Whether you want to add coffee to your sandwich shop’s menu, or you’re just looking to trick out your office break room, the best espresso machine is a must-have. Every restaurant, after all, needs espresso on their menu. And how else will you get your staff through the afternoon slump?
But when it comes to making great espresso, there’s a lot to know. And there’s even more to know about choosing the best espresso machine for your small business.
In this ranking, we did the hard work for you. We broke down espresso machines into the following 5 categories: best overall, and best for a hipster coffee shop—the best kind of coffee shop, in our opinion. We’ll also fill you in on the best espresso machines for quality coffee carts, restaurants, and offices.
When it comes to brewing quality espresso, it’s all about pressure. So let us take the pressure off your espresso machine shopping experience.
BP’s Picks for Best Espresso Machine for Small Business Use
- Best Overall: De’Longhi La Specialista
- Best for Hipster Coffee Shop: Bezzera Magica Commercial Espresso Machine
- Best for a Coffee Cart: Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Espresso Machine
- Best for a Restaurant: Rocket Appartamento Espresso Machine RE501A3C12
- Best for the Office: Nespresso by De’Longhi
How to Pick the Best Espresso Machine for Your Business
From cappuccinos and lattes to regular old (and delicious!) black coffee, espresso machines can do it all. The first thing to understand about espresso machines is that there are a few different kinds. We’ll begin with a brief overview:
Manual Espresso Machines
Manuals are like the Cadillacs of espresso machines: those chrome behemoths are common in coffee shops and restaurants. Although they’re fully customizable, learning to use a manual can be a bit tricky. Nevertheless, that satisfying “pssssh” sound makes it all worthwhile.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
No experience required. That’s the tagline for a super-automatic espresso machine: it’s the best choice for a beginning espresso connoisseur who’s just getting into making their own. Although they’re a bit easier to use than manuals, supers do let you measure, grind, and tamp your own beans.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
One step down from super-automatics as far as ease of use are semi-automatics. A lot like manuals and supers, semis allow some leeway when making coffee drinks the way you like them. But with semis, many functions are covered by a simple push of a button instead of a lever.
For even less of a learning curve, try an automatic. Sometimes called volumetric, automatics are similar to semis, springing to life at the push of a button. They also offer both automated and programmable drinks sizes, and are known for consistency and ease of use.
Capsule machines are the ultimate convenience: just pop a capsule in for a delicious dose of espresso. Choose a capsule and you’ll be the toast of the break room.
Best Overall: De’Longhi La Specialista
The best overall espresso machine in our ranking had to have it all: quality construction, high-end design, and attractive aesthetics. Most of all, the best overall espresso machine had to accommodate espresso drinks just the way you like them. Or the way your customers, clientele, or employees do—it had to be versatile enough to satisfy everyone.
That machine, without a doubt is the De’Longhi La Specialista, mixing smart tech with espresso fundamentals like a separate hot water spout. At about $800 dollars the Specialista might be overkill for your break room (but you love your team, so why not treat them right?). It also might not have the capacity for a large restaurant. For small cafes, coffee carts, or food trucks, though, this unit exceeds expectations.
And with that shiny chrome finish, plus all those levers and buttons, this machine sitting on the counter of your hipster coffee shop will have just the right “cool factor.”
Tech specs on the Specialista are also exceptional, with exclusive sensing technology for a precise and consistent grind and just-right dosing. There’s also a smart tamping station, and active temperature controls. Two independent heating systems mean stable temps and optimal coffee extraction.
We love the frothy milk—choose from micro-foam for latte art, or rich foam for cappuccinos. Both are available from the advanced latte system. But you can also choose flat, if that’s what you prefer. Also not to be missed is the 1-second quick start, and that second heating system means you never have to wait to steam your milk.
Buy this appliance and get a milk pitcher, descaling solution, and a cleaning brush—everything you need for a fully operational espresso station.
The De’Longhi La Specialista is Versatile and Easy to Use
In addition to the 1-second quick start, the La Specialista is easy to set up—even for espresso novices. The flavors are strong, and the brew consistent. The La Specialista is versatile enough to nail certain drinks every time, including vanilla lattes and iced caramel macchiatos—yum!
