Semi-automatic espresso machines are a step up from steam espresso machines, like Krups XP1000, but are more labor-intensive and manual than superautomatic espresso machines.
How does the Breville BES870XL Barista Express espresso machine stack up?
To answer, we’ll rate this machine across 5 categories:
- Design & Performance
- Quality of Espresso
- Ease of Cleaning
And because this is our Ultimate Review, we’ll also highlight the BES870XL’s standout features, point out some potential shortcomings, compare it to previous models and provide a full troubleshooting guide.
- 15 Bar Italian Pump and 1600W Thermo coil heating system
- Purge Function: Automatically adjusts water temperature after steam for optimal espresso extraction temperature
- Stainless steel conical burr grinder with 1/2 lb. sealed bean hopper; Voltage: 110 - 120 Volts
- 67 fl.oz (2L) removable water tank with handle
- Newer model of the Breville BES860XL Barista Express
The Coffee Maven Conclusion
Breville has hit a home run with the BES870XL.
Designed with both over-controlling espresso drinkers and novices looking for their first quality machine, it strikes a great balance between functionality and cost. First time baristas will have to experiment with settings for 1-2 weeks to achieve a great shot catered to their preferences, but Breville’s user manual is comprehensive and legitimately helpful.
With the Breville BES870XL beginners will learn the intricacies of pulling a great shot, experts will tweak and fine tune to taste, and everyone will enjoy awesome espresso.
The Coffee Maven Rating: 9.2 of 10
- Design & Performance: 9.4
- Appearance: 9.2
- Quality of Espresso: 9.4
- Durability: 8.8
- Ease of Cleaning: 9.2
Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine Review: Product Images
Key Features & Specifications
- 15 bar Italian-manufactured pump
- 1600W thermo coil heating system
- 67 oz (2L) removable water tank
- Integrated conical burr grinder
- Half-pound bean hopper
- Grind size and amount selector dials
- Comes with dual-wall and single-wall filters and filter selector button
- 54mm stainless steel portafilter with commercial style spouts
- Dedicated hot water outlet
- Steam/hot water selector dial
- Auto-purge function adjusts water temperature after steam for optimal extraction
- Adjustable water temperature +/- 4ºF in 2ºF increments
- Volumetric control: preset 1 and 2 cup volumes
- Flat showerhead for even water distribution through puck
- Espresso pressure gauge to monitor extraction pressures
- Extra tall clearance for taller mugs
- Cup warmer on top of machine
- Feature to remove excess water from filter basket post-extraction
- Sleep Mode after 1 hour of inactivity
- Auto Off Mode after 3 hours of inactivity
- Stainless steel, 360º swivel-action steam wand
- Weight: 23 lbs
- Dimensions: 13.2″W x 12.5″D x 15.8″H
- Other Specs: 1600W | 110V | 60Hz
- Warranty: 1 year
- User Manual: Click here
All of the following accessories can be stored in the rear accessory storage tray.
- Stainless steel milk jug
- Cleaning disc
- Cleaning tablets
- Single-wall filter baskets for 1 and 2 cup portions
- Dual-wall filter baskets for 1 and 2 cup portions
- Allen key
- Needle-tipped cleaning tool
- Coffee scoop
- Cleaning brush
- The Razor precision dose trimming tool
Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine Review
It pulls a great shot with rich crema extremely quickly and allows you to make your espresso as complicated as you want it to be.
- Feel like experimenting with different doses? Change the grind amount.
- Want to adjust water temperature? Good, you can.
- Wondering how important the tamp is? Vary it up and see what happens.
The only real downside of all these combinations is it’ll take a little while to fully grasp every variable the BES870XL has to offer, especially if you’re a novice. Bookmark the user manual and reference it frequently. There are a lot of great notes in there.
And let’s take a second to discuss the steaming wand. With 360º swivel ability you can easily achieve cafe-quality foam. It’s completely legit and beats out a lot of higher-priced espresso machines. Possible room for improvement? It takes a little longer than other steaming wands a larger steaming tin would
Bonus: This machine also works pretty well with darker, oily beans. You’ll just have to make sure you clean the grinder more regularly. Thankfully it disassembles pretty easily. See the Cleaning the Grinder note under Ease of Cleaning below.
