How To Use the Breville Barista Express
When it comes to Breville, the Barista Express is one of our all time favourite machines. It’s an excellent machine, but it does emphasize craft over convenience, which means a slight learning curve.
Here, I show you how to use the Breville Barista Express to make perfect espresso right in your kitchen. Here’s what we’ll cover:
A Brief Breville Backstory
Breville is no ordinary manufacturer. The company describes itself as a “premier brand of kitchen products crafted using Australian innovation and technology.” While many manufacturers are guilty of using buzzwords and exaggerating their creative role in the industry, Breville is one of the few with the bite to match its bark.
Since 1932, Breville has innovated many kitchen tools including an electric wok that mimicked the heat distribution of gas stoves and three world firsts: the home panini maker, the power grill, and a whole fruit juicer.
Breville also updated pre-existing inventions and improved the toaster, food processor, blender, and even the oven.
But there’s one more invention I should mention: The Breville Oracle predecessor to the Barista Express and the world’s first automated manual espresso machine. Breville is not just another home coffee machine company, it’s a recognized pioneer.
Getting To Know Your Breville Barista Express
The first step in learning how to use a breville espresso machine is familiarizing yourself with your unit. We’ll focus on the technical basics, but if you’d like to learn more about why this machine is such a marvel, check our full review.
Breville Barista Express Features
This espresso maker is an all-in-one, semi-automatic machine that covers all the essential bases. It’s equipped with a bean hopper and grinder, a steam wand, warming tray, and removable water tank. Easy to operate dials and push buttons make programming the unit easy.
Here are the features and components you’ll be working with:
- Thermocoil for automatic water temperature.
- Automatic purge that balances water temperature after steaming.
- Pre-infusion technology that takes care of water pressure, gradually increasing it for even extraction.
- Single or double shot espresso volume setting
- Grind size, with a manual override option
Accessories and Extras
- Stainless steel portafilter
- Dose trimming tool, scoop, and integrated tamper
- Water filter and holder
- Two dual-wall filter baskets, for one and two-cup pours
- Stainless steel milk jug
- Maintenance set, including cleaning tool, disc, brush and tablets, and Allen key
If you’re having trouble setting up your machine, this Breville video should get you started. Take a look:
First Use: Priming Your Breville Barista Express
Do you also become overeager when you unbox a new coffee maker, use it immediately, and regret your decision because your first cup tastes like plastic?
That happens because your machine has residual BPAs from production and packaging — and it’s also full of dust, even if you can’t see any specks.
Home espresso machines also need to be primed before they’ll work properly. Because espresso machines use pressure, air can bubble up in the pipes and interfere with the brewing process.
So, it’s wise to get your machine ready before you attempt to brew espresso. Your coffee will taste better, and there’s less chance of spurts, bursts, or hiccups while your joe brews.
First Time Cleaning
You don’t have to spend too much time cleaning your new Breville. Wiping down its exterior won’t hurt, but isn’t necessary, as your coffee won’t come into contact with it. You can also ignore the spill tray for the time being, but if you’d like to give it a wipe or a rinse right off the bat, go ahead.
What’s important is that you rinse (or better, wash) any parts that hold coffee, water, and milk:
1: Wash your water tank. Any odd tastes that bleed into your coffee likely come from here, so do a good job of it!
2: Wash your bean hopper. It’s not quite as important as the tank, but since your coffee is held here, the extra rinse can go a long way.
3: Don’t forget your portafilter. It’s easy to overlook this tool, but as with your bean hopper, you don’t want any dust (or factory smell) tainting your grounds.
4: Wipe the ends of your spouts and steam wand for good measure.
5: Rinse your milk jug. If you’re really finicky, go ahead and wipe your scoop and tamper too.
It may seem like overkill, but trust me, a clean machine makes better coffee. When you’re done and everything is dry and glistening, assemble your machine.
Priming Your Barista Express
It sounds intimidating, but priming espresso machines is super easy. All you have to do is run a few blank shots to force unwanted air out of your machine’s pumps. For the Breville Barista, here’s what to do:
- Fill your water tank.
- Turn your machine on.
- Push the double shot button and hold until the steam stops escaping from your spouts. It’s ready to go when the bubbling sound subsides.
That’s all there is to it. Remember that the Breville Barista Express is semi-automated, so your pressure and temperature will self-regulate.
How To Use the Breville Barista Express: Step By Step
It’s almost time to pull a perfect espresso shot, but gather a few things first:
- The portafilter
- Your coffee tamper
- A kitchen scale
- Your milk jug
- Some fresh, whole coffee beans
- Your mug!
Are you ready to brew? Let’s jump right in!
Step One: Check Your Water
Unfortunately, the Barista Express doesn’t alert you if your water level is low, so double-check every time you brew. Failing to do so could cause your machine to overheat, and your components could burn or deteriorate.
