Which Super Automatic is best overall?

    I am the manager of Awake Café in Triad Baptist Church. Our church runs about 1,500 people every Sunday morning. We have 3 services one at 8:45, one at 10, and one at 11:15. In between the services our coffee shop gets flooded with mocha thirsty members for 20 minutes. We serve as many as we can with our Commercial Manuel Astoria 2 group. This machine just is not cutting it, though. We have 20 minutes to produce as many specialty coffees as we can. Everyone loves lattes as our most popular drink is the White Chocolate Mocha. Currently, We can make about 30 hot lattes in 20 minutes, and we are turning away probably 100-200 people from getting a drink every Sunday morning because our line is so long, and there is not enough time to wait and make it to the service or Sunday School on time. That is my situation, so here are my questions.

    First off, I realize there is no machine out there that can produce enough coffee for hundreds of people in 20 minutes, but I want to serve as many as I can. My baristas are volunteer, so they are no where near professional. They need buttons to push to froth milk and make espresso fast and easily. This is why I am in the market for a super automatic espresso machine 2 step, and price is not an issue. I just want to know which machine and which company is best. I have done countless hours of researching and calling people, and I am tired of it, but my search is narrowed down to 2 brands, possibly 3. I hear the top two big dogs out there are Schaerer and Franke, and they are the most used. I hear Schaerer is a little better than Franke, only because when something goes wrong, there parts are cheaper. Then there is UNIC, which from what I have heard, has only been in the states for 5 years, and they supply some Googles, Cheesecake Factorys, and Olive Gardens. There machines are made of almost all metal parts on the inside, and they are extremely expensive. Then I know little about WMF, their machines are repaired by Schaerer I think. These three are what I have come down to- Schaerer, UNIC, and WMF.

    Here are the questions I need answered: What machine is best and fastest latte producing machine for each company?  (Like Ambiente or Coffee Art plus), Are refurb machines trust worthy? How is each company's service record? How well is their customer support? Do they have parts available in the US? What major coffee shop chains do they supply? Do you know of any places that have UNICs or WMF near Kernersville, NC? Do you know places neutral technicians or neutral managers I could contact to find out more about UNIC and WMF? Now. I will go into specific detail on what I know and am curious about in each company. taking to salesman all the time gets the same result, they all think their machine is best. That is why I need third parties to help!

Schaerer-

     Most people tell me they are the best overall. Schaerer themselves would say that the coffee Art Plus is the best machine for me, but most third party distributors say the  Ambiente PS is the way to go because it has been out longer, and there are more servicers and part available. Third parties say the Ambiente is a proven reliable machine over the past 15 years. Is that true? I love the way the Coffee Art Plus looks, though, and Schaerer says that the plus is the same as the Ambiente with more features, which is true, but with having more features do the features break or mess up more than the Ambiente? If price were a problem, Would you buy an Ambiente refurbished from a reliable comapny at half the price of a art plus? Art plus 12,500-13,500 and Ambiente refurbished 5,000-7,500. What is the best choice? I know Schaerer is reliable in every way from parts to service to performance , but I just wonder is there anything better/faster? Now, Don't forget to overall compare Schaerer with UNIC and WMF.

UNIC- 

     UNIC scares me, because a lot of people have never heard of them, but I have yet to hear muck bad/negative about their machines, reliability, service, or parts. Plus, The Tango Duo is a 2 group super automatic and could surely out produce any one group super like the art plus if working properly. It is very expensive like 20,000+ but I would probably get it If i knew it was the best. What do you know what the UNIC machines and company? What about the Tango SOLO too? I am interested in either two SOLOs or one DUO, possibly two Duos in the future. Do you know of any coffee shop/cafe chains that have UNIC super automatics? Heard anything about UNIC putting out a new touch screen super automatic? Know cafes, hotels, business, or resturants I could contact about UNICs reliability, parts, service, and machone speed, and how they like their machine? 

WMF-

     I don't even know what WMF stands for, but I know their machines are similiar to Schaerer because of the finesteam and espresso dispenser head. What have you heard about  with service, parts, machine speed, and reliability of WMF? The bistro 2 step (no chocolate) is what I am interested in. Do they supply an major chains with super automatics? Know any coffee shops, cafes, resturants, hotels, or businesses that I could contact to ask their about their machine and how they like it?

Conslusion: I am sure I am forgetting something about all the info I have gathered over two weeks, but this is most of it. I really need some input so I can finalize my search. I understand that every super automatic will need to be serviced sometime in its lifetime, but which machine needs it least? Which one has the cheapest parts? and Which has the fastest and best service? Which machine will make the most and fastest consistent lattes?

PS- Anybody know anything about the Franke Foam Master? It is there new machine coming out soon, I believe.

