The Reluctant Barista Battles the New Breville Barista Express

photo-3Let’s be honest, I am not engaged in an epic battle with Breville … it is not even a minor skirmish; in fact, I don’t have a problem with Breville at all. Here’s what I truly love about all Breville espresso machines: They are easy to use and they make you feel like a rock star right out of the gate. Breville machines give me warm fuzzy feelings along with a good shot of espresso. The espresso shots are not going to be life changing (like that one time you found a small café and the barista’s skill blew your mind and now you can’t remember where it was or if it was just a caffeinated waking dream). But! They are always going to be really good espresso shots every time. No wasted espresso, no wasted effort.

So while I did ‘borrow’ the instruction booklet from Rachel in Customer Service, I already felt as if I knew my way around the Breville Barista Express automatic espresso machine. I quickly whipped up a few shots of Velton’s Bonsai Blend espresso to sip and then a caramel latte to check the frothing potential with my imaginary froth-o-meter. (Kaylie and I are going to invent this device in order to empirically rate microfoam.) Somewhere in the middle of espresso prep it occurred to me how much easier programmable semi-autos are to operate.

Besides ease of use, a few changes were made from the previous model (the well-loved BES860XL) that make the 870 worth consideration: a dedicated hot water spigot, PID temperature control within a few degrees and a smoother pathway from hopper to  grinder. These factors alone are not enough to convince the truly reluctant among us, though.

My essential battle with the Breville Barista Express boils down to the integrated grinder. Are you for it, or are you against it? The SCAA recently declared it Best In Show: Coffee or Tea Preparation & Serving Equipment (Consumer). However, when I hear Best In Show, I think of the movie and then I giggle.

If you see the benefit of saving money with an integrated grinder, saving counter space by having an all-in-one appliance and saving time with programmable dosing then you, my friend, are not sitting with us over here in Camp Reluctant.

If you see the integrated grinder and immediately flashback to the ill-fated combination dual tape deck + record player purchase you made in college, then you are going to need a few more facts before hopping on the Breville Barista Express bandwagon.

  • Fact: Upgraded stainless steel conical burrs are easily accessed for cleaning and can be removed for replacement.
  • Fact: The grinder can be adjusted for different espresso bean blends within a certain range.
  • Fact: A better bean hopper configuration allows whole beans to travel smoothly to the grinder.
  • Bonus: I like the removable bean hopper to empty, fill or re-fill without having to awkwardly scoop beans (or vacuum them up!)
  • Super Duper Bonus: Currently includes a new dosing tool called The Razor which sounds menacing but really confirms you have the right amount of coffee tamped into the portafilter.

Overall, I am less hesitant about this machine after reviewing these facts. Also, this is not truly a new  model, it’s one that Breville has improved upon over time. Ready to jump head first into the all-in-one pool? This model makes it a pretty safe dive into the deep end. Although I thought I would enjoy a Breville Infuser BES840XL paired with a Breville Smart Grinder more, I am now reluctantly considering the Breville Barista Express BES870XL for my next home espresso machine. In my case, reluctance is just another word for lazy and Breville makes espresso machines that are so easy to use, I can’t ignore them!

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