Breville Barista Express Review: Is the BES870XL the best value espresso machine?

Breville Barista Express

Move closer to a coffee shop or shell out $5,000 for a commercial quality espresso machine. For the longest time, those have been your only two choices if you wanted something special, like a latte, without straying too far from your kitchen. Thanks to the Breville Barista Express, anyone can now enjoy barista-quality drinks without spending thousands on equipment. 

Not in the mood to read the full Breville Barista Express review? The long story short is that this machine is an absolute bargain, and it delivers performance that’s on par with machines that cost double or triple what this unit is available for. In fact, it earned the number one spot on our Breville Espresso Machine Review guide. If you’re looking for cafe quality on a budget, the Breville Barista Express is well worth a closer look. 

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Breville the Barista Express

Breville makes almost a dozen different espresso machines, with the Barista Express falling squarely in the middle. This machine offers an excellent array of features and performance, and beginners, as well as aspiring coffee aficionados, are sure to love the machine. 

  • Overall Rating: 4.75/5 Stars
  • Dimensions: 12.8" x 12.2" x 13.1"
  • Bean Capacity: .5 pounds
  • Tank Capacity: 67 ounces
  • Power: 1600 watts

Key Takeaways

✅ Excellent value for a semi-automatic espresso machine 

✅ Integrated burr grinder, tamper, and steam wand

✅ Thermocoil-Integrated stainless steel heating system for accurate temperature control 

✅ Brushed stainless steel finish (also available in red and black)

✅ Easy to clean, with helpful features that let you know when your machine needs some love

✅ Comes with an integrated grinder capable of producing consistent grinds

🚫 Since it’s a hybrid machine, it doesn’t provide the same granular level of control over brewing variables the way a commercial machine would

The Breville Brand

Breville the Barista Express

The origins of Breville stretch back nearly 90 years, when the company was first founded in Sydney, Australia. The company began as a radio manufacturer, and they quickly pivoted to making things like mine detectors to help with the war effort. 

After the war, Breville pivoted to small electronics, and the company slowly began to grow its product line. In the early 70s, they invented a sandwich toaster that put the Breville name on the map. The popularity of that simple invention helped finance a robust R&D department, and over the last few decades, Breville has solidified itself as a leading maker of consumer appliances, including many quality espresso machines like the Barista Express. 

From their affordable Il Bambino machine to the high-end Oracle Touch automatic espresso maker, each Breville optimizes each machine to provide precision temperature control and ideal water pressure to deliver a truly premium shot of espresso. 

Breville Barista Express Review

Breville Barista Express Review
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Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into everything you need to know about this affordable and high-quality machine. From the design and build to performance, features, and much more, we’ve studied every aspect of this espresso maker so you don’t have to.  

Even an affordable unit like the Breville Barista Express espresso machine represents a significant investment, so you’ll want to do your homework to ensure that it’s the right machine for you. Below, we’re going to take a closer look at the different aspects that make up this popular machine. 

We at Black Ink spent hours putting this machine to the test while taking into account what other coffee enthusiasts have to say about this compact semi-automatic machine. Let’s see how the Express shapes up! 

Features - 4.75/5 ⭐

The Barista Express offers some innovative features that help solidify its position as one of the best affordable espresso machines on the market. 

Temperature Control

Machines in this price range typically suffer from poor temperature control. Many machines don’t reach the proper temperature for optimal extraction, and those that do tend to have trouble maintaining that temperature through the brewing process. 

This machine has 1,600-watts of power and a Thermocoil–Integrated stainless steel coil path that maintains its temperature throughout the brew cycle for a perfectly extracted shot time after time. 

You can also select the ideal temperature for your taste from 187-205°F in 2-degree increments. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another affordable espresso machine that offers this level of temperature control. 

15-Bar Pump

This machine also generates the pressure necessary to extract incredible flavor from your grinds. This model has a 15-bar pump that produces an optimal amount of pressure for brewing. There’s an analog pressure gauge that lets you know when you’ve reached the proper pressure at a glance. 

