What is a Traditional Coffee Machine?

If you’re looking to buy or rent a coffee machine for your business, you may find yourself struggling to choose between traditional and bean-to-cup coffee machines. Both have their advantages and specific features that may suit some more than others.

You need to find the right machine for your business’s needs, which can be a little tricky if you’re not sure about all of the pros and cons. And because we know a thing or two about coffee machines here at Amore Coffee, we wanted to lay out a very clear comparison between these two options to help people choose the right coffee machine for their business.

First of all, let’s be clear what we mean by traditional coffee machines. There are countless coffee machine variations, but a traditional coffee machine is the classic espresso machine used by baristas in cafes and restaurants all around the world. They work by passing hot water through compacted coffee grounds which then goes through a filter.

An espresso machine is manual, meaning that someone has to put the beans through the grinder and press them into the portafilter with the right amount of pressure before pressing the button that runs the water through the coffee.

Let’s find out a bit more below about the differences between traditional and bean-to-cup coffee machines. Our goal here is to make sure you choose the right type of machine for your business.

Pros of Using a Traditional / Espresso Coffee Machine

  1. Excellent quality coffee, providing the baristas are well trained.
  2. Can work continuously, producing a huge quantity of coffee each day.
  3. A very flexible machine as you operate it however you like – this allows you to make many different beverages to different people’s specifications.
  4. Relatively simple machinery makes it easy to clean.
  5. Espresso machines look great and add to the aesthetic of your establishment.
  6. The noise of the grinder (which might also be a negative for some people) also adds to your establishment’s sense of atmosphere.

Cons of Using a Traditional / Espresso Coffee Machine

Training is required to make the best quality coffee possible – this can prove complex when you consider each step

  1. Grinding – fineness or coarseness of coffee grounds can greatly affect the end flavour.
  2. Tamping – this is pressing the coffee grinds down into the portafilter. Pressing too hard will result in a bitter, burnt cup of coffee. Whilst not pressing hard enough will result in a watery, weak cup of coffee.
  3. Steaming the milk – when steaming the milk, the angle of the steaming wand, the intensity of the steam, the gentle swirling of the milk jug – all of these things impact the consistency and taste of the foam (cappuccinos and macchiatos) or milk (lattes and flat whites). You need to do it longer and hotter for foam, and allow more air in by blasting the steam in at a harder angle. Essentially, it takes a while to master, and some people really struggle with it.
  4. Because the quality of the product depends on the user, the coffee produced can be very inconsistent.
  5. As espresso machines are so hands on, they aren’t suitable (and may even be dangerous) if used as self-service machines for customers – plus customers would make a mess with the grinder and when they pour the coffee into the portafilter!
  6. There can be more coffee wastage as coffee grounds are spilt or tamped incorrectly.
  7. The noise of the grinder may be considered too noisy for some venues (library cafes, or cafes where people regularly give talks).

What is a Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machine?

The K1-K5 bean-to-cup coffee machines available here at Amore Coffee

Let’s also be clear about what we mean by bean-to-cup coffee machines. What they are, essentially, is an automated machine that does everything the traditional coffee machine does and everything the barista does too. They are called bean-to-cup because the process begins with complete unground coffee beans and produces a cup of coffee on the other side. After you input your command into the display, it will ground the exact amount of coffee required for your beverage, as well as steam the milk to perfection. Bean-to-cup coffee machines are considered to be the best-automated coffee machines because other automated coffee machines use pre-ground coffee which goes a little stale and loses some of its flavours after only a short time. Waiting to grind the beans right before brewing the coffee ensures the quality of the finished beverage is as high as possible.

Pros of Using a Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machine

As bean-to-cup machines do not require you to do anything other than press a button to make your coffee, they are very easy to use. As such, there are several advantages to this:

  1. No staff training is required to make the coffee, which saves time and resources.
  2. Customers and/or employees can make their own coffee.
  3. As everything occurs inside the made machine, there is no coffee wastage.
  4. Provided the machine is well cared for, the quality of the coffee is always consistent.
  5. As it is automatic, you can make a coffee whilst get on with a different task.
  6. The bean-to-cup process is so quick that all the richness of flavour is preserved, giving you a beautiful cup of coffee.

