If you’re looking for quality espresso and are prepared to fine-tune your technique, Breville BES870xl barista express espresso machine is a great choice. Its integrated grinder makes for simpler brewing, and there are plenty of options to customize your espresso.
And if your practice shots are less than perfect, use the hot water dispenser to turn them into tasty Americanos. There’s also the option to create latte art using the steam wand.
In short, this machine offers everything you need to create artisan-quality coffee at a reasonable price.
Great machine with all the bells and whistles of more expensive models.
Keenly priced for a machine in this class
Ease of use
You’ll need to put in a bit of practice to get the best results
Comes with a 1 year warranty, with some retailers offering extended versions – at a price
What are other people saying?
A quick search online found lots of people with positive things to say about the Barista Express. Take a look at this YouTube video for Seattle Coffee Gear’s verdict on all its features.
I love good coffee. I love the whirr of the grinder and the hiss of the steam wand. And I love the flavors and aromas you only get with freshly ground, quality beans (1).
What I love less is the impact on my bank balance… Great coffee from artisan coffee shops is an expensive business. So the idea of being able to create that kind of beverage at home is pretty appealing.
That’s exactly what the Breville BES870XL Barista Express promises. It gives you everything you need to pretend to be a barista in your very own kitchen. What could be better?
A super automatic espresso machine fuses state of the art technology with traditional brewing processes. It will create anything from an espresso to a latte, a long coffee to a cappuccino.
Things to consider before buying a barista espresso maker
Semi-automatic espresso machines like this aren’t for everyone (2).
At the risk of stating the obvious, they’re there to make espresso. That includes espresso-based beverages like lattes or cappuccinos. But if you usually drink long coffees, a drip coffee maker can produce a quality beverage for a fraction of the price.
And there are other options for espresso drinkers too.
You can spend far less money and get decent quality with a Moka pot (3). It’s arguably a bit more involved and it won’t give you an authentic espresso. But the flavor will be comparable and the price difference is huge.
And if all you want is a jolt of caffeine with the minimum of fuss, a one-cup coffee maker like a Keurig is ideal. The flavor and aroma will be a millions miles from an authentic espresso. But it will be ready in a fraction of the time.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are super-automatic espresso machines. If you prize quality but don’t want to study brewing ratios or extraction times, these are the machines for you. You’ll have to pay big bucks though – super-automatics can cost several thousand pounds.
But if you enjoy the process as well as the results, a semi-automatic espresso machine is hard to beat. You’ll get all the satisfaction of experimenting to create your perfect espresso. And you can enjoy impressing your friends with your superb after-dinner coffees!
Related Post: What's the Best Cappuccino K Cups?
Breville bes870xl barista express espresso machine review
The Breville BES870XL Barista Express differs from many other semi-automatic espresso machines in that it incorporates its own grinder. It’s the only model from Breville with this feature, and is an updated version of the BES860XL.
Breville has updated the design in a number of clever ways.
First, there’s the bean hopper. This has been made deeper with sloping sides instead of the vertical sides of the 860XL. This dispenses the beans more smoothly, avoiding any getting stuck in the corners.
Then there’s the ability to adjust the brew temperature, designed to address the concerns of some users that the 860XL didn’t make hot enough coffee. There’s also a new hot water dispenser, an improved drip tray and a patented dosing tool.
The new version uses slightly more power than the old one – 1600 watts rather than 1450. But set against that is a new auto-sleep function and an automatic shut-off to conserve energy.
There aren’t many machines out there that combine the flexibility of a semi-automatic machine with the convenience of an integrated grinder. If that sounds appealing, the Barista Express could be the one for you.
If you can live without the grinder, there are cheaper semi-automatics out there. But remember: for great results you’ll need to grind your beans just before brewing. If you don’t already have one, you’ll need a separate grinder. And good quality ones don’t come cheap.
Features and benefits of Breville bes870xl
If you’re thinking of investing in a semi-automatic espresso machine, you probably already know the importance of a good grinder. To create a smooth flavor, you need evenly sized coffee grounds.
The Barista Express comes with a stainless steel conical burr grinder. It’s a quality thing, and if you were buying it separately you could spend a little more. In fact, the design borrows heavily from Breville’s Smart Grinder, which retails for twice that amount.
There are no less than 16 grind settings from coarse to fine. And there’s a grind amount dial to adjust dosing. The beans are ground directly into the portafilter to minimize mess.
One small drawback is that any excess grounds will end up in the drip tray. So you’ll need to clean it out regularly to avoid it forming a sludge with any spilled water.
Some users have also found that the grinder will clog if you’re using lots of dark roasts. That’s because the beans are coated in oil which can build up on the burrs. Fortunately, the design of the Barista Express means the grinder can be easily removed and cleaned if that happens.
The improved hopper aims to feed the beans smoothly into the grinder. And the ability to remove it is handy if you want to change your beans before they’re all used up.
Programmable water volume and temperature
The Barista Express combines pre-set water volumes for one and two cups with the ability for you to override them. This gives you great flexibility to experiment with different brew ratios. Alternatively, if you want to keep it simple, just use the pre-sets.
You can change the temperature of the water too. The machine is set to brew at the 200 degrees Fahrenheit that’s considered optimal for coffee. But you can increase or decrease this by up to 4 degrees in 2 degree intervals.
