Guide to Buying a Commercial Coffee Machine
Buying a coffee making machine for your business is an important decision. It makes sense to be careful. By reading this guide to buying a coffee machine, you are already doing more than most business owners.
If you search Google, there are hundreds of stories of businesses making the wrong purchase, only having to buy a brand new coffee machine one year later. The wrong coffee machine for your business can leave you with cold or bitter coffee, or a broken machine. And a broken machine is not cheap to fix.
On the contrary, a good machine that is cared for can last for years. It’s not uncommon for a coffee machine to produce excellent creamy, smooth coffee for a decade or more.
A reliable coffee machine will bring customers back to your café, restaurant or hotel over and over again. It will keep your employees happy, and it could save you thousands of pounds.
This is why we've worked for years to find the best commercial coffee machines for your business. After working with cafes, restaurants and hotels across the country, we have determined the main questions that you should be asking before you purchase a commercial coffee machine.
This guide will take you through the step by step process of choosing the perfect coffee machine for your business.
Questions You Should Answer Before Buying a Commercial Coffee Machine:
Before buying your commercial coffee machine, there are a few questions you should consider:
1) Will a trained barista serve your coffee?
2) What will the level of demand be?
3) Will there be peaks in demand (e.g. at lunchtime)?
5) Will you need to use specific types of coffee? (some coffee machines don't allow you to use certain beans, so it is important to ask about this before buying).
After answering these questions you need to work out how much money you have available to make an investment in a coffee machine.
Step 1: Decide on a Budget
The budget you have at your disposal will have a huge impact on the quality of the coffee machine that you choose for your business. Most machines cost anywhere between £3,600 and £11,000.
With coffee machines, what you pay for is what you get, usually. There are a few little tricks and decisions you can make to make sure you get the perfect machine at a lower cost, and some brands are better valued than others. I will list a few machines that are great value throughout this guide, but I cannot list all of them. Speaking to a professional will help you choose a great value machine for your business.
An important point to consider is that although lower priced machines may seem like the cheaper option, often they can cost you more in the long term. A £5000 or £6000 machine will almost definitely outlast a £3,000 machine and will produce better coffee along the way. Depending on your financial situation, an investment in a better machine could work out with you actually saving on costs. With some machines, you'll get better coffee and a greater return on your coffee machine investment.
Once you've worked out how much money you have available to buy a machine, write this down and keep it in mind. Keep in mind that some retailers and manufacturers will allow you to pay for your machine in monthly instalments, reducing the burden on your business now and allowing you to reap the rewards from the sale of your coffee as you pay.
After deciding on your budget you need to decide on whether you need a traditional or a bean to cup machine.
Step 2: Decide on Whether you Need a Traditional or a Bean to Cup Machine
The most important decision you will make on your coffee machine buying journey is whether to buy a traditional or a bean to cup machine. This will depend on whether you plan to have a trained barista serve your coffee.
If a trained barista will serve your coffee, you can opt for a traditional machine. Traditional machines produce by far the best-tasting coffee and are a must for any business where coffee is a central part of their operations.
If you won't have a professional barista, then a bean to cup machine should work for you. Bean to cup machines are easier to use and take less effort and skill to use. And they can produce excellent coffee - especially at higher prices.
You could, of course, be indulgent and have both machines. Again, this depends on the types of services you are offering. Some large organisations have the space and requirement for both types, such as large theatres and hotels, where there might be conference and meeting facilities.
After this, there are a few vital things to consider before purchasing your coffee machine.
Traditional Coffee Machines
If coffee is essential for your business and you can hire a trained barista to serve your coffee, traditional coffee machines are without a doubt your best choice: The quality of the coffee is better, they serve customers faster and they are easier to maintain than a bean to cup coffee machines.
By offering quality coffees to your customers, not only are you developing a reputation of a quality retailer / café / restaurant, but you also have the potential to have better sales and profits.
The technology of traditional coffee machines has not changed much in years. Traditional coffee machines provide a fast service, consistently great coffee, and won't prevent your business from using the highest quality beans when making drinks for customers.
Traditional commercial coffee machines are more complex than bean-to-cup machines. There are a few things that you must consider before buying a traditional coffee machine:
Make Sure to Choose the Right Traditional Machine
A traditional machine is a big purchase, but if you choose wisely you will own a great machine that will never let you down. A good traditional machine can bring enjoyment to even the greyest of days and will allow you to produce consistently great coffee. And, there is one key piece of information that will help you choose the perfect machine:
When looking to buy a traditional coffee machine, you need to look for temperature consistency. In short, consistent temperature = great coffee all day long. Temperature fluctuations by even a small amount, e.g. 0.5 degrees can ruin the taste of some great coffee blends.
