The Best Commercial Espresso Machine in 2020
Image the rowdy whirring of the burrs, the dreamy steam transforming boring milk into delicious microfoam, and smell the unmistakable aroma of freshly brewed espresso. If that's your idea of heaven and you're ready to make it happen, a commercial espresso machine must be at the top of your shopping list.
This post is by no means an instruction manual, nor is a guide on starting a business. Instead, it's a quick walk through the best and brightest of commercial coffee machines that can turn your dream of running a cafe into reality. We've included options for every type of business from a side-gig of offering espresso in your brick-and-mortar store to a full-fledged specialty coffee shop for foodies and coffee aficionados. But first, let's answer the most common question that must be running on repeat through your head.
Who Needs a Commercial Espresso Machine?
In other words, can't you just get a great consumer-grade espresso maker and be done with it?
It's an understandable impulse. After all, commercial-grade equipment is usually at least five times more expensive. And when you're starting a business, every dollar counts. Still, we urge you against the idea of saving on the most crucial tool that can make or break your corner of coffee heaven.
Consumer coffee makers are good for making one or two cups every morning to get your brain into gear. They may be fast and efficient, but they are not built to withstand the crazy pace of running a coffee shop. A day or two of brewing 100+ cups of coffee and the coffee maker will expire. It's not the manufacturer's fault, as consumer-grade electronics require proper maintenance and cleaning you cannot afford to perform in between pulling shots throughout the morning rush.
Buying an industrial espresso machine is a good idea if you're opening a cafe or a coffee shop, but that's not the full list of its possible uses. Installing a professional coffee maker is a good idea for any business that requires face-to-face communication and some waiting time. Salons, SPAs, even banks will benefit from offering complimentary coffee. Besides, installing a coffee machine in a family-owned store can become an additional revenue stream. Even if you're an office worker, consider pitching an idea of purchasing a commercial-grade coffee machine if you have a large team that's full of brain juice addicts.
8 Best Commercial Espresso Machine Reviews
Cheap vs Expensive
Cheap is a relative term here, as you're unlikely to buy the best commercial coffee maker for under $1,000. We won't push you towards the most expensive models on the market, as those tend to be overpriced and chock-full of bells and whistles. Instead, we'll tell you what your espresso maker can't go without if you want to make your money back.
For one, don't skimp on materials and build quality. Cheap plastic will never last as long as stainless steel and copper that make up high-end models. And the longer the equipment lasts, the more money you can make before a replacement becomes necessary.
Temperature control is another crucial factor. Whether it's performed via a PID controller or heat exchangers, the machine should not let overheated water touch the beans. Otherwise, you will run out of customers fast. No one wants to settle for burnt espresso when it should be smooth and creamy.
The more group heads the machine has, the higher its price becomes. You need to find the right balance between the machine's capacity and its cost. Having two or three groups with separate tanks means brewing more coffees at a time. But there's no reason to go overboard and invest in an espresso maker with four or five groups that won't fit your counter.
An extended warranty is a nice touch if you can afford it. If you settle for a standard warranty, make sure your baristas follow maintenance protocols religiously, or you might come to regret your choice.
How to Choose the Right Commercial Espresso Machine for Coffee Shop?
Selecting a coffee machine should not be a guessing game. Instead of falling for a stylish espresso machine commercial or friendly advice, consider the three sides of this choice and try to appease all of them. The one model that meets the needs of business owners, baristas, and customers should be on your shopping list.
As a business owner, you want a reasonably priced espresso maker that lasts a long time and pays for itself as soon as possible. For you, it's an investment and a means to make more money and grow your business.
As a person who operates the thing at least eight hours a day, your barista wants a machine that's easy on the hands and even easier to clean and maintain. For a barista, it's a daily tool, a reliable companion that lets them experiment and grow better at pulling shots.
As a person who looks for an instant energy boost, your customer wants a delicious espresso or a mellow cappuccino that tickles the taste buds in all the right ways. For a customer, an espresso machine is a way to touch the magic behind the brewing process and a pleasure to behold while they are waiting for their coffee to be ready.
Semi-Automatic vs Automatic
Unless you're going for an authentic vibe, there's no need to look for an original steam-powered coffee machine for your cafe. Instead, you can opt for a semi-automatic model that provides the freedom to experiment with water volume, brew temperature, pre-infusion, and a million other tiny things that make artisanal espresso sought-after. However, semi-automatic machines require an experienced barista committed to the craft. Besides, manual operations take more time and can tire your staff quickly throughout the rush hours.
Commercial automatic coffee machines take care of most steps necessary to pull a shot. These can grind the beans, tamp them, and brew a cuppa at a couple of button presses. The most a barista needs to do is operate a steam wand if someone orders a cappuccino. Automatic machines require fancy sensors and come with loads of extra features that enhance drink quality and drive up the price. They are a worthy investment if you're running a coffee shop in a high-traffic area and serving 500+ cups of coffee per day. Under these conditions, even the most outrageously priced coffee machine will pay for itself in under a year.
