If you’re a business owner shopping for a new traditional commercial espresso machine, undoubtedly, the question of deck height has or will eventually come up. For traditional espresso machines, there are two options, tall espresso machines with raised brewing groups or traditional espresso machines that pour into small espresso cups.
When discussing deck height, industry terminology can be a bit confusing, however all terms are referring to the distance between the brew group and the drain tray.
Another way to look at it would be the space between where the coffee pours out, and the shot glass or cup sitting immediately below, for the purpose of receiving the dispensed coffee. A tall espresso machine would indicate a farther distance between the two points.
You may also hear someone refer to the espresso machine deck as short to declare that the area between the two points are further apart. A traditional deck would refer to a shorter distance between the two points, however distances will always vary between commercial espresso machine brands regardless of being labeled as a tall espresso machine, short or traditional.
No matter how spoken, the ergonomics and design of commercial espresso machines play a significant influence on the job of the barista. If you are wondering why deck height is a feature or selling point for the commercial espresso machine, you simply need to consider the U.S. consumer’s demand for faster service and larger beverage sizes.
To save time, a tall espresso machine offers baristas a way to brew directly into their customer’s cup without having to brew first into a shot glass.
Classe 7 Espresso Machine Tall by Rancilio
At one time, the deck area on some machines was so small that taller cups such as the cappuccino cup could not be placed under the brewing area. With the best espresso machine manufacturers producing machines with larger areas, cups of varying size can now be placed directly under the brewing group.
The down side to this way of brewing is if a cup is used in which the barista can no longer observe the shot pour, the quality of the beverage could sacrificed.
Some manufacturers will offer the taller deck on manual/semi-automatic dosing espresso machines but we would not recommend this option. Unlike the volumetric dosing machine, the semi-automatic machine is dependent on the barista to manually stop brewing.
Today, there are a few semi-automatics with features to indicate the volume of water dispensed but for most machines, the barista must use time and visual tools such as a measured shot glass to know when the appropriate amount of water/coffee has been poured before turning off the brewing cycle of the espresso machine.
Without some type of ruler, the barista would need to guess at when the brew cycle should be stopped and product consistency would no longer be attainable.
The taller deck feature is better purchased with a volumetric dosing machine.
Volumetric dosing machines free baristas to perform other duties because the machine is programmed to consistently end the brewing cycle once the appropriate amount of water has been dispensed.
Let me warn you here, unlike brewing into a shot glass, in which case, the barista can visually see and time the pour at many angles and distances, utilizing any type of opaque cup demands that the barista stay close enough to see the pour from an angle above the cup.
Unfortunately, during busier times, your barista may be tempted to leave the espresso machine and neglect this step. With precision machines that have group temperature control and shot timers, more and more businesses are approving this practice, however the risk of jeopardizing a customer’s beverage exists.
As a business owner, it should be your decision to allow a barista to disregard the visual pour of your customer’s shot and a machine with a taller deck feature could assist in undermining your authority. The decision to use a tall or traditional deck is a personal preference and the tall deck is but only one way you, as a business owner, can improve the speed in which your customer’s beverages are delivered.
Lastly, if you are considering the purchase of the taller deck, in most cases, this will increase the cost of your espresso machine, so consider first what is really important to your customers before spending the additional money.
I recently read an article in which the writer expressed how speed in the delivery of the drink is key to the espresso business, however, he did not discuss quality. Speed may be important for this particular writer but for me, quality of espresso product is much more imperative.
I am willing to wait and even pay more for my beverages but even still, I am probably not your customer and neither is the above mentioned writer.
My point is that it does not matter what I or anyone else wants. What really matters is what your customers want. I wrote an article, “Cost, Quality, and Speed, Choose Two”. It is a short but an important article that offers insight into what you as a business owner must consider before developing a successful espresso bar.