You're looking for the best commercial espresso machine for your business or home office, but you're not sure where to start. If this is you, this guide is going to give you all the information you need, all in one place.
We'll be diving into the following:
- The basic options espresso machines come in and how they work.
- Key considerations when choosing a machine that will fit individual requirements.
- How to select the right machine for restaurants, coffee shops, offices, home use and other applications.
- Our picks for the top commercial espresso machines and their key features.
Let's get started...
Running a small business? Check out our best commercial espresso machine for small coffee shop picks.
Knowing Your Commercial Espresso Machine Options
Manual Espresso Machines
The manual espresso machine is the classic style. One of the distinguishing marks of a manual machine is a lever mechanism that the user pulls to control the espresso extraction process via muscle power.
These machines typically work with a spring piston, which is triggered by the lever to force the water through the coffee grounds. They rely on the user to control the pressure for proper extraction of every espresso shot.
There are some significant pros to this method, but on the flip side, these same pros can be major cons depending on who operates the machine.
The full manual control over espresso extraction can be a dream for the most highly skilled baristas looking to create what could be considered a hand-crafted espresso. The barista is the literal power behind the process, so the product feels more artisanal.
This very same advantage for skilled baristas is a disadvantage for most people without years of training and experience. One small error can result in an undrinkable espresso. For many business owners, the risk of creating an inferior product is great.
Here are some of the pros:
- Vintage aesthetic
- Impressive in the hands of well-trained baristas
- Great for personal use in the homes of aficionados
And here are some of the cons:
- Finicky to disastrous in the hands of non-experts
- Slower to operate
- Not typically feasible for many commercial businesses
When you have a long line of customer orders to fill, a manual machine can be tricky. But fully manual machines aren't common anymore as they've been largely replaced by gradually increasing automation.
Semiautomatic Espresso Machines
Semiautomatic machines combine attributes of the manual espresso machine with a little strategic automation to make espresso extraction easier and more efficient.
Unlike manual lever machines, semiautomatic machines come with automatic pump mechanisms that the user controls through buttons on a display.
When the button that starts espresso extraction is pushed, the pump is activated and the process begins. The pump is stopped by the user pushing the appropriate button, providing a similarly analog sort of experience reminiscent of using the lever machine.
For this reason, semiautomatic machines are sometimes referred to as manual machines. For all intents and purposes, in the modern espresso industry, they essentially are. But like their original lever counterparts, semiautomatic machines take skill to operate.
Some of the advantages of a semiautomatic machine are:
- Good "manual" control over espresso extraction
- Minimal physical exertion compared with lever machines
- Greater espresso consistency due to partial automation
Now for the cons:
- Proper training and skill are required
- Faster, but not the fastest option for high-volume businesses
The most important thing to remember about semiautomatic machines is that because they're "manually" controlled by the barista, they still take proper training to learn how to use. However, they do make espresso extraction more consistent.
Automatic or Volumetric Espresso Machines
For businesses that require a machine that can keep up with long lines of customers, automatic or volumetric machines are excellent options.
Whereas espresso extraction is controlled by the user in semiautomatic machines, fully automatic (or volumetric) machines start and end the espresso process according to programming.
Automatic machines are designed to make the process smooth, uncomplicated and intuitive for the user. They work by dosing the proper water volume for the espresso, which may be preset by the manufacturer or programmable by the barista.
Many coffee shops and businesses of all kinds choose automatic machines so that every staff member can make consistently great espresso.
You may also find some automatic machines that come with manual buttons so that baristas have the option of switching to the analog system.
The pros of the automatic machine are:
- Greater guarantee of quality consistency
- Ease of use for baristas from beginner to expert levels
- Faster production as baristas can multitask more easily
Like any machine, it does have its cons:
- Typically more expensive than semiautomatic versions
- Less on-the-spot flexibility to vary water volume (unless there's a manual button)
All in all, the benefits tend to outweigh the disadvantages of an automatic espresso machine, but it really depends on what type of operation you need the machine for.
