The best super automatic espresso machine? The Breville BES870XL review

For those looking for a café-inspired experience from the comfort of their own home, the Breville BES870XL Barista Express is an espresso machine that promises to deliver top-of-the-line drinks with minimal effort. Of course, those who are new to home espresso machines will take a little longer to learn a fancy machine like this, but that’s not always a bad thing.

So, did the Barista Express live up to our expectations? Let’s take a look at the basics

For those who want a machine they can experiment with (and show off to friends), this espresso maker offers a substantial improvement over entry-level devices.

Although it takes a bit to master, we do consider it a beginner’s machine with a few bonuses

Master Reviewer

The Good

  • Beautiful exterior design in three attractive color combinations – perfect for any décor
  • Specifically designed to freshly grind the beans immediately before brewing for excellent crema and superior quality espresso
  • 2-liter removable water tank and 1/2-lb. bean hopper means you’re not likely to run empty halfway through brewing
  • Includes all the accessories budding espresso baristas need, as well as accessories for the more advanced users
  • Intuitive “Clean Me” light tells you when to use the included cleaning kit

The Bad

  • Many features which will take a while to learn. It is definitely worthwhile to learn these features, but users who just want a perfect cup their first day may be annoyed
  • The grinder isn’t the best, and espresso perfectionists might prefer to grind their beans in a separate machine – however, for most beginning and intermediate espresso lovers, the burr grinder is a great addition
  • A bit messy, as most semi-automatic machines are – but overall cleanup should only take around five minutes per day

In-Depth Breville BES870XL Review

When you first open the box for your Breville Barista Express, you will notice the machine itself. It has a beautiful retro design, and is available in three color options to match any kitchen style. Also included are two portafilters – a double wall for beginners, and a single wall for the more experienced crowd. This machine comes with everything you need to get started – besides high-quality coffee, that is. We recommend reading the included instruction manual, as it will cut the time spent learning your machine.

For those who are new to espresso machines (especially combination machines such as this one), the Breville Barista Express can be a bit complicated to learn. This machine is equipped with a number of semi-automatic features, and for the best pulls, you’ll want to become very familiar with them. We found that it only took a couple days to become comfortable, so as long as you’re not expecting to be a pro from the start, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out.

To start, this machine uses whole beans placed in the attached burr grinder. This grinder will deposit the beans directly into the portafilter when the machine is assembled correctly – and assuming your weights and ratios were measured correctly, there shouldn’t be any problems here. The grinder itself is not very impressive, but for those who have been using pre-ground coffee, you will notice an incredible difference when you start grinding immediately before. If you already have a separate grinder that does a good job, this is most likely going to be unnecessary. Additionally, there is a chance that the grinder could go out before the machine does, which will require you to buy a separate grinder anyway – at which point you might decide to splurge on a more expensive machine.

Breville BES870XL Review continued

The total time between powering the machine on and pulling your first shot is actually pretty quick with this machine – right around two minutes, including grinding. The boiler heats up very fast, and frothing your milk is a simple experience. Clean-up is quick, too, taking an average of about five minutes per day. Of course, this can be shortened even further by cleaning up the steam wand while your shot is still brewing, and by keeping your machine on an easy-clean mat. The grinder does have a tendency to overshoot, and you shouldn’t be surprised to find some coffee on your counter after you’ve used it. This is pretty minor, however, as most semi-automatic machines will make a bit of a mess.

One complaint we had was that the included cleaning supplies can get a little expensive to replace – but there are generic alternatives that can help keep costs down, if that’s a concern for you. It should be noted that espresso is not, by definition, an inexpensive hobby, and generally you will yield better results with more of an investment. However, when it comes to descaling your machine, most manufactured descalers are of similar quality, so this doesn’t need to be a big deal.

This machine does come with a very helpful instruction manual – in clear, easy-to-understand English. This can help to reduce the amount of trial and error necessary, especially for new baristas. It’s important to realize that if you expect consistent results from your machine, you will need to be consistent, too. This applies to the quality of your coffee, the regular cleaning of your machine, and preparing well beforehand. This is a precision piece of equipment, after all, and while it is meant to make the process easier, it does still require practice.

Key Facts

  • Automatic Espresso Machine
  • Under $100
  • Single Serving
  • Ground Coffee

Even if you know what you’re doing, we can’t stress enough that you should read the instruction manual included. This machine offers quite a few featured that are not included in more entry-level machines, and if this is an upgrade for you, you will need to allow yourself time to adjust. There are also a few quirks you’ll need to adapt for, but these are standard across semi-automatic machines and don’t generally affect the quality of the shot pulled.

The Breville BES870XL overall

Overall, this machine is a great upgrade for espresso lovers who are looking to replace their entry-level machines, but it is also well suited to professional baristas who want a similar experience at home. While this won’t be able to handle commercial demands, the Breville Barista Express offers a highly-customizable experience at an extremely affordable price.