So after months and months of fingernail biting and thinking ‘Do I? Don’t I?’ I finally took the plunge and bought a Sage Barista Express.
Sage is the UK arm of Breville’s premium appliance range and (annoyingly) is spearheaded by Heston Blumenthal. Breville being an Australian company knows its coffee well and make, in my opinion, some of the best home coffee machines money can buy without getting something really specialist that you would find at Bella Barista. The Barista Express is their mid-range model and is a single boiler bean-to-cup manual espresso machine with inbuilt steam arm. It has an all metal construction and is about a just over a foot in length, width and height.
The reason I’ve wanted one of these for so long is mainly because of my job. I’ve spent months learning all the ins and outs of the machine, making hundreds of lattes, cappuccinos and americanos, talking about the machine to customers and generally lusting over it a bit more than would be healthy. It wasn’t even as if it was love at first sight. I never really liked the machine when I was first shown it and given the demonstration. I knew it was good but I always found myself going for its larger brother, The Oracle. However, completely by chance our Oracle at work developed a gremlin and so purely for ease, instead of trying to fix it, I just started using the Barista Express and from there never looked back.
It’s not the most extravagant machine ever, it’s not the most technical and it’s by no means the most controllable: there’s very little temperature control, the steam wand is either on or off (there’s no variable steam), it only has a single boiler, the grinder dosage selector is a bit clumsy, the steam outlet used for dumping excess water in the drip tray is a bit crap and the mug warmer is a waste of time but besides all these little niggles I still love it. It makes coffee shop quality espresso and whilst admittedly it’s a very costly machine, it looks the business; especially in the sesame black that I got it in. On the subject of price I’d say it’s very reasonable for what it is. The build quality alone is that of a machine at least £500 more than this one. As a comparison, a similarly priced Jura is entirely nasty cheap plastic, as is a DeLonghi or Krups of similar price and spec. The reliability of the machine (or any Sage product for that matter) is second to none. The model we have in the shop is coming up to being 18 months old and has been used heavily everyday of its life and the only time it has gone wrong is when something got caught in the grinder that shouldn’t have but that was no fault of the machine’s itself.
As an all-rounder it’s easily one of the best home machines on the market today and as I have said to many customers; if you get one, once you start using it you’ll begin to wonder why you waited so long to get it in the first place. It’s as simple as that. There are machines that are more convenient to use i.e. Nespresso or an ESE and there are machines that offer more control like a Rancilio but, as I said, as an all-rounder when you take into account price, performance, build quality, reliability, customer service and of course coffee quality then there is nothing better at this price.
……………although as my mum pointed out: I would say that because I’m biased!