In my recent Gaggia Classic review, and in my Sage Oracle Review refer to prosumer machines, and I realise that some people won’t be familiar with the term, as I wasn’t fairly recently, so I thought I’d try to explain the difference.
Commercial espresso machines cost a lot of money, are made with much higher quality components, are much better made then lower cost consumer machines, are made to last, and are made to make fantastic espresso. They cost at least a couple of grand, and can cost into and beyond the tens of thousands.
When setting up a coffee shop, the commercial espresso machine and grinder usually account for a big portion of the start up funds required. If you ever wonder why a coffee in a speciality coffee shop costs more than it might do elsewhere, it’s not only the premium freshly roasted coffee beans that you’re paying for, and the nice environment, trained Baristas and so on, it’s also the cost of the expensive equipment that needs to be accounted for in the cost of each cup, or the business won’t succeed.
Consumer espresso machines to be sold for one or two hundred pounds, can’t possibly be made using the same kind of components; a single component in a commercial machine would be likely to cost far more than the total RRP of a consumer machine. The result is that consumer machines are completely different to commercial machines, as is the resulting espresso.
If you’re wanting to make espresso at home which comes anywhere near close to the level of espresso in a decent coffee shop with commercial equipment, it’s just not reasonable to expect to be able to do this with consumer machines. If you’re looking at a brand new machine being sold as having the ability to make real espresso, with a price tag of tens of pounds rather than hundreds, I would advise scepticism.
Prosumer machines on the other hand are espresso machines which are made for use in the home, but are based on commercial machines. They work along the same lines, have the same kind of pumps and boilers, usually the same kind of group head, and they are capable (as long as you have a great grinder and are using good quality freshly roasted coffee beans) of producing espresso on a par with the espresso you’ll be accustomed to being served in gourmet coffee shops.
Prosumer machines cost more than consumer machines, but usually less than commercial ones. They often use the famous E61 brew group or group head, brass / copper boilers, 58mm portafilter, rotary or vibration pumps, and so on – features you would usually find on commercial machines rather than consumer ones, and features which make for great espresso and machines which are built to last.
Consumer machines will often have smaller stainless steel boilers, different kinds of pumps (which cost less, use less energy and make less noise), smaller and lighter weight portafilters, and are generally made with cheaper components than prosumer machines.
It’s not fair to expect a consumer espresso machine for one or two hundred pounds to be made in the same way as a prosumer machine costing over a thousand, so this isn’t a put down of consumer machines, I just think that anyone who wants to make espresso at home should at least be aware of the difference.
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