Super-automatic Espresso Machines
The super-automatic espresso machine is the ultimate gift of technological innovation in the espresso industry.
As the name suggests, all details of beverage production are automated. This includes not just the espresso extraction, but also milk frothing.
Many super-automatic machines come in two versions: one-step and two-step, with the one-step machine being the most user-friendly of any espresso machine out there.
Let's say someone wants to make a latte. With a one-step super-automatic espresso machine, the user positions a coffee cup under the group head and pushes a programmed button that triggers the machine to dose the perfect volume of milk.
The machine froths the milk and dispenses it into the cup. The machine also doses, freshly grinds and brews the espresso before dispensing it into the cup with the milk.
And voila. You have a perfectly crafted latte, and all you had to do was press a button. You didn't even have to fill a milk pitcher.
The two-step machine is similar, but the user does actually fill a milk pitcher for the machine to automatically froth, hands-free. The user can also select from many different nuanced steaming options for versatile customization.
There are huge pros to owning this kind of machine:
- Absolutely anyone can learn how to use it in five minutes or less
- Every single espresso beverage is made with the same standard of excellence
- Beverage production is faster than ever
- No need to worry about losing time and money training new staff
- Eliminates the need for external grinders
There's one major con for these machines:
- Often a financial investment
If you're worried about a lack of flexibility, don't be. Many of these machines come with a large number of programmable settings so that you can create a wide variety of specialty beverages.
Though super-automatic machines can be more expensive than other options, for busy enterprises, they'll pay for themselves in increased business opportunities.
Key Machine Considerations
Learning about the functions of the basic machine types is the first step toward finding the right one. The next step is to assess your needs.
We've narrowed down a few of the most important points to comb through, such as:
- Your business type
- Machine plumbing options
- Number of drinks per day
- Coffee cup size
Your Business Type
Every business is different. It makes sense, then, that every business requires a different type of machine tailored to its needs.
Semiautomatic machines are often excellent choices in a variety of settings, whether in a home kitchen, an office kitchen, a coffee shop or a bike shop.
Whereas the lever machine is best for the home tinkerer or highly specialized coffee shops, the semiautomatic machine is suitable for a wide variety of commercial settings.
Fully automatic machines are often of greater use to coffee shops, restaurants, cafes, corporate offices and any shops that want to offer espresso beverages to clientele.
Do you need a machine that beginners can use? Are you looking for a home machine that gives you the manual experience without the unpredictability? Are you building a coffee shop image on friendly baristas who have time to chat with customers?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, an automatic machine may be the right choice.
But if you own a business with particularly high levels of customer traffic or you see a high staff turnover, you are in a unique position to reap the benefits of the super-automatic machine.
For busy coffee shops, restaurants and hotels, super-automatic machines let staff focus on multitasking and/or customer service while making a name for the business as a place to get a great cup of coffee any time, any day.
Similarly, office buildings and corporate entities won't need to train anyone to become a barista to enjoy a cappuccino.
If you're just looking for a great home machine, you do have options between the semiautomatic and automatic machine types, but you may also decide to consider the manual machine if your skill level is advanced.
Machine Plumbing Options
Plumbed (direct-connect) espresso machines are generally considered ideal for all uses.
They hook up to a water line so that the reservoir is automatically replenished, and they allow you to use a filter or water softener that will improve the flavor of the espresso and prevent heavy scaling issues that could damage the machine.
While any user can see the benefits of a plumbed machine, commercial enterprises like coffee shops and cafes find them to be vital, both for longevity and productivity.
Imagine your baristas needing to stop making drinks to put more water in the reservoir in the middle of a rush. That won't happen with a plumbed machine.
Pour-over machines don't connect to a water line, so they do require manual reservoir refilling.
This can be helpful if you plan to take your espresso machine from place to place as it doesn't need to be near a water line, but it's generally not the best choice for business purposes.
Plus, you'll need to remember to descale often, and consider using filtered water for best flavor.
Number of Drinks Per Day
If you're a business owner, the number of drinks a machine can produce is critical information that you need to have.
