Hot Drink Machine Buyers' Guide
Commercial hot drink machines are a popular option for convenience stores, offices, hotels, and other businesses that want to offer hot beverages. Although these machines are often simply called hot chocolate machines, they can also be used to serve cappuccinos, coffee, and tea. Because they come with a variety of options, you'll need to keep a few things in mind while browsing our selection.
Gallon capacity indicates how much hot water the machine can hold at one time. Hot chocolate machines are available with capacities starting at 1.32 gallons and going up to 8.5 gallons, but machines with a 1.32 gallon capacity are only equipped to offer one type of drink. It's best to size your gallon capacity based on your anticipated customer demand, and it might be beneficial to guess up instead of down so that you don't run out of hot water during peak business hours. If that happens, your customers will have to wait while the machine refills and heats more water.
Number of Hoppers
The number of hoppers a drink machine has determines the number of drink types you can offer. Machines can have one to six hoppers that hold 2, 3, 4, 5, or 8 pounds. Heavy-duty machines might offer hoppers capable of holding 10, 11, or 14 pounds. The hoppers can also come in a combination of sizes so that you can stock more of your most popular options without sacrificing variety. For example, a machine with four hoppers might have three 4-pound hoppers and one 8-pound hopper. Because these hoppers contain a powder or concentrate that is mixed with hot water to create the final product when a customer demands it, you don't have to worry about leaving unused product in the machine at the end of the day.
Most hot chocolate dispensers come with display graphics that advertise the product within. These graphics usually include a picture and words, which means that users who speak little or no English will be able to easily identify what function the machine serves, and indicate either hot chocolate or cappuccino. Some specialty display graphics will indicate café latte or steamers, which are great options for a business that wants to offer an instant coffee machine. Many of these displays are also lighted, which draws attention to the product you're offering.
Hot chocolate machines come with a number of specialty options that might work better for your business. Most hot chocolate dispensers are manufactured to provide clearance for 20-ounce cups, which are about 7 or 7.5 inches tall. Some are made to provide as much as 8.5 inches of cup clearance, or can be adjusted to that height, so you'll want to keep an eye out for that option if you plan to use larger cups.
Some options give your customers more to choose from. You can purchase a hot chocolate machine with push-and-hold functionality, which lets customers choose how much drink they want to dispense, or single-serve portion control, which lets you set a predetermined amount of drink to dispense. The push-and-hold functionality gives customers more flexibility, which is great if they want to fill up their own cups or just need a top-off, while portion control will let you better predict how much product you'll use throughout the day and helps prevent waste.
Some machines are capable of adding flavor to a drink and might come with multiple flavor options, which is useful if you're utilizing the machine as an instant coffee machine. Others are able to dispense hot water, which is great for making tea.
It's important that your machine is easy for all of your employees to manage and clean. Hot chocolate machines are generally lightweight enough to be moved and are designed to take up a minimal amount of space, which makes them easy to setup and reconfigure. Some machines are designed to offer easier cleaning with a front access panel and large-capacity drain tray, which means you don't have to worry about emptying it as often. Others are able to detect when a hopper is low, notifying employees to replace the product before it runs out.