Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine: Is It A Good Choice?

Breville’s espresso machines are some of its most popular products, and the Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine, the BES870XL is Breville’s most popular espresso machine, at least by sales, and has remained popular for many years.

The Barista Express is an all-in-one machine for those who really savor fresh premium coffee beans. With it, you can go from grind to pour in under 1 minute, topped with an artisan styled foam display.

Credit: Breville USA

It’s the full experience with the Breville Barista, just like in your favorite coffee house, but you’ll have to do some training to make sure you use it correctly and to get the most out of the machine.

If you want to check current pricing for the Breville Barista Express and any discounts, you can see it here on Amazon.

Otherwise, keep reading through the rest of this review.

And if you need to know something specific about the Barista Express, use the table of contents below to find what you’re looking for.

New Kitchen Life is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Who Or What Is Breville?

The who part of Breville starts with the original founders, Bill O’Brien and Harry Norville, whose last names were combined into the Breville name in 1932. Breville was started in Sydney, Australia, and is still based there.

Breville started making radios in the 1930s followed by televisions in the 1950s before it settled on small kitchen appliances. Breville’s first hit product was its “toastie” sandwich maker that it released in 1974 in Australia and after large sales there, it expanded to New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Breville is an innovative designer whose products are filled with creative built-in design elements and useful functions. A lot of that design-focus can be attributed to founder Bill O’Brien’s son John, who established a research and development lab at Breville in the late 1960s and through whose efforts Breville has been awarded over 100 patents and more than 40 international design awards.

John’s daughter Barbara became part of the third generation of O’Briens at Breville when she headed marketing there during the 1990s.

Breville reached the USA and Canada in 2002 and is a well-known kitchen appliance maker in those markets with countertop ovens, blenders, mixers, food processors, coffee machines including the Barista Express and many other appliances.

We have reviewed some of these other appliances, like several of the countertop ovens. You can see our review of the Breville Smart Oven Air countertop oven here and see how it compares with other Breville and non-Breville countertop ovens this review of the best countertop ovens.

We have also reviewed all of Breville’s current line of blenders. Breville’s premier premium blender, the Super Q is reviewed here, the other premium blender, the Q here, the lower-priced Fresh & Furious here, and the Breville Boss To Go Sport personal blender here.

So What Is The Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine?

The Breville Barista Express is an all-in-one machine designed to make artisan or “Third-Way” coffee from fresh beans to a fresh espresso or latte or machiato in under one minute.

To do that, you will have to use the machine much like a barista does in your favorite coffee house, turning knobs and making sure the correct buttons are pressed to make the best espresso.

image of Barista Express Black Sesame

Credit: Breville USA

There are a lot of accessories and things to watch when making your favorite artisan beverage but once you master it, you’ll be able to create that favorite drink at home instead of at a coffee shop and based on what you’re paying for artisan coffee from the shop, the Breville Barista Express may even pay for itself in savings from making your coffee at home in the first year of owning it!

The current model Barista Express features stainless steel water coils for durable life and a temperature control system designed to give the machine feedback so that it can maintain precise temperature through precise adjustments. This process is known as proportional–integral–derivative (PID) control and is the method behind which many systems adjust and correct themselves like cruise control in your car.

Another barista-like component to the Barista Express is the use of the steam wand to create micro foam and espresso art just like a pro barista does.

image of Breville Barista Express Micro-Foam Milk Texturing

Credit: Breville USA

Choose your grind size, no matter what sized bean you start with through precision control in the Barista Express.

A built-in grinding cradle allows you to automatically grind your fresh beans into the portafilter straight from the hopper.

How Do You Operate The Breville Barista Express?

You need to take time to understand how to operate the Barista Express since there are complicated elements to it and it’s important to know how to use it correctly.

