The heart of the business.
Traditional Espresso Machine or Bean to Cup? The most taste and cost effective way to make coffee in a commercial setting (in our humble opinion) is by using a traditional espresso coffee machine. These require a barista to be hands-on with the coffee and coffee machine and allow for better quality and consistent coffee to be made. We understand that in some businesses a bean to cup machine may be a better option, but we'll cover those in another article
Electronic Espresso Machine or Lever Espresso Machine?
hese are two very different types of coffee machines but both make stunning, yet distinct tasting coffees. We'll cover the pros and cons of each shortly, but first, we will briefly cover the differences between the two types.
An electronic espresso machine uses an electric water pump to dispense pressurized water, these are usually a shorter and wider shape and have buttons along the front that are pressed to activate the pump so that espresso can be made.
A lever espresso machine uses a piston to force pressurized water through ground coffee, this piston is activated/recoiled by a lever, the lever must be manually pulled down then lifted by the barista themselves. These machines are usually a taller shape as the lever extends upwards from the front of the machine.
Pros of an electronic espresso machine.
Easier to use - once the portafilter is attached and the "make coffee" button is pressed, the barista can leave the machine to do the work itself (when properly dialled in of course) and begin to steam milk or extract another coffee at the same time.
More consistent - when functioning correctly, these machines will dispense water at both set temperature and stable pressure, this allows a more consistent coffee to be made.
More variables for the barista to tweak when dialling coffee in - an electronic coffee machine (machine-dependent) allows the barista to set the amount of water dispensed, water temperature and pre-infusion times, etc. Great when using different or seasonal coffees.
Pros of a lever espresso machine.
Firstly and quite importantly...they're super cool to watch a barista use. The manual action of pulling down then retracting the large lever on the front of the machine makes for great watching, alongside that, the pulsing extraction of the espresso is quite a sight to behold.
They're not as wide, pure and simple - these machines tend to be skinnier in comparison to an electronic machine, this can be handy in more confined coffee shops.
They have less expensive parts to go wrong - due to the manual nature of these machines, there are far fewer parts that malfunction sensors/circuit boards, etc.
Easier to strip down, service and repair - although we always recommend using professionals, these machines tend to be easier to repair and can be done so by most handy spanner yielding folk.
Cons of a lever espresso machine.
It's a bit of a graft! - pulling down then retracting the lever requires a bit of brawn and in a busy setting can become a bit tiring to say the least.
Consistency can be a bit of an issue - the espresso is extracted using the pressure of a coiled "spring", this offers slightly varying rates of extraction from time to time.
Fewer variables that can be adjusted when dialling in - on most lever espresso machines there is a set amount of water, extracted at a fixed pressure and temperature. This can be a little constricting when wanting to change coffees.
To conclude, we usually recommend purchasing electronic coffee machines. They're much less physical to use and allow for more consistent espressos. But don't let that put you off a lever espresso machine! They're cheaper, great fun to use and create truly unique and stunning espressos.
More to consider...
How Many Group-heads do I need?
What is a coffee machine group head?
A group-head is the part of the coffee machine where you attach the portafilter (the part holding the ground coffee), here there is a filter and pressurized water flows through the filter, then through the ground coffee and out the bottom flows an espresso.
Our most popular choice is a two-group machine. A coffee machine with two group heads allows two espressos to be made at once. This means that the barista can then steam the milk (if required) for each drink and pour them within a timescale short enough for both to be tasty and the correct temperature for their customers to enjoy.
Do I need a multiple boiler coffee machine or will a single boiler do?
What's the difference between single boiler and multiple boiler coffee machines? A single boiler uses one boiler to produce both the hot water for making coffee and the steam for texturing milk. This is done so by the use of a heat exchanger that is fitted within the boiler. Cold/freshwater passes through the heat exchanger to reach a certain temperature, it then flows along pipework before reaching the group head at the desired brew temperature.
Some machines use multiple boilers - by using multiple separate boilers, one for the steam to texture milk and one for the hot water to brew coffee this allows for more consistent steam pressure and stable brew temperatures. More advanced machines (the La Marzocco Strada EE for instance) uses separate boilers for each group head, but we'll cover that in another article.