If you’re running a coffee shop, there’s one decision that can make or break your business. Which is the best commercial espresso machine right for your?
You’re going to be making a big investment in this piece of kit. You and your staff will be using it all day, every day. It will play a huge role in the quality of your coffee. You need to know it’s not just good, it’s great.
But with today’s wide range of commercial espresso machine brands, it can be difficult to know where to start.
We’re going to take you through the factors you need to consider when choosing your industrial espresso machine. And we’ll review some of the best rated models on the market.
Our Top Recommended
Best Commercial Espresso Machine For Small coffee shop
See the Cecilware ESP2-220V Venezia II Espresso Machine on Amazon
Best Commercial Espresso Machine For Big coffee shop
See the Nuova Simonelli Appia II Volumetric 2 Group Espresso Machine on Amazon
What's type of espresso machine for coffee shops?
The first question is to ask yourself whether you need a commercial espresso machine at all. They’re expensive pieces of equipment, and staff will need proper training to get the best results (1).
If you’re running a café or restaurant where coffee isn’t the focus and speed and value are key, there may be better options.
A small countertop vending machine could be a good alternative. Some of these can dispense coffee free of charge to staff, whilst allowing customers to pay by cash or card. And if you want to offer free refills, they’re great for self-service.
Another option is a bean to cup automatic coffee machine. Many of these are capable of serving coffee that’s almost as good as that from a restaurant espresso machine. They’re less expensive and don’t require anything like as much staff time.
But while automatic coffee makers may produce better quality coffee than vending machines, they’re not quite as convenient. Most will require milk to be steamed and added separately.
If you’re looking to sell artisan coffee at premium prices, however, nothing but a barista espresso machine will do. So how should you decide which one to buy?
Factors to consider
1. Where will your machine be located?
One question which should be pretty easy to answer is where you want to locate your espresso machine.
Why does that matter? Well, many machines need to be plumbed into the mains water supply (2). That’s always the best option if you can make it work with your layout. But if mains plumbing isn’t possible, you’ll need a machine with its own water tank.
2. How many cups will you be brewing at your busiest times?
Next, ask yourself how many cups of coffee you expect to serve when you’re at your busiest.
This will determine how many group heads you need on your espresso machine. Commercial machines will have anything from one head – which can make two coffees at a time – to five.
A single group head can make about fifty 8-ounce cups of coffee a day. The more coffee you expect to make, the more groups you’ll need.
Closely connected to the number of groups is the size of the boiler. A good boiler is essential: it will be providing both hot water for drinks, and steam for the espresso.
Generally speaking, the bigger the boiler the better – but remember, it will require more power.
A one group espresso machine should have a boiler with a capacity greater than 6 liters. For a two group machine that rises to around 10 liters, and for a three group about 14 liters.
3. How many steam wands do you need?
The number of steam wands varies from machine to machine and is usually correlated to the number of group heads.
If you’re going to have two baristas working at the same time, two steam wands can be a major advantage.
Another factor to bear in mind is that the steam wands will themselves vary between machines.
Some have three holes in the tip, while others have four. Four hole wands will steam the milk more quickly, but can be too powerful if you’re working with small quantities.
Related Post: What's the Best Espresso Beans?
4. Consistency or flexibility?
Do you want to know that every cup of coffee you brew will conform to the same parameters? If so, a fully automatic espresso machine will suit your needs.
These have pre-set buttons that control the amount of water and the infusion time. As a result, they’re also easier to use.
If you want your baristas to be able to create their own flavor profiles, you’ll want a semi-automatic machine.
In these, the water dose is controlled by the barista. But remember: they’ll need to be on hand to turn off the machine.
Because of that, semi-automatics work best where you have one member of staff dealing with the customer, and another serving the coffee.
5. Don’t forget maintenance costs
Your upfront costs are only part of the picture: you’ll also need to keep your barista espresso machine in tip top condition.
If you’re buying, check out the length of the warranty and look for any exclusions. Search reviews to see how reliably the machine has been found to perform.
And make sure you check the policy on returns and exchanges before you commit.
If you’re leasing, there’ll usually be some kind of service arrangement included in the costs. Take a look at what’s included and consider the scope to tailor the level of support you receive.
Some firms will offer emergency out-of-hours repairs, for example – although these usually command high prices.
6. How will you clean your machine?
90% of the breakdowns of their commercial espresso machines are caused by a failure to keep them clean. This allows lime-scale to build up, clogging the internal parts (3).