    

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Not that I have any room to throw stones. Remember that guy who's website was down for 2 weeks before he noticed and then another 2 months before he bothered to do anything about it? At least the replacement forced me to update it a little.

That's kind of my point though. In our case, all a website needs to do is make us show up in a Google search. Everything else is just gravy.


Nicholas Dakas said:

I think he's making fun of my "website". Lol

I'm kind of surprised no one has mentioned Thermoplan.  Or I missed it, sorry.  Yes Bunn (the North American Rep) is a train wreck to deal with, but the machines is superior in every way to Franke, Shearer and UNIC (of which I have no personal experience with their super autos).  

I would strongly suggest purchasing two or more espresso machines in the scenario you describe.  

Also, anyone here care to pony up a real world annual maintenance and service cost for Austin?  Based upon the usage figures in his post would $2K -$4K per machine be close?  Super Autos are expensive toys after all.  

Good call, Scott. Service support for Thermoplan in Austin's area is definitely not as good as for Franke. Probably still better than for Schaerer's though, if I'm gonna put some cards on the table. There's just not enough units (except, well... you know) out there to warrant any sort of effort.

I'm not sure about annul maintenance costs. If I were to guess, I'd think $2k per machine sounds like the upper end of the range for an "average" (read 3-4 year old) Evolution. Assume 2-3 one-hour PM visits using trivial parts plus perhaps 2 more 1-hour emergency service calls to resolve non-major issues. His peak usage is high but having down days means his cycles will stay lower. $1k plus or minus feels like the right ballpark unless he's unlucky (motherboard, pump motor, etc) or decides to do something dumb with his machines. I don't send out the bills for Franke work, so this is straight-up guessing.

From my experiences with service calls with both Franke and Schaerer vs Thermoplan;  most cases the thermoplan machine is malfunctioning or out of spec but still working - maybe 7 out of 10 times.  With Franke, nearly every service call the MACHINE IS DOWN and not functioning.  And it doesn't matter if it's a Sinfonia, Evolution, Ecolina, 2-step or the vending machine sans coin slot that McD's uses.  Or how frequently it's used for that matter.  Shaerer less so, but that might be due the increasing scarcity of Shaerer machines in the wild out here.  

Also, Franke machines fail quite frequently at start up.  Most often in the steam pressure control system.  So if you are only going to be using this thing a couple times a week - and leaving it off for the remainder of the week, that's fair number of "failure" opportunities.    

In Franke's defense, they are also the easiest to work with.  The area managers great to work with from a service companies perspective.  They are the only ones who will go out into the field to meet face to face with both costumers and field service.  And their call center tries really hard to resolve issues over the phone.        

 

Huh. That doesn't match my experience at all.

The most common call I make on any given Evolution 2-step is a PM visit. Boiler pressure control issues are nil for the first 5+ years (like any other espresso machine) unless the user does something dumb, in which case the odds of having an issue do rise. Most of the other issues I see on newer (2-4 year old) machines relate to neglect or abuse.

Perhaps its because I only work on Evolution 2-steps?

Not taking anything at all away from Thermoplan. Sounds like a nice machine that I wish we had more of in our market, but those first couple of buyers are gonna be guinea pigs.


Scott said:

From my experiences with service calls with both Franke and Schaerer vs Thermoplan;  most cases the thermoplan machine is malfunctioning or out of spec but still working - maybe 7 out of 10 times.  With Franke, nearly every service call the MACHINE IS DOWN and not functioning.  And it doesn't matter if it's a Sinfonia, Evolution, Ecolina, 2-step or the vending machine sans coin slot that McD's uses.  Or how frequently it's used for that matter.  Shaerer less so, but that might be due the increasing scarcity of Shaerer machines in the wild out here.  

Also, Franke machines fail quite frequently at start up.  Most often in the steam pressure control system.  So if you are only going to be using this thing a couple times a week - and leaving it off for the remainder of the week, that's fair number of "failure" opportunities.    

In Franke's defense, they are also the easiest to work with.  The area managers great to work with from a service companies perspective.  They are the only ones who will go out into the field to meet face to face with both costumers and field service.  And their call center tries really hard to resolve issues over the phone.        

 

While new machines sound great Austin I have another suggestion for you from personal experince. 

I was in a similar position in a church with everyone wanting their coffees at the same time. If you train your barista's to fix drinks in a catering style and then limit your options to one type of mocha and one or two flavors of latte's you can serve a lot of people in a short period of time. We would regularly serve 200 people their drinks in a 20 minute time frame with a three group espresso machine and 3 volunteers.

If you add another machine in another location in the building to spread out the rush and look at the work flow of your volunteers you might be surprised at what you can accomplish with what you have.

I've only ever worked on Schaerer and Thermoplan superautomatic machines, and I can say that a super is definitely what you'll need to keep your operation up to speed with your demand.

