The Breville Barista Express is a certified classic espresso machine. Is it still the exciting way to jump into espresso that you know and love? Let’s look at this machine and some of the competition and find out!

The Barista Express

If you’re not familiar, the Barista Express is an all-in-one espresso machine from Breville. What does that mean? This machine is both an espresso maker and an espresso grinder in one unit. You can grind and brew all with one machine. While it still requires you to operate each piece of the machine yourself, combining both of these pieces of the espresso setup puzzle makes for a compelling option for anyone new to espresso. 

The grinder on the Barista Express is similar to Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro in terms of performance. It offers great grinds for the espresso machine part of the Barista Express, and can grind effectively for drip coffee in a pinch. You can also remove the burrs for cleaning, meaning you won’t be limited in your bean selection by needing to avoid oily beans. All of that said, it can be tricky to dial the grinder in, and takes practice to get your shots just right.

The espresso part of the Barista Express is a very solid, if basic, espresso brewer. With pressurized and unpressurized baskets included, you can even get pretty into tweaking the flavor of your shots. The hot water spout on newer models is a great addition too, allowing you to make americanos right from the unit. Steam power from the steaming wand is passable, but it doesn’t offer any automation and won’t offer the speed you’ll get from more expensive machines.

The boiler has a PID controller for temperature for well regulated brewing. You can also program shots volumetrically, making this machine a great choice for a repeatable shot of espresso in the morning. Unfortunately, due to the combined While you might not get the same degree of temperature and pressure stability in this machine as you would with a higher cost machine, it’s still a good choice for getting started.

Is There a Better Option?

The real question we’re looking to answer here is, is there a better starter espresso machine option for you? The answer, as usual, is “maybe”. If you’re wanting to get a good machine and grinder combo that will last several years for simple, repeatable use, the Barista Express is still one of the best options. It’s a simple setup that allows you to learn to brew without having to shop for multiple pieces of equipment. But depending on your goals for your home espresso brewing there may be better options.

One downside to an all-in-one machine is that it discourages upgrading your grinder. We often consider the grinder to be the most important part of an espresso setup. In fact, upgrading to a higher quality grinder often breathes new life into entry level equipment. While you can use any grinder with a Barista express, the machine takes up enough room that it can be inconvenient to.

A machine like the Solis Barista Perfetta, or Breville’s own Bambino, could be better for you. These machines are affordable and standalone, requiring a grinder purchase but working well with entry level espresso grinders like the Smart Grinder Pro and Eureka Mignon Notte

It’s also worth noting that if you want prosumer performance from your brewer, you may want to look into offerings from Diletta, Rocket Espresso, and Rancilio.

With all of that said, the Barista Express remains a perfect machine for many new users. You just have to determine if the limitations it has are something you can work with.