Best Commercial Coffee Machine: 2021 Buyer’s Guide
Our informative buyer's guide will help you decide on the best commercial coffee machine for your business.
Australians are some of the most enthusiastic coffee drinkers in the world, with individuals consuming an average of 1.91 kilos of coffee every year (statista.com). That’s a lot of beans and a huge number of incredibly hard-working coffee machines.
Whether you’re looking to open a cafe or restaurant, or you need to upgrade your coffee machine, the model you select is a decision that’s not to be taken lightly. Lattes and cappuccinos can be a key profit driver for your business, which means this coffee machine is perhaps the most important piece of equipment your venue will own. For this reason, you need to make sure it is fit for purpose.
We have compiled this thorough guide to help you understand the difference between the various coffee machine models, features and brands. Our goal is to help you figure out which is the best commercial coffee machine to buy for your business.
This buyer's guide will cover the important features to look out for in a commercial coffee machine, the model that's right for you, and when it makes sense to buy a used commercial coffee machine. We’ve drawn on information from our expert team who get up close and personal with all the best commercial coffee machine brands on a daily basis.
Here’s what our commercial coffee machine guide covers
Before you take a look at which commercial coffee machines are best and why, it’s important to know the ‘language’ of your commercial coffee machine.
Here are some terms to help you get started:
Basket: Shaped like a very small metal cup without handles, this is the metal filter coffee is poured through. The shape of your coffee machine’s basket plays an essential part in the coffee brewing process and can impact the taste of your espresso.
Boiler: Your commercial coffee machine’s boiler stores water, heats it and maintains it at a set temperature. With a dual boiler, there is one boiler used for brewing coffee brewing and another to create the steam that froths milk.
Burrs: The grinder that comes with your coffee machine will include burrs to grind coffee beans into usable coffee grounds.
Dose: A ‘dose’ is a single shot of coffee.
Doser: This is the part of your coffee machine setup that distributes ground coffee into the portafilter basket (see above and below).
Gravimetrics: A fancy word for ‘weight.' When a machine uses gravimetrics, it measures coffee doses by weight instead of volume.
Grinder: The machine that breaks beans down into the ground coffee that’s used to make espresso.
Group: This refers to the number of coffees which can be created at once. A 2 group coffee machine delivers four doses of coffee at the same time. A 3 group coffee machine can make six single-shot coffees and a 4 group machine will pour eight doses simultaneously. Shop our range of 1 group, 2 group, or 3 group coffee machines.
Group head: The group head is the part of your machine that fresh coffee is poured through. Baristas attach the portafilter to the group head, press a button for the required dose and wait for the magic to happen.
Heat exchange: A single boiler coffee machine is often referred to as a ‘heat exchange’ machine. With this machine, the water running through the heat exchanger is heated by the steam boiler before it is used to brew the coffee.
Portafilter: Your barista will top up the portafilter with ground coffee before connecting it to the machine to pour an espresso. This is the part with the handle; the basket sits inside.
Steam wand: The part that’s used to heat and froth milk.
Volume: This term is likely to refer to the amount of coffee you sell each week. A cafe with high volume will go through 40 kilograms and above each week, with around 60-70 doses sold from each kilo of beans.
Volumetrics: Press a button for instant delivery and volumetrics are applied. Commercial automatic coffee machines rely on volumetrics to deliver standard amounts of water or coffee.
What are the main things to consider when buying a commercial coffee machine?
With a huge variety of commercial coffee machines for sale, how do you choose the best one for your venue? These are some of the factors to consider…
Type of coffee
Selecting a coffee machine has an almost 'back-to-front' process. Whilst with many other industries - transport, construction, beauty - the machine is bought first, with the service coming second, it's the opposite for coffee.
It's as simple as this: you need to know what type of coffee you want to produce, and then you need to find a machine that will achieve the result.
This means considering whether you wish to be top end, middle range, or for the masses. You will have already considered this well before opening, as you place yourself either as a boutique coffee shop with an emphasis on design and specialty coffee blends and single origins, or a bustling commercial venue looking to churn out hundreds of coffees each morning.
What are you looking for in a cup? Something to appeal to customers with a discerning palette? Or something economical that will appeal to the masses? Asking these questions is crucial before choosing a machine.
Find a roaster.
Once you've decided what type of coffee you wish to produce, you need to choose which roaster you will go with. Chances are, you will have answered this question a long time ago, as a keen coffee drinker! However, if you are heading to market with no clue, take the time to do your research and visit a variety of local roasters.
They will be able to fill in the gaps between what type of coffee you want to produce, and what type of bean and machine will achieve that. Your roaster will be the missing link between your coffee vision, and what brand of machine will produce it - they will be the ones to make the best recommendation possible.
Venue size, staff numbers and customer volume
The commercial coffee machine you choose may all come down to practicality. If you don’t have a great deal of bench space to devote to your coffee machine you will need to be more conservative in your choices and will probably select a single group coffee machine or 2 group coffee machine.
Customer volume will come into play as well. For a venue which doesn’t have coffee as its focal point, it may not be necessary to invest in a large machine which can have multiple people preparing beverages at the same time.
The benchmark for upgrading from a 2 group coffee machine is around 20 kilos of coffee per week. Once demand gets higher, you’ll end up with a long wait outside the door because you can’t keep up.
Your decision will also come down to the staff you have working each shift. It’s not really possible for one person to operate a 4 group machine to its full capacity. There’s no need to overspend if you won’t have people working both sides of a large machine on a daily basis.
Coffee shop and cafe revenue was predicted to reach $5 billion in Australia in 2020*
Customer expectations and premium vs ‘workhorse’ commercial coffee machine models
Choosing the best commercial coffee machine is a little like choosing a new car. Everyone will have an opinion on what’s right for you, but you need to consider the features you really need and the job that needs doing.
