The Breville Barista Pro (BES878), aka Sage Barista Pro, has been on the market for a few years now, and it is still one of the most popular espresso machines on the market. But does it really live up to the hype? And how does it compare to its competitors in 2023? In this review, I will look at all of the pros and cons of this machine after using it daily for almost a year now, so you can decide if it’s the right coffee machine for you.
I haven’t been paid, nor do I have any affiliation with Breville. I have paid for the Breville Barista Pro with my hard-earned money. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Design and Size of the Breville Barista Pro
Ease of Use
Breville Barista Pro Features
– Quick heat-up time thanks to the ThermoJet system
– Conical Burr Grinder
– Easy to Use Interface
– Brewing Temperature
– Steaming Performance
The Breville Barista Pro is one of the most popular semi-automatic espresso machines that has been on the market for a few years now. It has a lot of advanced features that set it apart from the competition, such as an integrated conical burr grinder, PID temperature control, the ThermoJet heating system, or a pre-infusion feature, just to name a few.
The matt black design is sleek yet practical. When operating the machine, everything seems right where it should be. Even little details such as the integrated magnetic tamper, placement of the hot water outlet, or the hidden storage box behind the drip tray prove Breville’s attention to detail.
After months of use and hundreds of shots, I can say I’m pleased with the performance and reliability of the Breville Barista Pro. Once you get the hang of it, it will reward you with some of the best-tasting coffee you’ve ever had.
You certainly don’t need to become a Barista to use this machine. Breville included the pressurized filter baskets to make things easier for those who are just starting or don’t have time to learn the basics of espresso brewing yet.
However, if you are not all that interested in discovering the world of espresso and specialty coffee, the Breville Barista Pro might not be the right match for you. It would be like driving a Porshe with a speed limiter set to 50 mph. In this case, the better option could be a fully automatic coffee machine since getting the most out of the Barista Pro does require a bit of time and effort.
Also, there are a few things that Breville could have done better. The first one is that the machine stays cold in idle – the cup tray and the group head. This will require you to preheat the portafilter and cups with a couple of blank shots to get them ready for brewing, which can be a bit annoying. The second downside is that the Breville Barista Pro grinder can retain as much as 0,5 g of coffee in the inner workings of the grinder. This is an issue if you are single-dosing your coffee into the grinder. Also, the grind consistency isn’t as good as some of the standalone grinders on the market, but I guess expecting this from a built-in grinder is a bit too much, especially at this price point.
Overall, I think the Breville Barista Pro is still one of the best espresso machines you can buy in 2023, especially for those who enjoy discovering the world of specialty coffee and are willing to put in the time to learn how to get the most out of it. For this purpose, we have created the Ultimate Breville Barista Pro Guide, where you can learn step by step how to make coffee that tastes just like in your favorite coffee shop.
Design and Size of the Breville Barista Pro
The design is a subjective matter, but I really like the look of this machine. The matt black finish not only has a cool stealthy look to it, but it’s also quite practical, being resistant to fingerprints. The build quality feels very good, it doesn’t feel flimsy or cheap at all, being mostly metal construction. Obviously, when compared to the higher-end/prosumer models such as the Rocket Apartamento or the Lelit Mara X, which are becoming more and more popular nowadays, the Breville build quality doesn’t feel as premium and sturdy, but that’s to be expected given the Barista Pro is basically at half the price.
It’s not the smallest machine on the market, but it’s still reasonably compact and won’t take up too much space on your kitchen counter. The dimensions of the Barista Pro are (WxDxH) 13.9 x 16.1 x 16.0 in, which is pretty good if you consider that it has a built-in grinder. However, it is a bit larger when compared to its younger brother, the Breville Barista Express, with 12.0 x 11.0 x 13.5 in.
The space on the drip tray can fit even larger coffee scales, such as the popular and my personal favorite Timemore Black Mirror (Amazon link). The clearance under the coffee spouts is also pretty good, so you can use the scale even with larger cappuccino cups if you want. This would be impossible with machines such as the Rocket Apartamento.
In terms of practicality and usage, I think that the Barista Pro is a well-thought-out machine. When preparing your espresso, everything feels right in its place. Especially little details, such as the integrated magnetic tamper, the hot water outlet for Americano, or the hidden compartment for the tools and filter baskets, are really nice features and prove that Breville was thinking long and hard about making the best possible user experience.
The only downside I have found in terms of design is that the shiny silver back pannel can get stained relatively easily if left uncleaned after running the descaling process. So it’s good to remember to wipe away any residues of the descaling agent after the process is completed.
Ease of Use – Is the Breville Barista Pro fully automatic?