If you’ve got any concerns about your coffee being hot enough, this is a great option. And the PID temperature control – usually found on pricier machines – will keep the water at the temperature of your choice.
What’s more, you can easily return to the pre-set 200 degree temperature using an “auto purge” option.
This YouTube video shows you how to change the temperature and how to return the machine to its default settings.
Stainless steel steam wand
If you love your flat white or latte, you’ll love this machine’s integrated steam wand. Although it’s not as fast as some, it’s a lot easier for newbies to use. You’ll be able to regulate the level of foam without finding your countertop covered in milk splashes.
The boiler takes about 20 seconds to heat the steam to the right temperature. And unlike some others, it’s able to keep going for cup after cup without needing time to recharge.
The wand is mounted on a ball that swivels through 360 degrees. This gives you maximum flexibility to position your milk pitcher for the best results.
The best thing about the steam wand is that it gives you the opportunity to create latte art.
This YouTube video shows you don’t have to be an expert to get some great results.
Precision dosing tool
Key to getting the best flavor is the right level of extraction from the right dose of coffee. Precision dosing usually means weighing your coffee using sensitive kitchen scales. The Breville’s dosing tool, known as the “razor”, makes that much easier.
It’s a simple looking thing: a thin, flat piece of metal with a straight top and sides. The bottom section is narrower with two opposing blades along its edge.
You use it after the coffee has been ground into the portafilter and you’ve tamped it down. (Another neat feature of the Barista Express is that the tamper is magnetic. It sticks to the machine in its own little slot.)
You then set the razor on top of the tamper. The narrower bottom section will extend just below the surface of the coffee. Twist it around and the blades will trim off the excess coffee for the perfect dose. This YouTube video shows just how easy it is.
Having said that, the amount of grounds you’re left with will still depend on how firmly you’ve tamped the coffee. The razor is a big improvement on measuring your grounds in scoops. But you’ll still get a more accurate result using scales.
Hot water dispenser
If there’s a tea drinker in your household, the hot water dispenser means they’ll never have to boil a kettle. Alternatively, use it for instant soups, hot chocolate or oatmeal.
It’s also a great way of making Americanos. Just pull your single or double espresso shot and then add water. The dispenser sits over the drip tray, so you won’t have to worry about splashes on your countertop.
This YouTube video shows all the features of the Barista Express, including the hot water dispenser.
Dry puck feature
A puck is the disc of coffee grounds you’re left with after brewing your espresso. You’re going to need to knock it out of your portafilter before you can use the portafilter again.
A wet, sludgy puck is a pain because it won’t come out of the portafilter in one go. Breville has attempted to address this with their dry puck feature. This uses a special valve to release excess water and the pressure that’s built up in the puck during brewing.
The result is a drier puck that’s much easier to knock free.
67 ounce water tank
This may be a machine to help you make coffee like a barista – but it’s still designed for the domestic market. It can’t be plumbed into the mains water supply, which makes it more portable. But it does mean you’ll have to refill it every so often.
The tank is a generous 67 ounces. That means you’ll get about 8 standard coffees before you have to head for the sink. There’s also a handle to help you carry it.
Anyone who doesn’t like the taste of their tap water will be pleased to know the Barista Express comes with an in-built filter. You’ll need to change it about once every two months. This YouTube video shows you how to do it.
A neat touch is a dial on top of the filter holder. The idea is that you set it to the month when you need to change it, making it easy to check if you forget when it’s due.
Four different baskets
The machine comes with four different baskets for your portafilter. These are stored neatly in a small compartment at the bottom of the machine. It’s another clever design feature that means they’re always on hand when you need them.
There’s a double and a single pressurized basket, and the same again with unpressurized baskets. If you’re still learning how to get your perfect espresso, the pressurized baskets are a great option. They’ll give you good results even if your grind size isn’t quite right.
For experts, the unpressurized baskets can produce an even better shot. You’ll need to “dial in” the machine so that it takes 20 to 30 seconds to pull a shot. It’ll take a bit more work, but will be worth it in the end.
This YouTube video shows you the baskets and explains the differences.
Breville BES870xl Barista Express Espresso Machine Alternatives
#1 Mr Coffee Café Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
If your budget doesn’t stretch to the Barista Express, you might want to consider Mr Coffee’s barista machine.
This has an automatic milk frother, but no grinder. It lacks some of the clever features of the Breville – there’s no separate hot water tap, for one.
But it's not pricey, you’ll have plenty of change to invest in a good grinder.
#2 DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso/Coffee Machine
At around the same budget as the Breville is DeLonghi’s Magnifica.
There are fewer grind settings, and unlike other super-automatics you’ll have to steam the milk yourself using the wand.
But if you don’t want to mess around with portafilters, this could be the machine for you.
#3 Breville BES980 Oracle
The daddy of the Breville range of espresso makers, the Oracle has many of the same features as the Barista Express.
It improves on its specifications with dual boilers and a water tank that’s 20% larger.
The steam wand has manual and automatic functionality, and you can program both milk temperature and texture.
The downside? Very expensive!
The Breville BES870xl Barista Express is a great machine for those who enjoy making as well as drinking coffee. It has all the features of more expensive models, with everything you need to create beverages of coffee shop quality.
It’s not the cheapest espresso maker, and you’ll need to spend some time learning how to use it. But if you’re prepared to make that investment, you’ll be rewarded with excellent results.
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Ag Ferrari, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.