Commercial Bean to Cup VS Espresso Machines

What type of coffee machine should I choose for my business?

A commercial coffee machine is a welcome addition to all sorts of businesses, not just coffee shops.

More shops, hairdressers, pubs, restaurants, food vans and other customer-facing businesses are finding that a commercial coffee machine can keep customers happy while generating some useful side income.

We are even starting to see commercial coffee machines in high street shops, banks and serviced offices.

Leasing a commercial coffee machine means that you can serve the best quality cup of java while keeping costs down and minimising the risk to your business.

But many business owners don’t know what kind of machine is right for them. There are lots of different types of commercial coffee machines available, including in-cup and instant machines, but for many businesses the choice will be between a commercial bean to cup and a commercial espresso machine.

The kind of machine that’s right for your business will depend on several different factors, including what kind of business you operate, your target consumer and your budget.

In this article, we talk about the machines in more detail, what separates them and how you should go about choosing between them.

What is a Commercial Bean to Cup Coffee Machine?

Bean to cup coffee machines are wholly automated, producing great tasting coffee at the touch of a button. These machines have improved remarkably in a short space of time and can now create all your favourite barista-quality drinks with next to no effort.

All you need to do is keep the machine topped up with beans, milk and other ingredients and your coffee machine will put delicious tasting coffee out every time. Some bean to cup machines also let you customise the recipes to make the drinks stronger, frothier and just the way you like it.

What is a Commercial Espresso Machine?

Commercial espresso machines are the large hot water pumping, milk frothing, coffee pouring units that you’ll find in pretty much every coffee shop up and down the country. They are used to create rich espresso drinks with different amount of hot and steamed milk.

Traditional espresso machines are operated by skilled baristas. They also often require additional equipment like a bean grinder and milk fridge.  

Bean to Cup VS Espresso: What’s the Difference?

There are some key differences between the machines that will factor into your decision making when choosing a commercial coffee machine. We have summarised some of the most important points here.


The number one difference between commercial bean to cup and espresso machines is that espresso machines typically require trained staff in order to operate them.

Without proper training, an espresso machine isn’t easy to use. And it is even harder to get it to make a good cup of coffee every time. What’s more, with lots of hot water and steam coming out, unguarded espresso machines can be a health and safety risk waiting to happen.

Bean to cup machines, meanwhile, require no staff and no specialist training. Anyone can use the machines to make great tasting coffee, even members of the public.


At face value, the cost of leasing bean to cup and espresso machines is similar. We have a broad range of commercial coffee machines listed on our site. Bean to cup machines lease for between £20 and £60 per week while compact espresso machines cost between £20 and £50 per week.

But the running costs can be markedly different. This is primarily because espresso machines require trained staff to operate them. This won’t be big problem for some businesses. If you operate a bar or restaurant, for example, you can simply train existing staff to use the machine.

But for some businesses like serviced offices, shops and hairdressers, you may need to recruit a new staff member just to look after the espresso machine. This would obviously represent a significant additional expense.


At its best, food is a means of performance. That’s why cocktails are shaken and teppanyaki chefs throw food into guests mouths. The espresso machine is no different and it helps tickle other senses apart from just taste.

When people talk about the quality of coffee, they are sometimes talking about the smell of the roasted beans, the tinkling of cups and wooshing of milk. In a lot of ways the ritual of getting a coffee is just as important as the drink itself.

This is part of the reason why people are willing to pay more for a coffee made on an espresso machine, even though bean to cup coffees are almost equal in quality.


Britain has become a nation of coffee lovers. And more and more people are turning their noses up at freeze-dried instant and other low-quality hot drinks. That’s why the quality of the coffee is so important.

Providing it is prepared by a skilled barista and you use high-quality ingredients, espresso machine coffee is the best you can get.

But the quality of bean to cup coffee machines has improved dramatically in recent years. The days of lukewarm coffee in a brown plastic cup are over. Now the quality of bean to cup coffee is almost on a par with espresso machines, providing the bean to cup machine is cleaned and maintained properly. The quality of bean to cup coffee is also more consistent than espresso coffee, the quality of which can depend on the whims of the barista.


Proper cleaning and maintenance is crucial to getting the perfect cup of Joe every time. We’ve already talked about how much easier a bean to cup machine is to use. But it is also simple to clean and maintain.

Bean to cup machines need to be kept fully stocked with all the correct ingredients. It also needs to be cleaned once per day to make sure it is on tip-top form. Most problems can be fixed quickly and if there is a more serious breakdown then we can dispatch a repair engineer in super quick time.

Espresso machines need to be cleaned on the go. This adds more time to the preparation of each drink, but it means that the machine will always be on top form. Espresso machines are simpler than bean to cup machines. And with fewer moving parts there should be less to go wrong with them.

Choosing the Machine That’s Right for Your Business

We’ve already talked about some of the main differences between the two types of commercial coffee machines. If you are still struggling to make up your mind, this final section will help you decide which machine is right for your business.

Your Target Customer

The best coffee machine for your business will have a lot to do with who your target customers are.

For a lot of people, coffee is coffee. And there isn’t much difference between a £1.50 cup and a £3.00.

These people probably wouldn’t mind grabbing a bean to cup coffee from McDonalds or Greggs, whereas others would turn their noses up at anything that isn’t from an independent coffee shop.

As a business owner, you will have a good grasp of who your customers are, what kind of coffee they want and what they will be willing to pay. If you have an upmarket café in a trendy part of the city, then an espresso machine is probably the way to go. But if you run a greasy spoon on an industrial estate then a bean to cup machine may be better.

Your Footfall

Your footfall is also important. If you have hundreds and hundreds of customers each day and they all want their coffee pronto, then a quick bean to cup machine might be more appropriate.

Even if you are selling the coffee slightly cheaper, you will make more money because you can work through more customers.

If, on the other hand, your footfall is lower, then you can make more money from each customer by charging more for an espresso coffee. Even if it takes a bit longer to get your customers served.

Ask yourself how many people will want a coffee at rush hour? How much will you be able to serve during the mid-morning rush? And choose your machine appropriately.

Your type of business

The final consideration is your type of business. Some businesses like high-quality restaurants and coffee shops will almost certainly want to use an espresso machine for the extra coffee quality and theatre factor.

Mobile food vans will also want to use an espresso machine because bean to cup machines have too many moving parts and could easily become damaged in transit.

For other types of business, such as serviced offices, the bean to cup machines will be the better option because these can be used on a self-service basis with a coin-operated system.

In general, businesses that have coffee as a big part of the product offer will be better off with an espresso machine. But for businesses where coffee is an added extra or something of an after-thought, a bean to cup machine will be more appropriate.

For more information about bean to cup or espresso machines or to find out about our leasing services, please speak to a member of the team today. Call: 0800 035 5584.