Sage Barista Express Review

Emma Challoner-Miles takes an in-depth look at this popular espresso machine. Find out how she got on with it and whether or not it might suit you and your kitchen right here in this Sage Barista Express review.

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You can’t beat a good cup of coffee, be it a punchy espresso to kick-start your day or a frothy cappuccino mid-afternoon. Thankfully, you don’t need to pull on your shoes and amble to an expensive coffee shop for your favourite brew. Instead, treat yourself to the Sage Barista Express coffee machine.

In this review, we’ll check out the features, find out how the Sage Barista Express works, and get up close and personal to assess its performance. I’ll obviously be tasting numerous cups of coffee in a bid to find out if the Sage Barista brews a decent beverage (it’s a hard job but someone has to do it). Don’t worry, I’ll share my findings with you. Ready for a brew? Me too – so let’s make a start with this Sage Barista Express review…

Introducing the Sage Barista Express

Award-winning company Sage encourages people to whip up a storm in their own kitchen. They produce a wide range of appliances, including juicers, smart ovens, and coffee machines. As a company, Sage claims to have a seemingly straightforward mission, to listen, obsess, innovate, test, refine, and design. We like the sound of that!

Launched by Sage in 2013, the Sage Barista Express has proved to be a popular coffee machine. If you peruse some online stores, you’ll find it listed as a bean-to-cup machine, but there seems to be a debate around whether or not it is. The Sage Barista Express is actually described as a semi-automatic espresso machine (it boasts an integrated grinder). To be honest, I don’t mind which family of coffee gadgets it belongs to, providing it gives me a steaming cup of something nice when I get up.

Everyone’s so busy nowadays! What with chores, work, family, etc – it’s little wonder we have no time to spare. Thank goodness we can get our hands on coffee to keep us going. With time pressures in mind, I’m going to give you a speedy review of the Sage Barista Express here, just in case you don’t have time to read and digest the whole article.

In short, the Sage Barista Express is a semi-automatic traditional espresso machine with a built-in grinder. It’s not too difficult to operate and it’s not too pricey either (especially if you can nab a cheeky discount). If you’re looking for your first barista machine and you don’t want to break the bank, you won’t be disappointed.

Looks-wise, the Sage Barista Express is sleek and smart – it will fit nicely into a modern kitchen. It’s not too big either – so you won’t lose too much valuable counter space. The machine is also straightforward to operate, so providing you use quality beans, you can enjoy a steaming cup of coffee whenever you like.

So, that’s the Sage Barista Express in a nutshell, but hopefully, you’ve got time to read the rest of this article. Please do, as we’ll tell you everything else you need to know about this popular coffee maker.

First Impressions Of The Sage Barista Express

Sage Barista Express Espresso Machine - Espresso and Coffee Maker, Bean to Cup Coffee Machine, BES875UK , Brushed Stainless Steel At first glance, the Sage Barista Express impresses with its modish looks and compact size. Some coffee machines seem big and overbearing, and if your kitchen is on the small side cumbersome machines can prove challenging to place.

Sage has clearly put a lot of thought into the Barista Express, it’s well designed and there are plenty of features – there’s even a hidden tray tucked behind the drip tray – perfect for stashing any odds and sods. I have brought one or two Sage appliances in the past and they all seem to boast sharp attention to detail, which impresses me.

My neighbour popped in for a coffee recently, as did a couple of family members, and they all mentioned the Sage Barista Express – heaping praise on its design and appearance. It’s nice having a shiny new gadget in my kitchen.

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Sage Barista Express Specs & Features

Let’s start by investigating the key features of the Sage Barista Express and outline exactly what the coffee machine has to offer.

