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A commercial espresso machine for a small coffee shop will feature 1-2 groups and a steaming wand in a compact size. It’s perfect for smaller businesses because it offers the ability to make espresso shots and other coffee drinks, but it’s not as expensive and won’t take up as much room as a large commercial espresso machine. They also come in a variety of designs, so you’re sure to find something that fits your shop’s aesthetic.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that while a compact espresso machine won’t have a large footprint, they don’t always produce the same volume that large machines are capable of. So, make sure you consider how many shots you pull during a typical business day and select a model that is up to the task. You may also have to give up some of the higher priced features common in big machines.
Keep reading this buying guide to learn more about selecting a commercial espresso machine that’s perfect for your small coffee shop. And if you offer more than espresso-based drinks, consider investing in the best coffee maker for drip coffee as well.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: This highly programmable machine makes scores of cups per day, making it a good choice for entertaining and coffee shops. It has a programmable system with custom dosing and features a backlit soft-touch control panel.
With the ability to make dozens of cups a day, the Nuova Simonelli Musica MMUSICALUX01 coffee maker is ideal for commercial use and entertaining. This coffee machine is compact, featuring a small footprint that fits in small coffee shops and office kitchens. Featuring automatic dosing with three different settings, this device is easy to operate, and it has an industrial-grade thermal compensated group and steaming system that provide reliable performance. However, this model can’t be connected directly to a water line
This coffee maker comes with high-quality portafilters for holding ground coffee. It has stainless steel construction that provides a premium appearance and supports easy cleaning. This espresso machine has a convenient pour over system that provides excellent extraction. It is fully programmable, allowing users to change the dosage and other parameters. This machine has a back-lit soft-touch panel for simple operation, and the controls can be adjusted for brightness as needed.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: This coffee machine has an integrated Burr conical grinder and features custom settings for the grinding size, dose, cup number, and more. This model also has a built-in self-cleaning cycle.
Inspired by the four keys formula, this Breville The Barista Express BES870BSXL coffee maker makes outstanding third-wave specialty coffee. It has an integrated grinder and an all-in-one system that converts coffee beans into espresso in under a minute. This Burr grinder has an advanced conical system that supports precise dose control and it has a grinding size dial, enabling users to control the texture of coffee. However, learning the functions and features of this machine may take time.
A low pressure pre-infusion system that gradually ramps up the pressure ensures optimum extraction, giving espresso a distinctive flavor. This coffee machine has a PID digital temperature controller that provides excellent heating for espresso. A manual steam wand enables precise texturing when making latte art. It boasts a premium portafilter and high-quality metal parts that stand up to daily use. This espresso machine has preset programs for single and double shot coffee, and a self-cleaning cycle offers simple maintenance.
Award: BEST CUSTOMIZATION OPTIONS
WHY WE LIKE IT: This grinder-equipped coffee maker allows precise customization, and offers presets of espresso, Americano, and hot water. It enables adjusting the grinding size, dose, cup count, and temperature.
The De’Longhi La Specialista Arte EC9155MB coffee maker has lots of dials, supporting precise customization. It comes with an integrated grinder with 8 different size settings, allowing users to brew coffee ranging from coarse to fine. A dosing dial enables making single and double dose espresso easily, while an active temperature controller with three different temperature settings ensures optimum coffee extraction. This device has a manual steam wand, enabling Baristas to make Latte art. However, this unit lacks a self-cleaning function.
This coffee system has detachable dishwasher-safe parts for simple maintenance. Featuring three flavor presets, this espresso maker makes espresso and Americano, and it also produces hot water for making tea or soups. A manual tamping system on this device ensures maximum coffee extraction without causing spills on the countertop. This unit has a stainless steel finish that offers visual appeal, and it comes with a number of accessories, including filters, stainless steel frothing jug, and cleaning needle.
Award: BEST FOR PODS
WHY WE LIKE IT: Compatible with both ESE pods and ground coffee, this machine is quite versatile, and it has a removable drip tray for easy cleanup and supports brewing into tall travel mugs.
This Coffe Gator 44-oz coffee maker provides an astounding 20 bars of pressure, making excellent espresso. It has a semi-automatic pump that’s easy to operate and uses a pressurized portafilter, letting Baristas control the coffee’s flavor. In addition to ground coffee, this system works with E.S.E espresso pods, making espresso without leaving any mess. A milk frother enables making latte, cappuccino, macchiato, and other beverages. However, this coffee system doesn’t come with a grinder.
