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High-quality commercial coffee makers are expected to make large quantities of coffee and not break down in the face of this daily grind. Surprisingly, that’s not the case! If we decided to run a business with some of the candidates we eventually tossed out, it’d crash and burn quickly.
We spent 6 months testing different coffee makers to find the 5 best commercial coffee makers among more than 30 candidates. The best commercial coffee maker is engineered to withstand heavy-duty, industrial use and can be used day after day, all year long, without quality of the coffee deteriorating. Such a coffee maker is different from your average home coffee machine, and its usability is tied to things like dimensions, power, brewing capacity, bean hopper capacity, water tank size, and temperature regulation. All things considered, the Wilbur Curtis CAFE2DB10A000 is the best product on our list, becoming Editor’s Choice.
More features: pour over, two heating stations, UL listed, 4.2 gal/hr, stainless steel exterior
One of the top selling points in the Wilbur Curtis CAFE2DB10A000 coffee brewer is its fast brewing time. It takes about 3 minutes to brew a pot of coffee, thanks to two heating stations and a powerful heating element that keeps the water at a constant 200 degrees F. So anytime you want to make coffee, the machine immediately begins the brewing process and doesn’t have to first heat the water. The water tank itself is big, with a capacity of 0.5 gallons (64 0z), and with the help of a 1450 W motor, the coffee maker is designed to brew up to 4.2 gallons of coffee in an hour.
Since it is built as a pour-over unit, it doesn’t require any plumbing installation. The easy set it and use it design, coupled with its considerably reasonable price, makes it attractive even for domestic use.
The one thing you may not like about this coffee maker is the absence of an off switch, which means the machine stays on for as long as it’s plugged in. So if you’re not going to be using it for long stretches of time, it’s a good idea to unplug it and save some power.
This coffee machine has a compact design, doesn’t take up a lot of kitchen space, and its stainless steel construction gives it a classic look that complements any contemporary decor.
More features: automatic power on/off function, cup size adjustment, drainable internal tank, 1 warmer
The Keurig K1500 single-serve coffee maker, compact but with a large reservoir, is perfect for small cafes and offices. The water tank has a capacity of 96 oz and will see you pour up to 15 cups before you need to refill the reservoir. It does not have hot water on demand or a preheating feature, but it brews a cup of coffee in under a minute. This short waiting time makes it usable even in a busy cafe.
The machine has an automatic on/off switch which streamlines the brewing process, eliminating the need for you to monitor and regulate the operation. It also supports 4 brew sizes: 6, 8, 10, and 12 oz, allowing for versatility and customization. A Strong Brew feature allows you to enjoy a richer, flavorful cup if you like your coffee strong.
It is a compact unit measuring only 12.35 x 10.25 x 12.1 inches, its small footprint making it a great choice for establishments where space is limited.
One thing you’ll love about this machine is how quietly it runs. It’s almost as if it isn’t there. Plus, its simple pour-over design eliminates the need for plumbing installation.
The fully programmable Keurig K155 is a perfect coffee maker for office where you just want everybody to enjoy their coffee without tinkering too much with the coffee machine. From the touch-screen operation to the full color LCD display, it is fully digitized to make coffee brewing quick, fun, and easy. The on/off feature takes over as soon as you set your preferred brewing options, and serves up your coffee without you having to turn the controls and waiting to switch everything off. Plus, it gets your coffee ready in less than 1 minute.
Choose from 4 brew sizes: 4, 6, 8, and 10 ounces. You can also adjust the machine to hold a bigger, travel mug size by removing the drip tray. The water reservoir has a capacity of 90 oz and allows you to make 15-18 cups before you have to refill the tank. The removable reservoir is easy to fill and can be fully drained for storage or transport. It’s K-Cup compatible and comes with a free 12 Count K-Cup variety box.
There is a range of programmable features, including brew temperature adjustment to set your preferred degree of hotness, clock setting, and the choice of three languages: English, Spanish, and French.
The exterior is gorgeous, but there are lots of cheap, plastic bits too.
More features: dishwasher safe, adjustable cup size, tea and coffee separate baskets, delay brew program, foldable frother, cold brew setting
If you like experimenting with new ways of making coffee or tea, consider buying the Ninja CP307. It’s equipped for all manner of customization, whether for your tea or your coffee, and that means it has a wide range of settings and compartments.
For starters, it has separate coffee and tea controls, with each set of settings operating on advanced brewing technology. You can brew your drinks super hot or cold over iced tea. You may also brew directly into a cup if you like. When you choose a tea option, the machine is intelligent enough to know how many steeps are needed to make your tea and at what temperature. Additionally, you can use it with any brand of bagged or loose tea or coffee.
