There is an age-old saying which suggests that 'a good workman is only ever as good as his tools', regardless of their particular trade or the industry in which they work.
So regardless of how skilled or experienced you are as an individual, you can easily be let down by outdated, poor performing or unsuitable items of equipment.
This is particularly true when it comes to coffee, and the type of specialist beverages sold by cafes, hotels and niche coffee shops across the globe.
That's why it's also important to choose the right coffee supplier, as well as the best equipment for your coffee shop needs.
Without a shadow of a doubt; the equipment that you use to produce high quality shots of espresso and craft your range of specialist beverages is crucial to the success of your business, especially if you are aiming to secure a long-term reputation for excellence.
The equipment that you use must also be budgeted for and provide a cost-effective commercial solution, so a great deal of thought and forward planning is required to make an informed decision.
What are the first Considerations when Buying a Commercial Coffee Machine?
Let's start by reviewing the key considerations when purchasing a commercial coffee shop for your venture. These include: -
1. The Volume of your Business
The size, scope and volume of your business is arguably the most important consideration, as this will determine the capacity of the machine that you need.
As a general rule, commercial coffee machines come in either two, three or four groupheads, which are capable of producing four, six and eight drinks respectively.
This provides a great starting point, as it enables you to purchase a machine that can meet your needs while also providing genuine value for money.
In simple terms, machines with a larger amount of groupheads allow more staff to use the equipment at any given point in time, driving simultaneous use and maximising the amount of drinks that can be produced each hour.
So if you have high sales projections or figures that suggest a high amount of regular footfall, the larger and more expensive machines represent a viable investment.
Conversely, smaller outlets or cafes with a more restrictive beverage menu may be better served by a machine with two or three group heads, as this helps to reduce costs for your coffee shop, without compromising on performance.
2. Your Financial Budget
Once you have determined which type of machine will best suit your needs, the next step is to ensure that you operate within a predetermined budget.
After all, the price of machines with a certain number of groupheads will vary according to other factors too, including the brand name, mechanics and additional, diagnostic features. If you have a mid-level coffee shop business, for example, you may choose to invest in a machine with three groupheads.
While this may be a sensible decision, it is important to note that the cost of individual pieces of equipment can vary from £2,500 (the Fracino Romano 3 Group Espresso Coffee Machine) to £3,700 (Fracino's PID 3 Group Espresso Machine). With this in mind, you will need to make a selection that falls comfortably within your budget, while also targeting the additional features that can help to improve your value proposition as a brand.
By keeping these points in mind and following a similar thought process when comparing the market, you can invest in a coffee machine that is cost-effective, within budget and capable of meeting the demands of your business.
Choosing your Coffee Machine: What can you expect from 2, 3 and 4 Grouphead Machines?
So, what exactly should you look for in two, three and four grouphead machines and what are the key differential factors? Consider the following: -
Coffee Machines with 2 Groupheads or less (£770 to £1,500)
Let's start at the lower end of the spectrum, which is home to machines with two groupheads and in some instances less. Take the Casadio Enea Coffee Grinder, for example, which costs £770 and instantaneously grinds coffee beans to create single or double shots of espresso.
It can only be used to produce one beverage at a time, however, making it ideal for high-end personal users or outlets that sell coffee sporadically and in low volumes.
In terms of coffee machines with two groupheads, buyers can usually expect to pay between £1,200 and £1,500 for a high quality and functional piece of equipment.
Take Fracino's Bambino Espresso machine, for example, which has semi-automatic and electronic variations and delivers two beverages simultaneously.
Perfect for start up coffee house brands or lower-volume businesses, it also comes with a large capacity boiler and hot water facility, along with a steam tube for frothing milk and numerous, high-powered elements.
For a little more, you can also invest in the Velocino by Fracino, which is unique in that it combines the simplicity and one-touch function of traditional espresso machines with the convenience of bean to cup performance.
This drives an exceptional quality and consistency of beverages, producing multiple cups a day in precisely the same manner. This machine also highlights the subtle differences that exist within the same classification, so it is important to look out for these when buying a machine.
On a final note, remember that all coffee machines exist within a specified classification, which relates to the number of recommended drinks that they can produce each day.
On average, it is suggested that machines with two group heads can produce up to 150 beverages during this time, so this is another consideration as a buyer.
Coffee Machines with 3 Groupheads (£2,500 to £3,700)
Similarly, machines with three group heads are capable of producing between 150 and 250 cups each day, and therefore ideal for mid-to-large volume businesses, specialist coffee shops or brands that are looking to grow in the near-term.
While three grouphead machines include standard features such as large-capacity boilers and steam tubes for frothing milk, they often offer additional benefits that justify their higher price tags.
The aforementioned Fracino PID Espresso Machine offers a far wider range of control and diagnostic features, for example, which allow skilled baristas to fine tune various elements of the equipment to refine specific beverages.
Clearly, this type of equipment is tailor made for niche coffee houses that offer a host of complex and specialist beverages, while it also suits those that enjoy relatively large volumes of trade on a consistent basis.
It is also important to look for seemingly small but important features on machines with three groupheads, with many including anti-splash nozzles that help you to maintain a clean and pristine working environment that reflects well on your brand.
Coffee Machines with 4 Groupheads (£3,300 and upwards)
There is often a cross-over in pricing between three and four grouphead machines, largely because both offer similar features and a wide range of innovative functions.
Of course, the primary difference is the additional drink making capacity of of the latter machine, which is tailored at busy and high-volume coffee brands that serve in excess of 250 cups each day. The Fracino Contempo Espresso Machine is the perfect example of a 4 grouphead device, from its premium, stainless steel finish to its iconic appearance and exceptional performance.
This machine is available for around £3,330, producing up to eight drinks simultaneously while also featuring a large-capacity boiler, multiple steam tubes and electronic controls.
Almost all machines with four groupheads are controlled electronically due to their high volume of output, although semi-automatic devices are available for more traditional brands and owners.
Ultimately, you are likely to make your decision on a machine with four groupheads based solely on volume.
After all, while such a device offers numerous advantages in terms of its timeless design and powerful performance, the cost implications mean that a four grouphead machine is best suited to an established high street chain that has consistent foot-flow.
For niche brands or those in more remote areas, such an investment may not deliver the same level of return.
Hopefully, this guide will help you to make an informed decision when buying your next coffee machine, whether you are opening your first coffee shop, continuing a chain or simply looking to expand your venture.
Either way, be sure to keep the volume of your trade and budget in mind at all times when browsing the market, only factoring in additional features once you have created a shortlist of viable machines.