Small coffee shops thrive on business, and there isn’t much room for error. Once something bad happens, word spreads and the image of the brand can suffer. However, when you’re prepared for even the toughest of customers, the best espresso machine can make your brand look that much better. In choosing a great espresso machine, you can eliminate the risk of a potentially harmful customer saying bad things by being prepared. In this article, we’ll show you the best commercial espresso machines for small businesses.
The Different Types of Espresso Machines
There are four different types of espresso machines, and mostly all are chosen due to preference. For small businesses in quaint towns, handcrafted may be the way to go via either a manual or semi-automatic machine. However, there are plenty of smaller busineses placed in larger cities, demanding a need for automatic and super automatic machines. Now, you may be wondering what the differences are. Thankfully, we have the scoop for you!
A semi-automatic machine uses a manual pump instead of an entirely manual pressurized force. For all semi-automatic espresso machines, a three-way valve releases the remaining pressure for the brew.
An automatic machine uses an in-line flowmeter for the group head to automate the brew volume. If you’ve ever heard of brew time, this is where it derives from. The pump shuts off once the programmed amount of water has passed through. There is still some aspect of this machine that’s manual, and this includes the grinding and tamping.
A super-automatic machine does everything for you, except for filling the bean hopper. Unless you purchase one that taps into the water line, you’ll also have to fill the water reservoir. As for grinding, tamping, extraction, etc., that’s completely automatic.
What is a manual machine? No, it’s not like the Amish times where you take a wooden barrel and stomp out the liquids, but they do offer more control in comparison with the models above. Also known as a lever machine, grinding, tamping, pressure, etc., are all done by the barista. Quaint shops with particularly picky customers may want this over automatic styles because they don’t “trust” machines to make their delicious drinks they rely so heavily on.
As for the types, most smaller businesses use semi-automatic machines with more than one group head.
What to Know Before Buying an Espresso Machine
So you’re opening up your first small business (or you’re upgrading your existing machine), and you’re wondering what each component is as well as the benefits. We’ll discuss some “must know” things in this section before getting to our list of brief product reviews.
Group heads – A group head is also known as an espresso faucet – the section in which the espresso leaves the machine and fills the cup. Some machines come with 2 or even 4 group heads to produce the most product for faster-paced environments.
Boiler – A boiler is what brews the water for the espresso and brews the steam for the frothing milk. Without the boiler, it wouldn’t really be “espresso”. Machines with single boilers tend to be less expensive than others, but unfortunately, single boilers cannot brew and steam at the same time. It’s good to know this if your small business is fast paced.
Size – The need for a certain sized machine should always be thought of prior to purchasing. Take a look at the counter space available in your small business and determine the dimensions needed. Can you fit a wider, multi-group head machine? Or are you looking for a vertical, and sleek piece with one to two group heads maximum?
Power – Every single type of espresso machine runs on a certain volt range, and it’s important to know what your restaurant is capable of running. The last thing you want to do as a new business is to blow a fuse and halt production while disappointing customers. You may see many espresso machines running on a 208V to 240V range.
Recommended Espresso Machines for Small Businesses
The manufacturer of the Nuova Simonelli Musica doesn’t have much information on their backstory, but they do specialize in creating espresso machines. We’ll preface this by stating the biggest disadvantage of this product – NO, it does not play music, so don’t be fooled by the name. However, there are many great features of this product including:
- Pour-over model
- Energy Saving heat exchanger boiler
- Endless steam power
- Simultaneous espresso brewing
As mentioned above in the boiler section, a single boiler machine cannot brew and steam at the same time. However, the Nuova Simonelli Musica can, which is a huge advantage over other products on the market today. We highly recommend this one based on this fact alone.
A pour-over model has taken over in popularity in comparison with a French press and mainly has to do with the shape of the grinding and extraction components. The pour-over model allows more product into the cup. With the endless steam power option, you don’t have to worry about stopping the machine, as you can continuously create without having customers wait. As for the warranty, the user must fill out a form on the official website to receive an email in response to the defective pieces. In return, you’ll also receive a replacement part.
La Pavoni is one of the most popular brands in the world of espresso machines, being there at the very beginning alongside Moriondo and Bezzera. While it’s a rather small machine, having the dimensions of 27.5 inches by 20 inches by 20.5, it has fantastic features including:
- Water softener
- Internal electro-pump
- Two flexible stream jets
- Hot water tap
While an electric pump takes the manual aspect out of this machine, there’s no waiting period involved, allowing you to have your espresso created quickly. Having this aspect is worth the purchase alone, but the water softener is an even larger selling point. Water softeners remove the harsh impurities of water including sediment and other minerals that make the water and espresso taste bad. In doing so, you can have fresh, and pure water in the creation of espresso; amplifying the taste.
