Last Updated: 7/4/2019
The Best Commercial Espresso Machines
Top Rated Overall
Best Bang For Your Buck
LaPavoni Bar 3L
The Economical Option
LaPavoni Bar 3L
Espresso machines are not like home style models. They are high performance and require dedicated power and water lines. These are machines designed to keep a business running and pumping out the highest quality coffee at a rate that meets the traffic of any given coffee shop. When you’re choosing an espresso machine, don’t base your decisions off of how many drinks per day you hope to serve. Instead, you need to think about how many drinks you serve during your busiest rush of the day. The more you demand from your machine, the higher you budget will need to be.
While it may feel intimidating at first, underinvesting on an espresso machine can have devastating consequences to your business. To avoid overheating, underperforming, and short life spans, it’s crucial to pick an espresso machine that can keep up with your demand. Do you want the most user friendly machine for a high number of employees? You might want to consider an automatic. Do you want top quality espresso and more control for experienced baristas? Semi automatic or volumetric is the way to go. These questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to commercial espresso machines. We’ve done a comprehensive review of some of the best machines out there to help you narrow down what your coffee shop needs.
Designed for commercial rather than household use
The main difference between commercial and consumer espresso machines is that commercial models are designed for brewing hundreds of cups of top quality coffee a day, as you would in a commercial setting such as a coffee shop. Consumer models are designed to bring the cafe espresso style coffee to the comfort of your own home, and require downgrades in size and sophistication in order to do so. Commercial espresso machines are not good for beginners, for multiple reasons. The first reason is that commercial espresso machines all require some expertise. As high performance machines, they don’t take shortcuts in order to make them more user friendly. While there are plenty of features that can help make a barista’s job a little easier, the average consumer won’t be able to work a commercial espresso machine without a solid foundation of knowledge. They are also significantly larger - often 3 times the size - of a consumer model. This is because they need to pump out a lot more coffee, and therefore generally include 2-4 group heads rather than just one.
Sophisticated Internal Systems
Since these machines often serve as the foundation of a business, they need to in top performing condition. Commercial models involve more sophisticated pressure/valve/plumbing systems. In fact, unlike consumer machines that can simply be plugged into an electrical outlet, commercial models need to be physically plumbed in. They run on much larger boilers and include sophisticated pressure/temperature systems like OPVs (Over Pressure Valves) and PIDs (Proportional-Integral-Derivative). Some consumer models might contain smaller or simplified versions of these, but will likely come with a higher price tag as a result.
High End Materials
To accompany their sophisticated internal systems, commercial espresso machines are also made with high end materials. Copper pipes, braided steel tubing, chrome plated groups and stainless steel tamps are just some examples of the common materials in a commercial grade espresso machine. These materials are required for the longevity of such sophisticated machines, and they also help justify the price.
It goes without saying commercial espresso machines are drastically more expensive than consumer models. Their price tag alone usually puts them out of consideration for most consumers. It would be a bit like buying a top of the line limousine to drive as your daily commuter - a lot of money spent on a lot of unnecessary overkill. A commercial espresso machine is typically a business investment. You’ll pay a lot up front, but the machine you get will be designed to pump out hundreds of coffees a day for years to come.
Nuova Simonelli Auralia II
Best All Around
Why We Love It
It’s packed with ingenious features and operates superbly.
Who Should Buy This
Owners of busy, high traffic cafes that want efficiency, quality, and happy baristas.
Nuova Simoneli is one of the most popular models on the market. Versions of this machine are commonly used in high traffic coffee shops, and the Auralia II specifically was used in both 2012 and 2014 as the official machine of the World Barista Championship.This model comes with 2, 3 or 4 groupheads. It’s volumetric, but does offer a semi automatic overdrive feature and can pump out 300 drinks a day. It has a soft infusion system, which means the pressured water swirls around in a chamber rather than directly hitting the tamp.
The soft infusion is so effective that you can actually pull a successful shot without tamping the grinds (we still recommend tamping, but this certainly reflects how cool this feature is). It also boasts a cool touch steam wand as well as a PID which gives the boiler a constant, stable temperature. Compared to the beloved Auralia I there aren’t a ton of differences. Internally, some minor changes have been made to help reduce limescale buildup, etc. Externally, the Auralia II has some new light features behind the groupheads and another for the milk pitcher.
These light features are extremely handy for eliminating guesswork in the often dark lighting of coffee shops. The groupheads are also a little more centered than the previous model. Finally, there is a mirror feature at the back of the drip tray which allows baristas to view espresso shots as they’re being pulled without having to bend down and tilt their heads up at the portafilter. It’s these little features that reflect such a deep attention to detail and craftsmanship in the Nuova SImoneli Auralia II.
Best Bang for your Buck
Why We Love It
It has a stunning unique design and a rather outstanding performance for its price.
Who Should Buy This
Those who want the closest thing to a budget commercial espresso machine that can still run a small coffee shop.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Microcasa Semiautomatica is its’s design. I has an eye catching, artisanal look to it that we can’t help but love. It’s the kind of machine that “look at us! We’re a funk little cafe and we love good coffee!” The Microcasa is a semi automatic, heat exchange design. It is not ideal for very high traffic cafes, since it only has one grouphead and steam wand.
