Every time we walk into a recently built or remodeled kitchen, we’re immediately struck by the drab uniformity of brushed stainless steel. We definitely think it has a place when it comes to certain large appliances like your stove or refrigerator, but if you have the opportunity to give your kitchen a little pop of color or deep accent, why not go for it?
Breville was picking up what we’re laying down because, after years of brushed stainless finishes on their popular suite of products, they’ve introduced a little variety into the mix. Enter Black Sesame and Cranberry versions of the Barista Express, Infuser and Smart Grinder. Functioning in the exact same way as their silvery counterparts, these gem-like versions will give your kitchen a possibly much-needed counterpoint. In addition to their gleaming, painted metal finishes, they also sport a polished stainless steel front that gives them even more pop — and eye candy!
If you’ve been interested in their machines but have wished for some style variety, then perhaps these new, limitedly-available hues will fit your bill. Watch as Gail shows them off.
As luck would have it, six years ago this holiday season I was gifted with an entry-level semi-automatic Breville espresso machine. This meant I did not have to select my own home espresso machine or, as Kat likes to call the process, Choose Your Own Adventure. My little dude is still chugging along with its tiny thermoblock and I am both excited and dreading the day I need to pick out the replacement.
Are you in the same boat? The number of manufacturers, models and variations on variations of home espresso machines can be overwhelming. Pour a cup of coffee, sit back and let’s ponder a few questions to set you on the right path for a successful adventure in espresso. This is an exercise in narrowing down available options until you are left with a manageable few to consider. Set aside budget (for the moment) and let’s think about who will use the espresso machine:
Do you have an interest in hand-crafting espresso?
Yes, I want to learn to make drinks myself
No, I just want to drink espresso beverages
A semi-automatic espresso machine allows you to decide the dosage and the shot time which you can adjust to enhance the extraction of different styles of coffee. You have the time, counter space and additional equipment (grinder, tools, etc) to do-it-yourself.
A superautomatic espresso machine makes life easier. There is less customization possible but shot consistency makes up for it. You will save time, space and possibly budget by having an all-in-one home espresso machine.
Alrighty then! How you approach espresso lands you squarely into one of these two distinct camps: Semi-automatic or superautomatic. Intuitively, this was the easiest espresso question to answer. If only there was a Harry Potter-style Sorting Hat to then announce the right machine for you! Instead, I will separate these two categories by their functionality and you can sort yourself.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
So you want to hand-craft your espresso beverages, eh? Now it’s time to consider what style of semi-automatic might best fit your needs.
Do you drink milk-based espressos (like lattes, cappuccinos etc)?
Yes, Two words…Latte Art
No, I like espresso and Americanos
Single boiler home espresso machines can froth milk. A heat exchanger or a dual boiler will get the job done better and faster, but they can cost more due to more complicated internal systems.
Even though you won’t need the steam wand to froth milk, you may use it to add hot water to an Americano so make sure it is easily accessible for how you will use the machine. Some machines even have a hot water spigot separate from the steam wand.
Will you invest in a quality burr grinder?
Yes, a good espresso grinder is just as important as the espresso machine
Maybe, I’m not sure
No, I might use espresso pods, pre-ground espresso and/or a pressurized portafilter
The grinder may cost almost as much as the espresso machine you select. A well designed and well built grinder will offer consistent and uniform particle size necessary for a great shot of espresso.
If you are on the fence about it, consider a semi-auto espresso machine with a built-in grinder for the best of both worlds.
This will limit your selection to models that can be adapted for espresso pods or compatible with a pressurized portafilter. You will still get to make your own drinks and these options will make it easier for beginners or those pressed for time.
Recommended Semi-Automatic Machines
Based on your answers to the above questions, here are a few different suggestions for you to start your machine research.
Semi-Automatic, with a latte focus and a good grinder
This is where I am now. I have a Baratza grinder and I am ready to find a semi-auto with excellent shots and very good frothing capability. Heat exchanger models and dual boilers both make excellent foam fast.
