|
|Brew boiler temperature||Independently adjustable||Fixed||Variable|
|Steam boiler temperature||Independently adjustable||Fixed||Variable|
|Ability to brew & steam simultaneously||Yes||No||Yes|
|Ease of use||Moderate||Easy||Easy|
|Best for||Enthusiasts who want the best possible espresso or commercial use.||Home baristas who don’t need to make milk drinks often.||Home baristas who want a good balance of features & price.|
Some machines will also include multi boilers (2+ boilers). These work best for cafés and coffee shops that serve over 100 drinks daily.
Each boiler type’s heating times will vary by machine model, design choice, features, and more.
Here are examples of what’ll affect your machine’s heating time:
- Machine volume: Bigger tanks take longer to heat.
- Temperature stability: Lowers recovery time.
- Materials: Aluminum heats quicker than brass & stainless steel.
- Safety features: Features like overpressure can lead to longer heat up times..
- Heating power: Machines that use more power tend to heat quicker.
Dual boilers will heat the quickest and allow you to brew coffee and froth milk simultaneously. Making them the best choice for serving more than one drink at a time.
There are also boilers with Proportional Integral Derivative (PID). This feature helps your machine monitor and adjust temperatures automatically for more consistent drinks. Combine this feature with a dual boiler, and you’ll have an ideal machine.
You may see heat exchangers with PID or thermoblock heating elements; avoid these. They’re better for home espresso machines.
This next factor will also affect how your machine operates.
8. Types of Commercial Espresso Machine
Let’s compare different types of commercial espresso machines:
|Ease of use||Requires more user input||Less user input than semi-automatic||Most user-friendly|
|Control||More control over the brewing process||Less control than semi-automatic||Least control over the brewing process|
|Price||Cheapest||More expensive than semi-automatic||Most expensive|
|Consistency||Inconsistent if the user is not experienced||More consistent than semi-automatic||Most consistent|
|Time to make a shot||Takes the longest||Takes about the same amount of time as semi-automatic machines||Takes the shortest amount of time|
Here is a more detailed explanation of each type of machine:
- Semi-automatic espresso machines: Require the user to grind the coffee beans, tamp the grounds, & start & stop the brewing process.
- This gives the user the most control over the brewing process, but it also requires more skill & experience.
- Automatic espresso machines: Grind the coffee beans, tamp the grounds, & start & stop the brewing process automatically.
- This is a good option for people who want a consistent espresso every time without having to learn how to use a semi-automatic machine.
- Super-automatic espresso machines: Also grind the coffee beans, tamp the grounds, start & stop the brewing process, & froth the milk automatically.
- This is the most convenient type of espresso machine, but it is also the most expensive.
The best type of espresso machine for you will depend on your needs and budget.
Most cafés and coffee shops will use semi-automatic espresso machines. That’s because baristas can brew drinks for each menu item’s specifications. However, you may risk a lack of consistency.
Ensure you train your team members thoroughly with your machine to have consistent drinks every time.
Businesses that offer coffee to guests or team members will want to set up an automatic or super-automatic espresso maker. Most of these machines have pre-programmed options that’ll automatically brew drinks per whatever option they choose.
For instance, if they pick a flat white, the machine will automatically brew it per its pre-programmed temperature, milk texture, and brew strength.
Speaking of drink options…
9. Drinks it Can Brew
Commercial espresso machines can brew most of these drinks:
|Americano||Red Eye||Espresso shots|
|Black Eye||Mocha||Irish Coffee|
You’ll need a milk frother to brew most drinks on this list. Almost all these drinks require microfoam or macrofoam. Both of which are the result of steaming or frothing milk. However, nearly all commercial espresso machines will include steam wands.
Otherwise, all commercial espresso machines are capable of making espresso shots, doppio (double shots), ristretto (concentrated shots), and lungo (watered-down shots).
How much will all the above criteria cost when buying a machine?
The price of a commercial espresso machine can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. It is important to budget enough money to purchase a device that will meet your needs and expectations.