  • Bean Hopper – Don’t underestimate the container at the top of the grinder (the bean hopper). The hopper holds your coffee beans before grinding them ready for your brew. The Sage Barista boasts a bean hopper with a capacity of 450 grams
  • Water Tank – Large drip machines generally require large water tanks (they usually brew around eight cups), but espresso machines typically require less. The Sage Barista Express has a water tank that can hold 2 litres
  • Material – Made from brushed stainless steel, the Barista Express is robust and durable. Stainless steel is less likely to rust and it won’t stain from exposure to water. This is a pristine-looking coffee machine that’s made to last
  • Size – Contrary to what you may have heard, size does matter. You don’t want an over-sized coffee machine taking up a whole portion of your worktop (unless you’re installing the Sage Barista Express in a large workplace kitchen). Thankfully, the coffee machine is neat and compact at 33cm wide x 32cm deep x 40cm tall, so it won’t take up too much valuable space
  • Heating System – Thermacoils are modern and efficient, and the Barista Express boasts an impressive 1850W thermocoil – designed to give you a steaming beverage. Thermacoils are hardier than thermoblocks, which means they are generally more expensive – but as with most things, you get what you pay for
  • Sage Barista Express Espresso Machine - Espresso and Coffee Maker, Bean to Cup Coffee Machine, BES875UK , Brushed Stainless Steel Pre Infusion Function – This special function gradually increases the pressure of the water, which causes the grinds to expand gently – perfect for even extraction
  •  Purge Function – The purge function allows the automatic adjustment of the water temperature following steam. This provides the optimum perfect temperature for a tasty espresso
  • Warranty – It’s better to be safe than sorry, so a warranty always comes in handy. The Sage Barista Express comes with a 2 Year Repair, Replace or Refund Guarantee (this is provided at the discretion of Sage Appliances)
  • Drip Tray – A drip tray comes in useful, and this one has a cute “fill me” sign that appears when it’s time to empty the slops. Behind the drip tray, you’ll find a hidden little tray for stray bits and bobs too
  • Integrated Grinder – The Sage Barista Express has an integrated grinder for your beans. There’s always a debate as to the merits of an integrated grinder Vs a stand-alone one, we’ll explore that in more detail later
  • Milk Steamer – Latte artists will be pleased to hear that the Sage Barista Express has a steamer so you can create creamy, frothy milk for your brew. Again, we’ll explore this feature in more detail later on
  • Razor Tool – The Sage Barista Express also boasts the Razor Tool, a useful gadget that is used to determine an accurate dose. The tool maintains the expanse between the upper part of the basket and the puck. Just in case you’re not sure, the puck is the round disc that’s left over once your espresso has been poured

The coffee machine is equipped with a variety of components. There’s an on/off switch, a bean hopper, an integrated conical burr grinder, a grind outlet grinding activation switch, a hand-free grinding cradle, and a grind size selector. There’s also a grind amount dial, a filter size button, an integrated removable 54mm tamper, and a group head.

Phew, what else? There’s a stainless steel portafilter, tall cup clearance (for tall mugs), a removable drip tray, a 360-degree swivel action steam wand, a hot water outlet, and a steam/hot water dial. On top of that, there are a steam/hot water light, a button to indicate 1 or 2 cups, a clean me light, an espresso pressure gauge, pre-programmable buttons, and 1 cup and 2 cups shot volumes.

The Barista Express comes with a range of handy accessories including a temperature-controlled milk jug, a water filter holder, and a filter. You also get a razor precision dose trimming tool, and single wall filter baskets (use these when grinding whole coffee beans).

The coffee machine comes with a handful of cleaning accessories too, so you can keep your gadget in tip-top condition. There’s a cleaning disc, cleaning tablets, cleaning brush, cleaning tool, and descaling powder.

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How To Set Up The Sage Barista Express

You’ll need to find a place for your Sage Barista Express – it should be accessible but not in the way. Find a steady, level, heat-resistant, dry spot (not too close to the edge of your worktop). It’s best to keep the coffee machine away from stove tops and gas hobs, and don’t position it on a draining board either.

Cords can be a bit of a pest. For safety’s sake make sure you unwind the cord properly once you’ve found a home for your gadget. Make sure the power cord is tucked safely away, you don’t want it to hang down as it can become a hazard (and get easily tangled). The Sage Barista Express has been designed with simplicity in mind, so you won’t be pressing endless buttons, pulling levers, and filling up containers left, right, and centre.

When you’ve sorted out where your new gadget is going, it’s time to put the bean hopper in. You will need to choose your basket (I opted for the double basket) and from there you need to insert the water filter into the water tank. So far, so good. Next, top up your water tank and place the beans into the hopper. Then you can simply switch on your new machine and you’re ready for action.