A premium commercial coffee machine is like a Maserati or Mercedes Benz. These models look impressive and use high-end features which can deliver a premium, consistent result. If you’re serving upmarket or highly discerning clientele, you’ll need a machine like this to impress, meet expectations when it comes to flavour and keep up with a high number of orders.
But that’s not to say your venue can’t make profits with a hardworking, reliable ‘Toyota’ of a coffee machine. Middle-of-the-road models can still produce a quality cup of coffee and you’ll save money on the purchase.
Then there are cheaper or second-hand commercial coffee machines. For hotel bars or venues which don’t rely on coffee, you can potentially get by with a low-cost machine that’s made by a brand you have never heard of.
Be aware! As with second hand cars, you need to do your research on used commercial coffee machines. When you choose a new machine, it will come with a warranty, whereas most second hand commercial coffee machines will not.
Fortunately, SilverChef's Certified Used commercial coffee equipment is a little different. We have a full history of the machine, and it will come to you with a warranty. This means you can bring down the cost of your machine without sacrificing quality and durability.
Size and weight
Commercial coffee machine dimensions are also important.
You’ll need to make sure you have the right commercial coffee machine for your bench space and strength.
You don’t want a machine that is perched precariously and puts people’s safety at risk. Similarly, you should avoid purchasing a machine that your bench can’t hold.
Check size dimensions and weight details before you buy a commercial coffee machine.
Settings, features and functionality
Understanding the settings, features and functionality your venue requires and the ones your baristas prefer will also help you choose the best commercial coffee machine for your venue.
One feature you’ll discuss with your dealer is single vs double boiler machines. The added benefit of upgrading to a double boiler machine is that you have separate boilers for steam and brewing coffee. As a result, your coffees will be prepared at a temperature that does not fluctuate. This reduces the risk of burnt beans and will result in happy customers whose coffee tastes the same every time.
Then there are all the additional features like portafilters, baskets, group heads, grinders and steam wands. Talk to your dealer about how these elements will work together to deliver a consistently high-quality cup of coffee. It’s also a good idea to speak with your top barista about the features of a commercial coffee machine they prefer.
Depending on where you are in Australia, your commercial coffee machine’s water filters may be a key component of the quality beverages you produce so this is a feature you might also need to discuss with your dealer. Many venues in both Adelaide and Perth face big problems with their water filters, so being aware of this and regularly replacing canisters is important to remember.
The reason for this is that different states and cities have different ‘water hardness’, which refers to the presence of magnesium and calcium salts in the water. Hard water can ‘scale’, or leave residue which builds up inside your machine and affect its different parts. With a good filter, you’ll be able to minimise the build up of scale, so speak to your dealer about the water in your area and the quality of the filter that comes with your machine.
Commercial coffee machine wattage
Many espresso machines require higher voltage power levels than a standard wall outlet provides.
Speak to your supplier about the wattage of the machine you want to purchase. You may need to check with an electrician to confirm your premises can handle it or to arrange an alternative solution.
Keep watts in mind if you are operating a food truck and want to use a coffee machine. The one you choose may change the requirements of your generator.
Is your venue highly image-conscious and looking to attract the attention of cashed-up hipsters? If this is the case, a stylish coffee machine which really stands out can be an important part of your interior aesthetics.
A stunning copper finish, dazzling chrome or sleek brightly-coloured machine can be the icing on the cake to set your venue apart from the other cafes in the street.
Some coffee machine models come with the option for custom panels so you can really wow your crowds with your logo or some artwork that matches your venue. Talk to your dealer about this option if you want your machine to be a focal point that impresses your customers.
Insurance, warranty, repairs and cost of parts
Your coffee machine should be covered under your overall business insurance for incidents like theft or accidental damage. Make sure your coffee machine is itemised on your policy so you can make a claim based on its true value.
A warranty on a new machine is essential. If you buy new, you will most likely have a 12-month warranty on commercial coffee machine parts but not on labour. Make sure you’re clear on the warranty before you buy; if there isn’t one, consider this a red flag.
When you buy, talk to your dealer about the servicing and repair schedule they recommend. At high volume, your machine is likely to need attention even as often as three or four times per year. For low volume (20 kilos or less), a twice-yearly service should be enough.
Ideally, there will be a servicing and repair specialist nearby who you can call on in an emergency. If not, this could influence your decision on the commercial coffee machine you buy – after all, how much income would you lose if your coffee machine was out of action for a few hours, a day or more?
And remember, when you buy a commercial coffee machine, the cost of parts will factor into your ongoing expenses. Just like servicing a BMW will probably come in at a higher price than a Suzuki, a premium machine may have parts which are more expensive to replace or repair.
Usability and cleaning
The way your staff use your commercial coffee machine should be part of your decision making. If you work with highly experienced baristas, they may expect a certain top-of-the-range machine so they can quickly become the favourite barista in your area.
Before you buy one, take a look at how to clean a commercial coffee machine. The coffee machine you choose should be easy for a staff member to backwash regularly without needing expert supervision.
Take a look at the accessories such as steam rods and parts; if they’re really fiddly to clean it will be frustrating and the job may not get done properly. Cleaning your machine regularly and thoroughly will reduce the potential need for costly commercial coffee machine repairs.
95% of cafes in Australia are independently owned*
Our Certified Used range of equipment – which has everything from fridges to deep fryers, and of course, commercial coffee machines – comes from our Rent-Try-Buy® customers who have the option to finance new equipment from a dealership, and then return it to SilverChef after 12 months. This means many of our used coffee machines are less than 18 months old; and have had just one owner. They also come with a warranty for additional peace of mind.
With Certified Used, you get assurance that the used commercial coffee machine is in good condition and will serve the purpose you need it for.