Breville Barista Express Impress review: all hail this magical coffee machine

The Breville Barista Express Impress does not disappoint on usability, taste or looks.

5 Star Rating
silver coffee machine on countertop
(Image: © Future)

Top Ten Reviews Verdict

The Barista Express Impress is a genius espresso machine with a helpful degree of automation but plenty of ways to customize it—coffee fanatics will approve! Novices will have no problem mastering the process and can impress guests with their pro-barista skills in no time. It’s also very pleasing to the eye and produces truly outstanding coffee. It's expensive but worth every penny.

Pros

  • +

    Easy to use

  • +

    Coffee tastes amazing

  • +

    Looks professional

  • +

    Steam wand

Cons

  • -

    Burns through beans

  • -

    Hard to switch between filter basket sizes

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For serious coffee-nistas, the perfect Espresso is akin to the Holy Grail. The base of all great Americanos, café lattes, macchiatos, and flat whites, a strong Espresso delivers that caffeine hit like no other. Well, except a pure, unadulterated shot of Espresso, that is!

Generally, a truly exceptional shot of Espresso is only possible from a commercial machine, the type found only in decent coffee shops. The Breville Barista Express Impress Espresso Machine is a single-serve coffee maker that aims to bring pro-barista-grade espresso into your home without needing a training course or building a kitchen extension to accommodate it. 

Admittedly, finding your perfect grind level and shot size takes trial and error. Still, the Barista Express Impress Espresso Machine takes care of dosing, tamping, and temperature control for you. It also boasts a steam wand/milk frother and boiling water spout ­to create long drinks and fancier brews. 

This model is sold in the UK under Breville’s Sage brand, known as the Sage Barista Express Impress [BES876]. Does it live up to its name and impress us enough to secure entry into our best espresso machines or best coffee makers line-ups? Read on to find out.

Linda Clayton portrait
Linda Clayton

Linda is a freelance interior journalist who has tested many products for the past two decades, including home tech, gym equipment, garden tools, and even mattresses. Paid to sleep! She now works from home and is a dedicated caffeine addict.

As the type of person who can’t speak (or bear to be spoken to) before her first black Americano of the day, Linda was very excited to test out the Breville Barista Express Impress Espresso machine at her Devon home. Not least because her local award-winning coffee shop doesn’t open until 9.30 am, so she has usually been awake for three torturous hours. 

She put the Breville Barista Express Impress Espresso Machine to work for over a month and apologized to her local barista, Cath, for the lack of custom at that time!    

Breville Barista Express Impress: Key specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Row 0 - Cell 1
TypeBean-to-cup
Capacity67 ounces
Grinder?Yes
Frother?Yes
Dimensions14.9 x 12.9 x 16.1 inches

Breville Barista Express Impress: price & availability

The Breville Barista Express Impress Espresso Machine is pitched at the luxury end of the coffee machine market, with a price tag of $890 / £729.95. You can buy it directly from Breville or mainstream retailers like AmazonWalmart, and Best Buy.

Price: 5 out of 5

inside of cardboard box showing more cardboard boxes

The top layer of the box is neatly packaged. (Image credit: Future)

Breville Barista Express Impress: Setup

The Breville Barista Express Impress Espresso Machine is a bit of a tongue twister – don’t try saying it after too many coffees – so I’ll start by shortening it to Express Impress. Upon opening the Express Impress box, which was exquisitely put together with neat little boxes for all the tools and accessories, it was love at first sight. 

If you are familiar with bean-to-cup machines, you will probably not be fazed by the array of accessories and components required to use and maintain this machine – a lot of it is cleaning-related. The Express Impress comes with a 250g bean hopper, steel portafilter, steel milk jug, water filter holder with filter, four filter baskets (different sizes), cleaning tablets, a dose trimming tool, Allen key, cleaning tool for the steam wand, cleaning disc, descaling powder, and cleaning brush.

silver coffee machine on counter with accessories laid out

Box contents (Image credit: Future)

Luckily, all you need to get your head around in the first instance is installing the filter into the water tank, attaching the hopper, and ensuring you have your preferred filter basket in the portafilter. It comes with the 2-cup single wall basket (for grinding whole beans) installed, which, happily, is the one I wanted to try first. 