Can the machine produce 20 espresso per hour? 50 or more? Will the machine need a cool-down period after so many drinks? (Usually, if a machine is rated for larger cafes, it shouldn't.)
If you're not sure, it's usually better to overshoot than to undershoot. One the common issues new and expanding coffee shops deal with is needing to upgrade to machines that can handle more. You might be surprised at how easily this can happen.
On the other hand, you don't want to buy a machine with four groups if you're a small spa looking to serve the odd espresso to your clientele.
Coffee Cup Size
Do you need an espresso machine to accommodate different coffee cup sizes, or is this something that isn't important for your business or home espresso station?
Traditional cup espresso machines differ from tall cup espresso machines in that the user can only fit a (smaller) standard cup or espresso shot glasses under the group head. If a larger cup is needed, the espresso is transferred by hand.
Tall cup machines have raised group heads or adjustability that allows for taller cups to be placed directly under the group heads.
Not everyone needs this function, but many coffee shops choose it as it cuts the extra step of transferring the espresso out. In the coffee industry, saving time wherever possible is a bit of an art and bit of a science.
Best Commercial Espresso Machines
Learn More: Unic MIRA Review
The Unic Mira is a stainless steel volumetric machine with programmable keys so that the user can decide ahead of time exactly how much water the machine should dose.
It comes with one, two or three groups for drink volume capacity capable of sustaining small, medium and large businesses.
- Automatic - User-friendly and excellent for fast production.
- Direct-to-Boiler Mounted Group Heads - Minimizes heat loss since water is taken directly from the boiler, resulting in better quality consistency.
- Overabundant Steam Supply - Quick steam recovery so that espresso can be extracted and milk can be frothed for back-to-back drink orders.
- Multiple Infusion Options - Ability to choose pre-infusion and other brewing options for time, quality and extraction control.
- Direct-Connect - Automatic water reservoir refilling, which is preferable for commercial usage, especially in medium to large establishments.
- Tall Cup Option - Baristas can brew directly into large cups, saving production time.
- SteamAir Option - SteamAir Unic Mira models froth milk to the ideal temperature at the push of a button.
Unic Stella Di Caffe
Learn More: Unic Stella Di Caffe Espresso Machine Review
This advanced volumetric machine comes with features that allow baristas to fine-tune their process.
It also comes in two-group and three-group configurations that are designed for keeping up with demand in medium to large establishments.
- Automatic - So that long lines of drinks orders can be filled faster.
- Dual Boiler - Wards against steam exhaustion.
- Tall Cup Capacity - Allows baristas to brew directly into multiple cup sizes.
- Direct-Connect - Automatic reservoir refilling and drip tray that can be piped to a drain.
- Central Control LCD Color Touch Screen - Easy to read and interact with for simplified use.
- Programmable Pre-Infusion - Saturates the espresso grounds before the shot is pulled, ensuring even water distribution and reducing tamping error issues that affect espresso quality.
- Programmable Adjustable Hot Water Outlet - Instant temperature control through programmable buttons for tea and Americano beverages.
Nuova Simonelli Appia 2
Learn More: Nuova Simonelli Appia 2 Espresso Machine Review
The Nuova Simonelli Appia 2 is a high-tech espresso machine that fits in beautifully with any environment, whether home-based or professional.
The Appia 2 is available in both automatic and semiautomatic configurations with multiple group head options. There's also a compact version that takes up little counter space.
- Raised Group Heads - Tall cup design that allows users to fit large cups under the group heads.
- Push Pull Steam - Ergonomic steam trigger that's kind to baristas' wrists.
- Soft Infusion System - Pre-wets the coffee with a low-pressure stream of water before full extraction to gently settle the coffee and create even extraction.
- Reverse Mirror - Allows the user better visual monitoring of the extraction process.
- Cool Touch Wands - No burns on piping hot steam wands. They're also easier to clean after milk frothing.
- Automated Cleanings - Makes group cleaning quick and easy as the user just pushes a button and the machine takes care of the rest.
