Order Online -OR - Call


Order Online -OR - Call


Do You Really Need a Big Commercial Espresso Machine?

Do You Really Need a Big Commercial Espresso Machine?

On our website, TheCoffeeBrewers has "Espresso Machines," listed generally (see the left column), but we also carry many commercial espresso machines that are listed in our "Commercial Machines" category. While both sets of espresso machines will produce espresso of comparable quality, there is a difference between brewing espresso for personal vs. brewing espresso for consumer (i.e., restaurant, espresso bar, or coffee shop) use.

If you are looking for an espresso machine to use in a commercial food-service establishment, a home espresso machine will likely not meet your needs. (The exceptions are the Pasquini espresso machines, which are fully NSF-certified. These may work for you if your volumes are sufficiently small, such as in a boutique setting where espresso is not your main business.)

If you are a homeowner looking for an espresso machine for personal use, you should generally stick to the espresso machines in our general "Espresso Machines" section. The exception is that if you have a very large home, if money is not a determining factor, and if you want to have some fun and learn some barista techniques, you might want to get a commercial espresso machine just for fun.

Commercial espresso machines are very large and very expensive, will be connected directly to the building's plumbing, will (generally) require a floor-drain, and will need a 240 Volt circuit. If you can afford it and want one of these for your home, consider a FAEMA E61. This is a classic machine with lots of history behind it.

Otherwise, make sure that you ar aware of the following major differences between espresso machines made for home or office use, and commercial espresso machines.

NSF Certification

In a commercial establishment like a restaurant or bar, there are local health and safety standards that are mandated by the local licensing board (usually the local Board of Health). In most states and municipalities, commercial espresso machines used in restaurants are supposed to be "NSF Certified." NSF is the National Sanitation Foundation, and it was founded in 1944 for the purpose of establishing industrial sanitary and safety standards. The NSF inspects the factories and products made for commercial use, and certifies (or not) that the commercial espresso machine (and any other commercial kitchen equipment) is safe and sanitary.

In a restaurant, there are many people running back and forth, and perhaps many people using a single commercial espresso machine. Further, a commercial espresso machine may be installed and used for many years without having its wiring and plumbing periodically checked. To be NSF Certified, commercial espresso machines must be robust enough to "live" in such an environment for years of use without posing safety or health hazards. (For example, all parts of a commercial espresso machine should be grounded with a careful and reliable set of wiring and connectors, professional solder joints, etc.)

The Home, Office, and Restaurant Environments

The kind of robust quality needed for a commercial espresso machine is not required for a home espresso machine or office espresso machine. In the home or office, you usually do not have legions of people bustling past the espresso machine all day, as you would in a restaurant. In the home or office, there are typically one or two principle "operators" of an espresso machine, and they are generally not in a hurry (as they would be in a restaurant). On the contrary, the ritual of making espresso in an office is usually a ritual of relaxation. The process itself is a break from the rush of the business environment in an office. Espresso making in an office is unhurried; people will not "slam" the espresso machine to get dozens of drinks done pronto, as they might in a restaurant.

Therefore, most "Home & Office" espresso machines have plastic bodies that are built to provide a pleasing aesthetic look to fit into a home decor, but would probably not survive the relentless fury of Friday and Saturday night use in a restaurant. Commercial espresso machines have steel bodies, and this is for a reason. A steel bodied commercial espresso machine cannot be cracked, and it is easy to scrub down. If it is located in a professional kitchen, a commercial espresso machine may accumulate a film of grease from the air. If the body is stainless steel, it is easier to scrub this film off.

Electrically, commercial espresso machines are heavily grounded - for a reason. A commercial espresso machine may sit in one location for years without ever having its wiring checked. And shoddy wiring can easily corrode in a commercial kitchen where there is lots of water in the air and on countertops, floors, etc. Commercial espresso machines are typically large and heavy. They cannot be easily toppled by a waiter in a big rush.

Usage: How Much Espresso is Brewed?

Commercial espresso machines - the ones really made for use in restaurants, are built to produce hundreds of espresso drinks per day (including cappuccino and latte), and to run for years. Espresso machines built for home and office use are not built to the same standards. A home espresso machine doesn't need this super-robust level of quality. And unsurprisingly, this level of quality (for a commercial espresso machine) comes with a larger price tag.

Espresso machines in our "Home & Office" category will easily make dozens of drinks per day. This should be sufficient for home or office espresso brewing. If you have a small restaurant or bar, and your volume is a few dozen espresso drinks per day, you can get by with any of these "Home & Office" espresso machines, provided that your Board of Health does not require NSF certification.

