Best Coffee Machine for Gastronomy in 2024

The best coffee machine for gastronomy is... Well, it depends:

We coffee lovers are all thrilled by the experienced barista behind the counter, working with the portafilter, making adjustments, and creating fine coffee drinks. But making coffee with a portafilter is no easy task, and most gastronomic establishments do not have experienced baristas behind the machine. This is where fully automatic coffee machines come into play.

But is the fully automatic coffee machine really just a compromise, or even only for culinary philistines? Can you actually make a really good coffee only with the iconic portafilters? To get to the bottom of these questions, we let the two machine concepts go head to head.

A spoiler in advance: Whether it's a fully automatic coffee machine or a portafilter coffee machine, choosing the right gastro coffee machine for your gastronomic concept is crucial! With the right setup, fully automatic coffee machines can produce a drink in the cup just as fantastic as a portafilter espresso machine.

But let's find out which path is right for your gastronomic concept. We compare:

  • Portafilters & Fully Automatic Machines
  • Quality in the Cup
  • Efficiency
  • Space Requirements
  • Know-how & Staff Requirements
  • Emotions

Let's go!

(Don't feel like reading? You can find the blog post in video format here:)

Portafilter Coffee Machine or Gastronomic Fully Automatic Coffee Machine?

Portafilter Coffee Machine

A portafilter coffee machine is the classic status symbol and in many minds represents high coffee quality and Italian coffee culture. However, the quality depends heavily on the preparation and the person operating the machine. The machine delivers water in the right amount, temperature, and consistency. The magic for good results happens by hand: dosing, distributing, tamping, and adjusting the grind size lead to a good espresso or coffee in the cup. Additionally, coffee grinders are needed, ideally two, to individually adjust the grind size and the coffee beans used for different coffee drinks. Furthermore, small tools like tampers and knockboxes are required. Of course, not only black coffee drinks are ordered: Cappuccinos and other milk drinks are very popular, making milk frothing necessary—a process that brings its own challenges. The right techniques are also crucial here to achieve the perfect temperature and consistency for delicious cappuccinos and more.

Fully Automatic Coffee Machine

A fully automatic coffee machine is a fully or semi-automatic coffee machine. Tamping, dosing, and milk frothing are the work steps that a fully automatic coffee machine takes over from the staff/barista. Depending on the device and configuration, it can produce a finished drink at the touch of a button or only provide the individual ingredients like espresso and separate milk foam for latte art. There are many suppliers and price ranges, and nowadays everyone advertises having the best devices and “barista quality.”

For you as a restaurateur, it is therefore very difficult to make the right decision. However, one thing is central to both concepts: the know-how about coffee preparation for a good result in the cup. The only question is, how does this know-how get into your establishment?

Pros and Cons of the Concepts

Quality in the Cup

For top coffee or top espresso, the following things are necessary:

Freshly ground, high-quality coffee, portioned in the right amount, cleanly and evenly distributed in a sieve or brewing chamber Adjustment of the grind size, leading to perfect extraction and the corresponding taste in the cup, and its control and fine-tuning to maintain quality throughout the day Fresh water at the appropriate brewing temperature, pressed through the coffee with 9 bars of pressure The perfect amount of water, usually measured by the machine and stopped at the right moment A good barista adheres to these values, continuously monitors these parameters, and adjusts the grinder several times a day if necessary. This monitoring—whether by human or machine—is essential for consistent coffee quality and a great experience for the guest, day in and day out.


Often, establishments have a two-group espresso machine or a single-group fully automatic coffee machine to handle the same throughput. Comparing the two concepts quickly shows that the portafilter requires a lot more manual steps:

Releasing and wiping out the portafilter Grinding, dosing, and distributing Tamping Attaching and brewing Filling milk in the pitcher and frothing by hand With the portafilter, the person in front of the machine always has their hands full and is blocked. With the fully automatic coffee machine, depending on the device, there is time during preparation to take care of other important tasks: cashiering, preparing saucers, attending to the guest, or doing the dishes. If you only make espresso after dinner, you won’t reach the limit with a portafilter as quickly. But if the place is full and a group orders the following, it gets tricky if there is only one person in the establishment: 1 latte, 1 café crème, 1 cappuccino, and 1 espresso.

So, we see that the fully automatic coffee machine can especially shine when many different drinks need to be made with little staff and efficiency is important.

Space Requirements

Portafilter machines are usually wider due to the accessories needed for coffee preparation—grinder, knockbox, and tamper station require space, which can be saved with the fully automatic coffee machine. Fully automatic coffee machines are narrower but often require an additional refrigerator near the machine, either below or to the side. Of course, this is also needed for the portafilter, but the fully automatic coffee machine is usually connected to the milk container in the refrigerator by a hose and must therefore be placed closer.

