Have a small coffee shop and need a new commercial espresso machine?
I review the best of the best commercial espresso machines so you can keep your small business growing.
Great espresso machines are pricey, and yet, you need a really solid espresso machine for your mom and pop coffee shop.
Without a commercial espresso maker you don't have a coffee shop or cafe business. You can't make those beloved mixed espresso drinks like lattes or cappuccinos!
I love an amazing, local coffee shop and I'm all for small business. So I've done the leg-work for you so that you can get a new commercial espresso machine with budget, quality and durability in mind.
Commercial espresso machines come in all shapes and sizes, but getting the best one for your small coffee shop is your start going pro. You need a commercial espresso machine that fits your needs, whether that be a space saver or a high volume capable espresso maker. To fit a range of business needs, these are my favorite commercial espresso machines for small coffee shops:
Types of Commercial Espresso Machines
While the hand-crafted espresso market may be the way to go these days for small business, there are 4 main types of commercial espresso machines.
What type of commercial espresso machine that you choose really depends on two main things:
Here are the four types of commercial espresso machines that you can buy:
Semi-automatic Commercial Espresso Machines
Because semi-automatic espresso machines use a manual pump, baristas have some control over the espresso pull. A three-way valve releases the pressure for the coffee brew. Semi-automatic espresso machines feature a boiler, portafilter and a switch to turn the extraction pump on and off.
A barista will have control over when to start and stop the coffee extraction.
Automatic Commercial Espresso Machines
With automatic espresso machines, you don't have to repeat pressing the coffee to stop water passing through it.
Because automatic machines are often timed, they cut off the shot after a pre-determined amount of time (25-30 seconds). They produce at least 130 PSI to force water through the espresso machine "automatically".
Super-automatic Commercial Espresso Machines
These are the latest espresso machines on the market, and are typically what you find in high-volume shops or even trendy offices.
Super-automatic espresso machines do everything for the user. From coffee bean grinding to tamping to the pressurized pouring of your espresso, this type of espresso machine does all of the heavy lifting.
They are indeed "super-automatic" and are sometimes called "one-touch" espresso machines because they automate every step of espresso making.
Manual Espresso Machines
So what is a manual espresso machine?
Manual doesn't mean no machinery or brewing everything by hand. This method of brewing espresso is more "hand-crafted" than the others. It allows an experienced barista to really show off their talents because the barista will have the most control.
"Lever" espresso machines feature a boiler, steam pressure gauge, portafilter and a manual lever for total control of the espresso extraction.
The barista uses a lever to pull the shot and this forces the internal spring to push water through ground coffee under controlled pressure. Lever method systems allow your coffee shop staff to perfect a shot.
There is a final type of espresso machine that wouldn't be great for volume espresso brewing, but is worth mentioning nonetheless since it's traditional.
You can brew espresso using steam with a basic stovetop in a Moka pot. It takes some serious practice in order to be consistent with Moka pot espresso brewing.
Also, you can make espresso in a french press if you have no other resources.
Want a home espresso machine to practice at home?
Watch this video to see the basic operation of a commercial espresso machine:
What You Need To Know Before Buying A Commercial Espresso Machine
Maybe you're opening your first coffee shop or you're giving your existing espresso system an upgrade. Each type of espresso making system has its pros and cons. And commercial espresso machines have come a long way!
Here are some of the things to know about commercial espresso machines:
Heads or Espresso Faucet
You're going to need a group head or espresso faucet that has at least 2 to 4 group heads if your business turns out 100 drinks or more a day.
The boiler system is what heats the water precisely for the espresso. And it can also create the steam for milk frothing.
More expensive commercial espresso machines may have double boilers that separately do this work.
Single boiler espresso machines tend to be less expensive. But you won't be able to brew espresso and steam your milk or water at the same time with a single boiler.
Size & Durability
Measurement to your counter space is something that is often forgotten. Your commercial espresso machine system needs to fit on your counter of course.
Get precise measurements so you can compare machine sizes. Also, think through counter space for other coffee equipment and space for your baristas to work.
Do you have space for a more horizontal, heavier, multi-head espresso machine? Or do you need an espresso system that is more vertical and sleek because you need to save counter space? This may mean you will only have a one or two group head coffee system.
Voltage is what I'm talking about here. Can your coffee shop location handle the voltage needed to run a very powerful commercial espresso machine? Or do you need something more manual and hand-crafted because you have a less technical, industrial space?
Typically, you'll see commercial espresso machines capable of running on 208 to 240V.
The kind of commercial espresso machines to consider for a small business can run the range of cost. You can expect to spend anywhere between $1,250-$10,000 on a commercial machine. The range is huge.
That range of pricing also includes a range of features and this is going to be the staple of your business. Your espresso machine will be the actual thing that produces products for your coffee shop to sell.
Don't take budget lightly.
That being said, your small scale coffee shop may not need all the features of the priciest commercial espresso machine model on the market.
Your baristas need a solid, powerful tool to create great coffee beverages. It's my recommendation to pay for an extremely talented barista than the most expensive espresso system.
Best Small Coffee Shop Commercial Espresso Machines in 2020
Given all the considerations for quality commercial espresso machines and the range of needs, these are my favorite espresso machines for small businesses:
This Pavoni 3L-B Lever system is beautiful if you have a highly skilled barista or barista team and are building a hand-crafted coffee business.
Pavoni has a large, powerful boiler and is great if you're moving towards a medium or larger volume coffee business.
You'll be able to handle 100 to several hundred drinks a day. A barista manually controls every aspect of extraction, from pressure to timing. And this espresso machine will allow a barista team to perfect espresso with precision.
Its anti-vacuum valve will also prevent clogging issues with the steamer. The fine details of this Pavoni make it a leader in commercial espresso systems.
The Musica is a great, entry-level professional model for small cafes. It doesn't require much manpower, except the Nuova Simonelli Musica requires refilling the water tank (pour-over machine).
With a one-touch design, its pre-set by the user based on coffee volumes needed. If you hate the idea of refilling the water tank, you can get the Lux version. The Lux requires water-line installation like bigger espresso machine models.
A really great feature of this small, but powerful commercial espresso machine is that it doesn't take up much space. I'd say it's the best vertical machine on the market for small businesses.
Baristas can work on two espresso drinks at the same time with the 2 Group Bar-Star. The 14-liter boiler can handle large volumes of coffee business quickly.
For the power of this Pavoni, it's still economical in size at only 31-inches wide.
While I love this model for small coffee shops, you can choose to level up to the same system with more group heads (the 3V or the 4V). With more group heads, more than one barista may pull espresso at the same time.
The Bar-Star cleans well. And special features in the wand prevent clogging. It also has a copper boiler, which is rust proof and antimicrobial.
Bar-Star has four programmable cup size selections and continuous brewing and instant stop button options for long shots, ristretto shots and more. Combined with programmable dosing, baristas have a lot of control over espresso extraction and can manage quality of their shots.
The Appia Espresso Coffee Machine is a 2 group, automatic system with an 11 liter boiler. Made of stainless steel, it's durable, and popular for small businesses.
It's an automatic system, with milk frother included.
This Appia compares to the Pavoni (above) in features and abilities; However, it's slightly less expensive for businesses who need a low man-power, mid-volume machine that they can rely on.
Need espresso beans too? Click here to see my favorite, over-the-counter beans.