Breville Barista Max Review
Jack Simpson examines this all in one coffee machine in our Breville Barista Max review. Think it’s worth investing in? Find out below…
What are the products that you would love in your home in order to make the perfect cup of coffee? If I was to guess what you would answer I would say:
- Espresso machine
- Milk frother
- Bean grinder
That’s the dream, isn’t it? Well, the Breville Barista Max is a coffee machine that boasts all of those – all in one neat little unit.
Before you rush out with your hard-earned cash to buy one, let us help you. We have been burned before with machines that promise everything but end up delivering very little, so we thought it would be a good idea to take an in-depth look at the Breville Barista Max. First, we will determine what exactly you can expect in terms of features and specification, before putting it to the test and finishing with our final verdict.
Before we get into all of that though, a quick word on Breville. You may be aware that Australian company Breville trade under their brand name Sage in the UK and wider Europe. Without wanting to go into too many, quite boring, details, this is because they sold the ‘Breville’ brand name in Europe back in the 80s.
As a result, this machine is not actually made by the Australian country Breville, or Sage for that matter, but by an American company Newell Brands – who also own Sunbeam a coffee machine specialist manufacturer. It is these guys that create the machines sold under the Breville name in Europe. This has, understandably, caused quite a lot of confusion with customers.
The key thing is though, that this is neither Australian Breville nor a cheap knock-off. They are a fine coffee machine producer in their own right, just with a confusing back-story!
Breville Barista Max Specs And Features
Now that that is clear(!) let’s get into the business of what this machine can do.
We’ll start with the most exciting feature, in my opinion – the integrated ‘Tap and Go’ grinder. This is a burr grinder, which is preferential over a blade grinder and comes with a whopping 30 different grind settings. To be honest, this is probably more than you will ever need, but it is great to have that much choice. There is a portafilter holder underneath the grinder so that you can grind directly into it.
There is a timer built into the grinder which controls the amount of coffee – you just need to set the number of grams that you want and it will produce that much coffee.
The next most exciting feature is the steam wand. This produces ‘dry steam’ so that you can perfect the texture for your milk. It is very similar to the sort of wand that you might get in a coffee shop or café, which opens up a lot of opportunities when it comes to latte art and perfecting your technique.
In terms of brewing coffee – its primary function after all – they employ a ‘Temp IQ’ system, which helps to regulate the temperature of the water during the extraction process. Any deviation in temperature can have a major effect on the taste of your coffee, so having something built into the system that ensures that the optimum temperature is maintained is ideal.
This is combined with the Thermoblock heating system, which is becoming more and more popular amongst coffee machine manufacturers. Basically, this means that the water heats up incredibly quickly when the machine is turned on, and so it is ready to begin making coffee almost instantly.
Finally on the coffee brewing process, we should mention the pre-infusion. This is where the water begins the extraction process at very low pressure. This gives the water chance to come into contact with more coffee, rather than being forced through at speed. The pressure is then built up gradually, to ensure as much flavour is extracted from the coffee as possible.
On top of these features of the machine, you get quite a bit of ‘little extras;’ when you purchase the Barista Max. Obviously, you get a group handle (58mm) and 1 and 2 cup filter baskets – but also there is a tamper (which fits nicely on the top-right of the unit), a 460ml stainless steel milk jug, a grinder cleaning brush and a cleaning disc.
Finally, the appearance. While not strictly a feature, it is worth noting that this is a premium-looking machine. The brushed stainless steel gives it a classic, crisp appearance that would look at home in any kitchen, or coffee shop for that matter. Measuring just 38.1 x 35.56 x 43.18 cm, it is also an incredibly compact machine, especially considering everything that it has to offer.
What It’s Like To Use The Breville Barista Max
Often when you come across a machine that can ‘do everything’ it can be incredibly complicated to navigate your way around it. An overload of features can sometimes mean an overload of complications.
First of all, we need to check to see if there is enough water there to brew our coffee. The water tank is located on the back of the machine and can hold up to 2.8 litres of water, which is pretty massive for a machine of this size. This will mean that you don’t have to refill it very often at all.
Next, we’ll head over to the grinder to check that there is enough coffee in there. The compartment has a decent lid, so we can fill it with more beans than you need without having to worry too much about losing freshness in beans that aren’t ground this time around.
Once we are happy, we can load the portafilter underneath the grinder, and set the size of your coffee grounds by moving the dial located at the bottom of the grinder unit on top of the machine. When you are happy, set the grinder off and the grounds will be deposited directly into the filter. There is even a cool little light that comes on when this happens, so you can watch it all.
When that is finished, grab the tamper from the top right of the machine and apply a bit of pressure to the coffee. This will ensure even extraction.
Load the portafilter back into the dispenser in the middle of the machine, and then press either the one-shot or two-shot button to start the extraction process. The coffee will then pour into your cup, which you will have positioned just below the filter.
Next, it is time to prepare your milk. Fill up the jug provided with the required amount of milk, and turn the dial to ‘Steam’. When it is hot enough, place the milk wand in your jug and begin to froth your milk to the required density and temperature for your drink.
When that is done, simply add the milk to the coffee and your drink is ready!
To my mind, the process basically requires you to be able to move a portafilter twice, press two buttons and turn one dial. Oh, and position a cup correctly. Nothing too taxing there!
Okay, I may be playing down the skill it takes to froth milk. That is something you may need to practice, as it is something that takes time and a certain ability. To me, that is part of the fun of owning a machine like this.
Breville Barista Max Taste Test
So it is easy to operate – great. But the real question on everyone’s lips is how does the coffee taste.
I have good news: the Breville Barista Max makes fantastic coffee. This is largely due to the fact that you are using the freshest possible coffee, straight from the grinder, just like in a coffee shop. The taste is all trapped in, and then extracted beautifully with the low-pressure process.
A lot will depend on your ability to froth milk – that is something that can ruin a cappuccino, for example, if you over-stretch or over-heat the milk. A little bit of research and practice will go a long way here though, and it won’t be long before you are creating amazing latte art to impress everyone who visits your home.
There really are no limits to what you can do with this machine – every coffee imaginable can be made, and it’s all fresh. Wonderful.
I probably gave a little too much away in the previous section, but I am a huge fan of the Breville Barista Max.
What we haven’t really discussed so far in this review is the price. For a machine with this level of functionality, with an integrated grinder and milk wand, this is incredibly good value. You could expect to pay double for similar machines from more established brands.
If I had one criticism, it would be that sometimes the coffee can miss the filter when it exits the grinder, so you can lose a little bit and it makes a mess. It’s the sort of thing a simple guard could have solved, so it is slightly annoying.
Having said that, though, this is a wonderfully easy machine to use. It gives you a lot of room for experimentation with your coffee, and most importantly of all, it makes some great tasting drinks.
If you feel like you are ready for the full barista experience at home, then the Breville Barista Max could be the machine for you.