This Breville Espresso Machine Promises Barista-Level Coffee Drinks at Home, But Does It Live Up to the Claim?

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Breville Barista Express Impress espresso machine
Breville / Background: Amina Design/Getty Images
  • Value: 15/20
  • Functionality: 20/20
  • Ease of Use: 18/20
  • Aesthetics: 17/20
  • Taste: 20/20
  • Total: 90/100

Sure, I used to be a barista, but my go-to order has and always will be black coffee. My milk-steaming and espresso-pulling skills have formed cobwebs, but let’s be honest, they were never that sharp. My experience with espresso is this: I make a giant pot of drip coffee every morning and go on with my day.

So for someone who doesn’t get all that excited about cappuccinos and lattes, when given the chance to try Breville’s new Barista Express Impress espresso machine, I was surprisingly excited. That’s because the Barista Express Impress promises to do all (or almost all) of the hard work for you. After making my share of espresso-based bevs, here’s how I think the appliance lives up to its name.

What’s So Special About the Breville Barista Express Impress?

Here’s the thing: Brewing espresso at home can be a daunting task. Unless you’re set on a pod-based machine, you have to worry about grinding coffee beans, tamping espresso pucks, steaming milk and cleaning up the whole production when you’re done.

The Barista Express Impress, however, streamlines the experience. It’s a countertop espresso machine not unlike Breville’s other machines, except that it automates much of the process, with a built-in grinder and, the real star of the show, its Impress puck system. It automatically “doses” the amount of fresh coffee grounds based on your chosen filter, grind size and how many shots of espresso you want. It also has a tamping arm that delivers the exact amount of pressure needed to tamp down the grounds. Essentially, these features make it possible for someone with zero experience to pull the perfect shot of espresso.

a person using the Breville Barista Express Impress espresso machine
Katherine Gillen

How Does It Work?

The Barista Express Impress looks shiny and intimidating, but in my experience, operating the machine couldn’t be simpler. After some basic cleaning and easy setup, I plugged in my machine, filled the water reservoir with tap water and loaded espresso beans into the grinder basket. I fitted the portafilter into the machine, pressed a button and everything whirred to life. The machine presented me with the perfect amount of grounds for a single espresso, which I then tamped down with a press of a lever.

Pretty soon, a row of lights flashes to let you know if your “dose level” is on par, or if you need to add or remove grounds. That’s great, but what’s even cooler is that because the pressure of the tamping lever is consistent every time, the machine can automatically adjust the dose for the next time you use it. (So if it’s under-dosing coffee, it will add a little more the next time.) It’s like there’s a tiny barista inside taking notes.

Even better, the Impress puck system virtually eliminates any mess landing on your countertop—not a small feat.

After dosing and tamping the espresso, I moved the portafilter to the brewing side. Pulling a shot is as easy as pressing a button, and the buttons even light up to guide you to the next step in the process. Once the espresso was in my cup, I moved onto milk—because the machine relies on a single water-heating component, you can’t do both at the same time.

Here’s where practice makes perfect, because the one thing the Barista Express Impress can’t do is steam your milk for you—sorry! After a few YouTube tutorials, I felt more confident in my capabilities, but I won’t be putting swans in my coffee cup anytime soon (see the evidence below).

an overhead shot of a mug full of a latte
Katherine Gillen

What Does the Coffee Taste Like?

As a boring old black coffee drinker, I was impressed by the tastiness of the first beverage I crafted, and I’ve found that the more I use the machine, the better they get. (Chalk that up to practice.) Are they as delicious as the lattes I can get from my neighborhood coffee spot down the block? Yes, and not just because I’m not shelling out $6 a pop. I’ve tried added maple syrup, steaming with oat milk and tried my hand at cappuccinos, all to some level of success.

Be Honest, Is It Really Worth the Price?

At $900, the Breville Barista Express Impress is an expensive appliance. Would I have purchased the machine myself? Probably not…but that being said, I think there are some instances where it’s totally worth the splurge.

If you’re already a pro, you may want a machine with more room for precision and customization. But for someone who’s curious about at-home espresso but doesn’t have any experience, the machine eliminates both the learning curve and the need for multiple appliances and tools, and it makes a tasty drink at that. It’s a happy medium between a fully automated machine and one that allows you to learn the process while eliminating some of the room for error.

The only other caveats I would add is that one, the machine is louder than I expected (shock of shocks, grinding coffee beans makes noise!), and two, at 12.9 inches wide, 14.9 inches deep, 16.1 inches tall and about 30 pounds, it’s not a small appliance. I don’t have the counterspace to keep it in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen, so I’ve been (comically) transporting the machine back and forth from my bar cart every time I want to use it. But since that’s basically every morning, I’m working on creating its permanent home. Call me a barista, wink wink.

More Great Espresso Machines We Love

The 10 Best Coffee Makers with Grinders for Freshly Made Coffee, Every Time

The PureWow100 is a scale our editors use to vet new products and services, so you know what’s worth the spend—and what’s total hype. Learn more about our process here.

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City restaurants. She used to sling sugary desserts in a pastry kitchen, but now she’s an avid home cook and fanatic baker.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...