Breville BES860xl Espresso Machine Review

Scouting around Amazon as I do of a lunch time, spying on espresso machines, I noticed this Breville espresso machine had a substantial 49 240 customer reviews and almost 100% from them all.

This Breville Barista Express is like the big sister of the smaller, cheaper and ever popular (and cheaper) Breville Cafe Roma.

What have I been missing out on here?

An espresso machine with a grinder that’s what. Also referred to as an automatic espresso machine and all for less than $600 with free shipping.

(Amazon’s discount prices change daily so check out the sale price for this item right now by clicking here.)

Breville Espresso Machine Review – Let’s dig a bit deeper

There is just something about a beautiful machine, in this case the Breville Barista Express that just, well, makes me suspicious.

Now stay with me here, I know it makes sense that the maker of these machines go out of their way to create a work of art, after all I think we are all in agreement that the end product, the perfect shot, is after all an artful thing.

It’s when they start adding all kinds of un-needed gizmos and screens and whatnot that it starts to become a mess. Fortunately for us, this is not such a machine.

Look at it. It’s lovely. My favorite piece, the draw pressure gauge, oh but it’s attractive. So is it in fact the ultimate espresso machine for your hard earned money? Well, I don’t know, but since you asked, follow along and let’s try and find out.

Ok, before I get ahead of myself let’s take a closer look shall we?

THE BREVILLE BARISTA EXPRESS ESPRESSO MACHINE

I mentioned before that the Barista Express is beautiful. While this may be subjective, it is hard to argue with stainless steel, a clear top fed bean hopper, and the symmetrical face not to mention that lovely analog pressure gauge. I’m not a fan of digital screens at all.

In the same way that an elegant analog timepiece is considered by most to be a suggestion of class when compared to a digital watch, in my opinion at least going the extra mile to include the “proper” indicator on an otherwise classy machine pays dividends.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

From my research, the opinions of those who own this machine are very well expressed. It would appear that the average buyer of this machine is very well thought out, methodical and informed which is to be expected when you consider that this is not an inexpensive machine. In other words, I don’t take their opinions lightly, and it wasn’t always pretty. That said I came away with a positive impression of how this machine operates and what can be expected in terms of performance.

A number of times it was mentioned that a pre-heating of your demitasse, as well as a pre-heat of the group head was critical for some users. Just running a water cycle into your cup before starting will kill all the birds that you need to kill with one stone. Other things cited were the necessity to keep the machine, and included grinder absolutely clean.

The grinder, one person stated, was difficult to clean. This can be off-putting to people who don’t have the time or patience but if you are the meticulous type like me, this can be a positive attribute. Oily beans and any accidental drops of water in the bean hopper can create havoc too, so you’ll do well to keep that in mind. Beans with high oil content are preferred by many, but a middle ground of 1:1 ratio oily beans/dry roast was found.

With all of the complaining out of the way, I can finally let you in on the good news. The machine makes FABULOUS espresso. According to every consumer report that I reviewed the customer found that the machine made either incredible espresso straight away or that with some practice they learned the machine and then got proper results.

One thing that I read that I liked in particular was that the switchgear, that is to say the buttons and knobs and whatnot were pleasing to the touch. So often, this is not the case. Honestly, the worst thing in my opinion, maybe even worse than bad espresso, is when you push a button or switch and the machine scoots across the countertop.

Oh, do I hate that. I’m happy to report that this is not the case here.

IS THERE A WARRANTY?

One year limited warranty. Extended warranties are available from participating websites.

THE BREVILLE COMPANY

Breville was founded in 1932 and is based in Sydney, Australia. They also maintain a U.S. office in Los Angeles. Their basic design theory is to “…engineer kitchen tools to deliver commercial quality performance that looks great and are easy to use. We are passionate about listening to what obstacles the home chef encounters and creating a simple solution.”

I would have liked a more thorough background on the company, Breville has been around for some time, and I for one would like to hear their story. They appear to be a fairly active company with a Facebook & Twitter presence.

BREVILLE MISSION STATEMENT

“To design the best kitchen tools in the world.”

Simple, if underwhelming, from here they go on to list the other products that they make; juicers, coffee makers, blenders etc… To my knowledge Breville does not make commercial products, for those who care about such things.

EXPLORING THE COMPANY WEBSITE

The website is straightforward, and has links to their Facebook & Twitter pages, but what I want to focus on here is their “Living Manual” area.

It’s obvious from their video production quality and extensive depth that this is the meat & potatoes of the site. The layout is clean, and there’s no question that they have put time and thought into this.

I’m not sure if they meant this as a selling point, or just for owners but either way it’s great, and you’d be missing out if you owned the machine and didn’t find your way here.

