Breville hit a home run with the Barista Express BES870XL.
Designed for 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.
It comes with the following accessories, which are just about everything an aspiring home barista needs:
Better yet, there's no need to purchase a separate grinder. Considering the price of a reliable espresso grinder (easily over $100), your all-in cost with the Barista Express is actually less than with lower-priced machines that don't include a grinder.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 boiler from the BES860XL to the BES870XL, which now includes a more powerful Thermocoil boiler with PID temp control. 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.
This machine is extremely easy to clean. You need to worry about three aspects:
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 discontinued the BES860XL and released this model in its place with several modifications:
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.
Different beans require different water temperatures. With the Breville BES870XL's 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This means the coffee bean hopper isn’t attached correctly. Detach it, make sure it’s free of debris and reattach.
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.