The boiler and group heads control the machine's temperature and there are a few key ways to work out whether the coffee machine you purchase will be able to handle the volume of coffee it needs to produce.
(Tip: Some manufacturers hollow out groups to keep their manufacturing costs down. Be aware of the machine's specifications and compare products. It is far better to purchase machines with a greater mass that will provide consistently hot liquids. )
Q: How Much Coffee Will your Coffee Machine be Producing Per Day?
In order to work out which machines will stay at a consistent temperature and produce consistent coffee all day, you must work out how many cups of coffee you will make with your traditional machine. Even a rough estimate will do and if you are just starting out it will have to. If you've been in the business for a while, you can work out how many coffees your machine is producing per day.
If your coffee machine produces a high volume of coffee throughout the day (any business where coffee is central to its services), you will need to find a coffee machine containing a Proportional Integral Derivative (PID).
Step 3: Decide on Whether you Need a Proportional Integral Derivative (PID)
A Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) Controller is a small electric device that is used to help maintain the machines internal temperature.
Machines with a PID will provide consistency in temperature over a traditional thermostat and make the commercial coffee machine operate more efficiently, and this means that you will save money on energy costs over the long term.
A good machine that has an in-built PID is an Expobar G10 traditional coffee machine but upon request, you can have a PID installed in almost all traditional coffee machines.
Step 4: Decide on Whether You Need a Multi-Boiler Machine
A better alternative to a simple PID is a multi-boiler coffee machine. A multi-boiler machine has more than one boiler working to constantly keep all elements of the coffee machine working at their optimum temperature.
A great all-round multi-boiler machine is the Sanremo Verona RS. This multi-boiler traditional coffee machine is a great machine that consistently provides excellent tasting coffee, and it is built to last.
Step 5: Decide on the Number of Group Heads you Need
A ‘group’ in a coffee machine includes all the tools needed to make a cup of coffee. 2 group machines can make 2 coffees at a time whilst 3 group machines can make 3.
The group type you should choose will depend on the number of cups that you will make daily. A simple rule to follow is:
Number of cups per day
Type of machine required
Between 100 and 150 cups
2 Group Compact
Between 150 and 250 cups
2 Group Standard
Between 250 and 350 cups
Most traditional machines can be bought in any of the above group types. But the La Spaziale S2 and the La Spaziale S5 EK Espresso Machines are especially good as 2 group compact. Whilst the Sanremo Verona, and the Sanremo Zoe are great as 2 Group Standard machines.
Step 6: Decide on Whether you Want a Machine With Metal or Plastic Parts
Be aware of the materials used to make the components in the machine you are considering purchasing. Metal parts are more robust than plastic parts. Plastic may be cheaper in the short-term, but a loose metal nut/washer is easy to fix and not as likely to break compared to its plastic counterpart.
So, over a year or two, metal parts work out cheaper. This is especially true if downtime means lost business.
Step 7: Speak to an Expert
Now that you have read this guide, you know roughly what machine you want, and you have all of the information necessary to find the perfect coffee machine. If you would like more advice on the exact machine that would suit you best on your budget you have the choice of speaking to a professional adviser.
Our trained expert advisers are within reach 24 hours a day.
Speak to an expert adviser for more information and advice:
Bean to Cup Coffee Machines
If a barista won't be around to serve your coffee, then a bean-to-cup (super-automatic) coffee machine would serve you best. Bean-to-cup machines are useful for when you would like customers to serve themselves, or where there is limited waiter/waitress service.
Bean-to-cup machines are more accessible and require little skill. These types of commercial coffee machines can also provide organisational efficiencies. For example, when in meetings, users may be more relaxed about the time and effort required to make a drink.
On the other hand, Bean-to-cup machines limit the types of coffee you can offer, are slower to operate and require regular maintenance.
If you’ve decided that a bean to cup machine is the best bet for your business, there’s one more question you must answer before you can choose your perfect coffee machine:
Step 3: Decide on if you Need a Boiler Fed or Heating Block Machine
To find out if you need a boiler fed or heating block machine you must work out if your machine will be used heavily within a short period of time.
The answer to this question will help you decide whether to opt for a heating block or boiler fed machine.
Examples, where a coffee machine may see surges in demand, include cafes (during lunchtime hours), Hotel conferencing suits, or coffee machines in a busy office.
