Breville BES870XL the Barista Express Espresso Machine Review for 2020

Breville Barista Express BES870XL Review

The Breville BES870XL, also known as the Barista Express, has become somewhat of a celebrity in recent years. But is it really worth all the hype?

We took an in-depth look at Breville and found some interesting features. It’s a semi-automatic espresso machine for personal and office use. And it’s the cheapest out of any high-end espresso machine.

Equipped with over 8 manual and automatic functions, the Breville is a great choice for those who like to stay in control. It gives you a maximum choice over your coffee’s taste and texture while keeping grinding and brewing automatic.

But if you’ve got a larger household to feed, then Breville is not for you. It’s also not very impact resistant. So if you drop it, you’re done for.

Is Breville worth your money? Scroll further to read the full in-depth Breville BES870XL review.

Is A Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine What You’re Looking For?

Breville-Semi-Automatic-Espresso-Machine
Breville Semi Automatic Espresso Machine

In a semi-automatic machine, everything is automated except for the extraction pump. You have to press a switch to activate or deactivate the pump. 

Since you’re in control of the pump, you get to decide how much water you want in your shot. This level of control is something that a super-automatic espresso machine won’t give you.

Some semi-automatic machines let you manually grind your coffee beans. But a lot of them have automatic grinders. And many don’t even come with a grinder built-in. 

A semi-automatic espresso machine is recommended if you want a decent amount of control. These machines still automate some processes, such as grinding and boiling. 

If you want just to leave the coffee machine to its own, then go for a super-automatic espresso machine. It does everything you need to do, including filtering, heating, grinding, and even pumping. 

Comparison Chart:

FeaturesBreville BES870XLRocket AppartamentoRancilio Silvia
Image
TasteBalanced tasteBalanced taste, may acquire a metallic flavorBalanced taste
Brewing capacity13 cups16 cups14 cups
User-friendlinessKnobs, buttons, gauge, easy-to-access steam wandKnobs, levers, gauge, harder to locate steam wandButtons, knob, gauge, easy-to-access steam wand
Design and materialsStainless steel, plasticStainless steel, chrome-plated brass, copperStainless steel, chrome-plated brass, brass
Cleaning and maintenanceEasy to descale, indicatorEasy to descale, no indicatorEasy to descale, no indicator
FrothingAngled stainless steel steam wandAngled stainless steel steam wandAngled stainless steel steam wand
GrindingAutomatic plus manual grinderNo grinderNo grinder
Additional featuresAuto shut-off, low-water indicator, multi-user programmableAuto shut-off, low-water indicator, multi-user programmableAuto shut-off, low-water indicator, multi-user programmable
Value for moneyMeets the valueExpensiveSlightly expensive
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The Breville BES870XL Review:

Pros

  • Great for latte art and frothing
  • Balanced taste with no brunt flavor
  • Familiar user-interface
  • Reduced initial cost
  • Two-in-one manual and automatic grinder
  • Highly durable and non-corrosive
  • Includes descaling and low-water level indicators
  • Best for personal use

Cons

  • Not for making espresso in bulk
  • Requires manual pumping
  • Not fully automated
  • It does not handle the blunt impact well

Taste:

Breville-Amazing-Taste
Breville Great Taste

Firstly, we have the taste of the coffee. Taste is quite hard to judge from just looking at the coffee maker itself. So we gave each coffee maker a try and checked for taste differences.

The Breville BES870XL uses a PID system to control the temperature. What this does is that it heats the water at precisely the right temperature. And this helps to seep out more taste from the espresso beans.

What makes the Breville taste so good is the use of the carbon-resin filter that filters the water. It brings out the best in your coffee beans and enriches them with their natural flavor.

There may be some underlying problems that can cause your coffee to taste bitter. But overall, we didn’t find any issues with the flavor of the coffee.

Similarly, the Silvia and the Rocket Appartamento brew their coffee at optimal temperatures. Special care is taken here to prevent the coffee from getting burnt. If done right, your coffee will end up tasting rich and robust each time you brew.

You may find some of the internal chrome plating flaking off in the Appartamento. It is a very rare occurrence, but it can give the water a slightly metallic taste. 

Brewing Capacity:

Breville Brewing Capacity
Breville Brewing Capacity

The Breville Barista Express is a two-cup espresso machine. This makes it the perfect brewing unit for personal and office use. In offices, where everyone makes coffee for themselves, the Breville Barista Express shines.

Moreover, this espresso machine can store up to 67 ounces of water. That’s about 13 customary coffee cups. So you only need to fill it up once or twice every day.

Adding to that, the Breville Espresso Machine features a bean hopper that can hold up to 0.5 lbs. of beans. It doesn’t accept coffee grounds – it’s only for whole coffee beans.

If you compare that to the Rocket Appartamento, you’ll see that the latter has a tank capacity of 84.53 fl. oz. That approximates to about 16 cups of coffee. The Appartamento certainly has more capacity than the Breville and requires lesser refills.

As for the Rancilio Silvia, its water reservoir can hold up to 74 fl. oz. of water, or make 14 cups. The difference of one cup isn’t too much to consider. 

