The Breville Barista Express has ranked as one of the best home espresso machines since it first hit the market.
Still, with several newer Breville espresso machines and countless models from other manufacturers, is this the one to go with? That’s what we’re all here to find out.
In this Breville Barista Express espresso machine review, I’ll be taking an in-depth look into this product’s performance, features, espresso quality, lifespan, ease of use, value for money, and so much more.
Breville Barista Express Review – My Ratings & Top Features
Overall, I would rate the Barista Express 4.8/5 stars. It has tons of features, but these are the ones that make it the ideal choice for beginners and experts alike.
Who Should Buy The Breville Barista Express?
You should buy the Breville Barista Express if you’re serious about espresso but don’t consider yourself a pro when it comes to making it. If you are a 'newbie' then this machine is ideal for you.
It’s the ideal at-home machine for espresso drinkers who don’t want to go to the nearest coffee shop for a potent shot or creamy latte.
Although it’s not fully automated, it seriously streamlines the process, making it perfect for espresso newbies.
Why I Decided To Review The Breville Barista Express Machine
I've always loved espresso, and I recently decided to upgrade from a single-serving, pod-style espresso machine to an all-in-one device.
The Express has gotten a ton of praise, so naturally, I decided to give it a chance!
Before even making the purchase, I had tons of questions. Now that I’ve used it regularly for more than a month, I finally have all the answers.
I wrote this review because I’d love to share these answers with other home baristas who are on the fence about buying this Breville. Here’s a bit more info on how I tested the Barista Express:
Cups Brewed Per Day
Level Of Experience Needed
I’m a home brewing enthusiast who started with a Lavazza Blue machine and recently upgraded to the Breville Barista Express.
My home kitchen
Money Saved Per Year
I have been saving more than $1000 per year by brewing espresso at home!
Favorite Drink To Brew
I typically brew a single espresso shot in the morning, followed by a latte in the afternoon! This machine is capable of producing a flavorful shot as well as a creamy latte.
What’s It Like To Own A Breville Barista Express?
The Barista Express is a semi-automatic espresso machine, which means that it’s not entirely automated, but it’s pretty darn close.
I’ve never owned a machine like this until recently when my Express was delivered to my doorstep.
Before using this one, I’ve only ever used a Moka Pot or pod-style machine for enjoying espresso at home.
Even after one month, I can tell a huge difference in the quality of my espresso. Below, I’ve covered all the details of what it’s like to own a Barista Express.
What's In The Box?
This espresso machine has everything you need to get started as a home barista. In addition to the machine itself, here's what you'll find in the box:
You’ll also be given a 1-year warranty from Breville. However, you can upgrade your policy to an extended period of 2 or 3 years, but this will be an additional cost.
To be honest, I don’t think it’s necessary to upgrade; the 1-year protection is perfectly fine for an espresso machine under $1,000.
Based on what comes included with the Barista Express, you won’t need to buy anything other than good coffee beans and milk if you’re looking to make lattes or capps.
As far as packaging goes, Breville does a great job of keeping all the parts and pieces protected and secure.
My box - which was quite heavy - was very easy to open, and there was no damage whatsoever.
What To Expect From The Grinder
The Barista Express has several features that are strictly about convenience, and the integrated conical burr grinder is one of them.
This is considered an all-in-one machine with the grinder built right in. In other words, there's no need for grinding coffee with a separate grinder.
It's not as advanced as other espresso machines, but with 16 settings, you should be able to find the right grind size.
To put things into perspective, the Barista Pro has 30 on-demand grind settings, and some standalone grinders have as many as 50. Still, more grinding options come with a higher price tag.
Working the grinder is fast and easy. There’s an 8-ounce bean hopper at the top of the machine where you’ll add the coffee beans.
Once you close the lid, just adjust the dial on the side to select the ideal grind size. Push the start button, and let the burr grinder do the rest.
To recap, having a built-in burr grinder is a massive pro, but this feature could definitely use some improvement.
It’s not the most precise grinder out there, so if you’re having trouble, you might want to invest in a good espresso grinder on the side to achieve freshly ground beans.