If you use it at high volume in a short period, then a boiler fed machine will better suit your needs.
On the other hand, if the coffee machine will produce a steady amount of coffee over the length of the day, you are free to choose a heating block bean-to-cup machine.
The boiler fed system consistently provides hot drinks. This mechanism stores and warms large quantities of water, so, unlike in heating block systems, any changes to demand will not cause the temperatures to drop.
Boiler fed machines are the best option for most businesses.
Boiler fed coffee machines do require a certificate demonstrating compliance to Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR), so businesses need to factor in those costs.
Heating block mechanisms work on the same principles as a standard shower in a bathroom. Water and milk flow through a coil heating system before being dispensed into the cup.
Heater Block machines work well if you are making drinks at a steady pace with low daily demand. This simple mechanism provides a quick and safe solution, but sharp peaks in demand may cause the coffee machine to make cold coffee. This is because the system is not able to heat large volumes of milk and water quickly.
Heater block machines just don't compare in quality and consistency to boiler fed machines. If your business deals with a particularly small number of customer per day, heating block machines might work for you.
Other Coffee Machine Buying Tips:
1) Professional Maintenance
A machine that is critical to your business needs will need some level of maintenance. A traditional coffee machine is not as easily replaceable as a standard kettle.
When negotiating with a machine supplier, find out whether or engineers are part of your package. A package including engineer coverage will be more expensive, but it will work in your favour in the long-term.
To make sure you don’t suffer any downtime and lose profit, we recommend servicing your machine between every six months and one year, depending on if you work in a hard-water or soft-water area.
The map below shows which areas in the UK use hard water, moderately hard water and hard water.
Those using hard water are more at risk of limescale build-up in their coffee machines. Limescale build-up will slow the water flow and eventually cause your machine to break down. Leaving you without a working coffee machine. So if you live in a hard water area, servicing your machine once every 6 months will make sure that you continue to run for years without any damage to your coffee machine.
2) Should you Purchase a Warranty?
There are arguments for and against purchasing a machine with a warranty.
Firstly, purchasing a machine with a warranty will cover your costs in the short term and prevent any significant losses.
However, in the long-term, it will end up costing more to purchase a warranty (on average). Buying a good commercial coffee machine, however, should prevent you from having to buy an extended warranty.
Whether or not you buy an extended warranty is up to you and depends on how risk averse you are. As stated above, however, if you buy a good machine and look after it well, you won’t have any issues.
3) Ask Questions
Be aware of claims of response times that a supplier is offering. Don’t be afraid to ask for copies of the terms and conditions and look for guarantees and any clauses that devolve the supplier of any responsibility to keep promises. Not everyone is as honest as we would hope.
There are accredited engineers, some you might find locally, and it’s worth making enquiries about costs. When a sales representative is encouraging you to purchase an engineers’ services, quiz him or her about which components are likely to fail and inventory levels held by the supplier and where.
Independently, find out about the purchase costs and lead times of those parts before agreeing on contracts.
You should have some contingencies in place should you be in the unfortunate situation of the coffee machine breakdown. Your budget and your risk management principles will drive your decision making. Most traditional coffee machines will be reliable.
You’ve Made the Right Decision
The growth in quality coffee consumption has proven to be recession-proof during the last ten years. This is hardly surprising, the smell of quality coffee is alluring, the tastes and varieties suit any pallet and generally make people feel positive. Plus, who can do without their morning coffee?
Coffee is one of the few products that holds it’s value, no matter what the financial weather. And by reading this guide, you have now assured that you are more knowledgable than many business owners were when they bought their commercial coffee machine. You can rest easy knowing that you will find the perfect coffee machine for your business.
If you're still not sure which coffee machine is right for you, browse some of the most reliable commercial coffee machines on the market here.
Quick Purchasing Guide
Going back to the original questions at the start of the article, here is a quick buying guide that might help you to decide which type of machine will work best for you:
Bean-to-cup – Heating System
Type of coffee: Instant
Demand levels: Low
Waiting time: Slow coffee making time
Trained barista Not required
Budget Low cost
Bean-to-cup – Boiler Fed
Type of coffee: Instant
Demand levels: Medium
Waiting time: Slow coffee making time
Trained barista Not required
Budget Low cost to purchase with maintenance costs and the requirement for an annual PSSR
Traditional Coffee Machine
Type of coffee: Quality coffee
Demand levels: Medium to high
Waiting time: A few seconds
Trained barista Required
Budget Medium cost to purchase with maintenance costs