Cons of Using a Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machine

  1. The milk system in the machine needs to be cleaned every single day, as does part of the machine that grinds, tamps and filters the coffee. As there are many different parts, this can be a little fiddly and requires some training. However, most good coffee machine rental companies should provide you with training and even come and maintain your machine on a regular basis.
  2. The lack of visible coffee equipment can detract from the look and atmosphere of a café or bar, but this attitude is changing as people become less and less snobbish about automatic coffee machines.
  3. Bean-to-cup coffee machines have a limit to how many beverages they can make each day before you have to clean them, replace the milk, maintain the working parts, etc.

Summary: Why should you choose a bean-to-cup coffee machine?

Bean-to-cup coffee machines’ main selling point is that they produce beautiful, consistent cups of coffee without the need for staff training, and without wastage. They are fully automated, so anyone making a cup of coffee can get on with another task. For restaurants and bars, this is ideal as bar staff can get on preparing the rest of a table’s order. If your restaurant or bar has a high staff turnover, then saving time and money on training is a huge benefit of bean-to-cup machines. In offices and other non-hospitality workplaces, a bean-to-cup coffee machine is ideal as they can make themselves and visiting clients a beautiful cup of coffee without having the skills of a trained barista.

Summary: Why Should You Choose a Traditional/Espresso Coffee Machine?

Traditional coffee machines are ideal for cafés that expect to produce a lot of coffee, as this is the one big advantage they have over bean-to-cup models. Also, if your café or restaurant has a classic aesthetic and you want your equipment to slot nicely into this, then you should perhaps consider an espresso machine. If you have a dedicated workforce whom you are happy to train, then it also makes sense to get an espresso machine for your business.

Traditional vs Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machine Comparison

The following table gives a clear point-by-point comparison of the differences between traditional/espresso coffee machines and bean-to-cup coffee machines:

Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machine
Traditional/Espresso Coffee Machine
How to use: Place your cup under the nozzle and make your selection from the display. The machine will take care of the entire process, including grinding the beans, tamping the coffee to the correct pressure, pouring the right amount of hot water through the coffee, and steaming the milk to the right consistency. Grind the appropriate amount of coffee beans, trying not to grind too much as it goes stale very quickly. Tamp (press) it into the portafilter with around 30 pounds of pressure. Press the button for the right amount of hot water to pour through the compacted coffee. If required, make velvety milk (latte) or foam (cappuccino) with the steam wand. Pour milk/foam into or on top of the espresso coffee.
Quality of coffee: As long as you clean the machine regularly and maintain it, then the quality of the coffee is exceptional and it is very consistent, as the process requires no skill or knowledge from the user of the machine. If the person using the machine is well trained, then the coffee from an espresso machine is exceptionally good. However, the quality is inconsistent, as it can differ widely from user to user.
Waste: As bean-to-cup machines are so well designed and there is no room for human error, there is no wastage. Even with skilled baristas, there is often coffee and milk wastage when using a traditional coffee machine. This is mainly in the form of excess milk or coffee grounds with each beverage. No human can be as accurate with quantities as a machine.
Training required: Some training is required to teach staff how to clean the complex parts at the end of each day. But as one member of staff can be in charge of this, you do not need to teach this to everyone who uses the machine. Yes. A significant amount of training is required before someone is able to make some of the more challenging drinks. This can take a while and there will be many poor quality drinks made before the trainee as a capable barista.
Time taken to clean machine: It can take quite a while to adequately clean your bean-to-cup coffee machine, but Amore Coffee and any good rental company will teach you everything you need to know and even visit to offer regular maintenance. It does not take long to clean an espresso machine. You can flush it out with a cleaning fluid and then clean the tray and portafilter easily enough.