How to Choose an Office Espresso Machine

Why an Office Needs a Professional Espresso Machine?

A commercial espresso machine is the best choice for an espresso lovers’ office environment. It is common practice in many businesses to buy an espresso machine for the employees. It's one of the perks to make employees happy.

Once the decision to buy an espresso machine is taken, the hard part just begins: choosing the right equipment.

Invariably, the price is always a factor when taking the decision, and sometimes the cheap equipment has an unfair advantage, and I'll explain why. It might seem like a big expense to pay double or more than the cost of a residential espresso maker, however, it is worth the price.

Gaggia Accademia Selection Menu

Sure, many small businesses with a few employees buy one of those nice domestic coffee brewers, and it seems to work. Soon enough, however, they find out the hard way that a machine meant to be used at home will not perform great in a busy office environment.

Crew Review: Jura Impressa XJ9 One-Touch for Offices

Jura Impressa XJ9 Professional

Impressa XJ9 Professional is a great espresso. The XJ9 has some great features including the "one touch" brewing for the following drinks: latte macchiato, espresso, ristretto, cappuccino, and café crema.

The 3.5" TFT color display makes selecting your coffee a breeze.  The microfoam technology ensures exquisite frothed milk with every cappuccino. It is also great for the espresso lovers, being capable of pulling great shots every time.

Jura XJ9 will make a great office espresso machine since it's rated for 60 drinks per day.
Rated for a maximum daily output of 60 drinks, the XJ9 is capable of serving an office, or a bar. However, I have seen people buying it for domestic use. If you have the means, it is absolutely justifiable for domestic use, because it is very reliable, and it is pure fun to use it.

My Personal Story with an Espresso Machine for the Office

For the longest time, our office had a nice espresso machine which needed a few tweaks regularly, but it served us great for many years. Our office, a cooking school, had the most dense population of coffee snobs per square foot.

So imagine when I say that the professional espresso machine in our office was appreciated, it was really good. All this was fantastic, all until the day when we got the most beautiful and fancy espresso maker to replace the old and faithful machine, which looked awful now.

The new machine worked amazing, and the shots were fantastic. It even had an automatic cappuccino maker, appreciated by some of the chef instructors. Unfortunately, this lasted only a week or two. It felt like a few days anyway.

The machine broke and it had to be repaired.  The technician fixed it and we enjoyed the machine for another few days when it needed another repair. And this continued for a few repairs until the management decided to remove it.

It turned out that the machine was never meant to brew 20-30 shots every day, and the daily brewing needs of our office were too much for it. You must wonder what happened with our daily espresso…

Well, the most passionate of us used the downstairs restaurant’s commercial machine, for a while. In the morning the restaurant was closed so we could make a trip and pull a shot. Sometimes we drove to the closest coffee shop. We eventually got a new nice professional espresso machine for our office. This made everybody in the office very happy.

This episode made me realize that manufacturers don’t have an interest to sell you a residential machine for you to use it in an office setting. Sometimes is just simply cutting costs that reflect in the machine’s quality. However, I suspect sometimes they use engineering to make sure the machine can’t brew more than a few shots a day. Is it fair? I don’t judge, but I know for sure you can’t use a residential espresso machine for an office environment.

Office Coffee Machine Joke

How to Choose an Office Espresso Machine

Whether you are an espresso enthusiast that already has an idea, or you are the Office Administrator who "scored" this task, you will find the information to help you select the perfect espresso brewer for your office.

You probably have some "important directives" from your boss or from the latte committee, but most often the important information is not even considered.

Got a tight budget? Most likely your boss had in mind a domestic espresso machine, when they suggested that. You'll find here all the explanation to justify the extra cost.

When you shop for an espresso machine you have a few things to take in consideration. The line between a happy espresso experience and constant battle with the equipment is very thin. If you want to ensure everybody at the office will be happy with the machine, consider the following:

  • How many espresso drinking people are in your office?
  • How many drinks per person on average?
  • What is the main beverage in the office, is it plain espresso, or milk and espresso drinks?
  • Are the people who are going to use it comfortably with a semiautomatic, or they need maximum convenience?
  • Who is going to take care of the maintenance on the machine, (cleaning, descaling, etc…) Is it a single person or everybody will participate?
  • Are the users coffee geeks? Or complete newbies that prefer to go to the coffee shop than go through some brewing routines.
office espresso machine
The office coffee machine is broken

That's what happens when the office coffee machine is broken.