The only con of this machine does not have anything to do with the device itself, but with the water softener and how it affects the warranty. The one-year warranty is automatically voided if you do not install the water softener. Although we think it’s a win-win situation. Why wouldn’t you want a water softener? It makes the product taste better and gives you a guarantee on your device.
The Bezzera Magica is one of the best machines on the market, especially for small businesses. The industrial styled décor looks great in almost any themed restaurant and coffee shop, which is a huge selling point for those wanting to match their commerce décor. There are some great features including:
- E61 group head
- Exchanging boiler
- Joystick styled knobs
- Built-in cup warmer
Using one of the most famous group heads on the market due to their gold standard, the E61 group head is known for a reason. The operation and workflow optimization with this group head streamlines the espresso machine process, with heating through a thermosiphon.
The exchanging boiler uses copper and has a capacity of 2-liters. The capacity is the only disadvantage this machine poses but perfect for small to medium businesses that don’t need as many group heads but have a moderately paced environment. The use of the exchanging boiler means you can also steam milk while extracting espresso – this is SUPER convenient and a major selling point.
As for the design of the joystick knobs, they are convenient and prevent carpal tunnel, as they provide a comfortable workflow. Last but not least, the built-in cup warmer is self-explanatory and a convenient option that rarely any other models feature. The warranty on this machine is a limited 1-year warranty; that offers replacements and repairs for any defective components.
This simplistic machine is gorgeous, and is the perfect size for small businesses that are just getting started. Some of the features of this device include:
- No water connectivity required
- Semi-automatic machine
- Built-in water softener
- Water tank inside
One advantage and disadvantage wrapped up all in one is the water tank and lack of connectivity required. While you can’t connect it to your water line, you have to fill up the water tank manually. However, the water softener and other automatic features make up for this. As you may know, water softeners are ideal for removing the impurities from hard water, causing the espresso to taste much better. While the water tank aspect may be a con to some, it’s made up by the other automatic features and the water softener. As for the warranty, the Rancilio uses a standard 1-year warranty on the appliance.
The built-in water softener is a must-have and an actual reason to purchase this product, as many have to be installed in order to make the warranty valid. However, an already built-in water softener makes the initial setup much easier. You can plug in, fill-up, and go!
The Elektra ART.SX Microcasa machine is a small machine, which makes it ideal for smaller businesses. Medium sized to large businesses wouldn’t benefit from this machine. Not unless you get a LOT of them. This semi-automatic machine has many features including:
- Three red switches for total control: power, brew, refill
- Signature brass eagle on the dome
- Standard 10 in. base
- Water level sight and pressure gauge
For those who want a simple but elegantly beautiful machine, the aesthetic of the Elektra ART.SX sells itself. The signature brass eagle on the dome brings a retro and classy theme, albeit a tad masculine. In my eyes, the design itself could be a disadvantage to those wanting to match the décor of their store. However, the other features are real selling points.
The three red switches provide optimal ease of use, allowing you to control the power, the brew and the boiler refill with a touch of a button. While a tall appliance, the stability of the 10-inch base allows it to stay in place and not topple over. As for monitoring purposes, the water level sight and pressure gauge make it easy to monitor the levels and pressure without bending over backward. The minimalism in the operation of this machine is a selling point alone.
This machine automatically comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty, ON TOP of a one-year extended warranty.
You aren’t seeing double, as this semi-automatic machine is another version you may have seen before. While still parading around with a very distinct look, the chrome finish allows this piece to blend in more with common commerce décor. Features of this machine include:
- Pump operation
- Twist-knob control
- Minimal assembly
- Three buttons for ease of use
When you receive anything out of the mail, easy assembly is more exciting than Christmas itself. For those who want to get a machine up and running quickly in your small business, the ART.SXC model is perfect for you. With minimal assembly required and three buttons for proper usage (power, brew, and refill), you won’t need to do much in order to start giving your customers the drink they desire.
As for the pump operation, this allows you to deliver water directly to the group head while simultaneously refilling the boiler. The warranty of this machine is one-year manufacturer’s warranty with a one-year extended warranty.
Our Top Recommendation
Purchasing the perfect appliance for your small business is essential, as it can make or break the workflow of your commercial business. In order to speed up productivity while being smaller in size, we recommend the La Pavoni BAR-T 2V-B. The hot water tap, electro-pump, and water softener are all the perfect barista needs to create a wonderful cup of espresso. It’s durability and features allow you to keep this machine for years to come without needing to upgrade (unless your business becomes much larger, of course).
Like all of these machines listed above, you can buy the La Pavoni BAR-T 2V-B from Amazon here.