There are one- and two-cup filters for bean grinding, and it all comes protected by a 2-year warranty. Register the appliance with De’Longhi and get an additional year.
It’s also quieter than a lot of other espresso machines, and the tamping station helps control mess, keeping things neat and tidy. With La Specialista, there are no “Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here!” signs required, because cleanup is easy.
And from prep time to dumping grounds in the trash, this appliance brews most drinks in six minutes or less.
That’s enough time for a 20-minute coffee break, or to keep that line flowing smoothly through your cafe or coffee cart. And that separate water spout is super convenient, accommodating authentic Americanos, but also hot water for tea. Don’t worry about any residual coffee flavor from the brewing unit, and it’s all up and running in less than a minute!
What Could Be Better?
As great as the La Specialista is, some things could be better. It’s a bit big, and maybe a little bit heavy for some coffee carts and food trucks. It also might not have the capacity for a super busy restaurant or cafe. But as we all know, great espresso can’t be rushed and the La Specialista is more than adequate for boutique commercial use.
There are also units with more grind settings than this one, which offers only six, and the steam doesn’t heat quickly enough for some. Many also notice that the grinder knob is a bit touchy, especially when making a single shot. Center left seems to be the sweet spot.
Also, the crema at first was a little underwhelming but that issue was solved by holding the espresso glass just a little bit closer. Then it was perfect!
Furthermore, using just portafilters means less control, and a finer grind would better suit some users. Others commented that the tamp arm could be sturdier, which is surprising for such an otherwise well-built machine.
Best for a Hipster Coffee Shop: Bezzera Magica Commercial Espresso Machine
To build the right atmosphere in your small, hipster coffee shop, it’s important to have the right espresso machine.
Our pick for the best espresso machine for a hipster coffee shop is the Bezzera Magica. First of all, the unit looks great—all shiny stainless steel, just like an espresso machine should look. But how’s the espresso? Also great.
That’s because those Jules Verne professional gauges aren’t just for aesthetics. First of all, there are two professional manometers. One is the standard boiler pressure indicator, which is common on all espresso machines—but there’s also a second extraction manometer. Both help extract the perfect espresso.
To truly fit the hipster mold, you have to stay on trend. With the Magica, that comes in the form of cool, joystick style knobs. That’s opposed to the typical taps, common in other espresso makers. Joysticks rather than taps provide easy and convenient instant on and off, and best of all, they can’t be overtightened.
Also not to be missed are the vibration pump and manual lever group. Pull the lever completely up to activate the pump and start brewing coffee. And when the cup is full, simply return the lever to its original position. For safety, the automatic boiler water supply blocks the heating element in case water in the boiler is lacking.
But perhaps what stands out most about the Bezzera Magica in terms of technical specs is the E61 group head, a thermosyphon system that circulates water through the feature—keeping things exceptionally hot!
We found the group head to be easily controlled simply by lifting a lever. Then the vibrating pump is activated, and it opens the solenoid valve and delivers the hot and desirable espresso. Just lower the lever to stop brewing—easy enough for us, and certainly easy enough for an experienced, hipster barista.
As far as tech specs, the 2-liter heat exchanging boiler is also notable. But are 2-liters enough for commercial purposes? Good question.
Don’t forget, the heat exchanger system means you can simultaneously steams milk and extracts espresso—perfect to accommodate that morning rush in your busy cafe. That’s all while the 1,350-watt heating element maintains a constant temperature, for consistent results that keep your customers happy and returning for more.
Anything hipster has to blend both cutting-edge tech with the traditional, and the Bezzera is no different. The Magica coming standard with a PID device. What you need to know: PID devices, or proportional–integral–derivative controllers are commonly used in industrial control systems when maintaining consistent temperature control is of the utmost importance, like making espresso.
