An Expert Guide to the Breville Barista Express

Published on 11/07/2023 · 12 min readOur in-depth guide walks you through the nuances of the Breville Barista Express, from perfecting your grind to crafting café-quality shots!
Eric T, Coffee Expert
By Coffee Expert Eric T

Barista Grinding Beans on Breville Barista Express. Photo by Eric T.

TL;DR: The Breville Barista Express is an all-in-one semi-automatic espresso machine with a built-in grinder, offering convenience and control. Ideal for home baristas, it features customizable settings, a stainless steel build, and a user-friendly interface. It’s the perfect combination of performance and price!

As a veteran in the coffee field, I’ve been playing with espresso machines and other coffee toys for over 10 years. From giant commercial machines to petite home espresso makers, I’ve tested a lot of espresso and coffee equipment. There are few things I like more than playing with coffee, and I’ve been lucky enough to share my passion for java here on Curated! Helping fellow coffee lovers find the best equipment for their needs and budget makes me feel almost as good as that first sip of coffee each morning. If you are looking for help with this big decision, you can connect with me or another Expert right here!

Who is Breville?

The Breville Barista Express. Photo by Eric T.

Breville has been around for almost 100 years. From radios to juicers, they’ve made it all. These days, the name Breville is synonymous with kitchen appliances. Perhaps their biggest claim to fame is their innovative coffee products.

Breville’s line of espresso machines covers everything from inexpensive starter machines to powerful dual-boiler models. What impresses this coffee nerd is how the brand combines the best parts of a home appliance with those of a cafe-grade espresso machine. The result is a user-friendly line of machines that perform well for everyone, from novice coffee enthusiasts to experienced home baristas.

Perhaps their most popular semi-automatic espresso machine is the Breville Barista Express. The Express sets the standard for all-in-one espresso machines. With features like an integrated conical burr grinder, temperature control, and ergonomically designed steam wand for milk steaming, the Barista Express sets you up to make cafe quality espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, and more at home!

If you are looking for a compact machine to get you started in the world of home espresso, the Breville Barista Express is ready to go right out of the box. Imagine having the aroma of freshly ground coffee wake you up each morning as you pull espresso shots, steam creamy milk, and pour your own latte in your kitchen.

Breaking Down the Breville Barista Lineup

Let’s dig into some of Breville’s most popular machines. All models include 15-bar Italian espresso pumps, low pressure pre-infusion, a forgiving 54mm portafilter, an incorporated grinder, and adjustable water temperature (PID). They even include a hot water outlet for americanos or tea! Each has its own unique features that separate it from the pack.

Breville Barista Express

The Barista Express is an all-in-one semi-automatic machine with a lower price tag. The simplest of the Barista line, The Express heats in 30 seconds, has 16 grind settings on the dial, and an analog pressure gauge. I often recommend this to people for their first espresso maker, thanks to the great value. It’s a no-frills machine that does what it does well: Grinding coffee to the proper size, making espresso, and steaming milk.

Breville Barista Express Impress

The Barista Express Impress adds a dosing funnel and a tamping assist mechanism to the original Express. When it comes to espresso, many overlook the importance of puck preparation. With specialized tampers on the market that help guide baristas to apply perfect and consistent pressure, it’s clear that the subject is taken seriously. The addition of an automatic tamper can take some of the stress out of your daily espresso routine and remove the chance of pulling a bad shot. This comes through in every shot or americano you drink!

Breville Barista Pro

The Barista Pro may look like the Express at first glance, but it is a big step up. The ThermoJet heating system is ready to pull shots or steam milk three seconds after you turn on the machine. It has an LCD display that allows you to adjust your settings and water temperatures in an intuitive way. The available grind settings on the dial are double the Express, letting you find the sweet spot in your grind size for your espresso. The steam wand, too, is upgraded with more power and a faster recovery. If you need a bit more precision and power, the Pro is the way to go.

