Spoiler alert: For me, the Breville Barista Express is the best Breville espresso machine. But only after doing extensive research for weeks (which is more fun than it sounds ;-), I came to this conclusion.
In this Breville espresso machine review, I will show you the full range of Breville espresso machines, including their differences and benefits, by having you join me in my journey. I will also show you why I think the Breville Barista Express is the best choice, which made me decide to buy it myself.
Even though their range of five different espresso machines might seem a bit overwhelming, they are quite easy to distinguish once you dive a bit more into it. And since that is exactly what I did, you don't have to anymore.
After reading this article, you should be able to find out which is the best Breville espresso machine for you. If not, please let me know in the comments so I can be of help.
Breville Barista Express
From the magnificent, (almost) hands-off Oracle to the entry-level Duo Temp Pro, there's a Breville espresso machine for any level. All Breville espresso makers come with pre-infusion and PID temperature control, with two of them having an built-in conical burr grinder as well. This Breville espresso machine review shows all the highlights of each machine.
With automated tamping and frothing, meet the world's first automated semi-auto espresso machine.
The perfect machine if you want to improve your barista skills with full control and a dual boiler for excellent heating.
Capable of making a perfect espresso, with an built-in grinder to save space and money.
Same as Barista Express but without grinder, in case you want/own a better grinder, but still want the same quality.
An entry-level espresso machine, with some of the professional features or its bigger brothers, at a very friendly price tag.
The goal of each of the reviews on Let's Grind Some Coffee is to do an insane amount of research, so you don't have to anymore. We work with a number of talented and experienced writers, who know what they're talking about. Each writer is responsible for conducting his/her own research, so there's no miscommunication possible. When doing this article I owned the Breville Barista Express BES870XL. For the other products I used product reviews, customers comments, and instruction videos and manuals.
Sometimes we've had the products in our hands to test it directly, but in most cases, we rely on other espresso machine reviews, product manuals, comment sections, Youtube videos, forum discussion and so on. This way you don't only get our opinion, but a collective opinion of experts all around the globe.
By combining all of our findings in our reviews, each article should serve as your definite resource to base your decisions on. As the research can get quite extensive, our individual product reviews tend to be very long and detailed. However, when making a "Best Pick" article like this one we try to be as comprehensive as possible. We will break down the pros and cons of each product as clearly as possible, so you know what you're buying. If you want to learn more about a product you can read its longer and more detailed review.
We base our "Best Choice" on a couple of points, including:
The feature set, build quality/durability and output quality. After we rate each finding, we have a look at its price. We want you to be able to afford the product you're interested. It's easy to get a maximum score with a product costing $5,000+. While this ultimately may be the best product you can get, its price tag will prevent most people from being able to afford it. Therefore, the price of a product is an important consideration before declaring a product the best.
For each category, we list the following options:
- What is the overall best product, based on price vs. quality?
- What is the best product under $XX (where we use a relevant budget)?
- What is the best product is money is not an issue?
This way we think we can satisfy anyone looking for a product, as well as being able to show what you can get for each different price range. After all, it's up to you whether you think a better product is worth its money, we just make sure you know what you're getting.
Don't hesitate to leave any feedback or questions in the comment section. We're more than happy to help. We're always open to adding relevant information to the article if there's an omission or if something is unclear, just let us know.
So why Breville, you might ask. Well, in my search for an espresso machine, Breville soon popped up as they are a major brand in this arena. However, I was especially triggered by their espresso machine with grinder, which is the Breville Barista Express. As it turns out, there aren't many of these combinations as most products are a coffee maker with grinder, which isn't the same. All of the listed Breville espresso machines are so-called semi-automatic espresso machines. This means you have to do some of the work yourself, like grinding and tamping (the Oracle has most of this work automated, though).
In fact, Breville is the only manufacturer making espresso machines with an built in grinder. But, I was mainly looking for the best espresso machine, not just for the best espresso machine with grinder, as that would be a short journey.
Manual, Semi Automatic or Super Automatic Espresso machines?
These terms are applied to show the amount of labor involved when making coffee. A manual espresso machine requires the most effort, where the super-automatic is fully hands-off.
I had given myself a budget of $1000 for an espresso machine and a coffee grinder. Since I am an aspiring barista and not a professional, I decided that I needed both products to be above entry-level, but not too complicated (a.k.a. prosumer level).
Coming from a super automatic coffee machine (an earlier version of this one), I first needed to learn the espresso making skills before going pro. Also, since not all of my guests can appreciate a good espresso, it would be nice if the machine could make a decent Americano.
What is an Americano coffee?
An Americano is basically a dilluted espresso, to make it less stronger. It consists of 2/5 espresso, and 3/5 hot water.