In the context of espresso, this control comes in especially handy when brewing specialty coffee. It also eliminates the need for that cooling flush common in other heat exchanger espresso machines. We also appreciate the accessories included with the Magica, like a detailed instruction manual, dual spout portafilter, single spout portafilter, 2-cup filter basket, 1-cup filter basket, grouphead cleaning brush, blind filter basket and a plastic tamper—everything you need all in one convenient package.
Bezzera Magica: A Quality Product Made from Quality Materials
In short, you can feel confident in your purchase from Bezzera Magica, whether you’re outfitting your new coffee shop, buying an espresso machine for the office break room, or just upgrading your personal espresso game.
Espresso machines are no small investment, so you want to get it right. Bezzera has been in business for over 100 years, and when a company’s been successful for over a century, you know they must be doing something right. The company is even still based in Italy, and if there’s any country that knows it’s espresso, it’s Italy.
Maintenance is also important when it comes to espresso machines. The Magica earns high marks here as well, with an easy-to-clean boiler—no microbes grow on that copper!
Those innovative knobs also contribute to ease of use, as opposed to the taps common in many other units, for which overtightening is a constant concern. Not so with the knobs that are either off or on. This precision means your product won’t vary much as baristas sign in and out of their shift, each with varying levels of experience. There’s also a cup warmer. Pouring espresso into a pre-warmed cup helps keep flavors consistent.
And don’t forget—stainless steel is always easy to keep clean and free from dings and dents.
What Could Be Better?
Nothing is perfect, of course, so there are a few things about the Magica you should be aware of before making your purchase. For starters, there are cheaper models out there that are comparable to the Magica. And, like any higher-end, pro-grade espresso machine, there will be a bit of a learning curve for beginners.
With a relatively small copper boiler at 2-liters maximum, and 4-liter water reservoir, this appliance may also be a bit too small for some larger operations. It’s light, at only 60 lbs, and small enough to fit most anywhere. Overall, we found the unit to be powerful enough for small, boutique commercial purposes—and many cafe bakery and coffee shop owners agree.
Best for a Coffee Cart: Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Espresso Machine
From hipster coffee shops we turn now to the best espresso machine for a mobile coffee cart: the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Espresso Machine. It goes without saying, perhaps, that an espresso machine for a coffee cart needs to be light and on the small side. And that’s without sacrificing any quality!
Well, the Oscar II, a sort of commerical/home hybrid model, checks both these boxes. It measures only about 16 by 12 inches, and weighs only 52 lbs. It will fit under a cabinet, or in a wide variety of multiple counter spaces—just like you might find in the average coffee cart.
You can use the reservoir or hard-plumb the appliance, and it can be backflushed. Water boils in less than 30 seconds. Speaking of water, the Oscar II has two water circles, so there’s no waiting until the water is hot enough after the first brewing or steaming. Furthermore, this is a semi-pro machine, so the portafilter has the same measurements as pro models.
And with the Oscar II, you can froth and brew at the same time, and it makes great espresso shots, handling both cafe-quality cappuccinos and lattes—whatever your customers may desire.
This semi-automatic machine is made from ABS and stainless steel, with a number of up-to-date features that bridge commercial capabilities with at-home convenience.
The many new features that help the Oscar II stand out include a new ergonomic steam lever, timed dosage, and an improved steam-wand. As far as commercial amenities, there’s also a pro-sized group head and copper boiler.
In addition, it runs on a regular 120V outlet at only 10 amps, a lot like any other kitchen appliance and one that can be accomodated in the wiring of most coffee carts.
There’s no hot water spout, but that problem can be solved quickly and easily by steaming a cup of water. Be sure to let the unit warm up for at least 20 second before use. There’s also a high-quality wand for velvery microfoam and latte art.
Overall, the appliance provides great pressure, crucial for good espresso. The steamer and wand are strong, and the unit comes with everything you need, like a water reservoir, filter holder, single and double filter, filter splitter, coffee press, and coffee scooper. Best of all, the accessory parts are made from high-quality stainless steel and plastic, and it’s all protected by a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Oscar II Espresso Machine: Durable, Easy to Use, and Easy to Clean
On top of all the quality tech specifications, the Oscar II is also very easy to use, and even easier to maintain and keep clean, which is ideal for a coffee cart. First of all, there’s a minimal polished steel interface featuring only four buttons, and the espresso is dispensed with the simple pull of a lever.
