Providing employees with free coffee in the office has become such a common practice, that it’s more unusual for an office to not have a coffee machine of some kind.
Free coffee can provide hard-working employees with the boost they need to get through long afternoons. But coffee shops are growing in popularity, and with them, there’s been a trend towards espresso-based drinks.
Your office can keep up with the changing times by having an in-office espresso machine. If you’re not sure where to look, we’ve created this guide to the best espresso machines for office use.
- How to understand espresso machine features and options
- What to consider before you make your decision
- Our hand-picked selections for the best espresso machines for office use
UNDERSTANDING ESPRESSO MACHINE FEATURES
AUTOMATIC VS SUPERAUTOMATIC MACHINES
Because office workers generally won’t have experience using espresso machines, the focus of this guide is on automatic and superautomatic machines that are extremely simple to learn.
So what’s the difference between these two types?
Automatic machines are the predecessors of superautomatic models. You still need to grind your espresso, place the portafilter, and froth your own milk, but the machine takes care of brewing the shot for you.
Superautomatic machines are growing in popularity because they deepen the user-friendliness of automatic types. You can think of them as one-stop machines, as they will handle grinding the beans, brewing the shot, and foaming your milk for you.
They’re sometimes available in one- or two-step configurations. In a one-step configuration, all you really need to do is choose the drink you want and wait, while a two-step configuration requires you to foam the milk yourself.
Whether one type is better than the other is a matter of preference, since either comes with its own pros and cons.
For instance, automatic machines take a little more work, but the increased hands-on involvement gives you more opportunity to customize your drink. They also are generally less expensive.
Superautomatic machines are a breeze to use, and won’t unnecessarily draw out coffee breaks. However, their advanced features do lead to a higher price typically.
POUR-OVER VS DIRECT-CONNECT
How your espresso machine is supplied with water is almost as important as its type, and can contribute to how easy it is to learn.
You’ll run into two different water supplying systems in espresso machines: pour-over or direct-connect.
In a pour-over machine, you have to add the water by hand when the tank runs low.
The foremost advantage of this is that these machines are portable. They’re not hooked up to a water line, so they can be taken on the go or easily moved for cleaning.
The drawback is there’s a higher level of maintenance. On top of having to pour water in yourself, you should consider using water softeners or filters with this type of machine to protect it from scaling and guard the quality of your water.
The second type, direct-connect machines, are pretty self-explanatory. They are hooked up to your water line, refilling themselves automatically.
There’s an obvious benefit here: reduced maintenance. That’s why these machines are the gold standard in coffee shops that don’t have time to refill the water tank with lines of customers at the counter.
Without boilers, the perfect temperatures that accentuate the complex flavors of espresso wouldn’t be possible.
Because they’re so important, it’s worth learning a little about the boilers in espresso machines before you choose one for your office.
In a business-type setting, you’ll see the typical boiler types are heat exchange (HX) and dual boiler. These designs are made to increase the speed of the drink-making process by allowing simultaneous brewing and steaming.
Heat exchange boilers achieve this end through a tube running through the boiler, carrying water for brewing right to the group head and keeping water for steaming apart.
Dual boilers simply have two boilers – one for steaming and one for brewing. Some superautomatic or high-end automatic machines have even more than two boilers incorporated into their design.
As for which one is superior, it’s again a matter of personal preference. There are positive and negative factors to both boiler designs.
Heat exchange boilers are energy-efficient, because one boiler is being kept warm as opposed to two or more. But they’re not quite as powerful as dual boiler systems, which naturally bring a lot of steam power to the table.
The drawback to dual boilers is that they are generally more expensive, and can take longer to heat up initially when you first turn the espresso machine on for the day.
DEFINING YOUR OFFICE NEEDS
Your office has its own individual needs, just like any other office does.
There are espresso machines designed to fulfill different kinds of requirements, so to guarantee the one you purchase is really the best for your office, you should take a moment to define exactly what you need.
You can start by determining the following:
- How easy to use you need your machine to be
- What your ideal price range is
- What plumbing options you have available
- What the layout of your business is like
EASE OF USE
More likely than not, the workers in your office aren’t going to be espresso experts. They may not even have any experience with espresso machines at all.
In situations where the users have little to no experience operating an espresso machine, superautomatic ones will be the best choice. This is particularly true for one-step superautomatic machines, where each drink is just a push of a button and a short wait away.
Automatic machines are fairly simple to learn, too. However, they do require you to learn to foam milk if your employees are going to be making drinks like cappuccinos and lattes.
Whenever we purchase other equipment, we go into the process with an idea of how much we are able to spend.
You can do the same for espresso machines by setting parameters for your budget.
If you’re able to spare more towards the espresso machine, and want one as user-friendly as possible, then you can’t go wrong with a superautomatic machine. They are usually more expensive than automatic models, but the price is a reflection of cutting-edge features they incorporate.
But if your budget is a little more finite, then an automatic machine is a sensible choice. They’re still far from difficult to learn, and they will still handle dosing the espresso for your employees.
Another thing to consider is what kind of water supply you have available in your office.
Many espresso machines, especially those used in commercial environments, require a connection to a water line. You may need to cut into countertops potentially to accommodate these types of machines.
If you don’t have any water lines readily available, then a pour-over machine may be the best choice for you.
However, if you are able to connect your espresso machine to a water line, your employees won’t need to check the water levels in the tank and maintenance of the machine will be much easier.
Like with plumbing options, you should examine potential places for your new espresso machine.
