Choosing the best espresso machine for your business doesn't have to be a daunting task. This guide breaks down the different types of commercial espresso machines to help you figure out which machine is right for you based on your needs.
There are three main espresso machine types: semi-automatic, automatic, and super automatic. To find the best espresso machine for your business, you will need to consider how often you'll be making espresso, how much control you want over the brewing process, and how trained your staff is on using an espresso machine.
Semi-automatic espresso machines are the most common espresso machine type in specialty coffee shops because of the full control it gives baristas over the brewing variables. These units have a pump that drives the water through the grouphead, but an experienced barista is still needed 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.
Output: 180 to 720 cups per hour
Best for: coffee shops, cafes, and any other establishment where espresso-based drinks are a main menu item
Automatic espresso machines also have a pump that drives the water through the grouphead, but they go a step further than semi-automatic machines in that the machine also automates the extraction time. This means that a barista only needs to press the button to brew and the unit will control how long the shot pulls for either volumetrically or via an internal timer. These systems do not automatically grind, dose, and tamp the coffee, but some do include a pre-infusion feature to optimize tamping.
Output: 32 to 720 cups per hour
Best for: coffee shops, cafes, bakeries, and restaurants
Super automatic espresso machines are “bean-to-cup” machines, meaning they include a built-in grinder and auto-frothing programs to control the espresso production from start to finish via a 1-step or 2-step process. These labor-reducing machines feature intuitive controls and often come with programmable menu settings.
Output: 40 to 180 cups per hour
Best for: high-volume coffee shops, cafes, kiosks, and restaurants
In addition to choosing the type of espresso machine, you will also need to choose your machine's water source: direct connect or pourover.
Direct connect espresso machines have a dedicated water line, so they have a constant water supply. Since plumbing is involved, these units will require professional installation.
Pourover espresso machines have a water reservoir that staff will need to fill when water levels are low. These units do not require any costly plumbing or professional installation.
Dark roasts are the best coffee beans to use for espresso. They have a full-bodied, rich taste and bold aroma that pairs better with milk than lighter roasts. Plus, dark roasts have a higher content of natural oils, which helps produce crema, the creamy top layer on espresso that gives it a fuller, fresher taste.
Some coffee bean manufacturers sell espresso beans or espresso blends that are roasted and ground specifically with making espresso in mind. However, all coffee beans can be used to make espresso, and espresso beans and espresso blends can be used to brew coffee.
We have a wide selection of commercial espresso machines from different brands to ensure you can find the best unit for your menu and price-point. Be sure to check out our commercial espresso machine reviews as well!
Nuova Simonelli is an Italian-based company that focuses on producing premium espresso machines, grinders, and barista tools.
Astra espresso machines are manufactured in the U.S. with quality materials to ensure they can handle long-lasting and heavy-duty use in commercial spaces.
With over 100 years of fine Italian craftsmanship, LaCimbali creates top-of-the-line coffee and espresso machines that produce premium espresso.
Grindmaster-Cecilware is a trusted manufacturer of beverage equipment. Their line of automatic and super-automatic espresso machines are easy to operate and come with a variety of programmable icons.
Bunn is one of the premier manufacturers of hot beverage equipment. Their line of automatic and super-automatic espresso machines feature intuitive controls for easy operation.
Estella Caffe’s espresso machines are user-friendly and affordable. Their easily programmed settings allow you to customize your espresso to your liking.
In addition to choosing the best espresso maker, ensure you have all the equipment and accessories you need to craft specialty coffee drinks!
If your unit does not come with a grinder, investing in a coffee bean grinder to grind beans just before brewing ensures your prepared drinks will taste as fresh as possible.
A commercial coffee roaster machine allows you to roast coffee beans to the precise roast darkness of your choosing to customize your drink menu.
If your unit does not come with a frothing wand, investing in a milk steamer to make foamed milk for latte art can help enhance your drinks’ perceived value.
Most often included with a unit, a portafilter is a handle that features a filter basket where you place your ground espresso beans. This is also where the water from the group head runs through.
Frothing pitchers are ideal vessels for steaming and frothing milk or cream. They feature an angled handle and smooth-rimmed spout for precise pouring when creating latte art.
Using a frothing thermometer will help you monitor the temperature of the milk to prevent you from over steaming and curdling it.
Knock boxes are used to collect used espresso grounds from the portafilter. They feature a knock bar that provides the perfect surface for "knocking out" spent coffee.
Espresso tampers are a handy tool for flattening and leveling the espresso grounds in your portafilter.
A water supply connector guarantees your direct connect espresso machine is properly connected to your water line.
Water filtration systems block contaminants to help keep your beverages tasting great. They help prevent scale, sediment, cysts, and other contaminants from clogging the internal components of your direct connect espresso machine to extend the life of your unit.
It is important to use commercial espresso machine cleaners to eliminate buildup in your unit. Daily and weekly cleaning of the parts are essential for performance, and your unit should be descaled every 3 to 6 months, depending on the quality of your water.
Espresso cleaning brushes feature tightly-wound yet gentle bristles remove residue sitting in hard-to-reach places on the grouphead that would otherwise affect the taste of your espresso.