The water reservoir is accessible from the top, and there’s a drip tray fixed to the unit at the bottom—perfect for catching drips and spills.
The exterior of the appliance is also durable, coated in ABS plastic, which is particularly heat-resistant as well as difficult to dent or scratch. The brew group is also tough, made from highly heat-conductive, marine-grade brass that will stay free from corrosion.
As far as cleaning and maintenance, there’s always some required, but when it comes to the Oscar II, it can all be handled with hot water, a brush, soap, and a little elbow grease. You may have to replace the showerhead and gasket once a year, however, but that’s common with espresso machines.
On top of all that, the water tank and drip tray can be removed and cleaned separately, all parts are dishwasher-safe, and Oscar II can be backflushed. We recommend doing so at least once a week. Also contributing to the durability of the unit is the auto-refill system. When no water is detected, this feature switches the unit off, helping to prevent burn-outs.
What Could Be Better?
Of course, nothing’s perfect, and neither is the Oscar II. There are some things prospective coffee cart owners should be aware of.
Some find it a little difficult to descale, but this problem can be solved by adding a slit to the portafilter, allowing some pressure to escape and helping prevent the valve from getting blocked.
There’s also no built-in grinder, tamper, or carafe, but all those items are sold separately. There’s no hot water spout, so if you don’t have another source for hot water in your coffee cart, you might not be able to serve Americanos. Replacement parts are also a little spendy and difficult to come by.
But since the product allows pre-programmable dosing for quick and consistent shots from baristas of all skill-levels, and a reverse mirror that provides a barista with a full view of the extraction process (crucial for identifying issues in extraction as soon as they arise), we stand by the Oscar II as the best espresso machine for your new coffee cart.
Don’t miss the push-pull steam switch, and the articulating steam arm as well. The latter allows for the best steam and microfoam, as well as frothed milk with evenly distributed heat—two things we expect from the best coffee shops and cafes, both mobile and brick-and-mortar.
Best for a Restaurant: Rocket Appartamento Espresso Machine
There are real-deal hulking behemoth machines to consider when adding espresso to the menu at your restaurant. For something in between—or for cafe-grade espresso in your home or office, a “pro-sumer” option, if you will—we recommend the Rocket Appartamento.
First off, the unit is small, which saves space in a busy restaurant, and it has that great, shiny, stainless steel design that we all expect from espresso machines. There are also really stylish-looking cutout panels on the side, which will fit in with any restaurant decor.
This is a semi-automatic pour-over machine, which offers more control than an automatic machine, but maybe not as much as a true, professional espresso machine.
There’s also a 1.8 liter copper heat exchange boiler—maybe not big enough for a high-volume coffee shop, but enough to permit an espresso shot to be pulled at the same time milk is being steamed to keep the drinks flowing for your customers.
Naturally, the boiler is antimicrobial, a plus for sanitation and cleanliness. There’s also a pro-grade E-61 commercial group, for optimal flavor, every drink, every time—the kind of consistency your customers have come to expect.
The fact that it’s pour-over means you can use the appliance anywhere, as long as you have a water line. But the fact that the Appartamento is pour-over does mean the reservoir has to be refilled, as opposed to a hard-plumbed unit with a constant flow of water.
The reservoir in the Appartamento is large enough, though, to accomodate making multiple drinks at a relatively fast pace, without having to refill it.
Other tech specifications restaurants considering the Appartamento should be aware of before making their decision include a black boiler pressure gauge. This gauge removes guesswork, letting you know exactly when the unit is ready for steaming and brewing.
There are also non-compression hot water and steam valves, which are user-friendly, cheap, and easy to replace—just one less costly expense associated with running a restaurant.
Safety is always a concern in a restaurant, so it’s also worth mentioning the no-burn hot water and steam wands, which feature a 2-hole steam tip. Key takeaways: the no-burn hot water and steam wands cut down on accidents (they’re also easy to clean). Another advantage of the 2-hole steam tip is evenly distributed heat, the secret to great microfoam.
