Breville BES860XL Barista Express Espresso Machine Review

breville-bes860xl-barista-express-espresso-machine

breville-bes860xl-barista-express-espresso-machine

Introduction

The more we can streamline our lives, the more we can manage to get done. The Breville BES860XL Barista Express Espresso Machine allows you to do just that. With an integrated burr grinder, you can grind fresh coffee with perfect consistency, tamp with appropriate pressure and make a shot or two of espresso in under one minute.

If you are a coffee or espresso aficionado, I don’t have to tell you that a perfect shot relies on doing so many things right at the same time. The fresh coffee bean, the fineness of the grind, the right water temperature, the appropriate water filter, the pump pressure, how to tamp the ground, how long it takes to pull the shot and much more. For newbies, it’s about trusting the machine to get the job done. For experienced baristas, being able to control some or all the variables makes such a huge difference in the outcome.

The BES860XL is designed with both end-users in mind no matter how advanced you are in your pursuit of the art of espresso. All the features and functionality don’t compromise the style. This espresso machine carries on the Breville signature style in stainless steel casing that’s so timeless and will complement any home décor.

Table of Contents
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1. Introduction
2. Features & Benefits
3. Brewing
4. Steaming
5. Display & Control
6. Additional Features
7. How to Clean
8. Accessories
9. Power & Cord
10. Dimensions & Weight
11. Warranty
12. Pros & Cons
13. Consumer Reviews
14. Price
15. Summary

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Features & Benefits

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  • Integrated Conical Burr Coffee Grinder: A burr grinder generates less friction and slower RPMs. It is better than a blade grinder because it produces a more uniformed and even grind while generating less heat during the grinding process. The less heat, the more aroma of the coffee grinds.

    The cone-shaped burrs are made from stainless steel that doesn’t react to the acidity of coffee beans and retains the “integrity” of the aroma. A grind size dial on the left-hand of the machine allows you to adjust the grind from coarse to fine in 15 different settings. For the novice baristas, it’s recommended to select the Dual Wall setting for the Dual Wall Filters whereas for the more experienced ones, choose a finer setting for the Single Wall Filters.

    The dosed amount is also adjustable to fill out the corresponding filter basket whether using a single or a double-wall filter one. The ground espresso will be dispensed into the filter with the hand-free cradle and the dispensing stops automatically when it’s done. The bean hopper is able to hold 8 oz. coffee beans and can be removed by turning half a dial for easy refill.

  • 54mm Built-in Tamper: The tamper is magnetic for you to either tamp the basket “on board” when being affixed to the machine or remove it to tamp with more precise pressure on the counter.
  • 67 Oz Water Tank: The water tank is located in the back of the machine. The charcoal water filter helps eliminate impurities in the tap water for better tasting espresso.
  • Termocoil Heating System: This controls the water temperature accurately along with a 15 bar Italian pump.
  • Volumetic Control: This allows you to use the pre-set 1 and 2 cups, or manual override or reprogrammable shot volume. Hands-off or hands-on. You have the free reign to do what pleases you.
  • 360-Degree Swivel Steam Wand: You can move the wand to whichever angle best for you to froth the milk for lattes or cappuccinos.
  • Pressure Gauge: This lets you monitor and control the pressure level appropriate to produce the flawless shot. For a perfect extraction, the flow should start after 4 to 7 seconds with an extraction time between 15 to 30 seconds.  The espresso flows like warm honey with a golden brown crema. Deviation from this will result in either under or over extraction.

Brewing

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The most competitive design feature in Breville’s appliance is the ease of use. This espresso machine is no exception. To brew an espresso, follow the instructions in the User Manual.

One important key to a perfect shot is to preheat your cup by pressing the one cup button and running hot water without the portafilter inserted into the group head. Then place the warmed cup on the warming tray. Another factor is to preheat the portafilter similar to the cup. Of course, the fineness of the grind, the amount and the appropriate tamping force and how long to pull all contribute to the overall “success”.

The heat-up time is 45 seconds to 1 minute. You have the choice to use pre-ground coffee, or grind fresh beans in the built-in grinder or ESE (Easy Serving Espresso) pods. For a beginning user, Breville suggests using the double-wall filter for one or two shots. Each shot will need about 1/3 ounce or 8 grams of ground coffee. It takes about 20 seconds from start to finish to brew a shot of 1 fluid ounce. A double shot is made of double the amount of ground coffee 2/3 ounce or 16 grams that takes almost the same length of time (20 to 25 seconds). The yield is about 2 to 2.5 ounces.

There is flexibility in brewing options. You may choose a pre-set shot size. The machine will stop upon completing the pour. Alternatively, you can customize your shot size by overriding the programmed setting and have the machine remember yours. The third option is to manually decide on the shot-size for a one-time experiment.

Steaming

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The BES860ES frothing wand is of commercial grade that comes with a frothing enhancing attachment. The attachment should be used when frothing a large volume.

Fill the pitcher with maximum ½ full. Cold milk is recommended for achieving the best frothing result. Surprisingly low-fat milk produces the most froth and regular milk or cream creates the creamy texture and flavor. Of course, you may use soy, rice or almond milk if you are lactose-intolerant.

There are two steps in frothing the milk including stretching to aerate it and swirling to make it silky with the right temperature between 130 to 150 F. It takes about 2 minutes or so, which is longer than other espresso machines. The BES860XL comes with a stainless steel pitcher.

