I thought I tried every Breville espresso machine…until Breville released the Breville Barista Express Impress. I’m happy to report the machine’s pronunciation is much more difficult than the actual use.
Express Impress coffee machine automates the most difficult parts of espresso brewing with assisted tamping and dosing. This espresso machine is perfect for beginners who want good espresso at home with minimal work. It’s easy to use and makes solid espresso, although the steam wand is lackluster.
After months of testing, here’s my Breville Barista Express Impress review with a breakdown of features and where it falls in the Breville lineup.
Breville Barista Express Impress Product Overview
Breville Barista Express Impress Features:
- Assisted tamping
- intelligent dosing
- Integrated stainless steel conical burr grinder with 25 settings
- 54 mm portafilter
- 68 oz water tank
This espresso machine is intended as a step up from the hugely popular Barista Express. The Impress shares many features, like an integrated burr grinder, steam wand, and 54 mm portafilter.
However, the Express Impress adds the “Impress Puck System” with assisted tamping. This model grinds, doses, and tamps the coffee for you. The dosing and auto-tamping features eliminate a lot of first-time errors, so espresso newbies will love this machine. It even adjusts itself with a column of lights (green lights and a smiley face for a correct dose).
Breville has also improved the pressure system, which leads to good espresso despite an older heating system. However, the steam wand lacks pressure and frustrated me during testing.
Overall, the Impress makes espresso very easy, and I easily recommend it to inexperienced buyers. Meanwhile, experienced espresso lovers will crave more control.
Beginner-friendly with assisted tamping and dosing
Customizable grind, tamping, and extraction
Internal automatic tamper
Grinder with 25 settings
Weak steam wand
Cannot redistribute or WDT grounds
Legacy thermocoil heating system
Breville Barista Express Impress Breakdown
Design and Build
As soon as you take the Breville Barista Express Impress out of the box, it’s clear this is a Breville espresso machine. It has brushed stainless steel housing that looks sharp and modern. The pressure gauge and controls give it a vintage vibe. It’s on the larger side, so it’ll take up a fair amount of your kitchen counter space.
Its dimensions are 12.9 x 14.9 x 16.1 in, and it may struggle to fit under the overhead cabinets. I recommend measuring your space before purchasing this machine. The good news is you won’t need extra space, as the grinder and steam wand are built in.
The build quality looks and feels high-end, like all Breville machines. It’s made of stainless steel, so it’s durable. Moreover, the design is straightforward. There’s the bean hopper, grinder, and tamping on the left, and the steam wand and the grew group on the right. The cup warmer on top feels spacious. However, I admit the tamping lever is huge and makes the left side of the machine feel crowded.
Luckily, the tamping handle is metal, which is great is this part of the espresso machine has a high-frequency touchpoint.
The user interface is clear and well-labeled, and the buttons for selecting filter basket size and the number of shots are easy to use. Plus, there’s an LED indicator scale that gives feedback on your dose. Overall, the buttons and dials fit nicely into the machine’s design.
There’s a large removable water reservoir, hot water outlet, and useful storage compartment behind the drip tray.
Assisted Tamping, Dosing, And Grinder
The biggest feature of Breville Barista Express Impress is assisted tamping. Tamping is the compressing of the coffee grinds in the portafilter, and it’s one of the most important parts of espresso preparation. It’s also time-consuming, messy, and prone to error. Breville automated this step of the brewing process.
To prepare espresso, just insert your portafilter and hit the dose button. Then, the machine grinds coffee and dispenses it right into your portafilter. Once done, you pull down the lever arm on the left side. That’s it.
What’s happening here is more complicated and quite ingenious. There is a hidden tamping piston inside the left cylindrical part. When you pull down the lever, the arm comes down, and a metal tamper flips down to compress the puck. The Breville Barista Express Impress applies 22 pounds of pressure each time. That’s good because we’ve found you don’t need more force than that.
The better part is the tamp is always perfectly level, which greatly reduces espresso channeling. You will have more consistent espresso with a perfectly prepared puck and no mess, as you can pull out your portafilter, and it’s ready to brew.
The other impressive (pun intended) part of this system is the intelligent dosing. When you pull down the level, you’ll see the lights on the left light up. This corresponds to the depth of the coffee bed, where the green smiley face is just right. Breville Barista Express Impress has a sensor that measures the exact depth to ensure the right dose.
