If you drink a lot of espresso, you need a machine that can handle your brewing needs. But some brewers pull a better espresso shot than others, and the market is full of options. How do you know which is best suited to make your morning cup?
Many coffee lovers trust Breville machines to get the job done, and the Australian brand’s Barista Express is a popular pick for many an espresso aficionado. But is this system worth your money? Read on to find out if this bad boy can meet all your coffee-making needs.
Meet the Breville Barista Express: A Brief Product Overview
The Breville BES870XL, more commonly known as the Barista Express, is an all-in-one semi-automatic espresso machine with an emphasis on pulling a quality shot. The mid-range product offers hands-free operation for busy coffee connoisseurs.
Because its controls are simple and straight to the point, it makes a decent entry-level machine for beginner baristas.
Each unit comes with everything you need to brew: a 54-millimeter stainless steel portafilter, a Razor Dose trimming tool, one- and two-cup single and dual wall filter baskets, a coffee scoop, integrated tamper, stainless steel milk jug, a cleaning disc, and tablets (plus a few cleaning tools), a water filter, and a water filter holder.
Things We Like
- Because it sports a compact and stylish design, it fits on almost any countertop and matches most decor schemes.
- It can brew two espresso cups simultaneously.
- Its built-in coffee bean hopper can hold a solid half-pound of joe.
- The semi-automatic machine’s digital temperature controls ensure consistent performance.
Room for Improvement
- There’s a bit of a learning curve; it takes time and patience to learn how to brew a perfect shot with the Barista Express.
- It’s a single boiler machine, so espresso brewing and milk frothing can’t happen simultaneously.
- This Breville semi-automatic espresso machine requires cleaning more often than its competitors.
Features and Benefits
Watch the following video for a brief overview of what this espresso maker has to offer, and keep reading for a deeper dive into the Barista Express’s features.
The Barista Express’s conical burr grinder consistently produces 19 to 22 grams of ground beans, which is just enough for any regular cup of coffee.
This reliable production is essential to pulling consistent flavors out of your fresh beans, a crucial selling point for anyone dedicated to making the most delicious-tasting espresso possible.
However, that consistency many buyers are crazy about can be a problem for others. The Barista Express doesn’t leave much room for flexibility in the brewing process, aside from producing different amounts of freshly ground coffee.
In other words, this espresso coffee maker is a wise choice if you need to make many cups of the same kind of coffee, but it’s not the best for those who need to brew different types of coffee.
The grinder has 16 settings to choose from, so you can experiment with grind size as needed until you end up with the perfect shot.
Digital Temperature Control
When it comes to pulling amazing espresso shots, brewing at the right temperature is essential. This brewer throws guesswork out the window in favor of a digital sensor.
Like the machine’s integrated grinder, the digital temperature control system helps ensure consistency as you brew. Both of these functions allow you to replicate specific tastes with ease.
Microfoam Milk System
This isn’t a unique selling point for the Barista Express since many espresso machines have a proper milk steaming system. We still think the steam wand is worth mentioning, though, because you shouldn’t take any feature for granted when you’re shopping for a brewing unit.
The Barista Express’s steam wand allows users to manually texture milk or a milk alternative, creating smooth microfoam that would impress even the most persnickety coffee professionals.
Now, if we had to pick a favorite function of this machine, this would be it. The Breville Barista Express gets dirty more often than other brewers. Fortunately, it’s easy to clean, and that’s a strong point in its favor.
Plus, the water reservoir is removable, making for an even more efficient cleaning process.
Espresso machine tablets do most of the work during cleaning cycles, as they pump safe chemicals through the machine. That takes care of the grunt work, so the rest of the cleaning process is straightforward.
Note that if you choose to keep this Breville brewer on your counter, you’ll need to have an adequate supply of these tablets handy. Because the cost of those can add up rather quickly, some prefer cleaning espresso machines manually.
However, we think the time you dedicate to cleaning could be better spent on other tasks, so the price of tablets is worth paying in the long run.
Simple Tool Storage
Can you believe some coffee machine manufacturers make products without integrated storage? We think that’s a massive oversight on their part, but fortunately, that’s not a problem with Breville’s Barista Express.
The contents of your cleaning kit and some metal filters fit right in the unit’s base. There’s even front access, a convenient design that keeps you from having to move the machine around when you need to get something out of storage.
That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. At 23 pounds, the Barista Express is more weight than most people want to spend all day shoving into and out of position.
It’s better to keep this unit in place once you take it out of the package, and the front-access storage unit makes that possible. Make sure wherever you put the machine leaves the removable water tank accessible for easy refills.
Now, whether or not this feature is a pro or a con depends on the type of coffee you want to make. Its focus is on producing high-quality espresso with minimal input from users.
That means several of the Barista Express’s functions are pretty much pointless unless you’re pulling shots of espresso.
This leads us to another point we want to mention quickly: the value for each feature. Chances are, a professional machine is extremely good at just one thing.
Generally, home-brewing machines are good but not excellent in many different capacities, making them appeal to a larger crowd of coffee drinkers.
Simply put, if you rarely enjoy a shot of espresso or specialty espresso-based beverages (like lattes, cappuccinos, cortados, etc.), the Breville Barista Express is probably not the best choice for you.
If you will be enjoying plenty of delicious espresso-based beverages, however, this machine and its durable frame, consistent quality, and user-friendliness are certainly worth considering.
