Breville Barista Express Review
Pros: Great taste, cafe quality lattes and cappuccinos
Cons: On the pricier side, requires some effort and a learning curve
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Breville Barista Express
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|Pros||Great taste, cafe quality lattes and cappuccinos||Excellent espresso, can achieve near-perfect microfoam, relatively easy to use for a semi-automatic machine||Great espresso, impressive milk steaming performance, compact design||Great taste, exceptional lattes and cappuccinos, mostly automated milk steaming||Good espresso and milk steaming, quite inexpensive|
|Cons||On the pricier side, requires some effort and a learning curve||Pricey, requires more effort/practice than fully-automatic machines||No built-in grinder||No built-in grinder, automated steam wand isn't ideal for microfoam or latte art||Doesn't quite achieve cafe quality results, somewhat slow, no built-in grinder|
|Bottom Line||A perfect choice for those that don't mind putting in a little work to get the best tasting shot||A cafe-quality machine that manages to still be friendly towards beginner baristas||One of the smallest machines we've found that can achieve cafe-quality results||A top-notch machine that pulls great shots and offers the best mostly-automated milk-steaming we've found||Offers good taste and overall quality at a far below average price|
|Rating Categories||Breville Barista Ex...||Calphalon Temp IQ||Breville Bambino||Breville Bambino Plus||Gevi|
|Ease of Use (30%)|
|Ease of Cleaning (15%)|
|Milk Steaming (15%)|
|Specs||Breville Barista Ex...||Calphalon Temp IQ||Breville Bambino||Breville Bambino Plus||Gevi|
|Dimensions||13.2" x 12.5" x 16"||5.6" x 14.5" x 17.3"||7.7" x 12.6" x 12.2"||7.7" x 12.6" x 12.2"||13" x 10" x 16"|
|Milk Frother||Steam Wand||Steam Wand||Steam Wand||Automatic Steam Wand||Steam Wand|
|Water Tank Capacity||67 oz||94 oz||47 oz||65 oz||42 oz|
|Cost per Shot||$0.47||$0.45||$0.45||$0.47||$0.45|
|Lifetime Cost per Shot||$0.76||$0.70||$0.58||$0.68||$0.50|
|Number of Cafe Replacement Shots to Make Up List Price||277||235||118||198||51|
|Number of Cafe Replacement Lattes to Make Up List Price||165||141||70||118||30|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Barista Pro is the perfect machine for the espresso aficionado that is willing to make a bit of an investment in a nice machine, but not a quadruple-digit investment. It makes top-notch drinks and has a built-in grinder so you'll be ready to go without an additional purchase.
A straight shot or a latte made well with the Barista Express is going to match the expectations one would have when walking into a coffee shop. Yes, there are some much more expensive machines that can produce slightly higher-quality drinks, but the differences are small enough as to only be evident in a side-by-side taste test.
In our testing, we found the espresso from the Barista Express to be rich, aromatic, bold, and even luxurious. In fact, some of our testers that swore drinking straight espresso just wasn't for them were pleasantly surprised by the nuanced flavors that arose from this machine's offerings. To literally top it off, the steam wand made some of the best microfoam in our testing, allowing for an easy and high-quality transformation from straight espresso to cappuccinos and lattes.
Ease of Use
The Barista Express asks the user to make some sacrifices in convenience to end up with a tastier drink. Accordingly, it didn't earn the highest score for this metric, but take that with a grain of salt if you're on the hunt for a true coffee pro experience.
The initial setup for this machine was among the most laborious of the bunch, taking us a full 35 minutes. It does include very detailed instructions that guide you through the process, so it's not confusing, just time-consuming.
The Barista Express looks and acts like a professional machine in that it asks the user to grind and tamp the coffee and steam the milk manually. This can take some getting used to, and resulted in a much slower cappuccino-making time trial. It also takes a bit of time to get used to the machine and dial in exactly how to grind and tamp to get a great shot. We predict most users will feel confident and be pulling great shots after making 20-40 drinks on the machine. Once you get to this point, grinding, tamping, and steaming start to feel like second nature and not so arduous. Seeing as this machine produced some of the best espresso we tested, this additional labor and learning curve may be worth it for the right person.
One thing to note about the Barista Express is its pre-infusion feature. This hits the coffee with some low-pressure water before ramping up to full brewing pressure. This lets the coffee even out and settle, which both creates a more consistent shot and can correct for some small errors in tamping technique.
The interface on the Barista Express lives up to Breville's great reputation. All buttons are clearly marked and light up when pressed, and the pressure gauge lets you easily tell if you've messed something up in the prep process and aren't reaching a good brewing pressure (indicated on the gauge).
The water tank is 67-ounces, big enough to require less frequent refilling. The included tamper is of high quality and conveniently stores right on the machine in a magnetic port. The steam wand's position has a wide adjustment range, adding a level of convenience and finesse to milk steaming.
Ease of Cleaning
Here again, the incredible taste quality of the Barista Express requires some sacrifices in convenience.
The steam wand is fairly easy to clean if you're diligent about purging and wiping it off right after each use. However, if you neglect it, a thick and stubborn residue can quickly build up. The portafilter also requires cleaning after each use, an inconvenience not present with super-automatic machines. If you've dialed in your brewing process, the spent grinds in the portafilter will be compact, fairly dry, and easy to remove. If you're still in beginner mode the grinds may be a bit muddier and create more of a mess. The drip tray has a friendly full indicator and is fairly easy to remove, empty, and clean.
The Barista Express lost points for its descaling process. Though this is only required a few times a year, we found it to be quite annoying. It requires mixing up a tincture of half water and half vinegar and manually flushing the machine with it. Then you need to flush out the vinegar with water. This process took us about 30 minutes. Other machines perform automated descaling that is much easier.
The Barista Express has one of the best steam wands we've seen on a home espresso machine, allowing you to create cafe-quality lattes and cappuccinos right in your own kitchen.
If that rich and creamy cafe-style latte is what you seek, look no farther than this machine. It's one of the few we tested that can create that elusive perfect steamed milk with a thin layer of foam that takes lattes to the next level. The same goes for latte art. If you're hoping to impress your friends with little foam leaves or hearts this machine will give you all the tools (if not the skill) you need to succeed in that quest.
The one small downside of the steam wand is the fact that the machine takes a minute to get the wand up to pressure after pulling a shot. That means your espresso shot sits out in the air for a bit while you're prepping the milk. This can lead to oxidation and the espresso getting bitter. The easy fix for this is throwing a small splash of milk into your espresso right after you pull the shot (or maybe some flavored syrup, if that's your thing). That will hold the espresso's flavor while you wait for the steam wand to warm up and the milk to be prepped.
The Barista Express certainly is not cheap. However, seeing as it produces the kind of quality drinks we'd expect from much more expensive professional-level machines, this represents a great value to the espresso aficionado that wants a brew-at-home option. If you're less concerned about taste and more concerned about convenience, the Barista Express will probably sit unused in the corner due to its somewhat involved brewing routine. If this is the case you'll find much better value in a super-automatic machine.
The Breville Barista Express is a fantastic machine that will allow you to make a great latte at a price that is less exorbitant than many other machines of the same caliber.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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