The ultimate choice is yours, and once your business takes off, you can always supplement a super-automatic Italian commercial espresso machine with a semi-automated one and vice versa.
Capacity Of The Espresso Machine
For home baristas, the coffee machine's capacity decides how often they need to top off the water tank and bean hopper. For businesses, it's a crucial factor that can decide whether your coffee shop or cafe will succeed or fail. If the espresso machine you choose has a capacity that's too low, you're losing paying customers who are unwilling to wait in line for their morning cuppa. Suppose you go overboard with the machine's capacity. In that case, you risk losing money as most of the espresso maker's capabilities will remain unused, and it'll take forever to get your money back, let alone start making more.
These factors limit the capacity of a professional espresso machine:
- The number of group heads. One group is usually enough for office use or small side gigs, but cafes and restaurants should invest in machines with two or three heads at minimum. Four or five heads might be impractical, as they take too much counter space, but don't leave enough room for an equal number of baristas.
- The number of tanks. Commercial machines should have separate tanks for steam and brew cycles to stabilize extraction temperature without overheating the beans. We also recommend investing in a model with separate water tanks for individual group heads to guarantee high-quality simultaneous extraction.
- Tank capacity. The more water it holds, the less often it'll need refilling. Even if the machine is connected to the waterline, heating the water to perfect brewing temperature takes time and creates a downtime you can't afford during the morning and evening rush hours.
Synesso MVP Hydra 3 Group Review
- Individual motors and pumps for each group
- Four stages of pressure ramping
- New timer display with extra details
- Outstanding customization and repeatability
- A price tag of over $20,000
- Mirror finish may be impractical
This is a high-capacity espresso machine that provides your barista with a chance to pull customizable yet reliably repeatable shots. Besides, three individual group heads come with separate motors and pumps, so the pressure remains at the optimal level for every shot even if three baristas are working simultaneously.
Coffee artists can experiment with pressure thanks to the 4-stage pressure ramping that includes Preinfusion, Ramp Up, Full Pressure, and Ramp Down to bring out the sweetness, acidity, or other notes specific to each bean. Once the shot is perfect, baristas can save the settings to one of the programmable positions and repeat the process with no extra input.
MVP Hydra looks extra sleek thanks to its stainless steel body, low-profile handles, and mirror side panels, though the latter can collect fingerprints and smudges fast. On the other hand, side panels provide easy access for maintenance, which is crucial for a machine that costs over 20 grand. It's a hefty investment, but Synesso is well-known for their superb quality and delicious shots. This model is perfect for busy coffee shops that brew over 500 cups of coffee per day. If you're ready to splurge and want even more style with a similar capacity, check out Black Eagle by Nuova Simonelli. And if you want to learn more about this model, read our full Synesso MVP Hydra 3 Group review.
Victoria Arduino Black Eagle Review
- Precision temperature control
- Informative TFT screen
- Customizable with 2 or 3 group heads
- Low profile and ergonomic design
- A price tag around $30,000
- Overwhelming for new baristas
Black Eagle might seem a bit overwhelming at first glance, especially for new baristas. However, it's an ultimate powerhouse for those who enjoy the science and precision of pulling a perfect shot. It's also great for experimenting and finding that ideal combination of brewing parameters for each single-origin bean and blend. With that in mind, choose this beauty for a specialty coffee shop with a steady traffic of gourmet java lovers.
For three years, this beauty was the World Barista Championship's official espresso machine. That's how good it is! The volumetric system ensures precise control over the water volume that goes into each cup, and the temperature control system is truly unparalleled. It allows the barista to set and control the temp of steam, water infusion, and the brewing group. The smallest fluctuations become immediately obvious thanks to a large TFT screen that reports all crucial information to the barista.
The machine comes with plenty of customization options. For instance, you can choose a two- or three-group-head version. If you're not willing to supply a water filtering system, you can get one of large or medium capacity to go with the espresso maker. There's even an option to install pod adapter kits on one, two, or three heads! Finally, the standard dealer warranty can be extended to Platinum Level, though it'll add over $3,000 to the price tag. Considering this model's prices start at $24,000, you want to get as much mileage out of it as possible.
Find our full review of Nuova Simonelli Victoria Arduino Black Eagle here.
La Marzocco Linea 2 Group EE Review
- User-friendly for baristas of all levels
- More affordable than automatic machines
- PID controller for improved temperature stability
- Shot quality repeatability issues
- Not suitable for high-traffic cafes
If you're just trying your hand in serving coffee as a side business to your main venture, there's no need to splurge on the state-of-the-art machine. Instead, you can go with a tried-and-true workhorse that's been around for decades and helped thousands of coffee shops and cafes succeed. Linea Classic may not look as glamorous as the previous model, and it doesn't have fancy sensors and displays, but it has what it takes to brew a solid shot, whether you're a self-taught barista or a steam-wand master.