Semi-Automatic with a latte & shot focus, without a separate grinder
Not too many home espresso machines fit the bill but this Breville does! It has a thermoblock and an integrated burr grinder that saves space and economy of motion. It is a programmable semi-auto so it almost acts like a superautomatic machine and is very easy to use once it is set up.
This is where it all started for me — an older Breville model that was a bit smaller than this. It was an easy step into the world of espresso before committing to a costly set-up. Some come with pod adapters, pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter baskets for versatility.
Semi-automatic with an espresso focus and a good grinder
If your primary focus is quality espresso and you pay attention to tamp, temperature, timing and dosage then find a machine that allows you to control all of these variables. (This PID-controlled machine froths well too.)
Semi-Automatic with an espresso focus and no grinder
Plop a pod in the basket and you’ve got what you need to make a ristretto or a lungo how you like it, when you want it. Quick and easy! Just in case you need a touch of frothy milk once in awhile there is a panarello too. A choice in portafilters helps you build espresso skills.
Superautomatic Espresso Machines
So ease of use is paramount for you, but you still want to drink great espresso-based drinks? A superauto may be the machine style for you. To determine which of the many versions available will be the best fit, here are a few more questions for you to consider.
Do you drink milk-based espressos (like lattes, cappuccinos etc)?
Yes, Creamy lattes are what life is all about
No, I like espresso and Americanos
Not every superautomatic is great at frothing milk. Many users find that entry-level superautos don’t get the milk froth hot enough. A superauto that also has a steam wand is a nice touch so you can choose whether to use the machine’s auto-frother or its steam wand. Stand alone milk frothers are also a solution.
Some superautos do not come with milk frothing capability. If you like espresso and Americanos (and maybe even an occasional Affogato!) this is not a problem. For guests who do like lattes a standalone milk frother is a quick and easy option for frothing milk or making hot chocolate.
Do you need a bypass doser for pre-ground coffee?
Yes, having the option for pre-ground coffee allows me to make a decaf sometimes
No, I like fresh whole bean ground coffee for my espresso shots
Some superautos come with a bypass doser. This is a little chute directly to the brew unit so that you can use a different coffee than the beans that are already in the hopper.
And that’s ok! if you don’t need the bypass doser that will save you some bucks on technology that you won’t use.
Recommended Superautomatic Machines
After considering the above questions, you should be armed to select which of the below machines speaks to you!
Bunny froths milk on a Saeco Xsmall superautomatic espresso machine, or as we like to call it, the Little Dude.
Superautomatic with a latte focus
Your favorite drink features creamy frothy milk, some Monin gourmet syrup and, oh yeah, espresso. If time and counter space are at a premium then a compact superauto can be a great option.
Superautomatic with a latte focus and a bypass doser
For you, or for your guests, it’s great to have the option to make a decaf latte once in awhile. The pannarello wand assists by boosting more air into your steam. Or some models have one touch drink-making capability as a fancy feature.
Either/or Teri shows the Saeco Minuto superauto can serve regular coffee or strong espresso at the flip of a lever
Superautomatic with an espresso focus
Grab and go! Like in a true Italian espresso bar where you stand, converse a bit, have a few sips from your demitasse and continue on your way…Some superautos make quick and easy espresso or Americanos. The new Saeco Minuto will drop the pressure to make a single cup of true American-style filter coffee.
Practically hands-free operation…here’s an action shot of the Saeco Syntia (after I made sure the shot glass was placed correctly!)
Superautomatic with an espresso focus and a bypass doser
Bypass doser capability is not always built into superautomatic espresso machines so make sure to verify its availability. The Saeco Syntia has a bypass doser and a pannarello wand making it a very versatile superauto.
Now you have thoughtful criteria to evaluate and select the best home espresso machine to meet your caffeinated (or decaf!) needs. The next step is to research our Learn section with informative articles and YouTube videos, ask questions and read reviews. Will there be a new home espresso machine on your counter in the New Year? There might be on mine!
If we had to choose between mad science and madcap magic, we’d be hard pressed to explain the difference between the two and, therefore, would choose both! Thankfully, the Breville Crystal Clear Kettle doesn’t force us to choose, offering up some serious science (er, boiling water) in a rather magical way.
