Breville Barista Max summary
This sleek espresso coffee machine from Breville is high quality and attractive. It’s pretty compact too, with hidden compartments for accessories and cleaning tools as well as space on top for the tamper and to warm cups.
There are settings for single and double espressos and an up to 200ml manual setting that’s ideal for americanos. This model also comes with a steam wand and settings to either run steam or water through the wand. Although the double shot button implies you can make two cups of coffee at a time, we’d stick to just making one at a time, as two cups aren’t filled evenly.
The manual details a comprehensive descaling cycle. If you don’t have descaling tablets, the cycle can also be run using white vinegar. The whole cycle takes about 10 minutes to run, but we’d recommend keeping the manual somewhere safe, as descaling involves some specific button pushing.
- Read our full review of the best espresso machines
How easy is the Breville Barista Max to use?
Setting up this coffee machine is pretty simple as it comes almost fully assembled straight out of the box. The bean hopper (where fresh beans are kept) is the only element that needs to be fitted before use. Attaching the bean hopper is a little confusing at first, but the manual explains the process well – it requires a deft push and twist, but once it’s attached, you won’t need to remove it unless for cleaning.
There are 30 grind settings to choose from, which is a little intimidating at first, but Breville suggests setting the machine to grind setting 20 as a starting point. You may need to play around with the grind to get it right, but this should only take a couple of practice shots. It only takes us four tries to reach the right setting.
On other espresso machines with built-in hoppers, there’s often a button or automatic setting that dispenses ground coffee. On the Barista Max, you simply insert the portafilter in the cradle and push down. This allows you to tailor the amount of coffee you use. The walls of the cradle are flexible, so should the coffee begin to mound, you can give the handle of the portafilter a quick shake and the coffee will settle. An LED light also illuminates the area when the cradle is pushed down.
As with many espresso machines, getting the knack of how to insert the portafilter into the group head takes a little practice. Breville has usefully labelled the group head as a guide.
Quality of the coffee
The espresso produced is dark, rich and glossy in colour. The crema on top is creamy and rich. It’s a light chestnut brown and re-forms easily when broken with a spoon. Flavour-wise, the shot is strong and we detect notes of red berry, chocolate and caramel (this will vary depending on the coffee you use).
We are disappointed by the lack of adjustable stand for shorter cups. Espresso ends up being poured from such a height that the coffee splashes over the drip tray.
Steam-to-froth milk takes about 20 seconds to come to pressure, which is fast. The wand is adjustable, but doesn’t come out as far as we’d like, so manoeuvring the jug is a little difficult. It’s also not the quietest when steaming, so it’ll certainly wake you up in the morning. Despite some limitations in terms of movement, we are able to produce consistently fine and glossy steamed milk ideal for latte art. And, the steam pressure doesn’t run out at any point.
You can’t make an espresso and steam milk at the same time, unfortunately. But, the whole process of making a cappuccino or latte takes less than a minute and a half.
Is the Breville Barista Max worth the money?
Coming in at just under £350, this is certainly an investment piece. While it doesn’t have all the frills of some of its flashier contemporaries, it makes a brilliant espresso and steams milk exceptionally well, too.
It’s modern and understated, so would suit minimal, cleanly designed kitchens over classical ones. But, it’s sure to get people talking and may even be mistaken for a more expensive brand’s design.
The button and dial interface are simple to use, but tasks like setting the grind, fitting and filling the portafilter and fitting the portafilter into the group head will need a little practice to master. Everything you’ll need is provided with this model, whether it’s the 450ml milk jug or wealth of cleaning accessories. Everything is ready to go with this sturdy Breville.
Product weight: 7.75kg
Ground capacity: single and double espresso filters
Average pressure: 15 bar
Water capacity: 2.8-litre
Dimensions: 407 x 347 x 322mm
Material: polished chrome, stainless steel, plastic
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This review was last updated in June 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@.