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Types of Specialty Coffee Equipment

Types of Specialty Coffee Equipment

There is nothing more satisfying for a customer than walking into a coffee shop and seeing a menu full of varying cappuccinos, lattes, espressos, and more. Having specialty coffee drink options adds unmatched versatility to your business that, in turn, draws in a much larger variety of caffeine-craving guests. By following this guide, you can find the right specialty coffee equipment and accessories to make sure your business is serving flavorful hot drinks that turn one-time hopefuls into regular patrons.

Types of Coffee Drinks You Can Make with Specialty Coffee Equipment

There are virtually limitless possibilities when it comes to creating specialty coffee drinks that tailor to your customers' taste buds. Below are some examples of popular choices you can make by using different specialty coffee equipment:

Espresso Machines - Espresso machines are used to brew highly concentrated black coffee by forcing pressurized hot water through finely ground coffee beans.

Barista making Espresso drinks
  • Americano
  • Long Black
  • Macchiato
  • Cortado
  • Breve
  • Cappuccino
  • Cafe Latte
  • Mocha
  • Vienna
  • Affogato

Commercial Coffee Makers - Commercial coffee makers are used to brew your standard cup of coffee. They brew by dripping hot water through a filter basket of coffee grounds and allow gravity to pull the prepared black coffee into the pot.

  • Red Eye*
  • Black Eye*
  • Iced Coffee

*These drinks also feature espresso in their recipes.

Coffee Presses - Coffee presses are used to produce coffee that features a rich texture and concentrated flavor. Boiling water is poured on coarse ground coffee and then pressed down after steeping to separate the grounds from the liquid.

  • Cafe au Lait

Types of Specialty Coffee Machines

Stainless steel two group espresso machine with automatic controls

Espresso and espresso-based drinks are a rapidly growing industry that attracts a broad demographic. Traditionally, creating these beverages required extensive knowledge of how to craft the perfect cup, including the coffee bean, how it's roasted, grinding and tamping, extracting and finally, adding the perfectly frothed milk. With the new advancements in hot beverage equipment, like espresso and cappuccino machines, these drinks are easier than ever to produce, since you don't need a highly trained barista. Operators can now choose from a manual, semi-automatic, or super automatic machine to best suit the needs of their business. Check out the list below to learn more about each kind.

Automatic:If you are looking to continue down the traditional route of producing specialty coffee drinks, an automatic machine will work best for you. Sometimes called volumetric machines, these units require an experienced barista to grind the coffee beans, tamp the grounds, control the extraction time, and steam the milk. The authenticity of the process often achieves the highest-quality flavor.

Semi-automatic: These units automate the espresso grinding production, but the steaming and addition of milk still occurs manually. These are often the most sought after machines, because they still require some knowledge of how to properly steam milk, but the more complicated dynamic of grinding and tamping coffee beans is removed.

Super automatic: Super automatic machines can be used in both full and self-service settings. These units fully integrate espresso production with milk steaming and frothing at the simple push of a button. These labor-reducing machines most often come with programmable settings as well, which offers your customers a choice between espresso drink sizes and varieties.

Selecting The Right Specialty Coffee Equipment for Your Establishment

Now that you have some background knowledge on espresso and cappuccino machines, it's time to decide which equipment is right for you. The chart below lays out some examples of what we offer.

Barista pouring whole coffee beans into a commercial coffee bean grinder

Coffee Bean Grinders

Common Drinks: Lattes, mochas, cortados

Benefits: Grinding your coffee right before brewing it is one of the most effective ways to serve up the best-tasting drinks. Unless your machine uses pods, a grinder is required to use your espresso machine properly. Experts say that within 2 minutes, coffee beans begin to oxidize, which changes the flavor. The sooner you brew your coffee after it's been through the grinder, the better your coffee will taste.

Black iced coffee dispenser with three dispensers and graphic with text and cup of iced coffee

Iced Coffee Dispensers

Common Drinks: Iced lattes, cold brews, frappes

Benefits: Serving iced coffee drinks at your establishment will keep guests coming during all seasons of the year. After a hot summer's day, guests will love coming into your coffee shop and ordering an iced latte that serves as both a cool refresher and a caffeine boost.