Sure, there’s all manner of different electric kettles available on the market, from models that allow precise temperature control (such as Breville’s Variable Temperature Kettle) to those that actually make the tea for you at the touch of a button (Breville One-Touch Tea Maker, anyone?), but if you’re simply looking for a quick boil, no bells and whistles, plus a bit of a show as well, the Crystal Clear Kettle will definitely fit the bill.
Watch as Teri shows us how simple it is to use, then times how long it takes to boil 44 oz. of water for her large Frieling coffee press preparation.
Now, just because the weather has changed, the leaves are turning color and you might be more motivated to sip hot apple cider next to a roaring stove than indulge in a deliciously juicy frozen dessert, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t. In fact, why not treat yourself to this luscious Creamsicle sherbet today!
Utilizing the Breville’s Smart Scoop and Juice Fountain, Brandi crafted some of the tastiest sherbet we’ve ever had. Watch as she juices some oranges, makes a yummy simple syrup and then whips up a batch of sherbet in this fun recipe video.
Recipe: Creamsicle Sherbet
1 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice (divided)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Combine 1/2 cup of orange juice and the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves.
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add remaining orange juice to mixture and place in refrigerator to chill.
Once chilled, combine the orange juice mixture, vanilla yogurt, heavy cream and orange zest; pour into the ice cream bowl.
Set ice dream maker to 50 minutes on the manual setting and churn (this is specific to the Smart Scoop; if you’re using a different ice cream maker, check your manufacturer manual for sherbet recommendations).
Once mixture is frozen, transfer to a freezer safe container; you can freeze it for up to 1 week.
When you think of ‘Seattle Coffee Gear’ you probably don’t immediately think ‘Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker.’ Yeah, we get that; but that doesn’t mean that taking your favorite coffee gear and combining it with a home ice cream maker is a bad idea. Or maybe it is. Maybe, for all of our sakes, we should just stop this right here. Maybe this is the line that we shall not pass! This is the moment that, when we look back, we’ll know we took a stand and said no to delicious frozen dairy and sorbets made at the touch of a button! Today could be the day that we change history.
But we’re not. Oh, no, we are not. Instead, we are embracing our new favorite dessert contraption and using it to devise a wide array of devilish desserts! Because, why not? If you’ve already owned your love for making coffee at home, then is it really that much of a stretch to own your love of making iced treats at home? We think not.
So watch as Gail shows us the ins and outs of the Breville Smart Scoop — the one and only ice cream maker that we’ll be carrying. Use it to make espresso gelato! Coffee ice cream! Cherry-Mojito sorbet! Whatever your sweet little heart desires. It’s super easy, as Gail demonstrates in this video crew review.
There’s definitely something appealing about having a little coffee station on your countertop, no? Breville’s Barista Express‘ relatively unique design offers just such an experience: A traditional espresso machine with a grinder integrated into the case, offering you a one-stop home coffee makin’ shop (as it were). We’ve heard rumors that this configuration is Breville’s best selling model, which makes sense given that, as of this writing, it’s the only one of its kind in the US.
A common inquiry we receive, however, is concerning how well the grinder actually performs. It’s true that the previous generation Barista Express (the BES860XL) included a grinder that didn’t go quite fine enough for our tastes, and owners often had to employ the dual wall / pressurized baskets in order to get a good shot. With the recent upgrade to other elements of the Barista Express, we wanted to know how much of an improvement Breville made to the grinder itself … and how that compared to their popular standalone grinder, the Smart Grinder.
In this video, Gail examines the burrs of these two different grinders and then compares their grind quality and consistency, both at their finest and coarsest settings. If you’re considering one of these pieces of Breville gear for your coffee setup, watch Gail find out how they measure up against each other to get a little insight into how they perform.
Compare: Breville Smart Grinder vs. Breville Barista Express Grinder
Recipes for apple spiced lattes abound, but have you ever tried one with fresh apple juice? When we asked Brandi to find a fun recipe that would incorporate a Breville Juice Fountain, she came back with this little gem — and we were very pleasantly surprised!