Also, if you really do make 40-50 espresso drinks per day, you should expect any of the "Home & Office" espresso machines to wear out within a year or two. These espresso machines are designed to produce 10,000 to 40,000 drinks over their lifetime. (And this assumes that you take pains to maintain the espresso machine.) Expect to have to replace any of these espresso machines within a year or two if you use it in a commercial environment.

But if your volume is on the scale of 100 or more espresso drinks per day, you really cannot use an espresso machine built for "Home & Office" use. You really need to get an espresso machine that is built for this kind of volume. In a restaurant, a rugged, NSF certified commercial espresso machine should provide you with years of service making many espresso drinks all day, every day.


The reasons above are why the true "commercial espresso machines" are that much more expensive. They are higher quality and more robust than what is really needed for home espresso brewing. If you were a professional landscaper who was going to mow lawns all day, every day, you would buy a much different (and more expensive) lawnmower than the homeowner who is buying a lawnmower for use once a week. It is the same with commercial espresso machines.

If you run a restaurant, you need a commercial espresso machine built for restaurant use. If you are a homeowner or have a small office, you don't need this level of robustness in an espresso machine.

While commercial espresso machines are very expensive, keep in mind what they can do for your business. Here is a rough calculation to illustrate the point. Let's assume that you can sell a cup of espresso for $3, and that the coffee costs you $0.50. Your gross profit is then $2.50 per cup of espresso sold. If you sell 100 cups per day, this is $250 gross profit per day.

Say that you bought your commercial espresso machine for $5,000. Not only can you deduct the cost of the machine as a capital investment, but your gross profit from selling espresso will pay off the entire cost of the machine in:

$5,000 / $250 per day = 20 days

In other words, your business will have a $5,000 tax deduction, and your commercial espresso machine will pay for itself in the first three weeks of use (assuming that the numbers that I have used are approximately correct).

Brewing Goups and Frothing Wands

Commercial espresso machines can be ordered with multiple brewing "groups." A "group" is an independent brewer, having its own portafilter. If a commercial espresso machine has two or more groups, then multiple brews can be done simultaneously - sometimes even by multiple wait-staffers. Some commercial espresso machines have two frothing wands so that two people can be frothing milk for cappuccino simultaneously.

Electrical and Water Supply and Drains

Commercial espresso machines are usually built to run as 220 Volt appliances. The boilers run more efficiently at 220 Volts, and professional kitchens usually are wired to accommodate 220 Volt appliances, since many professional kitchen appliances (deep fryers, grills, etc.) are built this way. Some of our commercial espresso machines can be reconfigured to run at 110 Volts, so they can be used in places without 220 Volt outlets - like some bars or large home kitchens.

Also, commercial espresso machines are frequently connected directly to the building plumbing, so that the espresso machine's reservoir will fill automatically. (They can also be filled manually, if needed.) Connecting a commercial espresso machine to the building plumbing is not difficult, assuming that you can get access to the building water pipes. Most restaurants have a working relationship with a local electrician and a local plumber for doing routine things like this (wiring a 220 Volt outlet, and connecting water pipes).

Commercial espresso machines will also have a drain hose. Most municipalities require that this be run to a floor drain that is within a certain proximity of your espresso machine. Check with your local zoning board to see what the requirement is.

Water Conditioning and Periodic Maintenance

It is highly recommended that when you connect a commercial espresso machine to the building plumbing, you install a water softener in series with the machine. The water softener will remove minerals from the water. The worst enemy of any espresso machine is mineral deposits. Mineral deposits will scale-over the portafilter, and will start to clog the internal plumbing of any espresso machine - home, office, or commercial.

The reason that this is so important, is that as the internal plumbing of an espresso machine starts to accumulate mineral deposits, the flow becomes more constricted, which changes the effective pressure that reaches the group head for the espresso extraction. This means that over time, the espresso extraction parameters change, and the flavor of the espresso will be altered.

Therefore, for any espresso machine (home, office, or commercial) it is recommended that a water softener be used, or that distilled water be used (especially for home-brewing, where the espresso machine is not connected to the home plumbing), and that the machine be cleaned with a descaling cleaner periodically. Every espresso machine will come with instructions for cleaning it. Obviously, the more that an espresso machine is used, the more frequently it will need to be cleaned.

In a restaurant, if you want to enjoy years of hard use from your commercial espresso machine, periodic maintenance is essential. This is very analogous to how you would treat a car. If you want to get 200,000 miles or more out of your car, you would be careful to maintain a schedule of periodic oil changes, tunings, etc. If you did not maintain your car, you would not expect it to last that long. It is the same with a commercial espresso machine. For a long lifetime of use, you must keep it clean as per the manufacturer's instructions.

...written by your friends at The Coffee Brewers