We love the stainless steel design that makes this machine durable and easy to maintain, but the PID temperature controller is the best feature by far. The controller establishes a precise (up to half a degree) control over espresso brewing temperature, meaning every cup is as delicious as the previous one without unexpected fluctuations in strength or flavor palette. To further the quality of every shot, the machine comes with two insulated boilers for brewing and steam production.
The semi-automatic version of the Linea Classic espresso machine with two group heads costs around $10,000. However, the device is available in many other forms. For instance, you can go with one, three, or four groups to better suit your capacity requirements. The fully-automated version is also available, though it's more costly, and we'll talk about its differences in the next section. For more details on why we think La Marzocco Linea 2 Group EE is the best commercial espresso machine, check out our full review.
La Marzocco Linea 1 Group AV Review
- Tiny countertop footprint
- Fully automated barista experience
- Precise temperature control
- More expensive than a semi-automatic version
- Lower capacity and throughput
If you like what you see with Linea Classic EE but want less manual labor when it comes to pulling shots, the automatic version (AV) should hit all your buttons. It comes with the same great features that make this machine a staple for many a coffee shop. These include the double boiler setup that keeps both water and steam at optimal temperature and the PID controller that doesn't let the temp go half a degree in the wrong direction. All this results in a perfect espresso every time, regardless of the number of cups you've already brewed.
The one downside to Linea AV is the cost. Automation comes at a price, raising the tag for a single group machine to $10,000. For the same price, you can get your hands on a semi-automatic version with two group heads. However, one group does have an unbeatable advantage for cramped counters. This model's footprint is so small it will fit the tiniest of gaps, so it may just be the indestructible office coffee maker you've been looking for. It can also fit the role of a side-gig in your current brick-and-mortar business.
For an in-depth review of La Marzocco Linea 1 Group AV, follow the link to a dedicated post.
Slayer 2 Group Review
- Independent boilers for two group heads
- Three-position flavor profiling actuator
- Electronic valves and digital temperature control
- Pre-brew wetting on a timer
- The standard version's price tag is around $21,000
- The steep learning curve for new baristas
If you thought Black Eagle was the best commercial espresso machines could get, think again. Slayer Espresso 2-Group is a state-of-the-art tool for a barista who knows what they are doing and who treats pulling shots as science or art rather than routine. The machine comes with four tanks, including two individual water tanks for two group heads, a steam tank, and a pre-heat tank. The latter works wonders with a pre-brew wetting of the beans to extract every last ounce of flavor from the grounds.
The brewing itself is highly precise, with no room for missteps. The barista can play around with bringing out acidity, sweetness, or body of the brew thanks to a 3-way flavor profiling actuator. Digital sensors control the temperature, and a flow rate control system with electronic valves ensures each shot gets the amount of water that's exactly right.
Slayer Espresso is by no means a regular espresso machine, and its price tag of over $20,000 may seem like overkill. And with plenty of customization options available, the expenses can pile up fast. We wouldn't recommend Slayer for newbie baristas and small side businesses. But it's an ideal choice for a roastery, espresso bar, cafe, and restaurant espresso machine. Learn more about this model in our full Slayer 2 Group review.
Athena 2 Group Leva Review
- Heat exchangers for better pre-infusion
- Manual controls for endless customization options
- Classy design and feel
- A price tag under $10,000
- Manual levers may take time to get used to
- Medium capacity isn't suitable for high traffic
If you like all things vintage or want to give your cafe an Old World look, this elegant Simonelli espresso machine by Victoria Arduino should be your prime choice. It relies on the lever design first introduced after World War II and incorporates advanced technologies to guarantee delicious shots every time.
The lever delivery system means your barista should be competent enough to handle the machine, but once you find a professional, they will be able to customize each drink fully. Unlike other lever machines, Athena employs heat exchangers to lower the temperature of the water entering the group. This clever design tweak keeps espresso safe from the burnt and bitter taste of the grounds extracted at a too high temperature. Instead, Athena Leva produces creamy and smooth shots true espresso enthusiasts will fall in love with.
Being available in chrome and copper bodies, Athena looks marvelous with her hand-hammered finish that can elevate your cafe's style and make this espresso machine the focus of everyone's attention. Similar to most Victoria Arduino models, Athena is customizable to fit two or three group heads and pod adapter kits for any number of groups. Water filtering options and a Gold warranty round up your purchase opportunities. However, even in her basic form, Athena is a thing of beauty and a steal at under $10,000. For more details on this model, check out our full Athena 2 Group Leva review.
