What Separates Commercial Espresso Machines?
We get a lot of questions about commercial versus home machines here at Seattle Coffee Gear. Many people think that if they want the best for their home, they should look into a commercial machine. By contrast, some folks new to the coffee industry wonder if they can cut costs by using a home machine in a cafe or bar. Finally, there’s that ever present “drinks per hour” question that comes up quite frequently! We want to take a look at some of the answers to these questions to help differentiate these two different kinds of machines.
A Place for Everything
The first myth to dispel here is that commercial machines are just higher quality versions of what you can buy for home. On the contrary, they are simply designed for a high volume, professional environment. Part of that does generally include more durable components, but it’s also down to design and features.
Most cafes and coffee shops will have a manager who works with technicians on machine setup and programming (for modern machines that include programmability). Staff will then be trained on that cafe’s specific setup and workflow. This means that professional machines can be very complex, and they assume a deep knowledge of coffee, with no hand holding. The fact of the matter is that as a home user, you just don’t need this kind of machine.
There are many, many examples we could pull, but a great one to understand the differences is water sourcing. Most home machines use a water tank or reservoir that you refill with a pitcher or tap. Some home machines may even allow for plumbing in, if they’re on the high end. For commercial machines, you’re usually looking at a water intake, possible more than one, and a wastewater line that takes water out of the drip tray to a drain somewhere.
The reason for this plumbing is because refilling the water tank and emptying the drip tray are two inconveniences that can take up a lot of time when you’re pulling a hundred shots in an hour. Cafes are planned with these water needs in mind from their construction, specifically for their incoming machine. It is definitely not worth it to fully rework your home plumbing for an espresso machine!
Commercial machines also require careful, professional maintenance, often performed by a technician. Plus, they are enormous and heavy, requiring multiple people to move them, and a huge amount of counter space with lots of clearance and access. Two more difficulties for a home environment!
Everything In Its Place
On the other hand, let’s look at home machines. Home espresso machines are designed with convenience for the home user in mind. That means they’ll often come with handy storage trays built in, convenient placement of switches and buttons, and design elements that will make them fit in better with your kitchen environment at home.
What they generally are NOT suited for is being placed in a commercial environment, even a low volume one. You may think that a Barista Express would be the perfect way to start your coffee cart, but you really should think again. You’ll run into issues if you try to brew dozens of shots per day on a home machine, and they usually lack the certifications needed to satisfy health departments.
As far as the shots-per-hour question, the answer is that you really don’t need to worry about it if you look at a machine designed for the right context. It’s true that home machines have more recovery time, so if you truly do need to brew and steam at the same time, and do it multiple times per hour, a Rocket Espresso machine might be a great fit. If you are shopping for a commercial machine for your business, any good quality machine should be able to keep up with your staff.
If you’re a home user wanting something high end, give those Rocket Espresso machines a look, or consider another “prosumer” home machine. If you’re a coffee professional looking to get started with your own business, head over to our cafe landing page and we can help!