I can buy used a Bunn airpot brewer for $300 or a Fetco Extractor for $750. Is the Fetco $450 better than the Bunn? I know the fundamental differences but haven't compared coffee from each. They are close in age and use.
It depends on what you are going to use it for? If it’s for a coffeehouse go with the Fetco. Restaurant or social function you may opt for the Bunn.
The Fetco has pulse brewing, better temperature control and can be setup to do multiple batch sizes. The downside is there more things that can go wrong with the extractor series. Mostly solenoid valves and some small electronics go bad. Still it can be rather costly. The Bunn Airpot brewer is pretty straightforward, they still break but less often in my experience.
From my own experience the Fetco Extractor series makes better coffee then a Bunn Airpot. It's like comparing apples to oranges, unless you compare a Bunn Brewwise with a Fetco CBS 2052. Then I have a tendency to lean towards the Bunn.
My first choice for brew quality, reliability, ease of programming, flexibility, brew shelf life quality, maintenance/service: is the Bunn Brewwise system. Not cheap, but great value for brewing the top quality filter drip coffee. Capable of brewing high dose levels, pulse brew, pre-brew and extracting the best flavors quickly and consistently. Multiple recipe capability for different batch sizes, decaf/reg profiles and even different roast profile capability. Can interface with dosing grinders for sophisticated brewing control, yet simple day-to-day operation.
Second choice is the Fetco Extractor series, because you can yield a similar brew quality although a step down in other factors from my experience.
Third choice is the smaller batch brewers - some can brew almost as nice a cup, while other models are one or two generations older brewing technology. That is: no pre-soak, no pulse brew, less accurate thermostats, lower wattage heating elements (less temperature stability through a brew cycle and longer recovery time), some have under-sized filter baskets that limit brew quality. You did not mention which model small brewer, so not more specific.
In some regions, repair parts and service availability is an issue, but you are in Wisconsin and both Bunn and Fetco are headquartered in Illinois, so service should be satisfactory for you. Both brands are top shelf. I hope this helps you consider your return on investment and differences between new/used/capacity/cup quality.
I really don't know enough about it but I think you want to have the right type and right amount of TDS (total dissolved solids) in your water. Your Bunn or Fetco, your espresso machine and your customers will thank you.
Ask these folks for a free analysis of your water. Of course they will try to sell you their equipment, but who won't? They are the leader when it comes to treating water for your coffee.
If you are still in the design phase of your coffee house, you may want to use one or two large water lines to feed your espresso machine, coffee brewers, fountain soda machine, ice machine and maybe an iced tea brewer. That way you will only need one or two filter systems for your entire establishment. There is no reason to send filtered water to your restrooms, dishtank, mopsink or handwash sinks. You may want to avoid using individual line filters because they restrict water flow and could damage your equipment. After looking at the Cirqua website, they have several smaller filter systems that would be perfect for a coffee house.
As far as FETCO vs. Bunn goes, both brewers are very good brands. My personal favorite would be the FETCO. It brews an outstanding cup of coffee. I will admit that it does have solenoid problems, but when the solenoid starts to wear out, it will make a humming noise during the brew cycle. When you begin hearing the noise, you have a good month to fix it before it affects the coffee quality. The biggest problem with FETCO is finding a cure for sticker shock!
I while back a plumber gave me chart on flow rates for different pipe sizes. 1/2" water line around 40 psi should run about 10 gallons per minute. A Fetco 2052 requires 1 1/2 gpm max. Your espresso machine would be hard pressed to pull 1 gpm. The Coke rep told me that most Coke fountains won't pull more then 3 gpm max.
For the most part not a lot of people have everything running all at once so a 1/2" water line is suffice.