Favourite Features and Functions of the Breville Barista Express
Part 2 of Breville 4 Part Barista Express Series outlines the key Features and Functions of the Breville Barista Express that led us to proud ownership. As “A Canadian Foodie”, I confess that I wish someone in Canada had created a machine as dynamic as the Breville Barista Express. Do you know what country this machine was created in? Take your time.
Australia! Did you know, or are you as surprised as I was when I learned this? This is a company that has been around since 1934 and the creator of the original and very first sandwich toaster in 1974. I happen to remember that. Those toasters were the hottest wedding gift, or moving out of the house gift, at that time. This is a company that doesn’t just make appliances, it invents new technology, then manufactures the appliance. Its standard of excellence is second to none, and as we delved into researching which espresso machine would be best for our family, it is no wonder that the Breville Barista Express was, indeed, our final choice, learning all the company invests to design and develop a product that is not only on top of its game, but leading in its field. Breville’s Centre of Design Excellence is located in Botany in Sydney Australia, and where several design teams work tenaciously to exceed the needs of their consuming clients. I giggled when I saw that they label themselves as “Food Thinkers”. I like that.
Features and Functions: Education and Support
And, as food thinkers, they actually have an entire site devoted to making a great cup of espresso. This will be the focus of our next post, yet as not a physical feature of the machine, it is most definitely an accessible feature from the company that applies directly to our at home purchase and an invaluable asset. I suggest you start there. Go to the site, to witness that the company that produced this machine is completely committed to consumer support and education.
Features and Functions: Overview
I am writing from the premise that each of you lack the basic knowledge I lack about espresso machines. If you are an “at-home-barista” like my Serbo Charger, please forgive my explanations. There is so much information “out there” for the expert. This article is not that. This is information for “we common folk” who want to learn what to look for when purchasing an espresso machine at home. Albeit, a high end machine, assuming someone wants to become just that: at-home-barista!
Features and Functions: Grinds Beans Immediately before Brewing
What in the world is an “integrated conical burr grinder”? Honestly, the learning curve is considerable for simple me. Vanja did understand this, but let me explain it to you how he explained it to me.
The conical stainless steel burr grinder reduces the time between grinding and extracting which is important, but more importantly, it enables a very even and precise grind. A stainless steel blade slices and beats beans indiscriminately, resulting in an inconsistent grind. Inconsistency in grind is unacceptable when making a great cup of coffee because particle size must be consistent for consistent extraction of flavour. What?
Think sugar. If you dissolve a teaspoon of granulated sugar in water, each particle will likely dissolve at the same time or a very similar time, and rather quickly. If you place the same amount of sugar in cube form in the same amount of water, it will take considerably longer for the cube to dissolve. The water has to seep through the outer layers of sugar granules before it can get to the inner ones.
Obviously, the smaller the granules are, the faster they will dissolve. We cooks understand that food must be cut in similar sized pieces to cook evenly; the smaller the cube, the faster it will cook. Coffee grind is similar: the smaller the grind, the more rapid the release of flavour into the hot brewing water. Different sizes of particles means different rates of extraction: small extracts quickly, and large slowly. To avoid bitterness from over extraction, there must be consistency in the grind which is what a burr grinder does: creates a consistent grind. Whew.
The grinder is shaped in a cone (conical) that uses gravity to drop the beans toward two burrs that are very sharp, abrasive cutting surfaces that rotate opposing one another. (The distance between the burr surfaces can be adjusted which changes the size of the grind.) The beans fall to the burrs, sticking between the two and are cut from both sides in a more controlled manner as the burrs rotate in opposite directions. Burrs are extremely sharp and far better performers than blades, enabling a marked improvement in the flavour of the coffee. Making sense so far?
Note: Flat and conical burr grinders both grind coffee beans uniformly. (Oh, there’s a flat burr grinder, too? I know. I know. ) Flat burr grinders retain more grounds than a conical burr grinder, and the conical burr grinder is thought to be “more forgiving”. Thus, it is the conical that is the preference for most coffee nerds. Now, there is so much more to coffee nerdology than this. But, that’s enough for me.
