Best Coffee Machines for Small Cafés and Restaurants

Are you opening a Café? Need a new commercial coffee machine?

People really appreciate quality coffee. In the UK people quaff 95 million cups a day – and many of them pay handsomely to do so. Given the increasing sophistication of the average coffee punter’s tastes, places that serve the good stuff are going to have a big advantage over rival outfits serving inferior cuppas.

But commercial coffee machines don’t come cheap. However, a quality machine will last years and may in the long term save you money on frequent repairs and replacements for units that are not up to the job. Should you invest in one? How can you choose the right one for your establishment?

Below are some tips on finding a machine that is a good fit for your business, followed by a rundown of some of our faves on the market. Click here to jump straight to the machines

What should you consider when buying a commercial coffee machine?

How many cups of coffee are you selling currently and how many do you expect to sell with the new machine?

Make sure you choose a machine that fits your demand. A low capacity machine will comfortably churn out less than 100 cups of coffee a day. A medium volume machine will get you up to 200 and after that you will need a very heavy duty high-volume machine. As a general rule – low volume machines will be able to make one drink at time. Medium volume machine will be able to do two, while high volume machines will be able to do three or more. Consider when your peaks in demand are likely to come and how many drinks you need to make at a time.

How much space do you have?

Some of these machines are huge – make sure you know where it is going before you buy.

Will you employ a trained barista or train your staff?

If you do not have training and are not interested in employing a coffee specialist then you are probably going to want a bean-to-cup machine that can do it all at the push of a button. If you have (or will have) staff with the expertise you will probably choose to go with a larger espresso machine, as this will make you a tastier, more authentic product.

What kind of warranty does the machine come with?

Given that this is a big-ticket item you will want some sort of warranty provision to cover you for any unseen hiccoughs. Look for machines that come with at least a two years manufacturer’s warranty – ideally with options to extend. Also look to see if there are any arrangements with the manufacturer for annual servicing. The longer and more complete the package, the better. These packages will cover any errors that happen which are beyond your control, but do not offer complete protection.

Given you may need to pay for other repairs besides, consider how well known the make of your machine is. Are there technicians locally who can repair it? Can spare and replacement parts be ordered cheaply and quickly?

How easy is upkeep?

Does the machine have an automatic cleaning cycle? How long does this take? Do you need to buy any filters or descaling products to use with the machine? How expensive are they? Also consider how easy is it to clean the other parts such as portafilters and drip trays – is it going to take ages at the end of a busy day?

How much flexibility does each machine give you to make different types of coffee?

Altering the temperature of the steam and water in the coffee is important. Look to see if your machine comes with a Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) controller. This is a small gizmo used to help maintain the machines internal temperature. Changing the temperature of the water can help you dial in your machine to produce better coffee and can also potentially save you lots of money in energy costs.

The Best Coffee Machines for Small Cafés and Restaurants 2020

Nova Simonelli Musica

This Italian made unit is a great little machine that will comfortably turn out up to 70 cups of coffee a day. Constructed from heavy-duty stainless steel and weighing in at 20kg, the Simonelli Musica is a robust workhorse and very compact, measuring just 32 x 43 x 40 centimetres.

It performs well in busy environments thanks to its three-button programmable control that will quickly pour out single shots, double shots and hot water. The machine features a feed exchanger allowing you to pour and steam at the same time. This version comes with a three-litre tank which automatically refills the machine’s two-litre copper and brass boiler. There is a powerful steam arm with four steaming holes that makes great froth.

It is easy to operate and clean, even if the drip tray can be a bit tricky to remove. It looks great and has a retro light-up edge that you can turn off or on as you prefer. Given the small dimensions of the machine, there are limited options for cup storage and heating on top. You will need to have a separate grinder and doser if you want to use this machine. Simonelli sells a bundle package which includes a stand-alone burr grinder if you need to go the whole hog.


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Sage Dual Boiler Espresso Machine

Unlike the Simonelli machine which uses a feed exchanger – this Sage unit comes with two separate stainless steel boilers to heat steam and water, in order to allow you to extract and froth simultaneously.

The Sage dual boiler comes with four different portafilter attachments for single and double shots and has a simple set of controls allowing you to pour hot water, single shots, double shot and steam. Espresso is pro-level and the frothed milk had the microbubbles we like to see.