A Selection of Coffees

The Sage Barista Express can be used to make an impressive range of drinks. Choose from espresso, long black, cappuccino, or a latte.

  • Espresso – A deep and strong coffee is usually served in small amounts (known as shots). Espresso is made from coffee beans, just like normal coffee, but the beverage is more potent, thicker, and it is higher in caffeine. That said, the serving size is so small, that a shot of espresso typically has less caffeine than other coffees
  • Long Black – A black coffee with a modern-day twist. The long black is an espresso-based brew produced by dispensing espresso over hot water (a bit like the Americano but in reverse). If you’re a fan of creamy coffee this drink might look a bit dull, but the long black hits it out of the park with a smooth texture and intense blend of beans
  •  Cappuccino – I always feel a cappuccino is best savoured whilst sitting on a sunlit terrace in a faraway place. Unfortunately, reality dictates that’s not always possible. This Italian coffee is immensely popular – it is made up of a solo espresso shot and hot milk, and its distinctive foamy top gives it extra appeal
  • Latte – Espresso, steamed milk, and foam – it doesn’t take a lot to make a scrummy latte. The popular drink is enjoyed by coffee lovers around the globe. Once thought of as a breakfast brew, the latte is now relished morning, noon, and night

The Coffee Grinder

Sage Barista Express Espresso Machine - Espresso and Coffee Maker, Bean to Cup Coffee Machine, BES875UK , Brushed Stainless SteelWe can’t talk about the Sage Barista Express without taking a closer look at its integrated grinder. Let’s start by saying the grinder offers a wider range than most of those you’ll find languishing in a bean-to-cup machine, however, there is room for improvement!

To put it into context, the Sage Barista Express typically has around 18 settings (more settings than the standard bean-to-cup grinder). However, a stand-alone grinder often boasts around a whopping 60 settings – allowing for a finer grind. The grind is considered key to the taste and quality of the coffee.

Course settings work well for cafetiéres and filter coffee, but a premium espresso coffee demands a fine grind. Don’t get me wrong, the Sage Barista Express does the job, but you won’t achieve the ultra-fine grind you can get with an espresso machine and separate grinder.

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The Milk Steamer

The Sage Barista Express has a thermacoil rather than a conventional steam boiler.

Traditional steam boilers are powerful, whereas thermacoils and thermablocks are milder. Water travels through the heating element and a single tube delivers the steam.

Making a basic beverage is simple, but steaming the milk and finding the right angle for the jug and steam wand, can be a little trickier.  The best way to perfect the art of milk steaming is to listen to your drink! If you hear a splatting sound, it usually indicates air is being sucked in too quickly (which tells you the tip of the jug is angled too high).

If you go the opposite way, and angle the tip too low, you’ll be rewarded with an annoying screech (not good either). Ideally, you want to get the tip in just the right spot, and when you do, you’ll hear a low fizzing sound, interlaced with a noise that’s reminiscent of a piece of paper being torn into pieces.

It sounds like a lot of hassle, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find you’ll be able to get the jug in the right place to warm the milk. The heat stretches the milk (causing it to expand) and results in the milk adopting a glossy, creamy consistency.Sage Barista Express Espresso Machine - Espresso and Coffee Maker, Bean to Cup Coffee Machine, BES875UK , Brushed Stainless Steel

Once you’ve achieved this you are aiming to move from stretching to heating the milk by creating a vortex. Tilting the jug, with the steam to one side, should help you achieve this. At this point, the milk won’t be smooth or flat but enlarged on one side, if it’s not you might have to slant the jug further. You’re aiming for a temperature of between 60 to 65 C.

The jug has a thermometer, so you can see how hot your milk is, however you might have to put the jug down to check the reading. The thermometer allows you to get a good idea of when you need to halt the steam. This useful feature allows budding baristas to get the texture of their milk spot on.

Steam boilers get the job done more quickly, but the Sage Barista Express thermacoil operates slowly. If you’re a dab hand at coffee making you might get annoyed by the wait, but most of us don’t mind a slower pace if it means we end up with a better brew. The art of topping off a coffee requires a steady hand, and the slow steam enables you to get a better handle on mastering the milky skill.