It will take time and practice to get it right but if you don’t, you’re not going to have a good experience and may end up hating your machine. So consider this a barista job training session for your own benefit!

close up image of Barista Expresso

Credit: Breville USA

The Breville Barista Express has a hopper on the top left side of the machine (“A” below) for you to pour your fresh beans into. The hopper also has an integrated grinder, a two-part conical burr grinder (“B” below or above with the ground coffee inside it) inside to grind your fresh beans to your selected degree of fineness or coarseness by using the GRIND SIZE selector on the left side of the machine (“F” below). You can choose anywhere from 1 (super-fine) to 16 (super-course), Breville recommends that you start at “5”, and then adjust based on your preference.

Next, use the GRIND AMOUNT dial (“G” below, or in the picture above, the dial next to the “POWER” button) to choose how much ground coffee you want based on the GRIND SIZE. Turn the dial to the left for less or to the right for more. Start in the middle “3-O’Clock” position, the same as in the picture above. You ideally want to get enough coffee so that after you tamp it down (see below), it is level and flat with the rim of the filter. You may have to adjust the GRIND AMOUNT a few times to get it right for the GRIND SIZE that you have chosen.

After you’ve selected your preferred grind size and grind amount, you need to choose your filter. When you are grinding you will use of the two single-wall filters, either 1 Cup or 2 Cup, depending on whether you’re making one or two shots. The other two dual-wall filters (1 Cup and 2 Cup) are what you use if you are not grinding, but using pre-ground coffee. Make sure your filter is not wet before you use it. 

Place the dry filter that you’ve chosen into the portafilter (the metal part that looks like an ice cream scoop but holds ground espresso instead labeled “L” above looking at it from the end of its handle). Then use the FILTER SIZE button (“H” below or you can see it above next to the pressure gauge) to select “SINGLE” or “DOUBLE”, that is, whether you are using the 1 Cup filter basket or a 2 Cup filter basket.

image of Breville Barrista Express Details

Credit: Breville USA

Now you are ready to grind. Insert the portafilter with the coffee filter inside it into the “hands-free” grinding cradle (“E” above or you can see it in the picture above the diagram where the portafilter sits). Use the portafilter to press the grind activation switch at the back of the cradle area (“D” above) when you slide it into the cradle. It will then grind your coffee according to the settings that you’ve chosen and stop automatically when it’s done, you don’t have to hold it, that’s the “hands-free” part. You can stop grinding at any time by using the portafilter to press the grind activation switch again. Alternatively, you can “manually” grind by holding the portafilter against the grind activation button until you have the right amount of ground coffee, then just release the grind activation button and it will stop grinding.

Once you have your ground coffee in your portafilter, you’ll need to tamp the loose grinds flat with the tamper before brewing. The tamper (“J” above) can be left in place in the machine or taken out of it. Use pressure with the tamper on the loose grinds to tamp them flat so that the grounds are compressed into an even “does” up to the rim of the filter. Then use the Breville “Razor” accessory to trim the edges of the dose by sinking the bottom indented edge of the razor into the portafilter until the “shoulders” stop it from going any further and rotate the razor tool to remove excess grounds. image of Breville Razor tool

Credit: Breville USA

You will develop a feel for this over time so you probably won’t need to use the razor tool after a short time.

Now you’re almost ready to start extracting your expresso. To brew you need to attach the portafilter with the dose of tamped grounds into the Group Head (“K” above). Before you attach the portafilter on to the Group Head, you need to stabilize the temperature by pressing the 1 CUP button (“T” in the diagram above, the left side button with one cup icon) to run some water through the Group Head.

Once that’s done, insert the portafilter in the “INSERT” position under the Group Head and rotate it to the right from the right side to about the middle, where the portafilter will meet resistance and the handle sticks straight out.

image of inserting the portafilter

Credit: Breville USA

Now you can choose to extract your espresso automatically or manually. If you want to extract automatically, you can choose the preset extract volume for one or two shots or you can re-program your volume for one or two cups after you’ve extracted the preferred amount. In manual extraction, you can choose how long to pre-infuse at low pressure and then at full pressure until you reach your desired volume.

Using The Breville Barista Espresso Pressure Gauge

The pressure gauge is the dial in the middle of the machine (“V” in the diagram above), the only one with a needle. When you’re starting to extract, the machine will be in the low-pressure pre-infusion zone on the gauge on the left side of the dial. The machine is designed to slowly increase pressure to gently extract flavor from the grinds.