Design & Appearance: 9.2
Aesthetic appeal is a matter of personal preference, but I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like the way this machine looks. Its stainless steel body is top-notch and professional looking, and the buttons and gauges are all big, obvious and easy to read.
Quality of Espresso: 9.4
It might take you a few attempts, but this machine gives you everything you need to pull cafe-quality espresso. Experiment with grind size, dose, tamping, water volume, water temperature and more until you find the combination that’s right for you. You’ll be able to dial in the richness you prefer while still getting a thick, beautiful crema.
The built-in frother also gives you the ability to make amazing latte and cappuccino drinks with creamy, flavorful foam.
Seriously, I have no complaints about espresso quality with the BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine.
While the product is made in China, the most important component is manufactured in Italy: the 15 bar pump. Weighing 23 lbs, this thing is heavy-duty, solid, well-made and should last for years if maintained properly. Constructed primarily of stainless steel, it does have a plastic casing around the base.
I also love how Breville improved the design of the thermo block from the BES860XL to the BES870XL. In the older model this part was made of separate components bolted together, which led to a long-term risk of leaking as the part wears down. In the BES870XL Breville switched to a single piece of stainless steel with no bolted or assembled parts. That thing isn’t going to leak.
A downside is the difficulty getting replacement parts. For example, the 54mm washer which seals the portafilter to the machine will inevitably wear down after around 2 years of repeated use. Breville does sell this washer but, like several of their replacement parts, it could take several weeks and occasionally multiple requests.
Ease of Cleaning: 9.2
This machine is extremely easy to clean. You need to worry about three aspects:
- Decalcifying inner components and steamer wand (takes about 5 minutes every 1-2 months)
- Cleaning the grinder (takes about 5 minutes every 2-3 months)
- Cleaning the steamer wand (takes 10 seconds to wipe down after every use)
Both are extremely easy.
Decalcifying: Fill the water reservoir with a 50/50 mixture of cold tap water and white vinegar. Remove the portafilter, place a large collecting container under the outlet and steam wand, and press and hold the 1 CUP button until half the mixture has run through. Then set the STEAM/HOT WATER dial to HOT WATER and allow that to run for 30 seconds. Finally, set the STEAM/HOT WATER dial to STEAM and let that run for about two minutes.
Cleaning the grinder: Detach the bean hopper, empty any beans, reattach the hopper, run the grinder until it’s empty, remove the hopper again to access the burrs, switch the top burr to the UNLOCK position, remove the top burr, clean with the included brushes, then reassemble the whole thing. (That sounds complicated but it takes 5 minutes.) Should the grinder develop a blockage there are more advanced instructions on page 29 of the manual.
Breville BES870XL is the improved version of the Breville BES860XL Barista Express
Breville discontinued the BES860XL and released this model in its place with several modifications:
- Redesigned coffee bean hopper for larger capacity
- PID temperature control resulting in much more consistent temperature
- 1600W versus 1450W for BES860XL
- Added Hot Water functionality
- Added Auto Off Mode after 3 hours of inactivity
- Included Razor dosing tool, which aids in consistent dose volume/leveling
- Replaces bolted thermo block with single stainless steel part, so no risk of future leaks
Standout Features of the Breville BES870XL Barista Express
Interchangeable Single- and Dual-Wall Filter Baskets
Espresso can be as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it, and the interchangeable single- and dual-wall filter baskets cater to home baristas of all types.
Use the single-wall filter basket if you want to exert more control over your espresso. This is best when you want to grind your own beans and experiment with grind size, dose and tamp.
Use the double-wall filter basket if you want to use pre-ground beans or want to take the variability out of your espresso. The dual-wall basket does a better job of regulating pressure and optimizing extraction regardless of grind, dose or tamp pressure.
Advanced Temperature Mode allows you to adjust the water temperature
Different beans require different water temperatures. With the Breville BES870 Barista Express’ Advanced Temperature Mode, you can adjust the temperature +/- 4ºF in 2ºF increments. This gives you 5 different temperature settings.