Breville does an exceptional job in in the User Manual as well as on their website on how to use the machine. There are also videos by Breville and other independent users if you are a visual learner.

Display & Control

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The Display is more elaborated than an entry-level type. In the usual Brevilee appliance fashion, the buttons, controls and knobs are very intuitive. From the left to the right, they are: Power, Grind Amount, Filter Size for Single or Double Shot, Pressure Gauge, Program (personalize the shot size), Preset Single, Preset Double, Clean Me (indicator when the cleaning is needed), Steam (indicator) when the function is selected. On the left side, there is the Grind Size dial and on the right the Steam dial selector.

Additional Features

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  • Removable Drip Tray: The tray catches drips, wet or day. It has an “Empty Me” indicator when it’s full.
  • Concealed Storage: Behind the Drip Tray, there is a hideaway storage for storing the filter basket, scoop, etc.
  • Cup Warming Tray: It’s located on the top right side of the machine. You can easily store four cups. By the way, the cup clearance is 4 inches in height.
  • Clean Me Light: It’s on the Display when cleaning is required.
  • Auto-Purge Function: After using the Steaming function, the machine does an auto-purge to ensure the optimal water temperature for brewing.
  • Flat Shower Head: Ensures even water distribution through the coffee puck.
  • Dry Puck Feature: This helps extracting the excess water in the used coffee for easier cleanup. If done right with the right grind size and appropriate tamping pressure, the used grinds should come out like a brownie.

How to Clean

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After each use, it’s customary to discard the used grinds by turning the portafilter upside down and knock it gently in a trash can. Rinse the portafilter by running hot water using the one-cup button. Clean the steaming wand after each frothing with a damp rag.

For every two months, replace the water filter in the tank. Periodically you’ll have to descale or decalcifying in 50 water/50 white vinegar solution. Detailed instructions are available on Breville’s website. This includes descaling the Filters, the Froth Enhancer, the Group Head and the Steam Wand.

Accessories

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Included Accessories

User Manual, four filters – a dual-wall single shot and a double shot; a single-wall single and a double shot, a coffee scoop, a frothing attachment, stainless steel frothing pitcher, cleaning kit, a one-time use of water filter that needs to be replaced about every two months or so.

Optional Accessories

A few customers highly recommended getting a beverage and frothing thermometer so you don’t have to keep guessing when the froth is done.

Power & Cord

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  • Input Power (W): 1450
  • Voltage/Frequency (V-Hz): 110 – 60
  • Short cord

Dimensions & Weight

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  • Dimensions (W x D x H inches): 11.50 x 13.50 x 14.50
  • Weight (lbs): 29 (shipping weight)

Warranty

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1-year limited warranty

Pros & Cons

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Pros

  • Conical burr grinder allows you to adjust grind size and dispensing amount hands-free. The entire process takes less than a minute from beans to cup.
  • The brewing function is versatile to use the pre-set shot size, manual override or reprogrammable options. This accommodates baristas of all levels and different preferences.
  • Dual and single-wall pressurized and non-pressurized filters give you the free reign to get a quick shot or personalize it a la carte.
  • The 15 bar pump and the Thermocoil Heating System ensures optimal temperature for best shots.
  • 67 oz water tank uses a water filter to reduce chloride and other impurities for better tasting espressos.
  • The Pressure Gauge lets you monitor and fine-tune the shots by manipulating the pressure level.
  • Cup Warming Tray makes it possible to have warm cups for the full enjoyment of your espressos.
  • Exceptional User Manual and other marketing materials by Breville. All leads to userbility.
  • Oozed with simplicity, class, quality and style.

Cons

  • It’s quite expensive and may not be the best option for those who are starting out making espressos at home. I’d buy a cheaper model until I am sure that I’ll continue on this path. In the long run, investing in an espresso machine like this one is still a smart move as opposed to stopping by at a Starbucks every day.
  • It takes longer to froth the milk, about 2 minutes long.
  • The water tank indicator is in the back, not visible from the front. Make sure you check the water level to be half-full before brewing.

Consumer Reviews

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4.4 out of 5.0

88% of the Amazon reviewers give this machine 4 to 5 stars. Many customers have shared how easy it is to use and how quickly they’d pay off the cost of this machine by stopping going to Starbucks. The best part is that an average Joe is able to pull an excellent shot comparable to those by the best coffee shop. Quite a few experienced home baristas mentioned that it is critically important to read the User Manual word by word, not just by a quick cursory glance in order to get the best shot from using the Single-Wall Filter, not under or over-extracted. The combination of the right temperature in the cup, how much ground coffee to fill and what pressure to tamp with and how long to pull a shot determines the ultimate outcome of the espresso.

Price

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While it’s more expensive than a DeLonghi entry level machine, this Breville BES860XL is still on the lower end comparing to many European brands in the semi-automatic category

Summary

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The BES860XL is the # 5 bestseller among hundreds of espresso machines at Amazon. The timeless design style is accompanied by so many features to pull a quick shot or to have the ultimate control to brew the best espresso shots without stepping afoot outside of your home. This machine is made for beginners or those who had tinkered with being their own baristas for a while and are more interested in stepping up in the game to customize the brews.

If you are spending $5.00 every day on an espresso drink at Starbucks, you’d breakeven on your investment in about 5 months. With a brand name like Breville, you should get quite a few years of use if not more.

Over 200 customers on Amazon have shared their experience in using this machine. Some of the input might be helpful for you to make an informed decision. Check out what they have said.

 

For current price information, click on the button below.

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