The demands on a high-quality espresso machine are certainly very different, since not all coffee lovers have the same needs. In addition, there is of course a big difference whether the barista machine is wanted for the catering industry or used for the private household. In the following explanations we want to dedicate ourselves to the barista machine for the catering trade.
The Professional Portafilter Machine Is the Ferrari within the Espresso Maker
Professional portafilter machines have always been part of the premier class when it comes to preparing excellent espresso. They are ideally served by trained baristi. But what does a barista mean, as these experts in their field are called in the singular?
Well, almost every bar is headed by a bartender who has undergone special training. This includes knowledge of the different types of drink as well as the skillful preparation methods for these delights. Even in a café or espresso bar, coffee fans are increasingly finding skilled workers who have undergone training on the subject of “coffee” with the exact job title “barista”. This term comes from the Italian language and means, translated, “bartender”. However, in this country the profession designates a person who serves all kinds of drinks. It was only through the English-speaking world that this term came to Europe and exclusively means people who work as coffee specialists – a profession for real coffee lovers!
A barista not only has to master professional coffee preparation, including all coffee specialties, but also acquire the associated theoretical knowledge, such as knowledge of the numerous types of coffee, the different coffee roasts and coffee production processes. Of course, this also includes the best possible customer service and is trained separately. In addition, as part of additional training, the barista often learns how to artfully decorate the finished coffee delicacies, a real art that is logically known as “Latte Art“. The barista conjures up beautiful motifs, such as flowers or hearts, on the coffee surface by skillfully pouring the milk or using stencils and / or pens. Championships are held regularly in this area, honoring the best among them.
Here, professional knowledge is the trump card, starting with the selection of beans, through grinding and dosing, to the actual extraction process. Anyone who uses a portafilter machine must either have the necessary knowledge and skills or employ appropriately trained personnel. High-quality barista machines for gastronomy use are equipped with all technical finesse, offered in one to five groups and created in a noble design. The market also presents fully automatic portafilter machines with electronic control, which enormously reduce the demands on the operating personnel, while correct handling and professional settings of the machine are nevertheless essential to achieve perfect results.
How do you find the right barista machine that meets your requirements?
In order for authentic espresso preparation to succeed, the beans should always be freshly ground, because pre-ground coffee is rightly frowned upon by professionals, as it not only affects the full-bodied taste that is achieved with freshly ground coffee. Also, because the grind is too fine or too coarse, it rarely leads to satisfactory results. A powerful espresso grinder is therefore the first requirement in the entire preparation chain.
While many manufacturers also offer the right mills for the barista machine, others have specialized exclusively in the production of professional mills. However, since you will find yourself exposed to an almost unmanageable range of offers in this sector, we always recommend that you take advantage of expert advice. Nevertheless, we advise you to make a few fundamental considerations because the more precisely you define your requirements, the more precisely you can express them to a professional advisor.
An important criterion in this context is that a barista machine should meet the needs as precisely as possible, because only then will it work economically. You should therefore assess the exact requirements as the first and most important decision criterion.
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The acquisition of a new barista machine
When answering the important question about the machine size, you usually have to reckon with many unknowns. The experiences of other restaurateurs with similar establishments as well as the advice of a specialist retailer are particularly interesting sources of information that can shed light on the darkness. In the following, we would like to introduce you to various barista machine sizes:
First, there are the small, one-group machines. These have low acquisition and operating costs, but quickly reach their performance limits when there is a greater need for espresso. The rule of thumb is: about 40 cups of hourly output – with an electrical power consumption in the approximate range of 1,200 and 1,600 watts.
Really powerful single-group machines often have an electrical power consumption of 2,000 watts and more, depending on the boiler technology and boiler size. Such a machine generates, at least theoretically, 240 cups per hour. What does this mean for concrete practice? The extraction time for an espresso is around 25 to 30 seconds, regardless of whether it is brewed with a one or two sieve. So you have to allow around 30 seconds for an extraction process, including clamping and unclamping the portafilter. If your employees now work with two portafilter alternately, routinely and without interruption, the maximum achievable is 120 payments per hour. This corresponds to 120 espressos with the single sieve and 240 espressos with the two-sieve.
In summary, we can say that the actually achievable number of cups per hour stands and falls with the mill, the organization of the workplace and the skills of the staff.
In contrast, multi-group barista machines do a lot more than single-group machines, which are usually also designed for continuous operation, as four-group machines can produce 4 x 240 cups, for example. However, it should be remembered that with machines in compact design, due to the often smaller boiler content, the theoretically calculated 240 cups per group are not always achieved. However, in the context of your considerations, you should also take into account the fact that the higher the performance, the higher the acquisition and possibly the energy costs. However, the subject of “energy” is an increasing factor, and a few thoughts on saving energy will also help you when choosing your barista machine. Since the manufacturers are also more and more concerned with this matter, there are machines which allow individual brewing groups and / or the steam boiler to be switched off to save energy. Incidentally, in the case of brewing groups that work completely independently of one another, the remaining groups will continue to function if one group fails.
The combination of several espresso machines
If, for example, you need a barista machine with four brewing groups in your catering business, you could also consider combining two machines because two two-group devices could be the better choice in this case, especially if you only need all groups at peak times. An intelligent combination could give you the following advantages:
- In normal operation, only one machine would use energy
- In the event of a machine failure, your staff can at least meet normal requirements
- For example, to optimize routes or for reasons of space, the spatial separation of the machine is possible
- The needs for the organization of celebrations as well as the summer and winter seasons with their different requirements must also be taken into account.