The machine offers 5 strength options: classic, rich, specialty, over ice, and cold brew. You also get 6 cup sizes, which range from single cup to travel mug, half-carafe and full carafe. Among the programmable settings is a clock setting that allows you to set the machine to auto-brew your coffee at a specific time. The machine comes with a wide array of recipes and their corresponding measurements. While the recipes work great, the given measurements yield drinks that are quite strong. You’ll probably want to adjust these to find what level works for your taste.
There is a 50-ounce thermal carafe that keeps your drink hot for up to 2 hours, and a frothing tool that will turn your milk into froth in just seconds.
BUNN markets the BUNN CSB3TD as a unit for use in high-altitude areas above 4,000 feet. We’re not sure what would happen if you attempted to use it in low-altitude locations (we didn’t think it was wise to attempt this), but it’s best to heed the manufacturer’s advice. Now that we’re clear about that, this coffee maker is perfect for a busy cafe. The machine stays on throughout, so you won’t have to worry about flipping the ON switch every now and then if you have a constant flow of requests for coffee.
It has a 50-ounce stainless steel reservoir, which holds about 10 cups. The initial brewing time is 15 minutes because the water is cold. The machine then stays on, keeping the water in the tank preheated, and subsequent brewing takes approximately 4 minutes for all 50-ounces of coffee. Note that if you unplug the coffee maker and the water in the reservoir gets cold, when you plug it back in and resume operations, the initial brewing time will be 15 minutes and thereafter reduce to 4 minutes for subsequent brewing.
For optimal flavor extraction, this BUNN coffee maker uses a wide spray-head, resulting in intense strength coffee with a rich taste.
A vacuum-insulated, double-wall thermal carafe keeps the coffee hot. The manufacturer indicates that it will keep your coffee hot for more than 2 hours, but we found that it loses some of the heat if you leave your coffee in there for too long, so aim to consume it within 2-3 hours.
You should now have an idea of how different coffee makers compare and which coffee makers are best suited for your specific use depending on the size of your business and the demand for coffee. In the buying guide below, we explain how commercial coffee makers work and tell you the specific features to look for when buying one.
Commercial coffee maker – what should you expect?
Commercial coffee makers are versatile and can be used in any establishment, be it a cafe, diner, convenience store, or office break room. They are designed to brew coffee fast to ensure time efficiency for both you and your customers. Some coffee makers (the automatic type) are designed to connect to a water line. This type needs plumbing work to install, but the upside is that the machines are super-fast. The second commercial variety is the pour-over coffee makers which don’t require a water line to operate and can therefore be moved around as needed. For safety, check that the commercial coffee maker you’re about to buy is UL Commercial rated.
How do commercial coffee makers do their job?
Commercial coffee makers rely on temperature and pressure to extract the richest flavor possible from the coffee beans. When you pour cold water into the coffee maker’s reservoir, a high-spinning rotor pushes the water into a narrow pipe, from where it flows into a boiler at high pressure. Here, it’s heated to 192-200 degrees F before being pushed into the brew head. When you push the brew button, it opens a valve that allows the water to shoot through to the dispersal plates in a controlled manner, from where it hits the coffee beans at a predetermined pressure and temperature, soaking the beans to extract maximum flavor before finding its way down into the decanter/carafe. The following video will show you the process:
Automatic commercial coffee makers are a lot more expensive than pour-over coffee makers and usually have an asking price above $500. Pour-over commercial coffee makers, which are perfect for small and medium cafes and offices, are cheaper, with prices ranging between $120 and $300.
You can find the best commercial coffee maker by the following features
Below are the specific features to look for when buying a commercial coffee maker.
Coffee machine type
Coffee machines range from the basic to the complex. The easiest to operate are bean-to-cup and combination bean-to-cup coffee makers. Bean-to-cup coffee machines have a built-in grinder, so all you need to do is add your coffee beans, add water to the reservoir, press the brew button, and the machine will grind and brew the coffee for you. It sounds like an extensive process, but it all happens within minutes.
Combination bean-to-cup coffee makers work much like the bean-to-cup variety, but they also provide additional drink options, such as hot chocolate, powdered milk, and dried instant coffee. Both types are used in low and medium volume applications, meaning establishments that serve anywhere between 50 and 200 cups a day.
The third and more complex machines are cappuccino and espresso machines. These are ideal for use in high volume applications (serving more than 200 cups a day), and you’ll commonly find them in coffee shops and restaurants. They produce the highest coffee strength and best flavor, but they also require expertise to operate.