A removable drip tray enables hassle-free cleanup. This model has an optimized spout for fast draining, while an auto-purge function cleans the steam and hot water system. This coffee maker is suitable for various single-serve cup sizes and removing the drip tray creates more space for tall travel mugs. The machine brews quite fast, finishing a cup in as few as 60 seconds. With a remarkably compact design, this machine easily fits in small kitchens
Award: BEST BUILD QUALITY
WHY WE LIKE IT: This unit features premium metal portafilter, brew group, and solenoid valve, offering enduring quality. A 1450W heating system boils water fast, and the device works with both ground coffee and ESE pods, providing flexibility.
Built for commercial use, the Gaggia Classic Pro RI9380/46 72-oz coffee maker features premium parts that stand up to daily operation. It has a rugged brushed stainless steel housing that provides durability. With a commercial three-way solenoid valve for reliable performance. This coffee machine has a 71-oz water tank that provides a reserve for fulfilling coffee shop orders. This machine has dual heating elements that heat water in minutes. However, this model offers little in terms of customization.
With an industrial-grade 58 mm chrome-plated brass portafilter and brew group, this espresso machine offers reliable performance. It has a manual steam wand that will come in handy when marking latte, cappuccino, and similar beverages. This coffee system has rocker switch controls that are easy to operate, and indicator lights alert users about the current settings. It comes with single and double shot baskets enabling simple customization, and this system works with both ground coffee and ESE pods.
Award: BEST GRINDING SYSTEM
WHY WE LIKE IT: This combo includes a high-quality coffee maker and advanced grinding machine, converting coffee beans to frothy beverages easily. This coffee machine has an industrial-grade steam wand and boasts a stainless steel drip tray.
The Rancilio Silvia M V6 coffee maker has a plug-and-play design that doesn’t require plumbing. This espresso machine has a chrome-plated brass brew group that ensures even heat and water distribution for consistent results. It also has a premium brass boiler and metal portafilter. Equipped with a heavy-duty 15-bar pump, this coffee maker produces outstanding full-favor coffee, and it has manual switches and LED indicators for simple operation. However, this model doesn’t have an auto shut off function.
This machine comes with a Rocky SS coffee grinding system that converts coffee beans to grounds. The grinder offers excellent control on the grinding size, allowing uses to make fine and coarse ground coffee with ease. A powerful steaming system enables making fine espresso. This coffee machine has a stainless steel drip tray that enables hassle-free cleanup, and a three-way solenoid pressure relief valve supports mess-free brewing. The machine features a commercial-grade steam wand for frothing.
The best commercial espresso machine for a small coffee shop will be compact but still include the features you need to produce the volume necessary when busy. They typically have 1-2 groups, making them smaller in size but still capable of handling more than one drink at a time, if needed.
They are often pour-over machines, or they come with direct connect capabilities. Some have both. This means you can still enjoy the consistency that comes with a direct water line connection without having to monitor the water level in a reservoir. For shops without access to plumbing, the water tank makes it easier to use and doesn’t require you to install another water line.
They also have steam arms, so you can make more than just a shot of espresso. You can steam milk at the right consistency for cappuccinos and lattes. Most small commercial espresso machines have a switch to push for steam rather than a knob that can strain your wrist over time.
Typically, commercial espresso machines are much larger than consumer espresso machines, but models meant for smaller coffee shops are more compact. They’re shorter in stature and have fewer groups. Normally, they only have one or two group heads, which is still capable of producing plenty of volume for a small shop, but won’t take up as much counter space. Then on your days off from the shop, if you want a machine that produces shop-quality espresso but is suited for personal use, there’s always the best dual boiler espresso machine.
Even with small commercial espresso machines, you’ll find some features that are common on large machines, as well. Several models come with features such as an LCD display, volumetric dosing, adjustable temperature controls, a burr grinder, a double boiler, and a pressure gauge.
Like larger commercial espresso machines, some of these compact machines have a dedicated water line, which means you don’t have to monitor a water reservoir. However, some may operate using a pour over method, which eliminates the need to tap into a direct water supply, which can cost quite a bit of money, but it also means the water reservoir must be monitored and refilled if needed.
Similar to a large commercial espresso machine, a small commercial coffee machine will still have certifications, like the one from the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). It’s important to ensure that the espresso machine is made for serving beverages in a restaurant, coffee house, or business.
