The Breville BES870XL Barista Expressis a semi-automatic espresso machine that comes with a built-in conical burr grinder and steam wand. The machine is fitted with a dedicated hot water dispenser for making tea or Americanos, as well as the option to pull single or double espresso shots. The user can make adjustments to the brew temperature and the grind, with a choice of 18 settings from fine to coarse. Overall, the Barista Express offers the home barista adjustable functionality at a reasonable price. It should be noted that the machine is meant for home, not commercial, use.
|Price||Around $600 (For discounts and the latest prices.)|
|Color||Red, black and stainless steel options|
|Product Dimensions||13.2 x 12.5 x 15.8 inches|
|Bean Hopper||0.5 lb|
|Water Tank Capacity||67 oz.|
|Grinder||Stainless Steel Conical Burr|
|Pressure||15 bar Italian pump|
The Breville BES870XL Barista Express comes with:
- Automatic conical stainless steel burr grinder with 18 settings
- 360-degree swivel ball-mounted stainless steel steam wand
- 0.5lb coffee bean hopper (can also be used with pre-ground)
- Temperature control with the ability to adjust in two degree increments
- 67oz removable side-access water tank with optional filter
- Dedicated hot water dispenser
- 54mm stainless steel portafilter
- 15 bar triple-prime pump pressure
- Removable 54mm tamper (with magnetic storage when not in use)
- Dual wall filter baskets (one cup and two cup) for use with pre-ground coffee
- Single wall filter baskets (one cup and two cup) for use when grinding fresh whole coffee beans
- Preset one and two cup volumes with manual override
- Stainless steel dosing tool
- Automatic stand-by and shutdown features
- Cup warmer
- Removable drip tray
In addition, the Barista Express is sold new with a stainless steel milk pitcher and cleaning accessories, including a cleaning disc, cleaning tablets and a cleaning brush for the conical burr grinders.
How to Use
Love at first sight might be overstating it a bit, but there’s no doubt the Barista Express is a fine looking espresso machine (especially the red, or ‘cranberry’, one). In addition to taking pride of place on the kitchen counter, the compact and efficient Barista Express packs a lot into its small frame.
The main thing to note is that this is a semi-automatic espresso machine. This means that while it does some of the hard work for you, some effort is required to produce great espresso. To get the most out of the Barista Express, you really need to put on your barista hat and get to grips with all the functions on offer.
For complete newbies, Breville has made life a tad easier by supplying two dual-wall, pressurized filters. These regulate pressure and help optimize the espresso extraction. For the more experienced, there are two single-wall, non-pressurized filters. These provide added user control over such variables as grind size, grind amount, and tamping pressure.
The Barista Express also allows you to adjust the temperature, if required, in two degree increments. However, the standard pre-set 200F (93C) should be more than adequate for most users. Other choices to make include whether to pull a single or double shot of espresso, with included preset one and two cup volumes and manual override.
Despite all these options, the Barista Express is largely user-friendly, with a clean and simple control panel and large buttons to make your setting selections. There’s also a pressure gage and simple automatic doser. The top-located bean hopper is easy to fill and has a locking feature, so you can easily remove it, change beans and store it separately. The 67-oz removable water tank is reasonably easy to fill and has adequate capacity for medium-heavy use.
The Barista Express makes it possible to produce great espresso at home, whether you choose to keep the factory presets or to experiment with the other settings. Once you get used to the basic functions, it’s worth taking some time to experiment with the settings as small changes can make a big difference.
Even though it comes with 18 available grind sizes, for espresso the best choice is one of the finer grinds. In terms of choice of coffee beans, dark, espresso, or French roast produce the most café-like espresso (but you can also try medium roast). The Barista Express offers the option to use pre-ground coffee, but for the best results it’s advisable to stick to whole beans.
The milk wand is terrific, but does take some getting used to. If you’ve never steamed milk before, be prepared for some messy counter tops and flat froth-free cappuccinos for a while!
However, part of the fun of owning a machine like this is having the chance to play around and develop your barista skills, in both espresso making and milk steaming.
One of the great things about the Barista Express is that is doesn’t skimp on quality, despite the fact that it’s priced at a level that makes its accessible to the home barista serious about making great espresso but unwilling or unable to shell out thousands of dollars on a fancy high-end machine.
Indeed, at around the $600 mark, justifying the expense of the Barista Express is pretty easy, as it works out to less than six months’ worth of espressos (to feed a modest caffeine habit)! At this price, it would also make a great wedding gift for a coffee loving couple.
The Barista Express also comes with lots of great extras, including a milk pitcher and cleaning equipment; items that often need to be purchased separately when buying other much more expensive espresso machines. There is also a quality tamper that is handily stored by attaching it magnetically to the machine.
Overall, the Barista Express is a pleasure to use and really hard to find fault with.
When it needs attention, the Barista Express displays an unmistakable ‘clean me’ message. This requires back-flushing the machine using the (supplied) cleaning disc and tablets. You need to ensure the water tank is full and the portafilter in place. The cleaning cycle takes around five minutes and full instructions are supplied.
Other cleaning and maintenance requirements are to clean the conical burr grinders with the supplied brush and to clean the other removal parts, including the portafiler, filter baskets and drip tray.
It is important to clean the steam wand after every use by wiping with a damp cloth and flushing through some steam.
Additionally, there is the decalcification process, which requires periodically running some vinegar and water through the machine. Again, full instructions are supplied in the user manual. Breville recommends replacing the water filter (if used) every couple of months to reduce the frequency of decalcification.
What’s the overall verdict?
This is really a terrific semi-automatic espresso machine that combines quality and control with ease-of-use. While complete novices might find the espresso-making process takes a while to get the hang of, Breville has really taken as much hassle out of it as possible, while keeping the price wallet-friendly. Stepping up a level into fully automatic espresso machine territory can easily run into four figures.
The impressive thing about the Barista Express (aside from the coffee quality, of course) is all the handy features and bonus accessories. These include a milk pitcher, quality tamper (with convenient magnetic storage) and a cleaning kit. All you really need to bring to the party is the coffee (and possibly milk)!
The Final Brew
Pros: This is a top class semi-automatic espresso machine with a range of premium features. Crucially, it also has the capability to produce great espresso (with a bit of practice). The Barista Express comes with a range of handy accessories as standard, such as the tamper and milk pitcher, which means it’s ready to go straight out of the box. Given everything on offer, the $600 price is certainly attractive and puts it within reach of many a budding home barista.
Cons: It’s really hard to find fault with the Barista Express, except to say that if you’re looking for simple one-touch functionality, you’d be better off splashing out for a fully automatic espresso maker. On a minor point, clean-up of the spent grounds is a little messy as they tend to combine with the water in the drip tray.
In a sentence? For wannabe home baristas looking for control coupled with ease-of-use, it would be hard to top the Barista Express – it produces great coffee, comes with lots of cool extras and all at a more than reasonable price for a machine of this quality and functionality.