Do you need to make a lot of coffee? Restaurant-level brewing systems work on a completely different level than home products, but just as with regular brewing equipment, some are better than others. Let’s find out if this system is worth your money.
Among all the other Breville machines out there, this one might be the answer to all your coffee-making needs.
Here are the main things to consider before you go shopping.
Breville’s Barista Express is a complete brewing system designed for high-speed delivery of great drinks. As a full system, it includes controlled grinding, espresso extraction, foaming, and other features for brewing different cups to customers’ specifications. It’s also designed to economize its usage of space, so it’s smaller than you may expect.
The thing to consider here is that this is a professional system, which means it’s best for places that want to deliver a lot of coffee in a short time. That includes restaurants, restaurants, some churches, and similar facilities. If you’re not buying for those environments, move on.
Buying a professional system is more challenging than buying individual components for use at home. The reason for this is simple: companies have different expectations for their coffee, and professional systems don’t always have the right combination of features to make them worthwhile.
We’ll talk more about the functions in a little bit. For now, the thing to keep in mind is that you should determine which parts you need, then make your purchasing decision.
I lied. This isn’t something to consider if you’re buying a professional coffee brewing system. It’s something you shouldn’t consider.
Buying a professional system means getting the right equipment for the job. If you’re running a business, you can easily get one of these systems as part of a business loan or line of credit. If you’re buying this for other locations, such as churches, you can ask for donations or save up a little longer if necessary.
Prices are fundamentally minor considerations if you’re getting a professional system, so don’t worry about it until you’ve decided which system you want to buy.
That said, you won’t get the most from your system unless you have great beans to pair with it. For more on that topic, see our guide to buying the best coffee beans.
Breville’s BES870XL, also known as the Barista Express Espresso Machine, is a complete coffee-brewing system with an emphasis on espresso delivery. Its features include dose control grinding from a conical burr grinder, digital temperature control, and a steam wand for micro-foam milk.
This is a mid-range product that offers hands-free operation for busy workers. Its controls are simple and straight-to-the-point, covering things like grind size and whether you’re brewing one or two cups.
- The compact design is easy to fit on almost any countertop
- The filters fit inside the base
- It allows brewing two cups of coffee despite its small size
- The hopper holds a solid 1/2 pound of beans
- Digital temperature controls help ensure consistent performance
- It takes some practice to learn
- The paint may chip off
- It requires cleaning more often than some other professional machines
As a complete brewing station, the Breville Barista Express is packed with features.
The built-in grinding system consistently produces 19-22g of ground coffee beans, which is about right for any regular cup of coffee. This reliable production is essential to creating consistent flavors from beans, which is a crucial selling point for most restaurants.
However, that same consistency can be a problem for some buyers. It doesn’t have a lot of flexibility when brewing, aside from grinding different beans in different amounts. In other words, this is a great machine if you need to produce many cups of the same coffee, but it’s not as useful if you need to make lots of different types of coffee.
Brewing at the right temperature is essential for producing a good shot of espresso, so this machine throws guesswork out the window in favor of a digital sensor. Like the grinding measures, this control system helps ensure consistency when you’re brewing coffee and allows you to replicate specific tastes easily.
This isn’t a unique selling point for the Breville Barista Express. Most espresso-style machines have a proper milk steaming system. I just want to mention it here because you shouldn’t take any system for granted when you’re going shopping for a professional brewing unit.
Now, this is something I like. Unlike some other professional machines, the Breville Barista Express gets dirty fast enough that you’ll probably have to clean it at least daily. However, it’s also designed to be easy to clean, and that’s a strong point in its favor. The removable water tank also helps with the cleaning process!
Honestly, if it didn’t have this design, I don’t think I could recommend it at all. Most of its cleaning is done through espresso machine tablets, which can pump safe cleaning chemicals through the machine. That takes care of most of the work, so the rest of the cleaning process is simple and straightforward.
Note that you’ll need an adequate supply of these tablets. Some people prefer cleaning espresso machines manually because you don’t have to keep buying products, but I think the work time spent cleaning is something people could spend better on other tasks, so the tablets are a reasonable cost for the daily maintenance of rinsing away your coffee grounds.
Would you believe that some coffee machines don’t have integrated storage? That’s a massive oversight on their part, but it’s not a problem with the Breville Barista Express. It stores cleaning supplies and some metal filters right in the base of the unit, with a convenient front-access design, so you don’t have to move this machine around.
The Breville Barista Express isn’t truly heavy, but at 23 pounds, it is heavier than most people want to spend all day shoving into position. It’s better to keep this unit in place once you take it out of the package, which also means making sure you have easy access to refill the water tank.
This is either good or bad, depending on the type of coffee you want to make. While you can brew coffee regularly with this machine, its main focus is providing high-quality espresso with minimal input from users. That means several of its systems aren’t going to do much unless you’re making espresso shots.
This brings up another point that I want to briefly address here: the value for each feature. As you move into professional-grade equipment, you see more and more machines that are extremely good at exactly one job. General home equipment is usually good, but not excellent, in many different capacities so it can appeal to more people.
In other words, if you’re not making espresso, this is a terrible choice. If you are making espresso, it’s certainly worth considering for its durable frame, consistently high quality, and user-friendly design.
Similarly, make sure you don’t overpay for features you don’t need. It can be hard to find a single, perfect machine if you need to make several different types of coffee, but it’s up to you to decide if you want to look for an all-in-one unit or buy several machines for different scenarios.
Breville’s Barista Express is a great unit, but it’s not for everyone. Here are some alternatives to consider.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option because the price is an issue, consider the DeLonghi 15 Bar Pump. This brewing system is a dual-purpose espresso and cappuccino unit, but it doesn’t have nicer features like a built-in grinder. However, I particularly like the way it lets you control the water and steam pressure separately.
If you’re looking for a premium system, it’s hard to beat the La Pavoni BAR-T 2V-R. It’s much bigger than the Barista Express. In fact, it’s so big that it’s meant for two people to use together. However, it can also produce immense amounts of coffee in minimal time, which makes it worth considering for exceptionally high-volume situations.
Unfortunately, despite its high price, the La Pavoni system doesn’t have built-in bean grinding systems. On the other hand, if you’re using such a high-capacity system, you probably need a large, separate bean grinding system anyway so you can make different flavors easier.
For a third option, check out our review of the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista system.
The Breville Barista Express is a solid, reliable espresso machine with a number of user-friendly features. While it needs cleaning more often than some of its competitors, it’s still an excellent unit overall and worth considering for public settings like restaurants.
I rate this machine a 4.5/5. You can find better espresso machines, but it’s competitive within its price range, and the inclusion of a built-in grinder makes it more space-friendly than some other machines.