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Sage by Heston Blumenthal the Barista Express coffee machine review
Pros: well-priced, large capacity
Cons: slightly complex settings
Star rating: 4.5/5
Read our full review of the best bean-to-cup coffee machines
Targeted at those with an interest in ‘proper coffee’ but without the time or know-how to use an industrial-grade machine, this machine’s mid-range price point and easy-to-use interface makes it a good choice for everyday use.
The build quality is excellent – though mostly made of metal, the top is plastic, which helps ensure it doesn’t get too hot. The tamper is made from stainless steel and has a satisfying weight to it, so the whole thing feels high quality. Plus, with a bean container, portafilter, stainless steel tamper, hot water dispenser and milk frothing jug, this machine includes all the components you need to make popular coffees such as cappuccinos, espressos or flat whites.
Set up is relatively easy thanks to a well-labelled set of buttons, and the instructions are simple. However, changing the settings to your liking can cause some difficulty. If you’re a coffee connoisseur, this shouldn’t be much of a problem, but if you’re fairly new to it, you might feel overwhelmed by the options available. The volume of beans, grind size, pressure and water amount can all be adjusted.
Speaking of the pressure gauge, this acts as a handy barometer for the quality of the coffee – if the needle is pointing towards the top end, the pressure, bean or water amount is too high, while the opposite is true if the needle points towards the bottom. Either can result in coffee that’s too weak, too strong or badly brewed.
The dials allow you to select from 15 grind settings and choose single or double shots as well as adjust the temperature. The sizeable water tank allows you to make up to 250 shots of espresso before refilling, and the milk jug comes with a temperature bar to ensure the milk doesn’t burn.
As recommended, we used about a third of the grind size available and made sure the coffee in the portafilter was slightly heaped, creating a good-sized pile to tamper down. This forced the water through at the right speed, ensuring a quality cup. If it’s lacking a rich crema top, the settings are slightly out of sync.
Refilling the beans and water is simple. The bean container has a detachable lid and the water compartment can be completely removed for refilling. Cleaning is fairly easy, too: just empty the bottom tray once it’s filled with water, wipe the grate and put everything back.
At roughly a foot wide, it doesn’t take up too much space, but can be a little cumbersome to store. As it’s on the heavier side, it’s best left out so it’s ready to use at all times.
Functionality rating: 4/5
Results rating: 4/5
Ease of cleaning rating: 5/5
Value for money rating: 5/5
Overall rating: 4.5/5
Dimensions (HxWxD): 40 x 33 x 31cm
Power: 1850 watts
Water capacity: 2 litres
Adjustable grind: yes
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This review was last updated in November 2019. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.