Breville Barista Express: What You Should Know Before Buying

We were one of those people who got excited when the Breville Barista Express BES870XL was first released. Imagine having a fully-functional coffee machine that brews with enough power to make real shots with latte art-ready milk. It even comes with a built-in grinder—and all that for less than $1000?

If you’re on the market for a mid-priced home espresso maker, this product may be what you’re searching for. Read on as we review the Breville Barista Express machine to see if it’s the right fit for you.

What Makes the Breville Barista Express Stand Out?

Breville BES870BSXL the Barista Express, Espresso Machine, Black Sesame
  • The Breville Barista Express delivers third wave specialty coffee at home using the 4 keys formula and is part of the Barista Series that offers all in one espresso machines with integrated grinder to go from beans to espresso in under one minute
  • Dose Control Grinding: Integrated precision conical burr grinder grinds on demand to deliver the right amount of freshly ground coffee directly into the portafilter for your preferred taste with any roast of bean
  • Optimal Water Pressure: Low pressure pre-infusion gradually increases pressure at the start and helps ensure all the flavors are drawn out evenly during the extraction for a balanced tasting cup
  • Precise Espresso Extraction: Digital temperature control (PID) delivers water at precisely the right temperature, ensuring optimal espresso extraction
  • Manual Microfoam Milk Texturing: The powerful steam wand performance allows you to hand texture microfoam milk that enhances flavor and enables creation of latte art

This machine is a solid option for professional baristas exploring home espresso options. If you’re a curious coffee enthusiast who wants to learn more about espresso brewing, this fits the bill as well.

It delivers many customizable features and enough pressure, making it fun to use. You normally can’t do this, so it’s a big deal for an espresso machine at this price range.

The Breville Barista Express has everything you can ask for to start your brewing journey. It comes with a built-in adjustable conical burr grinder with dosage control, programmable volumetric shot buttons, a huge 67-ounce water tank, and regular and pressurized 54mm portafilter baskets.

It’s great if you’re very eager to learn and enter the world of espresso. If you’re already an advanced user, this is still a good option. You can take advantage of its deeper features like pre-infusion. However, if you already have a grinder, you can spend a little less and get the Breville Infuser instead. It’s basically the same thing without the coffee grinder.

What We LikeWhat We Didn’t Like
Has everything you can think of to begin your espresso brewing experienceIt’s a single boiler, which means you can’t steam and brew at the same time
Can produce the right pressure to perfectly brew coffee and steam milkUses portafilters that are smaller than regular-sized ones
The best home espresso machine for the money 
Breville Barista Express Pros and Cons

How Does the Breville Barista Express Perform?

Now for the part you’ve been waiting for. Does the Barista Express brew well? Yes, it does.

This product checks all the boxes in terms of allowing you to enjoy a delicious cup of espresso. It may take some practice to get the most out of it but we promise you it will be worth it. Making espresso is a hobby, not a quick caffeine fix. As long as you’re willing to learn and start small, you can create quick and tasty shots in no time!

Four Filter Baskets

This coffee maker comes with four portafilter baskets to hold the freshly-ground beans while brewing. Each machine also includes a single and a double shot filter basket for both the normal and pressurized types.

For starters, normal filter baskets are metal baskets that have small holes in the bottom. Meaning, you need to have your grind particle size perfect to brew a tasty shot. There’s also nothing that creates resistance aside from the grounds themselves. So, if the grinder is set too coarse, the shot will flow quickly and be sour and watery.

Meanwhile, pressurized portafilter baskets have fewer holes in the bottom. This leads to some kind of artificial pressure to ensure a cream-heavy shot even with a sub-optimal grind. While they may not brew tasty shots like normal filter baskets, they’ll make brewing a whole lot easier.

The Breville Barista Express includes a 54mm portafilter, which is smaller than the standard 58mm portafilters on most machines. We only wish it used the 58mm portafilters instead since this can help take it to the next level. The company also ships out two single and double baskets for either a single or double shot.

Thermocoil for Quick Heat Up

This machine uses PID or proportional-integral derivative. It’s a digital temperature control to make sure the brewing water is at the optimal temperature to extract espresso. It will purge some of the heat through the release valve into the tray if the water is too hot.

