A commercial espresso machine is the centerpiece of any coffee shop or coffee truck. They’re also helpful to have in bars and restaurants, allowing you to offer your customers café-quality espresso beverages.
Most espresso machines don’t come cheap, though, so it’s important to make sure you’re buying the right one for your anticipated volume. In this buying guide, we’ll review 11 professional espresso makers at a variety of price points, as well as providing some pointers for how to choose the right one.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is a compact and durable one-group espresso machine, making it a great option for a coffee truck or restaurant. It uses a semi-automatic operation with a commercial portafilter that has interchangeable single-shot and double-shot baskets.
The time to heat on the Gaggia Classic Pro is relatively quick. You’ll be at brewing temp in about 5 minutes, and the steam wand is ready to go within 30 seconds of turning it on. Improved pumps and a 3-way solenoid valve provide the perfect pressure on the grounds, giving even extraction and a rich crema.
Home users will enjoy the pressurized basket included for the portafilter, which makes it easier to produce good shots if you’re not a trained barista.
We also like the steam wand operation on the Gaggia Classic Pro. Its rotating movement gives you more control while steaming and the texture of the microfoam is on-point, absolutely suitable for professional latte art.
The group head on the Rancilio Silvia is commercial-grade, as is the build of the housing, which uses stainless steel panels over an iron frame for maximum durability. Manufactured in Italy, the birthplace of espresso, it’s an ideal way to brew perfect shots every time.
The chrome-plated brass boiler on the Rancilio Silvia has a 12-ounce capacity, far more than most home espresso machines. That means a low shot recovery time and a high steaming power.
We appreciate the stable heat on the group head, which pulls consistent and evenly-extracted shots. The 58mm portafilter includes both 1- and 2-shot baskets and has a comfortable, ergonomic handle.
What makes this Rancilio Silvia our premium pick is the steam wand operation. Along with a full articulated range of motion, you’ll get a knob to control the steam power. That precision is key for finely-textured microfoam and allows you to make drinks that are truly café-quality.
You can’t find many brew temperature at a low price, but this is a great exception. It’s still heavy-duty, too, using the same stainless steel construction as pricier models. The efficient boiler and heating element maintain proper temperature, with an integrated warming tray for pre-heating your demitasse.
The baskets included with the portafilter include both a double-spout and a bottomless option, so you have full control over how your shot pours. For non-experts, the double-spout filter includes a sieve that makes it more forgiving of imperfect tamps or grind. It doesn’t sacrifice steam power on the wand, either, and the swivel movement lets you adjust it to your comfort.
The Capresso EC Pro is one of the lightest espresso machines you’ll find, too. At 6 pounds, it’s no heavier than most drip machines, and it’s sized to fit even in tight spaces.
It’s the ideal machine for making barista-quality lattes and cappuccinos while still fitting into both your kitchen and your budget.
The Italian styling of the Bezzera BZ10 is the first thing you’ll notice. It has the look of a commercial espresso machine, with professional touches like a visible pressure gauge and an adjustable hot water dispenser.
The Bezzera BZ10 isn’t just about looks, either. Every aspect of its design meets the high standards of Italian coffee makers. Its most impressive feature is the boiler, which has a large enough capacity you can steam at the same time you pull shots, cutting your drink preparation time in half.
It also lowers the post-pull recovery time down to 40 seconds. In addition, it has a larger reservoir so you won’t have to stop as often to refill it between drinks.
Thermostat control in the group head keeps the heat stable throughout the extraction process. The included double-spouted portafilter has both 1- and 2-shot baskets, along with a backflush blind for cleaning. Overall, the Bezzera BZ10 is small but mighty, capable of the same excellent performance as larger multi-group commercial espresso machines.
The dual boilers and pumps on the Breville BES920XL provide separate pressure to the steam wand and group head, so you’ll never have to worry about your shot quality suffering if you steam at the same time. The over-pressure valve provides back-up protection against over-pressure during extraction.
We’re also impressed by the high-tech features of the Breville BES920XL. The pressure gauge is manual, but other important info like the shot timing and brew temperature is displayed on the backlit LCD screen.
There’s also an auto-tamper to help ensure shot consistency. You also have more control over the operation of this espresso machine, with programmable brew temperature and pre-infusion length and pressure.
Other handy features of the Breville BES920XL include an automatic descaling function for cleaning and a dedicated hot water spout. You’ll get great microfoam from the steam wand, too, with a lever on the side for controlling the steam power.
Coffee geeks know the name Nuova Simonelli. With the Oscar II, you’ll get a sleek, modern 1-group semi-automatic espresso machine with the professional performance to satisfy even the pickiest coffee snob. This starts with the lever-activated adjustable steam wand and scratch-resistant ABS housing, which give it a professional look.
