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Purchasing an espresso machine is an intimidating affair. Ever-escalating price tags and added mechanical flourishes require hours of research in order to find a machine that works for you and your shop or personal needs. Don’t get overwhelmed—the right machine is out there. This guide should help steer you in the right direction for the type of machine you want to buy.

 

Espresso machines come in four categories: manual, semi-automatic, full automatic, and super automatic. Before making a purchase, as yourself what exactly you want. Here is a list of questions you should ask before making any decisions:

 

  • Do you need additional bells and whistles, or are you interested in just straight espresso-making?
  • How many drinks do you want to churn out in a pull?
  • How often will you make drinks?
  • Will you need to manually fill the machine’s water reservoir?
  • What type of power supply do you have?

 

So, what can you get for your money? There are often three price points to consider, and each is separated by a different boiler configuration and accompanying mechanicals:

 

Machines under $1,000 are often single-boiler, dual-use setups. They use a single thermostat to control water temperature, and they can’t brew and steam milk simultaneously.

 

Machines above the $1,000 mark are mostly single-boiler, heat-exchanger machines. They feature a larger boiler that keeps water at or around 240 degrees Fahrenheit, making is possible to both brew and steam simultaneously.

 

Machines at or over the $2,000 mark often feature two separate boilers for simultaneous brewing and steaming. Though this may seem like the best way to go if you’re making an investment, keep in mind that most North American 110V power outlets can’t always handle the needs of these machines.

 

When making your decision, pay attention to the intricacies of the machine. How easy will it be to clean and maintain it? What is the maximum pump pressure, and if it’s self-priming, what type of boiler setup does it have? These variables will determine the effort and time necessary to make single drinks.

If your interest in coffee is strong enough, you may be considering opening your own shop. This process is, understandably, not as easy as it may appear. The key to coffee shop success, regardless of location, is to keep production costs as low as possible. You’ll have to do a lot of research on products, tools, and consumption trends, and you’ll need to figure out where to get the best shop equipment on the market.

 

When you’re ready to start making equipment purchases, you may wonder where to begin. This list is curated to reflect what most shops have upon opening. In includes standard equipment as well as a few items you may otherwise neglect.

 

Automatic Drip Machines—Standard drip brews are the bread and butter of coffee shops; block coffee will account for some 30% of your store’s sales, so you want to invest in a coffee maker that will pull its weight. When choosing, ensure your model is durable enough to produce a high quantity, quick enough to meet demand for busy times, and large enough to produce sizeable batches. Most successful coffee shop owners suggest keeping three or four blends available at a time.

 

An Espresso Machine—Most coffee drunks customers are likely to order have espresso. You’ll need an excellent espresso machine to meet both production and taste standards. Understand what makes a good espresso machine, and shop smart. Industrial espresso machines can cost a lot of money, so be sure to know what you’re getting into. For additional reference, see our Guide to Shopping for an Espresso Machine.

 

An Industrial Coffee Grinder—Most shops will keep unground beans in inventory. This will allow them to stay fresher for longer periods of time. Adding an industrial grinder to your shop equipment list is essential for producing great, fresh coffee.

 

Refrigeration System—You’ll need to keep food and dairy products fresh. This requires refrigeration in both display cases and in units behind the bar. When designing your shop, be sure to consider where and how you will install your refrigeration system.

 

All other coffee shop equipment—from food products and glassware to shelving and toasters—should be purchased after these initial tools. The rest of your purchases will depend on the type of coffee shop you want to run. Do you want to offer food and smoothies? How much merchandise do you want to sell? Answering these questions should provide a guide for your remaining equipment purchases.