Our reviewer was sent a sample of the Breville Barista Express Impress to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our product review.
The Breville Barista Express Impress Espresso Machine may be built for beginners but it has enough customization for an advanced barista experience.
Despite churning out lattes, cappuccinos, and afternoon espressos in an early aughts Starbucks, I’m slightly terrified of pulling shots of espresso at home. Years of coffee writers dictating how slightly-off tamping or not-completely-right grinds will forever ruin your faith in coffee machinery may have also led me to simply hand over $5 for my morning lattes. As the last person who would ever own an espresso machine, I didn’t expect Breville to rescue me from my fears and reignite my love of freshly-pulled espresso, but here I am, pretending I’m at an Italian caffè bar because of the new Barista Express Impress. Here’s why.
Breville the Barista Express Impress
Easy for beginners to make great espresso
Machine has an internal feedback loop
Ability to customize grind, tamping, and extraction
Internal tamper = no mess on your counters
Have to guess espresso cup placement
#1 The Automation
The best part of this machine is the automation. Out of the box, it’s pretty primed to make you a great shot of espresso, even if you’ve never touched an espresso machine before. Part of this automation is tamping, a point in espresso-making where it’s very easy to mess up. It’s the evening out of your espresso grinds once they’re in your portafilter, to create the “puck.” Tamp too light and/or unevenly, and the water won’t be able to fully saturate your grinds. Tamp too hard and you might end up with a too-bitter espresso. One of the only ways to figure out how hard you’re tamping is to literally push down on a scale, which seems like a lot of extra work for an afternoon latte.
So Breville automated this part of the process. The big cylindrical part of the machine is the tamper. Press down on the slot machine arm, the interior mechanism tamps the espresso into the puck, and if everything is right, you’ll light up the scale to the smiley face. If the tamp doesn’t light up to the correct line (under-dose) or goes too far (over-dose), it gives feedback to itself so everything should autocorrect for next time. I found it did take a couple of attempts to recalibrate, especially when you're changing beans, so expect to have to sacrifice a shot or two.
#2 The Grind
Having a coffee machine with its own built-in grinder is truly one of the world’s ultimate luxuries. No more fine coffee grinds on your countertop or a mess of grinds all over the kitchen floor at 6 am. And, not only does this espresso machine have a built-in grinder, it has so many grind settings that you can fully customize your final cup.
Not only does this espresso machine have a built-in grinder, it has so many grind settings that you can fully customize your final cup.
I spoke to another editor for The Spruce Eats who has owned the previous, non-auto version for about three years and uses it at least twice a day. One massive problem with it, he says, is the mess. Despite the built-in grinder, you end up with grinds overflowing everywhere—unless you buy some add-ons (a dosing filter). This one is perfectly clean.
Since the tamping and dosing are automated with regular feedback to the machine, you can play around with the grind size to start your barista journey. You have 25 options to choose from, all via an internal burr grinder. My machine is currently set to a faster extraction, which the tamp accounts for, and makes a shot of espresso in seconds. Once you figure out where your happiness lies, then you can level up to advanced barista and start experimenting with manual modes.
#3: The Coffee
Let’s be honest, all of this automation and customization would be useless if the machine wasn’t able to get enough pressure to give you great coffee. Thankfully, it does. All nine bars of pressure extract the perfect shot with thick, rich crema. While that’s pulling, you can easily figure out how to froth up milk, as a true beginner tester did (and yes, any milk, I tried plant-based ones, too).
It was the final shots that led my fellow tester and I to discover one of the machine’s only flaws—there are no markings or indents on the drip tray for cup placement. The two holes in the drip tray do line up to where the espresso would drip straight down, but not placing our mugs perfectly led to some splattering and drips down the side. As we drink more morning lattes, I’m sure we’ll perfect even that.
All nine bars of pressure extract the perfect shot with thick, rich crema.
One final note...
This is not a cheap machine by any means. At around $900, it's certainly an investment. Still, all of the testers agreed that its usability, customization, and performance make it a worthwhile splurge.
Buy this, even if you’re a beginner.
Easy-to-use and brews up great espresso, the Breville Barista Express Impress is truly an impressive espresso machine.
Price at time of publish: $900
Product Name: The Barista Express Impress Espresso Machine
Product Brand: Breville
Dimensions: 12.9 x 14.9 x 16.1 inches
Hopper Capacity: 250 grams
Reservoir Capacity: 2 liters
Power: 1850 watts
Warranty: 2 years
What’s Included: 54 millimeter stainless steel portafilter, 480 milliliter stainless steel milk jug, the Razor precision trimming tool, cleaning tablets, steam wand cleaning tool, cleaning disc, cleaning brush, descale powder
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Siobhan Wallace is a commerce editor with The Spruce Eats. She's also a former barista and still loves an afternoon latte.