on 2 December 2013
Wow, I am impressed! I've always searched the market for an espresso machine that would look and perform like a commercial one and unfortunately I never came across one and so I ended up buying several DeLonghi machines over the last 15 years.
This is a Breville BES870XL, it's sold in the UK under the brand name Sage and I assume it's a new product to the UK (I might be wrong but I never saw Breville espresso machines before on Amazon UK). To make it short as soon as I saw this machine (after checking several positive reviews) I had to buy it.
The Barista Espresso is well built, solid, elegant, looks like a commercial machine, sounds like one and it makes really good coffee...milk too comes out perfectly! This machine is a world apart from anything I've used so far.
It's not easy to use, I'm still working hard to get the right shot every time, right in the middle of the recommended extraction zone, every shot varies depending on grind size, tamper pressure and coffee type, but the machine gives lots of feedback so whenever I get the right balance coffees and cappuccinos taste extremely good...I trust that with time it'll get a lot easier, for now I don't mind having to experiment with the Barista.
The Barista is fully configurable: grind size, grind amount (automatic or manual), coffee shot volume, H2O temperature, manual or automatic shot, hot water dispenser, commercial 360 steam wand, pressure dispersion between steam and shot operation, pre-infusion, pressure gauge, automatic stand-by........every function is thought with every-day use in mind!
Only defect I noticed so far is the need for tall espresso cups as the coffee tends to dribble in a fairly unstable fashion making it difficult to get all of it into a short or narrow cup, this is not really a defect as the distance from tray to portafilter is designed with enough clearance to accommodate mugs. The problem is easily solved by using more appropriate cups or with the help of a raising block. Apart from this minor annoyance, the machine is very functional, the very well designed drip tray catches any drop, steam or coffee residue and it's easy to remove and clean, it even tells when it needs emptying!
Build quality is outstanding, no plastic here! It looks the part and it simply is a beautiful object.
I cannot comment on reliability as I just purchased the Barista. Every other espresso machine I've owned had to be replaced every couple of years (regardless of care taken). I would like the Barista to last in the order of 4-5 years considering it costs considerably more than the average machine. Sage gives 2 years warranty, reviews on the web are good and Breville has been around for ever....so I can only hope for a long-lasting experience.
Definitely recommended to coffee lovers who are looking for a serious upgrade from the average espresso machine!
NB: to comment on previous reviews - the UK version DOES come with 2 extra pressurized (double wall) baskets and you CAN control the pre-infusion time when in manual shot.
To avoid coffee grounds going everywhere use the manual dosing function (grind and tamp, grind a bit more coffee and tamp, and so on until you have the right dose in the basket...voila', no more mess!).
Update: I bought taller espresso glasses and they solved the splashing issue, also the crema looks amazing in the glass!
The machine does warm up very quickly, however I've measured extraction temperature after 5, 15 and 30min from switching it on; there is a substantial difference between the 5 min and 15 min point, then it plateaus. In all cases, a flush to warm up group and portafilter before a shot makes a big difference on extraction temperature.
I've tried several type of freshly roasted beans and they all required adjustment of the grind setting, however the most used seems to be #4.
With this machine forget pre-ground coffee or supermarket beans, you must use freshly roasted beans from an online roaster (there are several in the UK), or the machine will simply amplify the shortcomings of stale coffee.
Also, at bottom of partafilter there is a plastic disc that apparently has no function beside that of collecting dirt, I have removed it and performance is unaffected (I've searched the web but nobody seems to have a clear idea about it's function, many suggest removing it).
All-in-all, machine is excellent but it does involve a long learning curve especially if, like me, you were used to buying pre-ground supermarket coffee, slap it in a DeLonghi and hope for the best!
New update: I have taken 1 star away from my review because 1)when changing coffee type sometimes the new correct grind setting falls in between two numbers, however incorporated grinder is not stepless and it doesn't allow fine tuning. 2)extraction needle sometimes shows correct extraction and yet brewing time is less than 20sec (resulting in a mediocre shot). 3)Machine is so sensitive that it's difficult to get good consistent results (this is particularly noticeable when changing coffee type).
Tip: to get a feeling for how much is 15-20kg of tamping force use a bathroom weigh scale!
Final Update: After chasing the perfect shot for nearly a month I gave up and the Barista is going back to Amazon. I honestly think this is a beautiful machine and it has lots of functions found only in much more expensive equipment, however I believe it's also a very sensitive and unforgiving machine which requires a very steep learning curve, made even steeper by what is in my opinion a poor grinder. I still think it deserves 4 stars, it's simply not for me! Instead I opted for a Baratzo Vario grinder with a Gaggia Classic which, in fact, turned out to be a much more effective and scalable combo.