Avoid costly repairs and replacements by thinking about how you clean your machine at the outset.
If your machine isn’t plumbed into the mains, make sure there’s a high quality filtration system in your water reservoir. And if it is plumbed in, install a water softening unit at the water source.
You’ll also need a regular cleaning schedule to keep your portafilters, drip tray and other components in great condition.
Remember: it’s not all about the professional espresso machine
As important as it is, your choice of espresso maker won’t be the only thing that influences the quality of your coffee. Just as important is getting the right grinder.
We all know that grinding your coffee particles the same size is essential to a perfectly extracted cup of Joe.
Doing this on a commercial scale requires a serious grinder that won’t overheat when used for long periods. And it will need to be much faster than a domestic grinder.
As a result, you’re likely to be spending at least one thousand. That’s another good reason for not spending more than you need to on your espresso maker!
Remember too, that making coffee is an art. Invest in quality training for your baristas and you should reap the rewards in the quality of your coffee.
The Barista Guild of America offers certification courses at levels 1 to 3 covering everything from cupping to espresso art.
And it should go without saying that your raw ingredients are essential. If your beans are stale or poorly roasted, no espresso machine in the world is going to give you great coffee.
Make sure you purchase your coffee from reputable suppliers and store it properly. That means keeping it in airtight containers away from any sources of light, heat or moisture.
Before you use your industrial espresso maker
We’ve already discussed the value of plumbing your coffee maker into the mains water supply.
But there are a few other factors it’s worth keeping in mind before you start to use your commercial espresso machine.
These are heavy pieces of equipment, so make sure your countertop can take the weight.
The last thing you want is your expensive new espresso machine clattering to the floor!
The power source should be at the side of the machine, and as close as possible. And you’ll need somewhere for your waste water to be emptied away.
Before you switch on your machine, make sure the wires in the isolator are correctly connected.
Last but not least, carry out a few test runs to make sure everything is working as it should.
Top 6 Best Commercial Espresso Machines reviews of 2018
1. Bezzera BZ10 Espresso Machine
single group espresso machine
If you’re looking for a machine to handle light usage, the Bezzera BZ10 is worth considering. It’s only got a single group head, so you won’t manage more than about 50 cups a day. But it will do the job for low volumes and will look great while it’s at it.
Let’s start with what your customer will see on your countertop. The BZ10 is one shiny machine. Its casing is made from polished stainless steel, with barely a bit of plastic in sight.
And it’s robust too. That steel is commercial strength. If you want a machine that packs in a lot of “counter presence” for a small size, this could be the one.
The machine is named after its group head, the BZ10. Two dedicated heating elements carry heat to the group and a thermostat keeps the temperature stable during brewing.
The electrolyte-plated heat exchange boiler allows you to brew at the same time as steaming. And there’s a switch to cut power at 266 degrees Fahrenheit to deal with any risk of overheating.
As you’d expect with a single group machine, there’s only one steam wand. It’s mounted on a ball joint, which makes it easy to maneuver. The hot water wand is mounted in the same way. After brewing, waste water is carried by a three-way valve straight into the drip tray.
So far so good. The Bezzera does, though, have some serious limitations for the commercial customer.
The main one is its capacity. There’s no way of plumbing this unit into your mains water supply. If you want portability, that’s great; but if you need to serve large volumes you’ll be cursing the day you bought it.
The reservoir is only 3 liters, and the boiler is 1.5 liters. And while the steam wands can constantly steam up to 20 ounces, the recovery time is a full 40 seconds. That’s great for a home machine. And it would work fine in a location like a bar, where you serve the occasional coffee.
But for a coffee shop machine that needs to produce drinks at volume, look elsewhere.
2. La Pavoni PUB 1V Review
SINGLE GROUP ESPRESSO MACHINE
Another one group machine, La Pavoni’s PUB 1V is a better proposition for café use.
Unlike the Bezzera, this machine has to be plumbed in. That will restrict where it can be positioned, but makes it far more user-friendly for higher volume serving. It’s also compact, with a width of just 15 inches.
For all that it’s made in Milan, there are better looking options out there. You can choose from red or black casing, but the design is pretty simple.
In terms of functionality, though, it’s impressive. No other one group espresso machine has a bigger boiler. And its 6.5 liters require only 1500 watts and 120 volts to run, making it an energy efficient option.