Unless you plan on adding a couple to your arsenal, this machine is best for slower coffee shops. In terms of performance, we were quite surprised with the Microcasa. The steam wand and group head are both pretty forgiving, so that even novice baristas are able to make a good, creamy microfoam and pull superior espresso shots. The temperature stability was also a pleasant surprise, and we found it was able to brew excellent drinks with little down time.
One notable drawback is the particularly shallow drip tray which can be quite a nuisance. The angle of steam wand we also found to be a bit awkward, but certainly something you can get used to. Overall, the Microcasa is somewhat surprisingly adept espresso machine given its price range, and while it doesn’t have the capacity for a high traffic shop, its fine coffee and awe inspiring craftsmanship is undoubtedly worth a second glance.
La Pavoni Bar 3L
The Best Experience
Why We Love It
It offers an unbeatable hands on, full control experience for baristas.
Who Should Buy This
Specialty coffee shops with highly experienced baristas.
La Pavoni has a huge selection of lever espresso machines that come in single, double and triple grouphead designs. Anyone who’s encountered a La Pavoni will know just how fickle yet satisfying this style of espresso machine can be. Lever machines rely on your arm rather than a pump to supply pressure. It’s where the phrase “pulling a shot” comes from, since you are literally physically pulling the espresso with this machine.
The advantage of this is that you eliminate the possibility of steam pressure burning the coffee. The downside is that shots can be very inconsistent, and are unforgiving on every level. This is a machine that requires perfection at every step, from the water filtration to the grind consistency. If you don’t have a top tier grinder, it’s not worth even turning this machine on. However, for highly experienced baristas, lever machines are a hard experience to top, and when done properly, they are capable of pulling the best espresso shots you’ve ever had.
We’ve only tested the individual machines ourselves, so there is some mystery as to how the 2 and 3 grouphead models like the Bar 3L function in comparison. The steam wands and drip trays are a little subpar in the single models, but the 2L and 3L appear to have improved this. This is a great espresso machine for specialty, artisanal kinds of coffee shops.
La Pavoni Bar-T 2V-B
Why We Love It
Fantastic performance for an automatic machine.
Who Should Buy This
If you want high performance from a more user friendly machine.
Our runner up another La Pavoni, the Bar-T 2V-B. This model has two steam wands, a hot water tap, 2 groupheads, and a sizeable top warmer. It has an automatic electric pump, so that means there is less overall control from the barista’s perspective. Usually automatics are less preferable in a commercial setting because of this, but the auto performance on this machine is superb. It has a fast output and pulls excellent shots. The automatic feature is also great for coffee shops who might be inclined to hire less experienced baristas since it will be more forgiving.
It is a quality machine built with chrome plated press forged brass groups, a transversal heat exchange system, double scale gage pump and front injectors on each group. It also has an anti vacuum valve on each steam wand to prevent milk backwash, and to prevent the cylinder from collapsing under pressure. The machine also comes with a water softener, which would be nice were it not for the fact that the warranty is dependent on the installation of this feature. It is also limited to a 2 grouphead model, so it may not be ideal for especially high traffic cafes. Overall this is a fantastic automatic espresso machine.
Which commercial espresso machine is Right for Me?
Now that we’ve broken down our top product choices, let’s translate that into which espresso machine is best for you. Commercial espresso machines are a significant investment, and it’s very important to invest in a machine that will meet your needs and keep up with the traffic at your business. We tried to make a list that reflects the diversity of needs for various coffee shops, so take a look and see which one sounds the most like you!
For those who want the best of the best: Nuova Simonelli Auralia II
The Nuova Simonelli Auralia has proven itself over time to be one of the top performing espresso machines in almost any commercial setting. From its powerful internal functions to its detail oriented design and ingenious features, the Auralia II is hands down one of the best espresso machines on the market. It’s not only top quality, but also really versatile. This powerful machine can keep up with the busiest rushes in any high volume cafe, and is guaranteed to keep both novice and experienced baristas happy.
For those who want the most out of their dollar: Microcasa Semiautomatica
The Microcasa Semiautomatica is not a machine designed for especially high traffic coffee shops, but it is a rare gem in that it can produce commercial grade espresso at a fraction of the cost of most genuinely commercial grade espresso machines. Given the functional requirements of a commercial machine, its impressive that the Microcasa can sit at this price range. It helps that this is a great looking espresso machine that can single handedly give your coffee shop an artisanal feel to it. Between its impressive performance and classy appearance, the Microcasa Semiautomatica will give you the most out of every dollar.
For the best espresso making experience: La Pavoni Bar 3L
Lever espresso machines are not for the faint of heart. While they are capable of producing exceptional espresso, these machines are reserved for only the most experienced baristas. The La Pavoni Bar 3L is a fantastic choice for high traffic coffee shops that wants to give their customers the most artisanal coffee experience possible. This machine will require patience and skill, but is unbeatable for those seeking full control over their espresso drinks.
For user friendly high performance: La Pavoni Bar-T 2V-B
Contrary to the Bar 3L model, this La Pavoni is the most forgiving espresso machine on the list. It is the only fully automatic espresso machine, but that doesn’t make it a poor performer. We were actually incredibly impressed with the performance of this machine, making it ideal for smaller cafes with baristas in a range of experience levels. This machine is easy to use, produces great coffee, and is actually in a pretty affordable range for its quality.
The Best Commercial Espresso Machine
Last Updated: 7/4/2019The Best Commercial Espresso MachinesNuova SimonelliTop Rated OverallMicrocasa SemiautomaticaBest Bang For Your Buck