Conclusively, the Appartamento is the giant out of the three. But capacity depends on consumption. If you’re buying it for personal use, you wouldn’t care how many cups your machine can make.

User-friendliness:

Breville User Friendliness
Breville User Friendliness

It is a broader term encompassing user-interface, automation, and accessibility. The Breville BES870XL has quite an interesting user-interface. It consists of push buttons and rotary dials. At the very front, you get a barometer that gauges pressure. 

You also get a steaming wand at the very forefront of the machine. But perhaps the most interesting feature here is the bean hopper. You can keep the beans locked in, or let them collapse down into a jar, all with the turn of one knob.

The Breville Barista Express has an automatic grinder. Which means that you don’t have to purchase a separate grinder for the machine. Furthermore, you can choose the ground texture via a simple rotating wheel.

Comparing these to the Appartamento, there isn’t much to offer. The interface is complicated and jam-packed. There are only two rotary wheels, one pressure gauge, and most of the interface is lever-based. It requires a lot of manual purging and steaming. 

For the Rancilio, the interface is a bit more modern but doesn’t provide as many controls. All three of the espresso machines feature automatic grinding. And almost everything is accessible from the front, save for the bean hopper and the reservoir.

Design and Materials:

Breville Design Materials
Breville Design Materials

Breville’s Barista Express uses a singular boiler, with the heaters placed inside the machine. The boiler is made of commercial-grade stainless steel, a component that is dust and water-proof. 

At the very top, you get a cup-warmer. Basically, you can place your hot coffee cups at the top of the machine, and the cups will be heated passively. 

Below the machine, you get a drip tray made from plastic. There is no reason to make this from stainless steel, as it’s just a waste of material. 

You get a conventional burr grinder inside the machine, with the bean hopper being made of hard plastic. 

Almost every component of the Breville espresso maker is made from stainless steel. It’s just the reservoir, drip tray, and bean hopper that are made from plastic.

You can see a similar trend when you look at the Rocket Appartamento, but not the same. The brew group is made from chrome-plated brass, while the brew boiler is made from copper. These materials are better in terms of impact resistance, but they increase the cost of the product.

The Rancilio uses a brass brew broiler and a chrome-plated brass brew group. Everything else on these machines is mostly stainless steel or plastic. 

Cleaning and Maintenance:

Breville Cleaning Maintenance
Breville Cleaning Maintenance

Cleaning is a critical part of owning and managing a coffee maker. And it’s this part that people get wrong. 

Descaling (or decalcification) is a major concern for coffee makers. The Breville BES870XL provides a very simple way to clean out the machine.

Simply add equal parts of water and white vinegar in the carafe. Then pour the mixture into the water tank and run a half brew cycle. Turn off the machine and complete the cycle after one hour.

This process isn’t too tough but takes some time to get used to. Everything in Breville is made of stainless steel. So most of the tubes do not resist descaling. 

In fact, you even get a descaling indicator to notify you when it’s time to descale. 

Contrary to that, neither the Rancilio nor the Appartamento comes with such an indicator. The descaling process is pretty much the same, however. Their interior uses much stainless steel as well, especially the steam wand. So cleaning and maintaining shouldn’t be an issue.

As for cleaning the exterior, all three of the coffee machines use a stainless steel casing. So most stains can simply be wiped off with a damp cloth.

Frothing:

Breville Frothing
Breville Frothing

The Breville Barista Express has a fully articulated stainless steel steam wand. Let’s break this down for you.

A fully articulated steam wand has two or more joints. It is the standard style of steam wands as it helps to direct the steam into a cup.

The wand’s shaft is angled to froth up a cup at the side. As for the actual frothing, the Breville gives a medium amount of foam. And it’s an excellent choice for latte art.

Stainless steel is the best material to use here, as the wand is exposed to the elements. It doesn’t rust, can resist impact quite well, and is very easy to clean. Simply wipe with a damp cloth.

A similar wand is used in both the Appartamento and the Rancilio. However, the wand in the Rancilio is not angled, which makes it awkward to froth milk. Furthermore, in the Appartamento, since there are so many levers, you won’t know which one is the steam wand. You need to read the manual to identify the parts. 

Overall, frothing and steaming are equally as splendid and qualitative in all the products. But it’s the interface that sets Breville above the rest.

Grinding:

Breville conical burr grinder
Breville conical burr grinder

Breville’s Barista Express uses a conical burr grinder. It is the most common type of grinder you see in most espresso machines. Burr grinders are the best for quickly grinding coffee beans.  

Burr grinders used in Breville’s products are exceptionally good at grinding the beans uniformly. So this means no clogging or clumpy textures. Plus, espresso requires a very fine grind, which the Breville’s grinder efficiently provides. 

The Breville features a grind size dial on one side. This dial can be used to change the coarseness or fineness of the grind. To be more specific, you can get up to 16 grinding textures with this dial.

What’s so good about the Breville Barista Express is that the burr grinder is 100% automatic. You can also use the grinding cradle to grind directly inside the port filter.

As for the other two coffee machines, they don’t have grinders. You need to buy their grinders separately. From Rancilio, the best grinder is the Rancilio Rocket doserless grinder. It grinds the coffee beans very finely, which is a requirement for making espresso.

