Coffee is big business. This article explains exactly what a commercial coffee machine is, and how companies can use coffee machines commercially.
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How Do Commercial Coffee Machines Work?
It may be surprising to hear, but a commercial coffee machine basically works in exactly the same way as a drip coffee maker that you can buy for around $10.
The processes for producing a hot cup of coffee are almost identical. There are a few differences with regard to how the water is heated and how the grounds are prepared, but otherwise there's no magic to it. A commercial coffee machine includes as integrated boiler system, which heats water to the desired temperature.
Read more: How do commercial coffee machines work?
What Makes a Good Commercial Coffee Machine?
Before choosing one you will need to understand the volume of drinks you will be making and the type of drinks you want to serve.
There are a few different types of coffee machine available including; bean to cup, pod, traditional, filter and instant. Each has its pros and cons - all of which you will need to consider prior to making a purchase.
Here is a list of things for you to consider when choosing a commercial coffee machine for your business:
Quality of Drink
The traditional coffee machine which uses ground coffee and fresh milk will provide the best quality coffee experience for your customers. This is closely followed by the quality of drink produced by a bean to cup model in which the machine grinds the beans and creates the coffee.
However, while the quality of a traditional coffee machine is the highest because these are operated by staff members, they do not always possess the consistency of a bean to cup machine. This being the case, traditional coffee machines are generally better suited to coffee based merchants, whereas bean to cup may suit businesses where coffee is not the main product such as hotels or bars.
You will also need to consider the variety of drinks you wish to provide as some machines will only offer a basic selection of coffee styles. Other coffee machines (for example, vending machines) will not provide such high quality drinks.
Ease of Use
A traditional machine will require your staff to have barista training. Many coffee machine suppliers will offer this for free when you purchase a machine, but you will need take the time factor into consideration. With bean to cup machines, staff will need training on how to clean the machine to ensure it stays hygienic, but operation is fairly self explanatory and they can be set up as self serve machines.
How Many Drinks Can it Make?
A good coffee machine is one that can match your needs. A high volume machine such as the Diamont 2 coffee machine is designed for a high volume environment and has features to match such as auto fill, programmable coffee doses and 3 steam hands. It can also produce over 300 cups per hour.
A slightly more basic machine such as the Bravilor Fresh Ground Bean to Cup is designed to produce around 140 cups per hour.
Mobility of Your Model
If you have a mobile catering business you will need to consider how mobile your preferred coffee machine is. Traditional coffee machines are surprisingly mobile, whereas bean to cup are more limited due to their high number of small mechanical parts. Filter coffee machines are the most portable of all and can be set up anywhere you have access to a power supply.
Coffee Machine Style
A well designed coffee machine can become a real design feature of your business so you may want to consider whether it is something your customers would want to look at and if it will enhance their experience. Watching a well trained barista create coffees can be as entertaining as watching someone create cocktails.
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How Does a Commercial Machine Differ from a Domestic Machine?
All machines, whether designed for a domestic environment or a commercial environment, differ from each other in terms of design, features, size, capacity and price.
However, the main difference between a domestic and commercial coffee maker is that commercial machines are designed to cope with much greater requirements.
Whereas a coffee machine in the home can reasonably be expected to produce around four cups of coffee per day on a everyday basis, commercial machines can handle literally hundreds of cups per day, if necessary, and continue running well despite this high level of use.
Can I Use a Domestic Machine in a Commercial Setting?
Technically, you can use a domestic machine wherever you want to, but it's really not a good idea to use one in a commercial environment.
A domestic machine just isn't designed to cope with producing high volumes of hot drinks. They're designed for light use, and the parts used to make the machines are of a quality that can handle low to moderate usage.
The parts used to make commercial machines, on the other hand, are much more durable and hard wearing, so they can handle the requirements of many customers in a day.
Another reason not to use a domestic machine in a commercial setting is that if the machine were to break (which there is a high risk of if it's being used beyond its intended capacity) the warranty or guarantee will be void.
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Commercial Coffee Machine Features
There's really no limit as to what you can expect from a commercial coffee maker. It's all down to the type of machine you choose and the different features that the machine has.
Here are some popular features of commercial coffee machines that you may wish to look out for:
A digital display makes it easy for any employee to create their favorite drink as, rather than having to turn dials and knobs, it's as simple as pressing a button. Many machines with a digital display offer programmable memory slots, so you can produce that perfect cup of coffee at the touch of a button.
Tea Making Facility
A machine with a water heater that fully boils water can be used simply as a hot water dispenser for making tea, hot cocoa, or really any other hot drink you care to create.
A milk foamer creates lots of air bubbles in the milk, making it lighter than the coffee so that it sits on top of the cup, giving that classic, foamy finish.
If a machine has an integrated milk foamer, it should ideally have a self cleaning option. A self clean means that the machine flushes clean water through the tanks and tubes on a regular basis, helping to dislodge any remnants. It's especially useful for machines with foamers as any leftover milk could go bad.
You'll still need to clean your machine regularly, but this just makes things a little easier.
While pre-ground coffee beans produce a decent cup of coffee, some aficionados argue that you just can't beat the taste of freshly ground beans. You can buy handheld, standalone grinders, but for ease, a bean to cup machine with an integrated grinder is ideal.
Read more: What is the best commercial coffee grinder?
A machine with a timer function means that you can add your grounds and water and select your desired strength before you need it.
How Much Will I Need to Spend?
This will all depend on the make and model and whether you're choosing to buy or rent the coffee machine. When buying, you can expect to pay around $800 to $1,000 minimum for a good quality commercial coffee maker, but there's really no upper limit.
If you're renting a coffee machine, you'll likely be paying twice the cost of the machine during a 12 month contract, but you will only be paying a small amount each month so it certainly reduces the initial outgoings.
Some of the smaller commercial machines can be hired for as little as $4 per day, although you'll pay a little more for a more advanced machine with a wider selection of features.
Learn more: How much does a commercial coffee machine cost?