With the coffee business booming and the UK’s consumption up to 95 million cups a day – an increase of 25 million cups in the course of the last ten years – businesses with any pretentions towards hospitality need to make quality coffee a priority. But with such a diverse market, how do you know which commercial coffee machine is right for your business?
The equipment you use is as responsible for the quality of your beverages as the beans you make them with. The different techniques used to extract the flavour impact upon the completed product, which might make the decision seem an easy one. But then, there are other considerations: the size of the unit; the space you have available; the cost; the ease of use; the ease of maintenance; the speed; the amount of use it will have. Look at all of these things and suddenly, the decision becomes a lot harder.
So, what’s really important?
5 Things to Consider Before Investing in a New Coffee Machine for Your Business
The volume and nature of your business
Commercial coffee machines come in a variety of sizes. Some are capable of filling up to eight cups at a time. Others work with no more than one or two. If yours is a business that deals with hundreds of covers an hour, then the latter option is clearly inappropriate. Similarly, if you’re a small, craft deli offering an artisanal coffee selection, the ability to bang out your beverages in batches isn’t going to fit the bill. This is probably your most important consideration.
While a good quality coffee machine could improve the overall value proposition of your business – people will go out of their way to get good coffee – it’s pointless if it’s going to take you outside of your means. Your best option is to look for a compromise; something that meets your needs, delivers extra value, but doesn’t require a bank loan for purchase. The WMF 1100 S, for example, is super-compact and super-quiet, but can deliver up to 80 cups an hour. Fully automated and available in a range of colours, it’s suitable for any small business.
Your preferred form
There are two main kinds of commercial coffee machines. The first, traditional filter varieties are semi-automatic pressure-pumped machines that allow the user to control most aspects of the process, from grind to tamping. If you want your customers to see that you know what you’re doing. If you want to be able to offer a variety of services. If you want your customers to be able to give you direction, or to be able to create bespoke flavours based upon their tastes, then this is what you need. It’s a chance to show off all of your coffee know-how and wow with the bells and whistles – should you wish to. Alternatively, you have the newer bean-to-cup machines, which are completely automated, removing any decision-making from the barista. While there is some reason to favour the flavour of the traditional models, bean-to-cup machines have improved dramatically in recent years, so the coffee produced is still of a standard that most people will enjoy. Their major selling points are that they’re small, consistent, easy to use and easy to maintain. A third option would be a hybrid unit, like the WMF espresso, which automates the entire coffee making process, but also allows complete control, should there be a call for it. Finally, there is the pod machine. Coffee pod units are great for a number of reasons; they offer variety; they’re easy to use; they’re easy to maintain; and it’s possible to offer self-service to customers. However, they also come with a few hefty drawbacks: they’re really expensive to run, which may reduce your competitive edge; you have no control over them, so if a customer asked for a strong or weak beverage it’s difficult to oblige; and they’re really not very environmentally-friendly – unless you have a compost heap out back and are happy to buy in bulk from the Eden Project, you’re going to create a lot of waste. At a time when there is a huge focus on green credentials and reducing plastic waste, this is not a good thing.
Your available space
There are some exceptions, but on the whole bean-to-cup coffee machines are smaller than their traditional counterparts. They’re also quicker, so if you’re short on space, but have a fairly rapid turnaround, then the bean-to-cup could be the better option. Pod machines are also diminutive in size. If space isn’t a problem, then a filtered machine with in-built grinders, such as the WMF 1200 F is an outstanding performer, while adding a touch of theatre to your establishment.
Once a model has caught your eye, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of owning a new toy, but it’s worth factoring aftersales details before committing. So, investigate: the cost of any required consumables; is there a service contract available; how easy is it to get spare parts; will your staff need in-depth training to use it and clean it; does the company you’re purchasing from offer training? If a company is interested in building long-term relationships with their customers, like WMF, they will provide both training and maintenance.
When it comes down to it, there is no one single ‘best’ commercial coffee machine for all establishments. It’s all about finding out what your business needs, and how you can deliver it. So, pour yourself a double-espresso and start researching!