As a bean-to-cup novice (I’ve only used tested one before – Smeg’s BCC02 Bean to Cup – which is fully automatic), I was very grateful to spot the Quick Start Guide. This one-page guide will get you to your first brew in 9 steps, and there’s also helpful advice on the back about how to adjust the grind size to ensure the results are the best they can be! 

Unless you need caffeine or a bean-to-cup pro, I recommend digesting the full instruction manual before you start. It’s extremely well written and easy to follow, with handy tips and explanations in bite-size nuggets that shouldn’t bamboozle even the simplest of folk (me).  

quick start guide and coffee filter on countertop

(Image credit: Future)

Breville Barista Express Impress: Design

This is a seriously good-looking machine that feels solidly built (and heavy, in a good way) thanks to its brushed stainless steel construction. Admittedly, Express Impress is big if upgraded from a filter or pod coffee machine. It doesn’t swallow up too much space on the countertop and should just about tuck under wall cabinets. And while it may be heavy, it does slide forward easily if you can’t quite get to the water reservoir at the back.

As well as looking good, the design is also very thoughtfully done so that the coffee-making process is intuitive and moves from left to right across the machine from grinding and tamping to brewing and, finally, milk frothing. The water tank is easy to undock from the back, or you can leave it in situ as there’s ample room to pour in water with a jug. 

The components have a nice feel—the tamper arm moves smoothly and feels high quality, for example. The buttons are nice to press, with a reassuring click, and the LEDs are bright, so they can be clearly seen even in strong sunlight. Breville’s design team deserves a nice pat on the back. 

Breville Barista Express Impress: Performance

As a semi-automatic machine, the Express Impress aims to please both bean-grinding professionals and complete novices. As someone who falls into the latter camp, I can confirm that it succeeded, just not the first time. 

Working out how to use the Express Impress is impressively easy. In a nutshell, you select the basket size you want, one cup or two (making sure you have the corresponding size filter basket in the portafilter), and check the AUTO button is lit. Then, you slide the portafilter under the grinder and press DOSE. Next, you go into full Barista Mode with a swing of the tamp lever (so satisfying) and repeat until the dose level hits the “ideal” line. Move the portafilter to the group head (slide right to lock it in place) and select one cup or two.   

close up of control panel on coffee machine

The main controls. (Image credit: Future)

For me, the tricky part was working out the correct grind size. If the grind is too coarse, the water will just whizz through without properly extracting any flavor = weak, sad coffee. Too fine, and it won’t drip through enough, and you’ll end up with bitter, sad coffee that melts the enamel from your teeth. I went through a LOT of coffee beans before I found the dream grind size (level 10, FYI – but that info won’t help you as different beans will produce different results). It didn’t help that I always went for a two-cup payload because I like my coffee stronger than The Hulk. The one-cup basket/button would have been a savvier move, wastage-wise. 

side view of steel coffee machine close up

Side view showing grinder control and tamp lever (Image credit: Future)

The good news is, once you’ve established your perfect ground size, the auto dose system will ensure subsequent grinds produce the same amount, and (unless you change beans) it should take just one or two tamps to fill the portafilter basket to the correct level. While I had to refer to the Quick Start guide a couple of times, the process soon became second nature. It’s so simple. My nine-year-old daughter learned how to make me a coffee in one demo. 

I didn’t let her use the steam wand, partly for safety reasons but mainly because I didn’t want her to steal my fun! Used for texturing milk (aka heat it/make it frothy), the wand is a breeze and is perfect for producing creamy lattes, etc. We also used it to make the most deliciously velvety hot chocolate. Word of warning: The steam wand is ear-splittingly high-pitched, so be prepared for dogs to come running from several miles away! It measured up to 88dB on my sound meter App, similar to a train whistling past. The regular coffee-making process is much more kinder on the ears at around 57-60dB.

coffee machine with cup of coffee in front

The steam wand at the side produces a lovely frothy top. (Image credit: Future)

There’s also a hot water spout for turning that espresso into an Americano, but as our boiling water tap sits next to the Express Impress, I tend to save the water tank supplies and use the tap instead. Not that the water tank is hard to refill. It slots on and off and has a robust handle, or you can just lift the lid in situ and fill it with a jug. It holds a decent amount, so you don’t feel constantly refilling. 

