What You Should Know Before You Buy Commercial Espresso Equipment

This article is reprinted with permission.  It was originally published by the Espresso Service Network

As a retailer of commercial espresso equipment, the Espresso Service Network interacts with all types of equipment buyers. We speak with the experienced searching for specific features to those just starting out, yet to brew their very first shot. Regardless of an individual’s experience with espresso equipment, it is important to understand that operating and maintaining commercial espresso equipment is unlike other industrial appliances. The equipment is designed to produce multiple outcomes which require technicians to have a specific education, however, service technicians are not required to have any training to work in the industry so the cost and level of service greatly vary between retailers. If you care about your coffee, you will want a technician that can do more than replace parts but will also have a basic understanding of coffee brewing and water treatment pertaining specifically to espresso equipment. For you to be satisfied with your equipment and the level of service you receive, your service technician should share the same intensity or in some cases, a lack of intensity for your coffee as you. Whether this is your first time, or you already have experience owning and operating equipment, below are points every buyer should know before purchasing commercial espresso equipment.


Manufacturers to Avoid

Commercial espresso machines imported into the U.S. can be distributed independently or by a branch of the manufacturer.

Some importers carry a limited parts inventory and offer little support to technicians. Your technician should have a solid resource to reach out to when seeking parts and assistance for your equipment in order to make it easier for them to be responsive to your repair needs.

Keep in mind that the longer your equipment is inoperable the more detrimental it is to your business. Customers who are forced to go elsewhere for their coffee do not always return.

If a service company does not have a trusted source for parts, an equipment owner may experience longer equipment downtime and will pay additionally for their technician to research and track down parts.

Tip: Shop with manufacturers who have a main distribution center that offers technician training, equipment manuals, and a full catalog of parts.

Original Equipment Manufactured (OEM) Parts

It is important that your service provider only utilize original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts during your equipment’s warranty period.

If you have a component failure, and your service technician uses an after-market part, if that part fails too, your manufacturer will not cover its replacement and may void your complete equipment warranty. Some manufacturers will not sell parts to an unauthorized service company and if they do, they may not offer them discounts which means you could pay higher part prices during your equipment ownership.

A service company may choose not to become an authorized service provider with a manufacturer for several reasons.

• They may have had a bad experience with the manufacturer’s equipment or customer service department.

• A service company must meet the requirements of the manufacturer to become a sales and service agent, which may include purchasing a minimum parts inventory and technical training.

• The high cost to meet these requirements may not be reasonable if only a few units of the manufacturer’s equipment are being sold in their service area and they have not been assigned a service agreement with another retailer.

• The manufacturer may also choose to limit the number of service agents selling and servicing their equipment in one area.

• A service company will almost always have the option of purchasing aftermarket parts, but some key parts will only be available through the manufacturer.

Do not assume one service company will be able to provide you with the same level of service as another.

Tip: Before purchasing equipment, speak to several local service companies in your area about the manufacturers they are authorized to support.


Equipment Accommodations

Equipment comes in all sizes and configurations. Before you purchase your equipment, consider the size, weight, plumbing, and electrical needs.

Specification sheets are available with any equipment retailer.
• Is your counter strong enough to hold the combined weight of your equipment?
• Is your counter large enough?
• Will you need a plumber or electrician to meet the equipment’s requirements?

In most cases, once shipped commercial espresso equipment is non-refundable or may have restocking fees associated with a return,

Tip: Before you buy make sure you can meet all the needs of your equipment to function safely and to its fullest potential.

Place Your Order Sooner than Later

Currently, manufacturers are struggling to keep equipment in stock.

Select your equipment at least eight (8) weeks in advance and even earlier if you plan to have your equipment customized.

If necessary, your retailer will work with the manufacturer to have your equipment held complimentary until you are ready for installation. If you ship your equipment prematurely, you could end up paying warehousing fees to the service company.

Tip: Do not wait till the last minute to place your equipment order.


Manufacturer Warranty

This warranty indicates that the manufacturer of your equipment is responsible for replacing parts and materials that are defective, but that is all.

Your manufacturer warranty does not include your technician’s labor or any travel expenses to have your machine evaluated, nor does it cover shipping for any parts to be replaced in your machine.

The length of a manufacturer warranty can vary, typically from one to two years with some electronic parts extending beyond that.

Tip: Take the time to understand the details of your manufacturer warranty.

Service and Warranty Agreement

Your warranty is important, especially in the first few months of your equipment’s operation.

Your equipment service agreement should identify your service provider, if different from your retailer, and cover your and your retailer’s responsibilities regarding installation, labor and travel warranty, and the shipping and handling of warranty parts.

Your responsibilities will most likely come with penalties if not met.  Having everything in writing is important when you need to reference what your agreement covers and the complimentary services that came with your purchase.

Tip: Avoid additional charges, by working with a retailer that places your service and warranty in writing. 

Other Services and Warranties

Most manufacturers require retailers to include a one-year labor warranty to back their part (manufacturer)  warranty. This separate warranty is usually referred to as an extended warranty.

