Skip to content
Picking the Right Commercial Espresso Machine for Your Coffee Shop

Picking the Right Commercial Espresso Machine for Your Coffee Shop

Is there anything better than that first sip of a perfectly balanced espresso? We think not. And there are plenty of people who agree. That’s why commercial espresso machines are so important to the success of coffee shops.

Why Your Shop Needs a Commercial Espresso Machine

Picking the Right Commercial Espresso Machine for Your Coffee Shop - espresso shot

Espresso-based drinks are the most beloved offerings in coffee shops around the country. Hot, flavored lattes are the most popular coffee drinks ordered at coffee shops, with 38 percent of coffee consumers reporting that lattes are their tried-and-true order. Among the other most notable favorite orders and old standbys? Flat whites, cappuccinos, and plain ol’ espressos rank pretty high.

Espresso enthusiasts will come clamoring into your shop for their caffeine fix—which means you need a commercial espresso machine that can keep up. How do you go about choosing the right one? With frothers, filter baskets, levers, boilers at play, and practically countless moving parts, there’s a lot that can go right—or wrong—depending on the commercial espresso machine you pick. Here’s your go-to guide for selecting the best one for your shop.


How to Select a Commercial Espresso Machine: What You Need

Picking the Right Commercial Espresso Machine for Your Coffee Shop - How to Select What You Need

When you run a coffee shop, the right commercial espresso machine will impact the quality of the drinks you serve. It can even affect the efficiency of your operations, like a jolt of caffeine to your barista team.

But there are a lot of different options available today—which means you need to consider your shop’s specific needs. Here are a few factors to flavor your decision:

The number of drinks you’ll make each day—and each hour—affects the size of the espresso machine you’ll need.

Estimate how many drinks you’ll make each day—and don’t forget to account for your rush periods. If you’re starting your business, you might want to go to other local coffee shops and take an approximate look at how many espresso drinks they assemble at different times of day and on different days of the week. The more drinks you make, the larger the machine. It might be helpful to know that:

    • 6 percent of coffee shops select a one-group espresso machine
    • 68 percent of shops use a two-group espresso machine
    • 24 percent use a three-group espresso machine
    • 2 percent use a four-group espresso machine

Also keep in mind that if you plan to have a drive-through window, or you’ll be serving a lot of commuter traffic, speed is the name of the game. You need something large enough to prevent delays, and it needs to be simple and fast to operate.

Depending on the total number of drinks you’ll serve each day, you can get a better idea of what size machine you should choose.

    • Between 10 and 50 drinks, and for bakeries, restaurants, and smaller shops, choose a one-group espresso machine.
    • Between 100 and 200 drinks per day, you will likely want a two-group espresso machine.
    • Between 200 and 300 drinks per day, you may want to consider a three-group machine.
    • Between 300 and 500 (or more) drinks per day, you need at least a three-group machine, but you should also consider springing for a four-group machine.

The expected number of drinks you’ll make per hour should correlate to the size of the boiler. If you only make a few drinks every hour, you can select an espresso machine with a smaller boiler. But as the number of espresso-based drinks goes up, so, too should the size of your boiler.

Why is this? Imagine trying to throw a huge tea party with just one tiny teapot. You’ll have to bring pot after pot to boil, which means some of your party guests might have to wait a long time for their first sip.

If you attempt to make more drinks per hour than your espresso machine’s boiler can keep up with, you’ll face recovery time; when the machine doesn’t have enough hot water or steam and has to idle until it recovers. It’s not ideal—especially for larger milk-based drinks, since small boilers can only produce so much steam pressure.

Picking the Right Commercial Espresso Machine for Your Coffee Shop- Consider the quality of your espresso-based drinks

The quality of your espresso-based drinks will be impacted by the type of commercial espresso machine you select. You've already done a good thing by picking a pretty rad coffee supplier. Ensure you pick the espresso machine that does the beans justice. Do you want your coffee shop to be known for good coffee? Better coffee? The Cadillac of coffees? This choice depends as much on your preference as it does your budget.

    • For good coffee, look for a good heat exchanger machine to bring out the flavors of a great roast.
    • For even better coffee, look for a heat exchanger machine with reliable thermal stability, or even multi-boiler machines with temperature control.
    • For premium, world-changing coffee, seek out a commercial coffee machine with features like enhanced temperature control, pressure profiling, multi-boilers, programming options, pre-infusion features, and advanced PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) temperature controls.

You will also want to consider your budget. What are you planning to pay for your commercial espresso machine? Do you want to purchase your espresso machine—or lease one?

While commercial espresso machines can run a real gamut—we’ve seen full-size machines span anywhere between $5,000 and $30,000—it might be helpful to know that most coffee shops that buy their own espresso machine typically spend between $10,000 and $15,000.

If you are planning to spend less, consider leasing, opt for a well-known brand that can be easily serviced, or seek out a used but well-cared-for commercial machine instead of choosing a machine that isn’t great quality or is too small for your needs—as either of these options could negatively impact your operations.

A Whole Menu of Options: Other Factors to Consider

Picking the Right Commercial Espresso Machine for Your Coffee Shop - Planning for a mobile coffee cart or truck

Like any good coffee shop menu, you have other choices and considerations to think about when it comes to ordering up the right commercial espresso machine.

    • Are you planning a mobile coffee cart or truck—and do you need an espresso machine that is easy to move?
    • Do you want any kind of automation? Choose from manual, semi-automatic, volumetric (automatic), or super-automatic espresso machines.
    • How easy will it be to find someone who can repair, maintain, or service your commercial espresso machine? And can you quickly attain replacement parts?
    • Do you have a preference regarding the overall style of your commercial espresso machine?
    • Are there available reviews about how durable your espresso machine is—and do you know the expected lifespan of the machine?
    • How simple is the cleaning process for your commercial espresso machine? Are there any features that make cleaning faster or simpler?
    • Are cleaning supplies easy to attain?

You Don’t Have to Go It Alone—Even If You Have All the Confidence of a Bold Roast

At Dilworth Coffee Co., we’ve seen firsthand how coffee brings people together—even when those people start off a little tired and caffeine-deprived. That’s why we have a whole array of services at every step. We’re here to help you bring your vision to life; to ensure YOU DO YOU. We’ll listen, offer guidance, and help you make the best choices for your shop.

So when you’re looking for the commercial espresso machine that fits your Cinderella coffee shop like a magical glass slipper, we’ll be your fairy godmother.

Or something like that.

And that’s not just the espresso machine. Together, we can pick the right equipment to outfit your whole shop and we won’t disappear after the spell ends. Whatever you need—we’re always here for you.

Previous article Coffee Syrups for Every Season and Customer
Next article Common Coffee Myths and Misconceptions

Blog posts