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Types of Espresso Machines

Types of Espresso Machines

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.

Commercial Espresso Machine Types

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.

Astra GSP023 Gourmet semi-automatic pourover espresso machine

Semi-Automatic 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

 

Pros
  • Provides complete control over the grind size, dose, tamp, and extraction time
  • Most affordable option
  • Often include a steam wand and a hot water valve
Cons
  • More labor is involved in the brewing process, so it will need trained baristas to operate
  • Must stay at the machine to pull the espresso shot

Nuova Simonelli Appia Life black volumetric espresso machine

Automatic Espresso Machine

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

 

Pros
  • Helps reduce human error by providing a consistent brew
  • Allows baristas to step away from the unit after initiating the brewing process
  • Feature easy-to-use push controls; Some have a pre-infusion feature to optimize tamping
  • Some have a pre-infusion feature to optimize tamping
  • Some feature both volumetric and manual dosing for convenience
Cons
  • Little to no control over the extraction time of your shot

Nuova Simonelli ProntoBar Touch super automatic espresso machine

Super-Automatic Espresso Machine

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

 

Pros
  • Promotes consistency in dosing and flavor with drinks
  • Feature built-in coffee grinders to roast the coffee beans of your choice
  • Feature easy-to-operate technology
  • Great for high-volume coffee shops
  • Many feature menu customization settings to create specialty drinks with the push of a button
Cons
  • Little to no control over the brewing process
  • Most expensive option

Direct Connect vs Pourover Espresso Machines

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 Machine

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.

Pros
  • Constant water supply means there is no water tank that needs to be refilled
  • Ideal for high volume demand
Cons
  • Needs to be set up near a water line connection
  • Requires professional installation, which can be costly

Pourover Espresso Machine

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.

Pros
  • No installation required
  • More compact and can be easily moved
  • Ideal for establishments where espresso-based drinks is not a main menu item
Cons
  • Water reservoir needs to be refilled regularly
  • Typically need to be descaled more often
  • Will not be able to handle high demand
Prepared espresso in a cup

What Type of Coffee Beans Do You Use for Espresso Machines?

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.

Commercial Espresso Machine Brands

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 brand logo

Nuova Simonelli

Nuova Simonelli is an Italian-based company that focuses on producing premium espresso machines, grinders, and barista tools.

 

Astra brand logo

Astra

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.

LaCimbali brand logo

LaCimbali

With over 100 years of fine Italian craftsmanship, LaCimbali creates top-of-the-line coffee and espresso machines that produce premium espresso.

Grindmaster brand logo

Grindmaster

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 brand logo

Bunn

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 Cafe brand logo

Estella Caffe

Estella Caffe’s espresso machines are user-friendly and affordable. Their easily programmed settings allow you to customize your espresso to your liking.

Espresso Machine Accessories

In addition to choosing the best espresso maker, ensure you have all the equipment and accessories you need to craft specialty coffee drinks!

Barista pouring coffee beans into a coffee grinder

Coffee Bean Grinder

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.

Primo RAVEN-Xr15 matte black 15 kg coffee roaster

Coffee Bean Roaster

A commercial coffee roaster machine allows you to roast coffee beans to the precise roast darkness of your choosing to customize your drink menu.

Astra STS4800 standard semi-automatic steamer

Milk Frothers and Steamers

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.

Ground espresso beans in a portafilter

Portafilter

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.

Barista pouring milk from a frothing pitcher to make latte art

Frothing Pitcher

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.

Frothing thermometer in a frothing pitcher full of steamed milk

Frothing Thermometer

Using a frothing thermometer will help you monitor the temperature of the milk to prevent you from over steaming and curdling it.

Barista knocking espresso grounds into a knock box

Espresso Knock Box

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.

Estella Caffe 58MM stainless steel espresso tamper

Espresso Tamper

Espresso tampers are a handy tool for flattening and leveling the espresso grounds in your portafilter.

Dormont swirl water connector hose

Water Appliance Connector

A water supply connector guarantees your direct connect espresso machine is properly connected to your water line.

C Pure Oceanloch-S water filter replacement cartridge

Water Filtration System

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.

Urnex 12-E31-UX100-12 Cafiza espresso machine cleaning tablets

Espresso Machine Cleaner

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.

Urnex Scoopz espresso machine brush

Espresso Cleaning Brush

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.

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