Nuova Simonelli Appia II Compact Review
- Tiny countertop footprint for 2 groups
- Affordable at around $6,000
- Easy to operate for newbie baristas
- Suitable for low-volume businesses only
- The semi-automatic version has no volumetric dosing
Appia II is among the most popular professional coffee makers by Nuova Simonelli, and this Compact version has inherited the same outstanding features in a body that's 9 inches narrower. Miniaturized design can fit small counters and side tables, and the capacity is enough for pulling espresso shots for your retail space customers.
The semi-automatic version is easy to operate and suitable even for new baristas, though it doesn't have the comfort of volumetric dosing. Still, Appia II Compact comes with a Soft Infusion System that guarantees quality extraction even if your barista isn't good at tamping. Besides, this machine is super ergonomic with cool-touch steam wands, a push-pull steam system, and a reverse mirror. And the raised heads can fit a coffee mug of any size directly under the group head.
We love that Appia II Compact fits two groups in such a tiny body and can incorporate pod adapter kits if necessary. You can opt for a machine in classic black or go with a white or red body finish to suit your decor choices. And the best thing about this espresso maker is the affordable price set around $6,000. You won't get a better deal at this price. Check out our full Nuova Simonelli Appia II Compact review for more info.
Oscar II Direct Connect Review
- Professional design for homes and offices
- Simple and ergonomic controls
- A price tag under $2,000
- Direct water connections
- No automated cleaning features
- May not fit large coffee mugs
Oscar II may seem like an outlier on our list of commercial espresso maker options, but it's too well-built to be considered a consumer-grade machine. It won't be enough for running a coffee shop or cafe, but Oscar can sure cover the needs of your office team or a household full of coffee addicts. It may also be a great solution for food trucks and tiny shops.
Despite its modest size, the machine packs the commercial-size group head and copper boiler other models by Nuova Simonelli rely on. The manual dosing is made easier by a timer that can stop extraction in the nick of time, even if you become distracted by a customer or a colleague. And the Soft Infusion System guarantees every espresso is perfectly delicious regardless of your tamping technique. The only downside we could find is the lack of commercial-grade automatic cleaning features, meaning you'll have to pay more attention to maintenance and daily cleaning.
Oscar II comes with a pour-over or direct-connect water supply, and the latter is a better option for busy offices and food trucks. You can even get it equipped with a pod adapter kit. At under $2,000, Oscar II is certainly more expensive than consumer-grade super-automatic espresso machines, but build and extraction quality make it a definite winner in our books. Learn more in our Oscar II Direct Connect review.
Summary. What Is the Best Commercial Espresso Machine?
Selecting one among dozens of outstanding commercial espresso machines is a challenge, as every business has unique capacity, feature, and design needs. However, we believe La Marzocco Linea 2 Group EE is worthy of your attention regardless of your business size. It's reliable and affordable at around $10,000. The machine is easy to operate for both experienced and green baristas. Most importantly, it produces a mean espresso, and that's what every cafe or coffee house needs.
How Much Does a Commercial Espresso Machine Cost?The cheapest professional coffee maker we could find costs around $1,600, though it doesn't have a large enough capacity for running a cafe. Models with two or more group heads come with price tags starting at $5,000 to $6,000. Sophisticated and fully automated machines can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000. Additional customization and features will add to these numbers.
Why Are Industrial Espresso Machines So Expensive?They are built to withstand much abuse and last for years. The materials alone (high-grade stainless steel and brass) are much more costly than the plastic used in many consumer-grade models. The quality of the build is another factor, and the extra bells and whistles drive up the price. PID controllers, additional boilers, motors, and pumps to accommodate two or more group heads cost more than you can imagine. You get what you pay for, and being stingy at the onset of running a cafe may lead to even higher expenses down the road.
How Long Will a Cafe Espresso Machine Last?According to many a coffee machine commercial and website, most manufacturers provide a one or two-year long guarantee, so that's the minimum longevity you can expect. However, reliable equipment can last over a decade with proper maintenance and cleaning. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations and checklists during regular maintenance, cleaning, and descaling, and filter the water to protect your business investment. Don't forget to instill the same rules among the baristas working with the machine.
Can I Buy the Same Espresso Machine Starbucks Uses?That's unlikely. The Swiss-based Thermoplan signed an exclusive deal to supply the coffee shop chain with its Mastrena machines. These are used in most Starbucks shops across the world. This model is unavailable for purchase, but you can find plenty of reliable and high-performance alternatives on our shortlist.
What Is the Best Commercial Coffee Machine Brand?The jury's still out. Every company has its highs and lows, and it's impossible to say which one builds the one espresso maker your business needs. We love La Marzocco and Nuova Simonelli, though there are plenty of others worthy of your attention. Check out our shortlist for more solid recommendations.