Looking for an espresso maker that can cover the busy customer traffic at your coffee shop or café? It’s time to check out the best commercial espresso machine.
These appliances are a few step up above your home coffee makers. They are designed to make a lot more drinks. And, can do them much faster. Best of all, they’re very durable as well.
This makes them a good choice for anyone who serves espresso to their customers.
In this article, we explain the things to consider when choosing a commercial unit. And, go through the top products and brands to consider.
Our Picks: The Top Choices for Commercial Espresso Machines
- Nuova Simonelli Aurelia Ii Digital 4 Group – Top Pick (Ideal for high traffic shops)
- La Pavoni BAR-STAR 2V-R – 2-Group – Runner Up (Ideal for moderate traffic)
- Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Espresso Machine
- La Pavoni BAR-T 2V-B Commercial 2 Group Volumetric Espresso Machine
- La Pavoni PUB 1V-R – 1 Group Commercial Espresso Cappuccino Machine
For more options: View the available commercial espresso machine models at Amazon.com.
What is a Commercial Espresso Machine?
Commercial espresso machines are designed for just that, use in commercial establishments. This can be coffee shops, specialty cafes, restaurants or bookstores.
They do the same this as your regular home machine, only fast and better. Often, the quality of the coffee they produce is similar to the high end home espresso machines. That’s because they use high end boilers and components.
The better tasting coffee is expected. After all, as a customer you want to get what you pay for.
Multiple Group Heads
What gives these machines the ability to produce more coffee drinks at a faster rate is that they come with one or more group heads. Often, it’s the latter, unless it’s for a small bookshop or a store with low traffic.
A group head, or a brew head, is the receiver for the portafilter. This is the small protrusion on the front of the machine where you plug in the portafilter that’s filled with the tamped coffee grounds. In most coffee shops, you’ll see commercial machines that have two, three or four group heads. This allows the baristas to make more than one drink simultaneously.
How many group heads your machine has will depend on how many drinks you make during your store’s peak hours. We’ll talk more about that below in our buyer’s guide.
Quality models will allow you to extract over 100 shots of espresso in an hour. They also come with a sizable boiler that lets you handle the milk steaming and frothing. These devices are likewise equipped with steam boiler recovery. So, you don’t have to wait long before preparing the next milk-based coffee drink. Many are designed to be energy efficient as well.
To allow for individual cup customization, each group head comes with their own set of controls. These are often push button with some being digital. This lets you make different settings for each of the drinks you’re brewing based on the customer’s order.
Types of Commercial Espresso Machines
Similar to home espresso machines, commercial units are available in different styles. These including the following.
- Manual or Lever Style
- Fully Automatic
- Super Automatic
The automatic machines allow for more consistency. And, require less employee training.
The one drawback of these types of machines is their cost. They’re expensive.
- Most affordable units with single or double group heads can go as low as $1,000 or a little more.
- Mid-range models will set you back around $3,000 to $6,000.
- High end models easily cost over $10,000 to upwards of $20,000.
This makes it essential to choose the right product for your establishment. More importantly one that allows you to make a profit at the end of the day. The high end models are full of features and let you make great coffee quickly and conveniently. But, they may not be practical for smaller cafes that don’t bring in enough traffic to warrant the machine’s cost.
Among the popular commercial espresso machine brands you’ll find at reputable coffee shops are those made by La Marzocco, Nuova Simonelli, Faema, Wega, La Pavoni and Rancilio.
These brands offer consistency, reliability and durability. More importantly, they come with excellent build quality and components. This allows you to get excellent coffee every time.
How it Works: Parts of a Commercial Espresso Machine
Here’s a video of a professional barista going through the different parts of a commercial espresso machine. You’ll notice that it looks different than your regular home espresso maker.
Commercial vs. Home Espresso Machine: How Do They Differ?
To help you understand the difference between commercial and home espresso machines, we compare them based on their features.
- Size and Design: The first thing you’ll notice is commercial machines are wider. They’re like individual home espresso machines that have been stacked side by side. This makes them bigger and heavier. It also means you’ll need more space to put them in. In addition to their size and weight, they look different as well. You’ll see a long area for setting your cups. Above this are a number of group heads where you attach your portafilters to brew coffee.