Nuova Simonelli Aurelia 2
Nuova Simonelli's Aurelia 2 is a stunning espresso machine that's perfect for commercial applications in settings with medium- to high-volume traffic.
It comes in semiautomatic and automatic styles that include the Digit and the T3 models.
- T3 Technology - Advanced tech design that creates more precise fine-tuning for extracting coffee. Multiple independent copper boilers allow users to monitor and adjust water temperatures in the primary boiler, group boilers and group heads for excellent quality control. Comes with the T3 model only.
- Raised Group Heads - Multiple cup brewing capacity that coffee shops especially need.
- Soft Infusion System - Low-pressure pre-infusion that won't disturb the coffee grounds while creating more even extraction.
- Cool Touch Wands - Everyone appreciates a burn-free experience with the Cool Touch Wand.
- Reverse Mirror - Greater visual monitoring of espresso extraction for consistent quality.
- Power Saving Options - Budget-friendly as these options reduce electricity bills.
La Spaziale S9
Learn More: La Spaziale S9 Espresso Machine Review
For small to medium cafes, restaurants and businesses just looking to offer a fine cup of coffee to customers, the La Spaziale S9 with two groups is an wise selection.
Available in compact, traditional cup and tall cup configurations, the S9 can accommodate any professional environment.
- Automatic - Easy to operate for all users and ideal for speed.
- Direct Connect - Necessary for fast-paced establishments and also handy for offices where employees aren't trained on the machine's requirements.
- Built-in Rotary Pump - Quickly builds the requisite nine bars of pressure for espresso extraction. Also quiet so it won't disturb the workplace.
- Stainless Steel Hot Water Spigot - Rust-resistant and eliminates unnecessary trips to an external hot water tank.
- Stainless Steel Arms - Rust-resistant and highly durable.
- Cup Warmer - Space provided for storing and heating cups for in-house orders that will stay hotter longer (making customers happier).
La Spaziale S2
Learn More: La Spaziale S2 Espresso Machine Review
La Spaziale's S2 espresso machine is a dream for home users, office employees and professional baristas of all skill levels.
These cost-effective machines come in configurations of one to two groups as well as compact and tall cup options.
- Automatic - Fast, simple and perfect for beginners and expert baristas alike.
- Built-in Pump - Reliable, efficient and quiet while consistently building nine bars of pressure for espresso extraction.
- Stainless Steel Body - Sturdy, durable and rust-resistant. Stainless steel is less likely to break down than plastic parts.
- Hot Water Outlet - A standard but vital element for businesses that don't have time to make special trips to get hot water for Americanos and teas.
- Automatic Boiler Refill - Direct-connect design that won't leave baristas stranded with an empty water reservoir in the middle of a rush.
La Spaziale Vivaldi II
Learn More: La Spaziale Vivaldi II Espresso Machine Review
Here's another excellent, low-cost machine from La Spaziale for your kitchen, office, restaurant or small coffee shop.
It also comes in plumbed and pour-over options that will suit a variety of user needs.
- Pre-Infusion Option - Saturates the coffee puck before full extraction to create better flavor.
- Dual Boiler - Keeps up with faster paces and prevents steam exhaustion.
- Stainless Steel Construction - Rust-resistant, shiny, aesthetically appealing and easy to keep clean.
- Touch Pad Group Temperature Control - Easy to adjust group temperature through the touch pad display. Facilitates better quality of the end product.
- Volumetric Dosing - The automated water volume mechanism during espresso extraction makes the process simple and delivers consistent quality.
La Spaziale S1 Dream
Learn More: La Spaziale S1 Dream Espresso Machine Review
The La Spaziale S1 Dream is an economical espresso machine designed to be used in home or professional settings such as coffee shops, restaurants and businesses that aren't coffee-centric.
Like the Vivaldi II, the S1 Dream comes in plumbed and pour-over configurations.
- Volumetric Dosing - Water volume for espresso extraction is regulated by the machine for easy operation and quality consistency.