As previously mentioned, the reservoir is a little small as pro models go, at 2.25 liters—but it’s large enough to cut down on too much time spent refilling. And since it’s a pour-over model, you can put it on a cart for patio or sidewalk dining in the warmer months, as opposed to a hard-plumbed unit that must stay attached to the water line at all times.
Another nice bonus is that all standard accessories are included with purchase, including a rocket metal tamper, two 58-millimeter commercial portafilters, and a stainless steel backflush disk.
Using the Rocket Appartamento: Consumer Convenience, Professional Results
Like we mentioned a bit earlier, the Appartamento looks great: with stainless design that would fit nicely with all sorts of mid-century modern decor in your restaurant, office, or even your personal kitchen.
Admittedly, this is kind of a hybrid pro-consumer model, but you can nevertheless brew espresso and froth milk at the same time—pretty much a must for any pro-level espresso machine. There are also spouted portafilters for both single and double shots, and a heated brew head for consistent flavor and predictable temperature in each and every shot.
It’s also super easy to use for beginning baristas, but sophisticated enough to remain challenging as their skills develop. Either way, it all operates on easy and intuitive knobs, levers, and buttons. Because let’s be real: part of the fun of making espresso is the tactile experience, and the Appartamento has this in spades.
That’s partially because the Appartamento is truly a semi-automatic machine, with mechanical controls for both the steaming and brewing controls. This mix provides your staff just the right “assist” when it’s most needed, but also the kind of experience required to make quality espresso the right way, no matter what machine they’re using.
What Could Be Better?
There are, however, a few things you should be aware of before purchasing the Appartamento. First off, the drip tray is small, making spill and overflow clean-up a bit of a chore. And for such a quality unit, it seems like the cup warmer could be steel instead of just plastic, but that’s a relatively small concern. (Upgraded cup rails are sold separately).
Also notable is that unlike some more expensive models, the Appartamento lacks a PID, which relates to temperature control, flow, pressure, speed, and other variables. It’s generally accepted, though, that with heat exchangers, PIDs are more a convenience than a necessity.
Something else to mention is that this appliance gets a little hot as the boiler circulates heat throughout the whole machine.
We’ve also already mentioned that the water tank is on the small side, but it’s workable for commercial purposes. This bears repeating. In addition to that, there’s no way to check the water level visually. And since the boiler isn’t insulated, it does run a bit louder than other models. If quiet is what you’re after, look for a unit with a rotary pump.
As far as maintenance, it’s recommended to backflush the group head and purge the steam head before and after every use. Descaling is not recommended.
Best for the Office: Nespresso by De’Longhi
If you’re setting up an office break room, or in search of a great gift idea to say thanks to the team, a simple, user-friendly, capsule-style Nespresso by De’Longhi is a great option.
With machines like these, you just pop the capsule in, push a button, and get great espresso—no knobs, no levers, no steam wands. The unit’s ready to go in less than 30 seconds, and in energy-saving mode, it all switches off after 9 minutes.
Even Lou from accounts receivable can handle that. Now, if only you could get him to do his dishes!
But wait, you ask, I don’t want to throw away a capsule after every use. That’s a lot of garbage!
Not to worry. To cut down on waste, choose some reusable seal pods. What’s not to like?
Otherwise, the Nespresso is sleek and looks great with all sorts of decor, and it brews two cup sizes (a 1.35-ounce option, and a 5-ounce lungo). And though it’s small and compact, the appliance delivers 19 bars of pressure.
So while it’s consumer grade, the Nespresso ain’t joking around when it comes to the kind of pressure required to make great espresso. And just pour over ice for iced drinks in the spring and summer.
We also like that with purchase of the Nespresso, you get a complimentary set of pods, just to help you get started. And if you think a capsule machine couldn’t possibly produce high-quality crema? Think again. Nespresso’s crema is thick and creamy.
The Nespresso machine measures only about 8 by 13 inches, and it’s only about 4 inches wide. It really does fit anywhere. It’s also light, at only 5 lbs, with a container capacity of roughly 6 capsules. The body is made from a mix of metal and quality plastic—surprising for such an affordable product.
