It’s Like A Genie For Coffee Drinks
Oh, holy Breville. I am working so hard to be open minded to all the espresso machines I’m looking at, but I really love Breville appliances. I have a few in my home for various things, but I must not have realized they make espresso machines. I’m not sure why that didn’t occur to me until I started my hunt, but you may notice more than one or two options pop up on this list because, well, Breville appliances have a special place in my coffee-loving heart.
There’s no question that I had to take a hard look at the Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine. It’s as professional an espresso machine that you can get for your home without actually buying a massive professional one. You will pay for it, though. Not just in terms of its price, but you will also pay with counter space – or the resulting lack of thereof. This espresso machine is not small or lightweight. Be sure to seriously consider that before you go buying a machine as high end as this one.
I Wasn’t Kidding When I Said High End
If you don’t want to spend $600 on an espresso machine, you might want to stop reading unless you want to torture yourself drooling over something you can’t have. Don’t get me wrong, this one will do everything you want and more, but that doesn’t mean it will be worth it if you’re not a super coffee snob or if you’re not going to use it all the time. I love espresso, and I drink a mixed drink just about every day, but I’m still not convinced I’m going to save enough by making my own fancy coffees for this to pay for itself.
The thing that really draws me to this machine is how similar it is to the professional machines I used at the coffee shop. It not only makes espresso, but it has a tank to hold beans to grind on the spot and put into the filter without having to tamp it down. Tamping isn’t that big a deal, but it does add an extra step to making your coffee. If the machine is doing all the work for you including weighing out and grinding the beans, you will get something similar every time you use those beans.
You really do get what you pay for, and that’s totally true here. There may be quirks I haven’t discovered yet, but that doesn’t mean I will find things that are not to love. This one has what they call a purge feature, which means it self-regulates the temperature of the water after you use the steam so you’re not overheating the water and burning your drink. A lot of machines make you do the work or wait for the heating element to cool down to the right (still hot) temperature before they can change settings. With the purge, there’s no coffee burning and no wasted time.
If you’ve ever gotten a full-sized bottle of soda, you know that it’s a lot of liquid if you’re drinking full cups. When you’re working with espresso, 2 LITERS is super huge (67 oz). I mean, that’s enough water to make espresso for weeks, if not more. If the espresso shots you’re making are one ounce, you’re set for a really long time. I almost never put more than two shots in a single drink, although sometimes I do go as many as three. I had a customer who would come in and order a 6 shot Americano every single day. This would even keep her going for a super long time.
You don’t get a dual boiler with the Breville BES870XL though, so you can’t brew and froth simultaneously. This can be a deal breaker to some and it would indeed be a nice addition, but if you’re a serious cappuccino or latte lover then dedicated milk frothers are the better choice anyway. Of course this would add to the already steep price, but it will also give you more flexibility, and better foam.
Set It How You Want It
I can never decide if I want all the control or just a few options. I like the idea of being able to change every setting to exactly the way I want it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes get a little overwhelmed when I’m trying to make everything perfect.
Still, I love that this machine has a control for just about everything that could affect your espresso. You can set how the beans are ground and the size of the grounds. You can pick the size of the filter you want to use. You can set how many beans are ground for each shot. It’s just really rather amazing.
Grinding To A Halt
I know I just praised the grinding mechanism, but it’s still not the perfect coffee grinder. That doesn’t mean it won’t do the trick, but it does sometimes have trouble getting the beans from the canister to the grinding location, and then into the portafilter. It isn’t a problem that happens often, but when it does, it’s irritating to mess with if you’re tired and haven’t had your caffeine yet.
Tamp Without Looking
Once the beans are ground you’re moving on to what I think is the best feature of the BES870XL, the built-in tamper. Most lower end semi-automatics come with an external tamper, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years at the coffee shop it’s that a built-in tamper can save your day. It gives you more control, but more importantly it saves you from an unnecessary look in the dishwasher, cabinet drawer, kitchen bar, trash can, kids toy box… you get the picture. Maybe it’s just my chaotic me, but if I’m going semi-automatic, I’m going for one with a tamper on board.
More Controls, Easier to Use
One of the coolest things about the controls is not that it’s complicated to use, but that it’s actually super easy to use. Even coffee novices can figure this out and at least get something tasty even if they have a little more perfection to master. There aren’t a lot of people who say they can’t figure out this machine’s operation, but that has been a problem in the past with other machines I’ve seen. So I find that very promising.
Keep It Clean And You’ll Be Golden
You do have to clean the interior of this one, and you will have to spend some time cleaning all the pieces and parts to keep it up and running properly. But if you’re going to spend this much on an espresso machine, you should be prepared to keep it in tip top shape.
If you have the cash to spend and want some seriously good espresso, you have just found the perfect machine.