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Tom’s Guide
Tom’s Guide
Mike Prospero

Breville Barista Express review

Breville Barista Express machine on kitchen counter
Breville Barista Express: Specs

Dimensions: : 14.9 x 12.9 x 16.1 inches
Material: Stainless steel
Capacity: 1.75 liters
Settings: One or two shots, hot water, steam
Removable water reservoir: Yes
Pressure: 15 PSI
Milk Frother: Yes
Grinder: Yes
Accessories: Tamper, trimming tool, milk pitcher, cleaning tools, four baskets

Perhaps the best measure of the Breville Barista Express’ performance came from all of the coffee addicts in the Tom’s Guide offices, who didn’t want me to take it away when we finished testing it. It’s no wonder: In cup after cup, the Barista Express produced perfect shots of espresso, and it was superior when it came to steaming milk too. Other features of this $749 machine include a built-in conical burr grinder, single- and double-walled filter baskets, all packaged in a classic stainless steel design. 

But, the Barista Express is not a cheap espresso maker, and takes a little know-how to get that ideal latte or cappuccino. So, you should read the rest of our Breville Barista Express review to decide if this is the best espresso machine for you.

Breville Barista Express review: Price and availability

The Breville Barista Express has been around for a number of years; it’s available for $749 at most major online retailers, though you can sometimes find it for less around Black Friday and other major holidays. 

The Barista Express sits just below the middle of Breville’s lineup of espresso machines, with the $499 Bambino Plus at one end, and the $2,199 Oracle at the other. The Barista Express is the least expensive model in Breville’s line that has an integrated coffee grinder.

Breville Barista Express review: Design

When it comes to espresso machines, it’s hard to find an ugly model, and rightfully so; When you’re paying upwards of $500, it’d better look good. The Barista Express, like Breville’s other countertop appliances, is clad in stainless steel from end to end, which gives it a timeless and classic appearance. You can also get it with a black finish, but I personally prefer the brushed stainless look. You might develop a habit of trying to keep it as clean as the day you unboxed it, though; it quickly picked up fingerprints, and before too long, coffee grounds were all over the place. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The face of the machine has buttons to change the brew size from one to two cups, adjust the filter size, and turn the machine on and off. A Program button also lets you adjust the preset temperature of the water by four degrees F up and down. There’s a dial to adjust the grind of the coffee beans, and a gauge in the middle to show the pressure as the machine brews a cup.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Underneath the face you’ll find the grounds dispenser; just push the portafilter in once, and it will automatically dispense the right amount of freshly ground coffee. You can adjust both the coarseness of the grounds as well as the quantity via two separate dials. A handy tamper held in place by a magnet sits to the left; the tamper can be removed if you prefer to compress the grounds away from the machine.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Around the right side of the machine is a dial, which can be turned one way to send steam through the Express’ wand to foam milk, or the other way to pour out hot water, for those who want to make tea or an Americano.

At the back of the machine is the Express’ reservoir, which holds about 1.75 liters of water. The reservoir can be completely removed, and has a clever little handle on the top, so you easily carry it to the sink and add water separately from the machine.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The tray of the Barista Express can also be removed, and is easily cleaned of excess water and grounds. I also liked that, hidden underneath, is a small compartment where you can store cleaning supplies and the filters — ideal when you want to quickly change from one cup to two.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

On the top of the Barista Express is the receptacle for the coffee beans and the conical burr grinder. It can’t hold a huge amount of beans, but it should be enough for a few days, depending on how much espresso you drink. And, it can be completely detached if you want to clean it.

The Barista Express comes with a Razor Dose trimming tool, 54mm stainless steel portafilter, and four baskets to make both single and double shots of espresso; you get both single- and double-wall options, ideal for those who like to mess around with their grind sizes, and still be assured that they’ll get enough pressure.

Also included is a coffee scoop, tamper, stainless steel milk jug, a cleaning disc, tablets, brush tool and Allen Key, and a water filter and filter holder.

Breville Barista Express review: Performance

To test the Barista Express, I set it up in my company’s office so that I, along with other coffee aficionados, could assess the machine’s performance. It was universally adored by everyone who used it, including myself.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Breville turned out tasso after tasso of perfect espresso, with a nice thick crema on top. It worked fairly quickly, too, but you have to give the machine a minute or two to warm up first. It will remain powered on for an hour, so it’ll be ready for the morning rush.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It’s best to decide well in advance whether you prefer one shot or two, because it’s a little hard to change the Express’ filter basket to switch between them. Live a little, and go with the double shot.

Unlike the Philips 3200, the Barista Express requires a bit more know-how to operate, especially if you want to make a latte or cappuccino. There’s a bit of an art to steaming milk, which took me a while to master, but once I got the hang of it, I was more than satisfied with the foamy, creamy froth it produced.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I do wish the Barista Express had some sort of low-water warning; while its water reservoir is made of transparent plastic, it’s in the back of the machine, so it’s hard to tell at a glance if you need to add more water. And while the reservoir is removable, it could be difficult to remove if you decide to place the Barista Express underneath an overhanging cabinet in your kitchen.

Breville Barista Express review: Verdict

Like its smaller counterpart the Bambino Plus, the Breville Barista Express makes an excellent cuppa, making it one of the best espresso machines around. Whether you opt for this or the Bambino Plus comes down to your budget and counterspace; the Bambino Plus will take up less of both. However, you’ll need to invest in one of the best coffee grinders.

For those who prefer less of a fuss, the Philips 3200 is a good alternative: everything is done for you, which is great if you don’t want the hassle of steaming the milk, measuring out the grounds, tamping them, etc. However, if you want to take the time, the results from the Barista Express — especially when pulling a shot of espresso — are superior. 

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