Step Two: Heat Your Machine
Breville designed the Barista Express to run almost instantaneously. Turn it on and wait a few moments for all the buttons to be lit. Then, it’s ready to brew. However, you still have beans to grind and milk to froth, so you may as well let it heat evenly while you prepare everything else.
Breville Barista Express tip: Leave your mug on the warming tray while you wait. Your coffee will be extra cozy!
Step Three: Weigh and Grind
The amount of beans you use is entirely up to you, but if you want some pointers on ratios, check our how-to guide to brewing espresso.
Grinding with the Barista Express is slightly chaotic, so play around until you find your perfect settings. It’s worth noting that Breville recommends a Grind Size of 5. If you’d rather rebel, change this setting on the dial located on the machine’s side, by the bean hopper.
Your Grind Amount is also up to you, but here’s a trick to figuring it out: Weigh your empty portafilter then insert into the ‘Grind’ port situated below the single/double indicators and the pressure gauge. Next, select the shot size you want and push the portafilter in to start grinding.
Once done, weigh your now full portafilter again. If you’re working with a certain ratio, the results will indicate if your grind amount setting is too high or low.
Step Four: Time to Tamp
Use your coffee tamper to even out your grounds. There’s not much to it. Make sure that your portafilter is on a flat, stable surface then insert your tamper and push gently. Make sure that your grounds are level and smooth in your portafilter. When you’re done, wipe away any excess grinds on the portafilter’s rim so they don’t interfere when you connect it to the grouphead (the port that says ‘Insert’ and ‘Lock’).
Step Five: Prepare for Brewing
Running a cup of hot water is said to balance your brewing temperature for even extraction. So place your mug on the spill tray below the grouphead and pull a blank shot then discard the water.
Step Six: Pull a Shot
Connect the packed portafilter to the grouphead and lock it in place by turning in the direction of the arrow. Place your mug below the portafilter.
Select the shot size by pushing the designated ‘Single’ or ‘Double’ button. Your espresso will brew without further input.
Watch the pressure gauge. The goal is to have the needle fall into the dark gray area. If it does, you’ve brewed perfectly. If not, adjust your ratio or tamping pressure next time.
Step Seven: Add Milk
If you want to make use of your steam wand, here’s how.
- Fill your jug with milk.
- Purge the steam wand to remove any water that can taint your milk. Place the wand over the drip tray, turn the dial to ‘Steam’ and let it run for 15 seconds. Some condensation might escape. When it’s steaming, not dripping, it’s ready.
- Quickly turn the dial to standby, place the tip of the wand into your milk, and set it back to steam immediately. If you take too long, the steam will become water and you’ll have to purge again.
The rest is up to you, keep steaming until you’re happy with the consistency and temperature of your milk. When you’re done, add it to your espresso and enjoy!
How To Clean Breville Barista Express Machines
Unlike other home espresso machines, cleaning your breville barista express is extra easy. When the “Clean Me” alert lights up, use a Breville cleaning tablet and one of the double-walled cups that came with your machine.
1: Make sure your tank is full and the spill tray is empty.
2: Place the double-walled cup inside the portafilter then add its rubber insert on top.
3: Place one cleaning tablet in the center slot of the cup.
4: Engage your portafilter in the group head and lock it into place. You’ll want a cup or jug below it to catch drips.
5: Turn off your machine.
6: Push the single, double, and power buttons at the same time and hold for approximately 10 seconds. The machine’s ‘Clean Me’ light will flash and the unit will start flushing itself.
7: Let it run. The cleaning cycle should take about five minutes to complete.
8: When finished, your machine will beep twice.
For a visual guide, check out this quick video:
Don’t forget to wipe down your machine, wash your water tank, and clean your spill tray, portafilter and bean hopper occasionally to keep your machine spick and span.
Learning how to use the Breville Barista Express isn’t as difficult as you may think. There is certainly a learning curve, and you’ll have to experiment with the various settings and functions to find your perfect brew. But overall, the Barista Express simplifies the brewing process, whether you’re familiar with espresso machines or not.
We hope these Breville Barista Express tips and tricks have been helpful, check out the FAQs below if you still have questions.
Breville Barista Express FAQs
Is the Breville Barista Express Worth It?
Absolutely. The Breville Barista Express is one of the best home espresso makers on the market. A high-end model, it’s not exactly cheap, but for most coffee lovers, it is well worth the investment.
How Long Does the Breville Barista Express Last?
Breville is a top-range brand that makes durable machines, and the Barista Express is no exception. With regular maintenance and proper use, this machine should last between 5 and 10 years.
Can You Make Regular Coffee With a Breville Barista Express?
The Barista Express brews espresso only. On the plus side, you can create an array of espresso-based drinks, including Americanos — as close as you can get to filter coffee when using an espresso machine.