The Incredible Auto Dosing System!
In my opinion, the absolute best feature of this home espresso machine is its automatic dosing.
Thanks to this intelligent system, the machine does all the work when it comes to deciding the right grind amount for brewing a single or double shot.
This feature will directly funnel the perfect amount of pre-ground coffee into the portafilter.
I was a bit skeptical at first…I mean, how accurate can the dosing be for a machine this affordable? As it turns out, it's pretty darn accurate!
In fact, the accuracy is almost unbelievable. As soon as the machine was up and running, I put it to the test by brewing 5 shots in a row.
After the auto dose was delivered, I measured each one and found that there was only about a .2-gram difference across the board.
Each shot was perfectly dosed each and every time. It has remained consistent since I started using the machine, so I don't expect that accurate dosing will ever be an issue in the future.
Pulling My First Espresso Shot
Unlike fully automatic machines, this type of espresso brewing does require a bit of elbow grease.
Once the coffee was automatically ground and dosed to perfection, it was up to me to remove the tamper and tamp the grounds.
After tamping, all I had to do was lock the portafilter into place and hit the button to start brewing.
It’s also important to choose the right filter basket based on the size of the cup (single or double shots).
The machine comes with 1-cup and 2-cup filter baskets, so pick the one that’s right and select the filter size button on the machine (this should be done before grinding).
While it’s certainly an easy process, I love that I have the option to play around with my shot based on what I like to drink.
You won’t get that from super-automatic espresso makers, but expect a slight learning curve, especially if you want to tinker around with different features.
After pulling, I was left with a creamy, caramel-colored shot of espresso. As I started sipping, my taste buds were hit with a rich, perfectly-balanced coffee.
I didn't have to do much to get the creamy texture and balanced flavor, thanks to the pre-infusion process.
The grounds are pre-soaked with low-pressure hot water to draw out the flavors and aromas, followed by an ideal high-pressure (9 bar) extraction.
One thing to note is that you can manually adjust the pre-infusion time to suit your taste preferences.
Adjusting the time even slightly can drastically change the taste profile of your espresso, which is pretty cool, and it is something that you won't get from many machines at this price point.
My First Time Frothing/Steaming Milk
I love a cappuccino or latte in the afternoon, which is why I chose a machine with a professional-style steam wand for frothing and steaming milk.
The included brushed stainless steel milk jug is a nice touch, and I’ve certainly gotten a lot of use out of it.
It took me a few minutes to get used to the 360-degree turn radius of the wand. After some trial and error, I got the hang of things and was in complete control.
I'm used to using a wand that only moves in 2 directions, so this is a huge improvement.
The functionality is impressive, but the real question is whether or not the Barista Express features enough steam power to froth and steam milk that’s silky, opulent, and creamy enough for a quality milk-based drink.
The answer is yes and no…
At first, I found that pressure was not enough to steam and froth.
However, give it time; the pressure on this gradually increases, meaning I just had to wait a minute or two to reach the ideal pressure.
Once the ideal pressure was met, I was frothing milk like a pro, eventually creating a silky microfoam that rivaled what I expect from a coffee shop.
There's also a dedicated hot water spout right next to the steam wand - a great addition for Americano lovers.
How Much Control Do You Have Over The Barista Express?
Considering this coffee machine is geared towards beginners, it features a ton of programmability and control. I love this as it allows me to play around with the different aspects of brewing.
Temperature plays a huge part in making espresso. With the Express, the pressure gauge can be manually adjusted between 187 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
This may not seem like a wide range, but even a 1-2 degree adjustment can make a big difference in the flavor of the coffee.
As I mentioned before, you can also adjust the pre-infusion time for a weaker or stronger brew.
The factory setting is preset to 10 seconds, but this may be too long, depending on the coffee grounds you're using.
To adjust it, all you have to do is hold down the brew button and release it once you're ready for the high-pressure extraction.
In terms of programmability, you can easily adjust the machine's front-facing interface.
While there's no touch display screen like the one you'll get from the Barista Touch, the buttons are easy to understand.