- Dual Boiler - Extra power for your boiler system. Users can easily brew espresso and steam milk for back-to-back orders without exhausting the boilers.
- Programmable Passive Pre-Infusion Options - Pre-infusion for better flavor extraction is programmable (optional in the S1 Dream T, standard in the S1 Dream).
- Manual Semi-Automatic Button - Analog brewing option for quick adaptability when choosing extraction preferences.
- Built-in Clock with Programmable Timer - No additional clocks and timers necessary as they come built into the machine.
La Pavoni Bar T 2V
Learn More: La Pavoni Bar T 2V Espresso Machine Review
With its large copper boiler, this two-group espresso machine will hum along in medium to large coffee shops and restaurants.
La Pavoni is a well-established brand that industry professionals respect.
- Volumetric Dosing - Automatic design ready to fill drink orders fast.
- Direct Water Feed - Plumbed machine with automated water reservoir replenishing, which larger cafes need to keep up with demand.
- 14 Liter Copper Boiler - Large capacity for large numbers of espresso drinks so that your business can grow. The copper is also heat-efficient and antimicrobial.
- Independent Radiator Hydraulic System - Creates water circulation in the boiler to provide stable water temperature with no hot or cold pockets that could affect the espresso.
- Water Softener - Comes free with the machine to maintain the warranty. Prevents heavy scaling that can break the machine down over time.
La Pavoni Bar-Star
Learn More: La Pavoni Bar-Star Espresso Machine Review
The technologically innovative La Pavoni Bar-Star thrives in commercial operations. It comes in options of two to four groups for small to large coffee shops, restaurants and establishments with espresso on the menu.
The size of the machine's copper boiler is impressive and facilitates a larger number of drink orders per hour and per day.
- Programmable Dosing - Automated water volume functionality that the user can program. It's designed for anyone of any skill level to use for simple but high-quality espresso extraction.
- Multiple Brewing Options - Flexible with four cup size selections, continuous brewing and instant stop buttons for full control during espresso extraction.
- Large Copper Boiler - Antimicrobial and heat-efficient, this boiler allows baristas to make hundreds of drinks every day.
- Anti-Vacuum Valve - Prevents liquids from escaping into the steam wand to stop clogging issues and make cleaning easier.
- Thermal Stability - Thermal technology that keeps temperatures stable, which is crucial for good espresso.
- Pre-Infusion - Settles the coffee before extraction and ensures that improper tamping won't throw the flavor off.
- Energy-Saving Power Switch - Four-position power switch reduces energy usage by 33 percent while it's not being used.
Nuova Simonelli Oscar II
Learn More: Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Espresso Machine Review
Available in direct-connect and pour-over configurations, the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II is a great option for small cafes, restaurants, bars and offices as well as home kitchens.
- Programmable Dosing - With programmable dosing buttons, even beginners can excel at espresso production. Coffee shops also appreciate the ability to set the volume according to coffee profiles.
- Soft Infusion System - Gentle pre-infusion setting that won't disturb the coffee while it saturates it for even extraction.
- Reverse Mirror - All angles of the brew cycle are visually accessible to the user.
- Push Pull Steam - Makes for more a more comfortable experience all day on the machine as steaming can be triggered with a gentle push or pull of the mechanism.
Nuova Simonelli Talento
Learn More: Nuova Simonelli Talento Espresso Machine Review
The super-automatic Nuova Simonelli Talento is a thing of beauty. It's the most advanced system with fully automated beverage production from espresso extraction to milk steaming.
Large coffee shops, hotels, restaurants and coffee-focused businesses can excel in quality and customer service without needing to spend more than minutes of training time for new users.
The stunning Talento comes in 1-Step and 2-Step configurations as described below.
- Super-Automatic - Full-service automation for the user. With the 1-Step configuration, the user presses a button and the machine builds the beverage in the cup so that it's ready to drink. In the 2-Step configuration, the user manually fills a milk pitcher but can select from fine-tuned steaming options while the machine automatically steams.