Cleaning The Sage Barista Express

Drinking a good coffee is always an enjoyable experience, but cleaning a coffee machine isn’t quite as pleasurable. Thankfully, the Sage Barista doesn’t need tons of your time and effort to keep it in tip-top condition.

You will need to clean all of the removable parts regularly (if you use your coffee machine every day it would be a good idea to clean the parts each week). If not, you might be able to get away with cleaning the parts a little less often.

Sage Barista Express Espresso Machine - Espresso and Coffee Maker, Bean to Cup Coffee Machine, BES875UK , Brushed Stainless Steel Your Sage Barista Express will also benefit from descaling. The water filter will remove some of the limescale, but you’ll need descaling tablets to do a thorough job. You’ll find there’s a separate filter for this (coffee filters aren’t made for descaling tablets). Your clever machine will let you know when you need to descale, so don’t worry about putting it in your diary.

The steam wand needs to be cleaned after every use. You can do this relatively easily by wiping it. Sage also provides you with a useful tool that can get to those hard-to-reach places for a deeper clean. We should also mention that the drip tray has a hidden drawer below – a handy little storage area for your cleaning bits and bobs, filters, trimmers, etc.

As for the stainless steel, you’re probably aware that it can be challenging to keep it looking shiny and polished. However, it’s worth the effort to keep your Sage Barista Express gleaming and in good condition.

Sage Barista Express Top Tips

All gadgets take some time to get used to, but there’s no need to worry, we have a few top tips to help you to get to know your Sage Barista Express.

  • Choose your coffee beans – Finding the right beans for your blend can take time. When you come across something that tickles your taste buds it’s worth keeping a note and stock of your go-to beans. If you like the idea of trying out an eclectic mix you might be disappointed as you can’t dial in effortlessly with every type of bean
  • Speed up your steamer – It’s a good idea to run the hot water for a few seconds before you switch on the steam function. This speeds things up a little
  • Remove the portafilter for the first shot – The first shot of coffee might be a bit hit-and-miss, so it’s worth removing the portafilter and pressing the button for a coffee-free shot the first time around. With the coffee machine warmed up, the next shot (with coffee) should be better
  • The roast impacts the grind – The profile of the roast defines the grind – a dark roast goes hand in hand with a coarse grind, and a light grind requires a fine grind
  • The bean hopper shouldn’t be filled to capacity – You can get 250g of beans into the hopper, but there’s no need to cram that much in there. After all, you don’t want to end up with stale beans. It’s better to keep your beans in a container with a secure lid in order to keep them fresh. Just put what you need into the hopper, when you need it, for a flavoursome and fresh brew
  • Use cold mains water – Don’t use distilled, de-mineralised, or filtered water to brew your coffee as it could impair the performance of the machine and the taste of your brew. Stick to cold mains water for the best results

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Barista Vs Bean To Cup

If you have a need for speed and like the idea of a simple, easy-to-use machine, then a bean-to-cup machine will suit you. However, if you don’t mind spending slightly longer on making a brew, then a traditional semi-automatic espresso machine and grinder, such as the Sage Barista Express, will provide you with a top-quality coffee.

Barista Vs Disc/Pod

There are plenty of disc and pod coffee machines on the market, such as the Tassimo and Nespresso. There’s no doubt these types of machines are convenient, but they just don’t pack the flavour punch you’ll get from the Sage Barista Express. Unfortunately, some of the pods and discs aren’t very environmentally friendly either, due to the rigorous manufacturing process and the leftover waste.

Integrated Grinder Vs Separate Grinder

You may hear coffee aficionados preach the importance of investing in a separate espresso machine and a stand-alone espresso grinder. They pronounce it’s the only way to ensure you get a superior coffee, and we must admit The Sage Bambino Plus and the Smart Grinder Pro work wonderfully well together to blend a smooth and tasty cup.

With this in mind, it’s unsurprising to learn that experts sometimes tell consumers to avoid gadgets with integrated grinders. The belief is that integrated grinders don’t crush the beans finely enough. However, the Sage Barista Express has an integrated grinder, and on the whole, it seems to do a decent job.

It’s cheaper to buy a Sage Barista Express (or a similar coffee machine with an integrated grinder) than to spend your hard-earned cash on purchasing separate machines – and with a good machine you’ll still get a quality cup of coffee.