The PUB 1V also provides a great compromise between ease of use and flexibility. You can program 4 automatic dose settings using a digital control pad. But any of these can be manually overridden when required.
This is a machine packed with features. There are 4 cup size options, a continuous brewing function, a steam wand that will swivel through 360 degrees, and a fixed hot water tap complete with anti-splash design.
Hot water is circulated constantly through the group head to keep the temperature stable. And every brew is pre-infused to promote even extraction. This machine has been certified by the Specialty Coffee Association and NSF for the quality of its coffee making.
The warranty is only for one year, which might give you reason to hesitate. In terms of reliability, however, La Pavoni have a strong pedigree. The PUB machines have been produced for at least 30 years. And you’ll find customers who have machines almost that old that are still going strong.
Installation isn’t, of course, as simple for an espresso maker that needs to be plumbed into the mains. And you’ll need to think about the specifications of your water supply. The machine needs 35 to 40 pounds of pressure in your water line in order to work properly. You should also check whether you need to install a backflow preventer to meet building regulations in your area.
And despite being small, it’s still heavy. It weighs in at 88 pounds – so make sure your counter is up to the job of holding it.
3. La Pavoni BAR-STAR 2V Review
2 group commercial espresso machine
Moving up a level in terms of capacity, Italian espresso gurus La Pavoni offer the BAR-STAR 2 group espresso machine.
Like other models in their range, this is available in either black or red casing. It’s a couple of inches wider than Cecilware’s ESP2, and 9 inches wider than the slim-line Nuova Simonelli Appia Compact. So if you’re looking to save space, there might be better machines out there.
Having said that, the BAR-STAR has the Italian style La Pavoni’s PUB model seems mysteriously to have missed out on. The red version, in particular, is a real showstopper.
But what about the technical features?
As a two group model, it allows two baristas to pull up to four espressos at the same time, increasing productivity in busy periods. And the generous 14 liter boiler will keep up with demand. There are also two steam wands, so there’s no danger of having to wait to finish those lattes or cappuccinos.
Like the PUB, the BAR-STAR is fully programmable. The digital control pad allows the desired level of water for each serving to be set in advance. Every cup is also automatically pre-infused to maximize flavor and aroma. So if you want to minimize the training requirement for your baristas, it’s ideal.
Continuous hot water cycling through the groups keeps them at a constant temperature for optimal brewing. But if you want to save power at quieter times, you can do that too. The four-way power switch can set the machine to three quarters capacity or put it into sleep mode.
You can choose from four different serving sizes and there’s an integrated cup warmer. The hot water jet is operated by a button, and you can also manually charge the boiler.
It’s easy to keep an eye on how things are working too. There’s a gauge to show the pressure in both the pump and the boiler, and a manual safety reset.
The major downside here is the price. The BAR-STAR is a third as expensive again as the two group ESP2 from Cecilware. But if you have the means and the throughput to justify the purchase, it’s well worth considering.
4. Cecilware ESP2-220V Venezia II Review
Best Commercial Espresso Machine for Small Coffee Shop
If you’re looking for a two group machine at a sensible price, the Cecilware ESP2 should be on your shortlist.
This doesn’t have quite the same level of bells or whistles as La Pavoni’s BAR-STAR. The design is more utilitarian – there’s no flashy red casing here. But at just two thirds of the price, this is an economical espresso maker that performs well.
So what do you get for your money?
At 12.3 liters, the boiler is big enough to handle the kind of traffic you’d expect in a small store. It’s a particularly popular choice for mobile cafés. (If that’s your planned location, you may find you need to install a pump to maintain the required water pressure.)
The lower price doesn’t mean you’re compromising on functionality. The ESP2 is fully programmable, allowing you to set four different serving sizes. It can also be operated in either semi- or fully automatic modes.
The digital display and touch pad make it easy to use with minimal training. There’s a self-cleaning function too. Push a button and the machine will flush out the line to the brew head.
It’s just as easy to monitor performance during operation as more expensive machines. There’s a dual gauge showing the pressure of both steam and water. And a clear sight panel in the reservoir allows you to keep an eye on the water level.
There’s also a fixed position hot water nozzle operated by a dial. Either turn it or pull it outwards to release the water. But if you want a second steam wand to increase productivity, you’ll need the Steamer model (ST220V).
Some users have reported issues with the durability of the internal water tank and steam wand. Experience of Cecilware’s customer service seems to vary widely. But there’s a two year parts and labor warranty, which offers some reassurance.
