SUMMARY: Breville Barista Express BES870XL
- A perfect entry-level machine
- Great design and user-friendliness
- Excellent value for money
A quality machine will help you to produce better cups more consistently and with less effort. – Pablo Caballero Agudo, a coffee retailer
Breville’s Barista Express has long been one of the top entry-level espresso machines. But is that still true in 2020? Or are they just coasting on their reputation now?
We took the latest model for a test drive and were pleasantly surprised. Keep reading this Breville Barista Express review for all the juicy details.
A Quick Review of the Breville BES870XL Barista Express
As one of the best-entry level espresso makers there is, the Breville Barista Express comes with a lot of features. This machine HAS EVERYTHING YOU NEED for a perfect espresso or latte! It features a built-in espresso grinder, dosing control, high-pressure pump, and an integrated steam wand with hot water nozzle.
It does take a bit more practice than a super-automatic machine, but the reward for your efforts is a great espresso shot. And for a true coffee lover, mastering the craft of espresso is part of the fun!
All-in-one machine with a built-in burr grinder
- 15-bar pump with pressure gauge
- Incredible value for money
Takes practice to master
- Single boiler machine
Full Review of the BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
Now that you know a bit about the Barista Express, let’s delve deeper into the details and find out if it’s the right espresso machine for you.
Design – 4.5/5
All Italian-designed Breville machines have a distinct aesthetic, with clean lines, appealing symmetry, and brushed stainless steel. Unfortunately, the stainless steel surface hides a mostly plastic interior, but that’s standard at this price.
It’s a compact espresso machine, just 12.6” wide, 13.2” deep, and 15.8” high, which means it can leave more counter space for other appliances in your kitchen. The height is a result of the 8-ounce bean hopper. It fits comfortably on the countertop and under upper cupboards, though be aware that access to the hopper and water reservoir is from the top.
Freshly ground beans are always best for making coffee and this machine can help you with that. Because Breville makes it, the integrated conical burr grinder is very high-quality. It has 18 easy-to-adjust fineness levels, more than enough to dial in the perfect grind. The knob also lets you set the amount of coffee grounds you wish to produce.
The Breville Barista Express also comes with a stainless steel portafilter and a stainless steel milk jug.
A built-in metal tamper is attached with a magnet, so it’s easy to grab for when you have to pack your ground coffee beans in the portafilter. It doesn’t have the heft of our favorite tampers, but it’s a major step up from the flimsy plastic ones included with most machines.
User-Friendliness – 4/5
Semi-automatic espresso machines aren’t as easy to use as their super-automatic counterparts, and nor should they be. Using this machine has a steep learning curve.
Nevertheless, the Breville Barista Express espresso machine is about as simple as it gets.
For starters, it comes standard with both pressurized and non-pressurized filter baskets and a filter size button for selecting between single or double shot. Depending on which you select, this machine will dispense the right amount of espresso. A beginner can easily pull a perfect shot of espresso with a thick layer of crema with a pressurized portafilter, even if the grind and dosing aren’t quite perfect.
However, once you’ve dialed in your grind, dose, and tamp, the non-pressurized portafilter will make an EVEN BETTER shot.
No one likes to clean their coffee machine, but Breville has made sure to make this machine relatively easy-to-clean. The “clean me” light alerts you it’s time to run a cleaning cycle. And the bean hopper, grinding burrs, water filter and water tank are all easy-to-remove. A floater in the drip tray lets you know it’s full before you spill.
The three 3-way solenoid valve is a welcome surprise at this price. It vents excess pressure, so your used espresso puck is nicely dry, avoiding any sloppy mess.
Our only complaint in this category is the manual dosing knob. A digital control would make reproducibility much easier.
Reservoir Size – 4/5
At 67 ounces, the water tank is big enough for the average household, and refilling is easy. We love the integrated charcoal filter with a handy date wheel that reminds you of the last change.
Versatility – 4.5/5
With the Barista Express espresso machine, you can do it all. The dose control lets you adjust the grind amount while the grind size control lets you select up to 18 settings. That’s a nice range to make coffee grounds with.
The high-pressure pump and automatic pre-infusion helps make sure the best extraction and most flavorful espresso (1). According to expert Michael Teahan:
Pre-infusion is a method of pre-soaking all the water that’s in the puck at a reduced pressure so that the grounds are evenly saturated to mitigate any effects of channeling.Michael Teahan
It uses a PID for brew temperature control and a thermocoil heating system, so your water temperature is ideal for the tastiest espresso (2).
The 360-degree steam wand makes milk frothing easy, which is nice for making cappuccinos and lattes, especially if you’re into making latte art. This machine has a dedicated hot water dispenser is perfect for Americanos, tea, or hot cocoa.
This is a single boiler machine, so you can’t pull a shot of espresso and steam the milk simultaneously. If that’s a deal-breaker, prepare to spend a bit more for a double boiler model.
Is This Really For You?
If you’re a person new to home espresso but enthusiastic about learning the process, this is the perfect introductory machine. It’s more expensive than the low-end brands, but it’s still priced under $1000, and the pros know that that extra investment pays off (3). Plus, it comes in two colors: brushed stainless steel and sesame black so you can choose whichever fits your style.
With the built-in grinder, we think you’re getting more than what you pay for.
Don’t buy this if…
If you already own a coffee grinder, you don’t need to pay more for a machine with a built-in grinder so the De’Longhi Dedica might be a better option. Or you can also choose to allot the extra budget for a commercial-grade quality like the Rancilio Silvia espresso machine.
If you only drink lattes or other milky coffee drinks every time, never straight espresso, you can save money and simplify your morning with the Mr. Coffee Cafe Latte Maker.
The Bottom Line
In our opinion, the Breville Barista Express is the best value semi-automatic espresso machine on the market. It’s the perfect entry-level machine to guide you from enthusiastic novice to espresso pro, with plenty of delicious crema-topped stops on your journey. This machine can certainly help you make great-tasting espresso that’s comparable to the ones made in a coffee shop.
- Joseph, H. (2019, December 10). Longtime Espresso Pro Michael Teahan on PreInfusion, the Problem with SO, and Much More. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2019/12/10/longtime-espresso-pro-michael-teahan-on-pre-infusion-the-problem-with-so-and-much-more/
- How Does a PID Controller Work? (2019, April 17). Omega. Retrieved from https://www.omega.ca/en/resources/how-does-a-pid-controller-work
- Prinsloo, M. (2018, November 9). How Do Espresso Machines Work? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/11/how-do-espresso-machines-work/
Husband, father and former journalist, I’ve combined my love of writing with my love of coffee to create this site. I love high end products, but write all my content with budget conscious coffee enthusiasts in mind. I prefer light roasts, and my normal brew is some sort of pour over, although my guilty pleasure is the occasional flat white.