Breville Barista Express Impress review

If you love making coffee at home but don’t want to take a full course on espresso pulling and drink making, the Breville Barista Express Impress is the machine for you. This semi-automatic espresso machine will help you create delicious, professional-quality beverages from the comfort of your own home, whether you’re an expert barista or a beginner whose just learning the ropes.

What’s in the box of the Breville Barista Express Impress?

Breville Barista Express Impress review what's in the box

In the box of the Breville Barista Express Impress, you’ll find an impressively-built machine. This espresso maker is beautiful and comes with a removable 250g bean hopper, 2L water tank, removable drip tray grid, and removable tamp cover.

Also included is an instruction manual, Claroswiss water filter and filter holder, 54mm stainless steel portafilter, and four single and dual wall filter baskets. (The single and double shot single wall filters are for use with fresh ground coffee, while the single and double shot dual wall filters are for use with pre-ground coffee.) This machine also comes with The Razor dose trimming tool, a stainless steel milk jug, a hidden tool tray, and a cleaning kit.

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Breville Barista model comparison

1. The Breville Barista Express (semi-automatic)

There are two Barista Express machines made by Breville. The original is the Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine, which includes a built-in bean grinder, pressure metre, tamper, cup warming tray, and steam wand. Like the Express Impress, it’s designed to help you pull a fresh shot of espresso in under a minute. Unlike the Impress, however, the original Express is a little more manual. (A little more—it’s still programmable and semi-automatic.) You tamp using a handheld tamper and you set the device’s grind size and grind amount yourself.

2. The Breville Barista Express Impress (semi-automatic, but more automatic than not)

The Barista Express Impress is a more-automatic upgrade on the original. It has many of the same features, but instead of a handheld tamper, the Impress features a tamping handle. This is the biggest change that I see in the two designs and it’s so satisfying to use. Instead of tamping your own coffee grounds, which is a process that I’m always tentative about, pull a sleek handle and the machine delivers even, precise pressure for you. The Impress tamps with a precise 22lbs of pressure every time, then finishes your puck with a 7 degree “barista twist” for a polished effect.

The Impress also adds grind control to your machine with fine-tuned grind size settings and the option to either dose manually or automatically. Once dosed, the machine gives you feedback on your dose level based on the height of your puck. On automatic, it’ll remember your last-used dose size. So, on your first espresso with new beans or on a new grind size, you may need to dose a few times. After that, the process should be fully pre-set for you.

Breville Barista Express Impress review portafilter

3. The Breville Barista Touch (automatic) 

The Barista Express Impress is what I like to think of as a semi-automatic machine. Some features are still manual, or have the option to be. If you want to fully upgrade to an automatic machine, I’d recommend something more like the Barista Touch, which I’ve also reviewed on the blog. It’s a great machine, with built-in espresso troubleshooting, steam wand temperature settings, and easy-to-use drink recipes. (It has not, however, got an Impress upgrade yet.)

Breville Barista Express Impress tamp handle

Why use a lever-based tamping mechanism? 

Along with grind size, poor tamping is one of the most common reasons why your at-home espresso isn’t as good as what you’d get in a coffee shop. If you tamp too gently, the water pours through your grounds way too quickly, producing weak, odd-tasting espresso. If you tamp too firmly, the water struggles to trickle through your grounds at all, producing over-extracted espresso that might taste sour or bitter.

But tamping the exact right amount? Well, that’s tough. Not only do you have to get just the right amount of pressure out of your forearm—and who knows how much pressure their forearms are delivering?! I certainly don’t—but it has to be perfectly even, too. Produce a lopsided puck, even with just the right amount of pressure, and your grounds will extract unevenly.

The Impress is the first espresso machine I’ve seen that uses assisted tamping. It works very well to streamline your at-home coffee machine, and in my opinion, it’s great for both beginners and the bleary-eyed. Even if you’re a great tamper, I can see it helping to simplify your morning coffee routine and get you prepared for the day with absolutely zero stress. I don’t feel that it tamps as perfectly as a professional, with some uneven edges and the occasional bumpy top. But it performs much better than the untrained, at-home barista writing this.

Breville Barista Express Impress review what's in the box

What’s the magic of dose level feedback?

What I think makes Breville espresso machines so wonderful is their real-time feedback. These machines are built with precise engineering and high-quality materials, so they look and feel like something that you might see in a coffee shop. But they perform like consumer machines, not professional machines—and that’s a good thing.

The real magic of a Breville espresso or coffee machine is the way that they help you learn how to make the perfect cup of coffee for yourself. They’re powerful and precise enough to perform professionally—you can definitely pull a shot of perfect espresso in under a minute using the Breville Barista Express Impress, as promised—but they give feedback so that you can learn how to make a great coffee without needing to take a class.

In the Impress, that feedback comes primarily in the form of the dose level happy face. If your dosing is off, it’ll tamp and tell you. Then, you can either add more grounds and re-tamp or, if the dose level is too high, you can use the included Breville Razor to trim your dose. The feedback makes it easy to know for sure that you have just the right amount of grounds for the ideal extraction.

Breville Barista Express Impress steam wand

Is it worth it to buy an espresso machine with a steam wand?

As someone who never drinks straight espresso, I definitely think it’s worth it to spend a little extra and purchase an espresso machine with a steam wand built in. Breville’s steam wands are great for achieving creamy microfoam at home, and they work well on both dairy and non-dairy milks. By choosing a model with the steam wand built in, you can create a significantly wider range of coffee beverages from the comfort of your home coffee bar or kitchen without having to set up, clean, and arrange the cords of an additional appliance.

This steam wand is great for helping you make steamed milks, lattes, cappuccinos, flat whites, and more. It delivers generous, dense, hot foam and can be purged for easy cleaning. (Seriously: The milk foam from this wand has so much structure it looks almost like meringue.) On the other side of the steam dial is a hot water function that’s great for mug warming and more.

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How’s the espresso out of the Breville Barista Express Impress?

The espresso out of the Express Impress is pretty darn good! One could even say that it’s… Impressive.

The Breville Barista Express Impress is easy to use, clean, and troubleshoot. You may need to fine-tune your settings after changing your beans or grind size, but after a couple of cups of coffee, your automatic settings will be back on track.

I really struggled to produce a good result with this machine at first, but then I realized the problem wasn’t the machine—it was my stale, decaf coffee beans. As soon I swapped them out for something better, I achieved a perfect tamp, extraction, and result on my very first try. The results definitely rivalled my favourite coffee shop, and tasted richer and smoother than what I’d get at a chain coffee shop.

For coffee newbies, the Express Impress provides you with assistance and guidance that you just wouldn’t get from a basic model (something like the Breville Café Roma). This machine is ideal for users who struggle to tamp or dose perfectly and, as a result, find that their at-home coffee beverages are overly sour or bitter. It’s best used with fresh coffee beans and great for making delicious espresso, Americanos, cappuccinos, and lattes alike.

Shop the Breville Barista Express Impress online at Best Buy.

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