Just make sure you aren’t overpaying for features you don’t need. If you only drink your coffee black, for example, shelling out extra dollars for a machine with a steam wand isn’t worth it.
If you’ll be making several different types of coffee drinks, though, you can choose to buy an all-in-one unit (like the one we’re reviewing) or several machines for each brewing scenario.
Can you make regular coffee with the Barista Express?
You can’t brew regular joe with the Barista Express. However, you can use it to make an Americano, which tastes a lot like your standard cup of drip.
The process of making this drink is simple. All you have to do is brew your single or double shot of espresso like usual, then top the rich brew with eight to 10 ounces of hot water.
Things To Consider Before Buying a Breville Barista Express
Between its integrated stainless steel conical burr grinder, precise espresso extraction, and powerful wand that creates latte art-worthy steamed milk, the Breville Barista Express has plenty to offer.
But all those perks aren’t reason enough to click the “add to cart” button. There are other factors you need to consider before you buy this brewer.
Keep these questions in mind as you shop.
Where do you plan to use this?
Since the all-in-one Barista Express is known for brewing coffee — lots of it — in a short amount of time, the brewing system is a sensible choice for a household full of java drinkers or one budding barista who likes to make frothy lattes at home.
It can also be an asset to a church, office space, or another similar facility where many people will be using it.
Bear in mind, however, that though the Barista Express is more powerful than that cheaper espresso machine you’re eyeballing, it isn’t a commercial espresso machine.
While it may get the job done in a smaller coffee shop or restaurant, it won’t be able to keep up with the brewing demands of a large, busy establishment.
What functions do you need?
After reading about all its features above, you know the Breville Barista Express is a pretty capable brewer. But before you make a purchase, you’ll need to decide what your must-haves are.
For example, if you don’t want to buy a separate grinder, you have to pick a machine with an integrated one. And if your drink of choice is a cappuccino, you can’t pass up a brewer with a built-in milk frother.
The point is, you should figure out what you need, then decide on the brewer of your dreams.
By the way…
If the Barista Express doesn’t quite meet your needs, Breville’s got a few other brewers that might be a better fit. Check out the premium-grade Oracle system for something with a few more bells and whistles.
If you’re still in the beginning stages of your espresso journey and want something more lowkey, consider the Bambino Plus.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the Breville Barista Express made?
This Breville semi-automatic espresso machine was designed in Australia and assembled in China. However, the real star of the show — the 15-bar pump — came from Italy.
What’s the difference between Breville’s Barista Express and Barista Pro machines?
We’ve got an article highlighting the differences between Breville’s Barista Express and Barista Pro machines you can read here. If you don’t feel like doing any extra reading, here are a few key differences to note:
- The Barista Pro is the Barista Express’s more sophisticated successor.
- While the Barista Express has a classic analog display, the Barista Pro sports an upgraded digital display system.
- Thanks to a ThermoJet heating system, the Barista Pro has a faster heat-up time, capable of reaching the ideal brewing temperature in just three seconds compared to the Barista Express’s 30. The ThermoJet heating system also improves the milk steaming process, making the transition between pulling shots and steaming milk much faster.
How long does the Breville Barista Express last?
Like many other Breville brewers, the Barista Express has a reputation for being a quality machine, so you can expect to pull countless espresso shots with it.
As long as it’s properly cared for and subjected to a regular cleaning routine, the Barista Express can last somewhere between five and ten years.
We think the Barista Express is a great unit, but we know it’s not for everyone. Here are some alternatives to consider if you’re not entirely sold on this machine.
Anyone put off by this brewer’s high price tag should check out the De’Longhi EC155. This dual-purpose espresso and cappuccino maker brews with an impressive 15 bars of pressure, but it doesn’t have extra features (like a built-in grinder, for instance).
However, the user’s ability to control the water and steam pressure separately makes up for what the EC155 lacks. Intrigued by this brewer? Read more about it here.
La Pavoni’s BAR-T 2V-R is hard to beat if you’re looking for high-volume brewing capability. One downside to this machine is its large size, but that’s to be expected from a commercial espresso machine.
And unfortunately, despite its high price, the La Pavoni brewer doesn’t have an integrated grinder. But that’s not the end of the world. Besides, if you need such a high-capacity brewing system, you’d probably benefit more from a large, separate bean grinder.
Mr. Coffee’s Café Barista system is another worthy contender for anyone looking for something a bit more user-friendly. We have an in-depth review of this semi-automatic brewer you can check out here, but until you get around to reading it, note that it has a much lower price tag.
Sure, it doesn’t have as many features as the Breville Barista Express, but it can still whip up some darn good espresso and fluffy milk froth.
Not sold on any of the alternatives we suggested? No problem! Take a look at our guide to the best espresso machines on the market for more options.
You can also see how it compares to the Breville Infuser!
Is the Breville Barista Express worth it?
The Barista Express is a solid, reliable espresso machine with plenty of useful features. While it needs cleaning more often than some of its competitors, it’s still an excellent unit overall.
We rate this machine four and a half out of five stars. Yes, you can find better brewers, but it’s competitive within its price range, and it’s more space-friendly than other machines.
Breville Barista Express Review: Reliable & Top-Notch Espresso Machine
Looking for something reliable and user-friendly? BTW, we're talking espresso machines. Check out our Breville Barista Express review!
Product In-Stock: InStock