Breville Barista Express Review – The Editor’s Choice 2020

 Last Updated August 21, 2020

When picking this years editor’s choice we decided not to instantly jump to the high-end coffee market, rather we took a methodical approach and weighed up a machine’s coffee making ability with the needs of the average consumer. 

That’s why we believe that the Breville Barista Express ticks all the boxes for a great domestic espresso machine. It may not be the best machine out there but it strikes that perfect balance between ease of use, coffee making ability and price. Find out why we really like it in this Breville Barista Express review. Or click here to check its price. 

Pros:

  • Built in grinder
  • Thermocoil heating allows for quick switch between milk frothing and espresso extraction
  • Programable doses, shots & temperature

Cons:

  • Bit of a learning curve
  • Free tamper too light

Ease Of Use

The engineers at Breville really took their time designing the Express by adopting the perspective of an average consumer and asking what they really need. Their answer was an inbuilt burr grinder, customizable volumetric controls and a Thermocoil boiler system to turn fresh coffee into excellent espresso.

My favourite feature is the integrated coffee grinder.

The standout of this machine has to be the inbuilt burr coffee grinder. The grinder not only streamlines the coffee making process but shaves off a couple hundred dollars from not having to buy a peripheral grinder. The next benefit of it is what all professional baristas strive to achieve – consistency. By being able to grind the same dose of coffee every time, tamp it, and then pass the same amount of water through it, you have the ability to produce consistent results. And if your coffee tastes a little too bitter or weak you can easily adjust your setting to create the best possible coffee.

barista express grinder inbuilt burr grinder

The inbuilt grinder allows you to replicate your results.

One of the more technical features of the Breville BES870XL is that it contains a Thermocoil heating system. A Thermocoil system allows for the water within the machine to rapidly heat up for espresso extraction. This allows you to quickly switch between steam milking milk and extracting espresso.

In cheaper single boiler espresso machines, when you switch between steaming and extracting, you literally have to wait for  the machine to heat up to the correct temperature to allow for extracting espresso and steaming milk. A Thermocoil system greatly speeds up this process, meaning you don't have to wait long at all to switch from extracting to steaming.

 Specifications

Header

Machine Type:

Semi-Automatic

Boiler:

Single Boiler with Thermocoil

Steam Wand:

Yes (Manual)

Measurements:

16 x 13.25 x 12.5 inches

Finally the machine comes with volumetric controls. These controls are preset to produce either one or two shots of espresso. But you can also manually control the extraction or create pre-set extraction times. As you can see the ethos of consistency and ease of use is built in throughout this machine. This is one of the reasons we’re fans of the Barista Express for the average consumer. But how does the coffee taste?

Coffee Making Ability

It’s all well and good if a machine has lots of features and looks great but if it doesn’t make great tasting espresso then what’s the point? Luckily, the Breville Barista Express doesn’t have this problem. This espresso machine creates great tasting coffee that would make every person question whether they should pick up a part-time barista job. This is attributed to the consistent grind you can create with the inbuilt burr grinder.

The key to great coffee is fresh ground beans.

In terms of creating milk-based drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos the steam wand packs out enough pressure to create silkily steamed milk. Although it may take a few seconds for the steam to come out. But the steam wand is fast enough for daily home use. Just don’t go thinking of using this machine in a commercial context as it’ll be too slow – it’s a domestic machine after all. The video below by Breville provides a great overview on how to use the machine.

Now For The Caveats

Like all espresso machines the quality of the espresso relies just as much on the coffee you use as the machine that is creating the espresso. If you don’t use freshly roasted beans your results will not be as good as coffee goes stale over time.

Further if you’re new to semi-automatic espresso machines you’ll have a bit of a learning curve. This is because you’ll need to learn the basics of milk frothing and espresso extraction, unlike super-automatic espresso machines where everything is done for you. But after this initial learning curve you’ll be able to make better coffee than a super-automatic every time. To help you out with this initial learning curve we’ve written guides for both milk steaming and espresso extraction.

Price

Depending on where you buy the Breville Barista Express it falls around the $599 mark. I find that you can a good price here. It may be more expensive than standard entry-level machine, but you have to take into account the inbuilt grinder, the quality of build and all the extra consistency features that’ll take your coffee making abilities to the next level. But is the machine right for you?

Should You Buy The Breville Barista Express?

This is the ideal machine for the home user that wants to make consistently great tasting coffee in the comfort of their own home without breaking the bank. The Breville Barista Express will bring out your inner barista and is recommended for the average home user.

But if you’re a coffee nerd like me who wants to experiment with boiler temperatures, pre-infusions and have a machine that can push out steam instantly you’re better off getting a dual boiler espresso machine. But be aware that you’ll be looking at a price point in the $2,000 – $3,000+ range.

For its price point the Breville’s value proposition is that it’s purpose built for convince and the average coffee lover. It is the perfect compromise between ease of use, coffee making ability and price. That’s why I’m a big fan the Breville Barista Express.


About The Author 

Ivan Bez

Ivan is the founder of Latte Art Guide and a barista with 7+ years of experience. He loves coffee and aims to help people improve their coffee making skills.


  • Thanks, Ivan!

    I purchased a Barista Express—my first home espresso machine—based on your very thorough review, and I LOVE it!!! The learning curve has been minimal. The hardest part is sticking to my daily limit of two lattes per day! Thanks so much for all of the great information on your website. I made a much more informed decision because of your many valuable insights 🙂

    ~Emily

  • This looks like the perfect machine to get me started with espresso. What sort of life expectancy can I expect from something like this? Is it serviceable?

  • Hi I have just purchased my new barista express. everything seems to be working fine however i cannot get the extraction time to required time. the initial drop comes out at 8 secs which is fine but then extracts for a total of 15 secs but im looking for 25-35 secs as per the manual. i have tried to make the grind finer but these does not affect the time.

    • The single shot is supposed to take approx 15 seconds. 25-35 seconds is for pulling a double shot. In addition, if you want a longer pull, you can manually override and also set the auto pull to a longer extraction.

  • Hi Ivan, I appreciate your review. I am a fan of ristretto, the short extraction with crema. In your opinion , am I going to have a short and intense extraction making a good ristretto espresso (considering the good quality of coffee)?

  • Hello,

    Thanks for all this info. Quick question. Would I be better off with an infuser or gaggia classic plus the smart grinder pro or just get this machine?

    Basically if I have roughly 600 to spend, is this way to go or should I go gaggia/breville plus a 200-250 dollar grinder.

    Thanks!!

    • No. Get a Rancillio Sylvia and a $100 DeLonghi grinder. I had one I bought used for $400 and used it for over 5 years before giving it to a friend. Manual but WAY WAY better.

  • Can I use the grinder to make pourover-size grinds and then easily catch them in something to transfer to the cone? Or will I need a separate grinder to make pourovers – with the same beans, of course?

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