The Rocket Appartamento is best paired with a Rocket Faustino grinder. All of these grinders give an excellent texture to the coffee beans.

Additional Features:

All Breville FeaturesSetting aside everything discussed above, there are a few special features of the Breville BES870XL. 

As far as safety features are concerned, the Breville is well-equipped. You get an automatic shut-off feature that switches the machine off once your coffee is brewed. There’s also a “Clean Me” light that indicates when you need to clean out the machine. 

The Breville will also warn you when you’re running out of the water and need to refill the reservoir. 

Programmability is a major feature of coffee machines nowadays. Breville’s Barista Express allows multiple users to program their coffee preferences as they wish.

One thing that we didn’t touch upon was the drip tray. It is a removable tray at the bottom of the Breville that catches dripping coffee. The drip tray has a stainless steel cover and a plastic body.

When you compare these features to the other two products, you start to see the pattern. All (decent) espresso machines have an auto shut-off function. The Rancilio and Appartamento are no different.

They both feature a low-water indicator and a stainless steel drip tray. The difference here is that the entire drip tray is made from stainless steel. 

Value for Money:

Lastly, we discuss whether the Breville BES870XL is worth the money or not. For this, we need to look at the overall quality, ease-of-use, and durability.

For quality, you can see how well the Breville has been constructed. Everything that needs to be made from metal is made from stainless steel. Notice how they cleverly use plastic for their drip tray instead of steel. Plastic is not known to rust and doesn’t need any special care. 

For ease-of-use, just take a look at the interface. You get a familiar setup, with knobs, buttons, and a gauge. Everything is easily accessible, right down to the steam wand and the drip tray.

And as far as durability is concerned, nothing beats stainless steel. It lasts longer and doesn’t corrode easily. However, it is more prone to impact damage. 

Looking at the other products, it becomes evident the Breville tops in many aspects. They don’t have a 100% stainless steel construction (and use steel in unnecessary places). 

The Appartamento doesn’t have a familiar interface. And the Rancilio doesn’t have many controls. And when you consider the fact that the grinder comes separate, the Breville is the cheapest option.

Who Should Buy The Breville BES870XL?

The Breville BES870XL is a semi-automatic espresso machine best for personal use. Use it in homes and residences. For offices, it is good for making up to two shots, since most people make their coffee for themselves. 

If you have a larger household and have to make multiple cups in one go, then go for a bigger espresso machine. Though it will be harder to find espresso machines that make more than 3-4 cups. 

Being semi-automatic, the Breville is for those who want more control. You get to control the extraction pump as well as the grinding speed. Plus, you can press and hold the grind button to manually grind the beans to the perfect texture.

The Breville provides an easier interface at a lower price. It’s high quality, and the brand has a good reputation as well as amazing customer service.

Who Shouldn’t Buy The Breville BES870XL?

People who have a larger household with multiple members drinking espresso shouldn’t buy the Breville. The tank has enough capacity for 13 cups, but you’ll have to run up to 7 brew cycles to empty the tank completely. 

Also, if you’re looking for a fully automated process, then don’t go for Breville. It’s semi-automatic, so there are still some manual aspects. For a fully automated experience, go for a super-automatic espresso machine.

Additionally, the Breville Barista Master is not impact-resistant. You’re unlikely to drop a 23-pound espresso machine on the floor. But if you do, Breville is likely to break.

Pros

  • Great for latte art and frothing
  • Balanced taste with no brunt flavor
  • Familiar user-interface
  • Reduced initial cost
  • Two-in-one manual and automatic grinder
  • Highly durable and non-corrosive
  • Includes descaling and low-water level indicators
  • Best for personal use

Cons

  • Not for making espresso in bulk
  • Requires manual pumping
  • Not fully automated
  • It does not handle the blunt impact well

FAQ For the Breville BES870XL:

Is Breville Barista Express worth it?

If you compare the features with the money you pay, the Breville pretty much makes up for the high price. It’s cheaper than most other espresso machines and has a more comfortable interface. 

Is Breville better than Cuisinart?

Every product from the two brands differs. One thing that Cuisinart’s higher-end products integrate is a digital display. It is missing on many of Breville’s products. The touch screen display may feel more comfortable for many people. But inevitably, it will cost you more. 

How do I fix the pressure on my Breville BES870XL espresso machine?

If the pressure is too low, check the reservoir and look for clogs. Potential clogs may be caused by the coffee itself being too much. 
If the espresso comes out too fast, there is a spectrum of problems. The coffee could be stale, or the grind could be too coarse.

The Verdict: 

So is the Breville BES870XL really worth it? When you compare it to the Rocket Appartamento and the Rancilio Silvia, there are some immediate pros and cons.

The biggest difference you’ll notice is the brewing capacity, price, and the interface. Breville is made for personal use, but it has some amazing features at an affordable price. And the interface is cleaner and easier to understand.

If you had to choose the other two, it would be either due to their increased capacity or the higher durability.

But like we always say, there’s a product made just for you. So make the right decision and choose your favorite espressos machine today!