In time, you might decide to join the ranks of the coffee elitists, and in this case, you’ll probably look at upgrading by swapping your all-in-one gadget for the separates we’ve mentioned. The good news is that you should get a decent price for your Sage Barista Express, thanks to its good reputation.

A Guide to Extraction

A good cup of coffee depends on extraction within the espresso range. Under and over-extraction will provide you with poor results and no one likes a bad cup of coffee! Here’s a quick overview for you:

  • Good Extraction: If extraction is looking good, you’ll notice the flow will begin after 8 to 12 seconds. The flow will be slow and the crema will have a mousse-like consistency, along with a golden/brown hue. The extraction should take around 25-30 seconds and the espresso will present with an attractive deep brown colour
  • Under Extraction: The flow will usually begin after 1 to 6 seconds and will appear fast, like running water. The crema will look unappealingly pale and have a very thin texture. The espresso won’t look much better – with a watery light brown colour. The extraction itself will take around 20 seconds and you’ll be disappointed with the bitter or insipid taste
  • Over Extraction: With over-extraction, the flow begins at around 12 seconds and you’ll note it’s very drippy or almost non-existent. The crema will look dark and have a spotty appearance and the espresso itself will have a deep brown hue. The extraction takes around 35 seconds and you will be left with a ghastly coffee that tastes burnt and bitter

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We’ve given you the lowdown on the product but here are a few FAQs just in case:

Is the Sage Barista Express worth its price?

It’s not the cheapest coffee machine, but it’s not overly priced either. The Sage Barista Express offers a wealth of features and produces a great cup of coffee, be it espresso, long black, cappuccino, or latte.

Do I get a warranty/guarantee?

No one likes a broken appliance, and even products that come with super reputations can run into operational problems. The Sage Barista Express is considered a robust and reputable machine, but it’s good to know that there is a 2-year “3 R” in place too.

If needs be, you can repair, refund, or replace the product should you run into issues. There’s also a customer service centre, so you can contact the team via email, phone, or chat to request support.

Are there other Barista coffee machines?

Sage has more than one pony in their stable. The Sage Barista Express sits alongside two other models, the Sage Barista Pro and the Sage Barista Touch.

The Sage Barista Pro is similar to the Sage Barista Express, however, it does boast a digital pressure gauge and an additional control panel. The Sage Barista Touch is very pricy, but you do get a luxe product. The coffee machine has a touchscreen display and also features auto milk texturing.

Do I need a special cup?

You can use an espresso size cup or a normal mug to make your favourite brew. There should be space – just try it out for size – place the cup beneath the dispensing unit and you’re good to go.

How do I plumb in my new coffee machine?

Good news – you don’t need to be a plumber or hire one to set up your new coffee gadget! Coffee machines should be simple to set up and use, plumbing should not be part of the deal. The Sage Barista Express is fitted with a water tank, you just remove it to fill it and then slot it back in.

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Let’s get to the nitty-gritty, does the Sage Barista Express perform well? After trying it out for myself, I’d definitely give it the thumbs up. If you’re looking for a well-functioning machine that doesn’t cost the earth, the Sage Barista could be spot on.

The machine isn’t basic, but it’s not a cutting-edge piece of kit either. It’s good for those who enjoy a good cup of coffee but aren’t keen on investing in a space-age piece of kit that requires a degree just to operate it.  Simply switch on the Sage Barista Express, heat it and you’re ready to brew in next to no time.

The whole coffee machine seems well-designed, with thoughtful touches along the way. The water tank capacity and drip tray capacity are more than adequate (and we like the sign that prompts you to empty the drip tray when it’s getting overly full).

The milk steamer does its job well and the integrated coffee grinder gives you a decent enough grind for a delicious beverage (providing you are using tasty beans).

The Sage Barista Express is much cheaper to buy than a separate espresso machine and grinder, so you’re getting a good deal in my book.

You might want to upgrade at some point, but for now, why not invest in an affordable coffee machine that gives you a morning coffee kick, lunchtime coffee-hit, and evening coffee wind down? The Sage Barista Express will save you walking to your coffee shop, so leave your slippers on and take it easy!

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