Under the table of contents, you will find:

SET IT UP

  • Disassemble & Wash
  • Reassemble
  • Prime the Machine
  • The Brew Function

USE IT

  • Water Flow
  • The Right Temperature
  • Making Espresso
  • The Wet Puck
  • The Coffee & Its Grind
  • Tamping the Coffee
  • Making Cappuccino & Latte
  • Froth vs. Foam
  • The Stream Wand
  • Steaming/Frothing Milk
  • “Pull, Steam, Froth” Video
  • Latte Art
  • Recipes

CARE FOR IT

  • After Every Use
  • As Needed
  • Inbuilt Cleaning Cycles
  • Two Months: Replace Water Filter
  • Three Months: Decalcify
  • Conical Burr Grinder

KEEP IT UP

  • Troubleshooting
  • Technical Specifications
  • Safety Instructions
  • Accessories & Replacement Parts

There are some videos here and some animated thumbnails. You will also find a really neat screen that shows the Barista Express with boxes over the features of the machine, when you place your mouse cursor over one of the boxes you get a pop-up that explains what that feature does. The page is interactive, it’s in the beta stage but it seems well polished and full of info, check it out.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

The Barista Express comes with a decent kit of accessories; many machines come with almost nothing so this is rather refreshing.

  • Dual Wall – Single Shot Filter
  • Dual Wall – Double Shot Filter
  • Single Wall – Single Shot Filter
  • Single Wall – Double Shot Filter
  • Portafilter
  • Frothing Jug
  • Froth Enhancer
  • Steam Wand Tip
  • Cleaning Tool
  • Hexagon (Allen) Key
  • Coffee Spoon
  • Bean Hopper
  • Bean Hopper Lid
  • Tamper
  • Cleaning Brush
  • Drip Tray
  • Drip Tray Grille
  • Storage Tray
  • Rubber Cleaning Disc
  • Espresso Machine Cleaning Tablets
  • Water Tank
  • Charcoal Water Filter Holder Handle
  • Charcoal Water Filter
  • Charcoal Water Filter Mesh

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS:

WEIGHT

The Barista Express weighs in at 24.7 pounds which is nice; this should keep the machine from doing the aforementioned, dreaded countertop slide.

WATER TANK & BEAN HOPPER CAPACITY

The water tank holds 67 oz. and features a charcoal filtration system. The bean hopper holds 8 oz. of beans.

*Note- I read a couple of times that the hopper would benefit from walls that were a little “steeper” as the beans sometimes do not gravity feed as well as they could.

WHAT ABOUT THE PUMP?

The pump is listed as 15 bar designed and made in Italy. This should be more than capable for our purposes.

IS IT STURDY?

Their site only says stainless steel housing. Shame really, I’d like to know more about that switchgear and hopper. The buttons and dial on the side appear to be stainless, but I’m not sure. I’d also like to know if the bean hopper is made of glass or plastic and if the cover of the draw pressure gauge is glass or plastic as well. To me these things play a big role in quality.

HOW BIG IS IT?

The Barista Express measures in at H 13 1/4” W 11 1/2” D 14 1/2” placing it in the mid-size category.

*NOTE- In depth specs on this machine are not available.

WHERE CAN I GET THE BEST PRICE FOR THE BES860XL?

As usual, my research showed that Amazon have the best deal

FINAL WORD

In reviewing what has been written here I want to emphasize that the opinions of those who own this machine are objective. The overwhelming opinion is that it is a four to five star product capable of espresso and associated beverages that rival anything else, and while there are some quirks, I can’t help but root for this machine.

The Breville Barista Express is countertop jewelry; works very well, is useable by both the beginner and the experienced enthusiast and is relatively affordable. You may have noticed, or maybe you haven’t, but I am a little picky when it comes to espresso makers, and I am in fact in the market for a new one.

Therefore, suspicions appeased, and artsy design confirmed (did I mention that gauge?) this could be my next maker.

Comments

  1. says

    Great review, Keith!

    I own the Barista Express and it is awesome! You can’t go wrong with this one.

    I found this espresso machine in 2010 and “pooled my resources” to get it as a Christmas gift from my family. I had never made a shot of espresso before this machine, so there was a bit of a learning curve for me to undersand the concepts of making good shots and some of the foundational techniques.

    That said, I loved practicing and learning so much that I created an entire website centered around this machine. I filmed video tutorials and training in hopes of inspring others to find the joy in making their own espresso drinks at home. Check it out at: DIY Espresso Drinks.

    PROS:
    - High quality, Solid construction
    - Integrated grinder is PERFECT for small kitchens
    - Makes great espresso

    This is a great product!! Thanks for the review.

    • Keith says

      Hey Ben,

      Love your website. Great videos and it is definitely a great machine.

      cheers,
      Keith

  2. Ara A says

    I just bought this machine 2 nights ago. The wife and I set it up following the instructions (very well written).
    I made 8 cups of espresso using the double filter (for novices to start with). Very easy and GREAT espresso!!!!
    I recently went to Italy and missed drinking fine espresso,, so after much research, bought this machine. It is obviously very well made.
    So far I’m very happy.

    • Keith says

      Great stuff Ara A. Glad you’re enjoying the machine. Isn’t it nice to be able to make espresso at home.

  3. Mike in NJ says

    One question: what is the boiler made of? I’m torn between this machine and the Rancilio Silvia… that one has a brass boiler, and that sounds great to me.

  4. Keith says

    Good question Mike. The boiler in the Breville Barista Express is a steel “Thermoblock”. This means that the water is heated in a multi channel metal block with an exterior element. The Rancilio boiler is one of it’s best features and being made of brass is indeed tempting.

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