You've decided why you should consider directly plumbing your home espresso machine to a water source and how to treat that water, now how to put it all together. I am very fortunate that my wife is supportive of my hobbies and when we were searching for a house two years ago, where the espresso machine and coffee equipment would go was a real consideration. She knows how much space it takes up on the counter and in the cabinets and drawers and was supportive of it not robbing from what was needed for our kitchen otherwise.
I knew I wanted the ability to plumb the machine in, so it had to have access to a water source, and I also wanted close and convenient sink access, so it also needed to be close to a sewer or main plumbing source. Luckily, the house we bought in December of 2016 had a very large dining/living room like situation adjacent to the kitchen with the washer and dryer on the other side of the wall. Boom, I had my water in and out nearby.
The Wish List
Thinking about other factors that I ideally wanted, and since this room was a blank wall and I would be adding a wet bar, I needed to design it anyways, my main focus was to cover any possible bases and configure it in such a way that I could reconfigure the setup of the equipment and everything would still work. The following were on my wishlist:
- Dedicated 20 amp circuit for the equipment. I was pretty sure one dedicated 20 amp circuit would be able to handle the load of the espresso machine, espresso grinder, coffee grinder, and kettle, but I ultimately ended up with two dedicated circuits, since it wasn't much extra work for the electrician at that point.
- I also knew that I wanted the dedicated equipment circuit to be located under counter. I knew that I would be cutting a hole in the counter top to route the water line in anyways, so I wanted to take all the electrical cords and run them below the counter to minimize the clutter of the bar elevation. So, I ran the second circuit above counter in the back splash. This ended up working out well since the cord for the kettle couldn't quite reach the under counter outlet.
- Generous counter to cabinet clearance. One of the most common hurdles or challenges seen when trying to put espresso equipment in the home is the ability to fit the equipment under the cabinets. I knew I wanted at least 20" clear, and with mounting the cabinets near the ceiling ended up with about 22" clear. Now, if you plumb the machine, you may not necessarily need as much cabinet clearance if your water reservoir is located on the top of the machine, but the added clearance is needed for many grinders, and for general ease of use and access.
- Something to consider when you do this, that I did not, is that with much higher cabinet uppers, it makes the underside of those cabinets much more exposed. If you're very particular, you may want to consider having finished undersides.
- I knew I wanted my equipment to be setup in such a way that it facilitated a right to left work flow. In the three other locations I've had my equipment, where everything was located was dictated by the space and what made the most sense for the space and for the usability of kitchen around it. Since my steam wand is on the left side of the machine, I knew that from a workflow standpoint, my prep area, grinder, and tamping should be to the right of the machine, and the knock box and the sink should be to the left. This has actually taken some time to get used to, but I'm working to eliminate any unnecessary movements, changing of hands with the portafilter, etc.
At this point, I pretty much knew what I wanted, now it was trying to determine how or where I want everything. This being a wet bar, it also needed to be a functional wet bar and serve bar duties if we have company, so I had to be strategic about where I could locate everything to where I would have enough space for potential reconfiguration or equipment changes down the road, but still make it functional for other purposes. Every situation, location, and person's needs are going to be different, so I'm not going into where you should put everything as much as I am trying to cover what factors I considered and how I weighed them, why I made the decisions I did, and what I learned along the way.
Putting It All Together
Using all standard size cabinet boxes cut down on cost and somewhat dictated much of the spacing. I had to determine where I wanted the sink, and in the end, I'm happy I went with an offset layout because it really gives me a lot of options to the right of the sink. The cabinet uppers were mounted with 22" clear above finished counter since this left just a small reveal to fill in with molding. The top shelves need a step ladder, but at 5'-7" I would need a step ladder to get to them regardless. The local cabinet company I purchased the cabinets from suggested a mix of drawers and drawer/cabinet lowers, and a glass front upper above the sink to break up the shaker style doors.
Other tip and tidbits I picked up in the process of install include:
- Make sure to drill all the holes through the cabinet dividers before the counter is put on.
- Pay attention to what hand you use when turning the faucet on and off, what hand you use to hold the kettle when filling, etc. I originally installed the faucet with the handle on the right since all single handle faucets I've had have been this way, but when it was installed that way I found myself reaching across with my left when my hands were full. My first faucet was defective and had to swap it anyways and installed it with the handle on the left the second time around.
- Think about where and how you will put dirty cups and items as well as clean items to dry. I typically hand wash all of my porcelain for longevity and so the paint doesn't get dinged up in the dishwasher, so even thinking of how those cups, V60, milk pitchers dry etc. can dictate where you need space.
All in all, I just really tried to go through the process of making a shot while standing in front of the space or looking at a layout to think through what steps I take and what I need to reach for with which hand throughout to make everything as simple as possible. Even when I initially laid out everything I did so keeping the spacing tight and found within the first two days that it was too tight and cramped. Now that I have everything spaced out a little more, specifically for the brewing setup, everything is pretty straight forward.
The espresso machine is basically located in the center of the open counter. I had to determine if I wanted to locate the brewing equipment to the left or right. I felt that if I located it to the left of the machine, the right corner would become dead space, and I couldn't shove the machine all the way into the corner while keeping the grinder to the right of it because of the doser lever. I do use the sink for dumping rinse water and filling the kettle when brewing, but it's not quick movements and the process is more spaced out, so I decided moving it farther from the sink would not be a problem, and so far that's working out.
The double wide drawer below the prep area stores the coffee, filters, portafilters, baskets, towels, and any items I use most often. If this were a commercial environment, this stuff would probably not be in a drawer, but I needed to keep everything clean and all the clutter off the counter, so this keeps all the tools still right in front of your work area.
Any remaining cups and less used accessories are in the cabinet directly above allowing me to grab one as a shot starts.
I think the main takeaway is to really think through how you currently make coffee, how you could improve on that process, and where should you locate the equipment to achieve this. Try standing the space and visually walking through it, draw it out with the dimensions of the equipment, or put some boxes on the counter to get sense of scale.
Consider how long the electrical cords and plumbing runs are and if you have limitations there. Once you locate your equipment and where you want to penetrate the counter or wall for those connections, I like to see if I can put together alternate layouts using that same location. If you change equipment, work flow, or if your initial layout just doesn't work the way you were planning, you have some other options. The power and water supplies for most espresso machine are located under the machine, so I tried to locate this penetration in a central area under the rear of the machine (being sure to miss the feet), and directly above the 20 amp 4-gang outlet below the counter for the equipment, and this seemed to work well.
I chose not to plumb the drain of the espresso machine, which seems crazy to some considering I have an HX machine that requires more flushing. I typically flush into a small 1-cup pitcher to either preheat cups with the clean water or I just rinse the dirty water down the sink drain. Knowing how much film and coffee oils can slime up the drip tray, I decided not to plumb it so I didn't have to worry about drain flow, clogging, or routine clean out. I end up having to empty the drip tray once or twice a month, even when backflushing nearly every day.
I will most likely add a back splash to add some color to the space and make coffee spill on the wall a bit easier to clean up, but I'm pretty happy with how this turned out and how functional the space is. Not only does it free up precious cabinet and counter space in the kitchen, it provides some overflow cabinets in the bar area, and gives me a dedicated space to geek out on coffee. Having my own "bar", I think I have a tendency to keep things cleaner, backflush more being plumbed in, and really focus on running an efficient bar for espresso and brewed coffee. I hope some of the thoughts and considerations I put into plumbing in my espresso machine can help others about to embark on the same step, since there isn't a ton of applicable information out there or how-to's.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, or reach out via the contact page, and thanks for reading!