When extracting, the ideal pressure is right in the middle of the pressure gauge. If you extract within that zone, then you will realize the optimal espresso. If you extract on either side of that zone, low or high-pressure extraction, then your espresso will not be ideal.

 

 

image of Breville Barista pour

Credit: Breville USA

How & Why To Use The Steam & Hot Water Dial?

The Steam/Hot Water dial on the right side of the machine (“R” in the diagram above) is what you will use, along with the steam wand (“P” in the diagram above) to make milk-based drinks and to get hot water.

You will start with the Steam/Hot Water dial in the “STANDBY” mode. To texture milk, first start with cold milk poured into the stainless steel milk jug accessory that comes with your machine, filled to just below the “V” at the bottom of the spout, and turn the dial to “STEAM”. The Steam/Hot Water light (“S” in the diagram above) will flash to show that the machine is making steam out of the water in the tank. While steam is being made, some condensed water may come out of the steam wand, which is a normal part of the process. When the Steam/Hot Water light goes out, the steam wand is ready to use.

Turn the Steam/Hot Water dial back to “STANDBY” and within 8 seconds (otherwise the steam dissipates) place the milk jug so that the steam wand is about 1/2 inch below the surface of the milk on the right side of the jug, then turn the dial again to “STEAM”. The steam will heat the milk and when it reaches anywhere from 140 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit (60-65 Celsius) and the jug is hot to the touch, sswitch again to “STANDBY”.

image of Breville Steam/Hot Water Dial

Credit: Breville USA

For texturing the milk, you want to first aerate or “stretch” it and then swirl it to make it smooth. To do that, let the steam wand spin the milk as the steam heats it up until there is a vortex. To get it going fast enough you may have to allow the steam wand to break the surface of the milk and add air into it. Keep doing this until the milk is hot enough.

Then when the milk is at the right temperature, set it aside and wipe down the steam wand with a towel to clean off the milk. Then and this is very important – turn the steam wand over the tray and turn the dial to “STEAM” for a few seconds to purge any milk from inside the steam wand. You don’t want the milk to get sucked up into the ducting inside the machine or you’ll taste it in a bad way over repeated cycles.

So What Kind Of Espressos And Other Drinks Can You Make With The Barista Express?

There’s a lot of espresso-based drinks that you can make with the Barista Express, naming them all will also give you a lesson in Italian vocabulary.

The first set of drinks are Espressos, simple straight shots of Espresso.

 

Ristretto – Italian for “restricted” is a single shot of espresso but with only about half the water of a single espresso shot. The Barista Express does this by interrupting the extraction process after 15 seconds.

 

image of single espresso

 

Single Espresso – A single shot of espresso is also known as a “short black” and with the Barista Express you can have one 1 ounce shot in

about 20 seconds.

 

image of double espresso

                                      

Double Espresso – Also known as “double-shot”, the Barista Express will give you 2 ounces of espresso as quickly as 30 seconds.

 

 

image of macchiato

 

Macchiato – Macchiato is Italian for “marked”, as in a mark made with textured milk, about 2 teaspoons, on the surface of the single shot of espresso that you use to make this drink

 

 

image of Americano

 

Americano – Italian for “American”, this drink adds hot water to a double shot of espresso to fill up your glass and make the equivalent of a cup of coffee.

 

 

image of Breville coffee

Weak, Strong & Regular Coffee – Combine espresso with water to make a version of coffee with your Breville Barista Express to make coffee. To make a “weak” coffee, use 1/2 shot of espresso, for “strong” coffee, use 2 shots of espresso, 1 shot too for “regular” coffee and add hot water from your

 

The next group of drinks is all made with heated milk, from your steam wand. With practice, you’ll be able to swirl your milk perfectly into a creamy aerated texture to pour into each of these drinks and top off with artistic micro-foam.

 

image of Piccolo

 

Piccolo – Italian for “small”, the Piccolo is steamed milk added to a single espresso shot and topped with foam, which is similar to a latte but with noticeably less milk, so it’s stronger.