Adjusting the temperature is incredibly easy:
- Press POWER to turn the machine off
- Press and hold POWER and PROGRAM until the machine beeps
- Press the appropriate button to change the temperature (see page 19 of manual)
- Wait 5 seconds for the machine to beep twice and lock in the change
Potential Shortcomings of the Breville BES870XL Barista Express
No water level indicator light
File this under small annoyance, but it would be nice if the BES870XL had a water indicator light because the rear-positioned water tank makes it difficult to easily see how much water is left.
Not NSF certified so not suitable for commercial purposes
Finding an affordable espresso machine for commercial purposes can be difficult. Unfortunately, this machine won’t work for you. Instead, take a look some of La Pavoni’s models.
Got Problems? Troubleshooting the Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
The Breville BES870XL Barista Express is a great espresso machine which affords the user a ton of customization. Sometimes that means a lot of questions about how to make the most of it.
I can’t get water to flow from the shower head.
This could be caused by a few things. First, make sure the machine has heated up, which generally takes about 20 seconds. Second, make sure the water reservoir isn’t empty. Third, make sure the water reservoir is in its locked-in position. Fourth, it’s possible your coffee is ground too finely, tamped too firmly or the filter basket is overloaded.
My espresso is running too slowly or quickly.
This almost always is due to issues with the portafilter. It’s possible the coffee is ground too finely/coarsely or packed too much/not enough.
Espresso is streaming over the sides of the portafilter!
Remove the portafilter and make sure there aren’t any coffee grounds on the rim, which would prevent a good seal. Also make sure the portafilter basket is secured firmly to the machine. If neither of these work, it’s also possible the silicone ring on the machine, which seals to the rim of the portafilter, is worn out. If your machine is around 2 years old this is definitely possible. Call Breville for a new part and refer to page 32 of the user manual for instructions showing how to replace this part.
The steamer makes no steam!
This could be caused by the same factors mentioned above in “I can’t get water to flow from the shower head.” Try those fixes first. If the problem still persists, make sure the STEAM/HOT WATER dial is in the correct position. If it is, the steam wand could be blocked. Instructions for cleaning the steam wand can be found on page 30 of the user manual.
My espresso isn’t hot enough.
Try adjusting the temperature settings as noted in the Standout Features section above. If the machine is on the hottest setting and it’s still not hot enough, consider decalcifying the machine. If all else fails, try preheating your cups with hot water to prevent heat loss to the cup.
My latte/cappuccino isn’t hot enough.
Sometimes this can be caused by the same factors as above. Additionally, make sure your steamed milk is hot enough. As a general rule, heat your milk with the steaming wand until the base of the tin jug is too hot to touch.
My crema is weak!
This would really bug me. Most often this happens when the coffee grounds are tamped too lightly, so pack the puck a little tighter. You could also choose a finer grind, and make sure you’re using fresh beans. If you’re a pre-ground coffee drinker and want a richer crema, consider switching to whole beans and using the BES870XL’s built-in grinder. If you’re intent on using your pre-ground coffee, make sure you’re packing the double-wall filter basket.
There’s water all over my counter/floor.
The drip tray fills pretty quickly due in large part of the machine’s Auto Purge feature, which flushes hot water from the heating unit immediately after running. You need to monitor this and empty frequently. Look for the Empty Me! indicator light. If that’s not the problem, make sure the water reservoir is in its proper locked position. Still getting a watery mess? It might be time to replace the silicone seal surrounding the shower screen.
My machine is on but won’t work at all.
It’s possible the safety feature was activated. To check if this is the case, power off the machine, unplug it from the wall and wait 30-60 minutes to allow it to reset. If that doesn’t fix the issue, call support.
The FILTER SIZE indicator lights keep flashing.
This means the coffee bean hopper isn’t attached correctly. Detach it, make sure it’s free of debris and reattach.
The grinder isn’t grinding any coffee.
This can be caused by 4 things. First, make sure the grinder has beans in it (duh). Second, make sure it’s attached correctly. Third, make sure the grinder itself or the chute aren’t blocked. Fourth, maker sure all grinder components are 100% dry.