Despite copious evidence to the contrary, we’re not big fans of super sweet food; if you share the same proclivities, this recipe is great because all of the sweetness comes from the apple’s natural sugars. But even if you’re a fan of candy-coated candygrams, you could make this recipe work for you by either selecting an apple that has more natural sugar or adding a little Monin syrup into the mix (purists might prefer Cane Sugar, while the more adventurous may take the ‘spice’ element of this recipe seriously by incorporating Cinnamon).
In this how-to video, Brandi begins by juicing a few apples and then — using the Breville Barista Express — she froths almond milk and ‘juices’ some coffee. The results? Delicious!
3 apples, juiced (yields about 1/2 a cup)
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 oz espresso
dash of cinnamon & nutmeg
Start by juicing your apples; if you produce more than 1/2 cup, measure out that amount and then combine with the almond milk in a frothing pitcher.
Froth the milk and juice combination together until it has reached your desired temperature.
Pull your shot of espresso and combine it all in your serving mug; garnish with a dash of nutmeg and cinnamon.
If we were going to anthropomorphize the Breville Infuser (BES840XL), we’re pretty sure its human counterpart is Gabby Douglas: Sleek, compact, multi-faceted and the best all-around performer in the group.
One of the features that it offers is automatic water dosing for your espresso extraction, which can take a bit of the guess work out of the process. But since programming the Breville Infuser isn’t as simple as measuring out exactly one or two ounces of water and then calling it a day, we asked Gail to guide us through the process.
Watch as she discusses with us how automatic dosing works, provides us with tips on getting the right shot volume and then shares her thoughts on why you’d want to do this. Whether you’ve been considering the Breville Infuser or already own it and just want to learn more, this how-to video dives a little deeper into one of its great, easy-to-use features.
With summer coming rapidly to a close, we wanted to rock a recipe that is both sweet and icy. With a wide array of naughty frozen delights available to you (like this or this), frozen yogurt truly is relatively nutritious — especially if you incorporate fresh strawberries into the mix! Right? Right.
Watch as Brandi demonstrates making this delectable dessert recipe on the Breville Smart Scoop ice cream maker.
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled & quartered
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups plain yogurt
Place quartered strawberries in a bowl and mix with 1/3 cup sugar and lemon juice. Gently crush with a fork and let site at room temp for an hour to macerate. After an hour, gently crush with a fork again to desired consistency or blend into a puree.
Combine strawberries, yogurt and sugar and pour into the ice cream bowl. Set ice cream maker to YOGURT setting an churn.
Here’s a dirty little SCG secret: Sometimes, we’re a little shallow. We like pretty, shiny things and when we first began carrying Breville’s espresso machines, we did so only because, well, they were pretty and shiny. At the time, most of the more budget-conscious models were rockin’ plastic or powder coated metal cases, yet the Breville machines were lustrous, brushed stainless steel … and we totally went for it.
Sadly, in that first couple of years, we came to understand that their function did not measure up to their form and they just simply couldn’t get hot enough to produce a truly delicious espresso. With the release of their first version of the Barista Express (BES860XL), however, they started to address this temperature situation and haven’t looked back since.
Breville’s next entry into the home espresso enthusiast space was the beloved Dual Boiler (BES900XL) , which was a truly magnificent leap forward for the company in terms of temperature control and functionality. What they learned from developing that machine, they applied to the budget-friendly Infuser (BES840XL) about a year later, and what they learned from developing the Infuser, they then incorporated into the next iteration of the Barista Express (BES870XL): Namely, the thermocoil and PID temperature technology.
Since the new Barista Express has some great features like simple PID temperature control and an integrated grinder, folks often ask us how it compares to its larger, yet somewhat-similarly featured compatriot, the Dual Boiler. First off, of course, it’s got it’s own grinder and it doesn’t brew and steam at the same time like the Dual Boiler does, but there are a few other functional differences as well. The end cup of coffee, however, is remarkably similar … so it may just be your budget that casts the deciding vote.
Watch as Gail takes us through a feature and technology comparison of these two machines, then shows us how they perform side by side.