It took just three mins to heat up the water so this can basically be switched on moments before your first punter orders. The 2.5-litre water tank will require refilling and you will still need a separate grinder with a doser. The Sage Smartgrinder Pro on our Best Burr grinder list here will do the trick nicely.

Shot length is programmable – as are wake up time, cleaning cycles and boiler descaling. There Sage comes with a neat little cleaning kit which stows away in a tool box hidden behind the drip tray. You also get a strip to test the hardness of your water – which you key into the machine and it will prompt you to clean and descale accordingly. There is also a changeable water filter on the water tank.

All of this is great as it helps keep the machine alive and kicking for the max time possible. It also comes with a two-year warranty with options to extend as well as the option to enrol Sage’s ‘White Glove’ maintenance service.


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Jura WE8

This bean-to-cup offering from Jura can churn out up to 40 cups of coffee a day and comes with a 1.1 litre water tank and 0.5kg bean hopper. The hopper comes with a rubber seal to keep beans fresh and the machine also has a bypass doser for adding pre-ground coffee. It will make eight programmed coffees at the push of the button. Everybody’s favourites are on the list: espresso, flat white, latte macchiato, cappuccino.

The milk frother comes with a rubber hose that needs to be fed from a separate jug of milk. The factory settings on the machine are good and produce barista quality coffee and the menu uses a simple screen that is easy to navigate.

You can programme the drinks yourself easily setting the ratio of coffee, water and the temperature of each drink. The drip tray only holds 24 coffee pucks after brewing so will require emptying during a busy day, but all in all, this is a very hands-off machine. Maintenance is easy thanks to Jura’s intelligent water filtration system which tells you when to change the filters, clean and descale your coffee maker.

Cleaning the milk attachment can be a minor faff and cleaning tablets for the machine are not the cheapest – so that cost will need to be factored in over the lifetime of piece. The machine comes with a standard 12 month warranty but there are options to secure extensions up to six years.


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Lelit Giulietta PL2S

This Italian-made semi automatic espresso machine is ideal for small cafes, bars and pubs. This is one for the busier establishments and can take some heavy usage. The gizmo measures 58x45x49 centimetres meaning it will fit where other commercial machines won’t. It weighs in at an impressive 44 kilos thanks to its fabrication in robust stainless steel and is a complete workhorse! The twin portafilter baskets can help you churn out up to 480 espressos per hour.

A vast improvement on similarly priced machines in the market and the espressos really are perfect little things. It has one multi-directional water wand and one multi-directional steam wand which can operate in tandem with infusion thanks to the dual heat exchangers inside the machine.

There is plenty of space up top for cup storage and warming and the elegant design suit will suit most spaces. The machine comes with 12 months warranty and service as standard.


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De’Longhi EPAM960.75.Gi M Maestosa

This top-of-the-range bean to cup coffee machine offers the latest technology to produce over 15 different drinks at the touch of a button. The Maestosa features two bean hoppers and a container for ground coffee – all of which can hold 290 grams of the good stuff. This is cool as you can put three different types of coffee in the machine at any one time and select which one you want to use before you brew.

You can vary the grind to 14 different options in each bean hopper and default settings can be saved. The machine also has two milk frothers meaning it can tackle two milky brews at the same time – ideal for the commuter coffee rush in the mornings. The machine does a good job making 19 different drinks (not just coffees!) to bar quality. With so many different settings to play around with and options available it is a bit of a learning curve and not quite as intuitive as the Jura above.

It runs quietly and takes between 20 and 40 seconds to make a cuppa and the 2.1-litre water tank is a good size to cope with commercial demands. The 5-inch adjustable colour display was easy to read and operate. There is also some added smart technology that will allow you to make drinks remotely via a downloadable app called ‘Coffee Link’. While this could be handy for your business, it ultimately felt a little unnecessary and gimmicky.

Measuring 290 x 46.8 x40.5 centimetres, it’s fairly bulky and hardly a stunner looks-wise. The machine is one of the most expensive out there – retailing north of £2k.


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1 Comment

  1. Am looking to open a small coffee shop and your insight was really helpful.

    I think a medium volume machine for up to 200 cups will be better for me, could you please advise cost effective brand.

    And also training might be difficult here so would like to know the suitable bean to cup type too.

    Many thanks.

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