Sage/Breville Barista Pro review

This is a super short review of this fairly popular espresso machine. I bought this last year, despite a lot of arguments from my wife. She even threatened to throw it out if I bought. I did. And now she demands latte/cappuccino every day!

My budget was pretty limited at that point, so other decent options (HX or even dual boiler machines) are out of reach. Barista Pro fits in my budget (and kitchen), and when Amazon had a very good discount on them, I pulled the trigger.

I was happy.

When it was new

Pros:

Sage/Breville is feature oriented, and when you open the box, you have everything you need to get going: a milk jug, a 54mm portafilter with 4 different baskets (2 double shots (1 pressurized, 1 non pressurized), 2 single shot), and of course, a grinder built-in. If you are new, this is hugely important. Some sellers do not include the milk jug, or even tamper (looking at you, Lelit!), and it’s bad that you are excited to open your new fancy espresso machine and realize you can’t make a decent cappuccino due to lacking equipment. The UI is intuitive and easy to work with. Once you understand the basics, using the machine, UX wise, is simple and easy.

3s start up time. You press a button, and the machine is ready. Truth is, however, if you want to get better shots, you need to flush 1 or 2 cup first. With the empty portafilter inserted, press the double shots button, and let the hot water flows through it. It warms up the head, the portafilter, and make sure you get stabilized temperature in the boiler.

The flow is well defined, and smooth – you take the portafilter, put it in the holder and click – the grinder grinds coffee for you, in the fineness you chose and the time you pick. Then you take the tamper (attached to the machine using a magnet, a pretty smart design), tamp it, put it in the head, place your cup, and press a button. It is the convenience you are paying for.

Cons:

One you open the box, you quickly realize this machine is not built to last. It’s a thin layer of stainless steel outside of plastic. Build quality is … fine, but don’t expect the same quality as Italy-made machine. It’s been reported that while Sage/Breville service is very good during warranty, but one you are out of warranty, you have to pay hefty fee for repairs, because they just break down. And repair usually means “replace”.

Another downside is that this uses a 54mm portafilter. The portafilter itself is fine, well made and solid, but after a while, you will want to try out new things, like bottomless portafilter. But this is when you realize you are left with either options: 1. buy cheap no brand products from China or 2. absurdly expensive or 3. both. Should it come with a 58mm portafilter which is the “industry standard”, you will have more options from reputable brands, at reasonable prices.

The built-in grinder is merely adequate, it’s step conical burr grinder. You will be able to grind espresso with it, but not with the fineness adjustment needed to extract the best out of your coffee. Whenever you can, upgrade to a good espresso grinder would make a huge difference in your espresso. (Note: a good espresso grinder can easily cost $400 or so!). Also, cleaning it is not the easiest task – it’s doable, but requires additional tools (like a vacuum cleaner) to do it properly.

The steam wand is ok, but it is on the weak side, and it produces wetter steam than I would like. To make great foamy, silky milk, you need powerful dry steam.

It’s messy to grind a double shot (18-20gr), because some coffee ground will be left on the portafilter holder, or on the drip tray. Yes you can use a dosing cup, or a funnel, but you will, once again, agonize the limited options of a 54mm portafilter.

In the end, Barista Pro is a well rounded, full featured espresso machine. It’s a budget/entry one, capable of making good shots. But it does not really excel in neither brewing, nor steaming. Once you horned your skill, upgrading to a better grinder, and a better 58mm portafilter will be a big step.

If you want to learn and can spend, of course.

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