If you are an avid coffee drinker and casually sitting in your office, chances are you thought about buying a commercial espresso machine. It truly is a thing of splendor for those of us who need our favorite pick me up.
But not just any coffee will do, no, we need that strong espresso to get the job done.Or cappuccino if you prefer.
But the quality and that beautiful aroma of your espresso rely on more than simply well-roasted beans.
If you want to give your coffee shop patrons top of the line quality, you also need to have good equipment. And no regular coffee maker will do, this is where buying an espresso machine comes into play.
And nowadays, picking up a good quality commercial espresso machine doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.So to help you make the best decision for your coffee shop, I have rounded up five of the best espresso machines on the market geared toward both commercial and home users.
So, grab your cup, fill it to the brim with that dark liquid, kick back and have a read as I review the top 5 espresso machines for 2017.
1. DeLonghi ECAM28465M Prima Donna – $2,998.95
At the touch of a button, you are on your way to brewing a quality shot of espresso, delicious cappuccino, or just some hot milk. Adjustable temperature and water hardness options further help to make that drink perfect and to preference.
Once you find the sweet spot on this machine, saving your settings are easy as the press of a button.
The PrimaDonna is all about precision and getting the most out of your grinds. For this reason, you will find that you will probably only need to empty the grounds container after about 14 drinks.
And the water reservoir to brew all those drinks is fairly spacious as well, coming in at 2 liters. This reservoir is removable and comes with a water level indicator to let you know when it needs to be refilled.
The PrimaDonna comes with a very nice grinder and it’s actually really silent. To make things that much more customizable, there are 13 different grinder settings to choose from.
The bean hopper is a nice size for such a compact machine and can hold up to 5.3 ounces of beans.
Overall, this machine is rather impressive for something a bit sleeker than the rest on the market at this level. It’s easy to use and brews a perfect shot of espresso or cup of cappuccino every time.
- 17.4″ x 9.4″ x 13.6″
- 35 lbs.
- 2 boilers
- Auto shut-off and switch-on
- Removable water reservoir
- Water filter
- Cleaning warning
- Energy saving function
- Stand-by mode
2. Breville BES980XL Oracle – $1,999.95
If auto grinding, doses and tamping is something you need, there aren’t many machines that do it better than this one right here. The conical burr grinder can handle up to 22 grams for a double shot.
And the automatic micro foaming steam wand adds that extra level of user friendliness while it textures your smooth latte or creamy cappuccino to perfection. But what really sets the Oracle apart from other machines is the PID temperature control.
The dual stainless steel boilers and heated group head are regulated through a digital temperature control function that is on spot and limits pressure throughout the extraction process. This helps prevent your shots from that dreadful bitter flavor.
You simply cannot go wrong with a Breville machine and the Oracle is their latest and greatest.
- 16″ x 15″ x 18″
- 35 lbs.
- Auto grind, dose and tamp features
- Auto micro foam
- PID temperature control
- Self-clean boiler
3. Nuova Simonelli Oscar II – $1,989.00
Nuova Simonelli machines are always a thing of beauty. I have to say that the Oscar II is by far my favorite. It is suitable for small to medium sized cafes or just for home use for the espresso aficionado on a budget.
This compact machine comes with a stainless steel and ABS body that can hold up to constant use. The multiple programmable features, such as temperature control and a timer, allow you to brew with consistent quality.
These features are nothing new to most the machines on this list, but they can surely save you time while taking multiple orders from your customers. What’s even simpler is the direct to machine water system the Oscar II offers, eliminating the need to worry about filling up that water reservoir.
The steaming wand is one of the best features on the Oscar II. It is fast and performs extremely well in the frothing department.
If you are upgrading from the original Oscar, you will probably notice like many other users have, the steam wand on the Oscar II is just a bit longer.
If you are on a budget but need a high quality, high productivity, compact espresso machine you may find what you are looking for in the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II.
- 12″ x 16″ 16″
- 39 lbs.
- Temperature control
- Direct to machine water system
- Ergonomically designed
- Autosteam wand
4. Gaggia 1003380 Accademia – $1,599.00
The Gaggia Academia is a super automatic espresso machine that can pump out a whopping 60 cups a day. Best of all, it is extremely user-friendly and intuitive, making it the perfect fit for the amateur barista but powerful enough for the small coffee shop owner.
It comes with 7 preset beverage settings and a built-in, adjustable ceramic grinder with its 10 of its own settings.
The double boiler is a nice feature present on this machine as it allows you to go brewing to frothing in no time at all. And when it’s done brewing, you can use the built-in cup warmer to keep that beverage hot until it is ready to be served.
