Making espresso at home can be intimidating—you need an espresso grinder, an espresso machine, and the know-how to be able to pull consistent, tasty espresso shots. Espresso machines with built-in grinders are designed to simplify the process by automatically measuring coffee for you—but there’s a catch: most of these machines don’t dispense the same amount of coffee each time.
Because espresso is brewed under extremely high pressure (around 500 pounds of direct force), any slight change to the coffee-to-water ratio (even if it’s off by only 0.5 grams) can greatly impact the flow rate and thus the flavor quality of the shots you’re pulling. The Breville Barista Express Impress solves this problem by using a smart assisted tamping lever, which learns how much coffee it should dose into the filter basket by measuring how deep the tamped espresso puck is. In doing so, it makes tasty at-home espresso easy and achievable.
To buy: Breville Barista Express Impress was $900, now $720 at amazon.com
Why It Won Our Review
Tamping (i.e. compressing the grounds into a puck) is the hardest part of the espresso pulling process to learn: in order for the pressurized water to evenly extract good flavors, the coffee needs to be compressed perfectly level. If the coffee bed is packed too loose, the water will channel through some parts faster than others and overextract bitterness. If the bed isn’t level, the water will run down one side of the puck and, again, extract bitter flavors.
The Barista Express Impress uses a piston to level out the coffee and apply consistent tamping pressure each time you use it. A built-in sensor then measures the bed depth of the coffee based on how far down the piston traveled and automatically adjusts how much the grinder doses into the filter basket. It’s an extremely impressive (ha!) bit of technology that simplifies the shot-pulling process and makes pulling consistently good espresso at home a reality. The machine also features a PID-controlled boiler (which ensures precise water temperature to a single degree), and an innovative steam system that generates full steam pressure in just seconds, unlike other smaller home espresso machines which can take minutes. Overall, we think the Barista Express Impress is excellent for the home espresso novice, especially since it doesn't require in-depth training to learn how to use it.
Good to Know:
- Dimensions: 14.9 x 12.9 x 16.1 inches
- Weight: 14 lbs
- Hopper capacity: 250 grams
- Water tank: 2 liters
- Portafilter diameter: 54 millimeters
- Grind settings: 25
- Warranty: 2 year repair, replacement (at the discretion of Breville)
What’s the difference between the Breville Barista Express and Barista Express Impress?
The Breville Barista Express is Breville’s standard espresso machine with a built-in grinder. It features a programmable timer so you can adjust the amount of coffee it doses out each time. The Barista Express Impress has two additional features: an intelligent dosing system and an assisted tamping lever. Both help the machine learn how much coffee it should dose into the filter basket each time by measuring how deep the tamped espresso puck is. It also tamps the coffee with a consistent level every time.
Which Breville Espresso machine is best for beginners?
Because it has a built-in grinder, intelligent dosing, and assisted tamping, we recommend the Breville Barista Express Impress for beginners. It automates some of the trickier parts of the shot pulling process, allowing the user to pay more attention to the grind size and shot time. If you’re looking for a machine without a built-in grinder, we also recommend the Breville Bambino Plus for its compact size and ease of use.