I soon found out that Breville espresso makers are newbie friendly, capable of delivering near-perfect espressos without the need of too much fine-tuning (reducing the risk of making a bad espresso). These machines are often recommended for prosumers like myself, and they don't come with a too hefty price tag. I also learned Breville is actively listening to their customers for improving their products, resulting in a product upgrade every few years. It's important to look at the model numbers for this reason (like for example the BES870XL, which is the Barista Express). I will update this article when new/upgraded products come out, but for now these are all 2017 Breville espresso machines.
They all come with pre-infusion of the ground coffee to allow for better flavor extraction. This is done by running a bit of water into the portafilter without having it run through it. This allows for a few seconds of soaking, after which more of the flavor is extracted when the actual brewing beging.
The steam wand on all models deserves a special mention. It is one of those things where you can see Breville actually listens to their customers.
Looking a bit more curvy than your regular straight steam pipe, it gives you more flexibility when foaming milk. This way you can keep a better eye on the process, resulting in a much easier way to make the perfect foam for cappuccinos and lattes.
What is pre-infusion?
Pre-infusion takes place a few seconds before full pressure extraction starts. By slowly building up the pressure, the grinds are better saturated, resulting in more flavor coming into the cup.
This is one of the tasks the Oracle has fully automated by the way, along with an option to tinkle the foam settings (you gotta love the level of detail ;-).
All models except the entry-level Duo-Temp Pro allow you to adjust the temperature and brew time.
All models feature PID temperature control, which gives the machine an even distribution of heat throughout the system. As heat is an important factor for making the perfect espresso, this improved the overall quality of the brewing process.
On all machines, except for the Duo-Temp Pro, you will find a small pipe for pouring hot water, right next to the steam wand (the Oracle has this integrated). This allows you to make a Café Americano, which is what I was looking for.
The Barista Express, the Infuser, and the Duo-Temp Pro come with a Thermocoil heating element, while the Oracle and Dual Boiler feature a dual boiler (hence the name of the latter :-). All models except the entry-level Duo-Temp Pro allow you to adjust the temperature and brew time as well.
And last, but not least, they are all also easy to clean, which is not something to think lightly of, as cleaning can be a real nuisance.
Thermocoil or Thermoblock?
A thermoblock consists of two heating elements welded together, which is prone to breaking in the long run. A thermocoil is one solid block with a better durability. Learn more:
Thermocoil vs. Thermoblock
So after it was safe to conclude that Breville as a brand perfectly suited my needs, all I needed to do was finding the perfect espresso machine in their line-up.
Before going into the details of each espresso machine, after which you hopefully are able to pick your own favorite, let me give you a short summer of my personal top 5 based on my considerations. I've listed them by their current model numbers, as these change with every improvement:
Breville currently has five different espresso machines, each sporting the same recognizable look, but with different dimensions and features. All of the products come with a stainless steel look, with some of them also available in Black Sesame and Cranberry Red.
Below you will find a quick summary of each espresso machine. They are listed based on price, from high to low:
This is the king of all Breville espresso machines. It's the world's first fully automated semi automatic espresso machine. The Breville Oracle features an built-in conical burr grinder with automatic doser and tamper, hands-free milk steamer and one touch Americanos. It also has a double boiler along with dual pumps, which means you can pour espresso and steam milk at the same time.
But, even though this seems like an absolute dream, the Breville Oracle won't help you much in improving your barista skills. You're mostly reduced to a bystander, only needed to move the portafilter from the grinder to group head, and pouring the milk and espresso together for cappuccinos and lattes.
I thought long and hard if I should get this machine, finally deciding not to do it. The fact that it is way over my budget (even though I think it's worth it) and that it won't improve my skills made me decide so. That doesn't mean I sometimes think how easy coffee making would be with this piece of perfection, especially when I am doing a couple of cappuccinos in a row manually...
Even though I don't own this machine myself, I decided to do a dedicated review of it. As I already learned all there is to know about it front and back, I might as well share it with you: Breville Oracle review.
Pros & Cons
If you strip the Breville Oracle from its automated grinder/doser and milk frother, you're "left" with the Breville Dual Boiler. It also comes with dual boilers and pumps, for preparing milk and espresso simultaneously.
If you're looking for the best espresso machine and you will be using a separate coffee grinder, the Breville Dual Boiler will be your best bet. It is also a whole lot cheaper than the Oracle, even if you factor in a high-end $400-$500 coffee grinder.
In fact, for a dual boiler espresso machine, it is actually quite cheap, with most of these machine costing over $2000.
The heating features of the Breville Dual Boiler are quite advanced and ensure a perfect temperature for every cup. These features, especially the dual setup, also warrant its higher price tag as these make the machine far more complicated to build.
The Breville Dual Boiler is the perfect tool if you want to improve your barista skills, and don't mind paying $1000+. The only concern with this device is its durability, as some reviews are mentioning too much plastic used. It does come with a 2-year warranty though. I decided to do a dedicated review on this one as well: Breville Dual Boiler review.