If you’re just starting out and want to minimize outlay on a machine that will keep up with demand, the ESP2 could be a good option.
5. Nuova Simonelli Appia II Review (Our Top Recommended)
2 GROUP COMMERCIAL ESPRESSO MACHINE
Nuova Simonelli espresso machines are used by over a hundred thousand baristas around the world. But despite that pedigree, the Appia II is a surprisingly economical buy.
It’s available with either two or three groups, and in volumetric and semi-automatic versions. With all versions having two steam wands and a hot water wand, they’ll easily handle a high volume location. You will, though, need plenty of space: the three group version is almost 40 inches wide.
A huge amount of thought has gone into the design of this machine, with features you won’t find in other brands. Like the reverse mirror which allows the barista to see the coffee pouring without having to bend down. He or she can also check how clean the dispensers are at the same time.
The cup warmer is flush with the edge of the machine. This allows quicker and easier cup retrieval – a real bonus in busy spells.
The push button panel has been redesigned from the first generation Appia. The new version has larger, more sensitive buttons that are more resilient to wear. And the groups can be raised or lowered, depending on whether you’re using cups or glasses.
The Soft Infusion System is designed to protect the crema and compensate for any errors on the part of the barista. And if you want even more gadgets, there’s an optional Turbocream feature. This delivers a mix of steam and dry air for perfectly stretched milk.
The volumetric version has all the programmable options you’d expect in a high-spec machine. You can even change the settings on the cup warmer! And for the style-conscious, there are a number of color options. Besides stainless steel (our favorite) you can choose red, black or pearl white.
So what’s not to like? Well, the 15 liter boiler capacity of the 3 group version isn’t the biggest. As a comparison, La Pavoni’s 3 group lever espresso machine has a boiler capacity of 22.5 liters. And while the Appia II is inexpensive by Simonelli standards, it’s still a big investment.
But if you’ve got the money for a 3 group machine, it’s hard to find many other downsides here. The Appia II has many of the features of Nuova Simonelli’s costlier machines at a more down-to-earth price point.
6. Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II Digital Review
4 GROUP COMMERCIAL ESPRESSO MACHINE
A prince amongst espresso machines, the Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II was the official machine of the World Barista Championships three years running. There’s even a “Competition” version for those who want ultra-advanced features.
First up, let’s talk about the price tag. This is one expensive espresso maker. Its four groups costs twice as much as the three group Appia II. If you’re running anything except a top-end, high-volume coffee bar, it won’t be the machine for you.
But if you want serious functionality and the ability to showcase the expertise of skillful baristas – read on.
The major advantage of the Aurelia II is the astonishing level of accuracy it allows in setting the water temperature. It’s not just that the barista can view it on-screen and tweak it at the touch of a button. He or she can change it for each group head individually.
The Competition version tops even that. The barista can adjust individual factors that affect the temperature distribution – steam, water and group temperatures. And there’s no need for a technician to regulate the pump: the barista can do that too.
Add to that all the clever design features that made the Appia II so comfortable for baristas to use all day. There’s the same reverse mirror and evenly lit work surface. And the Aurelia II goes one better with LEDs that allow the barista to see the interior of the milk carafe.
This is a four group machine, so you’re getting maximum productivity. If you’ve got a highly skilled and trained staff of baristas, there’s no better machine to produce amazing coffee. And you’ll be able to do it fast enough to cope with the queues stretching out of your door!
To get the most out of your outlay, though, you’ll need to invest in bespoke training. This is a machine that’s designed for customization; not using it to its full capabilities would be a crime.
Some retailers offer training alongside purchases of the Aurelia II, so if you’re thinking about buying, investigate what’s on offer. If you’re going to be spending this kind of money, you can afford to negotiate with suppliers.
For a busy coffee shop looking for a great quality machine, our pick is the Nuova Simonelli Appia II. It’s a big investment, but you’ll benefit from the care that’s gone into designing Simonelli’s top models without the hefty price tag of the Aurelia II.
If you’re operating on a smaller scale, we think the Cecilware EPS2 is a great buy. It will do everything you need it to at a keen price.
Whatever you do, start with a realistic assessment of the demand you’ll need to meet. Think about your plumbing requirements, budget and maintenance regime.
Then you’ll have all the information to make the right choice for your business. We wish you luck!
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Daily Cupo, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.