Normally, we recommend getting a coffee scale to weigh out the right dose amount for each shot. You don’t need this with the Impress model.
The dose depths are quite accurate, and I consistently measured 19-20 grams when the machine was at the middle green light.
Even more, I was surprised by its sensitivity to the dose. Each row of lights corresponds to ~1-1.5 grams of coffee. That’s only a millimeter or two of height, at most! It’s also equivalent to less than a second of grind time, which is hard to calibrate on an espresso grinder. Again, the dose was very consistent when I measured it manually over repeated use.
If the dose is too high, the machine automatically doses less coffee the next time you grind. If it’s too low, the machine will ask you to grind more coffee and tamp again.
Effectively, the Barista Express Impress “learns” how much coffee to grind. The machine also calibrates time when you change the grind size. It’s a unique system for this espresso machine. It learns quickly – usually within a dose or too.
One big downside is you must use the tamping system. This rules out “advanced” redistribution techniques like a WDT tool for espresso prep. These tools help, especially as the Breville grinder creates clumpy grounds. But, this “advanced” distribution takes time and is complicated.
I walk through a process for doing distribution on our full review:
Pro tip: shake your portafilter in the cradle before tamping. This will level out the coffee grounds inside and even out the coffee puck when tamped. It’s a small and easy way to reduce channeling.
Overall, assisted tamping makes tamping easy and consistent. It streamlines the espresso machine use and gets you 80% of great espresso in a fraction of the time.
The Breville Barista Express Impress makes solid espresso. Breville opted to use the older thermocoil heating system for this model. Newer models, like the Barista Pro, use the latest ThermoJet, which heats in three seconds and has better temperature stability.
My biggest worry was the old heating system, as we found the Barista Pro outperforms the legacy Barista Express on espresso quality. The Impress comes much closer regarding espresso quality for another reason: pressure.
The core fundamental part of espresso brewing is higher pressure. This is typically nine bars of pressure, but most machines are calibrated higher than that. Actually, Breville machines are notoriously more powerful. The extra pressure is problematic because the espresso flows too fast for a good extraction.
The espresso machine now reaches nine bars of pressure to extract coffee. The pressure gauge rarely gets above the midpoint of the “espresso range” because the over-pressure valve (OPV) was recalibrated. It’s a small thing that is not publicized, but I can confirm the pressure is lower, which matters in head-to-head testing.
The Impress also features a PID that ensures precise temperature control and optimal water pressure, and the low-pressure pre-infusion reduces channeling and helps you have even extraction. Once the grind is set up, the espresso has a thick crema and a strong aroma.
Overall, even if you have little espresso brewing experience, it won’t take long until you’re making excellent shots. The buttons let you choose between single and double espresso options, so if you’re a caffeine addict, a caffeine kick is just a few button presses away.
Steam Wand And Milk Frothing
The steam wand is the letdown on the Breville Barista Express Impress. Since Breville opted to use the older thermocoil, the steam wand takes time and is weaker than comparable models. It takes about 30 seconds to get proper steam pressure.
You’ll see a lot of water come out of the steam wand as it picks up, and you should wait until the wand gets to full pressure, then briefly turn off the wand, put the jug under the tip, and turn it back on to start steaming. That way, you don’t get cold water in your milk.
This is one of the weaker steam wands I’ve used. There is only one hole on the tip, and It takes 80-90 seconds to finish frothing.
It has enough power to create a good microfoam. The steam wand rotates 360 degrees, so you can easily angle it to aerate milk properly. I could argue that the one-hole tip and slow pace are advantageous for beginners, as those features give you time to control and texture the milk. But honestly, I’m disappointed by the milk frother and think this is the price you pay for the thermocoil and lower pressure pump.
You can see the (lack of) steam that comes out of this machine when it’s running.
Overall, this gets the job done, and you can make a latte.
Other Features and Accessories
Here’s what you should know about other features and accessories of the Breville Barista Express Impress.
Let’s start with the baskets. The machine includes the standard one-cup and two-cup baskets for both pressurized and non-pressurized (also known as dual wall and single wall). I recommend starting with pressurized and quickly transitioning to non-pressurized with a finer grind size for better espresso.
