Commercial Espresso Machine Buying Guide
Choosing the right espresso machine can be tricky – so here’s our guide to everything you need to consider, including prices, features and quality.
When you are choosing the right machine for your business, you need to consider a range of factors such as design, features, build quality and of course - price.
We do not sell a huge range of machines, as we believe that we offer two excellent brands that represent the best possible at each respective price point - mid range (Rocket Espresso Milano) and high end (La Marzocco).
We have the option to sell many other brands, but we feel that selling only two solid options offers a number of key benefits including:
- We can advise you properly, with in depth knowledge of our entire range.
- We can provide you with a conclusive level of service.
- We can hold parts for the range and can resolve issue for you quickly.
- It demonstrates the confidence we have in the products we sell.
Below is a break down of the design options of most commercial espresso machines and how our range fits into it.
The three design options
There are three main types of espresso machine design out there:
Heat Exchanger (HX)
One boiler that heats water for brewing espresso and hot water/steam – and do allow you to use both functions simultaneously.
The water in the boiler is superheated to create steam. When a shot of espresso is pulled, that water comes from a coiled HX pipe which sits within the boiler. Additional cold water has been pulled into the pipe so that its temperature is cooler than the main section of the boiler. This design results in two separate temperatures to meet the demands of brewing and steaming at the same time.
Most HX's offer gauges showing boiler and/or pump pressure, and many models offer the ability to adjust these parameters. HX's come with a mix of connection options (model dependent) including internal reservoir, mains water connection or both.
They provide good value due to their higher grade build, quality components (often commercial grade), convenience and most importantly - reliable temperature control.
- Cost effective commercial machines for low - medium volume locations.
- The ability to prepare espresso and steam milk simultaneously.
- Not as accurate as dual boiler machines for temperature control.
Our HX offering:
We only sell one HX machine, the Rocket Boxer. This is because we have used and tested many HX machines and have found the Boxer to be by far the best machine considering the balance of features, design, ease of use and durability.
The Boxer is a compact machine boasting E61 group heads which offer excellent thermal stability, shot timers on each group and cool to touch steam wands, all housed in Rockets signature chrome body panels that give it that classic Italian feel.
Inside they are extremely neat. Laid out with excellent thought and precision. This is nice to look at, but also means they are extremely easy to service and maintain.
We have now sold a good number of these machines to the UK market, and the feedback has bene very positive. They are perfect for cafes, bars and restaurants that serve 150 coffees or less per day.
Dual boiler (DB)
Dual boilers are the next level up in terms of internal design. They offer one dedicated boiler to generating hot water and steam, usually referred to as the 'service' boiler, which is larger in size. Then a second boiler which is focused solely on water for brewing coffee, aka the 'brew' boiler, which is usually considerably smaller.
The biggest benefit of a DB is that the brew boiler only ever delivers water for brewing coffee, so can focus it's temperature on this alone, which results in much more stability and accuracy, which is crucial for brewing exceptional espresso. Further, it's larger 'service' boiler can continue to maintain an ongoing high temperature and pressure for delivering hot water and steam, without ever impacting the coffee brewing side.
Many DB machines also come with a Proportional, Integral, Derivative aka ‘PID’. This is a digital temperature controller that allows you to accurately change the temperature of espresso extraction to suit different coffees. In the world of speciality grade coffee, PID's are considered an essential, as it is common to vary coffees, which requires constant changes to the variables to draw the best out of each coffee.
The build quality of these machines is usually very high, with excellent design and high-grade components. DB's offer ultimate convenience and are feature-rich, leaving the user able to control and adjust as they please. They are typically at the top end in terms of price, due to their multiple boilers and high-grade components.
- Precision temperature control.
- Feature rich.
- High build quality and components.
- Higher cost.
Our DB offering:
We sell a range of dual boiler machines, as the majority of our customers are focused on quality and are clear on the benefits of what a DB can offer. Both our brands La Marzocco and Rocket offer dual boilers, but we would argue that at this level and price point, La Marzocco deliver the best options in their Linea Classic and Linea PB models.
The Linea Classic has been around a long time. It remains the most popular model in La Marzocco's range and the most in demand DB machine on the market for good reason. It is a beautiful looking Italian statement espresso machine. Built like a tank and capable of powering through during intense use, it has lasted the test of time. You can get the Classic in either EE (Semi Auto) or AV (Automatic) volumetric versions across 1, 2, 3 & 4 groups. They all contain a PID for precision temperature control, hold a col to touch steam wand and are extremely easy to use and service.
The Linea PB is the latest iteration of the Linea, with some substantial upgrades including front facing PID (The classic's PID is under the drip tray), shot timers, auto cleaning cycles, quarter turn steam knobs and an upgrade to the outer body shape. Those that go for the Linea PB are usually looking for a machine that is both solid (like the Linea), but is more feature rich. The extra option you can choose with the Linea PB is the ABR (Auto Brew Ratio) version, which allows you even further control over how you brew / dose your espresso, supported by scales built into the drip tray.
Multi boilers (MB)
Multi boilers are the top line in espresso machine precision, catering to those looking for extreme precision, variable control and zero compromise. They offer a service boiler dedicated to hot water and steam, just like a DB, but instead of offering just one brew boiler for all groups, they offer a boiler for each individual group, allowing you to set the temperature for each group separately for either different coffees or possibly different extractions of the same coffee.
The La Marzocco range of Multi Boilers are the Strada and the Kb90. Two very different styles of machines, but both amazing pieces of machinery offering exceptional user experience and fantastic results.
The Strada range are a group of machine that were ultimately designed by barista's for barista's. They have a wide range covering AV (Standard Automatic), EP (Electronic Paddle) and MP (Mechanical Paddle). They are all geared, in various forms, to give you full control over the extraction process including pressure, temperature and time.
The AV version sets these like a traditional AV would, triggering manual or pre-programmed shots via buttons in the group heads. The MP allows you to trigger shots manually via a paddle on top of the group head (but not reproduce what you have done), while the EP allows you to trigger shots manually with the added ability to record your process and reply it as required.
The Strada is really a machine designed for speciality coffee locations that know how to work to high levels of precision and balance this with workflow. They are not really for volume high street locations, where the barista is under pressure to deliver at a fast pace.
The Kb90 is the latest invention from La Marzocco and arguably the first machine to really push the boundaries of espresso machine use in a massive way. Firstly they are geared to manage volume (that's VOLUME), with everything centred around workflow optimisation and stability.
They have the first ever front loading portafilter group heads, so no more turning clunky group handles into place at an angle. This takes the concept of ergonomic to the next level.
They then go on to offer a string of features such as proper cool touch touch (dual walled) steam wands, automatic group head steam flush, keeping groups clean and optimised for the next use and comes complete with full ABR technology as per the original PB.
Other than the above of impressive features, they look stunning on any bar and put out a huge statement. Style, innovation and coffee prowess all in one.
We hope this guide has proven useful, but there will no doubt be further questions you want to ask before making that final commitment.
What we can say, is that the two brands we offer are tried and tested and have many happy customers across the speciality coffee industry and beyond.
You can contact our team on 00 44 (0) 131 656 9565 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org