Astra STS1800 standard semi-automatic milk and beverage steamer

Milk Frothers and Steamers

Common Drinks: Lattes, cappuccinos, hot chocolate

Benefits: Topping your beverages with latte art helps to enhance the perceived value and drinking experience of your specialty coffee drinks.

Types of Gourmet Coffee Supplies

If you decide that buying specialty coffee equipment is a good investment for your business, it's important to consider the tools and supplies your baristas will need to effectively produce hot coffee drinks from the machines. Check out the chart below for a list of common accessories that help to enhance the drinks you serve to your guests.

Metal frothing thermometer in a cup of frothed milk

Frothing Thermometers

Frothed milk adds flavor and texture to drinks. The key is to bring the milk just to its boiling point, but not beyond. If your milk gets too hot, it can curdle and ruin the drink. Having a frothing thermometer will help you monitor the temperature of the milk, and thus achieve consistent results every time.

Barista pumping flavoring syrup into a mixing glass

Flavoring Syrups

Having a variety of flavoring syrups will add versatility to your cafe, bistro, or coffee shop. Serving a signature drink with creamy caramel or rich vanilla flavor will keep customers coming back for more. If you really want to impress your guests, try offering them holiday classics as well, like pumpkin spice or peppermint mocha.

Black thermal coffee carafe at a beverage station

Coffee Decanters

Coffee decanters keep your freshly brewed coffee hot and ready to serve. By having a full carafe on-hand, you'll always be able to mix up a breve or Irish coffee while another pot is brewing.

Avantco stainless steel coffee urn with black spout and black handles on top of urn

Coffee Urns

Coffee machine urns are made with different specifications and capacities, which allow you to dispense more than 100 cups with every refill! They also come in different sizes and styles, so you can find one to match any decor, theme, or atmosphere.

Hand pouring cream from stainless steel frothing pitcher into a white mug on a saucer

Frothing Pitchers

Frothing pitchers are great for foaming milk for your specialty drinks, or even to serve cold cream at a condiment bar. The fine point at the end of the pitcher makes pouring easy, so you can create delicate designs in your customers' drinks. Plus, the durable metal is easy to clean.

Cardboard coffee to-go box with handle, black plastic lid on spout, and coffee graphic

Coffee-To-Go Boxes

Offering customers coffee-to-go boxes will encourage them to purchase group-sized take-out orders, which will increase your sales and reach new customers. You can purchase to-go boxes that hold several gallons of coffee for a catered event, or individual cups for an office or work site setting.

Other Considerations for Your Coffee Equipment

Water Filtration

Espresso machine water filtation system with housing, carbon filter, and a water softening catridge

Water filtration is necessary in protecting the integrity of the drinks you serve, as well as the service life of your machine. Water filtration systems block contaminants and help to extend the life of your equipment by consistently preventing sediments, cysts, and scale from clogging the internal workings of your machines. For example, the mineral content in an espresso/cappuccino machine should be kept below five and as close to three grains per gallon (or GPG) as possible. This has the potential to eliminate up to 70 percent of machine failures! For more information on the importance of water filtration for your equipment, check out our water filtration systems article.


Three prong white electrical plug with prongs pointed right
Electrical voltage is another important factor when deciding to purchase a specialty coffee drink machine. Operators will need to verify that their location has the proper voltage capacity required to run the machine. If not, an electrician will need to run a utility line to hook up the unit. Check out our amps, voltage, and watts calculator to determine if your location is properly equipped.

Availability of Parts

Black coiled heating element for coffee brewers with terminals pointed up
Since these drinks are huge revenue generators, it's crucial to know which parts are available if your machine ever malfunctions. Most operations can't afford downtime caused by a delay in repairs, so make sure to ask your manufacturer about service and parts prior to making the purchase. In most cases, group gaskets in espresso/cappuccino machines ought to be replaced every six months and clean water level probes twice a year. It pays to know!

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