Choosing the right size coffee machine for your business, is obviously very important.  This article shares some of the knowledge we have gained renting out espresso machines over the last 29 years, to help you choose the best size coffee machine for your business.

What part of the coffee machine is the group?

Firstly lets clarify what we mean by group.  The full name is Group Head but it is commonly referred to as a group. It is the part of the espresso machine that the porta filter or handle connects to, to brew the espresso.  Therefore on a 1 group coffee machine you can make 1 double shot at a time as there is just one group.  I will leave you to work out how many double espressos you can brew at once on a 2 and 3 group coffee machine!  If you are brewing single shots, you can make two coffees at once on each group, but in the modern coffee industry it is much more popular to serve double shots unless a single shot is specifically requested by the customer.


coffee machine parts

How many steam wands will the coffee machine have?

The amount of groups you choose, can also effect the amount of steam wands on the espresso machine. 1 groups have one or two steam wands and 2 or 3 groups have 2 steam wands.  Having just the one steam wand shouldn’t have a big impact on productivity if you have a 1 group, but it should be a consideration when positioning the coffee machine and grinder for optimal workflow or ergonomics as there is not an alternative steam wand on the other side of the espresso machine.

How does the size of my espresso machine affect the size of the boiler inside?

The amount of groups obviously has a bearing of the size of the coffee machine and most importantly the size of the boiler or boilers inside the espresso machine.

All espresso machines come with a hot water tap, separate to the water for the coffee and designed to be used is the preparation of any hot beverage that needs hot water.  This water comes from the boiler inside the espresso machine.

Whenever we take hot water from an espresso machine it is replaced with cold water that needs to be heated up to the desired temperature by the element.  If we are using a 1 group espresso machine the smaller boiler will take longer to heat the cold water up to the desired temperature.  You will have less hot water available to make tea or americanos before the machine needs a short break to recover.  Therefore, a 1 group is only suitable for serving low volume espresso and make the odd tea, or americano. 

If you plan to serve more coffee, you will need a 2 or 3 group espresso machine.  If you do not plan to make a lot of coffee but plan on using the hot water tap a lot, we would recommend either.  Using a 2 or 3 group espresso machine or using a 1 group with a separate hot water boiler, positioned nearby for tea’s.  We do not rent these but they can be purchased for a few hundred pounds.

Dual Boiler La Marzocco Espresso Machines

La Marzocco’s are the favored brand of espresso machines by coffee roasters and baristas for many reasons but one of the main ones is that they have two boilers inside instead of one.  This means one boiler is completely dedicated to the water for the espresso and there is a separate boiler for the hot water tap and steam.  This means a La Marzocco will cope better with higher volume espresso and hot water tap usage, than the Rocket or Wega espresso machines that have just one boiler inside them.

The reliability of a 1 group coffee machine versus a 2 or 3 group coffee machine?

Another aspect to consider is reliability.  All of our espresso machines are professionally made in Italy and of very high quality, but due to scale and general use they will sometimes break down.  To avoid this we include unlimited servicing and repairs within the rental charge, but it can still happen at the most inconvenient of times.  Sometimes the problem is with just one of the groups.  When your coffee machine  breaks down, just give us a call and we will send an engineer straight away to fix the problem.  There is no additional charge for the breakdown and we are usually on-site within a couple of hours but it is better when there are alternative groups to use whilst you are waiting for our coffee engineer to arrive.

How many espresso machine groups is most popular?

70% of the coffee machines we have rented out are 2 groups.  This is because the 2 group is the medium size machine and hits the sweet spot for a lot of businesses.  So if you are unsure how much coffee you will be selling and have enough space, it is a good choice.

Another popular choice, where space is limited, is the 2 group compact espresso machine.  This machine saves significant space on width but retains it’s 2 groups.  The downside is that the boiler inside the coffee machine is the size of a 1 group so your barista will still be restricted if they need to use the hot water tap frequently.

3 Groups are used in businesses that serve a lot of coffee, or those that want to use the hot water tap a lot for tea.  You see 3 groups in large coffee businesses or places with huge footfall.

It is also important to have the correct coffee machine for your most busiest hour of the day, not simply your totals sales for the day split evenly as this is not what you are asking the coffee machine to do for you.

So the question that needs to be answered is, how much coffee is a lot?  Espresso Machine manufacturers don’t generally provide data on how many coffees their machines can make in a hour.  This is because the answer depends on lots of factors, that are out of the manufacturers control.  For example:  What grinder are you using?  What’s your extraction time?  How many baristas are working on the machine?  How skilful are the baristas? How many of the espressos will be served with milk?


coffee machine diagram

Final Thoughts

Choosing the wrong size espresso machine is easily done, when you are not sure how much coffee you will be selling.  Unless you know you will not be selling much coffee, we would usually recommend starting with a full size 2 group coffee machine.  This is our most popular size machine so it is likely to do a great job for you.

Imaging spending thousands on a 2 group espresso machine, only to find out a few months later you need a three group. That’s why we allow 1 espresso machine swap during all 2 and 3 year rental agreements, so if you start with a 2 group and realize that you needed a 3 group we will install the 3 group coffee machine free of charge and adjust your monthly rental invoice.





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