If you drink coffee or espresso daily, you are probably particular about the beans and machine you use. Why not, if you are having a cup or two every day, you want to really enjoy it every single day.
So if you are looking for a professional espresso machine that is high enough quality to be used in a coffee house but is still easy enough to use, and is affordable, you don't have to look any further than The Breville Barista Express espresso machine.
We are writing this review after owning and using this Breville Barista Express espresso machine for many years, as it has become a favorite kitchen item of ours. We have used this exact espresso maker 2-4 times daily every day we have had it, and here is what we have to say about it.
The Breville Barista Express espresso machine is part of Breville's Barista line, which is a great lineup as it offers a very high end, professional grade espresso at each tier, that is still affordable for the home user.
Here are the three Breville espresso machines from the Barista line:
This review is going to focus on the entry level of the Barista line; the Barista Express. This espresso machine is a fantastic espresso maker because it creates a very high quality espresso at home, without breaking the bank.
The Barista Express is a fantastic purchase that will make consistent quality espresso again and again and it will last for many years. With this espresso machine, you will enjoy beautiful, coffee house-style espresso right at home.
They call this espresso machine the "all in one machine" as you go from full bean to espresso in under a minute. Being able to grind your beans right before making your espresso is a huge deal, and this is one of the first of Breville's higher end models to offer the integrated burr right in this machine, and it makes all the difference.
We previously owned the Breville Infuser espresso machine when we first started drinking espresso and after a short amount of time, decided to upgrade to the Barista line. Being able to have a bean grinder right in the machine is one of the reasons why, and it has been a complete game changer just with this single option.
Before you even get to grinding your fresh espresso beans in the burr, you are going to choose your filter size, and this will give you a single shot or a double shot of espresso. After choosing your size, you insert it into the stainless steel portafilter, which you will see if you watch our video going from grinding the bean to pouring the espresso.
The Barista Express comes with a nice and heavy, black handled 54mm portafilter, and this is actually important to note, as this portafilter is a different size than most.
If you want to add a wood handled portafilter on after or a bottomless portafilter to pour those really artsy espresso shots, you will want to get a 54mm portafilter, which can actually be hard to find. When you love something, you like to buy add-ons sometimes. (Yes, we did this years after buying our Barista Express espresso machine.)
Here is the wood handled open bottomed portafilter we bought separately which fits the Breville Barista Express: 54mm Wood Grain Portafilter
So once you choose if you want a single or double shot of espresso, you insert the single or double stainless steel basket into the portafilter and press it into the grinding cradle of the espresso machine to signal the burr to start grinding those beautiful, fresh beans.
The fresh grind will fall into your basket, and you can push the portafilter in again to stop it manually, or set the grind to come out in the perfect amount. We recorded how loud the grinder is in our video at the bottom so you can hear how it sounds.
You will find that different espresso beans will grind best at different grind sizes, and you will learn what tastes best to you as you go. So once you find your perfect bean, then you start experimenting with grind size for that specific bean, which can be adjusted on the left side of the espresso machine, ranging from a fine grind at number 1, to a coarse grind at a 16.
Now here is the part where you take your tamper off from where it is held on the left side of the grinder. It is just held up there by a magnet, and you give that espresso a good tamping. Press the tamper in to the basket in your portafilter nice and hard. You will likely have to add some more ground beans and tamp again.
How do you know how much ground espresso is enough? Well, your next step is to ensure you have a precision amount by taking your razor dose trimming tool included with the espresso machine tools to measure the perfect amount. Anything that comes off once you run the razor dose trimming tool can be discarded. Then you just dust off the rim of the portafilter before use so it inserts nice and clean.
Next you will insert the portafilter into the group head and lock it in to place. You will see us doing this in the video. Simply point the handle at the "insert" side as it goes up and in, and once you feel it is in there, lock it into place by pulling the handle right (with a light bit of force). Now you are ready.
Once your portafilter is locked into place, you will hit the button to pour either a single or a double shot. And then comes the magic.
As the espresso pours, you will notice the color go through a few changes; it will start as a burst of dark and quickly change to a light brown, very creamy color. This is your crema, and this only comes with a good espresso machine.
Crema is part of what makes the espresso so good. As the shot pours, it will reach a perfect pressure (from your tamping) and the color will change again to a dark, clearer brown.
Once the shot settles, if you have a clear espresso shot glass, you will see the fountain effect where the crema literally looks like a beautiful fountain inside, travelling down the inside of the glass while recirculating inside.
As the espresso shot settles and the fountain effect diminishes, the crema will start to float on top of the espresso as it is lighter, and will look absolutely beautiful.
From here, you have many options. You can enjoy that shot of espresso, Italian style if you want it like that. Sip it slowly but make sure to enjoy it while it is hot.
If that is too strong for you, perhaps you prefer an Americano, which is like a black coffee. Use the boiled water button to pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup of hot water into a coffee mug, and then add your shot of espresso. And of course you can add milk or cream and sugar or honey if you want.
If a latte or cappuccino is what you are going for, then you would take your steaming wand and steam your milk or milk substitute now. To get those silky micro bubbles, don't take your wand in and out of the milk, instead, you want to hold it steady, barely out of the milk on an angle so you get a good, consistent recirculating stream in the froth. Move that milk around quickly with your steam (we could write an entire article on that one, but we'll save it for another day!)
Pour your your shot of espresso into a coffee mug and add the frothed milk. You can practice latte art now, that is always fun to do! Then, add anything else you would like for sweetener.
If you want a cappuccino, then only add the froth of the milk and leave the rest of the milk or milk substitute. A cappuccino is about drinking your espresso with froth on top, so it is a much stronger taste than a creamy latte.
Cleaning has never been easier in an espresso machine.
The basin at the bottom of the Breville Barista Express catches any extra water or grind, and tells you when it needs to be emptied from the little pop up that floats once the water level gets high.
Simply pull it out and empty it, or take it apart and throw it in the dishwasher. It's really that easy.
And there you go!
We went through so many steps in reviewing this Breville Barista Express espresso machine, but making excellent espresso actually all happens very quickly when you want a cup in the morning. It is also easy to learn.
The motto of this machine is literally "From bean to espresso in under a minute" and we can say this is 100% true.
This espresso machine is extremely easy to set up and use and clean, and makes a professional grade of espresso quickly for a great price. We would recommend this machine over and over again and we hope this helped you make an excellent purchasing decision.
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