Espresso machines come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. You wouldn’t want to invest in one, only to find that it won’t fit into its designated place.
Because of this, we recommend taking measurements of the area you’re planning to use for the machine, and comparing it with the dimensions of each machine you’re interested in.
BEST ESPRESSO MACHINES FOR OFFICE USE
The ultimate in superautomatic technology, the Franke A1000 FM CM was designed to bring high-end espresso to everyone, regardless of skill.
It uses state-of-the-art technology to brew the perfect shots every time, such as pre-infusion that settles the espresso before extraction with a little stream of water.
Espresso aside, this machine is astonishingly easy to maintain. The CleanMaster system it uses will have the machine cleaning itself up for you in a few simple steps.
- Majesty Coffee Price: $18,899
- Machine Type: Superautomatic
- Plumbing: Direct-connect
- Dimensions: 31.3 inches high, 13.4 inches wide, and 23.6 inches deep
- Boiler System: Multiple
- Touchscreen Display: Operate the Franke A1000 entirely through a huge 10.4-inch touchscreen display right on the front. Drinks are displayed as crisp color pictures to make the choices clearly understandable.
- 3 Bean Hoppers and Grinders: Unlike with other superautomatic machines, you get three separate hoppers and grinders with the Franke A1000. This allows you to store and offer your employees up to three different kinds of coffee beans in one place.
- Pre-Infusion: By immersing the bed of coffee before extraction, this boosts the flavor in every cup.
- CleanMaster System: Cleaning up won’t be something to avoid – simply use the cleaning settings in the machine and it will clean itself.
- Optional Flavor Station: With the optional flavor station, you can add up to six flavored syrups, such as vanilla or hazelnut, for that extra personal touch.
- Optional Cup Warmer: The optional cup warmer both keeps cups pre-heated to preserve the warmth of drinks and functions as a storage space that can hold up to 120 cups.
If you’re looking for a superautomatic machine that’s both user-friendly and budget-friendly, look no further than the Nuova Simonelli Prontobar.
It has six programmable drink buttons, which is like telling the Prontobar in advance how to make your favorite beverages. Once these buttons are programmed, just push one and wait for your drink.
The Prontobar is available in both one- and two-step configurations. If your employees would prefer a more hands-on experience, opt for the two-step configuration and they’ll have control over frothing their own milk.
- Majesty Coffee Price: $9,855
- Machine Type: Superautomatic
- Plumbing: Direct-connect
- Dimensions: 24 inches high, 13 inches wide, 21 inches deep
- Boiler System: Dual
- Programmable Drink Buttons: Program up to six popular drinks in advance, like cappuccinos or flat whites. Then all your employees need to do is push the button for their drink.
- Quiet Pump: The pump in this machine runs so quietly, your employees won’t be interrupted even if their desk is right next to the break room.
- Auto On/Off Time Settings: No need to worry about accidentally forgetting to switch the Prontobar off or on – you can program it to turn on or off at specific times.
- Special Steel Burrs: The first-rate burrs in the grinders are made of superior steel, so you won’t need to worry about having to replace them so soon.
The La Spaziale S1 Vivaldi 2 is perfect for those small offices that don’t have a lot of room for an espresso machine.
Because it’s automatic with a vigorous dual boiler system, employees won’t struggle to speed through their drinks. Long coffee breaks spent waiting for a slow machine will be a distant memory.
- Majesty Coffee Price: $2,575
- Machine Type: Automatic
- Plumbing: Direct-connect
- Dimensions: 15 inches tall, 16.5 inches wide, and 16.5 inches deep
- Boiler System: Dual
- Output Capacity: Able to make up to 20 espresso per hour, this machine won’t need to work too hard to provide espresso to everyone in a small office.
- Rotary Pump: On top of being low-volume for quiet spaces, the pump in this machine is long-lasting so repairs will be few and far between.
- Fault Diagnosis Alarms: If any of its systems ever fail, the Vivaldi 2’s diagnostics will let you know so you can address the issue instantly.
- Electronic Boiler Refill: You won’t need to manually activate a boiler refill option, as the Vivaldi 2 will handle this itself.
Because of all the configurations it comes in, the Nuova Simonelli Musica is a flexible machine that can accommodate numerous situations.
If you don’t have plumbing available, you can purchase it as a portable pour-over model. If the office lighting is a little dim, you can purchase the Lux configuration with LED edges that will illuminate the machine for safe operation.
- Majesty Coffee Price: $2,245 (Pour-over without LEDs), $2,515 (Pour-over with LEDs), $2,925 (Direct-Connect without LEDs) or $3,240 (Direct-Connect with LEDs)
- Machine Type: Automatic + manual dosing button
- Plumbing: Pour-over or direct-connect
- Dimensions: 17 inches tall, 16 inches wide, 13 inches deep
- Boiler System: Heat exchange
- Optional LED Edges: On the Musica Lux, you’ll get beautiful LED edges that clearly light the machine, preventing messy spills.
- Programmable Hot Water Nozzle: Some employees prefer teas or hot water for other beverages. You can save them time on making these drinks by programming the amount of hot water necessary into the nozzle beforehand.
- Pre-Infusion System: By eliminating flaws in espresso tamping, Nuova Simonelli’s pre-infusion system perfects each shot of espresso no matter who’s at the machine.
- Indicator Lights: These lights will clearly tell users when the machine is ready to steam and brew or when the water level is too low, simplifying maintenance.