The buttons allow you to turn the power on and off, choose your filter basket size, select a single or double shot, dial in on the coffee grinder size, or change the program between brewing, cleaning, or steaming.
Whether you’re a beginner or just value ease of use, this is all you really need in terms of control.
Look, Feel, & Size Of The Machine
This machine is made with Italian-made parts, so I expected nothing less than high-quality construction.
Every piece feels sturdy and durable, and the brushed stainless steel gives it a nice, authentic design that looks good in any kitchen.
The external water tank holds 2 liters of water. This is pretty standard, and it’s large enough that you won’t have to constantly refill the water tank every time you brew espresso shots.
You’ll definitely want to make sure that you have enough available counter space to accommodate the Express.
It’s taller than it is wider, all thanks to the bean hopper resting on top of the built-in grinder, so check the clearance if you have overhanging cabinets in your kitchen.
All in all, this is a compact machine compared to a lot of home espresso makers.
The dimensions are 15.8 inches tall, 12.6 inches wide, and 13.2 inches deep, so just confirm that it will fit nicely with plenty of access to the hopper at the top.
What Drinks Can It Make?
Breville believes that there should be some room for variety and experimenting when it comes to making coffee and gives you 5 different drink options to choose from.
I tend to use my machine for a single shot of espresso, but I love that it’s just as capable of brewing double shots - especially on days when I need that extra caffeination!
With the tools for creating creamy frothed milk and steamed milk, it’s also capable of making lattes and cappuccinos.
Lastly, it makes a killer Americano thanks to the hot water spout attachment located next to the steam wand.
If you’re looking for inspiration, Breville has a ton of available recipes with tips and tricks on elevating each beverage.
How Hard Is It To Clean & Descale?
This Breville machine is relatively easy to clean. Just like any espresso machine, the Express needs to be kept in tip-top shape if you want it to achieve tip-top performance.
Most of the stainless steel components and pressure gauge can be easily wiped down, but you’ll have to take it a step further if you want a perfect shot every time.
Breville says, "As a rule, if 2-5 cups of coffee are made daily, some parts should be cleaned every week, whereas the built-in grinder and water tank only need to be cleaned every two to three weeks."
The key is to stay on top of Breville Barista Express cleaning. That means regular cleaning of the portafilter, cup/drip tray, and built-in grinder basket after each use.
For this, simply wash all components under running water - that's it!
The only annoyance I found with the Express is that messy ground coffee clumps can get stuck in the built-in grinder.
Luckily, Breville includes a cleaning brush, which comes in handy for removing coffee grounds from the blades.
The removable components are another nice feature for ease of cleaning. The water tank is completely removable and dishwasher safe, and the same goes for the bean hopper.
Every 2-3 weeks, remove these parts, wash them, and secure them back into place.
Overall, you should clean your Barista Express frequently, but the cleaning schedule depends significantly on how much coffee you make daily.
Descaling your Express doesn’t need to be done too often.
Better yet, the machine will let you know when it’s time for a cleaning cycle by illuminating the Clean/Descale light.
From there, empty the water tank and drip tray and remove the water filter. Use the descale tablet that Breville includes with the machine by putting it into the water tank.
The tablet will dissolve after you fill the tank with water.
Then, simply push the Clean/Descale button, and the machine will work its magic. After the descaling process is all finished, just remove, rinse, refill, and replace the water tank.
My Favorite Things About The Breville Barista Express Coffee Maker
First and foremost, I love the durability and longevity of this semi-automatic espresso machine.
The majority of the components are made from stainless steel, which is not only long-lasting but also easy to clean.
Nothing about this espresso maker is flimsy, which can't be said for all beginner-friendly machines.
Next, I’m a huge fan of the auto-grinding system. The conical burr grinder gets the job done, and I was surprised by how precisely the grind amount was dosed (it does it automatically).
Some people find that 16 grind settings are on the low end, but this was fine for me.
This Breville comes with a patented Dosing Funnel that attaches directly to the portafilter. It connects the grinder to the portafilter directly to prevent grinds from overflowing.