FRANKE - I've never had experience with Franke machines, but I know people who recommend them due to their ability to produce high quality beverages. This is, of course, assuming the machine itself is calibrated and maintained appropriately and consistently. The bean hoppers can be removed for cleaning, which is a great feature. The only complaint I've heard is that the Evolution model is a little slower than competition when it comes to output. There is a large chain called Caribou Coffee that mostly uses the Franke Evolution. If you're near one, stop it and try to check the machine "in action". The machines are tinier in footprint, so two of these could replace one traditional machine, potentially take up LESS space, and rock out more drinks. 

SCHAERER - I worked on the Ambiente PS for a combined total of two years. It's a work horse, and a powerful one at that! The machine is simple to operate, easy to clean, and widely serviceable since so many of them are installed across the globe. You cannot remove the bean hoppers for cleaning on this machine, which is my only complaint as I'm a maintenance-focused guy. I'd recommend against the newer models since I've been told about them being glitchy, but overall I'd say that this is probably the machine you're looking for as for as price and speed. I'd say get this one.

THERMOPLAN - This manufacturer used to be Starbucks-exclusive, but with the roll out of the new Mastrena (Starbucks' current espresso machine), the older model we used is now available through resellers. It goes by the name "Black & White" or CTS2, and it'll be a gamble if you find one. The price will be good, but it will be more difficult to find service techs and parts for the machine since Thermoplan doesn't seem to make this model anymore. There are techs out there that can fix this one, but they probably still work through Starbucks. That said, this machine is what let Starbucks make drinks fast enough and consistently enough to expand as fast as it did in the 90s and 00s. 

Again, just keep up with the cleaning and maintenance of the machine and you're probably golden. Problems arise with these machines quickly if you don't keep up with them.

Good luck, bud! Keep us posted.

You guys know so much this is awesome!

Thermoplan

I am highly intrigued by Thermoplan now that I have done some research on them, especially the Black and white 3 CTS 2 step and their milk foamers too! The Mastrena looks so cool! I see on their website that the closest distributor is in Jersey called Imp Coffee. Anyone know much about them? I wish I knew more about thermoplan, though. Like do they own Nespresso? Does nespresso make a commercial machine? Not interested in nepresso just curious. 

Schaerer- I did not go with them because I can not find a close servicer to us in Kernersville, NC. No closer than Siler City with VP Coffee that is. 

UNIC- Not going to risk it, but I will say that they use all metal parts which could be a good thing or bad thing. I might try them out if the church ever gives me a lot of money to spend on espresso machines.

Franke- Got a refurb Franke evolution because of the servicer near me, he is awesome in like every way! Thanks to Nick Dakas! I have learned I can trust him, and I highly respect that, and that is something I want/admire most in a servicer. Btw thanks Bradly for getting me in touch. I think Nick may invite you to help train my staff too! Which, I would love to meet ou too as Nick speaks very highly of you. I really feel save with Franke, I mean really, not like Mcdonalds and Caribou just choose a machine by chance. We will see how it goes, and I will keep you guys posted on it.

Cimbali - I also got a refurb Cimbal M29 selection 3 group tall cup. I will be running both a 3 group and super, I think this will go well.

Thanks guys, Austin

Thermoplan is a fantastic machine concept, and sounds like it works well too. The problem is that the vast majority of their machines in the US (and all of them in our area) are in Starbucks. Since Starbucks in our market uses what is essentially their own in-house service company, the only option is to use a third-party tech like Nick or I. However, since there are NO non-Starbucks machines in our area, neither of us stock any parts for them. I've gotten a call or two from unlucky Black and White owners that bought them on ebay. There is literally nothing I can do for them, and very little Nick can do. They usually come off the bar and into the back room or back on ebay.

Superautos are different from traditionals in one big way from a service standpoint. Any good equipment tech can walk up to ANY oddball traditional espresso machine and fumble through a repair. It may take extra time, a little searching for parts, a return trip, and some improvisation, but at the end of the day your machine is probably working. Not so with supers - many of the parts are proprietary and you usually need a card, key, or access code in order to even begin troubleshooting any problems with the robot part. Without access to the manufacturer your machine is dead in the water.

Every market is different, and the guys that actually know what they are talking about know this. That's one reason it pays to do your research (like you've done) and take the things that sales guys or people in other markets say with a grain of salt. I think you made a smart choice.

I am glad you found a machine and I was glad to be along on the ride.

Glad to have your help too Mark, it is because of you I found all this valuable information.

Sounds like you're on your way, Austin.  I think those folks will take good care of you.  You should also take the same approach with your other questions.  If your service support can work on it and keep it running it doesn't matter much what it is.  Keep it simple.

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