When it comes to aesthetics, you’ll find that many commercial espresso machines for small businesses look a lot more like consumer models because of their size and construction. You can find them in different colors, like red or black, which aren’t as rugged or industrial looking as stainless steel varieties, but you can find a few of those as well.
Commercial espresso machines for small coffee shops draw their water from two different sources, depending on how they’re made. Some may connect directly to a water supply and pull water from there when needed. This is convenient, but can be expensive if you don’t have access to a water line. Others pull from a water reservoir built into the side, back, or top of the machine. This reservoir must be refilled manually when empty.
Most small commercial machines have a built-in filter to maintain purity and consistency in your water supply, which is important for making good espresso. However, a few don’t, which means you’re responsible for filtering or softening your water before putting it in the machine.
After the water is filtered, the machine creates at least 9 bars of pressure using a rotary or vibratory pump. Then the water is heated at between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Very few small commercial machines have PID controllers, but there are a few. This helps to control the temperature of the water more accurately. Other machines use an internal boiler or a dual boiler to heat the water.
Once the water is hot, it passes through the group head, which is responsible for bringing the water in contact with the compacted grounds in the puck. The extraction is then dispensed into the cup. While a saturated group head helps to prevent heat loss, most smaller commercial machines use a semi-saturated group head. Semi-saturated group heads are cheaper and easier to repair or replace.
The best commercial espresso machine for small coffee shops will also include a steam arm so you can make other beverages with your espresso. These arms are on the front or the side of the machine and texture the milk so you can make cappuccinos, lattes, and other espresso drinks.
These machines integrate many of the features of a larger commercial machine, but in a smaller package, so you can still serve up your espresso with pride, but not take up too much space.
Consistency in water source, pressure, and temperature are key for making the best tasting espresso, and commercial espresso machines can achieve this consistency much better than smaller, consumer models. However, if you’re looking for a commercial espresso machine for a small coffee shop, you may have to make some sacrifices in order to save space.
You also have many designs and operations from which you can choose. While fully automatic espresso machines will do nearly everything for you, like grinding fresh beans in their grinders and tamping them, a semi-automatic machine will do the same but still leave room for manual operations. The brewing process from one professional espresso machine to the next varies.
If you’re opening a small coffee shop or downsizing your business, you may want to consider a small commercial espresso machine option. They’re more affordable than large commercial machines, they take up less space, and they can still perform most of the same functions.
Is a Commercial Espresso Machine for a Small Coffee Shop Worth Buying?
A small commercial espresso machine is capable of lasting 5-8 years, and maybe longer. The exact amount of time your machine lasts is heavily influenced by maintenance, cleaning, brand, type, and complexity. Because they’re not meant for a lot of high volume, overuse can wear them out more quickly as well.
It’s important to wipe down and rinse your components after each use and deep clean the machine, especially a commercial coffee maker, at least once per week to prevent bacteria build-up and keep it in good working condition. DeLonghi makes some of the best commercial espresso machines, so be sure to read more about the best DeLonghi espresso machine.
If you’re looking for the best commercial espresso machine for your small coffee shop, there are plenty of factors to consider first. You need to think about what type of pump you want, how much volume you do, and whether or not you need a steaming wand.
The pump gives water the pressure it needs to move through the compacted coffee puck. There are two types of pumps. Rotary pumps use a motor to rotate a disc, which creates pressure as water moves through the chamber. It’s quiet, can offer consistent pressure, and will last a long time. However, it’s more expensive.
Most small espresso machines use a vibratory pump, which contains a piston attached to a magnet inside a metal coil. As electricity moves through the coil, the magnet moves the piston back and forth, pushing water through the machine. It doesn’t provide the consistent pressure that the rotary pump does, but it’s much cheaper. If that’s what you need instead, then check out our list of high-end portable espresso makers.
If you’re selling more than just espresso, you’ll want a steaming wand so your baristas can create additional drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. It’s a lot easier to operate a steaming wand attached to your espresso maker than it is to have a separate tool. It draws steam from inside the machine, which keeps it at just the right temperature to get the texture you need in your hot milk.
If you have a small coffee shop that doesn’t get very busy, you may be able to get by with just one group on your espresso machine. However, if your shop is small, but experiences a Saturday morning rush every week, you may be better off with two groups so you can handle the occasional increased volume. While you can’t justify a bigger machine, you may periodically need the flexibility to make more drinks at once.