The gauge also comes in handy as you become more comfortable with making manual adjustments when pulling shots. 

Portafilter Baskets

This machine includes two sets of Portafilter baskets. You’ll receive one shot and two shot sizes in pressurized and non-pressurized versions. If you’re new to the game, the pressurized baskets are your ticket to a delicious shot of espresso right out of the box. As you become more comfortable with the machine, you can tinker with different settings to produce a perfect shot using the non-pressurized Portafilter basket. 

Integrated Grinder

If there’s one standout feature on this Breville, it’s the integrated burr grinder and bean hopper. Most affordable machines don’t include a grinder, and those that do typically include a poor-quality model that’s good for little more than a paperweight. 

Breville is well-known for its coffee grinders, and its commitment to craftsmanship is evident when looking at this grinder. The grinder offers sixteen settings so you can dial in the right grind for the perfect shot of espresso. 

There’s also a hands-free holder for the portafilter, which also engages the grinder. All you’ll need to do is place the portafilter into the holder and the machine does all the work for you. Once it’s done grinding, all you need to do is tamp down your freshly ground beans and pull a shot. 

If there’s one gripe with this feature, it’s that even on its finest setting, it doesn’t produce the powder-fine espresso that most people prefer. With that said, the grinder is still more capable than most, and you’d need to spend over a hundred dollars for a standalone unit that performs as well as the one atop the Barista Express.

Dose Control

For home baristas with a bit more experience under their belt, this machine offers some excellent features that allow you to customize your experience.

The dose control allows you to customize the amount of coffee that’s ground for each shot between 19-22 grams. This feature allows you to dial in the ideal coffee-to-water ratio so you can pull the ideal shot. 

Steam Wand

Rounding out the high-end features of the Breville Barista is a pro-style steam wand that allows anyone to create coffeeshop quality foam for all their beverages. The wand rotates 360-degrees which allows for comfortable operation regardless of your position. The tip delivers the pressure necessary to create beautifully textured microfoam for your coffee drinks. 

The machine is quite compact, so there’s bound to be some splattering, especially as you get comfortable using the wand. Overall, the design is intuitive, and the steam function is powerful, which makes it a joy to use compared to the steam wands on most affordable machines. 

Ease of Use - 4.25/5 ⭐

When it comes to semi-automatic machines like this one, it often feels like you need a doctorate to be able to understand the ins and outs of the machine. The Breville Barista Express, on the other hand, is intuitive and it’s a joy to use whether you’re pulling your first shot or your 10,000th. 

Being easy to use is especially important for users who are new to semi-automatic machines. This machine makes it easy to pull a quality shot with no experience. But, if you’re willing to learn the ins and outs, you’re rewarded with an intuitive machine that lets you dial in the perfect cup according to your settings without being difficult to use or hard to clean. 

Speaking of cleaning, this model has some innovative features that eliminate guesswork. When it’s time to clean the machine, a light on the front panel illuminates, alerting you that service is necessary. The drip tray also has a pressure-sensitive Clean Me button which pops into view when the tray is full.

With one twist, you can remove the hopper for cleaning. Removing the hopper also allows you to remove and clean the grinder. You can remove each component with only one hand. Cleaning the water tank and filter is equally easy, and all it takes is a flick of the wrist to remove and replace the filter when necessary. 

Having a removable water reservoir also lends to the ease of use features this machine possesses. Sure, it might be easier to hook the machine into your water line, but it’s so easy to fill the reservoir that you won’t miss a thing when using this convenient machine. 

Design & Build Quality - 4.5/5 ⭐

With a compact machine like this one, its design plays a major role in how easy and enjoyable the machine is to use. It’s an enormous task to create a machine this small that’s still fun and intuitive, but the folks at Breville got it right with this machine.

We mentioned the hands-free portafilter holder that automatically engages the grinder, which is one of our favorite design elements of the machine. It also eliminates the need for an extra button to turn on the grinder. 

The 360-degree steam wand is another plus from a design standpoint. The front of the machine is tight, and without the rotating wand, it would be a significant challenge to get the perfect microfoam for lattes and other drinks. The rotating wand ensures you can work at the perfect angle to produce coffeeshop quality foam. 