Next up is the grinder. I already talked about the automatic grinding, but it’s important to mention the Express Impress has a stainless steel conical burr grinder with 25 grind settings. This is more than the predecessor Barista Express. Overall, more grind settings are better as it allows you to dial-in the proper shot, and the Impress is an upgrade to the original Express.
The bean hopper is located on the top and holds 8.8 oz of beans. It has UV tinting, which keeps the beans fresh.
The water temperature is controlled by a digital PID. The PID monitors the water temperature and ensures it’s always delivered at 200 degrees.
You can also make small adjustments to the water temperature, which more experienced baristas will like. Even a few degrees can make a huge difference in the final shot. I highly recommend tweaking this if you find your espresso tastes bitter or sour.
Finally, Breville Barista Express Impress has a long list of accessories:
- 54mm spouted portafilter
- Stainless steel milk jug
- Single and dual wall filter baskets
- Water filter
- Razor trimming tool
- Cleaning kit
You’ll have everything you need to use the espresso machine.
Breville Barista Express Impress provides a good price for money, especially for a beginner audience. It has a premium design with all the essentials for making delicious-tasting coffee.
Overall, this coffee machine gives good value, although the price point is high because of the simplicity of use and automation. You’re paying more than for the Barista Express, but you get a simpler workflow.
If you’re new to espresso and don’t want to spend hours adjusting the brewing parameters to find what works for you, this is excellent value. But, if you want to learn how to prepare a puck yourself, save money by getting the Barista Express.
Recommendation: Who Is It For
Breville Barista Express Impress is a great option for someone who’s just getting interested in home espresso and doesn’t want a new hobby and learn acronyms like WDT. This espresso machine is great for beginner baristas because it provides good workflow, good espresso coffee, and ease of use.
This is not a commercial espresso machine that can be used in a coffee shop, nor is it an “end game” machine. Instead, it’s the best option for people who want help with the most difficult parts of pulling a shot but don’t want a completely automated machine.
Alternative Options: Comparing The Breville Barista Lineup
|Breville Barista Express
|Breville Barista Express Impress
|Breville Barista Pro
|Thermocoil: 30 second heat up
|Thermocoil: 30 second heat up
|Thermojet: 3-second heat up
|Four-hole wand, better microfoam
|Burr grinder with 16 settings
|Burr grinder with 25 settings
|Burr grinder with 30 settings
Breville Barista Express
Breville Barista Express highlights:
- Thermocoil: 30 second heat up
- One-hole steam wand
- Burr grinder with 16 settings
Breville Barista Express and Express Impress share many features and construction, which you can guess from a similar name.
The Express is more affordable than Express Impress because it doesn’t have automatic tamping and dosing. You need to do more work, although you have more control over espresso-making.
Both machines have the same conical burr grinder, but the Express Impress has 25 grind settings, while the Express has only 16. There’s less room to optimize the grind setting, and I got stuck on a few settings that worked best, which limited the flavor profile.
Both machines have the same steam wands and heating systems. If you don’t care about internal tamping and grinding, Barista Express is a great, more affordable choice.
Barista Pro highlights:
- Thermojet: 3-second heat up
- Four-hole wand for better quality microfoam
- Burr grinder with 30 settings
Barista Pro has an improved ThermoJet heating system with an impressive 3-second heat up time. This means you don’t need to wait for the machine to heat up in the morning, nor do you have to wait between the coffee steaming and brewing. The heating system is significant as the ThermoJet has better temperature stability.
Another significant difference between the Barista Express Impress and the Barista Pro is the grinder. Same as the Breville Express, the Express Impress, and the Pro have a conical burr grinder. But the Pro is a clear winner. Its grinder provides more control and personalization because it has 30 grind settings. This means you have a better chance of getting exactly the grind you want.
The Pro has a built-in timer and a display screen that’s easy to understand and use. You use a combination of a dial and shot buttons to make changes.
Finally, the Pro lets you change the shot volume, water temperature, and pre-infusion time. You have a much higher level of control than with Express Impress, but there’s also a higher learning curve.
Is Breville Barista Express Impress for You?
Breville Barista Express Impress is a great choice if you’re an espresso newbie and don’t want a huge learning curve. The most difficult parts of making espresso are taken care of — the machine does the internal tamping and has great dosing control. Overall, this is great value for money, and you’ll have delicious espresso with little work.
But, if you want a machine with more control or you want to check other Breville espresso machines, here’s our round-up of all Breville espresso models.