It runs on 120 volts, which is pretty standard, with a removable water tank that holds around 20 ounces. In addition to the energy-saving mode, which switches the unit off after 9 minutes of inactivity, it also switches automatically to low-energy mode after only three minutes—gotta keep those energy bills down.
The average espresso is about 1.4 ounces, while espresso lungo is about 4 ounces. As previously mentioned, the Nespresso accommodates both, and the two cup sizes are also programmable, saving time and getting it right on each and every drink.
Also worth noting is that the Nespresso takes cups up 5 inches tall. Hack alert: for larger cups, just elevate the unit on a few books. Works great!
There’s also a removable drip tray to make cleanup quick and easy, without adding any extra time to those coffee breaks, which will only become more and more frequent after you get your team a Nespresso.
Nespresso: Easy to Use, Quality Results
It’s hard to overstate how easy the Nespresso is to use: just insert the capsule, push a button, and that’s pretty much it. Once pressed, the button flashes until it’s ready to brew. You’ll know it’s ready when the button stops flashing. And don’t search for an on/off switch either, because there isn’t one.
There’s perhaps a natural assumption that something so easy to use couldn’t possibly provide quality espresso. But trust us, this stuff is cafe-worthy. Some who’ve tried the resulting Italian espresso call it right and flavorful, and it smells heavenly. The crema is first rate.
Some report that water heats up in 25 seconds, which is even faster than the 30 seconds quoted in the product description, even for a lungo. Placing the pod correctly does take a little practice. Pro tip: rather than placing the pod horizontal, tilt it down just a little bit. We know it seems like it’s going to fall, but once you gently put the arm in place, the pod will turn and correct itself, ending up in the correct vertical position.
Also, don’t forget: choosing Nespresso doesn’t mean you’re limited to Nespresso pods. Many people, in fact, prefer Peet’s coffee pods. One word of caution, though, is that some more recent models don’t work with older-style third-party pods, and vice versa.
What Could Be Better?
While we fully stand behind Nespresso as the best espresso machine for small business offices and break rooms, there are always a few things that could be improved. To be clear: this is a consumer-level espresso maker, not a commercial espresso machine. There’s no chance it can accomodate any commercial purposes (so forget making a few extra dimes selling espresso in the company parking lot).
Second, there’s no milk frother. Take heart though, because the Aeroccino3 frother is sold separately, and works great with both hot and cold milk. We mentioned a bit earlier that your mug size is a bit limited. Cappuccino mugs (low with a wide mouth) work best. All that is solvable, though, by elevating the unit a bit on a few books, or whatever it is you might have on hand. Just be sure to remove the drip tray first!
Some people report that while the Nespresso makes great espresso, the lungos are a bit bitter. This is related, possibly, to the machine having a difficult time maintaining a consistent water temperature through 4 or 5 ounces of water. The appliance is also a little noisy.
Shopping for an espresso machine for a small business can mean many things: maybe you’re starting a hipster coffe shop, your own coffee cart, or just adding espresso to your small restaurant menu. But if you’re just looking for an espresso machine for small businesses or break rooms, we have your answers here as well.
In our ranking, we set out to answer all those questions, across all types of espresso machines:
- Manual espresso machines
- Super-automatic espresso machines
- Semi-automatic espresso machines
- Automatic machines
- Capsule machines
In addition to the context in which you’re making espresso, it’s useful to ask the following questions before settling on an espresso machine that’s right for your needs.
- How easy does it need to be to use, and will any additional equipment be required?
- Do you want a traditional, hands-on espresso-making experience, or something more automatic and high-tech?
- How much room do you have?
- And last, but certainly not least, what is your budget?
You don’t have to spend a ton of money on an espresso machine, and there are many pro-sumer models that work well for commercial purposes, turning out quality, consistent drinks espresso drinks quickly and efficiently, with little effort and much less cost than true pro-grade options.
With this in mind, we feel we brought you only the very best. Enjoy your daily espresso.