The heat exchanger line in the Oscar II passively recirculates from the boiler. This eliminates the shot recovery time that plagues most 1-group machines, allowing you to brew continuously with minimal delay.
As to the group-head, the 3-way solenoid valve controls the pressure well, and the well-built boiler does a great job of maintaining the proper brew temperature.
You’ll find other features on the Nuovo Simonelli Oscar II that make it suitable for a professional setting. You can set up a drainage line from the drip tray, for example, and the water reservoir is large enough for commercial use. While it’s a bit bigger and heavier than other options, it makes great use of that space.
The integrated burr grinder on the Breville The Barista espresso maker puts everything you need to pour a perfect shot into one convenient device. Experienced baristas will appreciate the control over the dosing and grind level. It also comes with an integrated tamper, which can be removed for hand-tamping if you prefer.
The choice of automatic or semi-automatic operation on the Breville The Barista is helpful in both home and commercial contexts. Trained baristas get full control over their pouring and steaming. For those with less experience, you can program the shot timing and volume, letting you make delicious drinks even if you’re not an expert.
Both the pressure and the temperature are precision-controlled through the Breville The Barista. Its thermocoil heating system ensures optimal extraction temperature, and it uses a variable pressure system that’s lower during pre-infusion but still a full 9 bars when you’re pulling the shot. The result is flavorful espresso with beautiful, creamy crema.
A 1-group espresso maker is fine for home use, and can even work well in many restaurants and bars, but if you’re a dedicated café you need at least 2 groups. The Venezia II has the boiler strength to produce 480 drinks per day and is ideal for a mid-sized coffee shop, with the power to use both groups and both steam wands at the same time.
The Venezia II includes both manual and automatic modes, with an independent control panel for each group that includes a built-in shot timer. Easily visible gauges indicate the pump and boiler pressure, while the precision heating element quickly brings the water to optimal brewing temperature.
Other helpful features include dual adjustable steam wands with independent control knobs and a hot water dispenser for easy Americanos.
Keep in mind this is a true commercial machine and won’t work well in a home. There’s no reservoir, first of all, instead designed to be plumbed into your water line. It’s also quite heavy and bulky compared to most of the espresso makers on this list. That said, its rugged build and high boiler capacity are ideal for coffee professionals.
The Quick Mill Anita EVO is a great choice for coffee trucks and other commercial venues that need professional operation in a tight space. Its stainless steel housing is both compact and rugged with easy access to the reservoir and boiler drain.
Professional features include the heat-exchanger for simultaneous steaming and shot pulling, as well as thermo-circulation to maintain consistent water temperature.
The Quick Mill Anita EVO was designed for use in tight spaces. We love the no-burn steam wand and hot water dispenser, which are built to stay out of your way when you’re making drinks. It also comes with two 58mm portafilters, one for single shots and one for doubles, and the group head has a semi-automatic lever operation.
The safety features on the Anita EVO are intelligently designed, too. It has built-in protection against thermal overload but won’t cut power to the pump if it’s triggered so you won’t lose pressure in the middle of pouring a shot. You can also use the top of the machine to store and warm cups, saving even more space in your work area.
Here’s another 2-group option for coffee shops. La Pavoni espresso makers are designed to be seen. The eye-catching design of the Bar-Star 2V-R will stand out in your café, and the shots you’ll pull from it live up to that aesthetic.
The two groups on the La Pavoni Bar-Star are made of chrome-plated brass. Each uses its own independent hydraulic water circulation system, with transversal heat exchangers for stable temperature control.
Microprocessor control lets you program the dosing and temperature through a digital control pad. It includes multiple portafilter options, too, including a low-profile option for brewing straight into a mug.
The La Pavoni Bar-Star is designed to be plumbed into your water line and comes with an installation kit, as well as a water softener to minimize scaling and build-up. With this espresso machine you’ll get everything a café needs, such as two telescopic steam wands and a warming tray atop the machine.
The 4-position power switch is nice, too, cutting down on power drain in off-hours without wasting as much time warming up the boiler in the morning.
Another excellent choice from La Pavoni is their 2-group Bar-T 2V-R. It uses the same press-forged brass groups as the Bar-Star above, with independent heat exchanges, hydraulic water circulation, and a vertical infusion chamber for unlocking the full flavor of the beans. The visual design is a bit more traditional, here, but it’s still a beautiful machine, well-designed to meet the needs of a busy coffee shop.
Two baristas can use the La Pavoni Bar-T simultaneously thanks to the separate solenoids. The auto-filling boiler is ideal for a café, meaning you’ll never have to stop making drinks to refill the machine. Its large capacity can handle the high volume of a busy café in the morning.
