We spent 9 months with Breville's $849 Barista Pro espresso machine — here's how it stacks up to its $749 predecessor, the Barista Express

BrevproDavid Slotnick/Business Insider

  • We’ve been hard at work putting Breville’s A$849 Barista Pro through the wringer. It’s faster, quieter, and more digitally advanced than its predecessor, the Barista Express.
  • But while the Barista Pro may be a better machine, and newer, fancier technology are great things, here’s why we still love the Barista Express.

An espresso machine is a big purchase. Even at the entry-level, we’re talking A$300 or A$400, for starters. In short, you want to get this right. Where the in-home, all-in-one espresso machine is concerned, we feel that Breville is currently the safest, most user-friendly option for anyone shopping in the A$1,000 range.

Breville’s new Barista Pro is a thing to behold: Just like its predecessor, the Express, it comes equipped with Breville’s impeccable Smart Grinder Pro, but rather than the cylinder coil, which Breville has been using for many years, it comes with a faster, quieter, more powerful “ThermoJet” mechanism, and its stainless-steel-rich design doesn’t hurt.

The new iteration of the Barista comes with Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro

David Slotnick/Business InsiderBreville’s Smart Pro Grinder is our favourite.

Having a high-quality burr grinder is essential when it comes to making espresso, and one of our favourite things about Breville’s all-in-one espresso machines is that they come with Breville’s flawless and accommodating grinders.

You’d be amazed at how differently one roast grinds from the next. There are 30 fine grind settings on the new Barista Pro as opposed to the Express‘s 18, not to mention the dozen-plus internal grinder adjustments you can make if the fine ones don’t work.

(Note: This is something you’ll only have to do if you drastically change the beans you’re using, especially if you’re using older coffee beans. While testing the machine out with old, stale beans – they’re more affordable, and some of us will inevitably use them – I called Breville’s customer assistance and left them with my number, not letting them know who I was. A call came back within an hour, and a representative walked me through making these finer adjustments with a whole lot of grace and patience.)

The new machine comes with the Smart Grinder Pro, which would run you A$199 grinders on its own. This, coffee fiends, is a definite improvement on the older, more manual one that comes built into the Express, on which it can be a pain to fine-tune the grind amount.

Same great tamper, still in the same great place

David Slotnick/Business InsiderA beautiful, ergonomic tamper if we ever saw one.

We have to tip our hats to Breville’s research and design team. Espresso nerds everywhere praise this tamper not just because it’s real and heavy steel (some brands offer little more than a double-sided plastic scoop and tamp with a A$700 machine, which is downright insulting), but because it’s magnetic and fits tidily into a slot beside the grinder so you never misplace it. Pro tip: Because it’s so well placed, I often don’t even remove it, but pack the shot with it in its little station.

The LCD interface, and pulling the perfect shot

David Slotnick/Business InsiderA double shot of espresso should take about 25-35 seconds or so.

The LCD interface helps with a lot. For one, it shows you how far along the infuser is to prove that the water is hot and ready to go at the touch of a button.

But, more importantly, it times your shot, which should give you a very good idea of whether or not you’ve dialed your grinds and tamped them properly. If your double shot finishes pouring before the 25- to 30-second range (Breville recommends about 20 seconds for a single shot), you either need to set your grinder to produce finer grounds, or tamp your shot better (but tamping is pretty easy, and chances are your grind settings are off).

Still, we miss the pressure gauge, which always did well by us.

Not a whole lot has changed with the frother, but that’s ok

David Slotnick/Business InsiderThe new frother on the Pro is only slightly modified and still does its job.

Breville’s representative explained to us that the milk wand on the Pro is still manual, but a bit more robust, which does make frothing a little easier and more pleasant. That said, there wasn’t anything wrong with the frother on the Express.

Final thoughts

David Slotnick/Business InsiderAll in all, we like the new LCD screen and the speed of the machine, but we really miss the pressure gauge.

Inherently, there’s nothing wrong with this machine. The thermal coil has been updated, the LCD screen lets you time your shot and grind time more accurately, and you’ll get your morning shot a good bit faster than you would with the Barista Express.

The main difference is that the pressure gauge is missing. This was, plainly speaking, a much easier way for my weary eyes and mind to decide whether or not I’d dialed everything correctly (to my desired specifications) at six in the morning before work when the last thing I wanted to do was algebra to figure out how to get an unburned shot of espresso. (I’m not alone: The comments section beneath this Seattle Coffee Gear video comparing the Express and the Pro is loaded with Express owners lamenting the loss of the pressure gauge.)

If you enjoy the idea of considering how long it takes for your shot to pour and doing a bit of scratch work to figure out how to best dial your espresso machine, you probably will get a better shot with the Barista Pro. But then consider the following: Are you changing beans frequently? Is the climate in your house controlled well enough that you won’t have to make adjustments each and every morning? And what’s that time worth to you? Here at Insider Picks, I keep the trusty Barista Express deskside, and I find myself having to tweak and dial my grind settings just about every morning – granted, this is a drafty office building.

The final point I’ll make, though, is that there’s a good chance the Pro will outlast the Express, even if you buy it new, but there’s no telling as we’re less than a year in with this new model. We’ll report back every so often with updates on how the Pro fares over time.

Pros: Quieter, faster, potentially better thermal coil, LCD interface.

Cons: No pressure gauge.

The Breville Barista Pro is availble at Bing Lee for A$849.

The Breville Barista Express is available at Bing Lee for A$749.

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