It is important to realize that the Breville Barista Pro is not fully automatic but only a semi-automatic espresso machine. This is not a bad thing, quite the contrary, but it is something you need to be aware of if you are looking for a machine that will do everything for you with just a press of a button.
While the fully automatic machines do make the process easier, they give you very little control over the final taste of your espresso. With a semi-automatic machine, you are in charge of everything from grinding the beans to tamping and the extraction. This gives you a lot more control over the final taste of the espresso, and with some practice, you can make some truly amazing coffee drinks. However, it will require a bit more effort on your part, and if you decide to start digging deep into the world of espresso, it can become a bit overwhelming at times.
Thankfully, the Breville Barista Pro also comes with pressurized filter baskets, which make the process of making espresso a lot easier, even for beginners. Just keep in mind that they will not deliver the same flavor as non-pressurized baskets, which are widely used among baristas. Pressurized filter baskets are a good option for those who want to learn how to make a better cup of coffee further down the line but don’t have the time to dig deeper into the world of espresso just yet.
Breville Barista Pro Features
There is probably no other espresso machine on the market in this price range that offers as many features as the Breville Barista Pro. Even some of the prosumer espresso machines lack some of the features such as temperature control, PID, pre-infusion, etc. This is one of the reasons why the Breville Barista Pro is still so popular, being good value for the money.
Quick heat-up time thanks to the ThermoJet system
The Breville Barista Pro comes with an innovative ThermoJet heating system that can heat up the water to the optimal temperature for espresso brewing in under three seconds. This is a great feature, especially if you realize that many of the much more expensive prosumer machines can take around thirty minutes to heat up. If you are a person who tends to be in a hurry in the morning but doesn’t want to skip their morning cup of coffee, the Breville Barista Pro won’t disappoint.
Even though the Barista Pro isn’t a dual boiler machine, which means that you can’t steam milk and brew coffee at the same time, thanks to the ThermoJet system, it takes only a couple of seconds to switch between brewing and steaming. The extra couple of seconds that you have to wait shouldn’t bother most people unless you plan on making milk-based coffee drinks for large groups of people very often.
On the other hand, the ThermoJet system has a downside. Due to its energy efficiency, it doesn’t preheat the cup tray and the group head on its own, no matter how long you wait before brewing your espresso, which is a bit of a disappointment. Generally, you want the coffee cups to be warm before you start brewing, as this helps to maintain the temperature of the espresso, which results in a better cup of coffee.
To preheat your group head, portafilter, and cups, you will need to run 1-2 blanks shots before making your first espresso. Running hot water through the group head is a good habit even on the higher-end machines; however, it’s rather a necessary step on the Barista Pro.
Although I consider it to be the biggest downside of this machine, it’s a small price to pay when you realize how quickly the Breville Barista Pro can heat up and start brewing your espresso.
Conical Burr Grinder
The importance of having a good coffee grinder can not be overstated in the world of coffee, and some would argue that it’s even more important than the espresso machine itself.
The integrated grinder gives you 30 different grind settings, which should allow you to dial in the perfect coarseness for your coffee beans. If you find the need to grind even finer, you can also adjust the inner burr to get the grind size you are looking for.
Over the past year, I had an opportunity to test the Breville Barista Pro grinder with a variety of different coffee beans and roast levels, and I was able to dial in even lighter roasts which are generally more challenging. However, I did have to adjust the inner burr a few steps. Also, make sure to use freshly roasted coffee beans to get the best results.
Even though the integrated conical burr grinder is not on the same level as some of the higher-end standalone grinders, such as the Niche Zero, it’s still a very good grinder that will do the job for most people, especially once you get a grip of its biggest weakness which is grind retention (meaning how much coffee grounds remain in the inner workings of the grinder). For this reason, I recommend that you always weigh your coffee grounds in your portafilter so when you are ready for extraction, you have precisely the dose you need to get consistent and delicious results.
Over the past year, I’ve learned that once I dial the right grind settings and keep the dose precise to the 0,1 g, I can get very consistent and delicious espresso shots with the Breville Barista Pro.
The grinder has an intuitive start/stop/pause button, which can be triggered by inserting the portafilter into the grinding chamber and pushing a bit further until you hear a click. The Breville Barista Pro will start grinding the coffee and automatically stop once it has ground the amount of coffee you have preset (time-based) with a dedicated grind nob. You can also pause the process at any time during the grinding process to distribute the coffee evenly in the portafilter, which I find to be a handy feature.
