Breville Barista – Express, Impress, Pro, Touch – What’s the Difference?

Breville Barista – Express, Impress, Pro, Touch – What’s the Difference?
Breville Barista Express vs Impress vs Touch

Breville Barista Express, Impress, Touch, Pro Introduction:

Breville (Sage in Europe) has been making highly successful all in one espresso machines for a long time now. They started with the Barista Express, then added the Pro and Touch models, and lately have enhanced their Express and Touch models with a new tamping system, called the Impress tamper.

All of these models include an integrated grinder, but they vary a bit. Also, some are faster than other models, and some use different technologies. Let’s have a look at the table below:

Barista Express Barista Pro Barista Touch Barista Express Impress Barista Touch Impress
Model Name BES870XL BES878BSS BES880BSS BES876BSS BES881BSS
User Interface Buttons Buttons and Touch Display Touch Display Buttons Touch Display
Heating System ThermoCoil ThermoJet ThermoJet ThermoCoil ThermoJet
Heat up time 30s 3s 3s 30s 3s
Grinder Settings 16 Stepless 16 25 Stepless
Tamper Manual Manual Manual Impress Impress
PID
Manometer
Steam Wand Power C+ A- A- B- A
Front view of Breville Barista Express espresso machine

Barista Express

Front view of Breville Barista Pro espresso machine

Barista Pro

Front view of Breville Barista Touch espresso machine

Barista Touch

Front view of Breville Barista Express Impress espresso machine

Barista Express Impress

Front view of Breville Barista Touch Impress espresso machine

Barista Touch Impress

The Machine that started it all – Barista Express

Over a decade later, the Barista Express is still the best selling espresso machine of Breville’s lineup. The combination of a competent grinder, PID controlled thermoblock, large drip tray, good ergonomics, and perhaps best of all: excellent Partner Acceptance Factor. These machines look good on your kitchen counter top, and with all the included tools, you are set to start making espresso drinks right away! I am thinking that it is sum of all of these characteristics, that made and still makes the Breville/Sage Barista Express such an international hit.

Breville (Sage) Barista Express Review

Common Barista Express Questions

Since the BBE is so popular, let’s answer some questions, shall we?

Q: What size is the basket, portafilter, and tamper?

A: 54 mm

Q: Where is the BBE made?

A: The Breville Barista Espress is designed in Australia, however made in China

Q: Does the BBE really have a PID?

A: Yes, all Barista models from Breville have PIDs on their thermocoils/thermojets. The default temperature is 93 degrees C, and they can be adjusted +/-2 degrees.

Q: What accessories do the machines come with?

A: All Barista models come with everything you need: tamper, razor, milk jug, 2 non-pressurized baskets, 2 pressurized baskets, cleaning tablets, cleaning disk, and descaler.

What unites the Barista Models?

All Barista models share a lot of the same features. They all incorporate a similar design, with integrated conical burr grinder, and rounded off, curvy housing design. They also all include huge drip trays, and large 2 liter water tanks. They also all include a PID for their heating systems. Finally, they all include all the accessories you need to get started with espresso making. I would also say that they also perform the same functions, although slightly differently depending on the model. One will notice that particularly with the steam wand performance, in the brew group, and finally in where the water spout is located.

What separates the Barista Models?

I would separate the 5 models into two camps: the manometer camp (shown directly below) and the display camp. The Breville Barista Express and Breville Barista Express Impress both use more or less analog displays, and they both employ manometers. While these manometers may not include bar readings, they do at least let you know if you are in the ballpark for espresso. I find that super handy. On the other hand, you have the Breville Barista Touch, Pro and Touch Impress, which incorporate either a touch screen, or a digital read out. Along with the analog manometer, one also has analog controls for the grind amount, the one cup and two cup options, and switching on the steam mode via lever.

Breville (Sage) Barista Express Review
Barista Express: analog controls, Thermocoil, slow steamer
Front of the Breville Barista Express Impress
Barista Express Impress: analog controls, Thermocoil, slow steamer, but with Impress Tamper.

Barista Express vs Barista Express Impress

The newer Express Impress builds on the success of the older Express. In fact, they look nearly the same, except that the Impress is slightly taller, and it includes a guided tamper and adaptive dosing. These are two important aspects. The Impress’ tamper plunger knows how deep it has gone to tamp the puck appropriately, and can therefore give the user feedback to add more coffee powder, or use less next time. This is a gamechanger! The included guided tamper is a job to use – it’s solid, metal, and has very little play. It feels super solid tamping the puck, and since it’s guided, you get a nice even tamp. I’d say the Impress is worth the extra $100 or so over the original for the tamper alone.

On top of the Impress tamper and adaptive dosing however, you also get more grinder settings on the Impress over the original Express, 25 instead of 15. This will help a bit to find that sweet spot when grinding. Otherwise, both the Barista Express and Barista Express Impress are very similar. They also both exclude a water tank level sensor, which is a major bummer.

Analog Boys: analog display, Thermocoil heater, slower steamer, with manometer
Front view of Breville Barista Express espresso machine

Barista Express

Front view of Breville Barista Express Impress espresso machine

Barista Express Impress

Thermocoil vs Thermojet (and their effect on brew group)

Besides the fact that the Barista Express and Express Impress models include a manometer, they also passively heat their brew groups. I believe this is due to the older “Thermocoil” heating system. This results in a more balanced shot in my experience, since the portafilter and basket get warmed up to the temperature of the brew group. This is an excellent feature, and one that is missing on the other three models. The thermocoil requires about 30-40 seconds for the machine to heat up, but I suggest also running 1-2 empty shots through the portafilter to warm that up as well.