Breville Barista Touch

The Barista Touch has the same fast heat up time and the precise grind settings of the Pro, but adds a touch screen that not only looks good, but further simplifies the process of adjusting your settings. The Touch is designed to make the espresso process more intuitive. The addition of an automatic steam wand that can be set for different textures and temperatures adds a whole new dimension to this Breville machine as well.

Breville Barista Touch Impress

The Barista Touch Impress takes the best of all the Barista models and adds an AI barista to the mix. From the Touch Impress you get fast heat up times, tamping assistance, automatic steaming, and guided feedback. It even prompts you on how to adjust your espresso grind size! If you want cafe quality drinks, but don’t want to get too hands on, this machine will blow most super-automatic machines out of the water.

So there you have it! The Breville Barista family has a machine for all budgets and skill levels. It’s important to note that each model is capable of crafting tasty espresso and smooth, creamy milk. The question is which features are right for you?

Key Features in the Breville Barista Express

After spending a lot of mornings playing with the Breville Barista Express, I’m excited to guide you through the ins and outs of this popular espresso maker. And for more, check out this video I made digging deep into the features of the Breville Barista Express!

Key Features in the Breville Barista Express

After spending a lot of mornings playing with the Breville Barista Express, I’m excited to guide you through the ins and outs of this popular espresso maker.

Build Quality and Style

  • Stylish and compact: For the low price point, the Express has a sturdy build that both looks and feels high quality. The stainless steel plating looks nice and the machine is at home on the counter in any kitchen.
  • Space-saving: With an integrated grinder, this all-in-one machine saves valuable counter space in your home.

Brewing Capabilities

  • Integrated conical burr grinder: When paired with freshly ground beans, the grinder provides enough settings on the dial to find the right grind size and pull a tasty shot with a nice head of crema. The ½ pound bean hopper holds enough beans to get you through a few days, but not too much, so things won’t get stale.
  • True Espresso Pump: The 15-bar Italian espresso pump produces 9 bars of pressure—the sweet spot for espresso extraction.
  • Low pressure pre-infusion: With low pressure pre-infusion, your espresso grind is saturated with water before high pressure is introduced to ensure quality extraction.
  • Fast Heating: The thermoblock heating system, the Thermocoil, means the machine is ready to go 30 seconds after being switched on. Dang, that’s quick!
  • Temperature control: The Barista Express uses a digital temperature control (PID) to ensure water is heated to the perfect temperature for consistent espresso extraction. You have four settings to choose from, ranging from around 198 degrees to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Milk Frothing System

  • Steam wand: The steam wand feels professional, and can create velvety microfoam for latte art. It is a lot lower-powered than a professional-style machine, but with extra time, newer home-baristas can learn and adjust their technique. It’s a great way to perfect your milk steaming!
  • 360-degree swivel: The steam wand's 360-degree swivel action is comfortable to use and keeps you from holding your hand in an awkward way. The ergonomic angle and the build both feel up to cafe quality.

Additional Features

  • Simple interface: The Barista Express has a simple control panel with buttons and a pressure gauge. The analog pressure gauge is great for monitoring your espresso extraction. To access settings like the cleaning cycle, or to adjust the temperature, you may need the user's manual, as it takes a forgettable combination of buttons.
  • Cleaning and maintenance: Overall, the Express is easy to clean. After each use, just flush out the steam wand and group head and give it all a wipe down. The drip tray pulls out easily and can be emptied and cleaned in the sink. The removable water tank is convenient for refilling and for giving a quick scrub. A weekly cleaning cycle will keep your machine running well for years. The included water filter will also help prevent build up.
  • Accessories: You get a lot of bang for your buck with the Express. It includes both single and double sized baskets in double-walled (for beginners) and standard. It also has a cute little tamper that hides away under the machine magnetically. The included steaming pitcher is cafe quality and ready for latte art. All in all, you have everything you need!
  • Capacity: This machine sports a ½ pound bean hopper and removable 67 oz water tank. Both are big enough so that you won’t have to refill them each day, but not so large that the coffee beans or water goes stale.