Choose the bean hopper capacity
The bean hopper capacity determines how many cups of coffee you can serve before you have to add fresh coffee beans. Generally, a bean hopper capacity of 0.5 lbs will produce approximately 20 cups, and then you would need to pour in a fresh batch of coffee beans. Use your volume per day to determine the best bean hopper capacity for your establishment. If you serve 200 cups a day, a coffee maker with a bean hopper capacity of 5 lbs will suffice. Alternatively, you can choose one with a lower capacity, but be ready to replace the coffee beans more frequently.
Some people like their coffee very hot, others enjoy coffee that’s closer to lukewarm than hot. With temperature control, you adjust the temperature for each cup of coffee dripping through the machine. Choose a coffee maker with temperature regulation so you can set the preferred temperature for each customer. If you’re using the machine in an office setting, everyone can adjust the temperature of their coffee as they like.
Some commercial coffee makers like Wilbur Curtis CAFE2DB10A000 and BUNN CSB3TD come with a 3-year warranty. Manufacturers like Keurig give a 1-year warranty on all their coffee makers. The Ninja CP307 also comes with a 1-year warranty. If you don’t feel confident about a coffee maker’s quality, it helps if the warranty period is reasonably long so you can have the manufacturer’s support in case the machine malfunctions.
Do you need the grinding option?
Buying a coffee maker with a built-in grinder has numerous advantages. Depending on the model you choose, it can be more economical than buying a grinder separately. The grinder will also produce a consistent grind each time, resulting in great flavor, and therefore making the machine quite reliable when it comes to producing an excellent cup of coffee every single time. If you choose this option, you want to be careful to choose a machine that can be used without the grinder, so that if the grinder breaks down, you can find a replacement grinder without discarding the entire coffee maker.
Water tank size
The bigger the water tank, the more cups of coffee you can brew before refilling the reservoir. This can be a time-saver when you have a volume of 200 cups or more per day. Coffee machines like the Keurig K1500 and Keurig K155 have a water tank capacity of 96 oz and 90 oz respectively, producing between 15 and 18 cups of coffee per refill.
If your volume averages 100 cups or more in a day, you want a coffee maker with a rapid brewing time so you can serve your clientele efficiently. If it takes too long to prepare a single cup of coffee, the waiting time may be a few minutes longer than your patrons are willing to spare. Luckily, most commercial coffee makers have a fast brewing time, with some like Keurig coffee makers making a cup in less than 1 minute. The Wilbur Curtis CAFE2DB10A000 brews a cup in 3 minutes, while the BUNN CSB3TD produces 50- ounces of coffee in 4 minutes.
Choose a coffee maker that is easy to operate so that you don’t spend too much time setting it up. Chances are the fewer control buttons a coffee machine has the easier it is to operate. Also, consider the size of the machine vis a vis where you intend to place it and how much countertop allowance it needs.
Is it easy to clean?
Go for a coffee maker that is easy to clean, which usually means that a lot of the parts should be removable and washable/dishwasher safe. In the BUNN CSB3TD, for example, nearly all components are removable and easy to clean. Such a machine is also easy to maintain. Other easy-to-clean options are Keurig K155 and Wilbur Curtis CAFE2DB10A000, which has few components, and therefore cleaning it is easy work.
It helps if the coffee maker comes with accessories like a carafe, frothing tool, warmer, a coffee scoop, or condiments organizers because then it means you don’t have to source for these things separately. For example, the Ninja CP307 comes with a frothing tool and carafe. The BUNN CSB3TD, too, comes with a carafe.
They can break down in as little as 6 months to 1 year or last for over 20 years. It all depends on how frequently the machine is used and how well you take care of it. Extend the shelf life of your machine by cleaning and back flushing after each day’s use, descaling frequently, using only soft, filtered water, and running all the maintenance checks recommended by the manufacturer
While it is tempting to buy a commercial coffee maker for home use, it isn’t advisable. This is because commercial units are UL rated for commercial use only, meaning they may not be safe for home use. For a large household, choose a high-capacity coffee maker that is UL rated for household use and engineered for the home kitchen environment instead.
Our top choice is the Wilbur Curtis CAFE2DB10A000. Its slim, compact build and pour-over design make it user-friendly. The large water tank, powerful heater, and dual heating stations are other top selling points. We also like the preheating feature which provides hot water on demand, and how it gets coffee ready in 3 minutes or less.
Our second choice is the Keurig K1500, a small machine that stores easily and occupies minimal counter space. We like its large water reservoir, the fast brewing time, the brew volume options, the Strong brew setting, and the automatic on/off feature. We also like how quiet it runs.
Our third best commercial coffee maker is the BUNN CSB3TD, which stands out for its commercial-grade stainless steel tank and fast brewing time. Other unique features include the double-wall thermal carafe, and the water preheating setting, which speeds up the brewing time. The low price is equally attractive.