Breville BES870XL Review- Best Espresso Machine Under $600?


Here’s a unique espresso machine, which won the 2013 award for Best New Consumer product by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.  It’s the Breville Barista Express, or more specifically, the Breville BES870XL.

The machine is semi-automatic, combining both grinding and brewing in one unit.  It has some technical features that are typically only found on consumer or prosumer higher-level machines.

Italy is one country that usually comes to mind when you think of where espresso machines are designed.  While the tradition of craftsmanship and thoughtful design associated with the Italians is a long one, what you see with the Barista Express is an implementation that’s thoroughly modern of what goes into making milk-based drinks and espresso.

Good design should be aesthetically pleasing, but beyond how it looks it needs to be easy to use and, of course, work well.

Out of the Box

Other than not coming with milk and some tasty coffee beans, it includes almost everything you’d want to make espresso as well as your go-to milk-based beverages like cappuccinos and lattes.

[quote_box_right]When you purchase a semi-automatic espresso unit, you’ll usually already have your own grinder or be planning on buying one.  But with the Barista Express, the grinder’s built right in (a good one at that), with 16 grind settings and conical burrs made of stainless steel.[/quote_box_right]

The hopper gets the nod with this Breville.  It’s not large, but you wouldn’t want to be storing beans in the hopper anyway.  What’s nice is when removed the doors close so the beans stay put.  This makes returning the beans to storage easy or rotating them when switching between other types of coffee.

Along with the 16 grind settings, single and double shots are controlled by adjustable automatic dosing as well as manual dosing.  After you select ‘Single’ or ‘Double’, the porta filter is placed in the holder.  The grinder starts after it’s pressed once and released.  It will automatically stop.  The ‘Grind Amount’ knob can be used to finely adjust the dose amount.

For manual dosing, pressing in and holding the porta filter starts the Breville to grind until it’s released.  With the drip tray positioned below the grinder as it’s dispensing, some spillage can be expected there.   But instead of having to clean up two areas, like if you’d have an additional grinder, you’ll have only one area containing the mess to clean.

Current discount of the Barista Express on Amazon.

Brewing with the Breville

Locking the porta filter into the group head  starts the brewing when one of the buttons labeled ‘single shot’ or ‘double shot’ is pressed.  They’re preset to output between 1-2 ounces, respectively.  The ‘programming’ button can be pressed to reprogram them, pressing a brew button to start, and again pressing the brew button when the desired volume you want is reached.

[quote_left]4 filter baskets come with the machine.  These include a single and double non-pressurized basket and a single and double pressurized basket.  Little if any tamping is needed with the pressurized baskets.  [/quote_left]

A tamper comes with the machine for the non-pressurized baskets to compress the coffee in the portafilter.  The tamper’s magnetic design is a nice touch, and it gets stored on the Barista itself.

The 54mm portafilter is of stainless steel grade, but it’s not as large as a commercial-sized 58mm standard portafilter.

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