That means no measuring, no wasting coffee grounds, and very little cleanup.
The professional-grade portafilter definitely deserves a shout-out.
Breville was smart about how this component was designed; it’s the ideal 54mm across, and the stainless steel construction has been proven to make coffee taste better in terms of richness and flavor.
To top things off, you won’t have to spend more than a few minutes assembling this machine.
Assembly is quick and easy, which means you can start taking advantage of all the features mentioned so far almost immediately after opening the box.
My Least Favorite Things About The Breville Barista Express
While this machine has excellent temperature control overall, it lacks that feature when it comes to the steam wand.
It’d be nice to have digital temperature control for steaming and frothing milk, but you won’t get that with the Barista Express.
That being said, this machine is quite capable of reaching the temperature needed to achieve consistent steam power (266ºF).
In most single boiler machines, there’s a 5-6 minute wait time between brewing and steaming, but this one steams quickly by superheating the water that’s needed for the steam wand.
My last complaint is a small one and not something that most beginner baristas will even notice. The portafilter basket is designed with tapered sides rather than straight sides.
With straight sides, hot water is more evenly displaced over the grounds, which means more flavor extraction.
Most people won’t even notice a difference, especially since the Barista Express still delivers delicious, flavorful espresso.
Breville Barista Express Vs Similar Machines
Breville Barista Express Vs Barista Touch
The Barista Touch is another solid choice from Breville.
This model is another excellent option if you’re looking for a daily espresso machine to use at home, but the audience it targets is slightly different.
Compared to the Express, the Touch isn’t as suitable for beginners, and not just because it’s more expensive.
It has more grind settings, a touchscreen display, and several customizable profiles and preprogrammed drink recipes.
Breville Barista Express Vs Barista Pro
As you can probably guess from the name, the Breville Barista Pro is better suited to pro-level home baristas.
If you already have experience making espresso, then you can definitely benefit from the added features of the Barista Pro.
The design is very similar between these two machines, but by spending about $100 more, you’ll get the advantages of a higher-end machine with the Pro.
It has more grind settings, a faster 3-second heat-up time, and a more advanced wand for microfoam.
Breville Barista Express Vs Barista Express Impress
Because the names are so similar, it’s normal for a new barista to confuse the Barista Express with the Barista Express Impress.
Try not to be fooled, though, as they aren’t as similar as the names suggest.
Of these two espresso makers, the Barista Express Impress is more advanced, so there's more of a learning curve.
It has more grind settings and more customization options, making it a great choice for coffee snobs who already know how to pull espresso shots flawlessly.
Breville Barista Express Vs DeLonghi La Specialista
Both the Barista Express and La Specialista by DeLonghi are popular semi-automatic espresso machines with similar design features.
However, the Barista Express has a stronger grinder, and more durable build, and an easier-to-use interface.
While the La Specialista is a great machine that’s $50 less than the Barista Express, I’d have to choose the Barista Express as the winner.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
The Barista Express can last as long as 10 years with proper care and maintenance. With regular cleaning and occasional descaling, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy this machine for a full decade.
No, the Breville Barista Express is not recommended for commercial use. It’s the perfect espresso maker for a home kitchen, but even small coffee shops produce more espresso than this machine can handle.
Yes, you need a water filter for the Barista Express. The good news is that the machine comes with a filter included, and it won’t need to be replaced for 90 days.
You can buy replacement filters directly from Breville or order some on Amazon.
The Barista Express can brew a shot of espresso from start to finish in less than a minute. The pre-infusion (soaking) time takes about 10 seconds, followed by a 30-second brewing window.
Conclusion - Is The Breville Barista Express Worth Your Money?
If you're a beginner barista just starting your espresso journey, the Barista Express is the best espresso machine for you.
It's a good machine with amazing value for money, and it even rivals more expensive machines in terms of features, accessories, and quality of espresso.
All in all, I recommend this product to just about anyone.
However, if you're looking for a more advanced espresso process or something fully automated, the Barista Express Impress or the Barista Pro might be a better choice.
Breville Barista Express