Commercial coffee machines come in about five different varieties. In this section we have single serve machines, decanter brewers, thermal and satellite brewers, and high volume machines, but also check out our coffee urn and espresso machine sections.
The type of commercial coffee machine is the single serve brewer: these are just like your home pod and Keurig brewers, but with commercial parts and construction, so they're built to last in cafes, lounges, and offices. Different models will work with different pods or k-cups, so you need to check each model.
Next there are thermal brewers and airpots brewers. These are very similar to satellite brewers, because they all will brew into insulated thermoses, which you can then use to serve customers or set up a little self-serve station away from the actual brewer. The difference between them though is that with satellite brewers, the servers will remain heated while docked on the brewer, whereas thermal and airpot brewers are insulated only. Satellite brewers will also tend to have a higher capacity, and are perfect for self-serve situations.
"Thermal" brewers could refer to a coffee machine that brews into a thermal carafe, which can then be used to serve customers, or it could refer to another type of thermos, which can be used as self-serve style servers. An "airpot" is just a specific style of thermos, which you pump to get the coffee out of.
All in all -- just remember that thermal, airpot, and satellite servers are fairly similar, with just these small differences.
Next up: decanter brewers. These are probably what most people think of when they think of commercial coffee makers. These machines brew into "decanter" servers, and are found in many coffee shops across Canada. Tim Hortons uses them, and traditional diners use them too. You can get them with differing numbers of servers, depending on your volume needs. If you need to keep a lot of coffee warm, or if you want to have multiple flavours, then get multiple warmers! However, it's worth noting that decanter warmers won't keep coffee fresh as long as thermal, airpot, and satellite servers -- which have insulated servers (and satellite servers will be heated too).
The final type of commercial coffee machine is a high volume coffee maker, which can come in similar styles as thermal brewers, or in an "urn" style. Either way, these are the big boys, and can produce a lot of coffee an hour... so you'll probably know whether you need one of these!
A few other considerations when picking the best commercial coffee machine: you can get a "single" style, or "twin" style. This refers to how many brewers there are on the machine. So while a decanter brewer might have 5 warmers, if it only has 1 brewer, it is considered a "single" machine.
The control type is also important to consider: analog controls are nice, simple, and reliable, but don't give you as much flexibility and programming capabilities as digital controls. Or if you're feeling really fancy, go with a touch screen! Those are considered premium machines.
Finally, the water source: machines that are "plumbed" are also called "automatic brewers" or "direct connection brewers." This just means that it's plumbed into your water line, so that you don't have to fill up the water yourself. These will cost a bit more, and need to be installed, but it's essential for many establishments that rely on coffee. You don't want to be manually filling up the water every time you need more coffee! But if you don't have high-demands, then a "pourover brewer" could do the trick for you. They are cheaper, easy to install, and portable. Some plumbed machines have a "pourover" backup, so in case you're having issue with the water line, you can just fill it up yourself.