This machine is also sturdy and built to last. The shell of the machine is plastic, which we expect considering the price of the machine. But, Breville covers it in durable brushed stainless steel, which adds a distinguished look to the machine. You can also opt for a black or red version if you want to make a statement with your semi-automatic espresso machine. 

Breville also provides a one-year warranty, so you’ll be covered if anything goes wrong with your machine. 

Value for the Money 5/5 ⭐

We’ve been gushing about this machine for the bulk of this review, so it’s no surprise that we at Black Ink feel this machine delivers exceptional value for the money. 

At around $700, this machine is firmly entrenched in beginner territory, but it delivers performance that’s nearly on par with a professional machine. Beginners will be able to easily pull a great shot of espresso, while more experienced users can use the same machine and control virtually every aspect of the brewing process so it’s exactly to your liking. 

There are machines in this price range that can pull an excellent shot of espresso, but when you consider the integrated burr grinder and high-end steam wand, this Breville begins to distance itself from the rest of the pack. 

Performance 4.5/5 ⭐

All of the high-end features this model includes help ensure that it delivers impressive performance. 

This machine allows you to customize many of the same characteristics of the brewing process you’d expect from a commercial machine costing thousands. When we put this model to the test, we found all of the parameters this machine measures to be deadly accurate. The temperature controls are spot-on, as is the pressure gauge. Coffee aficionados are sure to appreciate this level of accuracy, as it helps ensure a perfect brew every time. 

We covered our only performance gripe above. It would be nice if the grinder was able to produce a powder-fine espresso. While it does produce a fine grind at its highest level, it still leaves us wishing for a slightly finer grind. Outside of this small caveat, this machine meets and exceeds all our performance standards. 

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How to Clean Breville Barista Express

How to Clean Breville Barista Express

With an espresso machine, cleaning makes the difference between a delicious cup of coffee and a mediocre one. Regular cleaning will also help you get the absolute most from your machine so you can keep it running smoother and longer. 

Each time you use the machine, you should do some basic cleaning. Basic cleaning helps eliminate costly breakdowns, and it also makes it much more manageable when it’s time for a deep clean. 

Each day you should empty the drip and grind trays and rinse them in warm water. Never let the steam wand sit for longer than a day before soaking it and cleaning any residuals that may be stuck inside the wand. 

The machine includes a bevy of cleaning accessories that store away nicely inside the machine’s tool compartment, so you’ll always have the tools you need at the ready. 

Reasons to Avoid the Barista Express

barista express accessories

This machine is an excellent option that delivers a premium espresso experience to newbies and aficionados alike. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect machine for everyone. If any of the reasons below apply to you, you may be better suited with a different machine. 

You Already Own a Burr Grinder 

Two of the keys to an excellent espresso are fresh coffee and the right grind. With these components in place, you can achieve a delicious shot with a run-of-the-mill espresso machine. To achieve this, you’ll need a burr grinder, which the Barista Express includes. 

But, if you already own a capable grinder, there's no need for your machine to have one as well. A significant part of the Barista Express’s cost is the integrated grinder, and several machines in this price range forgo the grinder in favor of pricier components or more features.

You Don’t Want to Learn to Brew Great Espresso

For many readers, pulling the perfect espresso is a lifelong quest. Others just love a great cup of coffee and have no interest in the labor of love involved with espresso making. If you’d prefer to just hit a button and have a tasty espresso in your hand seconds later, you may be better off with a fully automatic machine. The DeLonghi Magnifica is an excellent option with a similar price point as the Barista Express. 

You Need a Commercial Machine 

The Barista Express is a powerful home machine that’s ideal for smaller households. But, if you have an army of ravenous espresso drinkers in your home, or you’re looking for an espresso machine for a small shop or restaurant, you’ll quickly grow frustrated with how often this machine must be refilled and cleaned. 