Easy to Use Interface
Thanks to the LCD display, it’s easy to navigate and change all of the different settings, from the grind amount and coffee dose to water temperature and pre-infusion time. It’s also helpful when performing some of the cleaning cycles as it will guide you through the cleaning process.
The LCD will also show you the time of the extraction, which is considered the most helpful metric for espresso brewing. As a general rule, you want the extraction time to be around 25-30 seconds. However, this will vary depending on the coffee roast level that you are using and, more importantly, your taste preferences. As simple as it sounds, it’s really helpful to have the time of the extraction right in front of your eyes, especially when you are dialing in your fresh batch of coffee beans.
The Breville Barista Pro is equipped with a pre-infusion function, which allows you to soak the coffee grounds for as long as 10 seconds before starting the main extraction. This allows for a more even and consistent extraction of the flavors from the coffee grounds, largely mitigating extraction issues such as channeling.
By default, the pre-infusion time is set to 8 seconds, which I find optimal for most of the coffees beans I’ve used so far, but you can experiment with different lengths of pre-infusion to see what works best for you. Anyways, it is great to see this feature on the Breville Barista Pro as it is still quite rare to find it on espresso machines in this price range.
The ability to change the brewing temperature is another great feature of the Breville Barista Pro that is rarely seen on machines in this price range. You can choose from five different temperature levels from 91°C to 95°C ( 196°F to 205°F). Since different roasts levels benefit from different brewing temperatures with this feature, you should be able to find the right temperature for your coffee.
It’s great to see that Breville has given us the option to change the brewing temperature; however, since the ThermoJet system doesn’t preheat the group head while in standby mode, make sure to pull a couple of blank shots before extraction. This will help ensure that your shots come out at the correct brewing temperature, preventing the metal parts sucking all the heat out from the water making your coffee taste sour.
As I alluded to earlier, the Breville Barista Pro can’t brew coffee and steam milk simultaneously; however, thanks to the ThermoJet system, you only need a couple of seconds for the Breville Barista Pro to switch from brewing to steaming mode.
Thankfully, this doesn’t affect the quality of the milk foam you can create with it. The more important factor in this regard will be your skill. If you want to learn how to create the best microfoam with the Breville Barista Pro, make sure to check out our Breville milk-steaming guide.
What Comes with the Barista Pro?
When you purchase the Breville Barista Pro, you will find that it comes with many accessories and tools. In the box, you will find the following:
– The Breville Barista Pro espresso machine with an integrated magnetic tamper
– A 54mm stainless steel portafilter
– 2x Breville single wall (non-pressurized) filter basket for (for single and double shot espresso)
– 2x Breville dual-wall (pressurized) filter baskets (for single and double shot espresso)
– 480 ml Stainless Steel Milk Jug
– A Breville cleaning kit (cleaning brush, cleaning pin, cleaning rubber disc for flushing, cleaning tablets, and descaling powder)
Who is the Breville Barista Pro For?
There are two main categories of coffee drinkers. One is the person who just wants a quick cup of coffee (a functional coffee drinker) without having to worry about all the details, and for them, a fully automatic machine such as the Breville Barista Oracle might be a better option. The other category is the person who wants more control over the brewing process and wants to learn how to make possibly the best espresso (or any other coffee drink for that matter) of their life tuned up to their taste and liking. If you fall into the latter category, then the Breville Barista Pro is the better choice for you.
Breville Barista Pro or the Barista Express?
There are many similarities between the Breville Barista Pro and the Breville Barista Express, but there are also a few key differences that you should be aware of before making a decision. To learn more about what these differences are, make sure to check out our Breville Barista Pro vs. Breville Barista Express comparison.
Can you make delicious espresso with the Breville Barista Pro?
Absolutely, the Breville Barista Pro is a great machine that is able to make delicious café quality espresso, as long as you are willing to put in the time to learn how to use it properly.
Is the Breville Barista Pro fully automatic?
No, the Breville Barista Pro is not a fully automatic machine but a semi-automatic espresso maker. This gives you more control over the brewing process and, therefore, can reward you with a better cup of coffee, but it will require a bit more effort on your part.
Does Breville Barista Pro have a PID?
Yes, the Breville Barista Pro has a PID controller, which helps maintain a precise temperature of your espresso.
Does Breville Barista Pro have a double boiler?
No, the Breville Barista Pro does not have a double boiler, it uses the ThermoJet heating system instead.
Does Breville Barista Pro have a cup warmer?
No, even though the Breville Barista Pro has a cup tray at the top, it doesn’t have a cup warmer function.
Is the Breville Barista Pro worth it?
Absolutely, the Breville Barista Pro is a great machine that will allow you to make some truly amazing espresso drinks with a bit of practice.