Barista machines models
1. Semi-automatic barista machines
With these devices, the extraction is started by operating an operating element, such as a lever, a switch or a button. The electric pump is switched on automatically so that the extraction begins. To terminate the reference, the control button is operated again. The shutdown of the pump and the draining of the residual water from the brewing head take place automatically in such machines. The pre-infusion is usually automated with the advantage that the pressed coffee grounds are not only destroyed by the pressure build-up in its pressing. Depending on the design of the device, it is either fixed or adjustable. The other automatic functions of these espresso machines are limited to the automatic water supply and the correct water level in the boiler, the venting of the boiler, temperature control and dry run protection. Some experience and skill is required to operate such a barista machine.
A basic function of these fully automatic machines is the volume control of the brewing water. Here the draw-off is started by pressing a button and stopped by the automatic control. The amount of brewing water can be selected beforehand, for machines with multiple groups. Depending on the model, several amounts of water per group and different pre-infusion times can be set, for example for ristretto, lungo or two espresso servings.
The following additional functions are integrated or automated, depending on the model:
- The pre-infusion per brew group.
- The temperature setting and temperature control for each brew group.
- The interaction between the grinder and espresso machine for grinding degree control.
- The amount of hot water that can be selected beforehand.
- Milk frothing by defining temperature and quantity.
- Specialties can be obtained, for example, with an automatic cappuccino.
- The switch-on and switch-off times can be controlled via a clock or a calendar.
- Various energy-saving modes such as standby, group and night shutdown.
- Product-related counting functions.
- Brew group cleaning programs.
- Display of the extraction time per group.
- Display of filter changes and maintenance cycles.
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This list does not claim to be complete! Modern machines also have interfaces for electronic dispensing controls and, increasingly, functions for remote diagnosis and remote maintenance using an online connection.
Many barista machines have a display for user guidance, programming and display of messages, whereby the menus can be set to common languages.
In contrast to the semi-automatic barista machines, such automatic espresso machines require a certain training period, but depending on the degree of automation, they can be managed without problems after a short time.
For the sake of completeness, we would also like to introduce you to the piston espresso machines and the hand lever espresso machines .
The operation of such a model requires skill and strength, as the extraction takes place by pressing down the lever that moves the piston that delivers the scalding water. The pre-infusion, the brewing pressure and the brewing time are also controlled manually using the lever. Bar hand lever machines, on the other hand , work a little differently. The extraction takes place here by releasing the tensioned spring, which actuates the piston. During the extraction, the lever moves slowly upwards again until it has reached its rest position.
In such machines, for example, the water level of the boiler, the water supply and the temperature control can be automated.
Absolute barista know-how is also required to operate such devices in order to make excellent espressos! Some manufacturers also present espresso machines for gas operation, which can always be used where there is no or insufficient power supply.
Barista machines with special designs and shapes
If modern horizontal constructions are currently dominating, vertically constructed machines are also offered. With their cylindrical copper, chrome and brass housings, they are reminiscent of the early years of the espresso machine. However: The appearance alone is nostalgic, because the inside is a piece of art. Retro machines with the design of the 60s are really hip again. Outwardly hardly changed, the technology of modern semi-automatic and fully automatic machines is “hidden” inside.
If you only have limited space, then the market offers you a wide range of compact barista machines, some with a built-in grinder. In order to save space, somewhat smaller boilers are usually built into these models. This leads to a slightly lower hourly output, but otherwise they are in no way inferior to their “big sisters”.
Do you need a barista machine for your coffee-to-go business?
As a rule, espresso machines are designed in such a way that even tall cappuccino cups fit comfortably under the portafilter spout. But as the coffee-to-go business increasingly gained market share, taller barista machines were and are also being built in the so-called “tall version” , in which the companies can extract directly into standard, tall coffee-to-go cups.
The barista is a true artist in his field. He not only prepares the coffee perfectly, but also turns it into a real work of art. Frothy cappuccino, strong espresso, creamy latte macchiato – for a barista, making coffee is passion and demand at the same time. Such a coffee artist (we use the male form here for the sake of simplicity, but of course there are also passionate and enthusiastic female artists in the female “camp”!) knows their way around the world of coffee. In this article you will find out everything you need to know about barista training.
Barista machines are really in abundance now. If your choice depends exclusively on individual business criteria, we would like to finally provide you with a small checklist to help you decide on the right barista machine for your company:
- Which drinks would you like to prepare mainly in your company?
- What quantities should be prepared on average and covered at the peak?
- Do you need a machine for coffee to go?
- Is it enough to buy a barista machine or are two devices more economical?
- What role does the time factor play in preparation?
- How many qualified staff can you have?
- Do you work with permanent staff or rather with temporary staff?
- Is a fully or semi-automatic machine more economical for your requirements?
- How is the space available in your restaurant?
- Please take into account the safety distance (approx. 10 cm) to objects and walls
- What supply and disposal (power supply, waste water, fresh water) is available or possible?
- Is water softening available or necessary, if applicable? Please pay particular attention to this point, because even if the quality of the drinking water in your premises should be excellent, additional water treatment may be required for the production of an optimal espresso and, last but not least, to protect your machine!