Buying an espresso machine is probably the most nerve wracking and expensive part of setting up a café. When fitting out a new venue there is so much to think about – interior features, furniture, and cooking equipment all jostle for your time and money. Strangely, people often manage to get all of this stuff right and then realise that the bit of kit that is making the biggest profit margin is the same one that they no longer have any cash for.
In a previous article we looked at buying grinders and in that I emphasised just how important it was not to scrimp on them. The same is true of espresso machines. I would always recommend to buy the machine first and then work everything else out around that, even if it means people sitting on packing crates. That is not to say you need the most expensive thing on the market to make good coffee, but certainly spending a bit more can have a big impact on your ability to make hassle-free, delicious coffees.
Brand new versus second-hand espresso machines
I wouldn’t even think of buying a second hand car without knowing a good mechanic, and the same is true of an espresso machine. There can be some seriously expensive problems lurking within an otherwise decent looking second hand machine, so unless you have access to reliable and trustworthy espresso engineers. Always get someone qualified to check your potential purchase is behaving itself. Remember also that although an engineer might tell you whether a machine was working ok, only a competent barista can tell you if it can make nice drinks.
If you can’t stump up for new then it pays to bear a few things in mind.
- Avoid anything with too many bells and whistles. The more buttons there are, the more of the machine’s functionality is dependent on the circuit board and when these go it can be VERY expensive to replace.
- Avoid unusual models that might be discontinued or hard to get spares for – La Spaziale, Cimbali, and Fracino are just a few of the main brands out there that should be able to offer quick and available parts.
- Speculate as to the kind of use that the machine may have had in it’s lifetime and factor in whether it has been attached to a water filter in that time. I wouldn’t touch a machine that I thought had been run without one, as limescale damage can be hard to gauge and expensive to repair.
(Related post: How to buy a coffee maker or espresso machine)
Don’t get the cheapest machine you can find
It might seem obvious, but you really do get what you pay for. The La Spaziale s2 is a great example of an entry level machine that ticks all the boxes. It has a nice big boiler for a high drinks capacity and powerful steam wands for silky milk drinks.
Smaller machines will really struggle in busy venues and if you aim to be busy one day (and who doesn’t?!) then it pays to factor in how your machine might cope under pressure. We have put these out in some very high volume sites and they are real work-horses.