Semi-automatic espresso machines remain the most popular type of espresso machine on the market, but it can sometimes be hard to find a machine that shows equal commitment to not only the shot quality, but also some useful added features and convenience.
If you want extra features, one usually has to look among the super-automatics instead, but that often means sacrificing some of the control you have over the espresso shots.
The Breville BES870XL Barista offers the best of both worlds, combining a superior brew quality found with the best semi-automatic machines, with some integrated features that make the entire espresso experience a lot more convenient.
And the best part? You can have all of this for under $600.
The Breville BES870XL Barista certainly looks the part. You get a mixture of vintage and contemporary, which is highlighted by the white pressure gauge in the center, flanked by various buttons and alert indicators.
The interface is smooth and uncluttered, with just enough room for the portafilter, steam wand, grind dispenser, and tamper.
The bean hopper on top gives the Barista more of a tue coffee shop look, and you can get the machine in four different colors: black, red, and stainless steel. The stainless steel version is the most sharp in our opinion, and fits the design well.
The Barista heats up quickly, thanks to a 15 bar Italian pump and 1600W thermo coil heating system. It’s definitely capable of making several drinks quickly, depending on if you’ve filled the water reservoir to capacity.
Preparing your shots is quite simple with this machine, and that’s largely due to the very convenient built-in burr grinder that lets you grind the beans directly into the portafilter basket. Simply place it in the dispenser, set the grind and amount, and you’re good to go after a few seconds.
Another convenient feature is the tamper that is literally inside of the machine thanks to a magnet. You just pull out the specially-fitted tamper, give the grounds a press, and the portafilter is ready to brew.
During the shot-pulling process, the pressure gauge keeps you informed so you can lock in and brew consistent shots each time you use it. You can choose between 30ml single or 60ml double shot amounts.
Water temperatures can be adjusted as well, allowing you to fine tune each shot depending on the beans and your preferences.
The BES870XL Barista’s water tank is completely removable for both easy filling and cleaning when needed. It also comes with a built-in filter that helps stave off any mineral buildup inside the machine, giving it some added protection in between descaling cycles, and ensuring each shot taste its best.
The post-brewing process is nice and easy, mainly due to the portafilter and grouping drawing excess moisture out of the grounds puck after the shots are pulled, making cleanup quick.
As for the bottom portion, the BES870XL Barista includes a removable drip tray that accommodates wet spills and any grounds that find their way in. There’s even a handy indicator light that will tell you when it’s reached capacity.
The underneath the drip tray is a spot to store the portafilter and some smaller accessoires, keeping everything tidy.
The external water spout is located off to the side and out of the way. Some other solid features the BES870XL Barista offers include customizable shot settings, auto-purging, and some other alert indicators, with the most helpful one being a cleaning light cycle.
That’s a lot of features for a semi-automatic.
First and foremost, the Barista is a high quality Breville espresso machine. This company has a well earned reputation for consistently putting out great products that all focus on the actual shot pulling as the main priority. That’s definitely on full display here.
Even without all the extra features, this would still be a superb espresso machine capable of providing consistently superior beverages for years to come.
That said, we do have some favorites to talk about.
The grinder function is awesome. Grinding beans for espresso machines can be one of the most annoying parts about the whole process. There’s no way to do it without a mess, and having to create space for a grinder is bothersome.
The Barista completely eliminates that problem, letting you grind right into the portafilter basket, inches from the grouping.
The magnetized tamper is a nice inclusion as well. We love how it goes inside the machine, and can be pulled out when needed for a quick tamp, and then put back in.
And of course, we must mention the dry puck after brewing, helping avoid another common annoyance with espresso machines. Easy grinding, easy tamping, easy cleanup -- it’s hard to ask for more.
It’s really hard to find any faults with the Barista, but there is one thing we’d like to see changed.
The water tank is a little smaller than most, so you’ll need to refill it more often. This requires waiting for the machine to cool down and depressurize. If you’re only making a few drinks at a time this won’t be an issue, however.
If space is an issue on your counter, be sure you check out the specs to make sure it will fit to your liking.
Also, do know that you are getting a semi-automatic machine. This is not some automated push-button espresso machine. You do need to learn how to use it, and it will take you a few tries to really get the hang of it.
Oh, and always make sure you’re stocked up on espresso beans as well, it’s a good idea to order some with the machine.
The BES870XL Barista is our favorite for a reason. It retains all of the essential qualities of a traditional semi-automatic espresso machine, while including numerous features that add a huge measure of convenience by addressing many of the pet peeves we all have with espresso machines.
This combination of quality, design, and convenience is hard to beat. For those who are true espresso enthusiasts, or would like to be, and also want to keep things just under the $600 range, this is easily the ideal choice.