- Shot Volume: In terms of function, this is one of the biggest differences between a commercial and home espresso machine. Home espresso makers are designed to make one or double shots. Some have the ability to make back to back shots thanks to boiler recovery. Commercial units can do over 100 shots in an hour. Plus, they can make 2 to 4 drinks at the same time as well. How many will depend on the number of brew heads your device has. Similarly, the milk steamer and frother is capable of heavy duty work.
- Multiple Group Heads: The wide design of commercial units allows them to house multiple group heads. Each group head lets you attach a portafilter. They then pull the shot depending on the setting you put them on. This lets you make 2 to 4 cups simultaneously. Plus, each of the drinks can be customized to the customer’s preference. Additionally, commercial products give you better control, allowing you to set more parameters.
- Thermal Stability: Commercial espresso makers use brass which provides for better heat stability. This allows them to achieve more consistent temperature compared to home units. In addition, they’re able to do so even when brewing shots one after the other.
- Boiler Size: This is a one of the main reasons why commercial units are bigger and heavier. The larger boiler allows for better steaming performance. This lets you prepare cup after cup with consistent results.
- Cost: This is to be expected. The larger machine, higher quality components, better filters and boilers and multiple brewing heads all account for this. Home units can cost as low as $100 to $200. Higher end home models between $1,000 and $2,000. On the other end, cheap commercial espresso machines run about $1000 or more. Middle range units can go anywhere from $2,500 to $6,000. And the top end models cost over $8,000 to over $20,000.
- Commercial Units are Heavy Duty and Durability: Finally, commercial models have the ability to produce large volume without breaking down. They’re designed for heavy duty work day in and day out. They’re also more durable. This lets them last longer than your standard home espresso maker.
Choosing a Commercial Espresso Machine: A Buyer’s Guide
Below if a checklist of the things to consider when buying a commercial espresso machine.
This is the most important thing to consider. How much you spend for the machine will depend on how many drinks you expect to serve. Volume often depends on two factors.
- No. of Drinks during Peak Hours: This is the most important factor. You’ll want a machine that is capable of producing the number of drinks during your busiest hours. This lets you serve all your customers. More importantly, it gives them high quality coffee without having to wait long.
- All Day Volume: This isn’t as essential as the first factor. But, it’s worth noting. Knowing how many drinks you serve the entire day lets you get a machine that’s capable of handling that amount of volume. This prevents it from experiencing premature wear and tear. Or, breaking down every now and then, which is bad for business.
2. Brew Quality
As great as being able to serve a lot of drinks, it’s just as important to product high quality coffee. This means your machine should be able to get to and stay at the proper temperature. It needs to be able to froth and steam milk well too.
A lot of this will depend on the quality of the boiler and the filters. The build and components also play a part in determining the quality of coffee and espresso it produces.
In addition, it needs to be able to make many different drinks.
High quality machines come with a lot of programmable features. This lets you specifically set how much water, the temperature and other parameters. Then save them so you get the exact same mix every time. This lets you produce consistent coffee every time.
Convenience is determined by the type of machine you get. In general, you’ll find that most shops either use a semi-automatic or super automatic unit. Higher end coffee shops as well as the busier ones, have machines that let you do both, like the Aurelia II below.
- Super automatic espresso machines are popular because they’re simple. All you need to do is press a button and the machine does everything. It grinds the beans, prepares and brews the coffee. And finally, adds the milk for some drinks. This makes work easy for the barista. It also makes training employees much easier.
- Semi-automatic machines are what you’ll find in many specialty coffee shops and those where you can order many different types of drinks. This takes a bit more work. And, it requires that the barista have skill and experience. A lot of the results will depend on the barista’s ability to consistently prepare the coffee. They’ll also be doing the milk steaming and frothing as well. The main advantage of these machines is they allow you to customize drinks to specific preferences.
Because you’re in business to make a profit, cost plays a big role. Initial cost will have to be balanced out with volume need. And, you’ll have to consider the cost of repairs. Some brands are easier to repair. They also have part that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Others are the opposite, which makes repairing them a bigger burden than buying a new machine.
In general, smaller coffee shops do well with machines that cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. This will depend on how much traffic comes through the door.