Coffee Know-How and Staff Effort

As mentioned earlier, know-how is central to the best coffee in gastronomy. With the portafilter, either the staff needs to be trained to control the extractions and adjust the grinders, or a responsible barista needs to be hired.

With the fully automatic coffee machine, there are different options:

An employee calibrates and adjusts the grinders. The machine's calibration is locked by the manufacturer/representative, and a technician takes care of it. However, this technician only comes by every few months or once a year, which is fatal for quality. Modern systems can be connected to the internet, allowing extractions to be monitored and adjustments to be made remotely.

Staff Training Effort

With the portafilter, a lot of effort is needed to train the staff in preparation and maintain quality. This can only be achieved through training and daily monitoring. Ideally, there are few people responsible for coffee preparation, then it can work quite well.

With the fully automatic coffee machine, the training effort depends on the system. Training in handling and possibly also in latte art may be necessary. New staff can be efficient with little training effort.


Regarding emotions, it must be said: The portafilter probably wins the race. In many minds, it symbolically stands for good coffee in gastronomy. But what does the customer actually want or expect in gastronomy?

Quality in the cup: Many can already prepare good coffee at home and achieve better coffee with capsule systems than in many gastronomic establishments. Expectations for quality and taste are high, and they should be when they pay 5 CHF for a drink. Consistency: If the person at the machine decides whether the drink succeeds or not, this leads to the guest sometimes having a great, sometimes not so great coffee experience. A good experience outside the home: Ambiance, friendly staff, and perhaps positive surprises—latte art really helps surprise and delight guests. A fully automatic coffee machine supports staff in coffee preparation and gives them the opportunity to focus on what is really important: providing the guest with a positive experience. Restaurateurs hope for:

Satisfied guests, so they can quickly build a good regular customer base Profitability: The solution should be financially viable. Staff costs and other expenses should not eat up the attractive margin of coffee. Cost efficiency: Few disruptions, little effort, reliability

Summary: This Gastro Coffee Machine is Sensible for You

Conclusion and Recommendation

We also have portafilter machines at home. The craftsmanship is really fun, they are perfect for learning and experimenting. But we quickly realized that this is not the right setup for our café: It is simply too time-consuming in daily operations.

Our position from the argumentation is clear:

We find that in the highly competitive gastro world, with increasing staff shortages and the rising demand for ever higher quality in the cup, the fully automatic coffee machine wins in most concepts. Previously, you had to choose: quality or efficiency. That is no longer the case today. For top coffee, it doesn't matter which concept or manufacturer you use. The most important thing is how the know-how is integrated into your business and who is responsible for the quality of the cups and their control.

The portafilter is the perfect tool to learn about coffee, understand it, and celebrate the craft. That's why we use them in barista courses and also make top-notch espresso at home. But in the hectic gastro everyday life, the portafilter and the staff operating it quickly reach their limit. The portafilter is less efficient and brings higher employee costs, which is why it is rarely our choice in the Swiss gastro scene.

Recommendation, When to Use Which System:

Choose a portafilter if you have little varied or little changing staff, want to offer top coffee but little variety in drinks, and the speed of preparation is not so important. Choose a fully automatic coffee machine if it’s about selling coffee easily and you accept a loss in quality or: You want top coffee at the push of a button, in the shortest time, with a wide variety of drinks and with different staff.

Restaurant owners beware!!

Imagine... Your business is a hotspot for top-quality coffee, fills the hut with guests and you make more sales with coffee and stand out from your competitors. Your brand stands for quality and success, and your competition doesn't know how you do it.

You still have Questions?
This FAQ might help you!

  • Use a portafilter if you have a small, consistent staff, want to offer top-quality coffee but not a wide variety of drinks, and the speed of preparation is not critical.
  • Use a fully automatic machine if you either want to sell coffee easily and are willing to accept a slight drop in quality or if you want to make top-quality coffee at the touch of a button, quickly, with a wide variety of drinks, and with different staff.

Purchasing a coffee machine can be a significant expense, costing between 15,000 and 20,000 CHF. Another solution is to rent or lease a commercial fully automatic coffee machine, where the restaurateur pays between 0.35 and 1.00 CHF per cup of coffee, thereby saving on investment costs. Additionally, with Blum Kaffee’s Remote Barista, the restaurateur benefits from increased revenue, quality monitoring, and automated processes! Learn more here:

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