It is important to note; however, that it is as easy as turning a knob for the grind amount in the Breville Barista Express; however, it will take a little personal “fiddling” to know what grind about is your personal preference.
Breville Barista Express: Extra Large Water Tank
The water tank holds 2 litres of water. It is huge for an at home espresso machine, easy to insert and fill up and a key feature we were looking for. It houses a replaceable waterfilter that needs changing every two months even equipped with notification to change it. Enough said.
Breville Barista Express: Heating System and Water Temperature and Pressure Control
The 15 Bar Triple Prime Pump is apparently the pump of all pumps for an at-home espresso machine as it pre-infuses the grounds to maximize flavour via expressing water over grounds with precision at a high pressure. The pressure gauge needle should be in the dark grey zone between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock depending upon how firm you tamp the grinds and the grind size. This is where you fiddle, once again, to get it right for your palate.
To “prime a pump” is to induce the pump to express liquid. A triple-prime pump then, theoretically enables more precise control of expression of water over fresh coffee grounds; however, I could not find any specific definition from the company or anywhere about what a “Triple Prime Pump” actually consists of. One bar is equal to an atmosphere of pressure, so 15 bars delivers 15 times the pressure at sea level which is a fairly high pressure. Therefore, the triple-prime pump controls the expression of the water over the grounds with ultimate precision as the water is pumped through the ground espresso at such high pressure. How am I doing at this point?
Breville Barista Express: Hot Water Spout
The hot water spout is a great bonus. It wasn’t on our “must have” list, but I had actually considered getting one installed in our house by the kitchen sink for teas and warming cups and bowls. It enables making an Americano with ease. It is the small tube above, right, nestled in next to the steam wand much larger and to the far right.
Breville Barista Express: Razor
Razor? Seriously? How finicky does espresso making have to get? I just want a great little cappuccino in the morning. Do I really have to go through all this fuss?
Of course not! But, think of it like this… do you want to learn how to do something right the first time, and make it the best it can be to enjoy every day, as the ability to do so is definitely within the capacity of the Breville Barista Express. It is simple, too actually.
Vanja doesn’t do it every time he makes an espresso, if he is making several in a row, as he is getting the feel of what the right amount is, but he does it every time he is making one or two, to practice. It does make just that much difference to the palate. It is removing the excess grind to ensure the correct amount in the portafilter.
Like too much seasoning, maybe? The goal is to get the optimal amount of grind to achieve the sweet spot on the pressure gauge and ultimately create the greatest cup of espresso for your personal palate. Grind, amount, pressure, etc. will also depend upon the type of beans used. Oh, so much to learn! But, the Breville Barista Express is capable of enabling the ultimate cup of espresso in your home daily, if this is as important to your day as it is to my Serbo Charger!
By running a single shot of hot steamy water under the group head before the portafilter is engaged makes such a difference. Ooooo, a warm, cozy cup!
Breville Barista Express: Features and Functions … in conclusion …
Next post will be all about how to make the perfect cup of coffee, though I have certainly covered many aspects necessary to do this as I outlined and introduced the features and functions of the Breville Barista Express that led us to owning this machine.
Oh my goodness! I am very happy that this culinary expertise is a passion of Vanja’s. There is no way I am that interested in the learning curve involved to become an “at home barista”. I have that passion for almost everything else in my kitchen, but when I started to do the research for this article, I actually started to feel nauseous. The information and learning curve was overwhelming for me which I believe is crystal clear. My goal was to put this information in language even I would understand. I hope I have accomplished that for you, too. Let me know!
Breville Barista Express Series
- September Breville Barista Express Series: Why the Barista Breville Express?
- October Breville Barista Express Series: Features and Functions
- November Breville Barista Express Series: Making Espresso, Cappuccino, and Latte and Tips
- December Breville Barista Express Series: What We Have Learned