For all-round versatility, features, and value for money, the best espresso maker is the Barista Express. If you are a beginner, this machine has plenty of settings and accessories to help you get good shots. As your learning curve progresses, you can take manual control of some of these parameters to make great professional-quality coffee.
To make the best espresso, you need to buy fresh beans and grind them just before using. The Barista Express contains a built-in stainless steel conical burr grinder that lets you dial in the perfect grind in pre-set amounts for single and double shots. The 8-ounce hopper is removable for easy cleaning.
I like the convenience of having the grinder and espresso maker integrated. If you already have a good grinder or don’t want it to be built-in, you may want to consider the Breville Infuser, which has almost all the same features as the Barista Express but without the grinder.
The Barista Express comes with four different filter baskets – pressurized single shot, pressurized double shot, non-pressurized single, and non-pressurized double. If you’re new to brewing espresso, pressurized baskets allow you to pull good shots even if your grind and tamp are not ideal. Now that I know what I’m doing, I feel that the non-pressurized baskets give me a better final product.
A stainless steel thermocoil boiler heats your water on demand. Because this is a single boiler system, you can’t steam milk at the same time as you brew espresso. I just steam the milk first – brewing is fast enough that the milk doesn’t get cold.
Volumetric controls let you pre-set the amount you want to brew. As you get more experienced, you can choose to override these controls if you want to manually control the brew time.
The pump delivers 15 bars of pressure, and pre-infuses the grinds for the best possible extraction.
Steam and Hot Water
The steam wand is mounted on a ball joint for extra manoeuvrability. Although it’s not the fastest steam wand around, it does allow you great control. There is a dedicated hot water dispenser for making tea and Americano.
The Barista Express also comes with a frothing pitcher, a tamper that attaches magnetically to the machine, cleaning and maintenance tools, cleaning tablets and water filters. It pretty much gives you everything you need except the beans!
You can easily pay many thousands of dollars for an espresso machine, or buy a cheap one for under $100. For me, the Barista Express strikes the perfect balance by offering high quality with plenty of bells and whistles for the price. At the time of writing, you can get this machine for $519.99 on Amazon, or $599 at Seattle Coffee Gear.
When it comes to great features, solid engineering and versatility, the Breville Barista Express is the best espresso maker for your home whether you’re a beginner or an experienced barista.