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Breville Barista Express Review

A perfect choice for those that don't mind putting in a little work to get the best tasting shot
Breville Barista Express
Credit: Breville
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:   $700 List | $589.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Great taste, cafe quality lattes and cappuccinos
Cons:  On the pricier side, requires some effort and a learning curve
Manufacturer:   Breville
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Jun 24, 2021
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80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 16
  • Taste - 40% 9
  • Ease of Use - 30% 7
  • Ease of Cleaning - 15% 6
  • Milk Steaming - 15% 9

Our Verdict

Offering a great quality shot, a capable steam wand, and an espresso-worthy grinder built right in, the Breville Barista Pro is one of the best all-in-one espresso machines around. Dubbed the "mini cafe" by the folks in our office, this machine provides everything you need to make a latte and, when used properly, the results can rival what you'd get in a coffee shop. In our opinion, the price falls into a sweet spot for those that aren't willing to sacrifice quality when they don't want to go to the cafe. It has high enough quality components to pull a rich shot and properly steam milk, which is reflected in the price, but it is still much less expensive than the prosumer level machines that bring true cafe-level technology into the kitchen.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $700 List
$589.95 at Amazon
$600 List
$591.99 at Amazon
$300 List$500 List
$499.95 at Amazon
$130 List
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Pros Great taste, cafe quality lattes and cappuccinosExcellent espresso, can achieve near-perfect microfoam, relatively easy to use for a semi-automatic machineGreat espresso, impressive milk steaming performance, compact designGreat taste, exceptional lattes and cappuccinos, mostly automated milk steamingGood espresso and milk steaming, quite inexpensive
Cons On the pricier side, requires some effort and a learning curvePricey, requires more effort/practice than fully-automatic machinesNo built-in grinderNo built-in grinder, automated steam wand isn't ideal for microfoam or latte artDoesn'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 shotA cafe-quality machine that manages to still be friendly towards beginner baristasOne of the smallest machines we've found that can achieve cafe-quality resultsA top-notch machine that pulls great shots and offers the best mostly-automated milk-steaming we've foundOffers 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
Taste (40%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Ease Of Use (30%)
7.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
6.0
Ease Of Cleaning (15%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Milk Steaming (15%)
9.0
9.0
10.0
8.0
8.0
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.

Performance Comparison


Bring the cafe home to you with this impressive machine.
Bring the cafe home to you with this impressive machine.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Taste


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.

It takes a bit of practice to master the steam wand, but it rewards...
It takes a bit of practice to master the steam wand, but it rewards you with cafe-quality milk.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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 pressure gauge lets you know if you've ground and tamped...
The pressure gauge lets you know if you've ground and tamped properly, or if something has gone awry.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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.

Both the portafilter and the tamp that come with the Barista Express...
Both the portafilter and the tamp that come with the Barista Express have a sturdiness and heft that feels very high quality.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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 drip tray has a nice indicator to let you know when it's full.
The drip tray has a nice indicator to let you know when it's full.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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.

Milk Steaming


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 quality of milk steaming possible on the Barista Express is...
The quality of milk steaming possible on the Barista Express is impressive, though this is a skill that will take most people some time to learn.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Value


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.


Conclusion


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.

The Barista Express offers everything you need to make seriously...
The Barista Express offers everything you need to make seriously impressive espresso-based drinks.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Max Mutter and Steven Tata