The next really cool feature, and one that I think every good espresso machine should have is the detachable milk carafe.
This gives you the convenience of simply popping out the carafe when you are done making drinks and then storing the rest of the milk in the fridge. This, in conjunction with the self-cleaning function of the milk pitcher, helps to cut down on the risk of contaminating your machine with spoiled milk.
If super automatic machines are your thing but you don’t want to spend upwards of $2,000 for one of them, take a look at the Gaggia 1003380 Academia.
- 11″ x 16″ x 14.6″
- 45 lbs.
- Ceramic burr grinder
- Integrated bean hopper
- Adjustable telescopic coffee dispenser for various cup sizes
- Pre-brewing system
5. Breville BES840XL Infuser Espresso Machine – $477.05
This is by far the least expensive option in espresso machines on this list. If you want to stay under the $1,000 range but still want to be able to brew high quality shots of espresso, the Breville BES840XL should be on your wishlist.
This espresso machine is really designed for home use but it is certainly powerful enough to keep up with some small business usage. The settings this machine has are also many of the more expensive options also have built into them.
You just get it here for half the cost. You get things like temperature control, a ‘sleep mode’ and even a cup warmer.
But what really sets the Breville Infuser apart from the rest isn’t its programmable features. What sets it apart is the way that it uses low pressure to gently expand the grinds versus hitting them with bursts of high pressure.
Doing things this way helps to make sure that all the gaps and cracks in the coffee puck are filled in thoroughly before full pressure is applied to it and therefore ensures that even pressure is put on the coffee puck. If optimal flavor extraction is what you are after, this is the mechanism that you need on your machine.
The Breville BES840XL Infuser Espresso Machine is the ultimate entry level machine that is capable of getting you started off on the right foot without breaking the bank.
- 10.2″ x 12.5″ x 13.2″
- 17 lbs.
- 61 fl. oz. removable water tank
- Large stainless steel portafilter
- Pressure gauge
- Auto-purge function
- Temperature control
- Pre-infusion system
A Few Extras You May Want To Keep On Hand
While quality beans and a good machine can seriously improve your barista status and give your customers the best espresso around, you are going to need a few other items.
Some of these items include:
Making a good espresso starts with using good, clean water. Your water source can either make or break your cup of espresso. Water can contain traces of sediment, scale, and other nasty debris. In the worst cases, it can also contain traces of chemicals.
And your cup of espresso isn’t the only thing bad water can destroy. It can also take a toll on that fancy new machine you bought if sediment or scale begins to build up inside.
To counter this, we recommend that you look into carbon filters for your tap as well as a water testing kit.
Most espresso machines, both personal and commercial, typically come with their own portafilter. If it doesn’t though, this is a must have tool. And there are a lot of very nice portafilters on the market to choose from.
I recommend going with a bottomless portafilter as these will produce the perfect shot of espresso. They are also great for easy troubleshooting things like an uneven tamper. Most baristas will also agree that using a bottomless portafilter is the best way to go.
One of the big secrets that make the difference between a phenomenal espresso shot and a bland espresso shot, is the tamper.
To make espresso, the grinds should be evenly compacted in the filter. The reason for compacted the grinds is to make sure that the water comes into contact with all of the grinds. To help with this, baristas use a tool known as a tamper.
Find yourself a good one, as you will probably be using it often.
Our Final Say on the Best Commercial Espresso Machines
Whether you are looking for a machine for home use or for your small coffee shop, choosing the right one can and probably will make a world of difference. Some of the machines on this list have a ton of features and neat little buttons for you to press and others, not so much.
But picking the perfect espresso machine is about so much more than just what fancy buttons it may or may not have. You need to pick something that is user-friendly, low-moderate maintenance and can handle the workload you are going to throw its way.
If you are just starting out and just want to get your feet, I recommend starting off with the Breville BES840XL and then moving up slowly from there. For small to medium sized coffee shops, I would have to say you should start off with the Gaggia 1003380 Accademia.
Once you have got the perfect machine, don’t forget to get all the extras I mentioned towards the end of this comparison. Those three simple items are going to be game changers for your espresso making skills.
I hope that this comparison has helped you in making the right espresso machine purchase for your coffee shop or even home use. If I’ve left out your favorite machine or you know of one that outperforms any of the others on this list in some way please drop me a line in the comments section below.
I’d love to check out some other recommendations from fellow espresso connoisseurs and possibly review some others in the future.
The WiseSmallBusiness Team is full of industry experts and successful business owners willing to contribute important business articles.