The Barista Pro, Touch, and Touch Impress on the other hand employ “Thermojet” technology, which has the advantage of being ready in just 3 seconds! However, I have not noticed the same passive heating of the portafilter on the machines with the Thermojet technology. That’s kind of a shame. Nevertheless, it is awesome that the machine is up and running so quickly. The new thermojet technology also makes a big difference on the steam wand…

Steam Wand: old vs. new

There is simply no denying that the steam wand is better on the machines with the newer Thermojet technology. Whereas the steam wand takes 15-20 seconds to heat up to steam on the Barista Express and Impress, the steam is ready in just a few seconds with the Pro, Touch and Touch Impress models. They also seem to steam milk just a little better, although I can get very nice silky milk with all 5 of the machines. The newer type steam wand not only heats up quicker, but also includes more holes in the tip, making the milk swirling in the pitcher easier.

Breville Barista Express Steam Tip

Barista Express Steam Tip

Breville Barista Express Steam Tip

Barista Express Impress Steam Tip

Breville Barista Pro Steam Tip

Barista Pro Steam Tip

Breville Barista Touch Steam Tip

Barista Touch Steam Tip

Breville Barista Touch Impress Steam Tip

Barista Touch Impress Steam Tip

Barista Pro vs Barista Touch vs Barista Touch Impress

These models all include digital rather than analog displays, and they include the Thermojet technology, heating up in just 3 seconds. While this is awesome, I find that the brew groups are not passively heated, which is in my opinion a disadvantage in comparison to the models above. Of course, steaming on these models is great – much better than the Barista Express and Express Impress above. Whether you like the digital display or analog, is really a question of taste. I generally prefer the analog look and feel (haptics), but the 4″ display on the Touch Impress is very well done.

Well, the main difference here is that the Touch Impress comes with the great guided Impress Tamping system, and adaptive dosing, which I find super convenient. The Pro and Touch models come with timed settings for grinding. Additionally, the newest Touch Impress model comes with newer burrs from Baratza. Both the Pro and the Touch Impress offer stepless grind adjustments, which is a nice touch for getting those shots dialed in.

Of course it should also be mentioned that the Pro’s screen is not a touch display. It just shows information, and one needs to use selector switches and a rotary knob for making adjustments. The Barista Touch and Touch Impress on the other hand have handy color touch screens, which are quite fun to use.

Of these 3 machines, the newest Touch Impress has in my opinion the best steamer. I can steam the silkiest, creamiest milk with its 4 hole tipped steam wand.

Digital Boys: digital display, Thermojet heater, fast steamer, no manometer
Front view of Breville Barista Pro espresso machine

Barista Pro

Front view of Breville Barista Touch espresso machine

Barista Touch

Front view of Breville Barista Touch Impress espresso machine

Barista Touch Impress

Pros and Cons of the Barista line

Let’s line up the pros here:

  • Fast heat up time
  • Smooth workflow
  • Less mess on your countertop, because the grinder is integrated
  • Automatic cool down after steaming
  • Excellent milk texturing, especially on the Thermojet models (the ones with screens)
  • Includes all the tools you need to make espresso drinks!

And here are the cons in my opinion:

  • Getting up to steam mode slow for Barista Express and Barista Express Impress
  • Grinder settings limited on Barista Express, but better on other models
  • Grinder is not super fast, about 1g/s
  • All models with screens do not seem to passively heat the brew group

The latest and greatest: Breville/Sage Barista Touch Impress

I will include some photos here of the latest and greatest Breville machine, so that you can get a better idea of it’s looks and features. It includes all the newest features, such as the Thermojet technology, Impress Tamping system, handsome touch screen, and automatic milk frothing. I find this machine steams milk silkier and better than any I have tested so far in manual mode. Automatic mode however using the temperature sensor is hit and miss. The temperature is spot on, but sometimes the texturing works better than others.

54mm Accessories for the Breville/Sage Barista Models

While the Barista line of espresso machines all come with the accessories you need, there are some nice upgrades, in particular a nicer tamper, a better basket, and a sweet bottomless portafilter so that you can view and diagnose the extractions. I use the Normcore tamper and bottomless portafilter myself, and I can recommend them, as they fit well. The IMS basket is also super nice, just grind a tick finer for it, since it has more holes than the OEM basket, and therefore offers less static resistance.

Normcore Bottomless Portafilter for espresso

Normcore Bottomless

IMS 51mm espresso basket, H26 mm in height

IMS Basket H26

Normcore 53.3mm Tamper

53.3mm Tamper

Summary

The Breville Barista line offers a lot at its pricepoint – capable espresso machines, with integrated grinders, and excellent workflows. They keep your counters clean, and are easy enough for a casual coffee person to enjoy. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the above choices. The origina Barista Express provides probably the best value, while the newer Impress tamping system offers a new ease in dosing and tamping. The models with screens offer super easy milk frothing, which is also a delight. So, which model is for you? Thanks for reading!