Factors such as the following will determine its price:
- Used vs. new
- Materials used
Also, consider operation, maintenance, and repair costs. These will add expenses to your machine. Getting a higher-quality machine will cost more upfront but may save you money over time.
|Machine||Low End Price||High End Price|
Most business espresso machines will include rotary pumps. However, ensure your device has this. They last longer than vibratory pumps and result in higher-cost machines. Also, opt for machines that use metal piping instead of Teflon. They withstand wear and tear better.
Let’s dive deeper into brands.
The following is a list of brands that manufacture espresso machines for businesses:
|Dalla Corte||Franke||Schaerer||Rocket Espresso|
|Victoria Arduino||Sanremo||La Spaziale||Wega|
Each manufacturer will have varying warranty periods and support. Explore each brand’s site and use the information there to see which will provide the best machine for your business.
This next factor’s critical. Keep reading.
12. Machine Recovery Time
Recovery time between espresso shots is when a commercial espresso machine can cool down and be ready to make another shot. This time is necessary because the heat from the previous shot can affect the taste of the next one.
It can help to improve customer satisfaction. If customers wait long for their coffee, they may become frustrated and leave.
A quicker recovery time can increase the throughput of the machine. This means that the device can make more espresso shots in a shorter amount of time, which can help improve the business’s efficiency.
There are a few factors that impact a commercial espresso machine’s recovery time. These include:
- Size of the boiler: A larger boiler will take longer to cool down than a smaller one.
- Insulation of the boiler: A well-insulated boiler will help to keep the heat in, which can shorten the recovery time.
- Type of heating element: A heat exchanger will recover faster than a direct-fired boiler.
- Number of shots being pulled: The more shots that are pulled, the longer the recovery time.
Every machine’s recovery time will differ . Pay attention to the factors above to help determine the recovery time of the machine you’re considering.
Here’s a factor that’ll impact recovery time.
13. Thermocycling vs. Dual Boilers
Thermocycling is the process of heating and maintaining a specific temperature on espresso group heads. It ensures more temperature consistency throughout brewing cycles, has no recovery time, and requires fewer repairs.
The fewer repairs come from having fewer parts than dual boilers, which, as the name states, means your machine has 2 boilers.
1 of the boilers will heat your espresso machine’s water. The other will heat the steamer for the steam wand. However, these tanks require several minutes to heat up, which could chew into your team members’ productivity.
Because the longer it takes to heat, the longer it’ll take to brew drinks. The longer it takes to brew beverages, the less likely customers will return. Because who wants to visit a shop that’ll take forever to brew drinks?
Many commercial espresso machines will use thermocycling in place of dual boilers.
Let’s discuss temperature more.
14. Temperature Stability
Temperature stability is the ability of an espresso machine to maintain a consistent water temperature throughout the brewing process. This is important because the flavor of espresso is sensitive to temperature.
If the water temperature is too high, the espresso will taste bitter and over-extracted. The espresso will taste sour and under-extracted if the water temperature is too low.
There are a few factors that can affect the temperature stability of a commercial espresso machine. These include:
- Type of boiler: Determines temperature consistency & time it’ll take to heat.
- Insulation: The insulation of the boiler helps to keep the water temperature constant.
- Good insulation will help to prevent the water temperature from fluctuating.
- PID controller: A device that automatically adjusts the boiler temperature to keep it constant. PID controllers are very effective at maintaining temperature stability.
One last factor.
15. Electricity Connection
The more power your machine draws, the quicker it can recover from brewing drinks. For instance, machines with 6,500 watts of power will recover faster than those with 3,000 watts.
Ensure your business’ power outlets can handle your machine’s power draw. Consider consulting an electrician and having them inspect or replace your power outlets to ensure they can take your machine’s wattage.
Factors such as brand, features, number of group heads, and new vs. used will determine the machine’s price. Temperature stability, boiler type, and electricity connection will affect its recovery time.
Consider all these factors when figuring out what machine to get. Because it will determine your business’ success.
Need help finding an espresso machine for your business? Check out our recommendations.