More importantly, it won’t be able to meet the demands of constant use in a fast-paced environment. Breville makes this machine for home coffee enthusiasts who are going to use the machine a few times per day at most. If you’re going to ask more from your machine, look towards a commercial model. 

You’re Already an Advanced Barista 

If you’ve been plying your craft for years and you already make an advanced understanding of how to brew great espresso, the Barista Express may be an underwhelming machine for you. 

Beginners and intermediate coffee fans will get years of excitement and enjoyment from this machine, while those who are advanced will likely find the machine to be boring and lacking the high-end features they crave.

Alternatives to the Barista Express

the barista express

While the Breville Barista Express is one of the most popular mid-range espresso makers on the market, there are still a few competitors that also produce excellent machines. In your search for the perfect model for you, you’ll want to check out these machines as well.

Espressione Concierge

An ideal choice for people who want the convenience of an automatic machine, the Espressione Concierge is incredibly simple while still delivering a rich and complex shot of espresso. While this machine is as simple as it gets, it does share some common features with the Barista Express, such as a built-in grinder and a steam wand. 

At between $500-600, it’s also a bit cheaper than the Barista Express. But, it’s a fully automatic machine, so you won’t be able to enjoy the art of espresso making how you would with the Breville model. 

De'Longhi Dedica

The Dedica from De’Longhi is perhaps the best inexpensive machine on the market, and it’s an ideal choice for people with limited counter space. This machine is much more compact than the Barista Express, but it still manages to produce excellent espresso and richly textured microfoam. 

There’s no grinder, and this machine lacks virtually all the advanced features of the Barista Express, but for around $300, it’s one of the best value machines in the business. 

ECM Casa V

The Casa V from ECM is a prosumer machine that brings incredible performance to the masses at an affordable price. The Casa V is a bit more expensive than the Barista Express, it has a smaller heating element, and no grinder. But, if your sole focus is brewing the richest and most complex espresso possible, the Casa V has a slight edge on the Breville machine. 

Breville Barista Express FAQ 

breville bes870xl barista express espresso machine

When espresso junkies are looking to purchase a new machine, they usually have some common questions that need to be answered. We’ve rounded up a few of the most common ones to make it easy for you to find all the information you need in one place. 

Is the Barista Express Worth the Money? 

The answer is a resounding yes. The Breville Barista Express is a budget-friendly machine that’s more affordable than most quality machines on the market. Despite its relatively inexpensive price, it provides tons of features, looks excellent in any kitchen, and most importantly, makes rich and delicious espresso drinks. 

Does This Machine Make Coffee? 

Technically, you can enjoy an excellent cup of coffee with the Barista Express. But, it might not be the coffee you’re thinking of. The Barista Express can’t make you a cup of drip coffee, but you can make a delicious Americano by pairing espresso with hot water. 

Is it Better to Buy a Separate Grinder and Espresso Machine? 

One of the standout features of this machine is its integrated burr grinder. Still, many people wonder if they’re better off purchasing a grinder and espresso machine separately instead of as a single unit. 

Depending on your budget, this could be a wise choice for you. Keep in mind that a quality burr grinder for espresso can run several hundred dollars, so you should expect to spend more than you would if you purchased the Barista Express. 

As a package, you’ll find it nearly impossible to purchase a grinder and espresso machine that performs as well as this machine does for a similar price. 

Overall Verdict: 4.6/5 ⭐

With Breville the Barista Express is simply the best. It delivers value, performance, and an excellent mix of features to deliver delicious espresso and coffee drinks each time you use the machine. From velvety smooth espresso with rich crema to beautifully textured lattes and cappuccinos, the Barista Express is the perfect tool to take your espresso game to the next level. 

While the Barista Express does have a few small limitations, the high notes greatly outweigh the areas where the machine could be improved. Anybody interested in espresso that has a modest budget for a new machine should take a closer look at this capable and easy-to-use espresso maker from Breville. 

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Parker Russell is a coffee professional and the founder of Black Ink Coffee. As an expert in the field of coffee roasting, cupping (professional Q-Grader) and brewing, Parker has established Black Ink as brand that fuels the grind of dreamers.