 

 

image of a latte

 

Latte– Italian for “milk” when used in a phrase like “caffè e latte” or coffee and milk, which is what it is, or more precisely, it is a shot of espresso combined with steamed milk. You could say that a latte is a Piccolo with about twice as much milk, but most people don’t know what a Piccolo is, while most do know what a Latte is.

 

image of caffe mocha

 

Caffe Mocha – Or “Macaccino” is a chocolate-flavored latte. It is flavored with cocoa powder or even liquified chocolate added to the espresso shot, then combined with steamed milk. Usually, a caffe mocha is topped with additional cholate, cocoa powder usually.

 

image of a flat white

 

 

Flat White – A espresso drink blended with steamed or foamed milk served with cup and saucer. A flat white has one shot of espresso like a latte does, but with less foamed milk to fit inside the smaller cup, so that the coffee to milk ratio is higher than in a latte.

image of cappuccino

 

Cappuccino – A espresso with foamed milk, often more foam than in a Latte, and not as much foamed milk, Cappuccinos originated in Italy and is said to have been named for the brown hoods of Friars Minor Capuchins according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Cappuccinos are typically served in cups and saucers.

 

The next two drinks are desserts made with espresso from your Breville Barista Express.

image of iced coffee

 

Dessert Iced Coffee – To make one version of an iced coffee, start with a single or double espresso into a blender, then add cold milk (about 6 ounces), vanilla flavoring, and 1 scoop of ice cream and blend. Tweak it from there, combinations are just about infinite.

 

image of a dessert affogato

 

Coffee Affogato – Italian for “drowned”, affogato can be any liquid poured over food, to “drown” it. As a coffee dessert, pour 1 or 2 shots of espresso over ice cream, then garnish with nuts, or anything else.

Note – all coffee drink photos above, Credit: Breville USA

What Colors Does The Barista Expresso Come In?

The Barista Express comes in Brushed Stainless Steel, Cranberry Red, and Black Sesame. You can see them here on Amazon, with the latest pricing and warranty options. Cranberry Red, shown below, is the most difficult color option to find. If you can’t find it on Amazon, you can see it here on Breville’s site, along with extended warranty options (recommended).

image of Barista Express Cranberry Red

Credit: Breville USA

How To Clean And Descale The Breville Barista Express?

There are a lot of areas to clean in the Barista Express.

One of these is the water inside the water tank to keep minerals from scaling inside the machine and building up over time. To slow this buildup down and delay the need descale the machine, Breville includes a water filter that fits inside the two-part water filter holder that in turn fits inside the water tank. The water filter should be replaced every two months, and if you live in an area with hard water, you will have to replace it more frequently.

How To Descale When The Descale Light Is Lit

When the CLEAN / DESCALE light on the machine’s front panel is on and not flashing (“U” in the diagram in the operating instructions above) that means that you need to descale the machine. Use the included cleaning tabs to descale the machine by dissolving them in 34 ounces of water, then pour the water into the water tank. Then start the descale mode by pressing the 2 CUP button and the POWER button at the same time. The POWER button will then flash as the machine heats up and when its ready to descale, the 1 CUP button, the CLEAN/DESCALE light, the HOT WATER/ STEAM light and the POWER button will all turn on.

When all of these lights are on, you then can descale the coffee part of the machine, the steam component of the machine and the hot water component of the machine. To descale the coffee component, press the 1 CUP button and descaling will begin and take about 25 seconds, the 1 CUP button will flash during descaling until the cycle is done and remain on when it is done. To descale the steam and hot water components, use the Steam/Hot Water dial on the right side of the machine (“R” in the diagram in the operating instructions above). When all of the descale lights are lit, turn the dial to steam to descale the steam component and hot water to clean the hot water component. The steam component takes about 13 seconds to descale and the hot water component about 8 seconds.

After all three components have been descaled, you need to repeat it for all three again to completely descale.

Then, after two descale cycles for each of the three components, you need to rinse the water tank to remove any remaining cleaning solution. Rinse the water tank out with fresh water, then finally, run three the three descaling steps for coffee, steam and hot water to rinse each component with fresh water.