Safety features include an easily visible pressure gauge and a thermostat with manual reset. It also comes with a water softener system and a stainless steel line for plumbing it into your water line.
The La Pavoni Bar-T is the best 2-group commercial espresso machine for high-volume cafes. It can pour more than 100 shots every hour, cutting down on wait time for your customers. The consistent pressure and temperature ensure every one of those shots has the same fantastic taste and full crema, and you’ll love how easy it is to get steamed milk to the perfect microfoam texture.
There is a lot of specific terminology associated with espresso machines. If you’re not a coffee expert, it can get a bit confusing. Before we get into the buying guide details, let’s take a moment to go through the lingo.
First, there are multiple types of espresso machines. The two you’ll see here are semi-automatic and fully-automatic, which tend to be the best options for commercial settings. In both cases, a pump is used to create the pressure, rather than the hand-operated lever found on manual machines.
The main difference between them is how the shot is timed. On a semi-automatic, the barista manually starts and stops the pour, controlling the water dosage. On a fully-automatic, the water dosage is programmed. The barista simply pushes a button, and the machine does the rest.
There are also specific names for individual parts of an espresso machine that you should know:
Now that you know the terminology, let’s talk about how an espresso machine works. The basic concept is to extract the flavor from the coffee using hot water (195°-205°F) at 9 bars of pressure.
Once you turn on the machine, the boiler starts heating the water. Smaller machines have reservoirs for the water which must be periodically filled. Larger models are usually plumbed into the waterline and may include a water filtration system to eliminate contaminants.
Boilers take a little while to heat up. The higher the voltage, the quicker this will happen. You can choose to leave your machine on all the time if you don’t want to wait for it to heat every day, though it will increase the wear and tear on the machine to keep it under pressure all the time.
The gauges on the front of an espresso machine show the pressure in both the boiler and the groups. This tells you when the machine is ready to steam milk and pull shots.
When you pour a shot, the portafilter filled with tamped grounds is locked into the group head. On a semi-automatic machine, the barista is responsible for starting and stopping the flow. On a fully-automatic machine, the flow will stop automatically after a predetermined dosage has been reached. Most automatic machines also include a manual override if you need to stop the shot early.
Most professional espresso machines use a valve to activate the steam wand, which allows you to adjust the amount of steam that’s released. Others simply have an on/off switch that releases a pre-determined steam volume once activated.
The main question you have to answer is what volume you expect. If you’ll be making more than 30 drinks per hour, you should get a 220V machine with a boiler capacity of 7 liters or higher.
For high-volume shops a 2-group machine is a must, allowing you to make upwards of 100 drinks per hour. A smaller 120V machine will likely suffice in a restaurant or bar, but keep in mind you’ll need to let it recover between drinks, and may not be able to steam milk and pour shots at the same time.
Consider the training level of your staff, as well. In a café with trained baristas, a semi-automatic machine offers more control and allows for better drinks. If it will mostly be used by servers or bartenders, though, an automatic machine will provide more consistency.
The first step is to turn on and prime your machine. If there’s a reservoir, fill it to the water line before you turn the machine on. Next, turn on the power and wait for it to heat up. Most 1-group machines will heat in 15-20 minutes. Larger machines may need up to 45 minutes to fully heat. The exact time should be listed in your machine’s repair manual.
While your machine is heating, you can set up the portafilter. Insert the spring, then press the basket into the portafilter until it clicks into place. Once this is done, insert the portafilter into the group head and turn it to the right to lock it in place.
Leave the portafilter on the machine when you’re not using it so it can stay hot. A cold portafilter will lower the extraction temperature. Run hot water from the machine through the portafilter before using it to remove any lingering cleaning products or old coffee.
To pour a shot, start by grinding 18-21 grams of coffee on a fine or “espresso” setting. Most espresso grinders allow for micro-adjustments so you can fine-tune how the shot pours. Distribute the grounds evenly, then place the portafilter on the edge of the counter and tamp it down using about 30 pounds of pressure. Your arm should be parallel to the portafilter to ensure an even tamp.
Lock the tamped portafilter into place on the group head and begin the brew. The extraction process should take between 22 and 30 seconds. If it’s outside these boundaries, you either need to adjust your grind size or your tamp.
To steam milk for a latte or cappuccino, pour the exact amount of milk you need into a steaming pitcher and insert the tip of the steam wand into it before turning the steam wand on. Activate the steam wand and tilt the pitcher at roughly a 45° angle, moving the pitcher down as the milk expands to keep the tip of the steam wand right on the surface. Steam until the milk is 140°-160°F, then turn off the steam wand and remove the pitcher.
After each use, wipe off the steam wand with a damp cloth and send a burst of steam through it to flush out any milk particles inside. This prevents potentially harmful build-up on and in the wand.