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The Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso machine is the perfect appliance for the espresso aficionado who wants to duplicate espresso alchemy at home, on the cheap, and is more than willing to get their hands dirty. It makes top-notch drinks and comes with a built-in grinder, so you’ll be ready without purchasing any additional purchases.
The Barista BES870XL offers just enough adjustable control and manual controls to make your brewing experience more enjoyable; is simple to operate; performs as well as machines costing hundreds more, and grinds your beans right into its portafilter. However, an appliance like this isn’t for everyone as it takes some effort and patience to operate.
As such, if you demand your coffee fix concentrated with minimum fuss (and are willing to pay for it), a fully automatic machine like the Delonghi ECAM44660B Eletta or the JURA S8 Automatic Coffee Machine will deliver your coffee with speed. Otherwise, if you need to save a few bucks, the Breville Barista Express Espresso is an excellent choice.
Breville BES870XL Review: Design
Measuring 16 inches tall by 13.8 inches wide and a depth of 12.5 inches, the Breville Barista Express Espresso is roughly the same size as most standard drip coffee makers but about twice as wide. Compared with compact espresso machines such as the De’Longhi EC680M Espresso, the Barista Espresso is larger ad physically more versatile and robust.
Also, apart from its girth, the Breville machine’s looks alone give the impression that it means business. It sports a stainless-steel chassis with a hefty steel portafilter and handles attachment that gives it a premium look, but the large bean hopper, companion burr grinder, and pressure seal the premium look. We’ve only seen these features on high-end semi and super-automatic espresso makers.
Of all the design features, the pressure gauge highlights Breville’s brewing chops. There’s a circular dial placed front and center on the control panel, which displays whether the internal pump is pushing hot water through your coffee grounds within the optimal pressure range.
For the perfect brew, you must balance the parameters: Too little force and water will flow through the grounds too quickly, missing much of its potential flavor, and resulting in under-extracted and sour-tasting espresso. Too little hot water flow under high pressure will likely produce espresso liquid with a bitter flavor. Most cheap espresso machines tend to lack pressure gauges either to cut costs or mask their inconsistent performance.
On both sides of the dial are large circular buttons for “Power,” “Filter Size” and “Program,” along with two for selecting to brew single or double espresso shots. Here you’ll find a knob for setting the number of coffee grounds the grinder will produce automatically for either single or double-sized espresso filters.
For ease of use, ground coffee drops directly into the Barista Express’ steel portafilter. From there, it’s easier to gently press or temp the portafilter’s contents down (Breville includes a metal tamper) and twist the entire apparatus – handle, filter, and everything else; into position under the machine’s single brew head.
To the right of the brew head, there’s a swivel-joint mounted steam wand along with a hot water nozzle, both activated by a large knob on the machine’s side. On the far left of the unit, there’s a grind size selector that boasts 18 settings including coarse on one side and fine on the other. Other useful features include a drip tray that’s easy to clean and a removable water tank with a strong handle.
Performance and Taste
At first, it may prove tricky to pull a well-balanced shot with the Breville BES870XL. However, once you hone the skill, you’ll be treated to the best espresso you’ve ever tasted from a home machine. For instance, if you miss the cue and set the grinder to a level 5 coarseness, the resulting shot will taste decent, though flat and unaspiring, essentially nothing close to what you find at the local coffee shop.
However, if you bump the grinder down to level 3 coarseness and take another go, the Barista Express will reward the patience with a shot that’s truly spectacular. The result is a rich taste, packed with complex flavors such as chocolate and smoke, fused with sweet caramel. The crema is thick, stout, and golden brown with a higher TDS (total dissolved solids) percentage of 12.4 percent when measured on a refractometer.
That’s an excellent extraction percentage of 18.6 percent. The coffee from the Breville Barista Express tastes and lingers longer on the palate than what you’d make with some exorbitantly priced appliances.
Of course, as with every other semi-automatic espresso machine, if you later any of the brewing variables, it’s likely that all variables will be off. For instance, if you opt to add a larger amount of ground, and tamp the filter down too hard (or both), you’ll typically lose control of your carefully balanced brewing pressure. In this case, insufficient water could enter or escape the filter.
Regardless, the results are still drinkable. Still, you’ll find that the machine combines hot water with espresso very well, creating tasty Americanos even from the most botched of shots. You’ll. Have no trouble streaming milk with the Barista Expresses either. once the steam boiler reaches the required temperature (approximately 20 seconds), it has plenty of power to complete the task. Other machines often time out after a few minutes while the Barista Express steam wand would practically run indefinitely.
Finally, all espresso machines need to be cleaned regularly to stay in good working order, and the Breville Barista Express is no exception. With much fewer moving parts or messy milk reservoirs to maintain compared to super-automatic appliances, this espresso machine is fairly easy to keep tidy.
As long as you remember to empty the puck of spent grounds from the portafilter immediately after pulling a shot, give it a quick rinse, then flush hot water through the brew head, the machine is good to go. The dip tray is easy to remove and empty too.
Should you buy the Breville BES870XL?
Brewing the perfect espresso shot from the Breville Barista Express machine takes time, effort, and practice. That’s especially true if you’re used to the pushbutton functionality of super-automatic espresso makers like the Delonghi ECAM44660B Eletta or the JURA S8 Automatic Coffee Machine.
However, while you don’t do any work up front enjoying drinks from those appliances, you’ll certainly be busy servicing them constantly either by emptying drip trays or conducting daily, weekly or monthly cleaning.
For those patient enough to stick with the more affordable Breville Barista Express though, tweaking its settings and various options will be richly rewarded with tasty shots and ultimately spend a lot less money.
Not only is the Breville BES870XL able to make better coffee than most cheaper espresso machines, but it also produces superior flavor than even some luxury models at a fraction of the price. For all these, the Breville Barista Express Espresso BES870XL is our newest Editors’ Choice for home espresso machines.
Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
The Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine is an excellent, semi-automatic espresso maker that brews better shots than more expensive machines. It’s relatively easy to use, sports an attractive stainless-steel design, and has a built-in burr grinder for hassle-free coffee ground fixes.
- High-quality espresso
- Conveniently designed
- Customizable settings
- Affordable for its caliber
- Requires some effort and a learning curve
- Regular cleaning needed