A busy café or specialty coffee shop, on the other hand, can go with something around the $5,000 range all the way up to over $15,000 for the busiest ones.
You’ll probably notice that many of the busier coffee shops in your city use the Nuova Simonelli or similar models. These cost anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000 on average.
Here’s a quick video that will help you decide on how much to spend on a commercial espresso machine.
5. Built Quality
How well the machine is built as well as the quality of components used in it are very important. They’re more vital in commercial units compared to home models. The reason in commercial machines will do a lot of work.
Low quality parts and built means it will tend to break down quickly. Or, will need regular repairs or maintenance. That’s not something you want when your coffee shop is open daily.
A machine that can be repaired and has spare parts available are also important. Some machines are great. But they’re difficult to repair. Others don’t have spare parts readily available. Either of these circumstances are bad for business.
Best Commercial Espresso Machine Reviews
This is the best commercial espresso machine. The Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II has been used to win the World Barista Championship numerous times. It is also widely used in successful coffee shops that have high volume traffic. You’ll see a lot of these in Seattle coffee shops where java is well known.
The Aurelia II is an upgrade of the Aurelia I. It does add a few more options so users can select what they want. In all there are 4 models you can choose from.
- Semi-automatic: This is the semi-automatic version. It comes in 2 or 3 group models.
- Volumetric: This lets you program volume sizes for each group head. Each group gets 4 buttons that are all customizable. It also comes in 2 and 3 group models.
- Digital: This is the digital version. It offers more programming ability. You can select from 2, 3 or 4 group models.
- T3: This is the top version. It has LCD display and smart functions. It is offered in 2 and 3 group models.
The models let you choose which kind your shop needs. The group configurations will vary depending on how much coffee you need to make.
The Aurelia II is ideal for high volume coffee shops and specialty cafes. You’ll want it if you have demanding customers who like getting high quality coffee without having to wait a long time. As mentioned, it also excels in barista competitions.
Because it is very pricey, it isn’t the most practical machine for smaller cafes. You’ll want to be doing around 300 drinks or more a day before needing something like this.
The unit comes with group heads that vary from 2 to 4. Which you choose depends on how many drinks you need to make quickly. Each group head comes with their own set of buttons. The digital and T3 models offer LCD displays as well as extra settings. The volumetric unit lets you save the exact sizes so you get consistent servings each time.
We like that you also get gauges that tell you pump pressure as well as steam gauge. This lets you monitor each cup and adjust the machine if needed. The digital and T3 also offer temperature control displays so you know how hot water is.
As a barista, you’ll enjoy the extra accessories. These include the individual lights on the groups and milk stations. This helps since many cafes are dark. The reverse mirror also lets you see the bottom of each portafilter.
Overall, we like this product for its high quality and performance. Plus, it serves a lot of drinks fast. The Aurelia II gives you excellent temperature control. Better yet, water temperature can be controlled individually in real time.
The main drawback of this commercial espresso machine is its price. It is expensive. So, you’ll need to have a good amount of volume before it becomes a practical choice.
While the Aurelia II may be our best commercial machine, it probably isn’t too practical for most coffee shops. It’s a bit too pricey for most small and medium sized cafes. If you have lots of traffic or want to make the best coffee for your customers then the Aurelia would be a great choice.
That said, a more practical choice for most small to medium sized coffee shops is the La Pavoni BAR-STAR 2V-R. This costs a fraction of the Aurelia and gives you excellent tasting espresso as well.
This unit comes with 2 group heads that let you make a good amount of coffee without letting your customers wait. La Pavoni offers this in 2, 3 and 4 group models. It is created by one of the well-known Italian espresso machine makers. And, widely used because of its performance.
The unit comes with digital controls and lets you select between 4 dosing options. It delivers even and consistent temperature to each individual group. This is thanks to its large 14 liter copper boiler which is among the biggest you’ll find for machines of its size.
It comes with 2 steam wands and separate gauges for pump and boiler pressure control.
The La Pavoni BAR-STAR 2V-R measures 31 inches wide and 22 inches deep. It is 21 inches tall and weighs 176 pounds.
Overall, this is great option for most small and medium sized coffee shops. It is reasonably priced and you get excellent coffee thanks to its great temperature stability.