Pros & Cons
So now it's time to celebrate my daily companion, the Breville Barista Express. Not only is this my favorite espresso machine, but it is also the most popular Breville espresso machine. It is way cheaper than the Breville Oracle or Dual Boiler, but that is because it is not in the same league.
It has just one thermocoil heating element and one pump, meaning you have to wait for it to warm up again after using the machine for making espresso or steaming milk. This waiting can be overcome if you develop a tight cappuccino making routine, though, so you're not standing still waiting while your coffee cools down. It also has just the one pressure gauge, and no shot timer or any digital display at all.
Its main feature is the built-in conical burr grinder. Given its relatively low price, this is the most affordable espresso machine with grinder.
It also has a pressure gauge with indication zone for perfect extraction; however, it lacks the actual amount of bar pressure used which is a minor downside. It does show you the "espresso range", which is the amount of pressure needed for making espresso.
Because of its price, I also think this is the best Americano coffee maker. A proper Café Americano is made of espresso with added hot water to lighten up its strength. For me, a perfect Americano is 2/5 espresso (i.e. a double espresso) and 3/5 water.
As this is a simpler device than the Dual Boiler, you have to do much of the pre-heating yourself by running water through the group head before pulling an espresso. Combined with a rather messy grinder (quite some spillage), this means you have to include wiping in your coffee making routine.
However, these annoyances are easily forgotten once you start drinking your coffee, which is perfect most of the time. You can have a miss now and then due to over- or under pressure, but you can minimize these quickly once you get the hang of it.
Its low price even allowed me to buy an additional grinder within my budget (Breville Smart Grinder Pro) so I can use two types of beans of the same time (I drink both regular coffee and decaf).
Of course, I did a full review of the Breville Barista Express, including some tips on how to make the most out of your machine. Check out the Breville Barista Express review.
Pros & Cons
The Breville Infuser is essentially a Barista Express with the grinder taken out, just like the Dual Boiler is mainly an Oracle without automation.
As I mentioned before, the Breville espresso machine range isn't that complicated once you take a closer look :-)
Being this similar to the Barista Express makes you wonder why you should get an Infuser (or as they call it, the Infuser), except for its cool name. The primary reason to choose an Infuser will be its lower price tag, which is around $100 lower than the Barista Express.
But you're going to need a coffee grinder with this machine anyway, and you won't get a good one for under $100. Also, you can often find the Breville Barista Express at a discount, reducing the price difference even further.
unless you already own a coffee grinder suited for making the fine grind required for espresso, you're probably better off spending a bit more and get the Barista Express. And even if you do already own a grinder, getting the Barista Express is still a better choice since you'll be having two different grinders, allowing for two types of beans at all times.
By the way, if you do want a separate grinder, please have a look at our article on espresso grinders.
Pros & Cons
The Breville Duo-Temp Pro wasn't really on my short-list as it lacks a necessary feature I wanted, the pressure gauge. However, it is a great entry-level espresso machine for a fabulous price. It also doesn't allow you to do much fine-tuning. It does has some the professional features from its bigger brother, like PID temperature control and pre-infusion.
Besides lacking a pressure gauge, you also can't adjust the temperature like with other Breville models. There's also no auto shut-off after a specified amount of time, meaning you have to stop the brewing yourself.
As all of these features are used for making a consistent espresso based on timing and pressure, you will need more trial-and-error to get the perfect espresso.
A pressure gauge is particularly useful if you're just starting in the world of making espressos, as it provides for valuable feedback. Please read my Breville Barista Express review for more details on this features.
While the Duo-Temp Pro is an excellent entry-level espresso machine in its class, I would advise to save a bit longer and get a Barista Express or Infuser. The three main features that are missing are almost critical for any aspiring barista and well worth the additional money. If you know what you're doing, though, the Breville Duo-Temp Pro is a perfect companion for your coffee addiction. If you want to learn more, check out our Breville Duo Temp Pro review.
Pros & Cons
Whatever your budget is, Breville probably has something that suits you. From the entry-level Duo-Temp Pro to the cream-of-the-crop Oracle, Breville has got you covered (sorry if I sound like their marketing department :-). I hope that by explaining the differences and providing detailed reviews, I helped you in your choice for your new best friend.
I was particularly triggered by the fact that Breville espresso machines are perfect for learning the ropes, before moving on to something more complicated like a Rancilio Silvia.
One of the reasons I choose the Breville Barista Express is the fact that I limited myself with a budget of $1000. Had this not been the case, I would probably have bought the Breville Dual Boiler, along with a separate grinder.
Even though it's almost twice the price of the Barista Express, the dual boiler, and better temperature control are worth the additional money. And it would still allow me to practice my barista skills, something the Breville Oracle just can't accommodate. For now, I am more than happy with my Barista Express, even if that means a bit more cleaning ;-)
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments. I am also curious to know if you bought a Breville espresso machine yourself, and which one of course.
Thank you for reading this article!
Jacco, Chief Grinder