One slightly tricky issue I had was switching between one and two-cup filter baskets. I changed from the two-cup basket to a single when I realized how fast the beans went. First, I needed a knife to wedge the basket out of the portafilter and nearly lost a fingernail. Secondly, the Auto Dose button kept overfilling the basket, which meant a lot of grounds had to be scraped off with The Razor trimming tool (included) = which was messy and wasteful. It took four coffees before the machine adjusted to supplying one cup, not two, but it got there in the end.

coffee filter against marble backdrop

The portafilter with a neat puck of grounds (Image credit: Future)

Once I’d found my sweet spot on the grind size situation, the Breville Barista Express Impress produced the best coffee I have ever tried in my home. I used my favorite Devonian beans, locally roasted by No. 1 Coffee, which are fresh and extremely good. Breville recommends always buying beans with the roasted-by date on the bag rather than use-by, so you can be sure of freshness.

For strong coffee fans (me), the 2-cup (double espresso) option was A-MAZING. The coffee was robust but not bitter and had a nice crema covering on top, even after I made it into an Americano by adding hot water. The 1-cup (single espresso) option is better suited to those who prefer weaker coffee, but it is still full-flavored and easily identified as freshly ground coffee. I say that because I have tried bean-to-cup coffee that’s so weak and tasteless it could be Instant!

As this is an espresso machine, you only get two options – single or double espresso, so don’t expect a complex menu of iced drinks, long brews, etc. However, with the steam wand, you can go full barista with all milk or milk substitute blends. It produces a lovely fluffy top, just like you’d get from Starbucks et al. I also used it to make hot chocolates by mixing chocolate powder with a little boiling water, then adding steamed milk made smooth and frothy using the Express Impress. Delicious. 

Performance: 5 out of 5

coffee machine pouring coffee into mug

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Breville Barista Express Impress?

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Score card
AttributeNotesScore
PriceExpensive but fairly priced. You get what you pay for.★★★★★
DesignJust beautiful – in shape, style and finish. All the buttons feel nice to use, the tamper is solidly constructed and moves smoothly★★★★★
PerformanceOnce you’ve got it set up to suit your preferences, it delivers consistently great coffee, mug after mug★★★★★

Buy it if...

You are deadly serious about coffee

There’s no doubt that Express Impress produces truly excellent coffee fast, and you get to enjoy all the banging, tamping, steaming, and frothing fun of a pro barista. 

You love a latte

The steam wand is wasted on black coffee drinkers like me, but this machine will deliver if you love a thick head of frothy coffee.

You are a perfectionist

Those with exacting tastes will appreciate the option to manually control the grind dose and extraction time/quantities.

Don't buy it if...

You are impatient

The Express Impress’ Auto modes make life easy, but this is not a simple press-and-go machine.

You've no time for care and maintenance

The conical burrs (in the grinder), tamp system, steam wand, and drip tray all need regular TLC to keep that fresh coffee coming.

How does the Breville Barista Express Impress compare?

There is a lot to love about the Breville Barista Express Impress Espresso Machine, except for its price tag. If you want to save a few dollars and a little space on your countertops, you might prefer the Breville Infuser BES840XL. It has a similar look and the same built-in pressure gauge and milk frother, but it does not have a built-in grinder, so you’d also need to add a grinder to your shopping basket.

For pod-friendly espresso, it’s hard to beat the Nespresso CitiZ&milk C122. It makes great-tasting espresso without the mess of grinding or tamping and has a milk frother on the side. However, you will miss out on the fun of pretending to be a barista!

How I tested the Breville Barista Express Impress

  • Tested over a month, using the machine several times daily
  • Replaced a Nespresso pod machine
  • Used every setting and tool available

I tested this espresso machine for over a month, trying out both cup sizes, the Auto and Manual settings, and the milk texturizing wand. I also taught my daughter to use it, and my brother-in-law, who stayed with us for a few days, found it easy to master.

I used a sound meter App on my phone to record noise levels, and many friends to quality-check the results! Despite being far quicker and easier, I wasn’t even tempted to revert to my regular Pod machine once during the testing period. 

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: August 2023
Linda Clayton
Contributor

Linda Clayton is a professionally trained journalist, and has specialised in product reviews, interiors and fitness for more than two decades. Linda has written for a wide range of publications, from the Daily Telegraph and Guardian to Homes & Gardens and Livingetc. She has been freelancing for Future Publishing (and its predecessors) since 2006, covering design trends, home makeovers, product reviews and much more.