The Breville Barista Express is a great choice for new home baristas. It has everything you need to get started right out of the box and make killer espresso-based drinks. Espresso enthusiasts with lots of experience may feel held back by this machine, but for those looking for an entry into the world of espresso, this is a solid choice.

Is the Breville Barista Express a Good Fit for You?

Photo by Eric T.

Benefits

  • All-in-one solution: If you want to play with espresso, make lattes, and aren’t interested in the nerdy side of coffee, this machine will get you there.
  • Customizable settings: There are enough grind settings to pull a good shot of espresso. The adjustable temperature is a high-end feature that is awesome to have included in an entry level machine. You can also set your shots to run at a volume that meets your tastes.
  • User-friendly interface: There’s not much to think about here. You press the button and the brewing cycle starts!
  • Quality construction: The machine not only looks good, but feels durable. The 15-bar Italian pump works great and will give you the 9 bars of pressure you need for espresso extraction.

Keep in Mind

  • Learning curve: If this is your first espresso maker, it will take some practice to get your tamping and steaming right. Luckily, the Experts at Curated can help you with that.
  • Smaller Portafilter: The Breville Barista line uses 54mm portafilters. This is smaller than the cafe standard of 58mm. Purists may turn their nose up at this, but I found it makes for a very forgiving experience. It is harder to pull a bad shot in the deep Breville Portafilter, which is great because I hate wasting coffee!
  • Slow: Waiting 30 seconds for the machine to heat again after pulling your shot of espresso to steam your milk feels like forever. The steam power is a bit weak, so your shots are sitting around even longer while you steam your milk. For a quicker heat-up, the Pro will get you there.
  • Limited grinder settings: Although the integrated grinder lets you get your espresso to “good” range, its lack of settings prevents you from getting to “great” on some coffees. Some more grind size options would be nice.
  • Plastic Tamper: I’ve made many good shots of espresso while tamping with the included tamper. However, it does feel too small and too light. I do appreciate the hideaway magnetic design, but in the end I invested in a professional style tamper.

Who Should Buy the Breville Barista Express?

  • New home baristas: The all-in-one design makes the Barista Express perfect for those who want a simple entry into home espresso without breaking the bank. It is also a very forgiving machine that is easy to learn on.
  • Coffee enthusiasts who want value: You get a lot for your money with the Express. Though the Pro takes it to the next level, that isn’t always in the budget. I can tell you that the Express makes good drinks, and you are in control!
  • Those looking for a stylish and durable machine: The stainless steel accents and the sturdy build will be a good addition to any kitchen.

For the espresso lover who wants a real espresso machine that won’t break the bank, this is the best option. Pound for pound you get a machine with a lot of features and a decent performance for your dollar. It’s straightforward and easy to use and, once you get the basics down, a lot of fun to make drinks on!

Finding the Best Breville for You

Front view of Breville Barista Express. Photo by Eric T.

The Breville Barista Express offers an all-in-one solution for the thrifty coffee enthusiast who doesn’t want to sweat over ratios and formulas. It includes a decent grinder, a fast heating thermoblock (the Thermocoil), a true espresso 15-bar Italian pump, low pressure pre-infusion, and consistent water temperature control. The steam wand isn’t the most powerful on the market, but it gives you extra time to get your milk texture just right. The hot water outlet for americanos is a nice touch, too! I’ve loved making espresso and cappuccinos on this machine.

If you aren’t certain which Breville is right for you, chat with me or one of my fellow Curated Experts for free, personalized advice on picking the right coffee maker for your lifestyle. Everyone’s needs are different, and that is why the Curated Experts exist! I look forward to helping you get espresso in your own kitchen at the push of a button!

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

Shop Coffee & Espresso on Curated

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$699.95
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$899.95
Breville the Barista Pro Espresso Machine
$849.95

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