In the fast-paced modern world, where time is of the essence, the demand for a quick and delicious cup of coffee has birthed the innovation that is the commercial coffee machine.
Borne from the manual, barista-style devices of the early coffee brewing years, to the sophisticated automatic marvels found in cafes, shops and workplaces around the world today, the journey of these machines is a fascinating tale of innovation and adaptation.
In this article we take a look at the origins of the commercial coffee machine and how innovation has led to better, more efficient coffee brewing for everyone to enjoy.
The Manual Era
The history of commercial coffee machines dates back to the 19th century when the first espresso machine, invented by Angelo Moriondo, was showcased in Turin, Italy, in 1884. These early machines were operated manually, requiring skilled baristas to control every aspect of the brewing process. The lever-pulled espresso machines, often seen in artisan coffee shops, were a staple of this era.
Moriondo’s machine would only see production in limited numbers, with the complex engineering making the machine difficult to manufacture at volume. It did however lay the foundations for steam powered espresso machines, with fellow Italian inventor Luigi Bezzera later introducing several improvements to the machine in the early 1900s.
Enter the Semi-Automatic Coffee Machines
With early manual coffee machine technologies now being refined and improved by leading engineering minds, the need to improve the usability of the machines was a priority, thus the semi-automatic coffee machine was born. These machines would combine the craftmanship of the barista with the efficiency of automated processes, with the user able to control the extraction time and providing a balance between manual finesse and the demand for speed in a commercial setting.
This was made possible by the innovation of coffee legend Francesco Illy, whose idea to move from pressured water to steam helped spawn the type of espresso machine used by millions around the world today. Illy’s world famous coffee would continue to thread through the industry’s many innovations, including being the original espresso utilised by Dick Bradsell in the now world famous Espresso Martini.
Semi-automatic coffee machines grew in popularity during the mid 20th century, experiencing significant growth in high street coffee chains during the 1980s and 1990s, and eventually making their way to household kitchens in smaller, more user friendly formats. You can buy your own slice of semi-automatic heaven with a commercial coffee machine shrunk down to sit on your worktop – incredible!
The Rise of Fully Automatic Machines
The late 20th century witnessed a significant leap in coffee machine technology with the introduction of fully automatic commercial coffee machines. These devices streamlined the brewing process, from grinding the beans to delivering a cup of coffee at the push of a button. Consistency and speed became the name of the game, making it possible for establishments to cater to large volumes of customers without compromising on quality.
None more so has this rise been seen than in the workplaces of the UK. Coffee used to be something that you’d have to either visit a coffee shop to enjoy, or that would be poorly replicated in the home with instant granules. Now automatic commercial coffee machines are a common sight in both industrial settings and office settings, as workplaces put more emphasis on providing great quality espresso-based drinks to their staff.
But what led to this rise of workplace coffee machines? Simply put, commercial coffee machines have become significantly easier for the average person to use. Touchscreen interfaces, programmable settings, and connectivity features became standard, and innovations in bean-to-cup machines integrated the entire coffee-making process within a single device, reducing the need for separate grinders and brewing units. The end-to-end brewing process is now as simple as selecting an option on a screen, and waiting for the drink to be dispensed.
Another reason for the rise in commercial coffee machines at work is the incredible level of configuration and customisation you can get from these units. Whether it’s adjusting the grind size, selecting brewing temperatures, or experimenting with different coffee varieties, these machines offer a level of customisation that was once reserved for artisanal, manual methods. Now, however, you can offer the same level of customisation in a compact unit in a work kitchen or breakout space.
Today, automatic commercial coffee machines are ubiquitous, found in restaurants, hotels, office spaces, and more. Their user-friendly interfaces, efficiency, and consistent quality have made them an indispensable part of the hospitality and corporate sectors. The democratisation of good coffee is now not limited to specialty cafes but extends to every corner of our daily lives.
The evolution of commercial coffee machines is a testament to human ingenuity and our unyielding desire for efficiency without sacrificing quality. From the manual craftsmanship of the past to the high-tech, automatic marvels of today, these machines have come a long way, shaping the way we consume and appreciate coffee in a bustling, modern world.
If you’re looking to buy a commercial coffee machine for your workplace or would like to learn more about how it can benefit your team, reach out to our friendly sales team on 01865 341011, or send us an enquiry.