After rinsing, press the POWER button to end the descaling process.

How To Clean The When The Clean Light Is Lit

When the CLEAN / DESCALE light on the machine’s front panel is flashing (“U” in the diagram in the operating instructions above) that means that you need to clean or back-flush the machine, a separate process from descaling. To clean, insert the 1 CUP filter into the portafilter. Then add the black plastic cleaning disk to the filter, followed by one of the cleaning tablets (both are included accessories).

Lock the portafilter in the Group Head like you would to extract and also make sure that you have a large container below it to receive the flushed water and make sure that the water tank is full.

With the machine powered off, press the POWER, 1 CUP and 2 CUP buttons together for about 10 seconds to start the cleaning cycle. It will then clean for about 5 minutes and water will come out of the spouts. The machine will beep 3 times when the cycle is done.

Once it’s done, remove the portafilter and look to see if the cleaning tablet is completely dissolved, if it’s not, repeat the cycle until it is.

How To Clean The Coffee Grinder

A quick clean of the conical burr coffee grinder can be done by first emptying the hopper of any coffee beans and then using the portafilter to grind without any coffee beans as you normally would.

To clean the conical burrs (there are two), first unlock the top burr after you remove the hopper and take out the top burr. Use the included cleaning brush accessory to clean the top burr, then use the brush to clean the bottom burr still in the assembly after you remove the top burr.

Finally, use the cleaning brush to clean the chute where the ground coffee comes out of the grinder outlet.

What Is The Breville Barista Warranty?

The standard warranty provided by Breville for the Barista Express is only 1-year. A 1-year warranty for this kind of product is way too short. To protect yourself, you should definitely buy an extended warranty, one that lasts as long as your budget will allow since the Barista Express is a complicated machine and complicated machines break.

The improvements Breville has made to the Barista Express like the stainless steel water tubes will go a long way toward preventing failures, but you should be protected just in case.

Check the warranty options on Amazon in the purchase link at the end of this review below. Some of the options provide up to four years of coverage which is great.

Breville’s warranty provides free shipping to their repair center where they will repair yours or replace it if it is found to be defective during the warranty period. California residents have additional notification and return rights detailed in the warranty.

The Breville Barista Express Specifications

Dimensions: 12″ wide x 11″ deep x 13.5″ high

Container MaterialBrushed Stainless Steel

Color: Brushed Stainless Steel

Bean Hopper Capacity: 1/2 pound

Water Tank Capacity: 67 ounces

Electrical: 110-120 V, 1,600 watts

Weight: 23 pounds

What’s Included In The Box?

In addition to the machine itself, Breville includes the following accessories with the Barrista Express:

  • Razor Dose Trimming Tool.
  • 54 mm Stainless Steel Portafilter.
  • 1 cup & 2 cup Single & Dual Wall Filter Baskets.
  • Coffee Scoop.
  • Integrated Tamper.
  • Stainless Steel Milk Jug.
  • Cleaning disc and tablets.
  • Cleaning brush, tool, and Allen Key.
  • Water Filter Holder and Water Filter

image of Breville Barista Express Brushed Stainless Steel

Credit: Breville USA

So Do We Recommend The Breville Barista Express?

The Barista Express is a hands-on machine with a lot of moving parts that require attention and time to learn. Unless you know that you will spend the time learning how to use the Express then choose either a more expensive, fully-automated espresso machine or just keep ordering from your local coffee shop.

But if know that you will put in the time and attention, you will be rewarded tremendously. For those who use their Barista properly, they love the whole experience, the barista job, the technique, and the end product. It becomes a part of their lives and they can’t live without their espresso machines.

The Barista Express has been tested in the market since 2010 and Breville has continuously update it over time with better plumbing and other internal features to make a better espresso machine. There are more expensive Breville espresso machines and those by other manufacturers, but the Express can match many of those more expensive machines if you learn how to use it.

Chose the link below to buy the Barista Express on Amazon, and make sure you seriously consider buying the extended warranty options offered there.

See the Breville Barista Express on Amazon here with latest pricing, color options, any discounts and extended warranty options.

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