A labor warranty will pay your technician to repair or replace parts the manufacturer determines to be defective. Your labor warranty will also cover your technician’s evaluation time but only if the manufacturer ultimately determines that the breakdown was caused by a defect in their material or workmanship.

This extended warranty is included because the expense of labor to support the manufacturer warranty can generally be more costly than most part failures that would cause your equipment to become inoperable. The cost of commercial espresso repair can be costly when a technician’s labor for evaluation and travel is incorporated in a warranty repair.

 Tip: Shop with retailers that include a travel warranty, complimentary preventative maintenance, and other free services. 


The Best Retailer is the Most Knowledgeable

If possible, work with a retailer that is an expert in the service and maintenance of commercial espresso equipment. It does not have to be the company that does your actual service.

Purchasing from an experienced sales and service company will protect you from technician mistakes, unfair labor charges, and missed warranty issues that are not obvious to a less conscientious technician.

Tip: Plan to work with your retailer for the life of your machine.

Buying Direct from the Manufacturer

Manufacturers are set up to sell their equipment direct to you, but at the same time, they do not want to necessarily compete with their distributors.

You will most likely pay top dollar for your equipment if you purchase directly from the manufacturer. You’ll also be sending your business outside your community which is never helpful for any retailer. 

Tip: Look to local roasters and service companies for better equipment pricing with add-on services such as complimentary preventative maintenance.  

Buying Online

Retailers with websites offer convenience and a pleasant shopping experience but are out of reach when warranty and service issues become complicated.

The Espresso Service Network is an online retailer so we are kind of dinging ourselves here but do check out our Service Provider Sales Program. This explains how we partner with the best service companies in your area to bring you the best service possible.

Finding the Best Retailer Takes Effort

The commercial espresso equipment manufacturer offers you several places to purchase equipment so do not get drawn into common and ridiculous sales pitches like, “It’s a workhorse, you can’t go wrong.”

Avoid taking the advice of just one source. Take the time to visit local espresso bars, taste their coffee, and ask who maintains their machines and what they like about their equipment. Make note of the manufacturers being used. If you like the coffee of a café’ or drive-thru and their equipment appears to be in good working order, their service provider may be a good lead.

Contact the equipment manufacturer of the machines being used in your area. You can find the contact information of many manufacturers on espressoservicedirectory.com. Let them know what community you plan to serve your beverages and ask who they recommend you purchase their equipment from.

Tip: Search for the best retailer with the most knowledgeable technicians and the best comprehensive service in your area.

Buying from a Roaster

Although most roasters are educated in coffee, equipment service is a separate industry with parts management, after-hours, and emergency service.

Many roasters only offer limited repair services with just fundamental diagnostic assistance. Some roasters will also discontinue your service if you stop purchasing their coffee.

Buying from a Local Service Company

The espresso industry does not require any special license to work as a technician. Purchasing from your local service provider does not guarantee a stellar service experience. You may be better off purchasing from a sales and service company one hundred miles away rather than working with someone that is just starting out or whose business is focused on another type of equipment such as refrigeration.


Do Not Settle on a Poor Service Company

If you purchase from a retailer that will be subcontracting your installation and repair services, do not assume you will be receiving the best service in town.

Most experienced service companies sell equipment and do not always accept customers who choose to purchase elsewhere. If you cannot purchase directly from a local sales and service company, do not allow your retailer to select an inadequate service provider.

Tip: Plan to work with your service provider for the life of your equipment.

Subcontracted Service Companies

If your retailer is subcontracting your service, ask your retailer for a written agreement with your service provider.

Service agreements offer insight to what your service provider cannot or is unwilling to provide you. Your agreement with your service provider can also reflect the level of service you are receiving compared to other retailers.

Without an agreement, service companies are not obligated to provide you any services pertaining to your warranty or purchase including utilizing OEM parts, storing your equipment, or training you in maintenance, operations or programming just to name a few. 

Tip: Avoid low level service companies that will not acknowledge their responsibilities in writing.


Manufacturer Warranty Expiration Date

Most manufacturer warranties do not start at installation but rather when the manufacturer ships the equipment from their warehouse.

If you are purchasing from a retailer and the equipment is coming from their warehouse, the warranty on your equipment is already aging. 

Tip: If you must purchase a machine that is not shipping direct from the manufacturer, ask your retailer to cover defective materials and parts in your service agreement if your manufacturer warranty expires early because of this technicality.

Manufacturer Direct Shipping

If possible, avoid purchasing in-stock equipment from a retailer.

Manufacturers are always updating software, repairing glitches, and modifying their equipment designs.

This will also ensure that you are not purchasing equipment with an expiring manufacturer warranty.

Tip: Have your equipment shipped direct from the manufacturer to ensure you are purchasing the newest generation of your equipment model. 


Select a retailer that understands espresso repair and is prepared to monitor the services completed on your equipment so that warranty issues are identified and taken care of promptly and before your warranty expires.

If you must purchase your equipment from someone that will need to subcontract your installation and repair services, make sure you have a written agreement with your service company so that your technician will be accountable to your business.

Once you are in business, your espresso equipment will be vital to your success. Take the time to do your research and choose the retailer best suited for your business.

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