Commercial boilers, on the other hand, use boilers for water and steam. They’re essentially large pressurized metal tanks that hold hot water. Machines that use traditional boilers take about 20 minutes to heat up before they’re ready for brewing.

The Breville Barista Express uses a thermocoil heating system. It’s a coiled-up steel tube surrounded by an aluminum block. Once cold water enters the coil in the bottom, it’s heated on the way up to get the perfect temperature. This means the water heats up on the fly and does so very quickly.

It can heat water in just about one minute!

The Breville Barista Express is Capable of Pre-Infusion

Espresso needs to bloom too. Blooming is when some of the CO2 trapped inside the coffee gets released to allow for a more even brew. Blooming, when it comes to espresso, is called pre-infusion.

What happens is a small amount of water is released right before the pressure builds up. The goal is to completely saturate the coffee in the portafilter. The coffee puck then expands, minimizing channeling risk, which can lead to under or over-extraction. You can manually adjust how long you want to spend in the blooming phase.

This is a great feature to have and it’s cool that the company included it in this product.

Pressure Gauge for Easy Brewing Visibility

The standard pressure when brewing espresso has always been nine bars. If your espresso machine can reach this standard, you’re guaranteed to enjoy delicious shots.

The Breville Barista Express has this small pressure gauge on the control panel. This gives you visual feedback of what pressure your brewer uses. If your shot is far outside the standard range, the grinds are probably too fine or coarse. The standard espresso range shows pressures from eight to ten bars.

The Grinder

You can’t underestimate how important a good burr grinder is. This applies to all types of coffee brewing but especially for espresso. Espresso grinders cut the coffee for brewing and create the resistance required for the pressure to build up in the portafilter.

The Barista Express has a stainless steel conical burr grinder and a dial on the left to adjust the grind size. There are 18 grind settings on the dial. You can also adjust how the inner burr sits in the outer burr for a finer grind size!

There’s also an 8-ounce bean hopper made of durable plastic on top. You can easily remove it for cleaning or swapping out coffee beans. By putting the portafilter in the portafilter cradle, the machine will automatically start and grind your chosen dose.

You can adjust the grind amount using the “Coffee Amount” dial on the unit’s control panel. The two dosage buttons are programmable and are based on grind time. Simply place a portafilter into the cradle and grind until you’re satisfied. The machine will then remember the grind amount based on how long it was grinding for.

Build

Breville ensured to put quality parts where it matters. This is a good way of compromising to cut the overall cost of the machine without sacrificing quality.

The heating system is made of stainless steel and aluminum and is made in Italy. The single baskets, double baskets, and portafilters are made of steel as well.

The body of the Barista Express is made of plastic with a brushed stainless steel casing. While it would be better if the body weren’t mostly plastic, we didn’t find this an issue. Besides, if the body were entirely made of steel, it would be very heavy and more expensive.

Milk Frothing

This machine proves that steaming milk at home doesn’t have to be a nightmare. It’s not a commercial machine so it won’t be that fast, yes, but it can still produce quality microfoam. Plus, if you know what you’re doing, you can make solid steamed milk that you can turn into latte art.

This is the perfect product for beginners to practice on. Since steaming is slower compared to commercial machines, you have more time to incorporate air into the milk and more time to fix any mistake you might make.

The steam wand pivots, too, so you can always find the right position for your milk jug. It can rotate any way no matter what jug you’re using or the angle you like to steam at. The wand adapts to you and not the other way around.

Just remember that this is a single boiler so you can only brew coffee and steam milk separately. Whether or not this is an issue depends on you but we don’t mind it at all. This “issue” isn’t specific to the machine and you can find it in other models at the same price point. If you wish to brew and steam at the same time, you have to be willing to spend extra to achieve that.

Here are Some Coffee Boosters to Spice Up Your Delicious Cup

Conclusion

Espresso isn’t just for the coffee shop or the professionals. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, this semi-automatic product from Breville is an excellent option for brewing quality, homemade espresso.

We hope you found our review helpful for your next hunt. Happy brewing!

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