If you buy a machine designed for residential use and it’s going to serve 20 people at work, the machine will break fast. It will probably break within the warranty period, but it won’t be covered because of the brewed volume. So make sure you buy a machine that is designed to brew for 20 people. For instance, 20 people that drink 2 beverages a day, it means you need a machine with the recommended daily output of 40 espressos.

If the main beverage is espresso, and lattes and cappuccinos are not important, you can probably go with a semiautomatic. These machines are more resilient than the superautomatic espresso machines, and they break less often. A semiautomatic can serve an entire office for a few years without major repairs. However, the users have to put in some effort to make a decent espresso. They have to grind, to tamp, and to clean the portafilter. It’s not a push-one-button-machine.

There are various levels of automatization in a semiautomatic. Some machines have a built-in grinder, however, this has to be manually operated, and it is not like a fully automatic machine. You will use it as you would a separate one. It’s just the convenience of having a grinder in the espresso machine. The grinder might have a doser or not.

The tasks that cannot be skipped with a semiautomatic are grinding, tamping, and clean the portafilter. The rest can be programmed into the semiautomatic, (if it has the functions).

A simple machine like the Rancilio Silvia, will not have any programming functions, however, it is a great, simple machine, and it is its minimalistic approach that makes it so reliable. However, in 90% of the cases, this is not the machine you would want in your office. Most people would not put up with Silvia’s fussiness while pulling a shot, and they will not be willing to “temperature surf”, because Rancilio stubbornly refuses to add a PID to this machine.

Gaggia Accademia Espresso Machine

A great machine for office use is Gaggia Accademia. Gaggia Accademia has a maximum recommended 50-60 coffees per day. It is designed to serve offices and small bars. It’s a great and affordable machine, and it is fully automatic. It has dedicated buttons for preparing espresso, cappuccino, latte, and black coffee.

The Accademia is probably the least expensive office machine, which is rated as a commercial machine. Many vendors do not disclose the information about maximum daily output. Even if you call their support line, they will not tell you that. With a rating of 50 coffees per day and a price around $1700, is cheaper than many competitors. In fact, many people buy it for domestic use, since feature wise Accademia compares to any brewer on the market.

Gaggia Accademia: Unboxing and Introduction

Semi-Automatic or Automatic

Rancilio Epoca S

For a real commercial semi-automatic, you should consider the Rancilio Epoca. This machine is capable of brewing up to 70 coffees per hour, and it is very reliable. The 3.9-liter copper boiler with a welded heat exchanger ensures that you can brew coffee after coffee, without having to wait between shots.

The machine has a durable ABS plastic over the steel frame and the body is stainless steel. The scratch resistant body helps to maintain the great look of the machine.

This machine can serve in a busy restaurant or a bar, so it will be more than adequate for your office

Most likely, a machine like the Breville BES980XL Oracle will be a great fit for the non-superautomatic option, read my review below. If the Breville Oracle is out of your budget range, a great alternative is the Breville BES920XL, which has a dual boiler; that means virtually no waiting between your espresso shot and steaming the milk for your latte.

For a pure espresso environment, the Breville BES870XL Barista Express is the least expensive machine, and it will work perfectly. It only has one boiler, so getting a milk-based espresso beverage will take a little longer since the same boiler is used for both pulling the espresso shot and steaming the milk. You will always have to wait between the two operations to allow the boiler to readjust the temperature.

Note that Breville doesn’t provide a maximum daily output for their machines. This is because they do not recommend any of their machines for commercial use. All Breville’s espresso machines are meant for domestic use.

The Breville machines are decently reliable, and they have great features. Compared to other espresso machines though they are not as dependable. Breville espresso equipment is very nice, with a lot of features, and it is one of my favorite espresso machines. Having said that, you can't use it for an office where there are more than 5 espresso lovers. The message here, if I wasn't too clear, is don't get a Breville for an office environment. It won't be able to keep up with the demand, and it will soon break.

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Dorian Bodnariuc

My name is Dorian and I am a former barista. I consume coffee in any form, as a beverage, in savory recipes and desserts. My favorite caffeinated beverage is the espresso. I love to share my coffee brewing knowledge and my geeky coffee research. This blog is one of the places I write about coffee. More about Dorian... If you want to learn more about this site and how I started it, check our About Me page, where I explain all about it.