- Advanced Menu - Incredibly user-friendly and programmable with up to 20 different beverage options.
- Automated Milk Steaming - Hands-free milk steaming that the machine intelligently performs when triggered by the user.
- Temperature Stability - Heating element inside the brew group provides state-of-the-art heat stability.
- Dual Hoppers and Grinders - The machine will dose and grind decaf and regular espresso (or two coffees of your choice). No other grinders needed.
- Multiple Drink Size Options - Adjustable spout that can be raised or lowered to accommodate any cup size.
Nuova Simonelli Prontobar
The Prontobar is Nuoa Simonelli's super-automatic model for medium-sized businesses.
Like the Talento, the Prontobar is sold in one-step and two-step configurations. Both offer seamless beverage production like the Talento.
- Super-Automatic - The 1-Step configuration creates the entire beverage from beginning to end when the beverage option is selection from the menu. The 2-Step configuration gives more manual control over the steaming process.
- LCD Display - Easy to navigate and programmable with six beverage keys.
- Automated Milk Steaming - Easier than ever milk steaming automated by the machine for hands-free operation.
- Temperature Stability - Metal thermo-compensated delivery group allows for greater quality control.
- Dual Hoppers and Grinders - Two hoppers and grinders included to cut down on the number of machines your setup requires.
- Energy Saving - On/off time setting and standby functions conserve energy.
Victoria Arduino White Eagle
There are few espresso machines that combine beauty and function like the Victoria Arduino White Eagle.
Made for fast-paced businesses serving customers on larger scales, the White Eagle is adapted for speed and user-friendliness and comes in two-group and three-group options.
- T3 Technology - Lets baristas set temperatures individually for each group head, providing greater accuracy and customization for different coffees. (Note: this tech is only available in the White Eagle T3).
- Volumetric Dosing - Automated dosing affords the speed and agility baristas need to keep up with a demanding pace.
- Manual Dosing - Gives baristas the option to pull shots at any volume on the fly.
- Soft Infusion System - Better espresso extraction via gentle pre-infusion that brings out all the nuances of the espresso.
- Raised Group Heads - Baristas can brew directly into any size beverage cup—a time-saving element.
- Cool Touch Wands - Easy to clean and won't burn baristas.
- Reverse Mirror - Perfect visual access to all angles of the brew cycle for quality management.
Victoria Arduino Black Eagle
The Victoria Arduino Black Eagle is the kind of machine that sets a new bar for excellence with its groundbreaking gravimetric system.
Like the White Eagle, the Black Eagle thrives in fast-paced environments and comes in two-group and three-group options.
- Gravimetric Technology - Engineered for extraction precision. The user can program dosing by weight while a built-in scale weighs every espresso, fine-tuning brewing and achieving an unrivaled level of consistency for automated machines.
- T3 Technology - Baristas can control the temperatures for the brew groups, water infusion and steam.
- Volumetric Dosing - Dosing is programmable for absolute consistency.
- Manual Dosing - Baristas can choose manual dosing for customized drink orders.
- Soft Infusion System - Creates well-defined espresso flavors via the low-pressure pre-infusion method.
- LED Screen - Offers the user all vital data in real time, including boiler and brew group temperatures, shot timing and espresso volume.
- Reverse Mirror - 360-degree monitoring of the brew process.
La Pavoni Bar L
Learn More: La Pavoni Bar L Espresso Machine Review
La Pavoni's Bar L is a highly functional commercial espresso machine for experts looking to hone their craft on a manual lever machine.
This model comes in two-group and three-group designs for medium to large specialty coffee shops and cafes.
- Manual Lever Operation - The entire extraction process is controlled by hand, leaving every aspect of production to the expert.
- Thermal Stability - Keeps water circulating through the groups for temperature stability and high-quality extraction.
- Anti-Vacuum Valve - Prevents liquids from clogging the steam wands.
- Power Saving Switch - The machine can operate with lower energy consumption during off-peak hours.
- Telescopic Handles - Easy repositioning or transport of the machine to a new location.