Sage spend a lot of time not only thinking about how to produce great coffee but also they take a lot of pride in the pursuit of producing a coffee machine that looks fantastic as well
They do not disappoint with The Barista Express. This is a beautiful looking coffee machine.
Available in several different colours you can choose from full brushed stainless steel or “black sesame” which is exactly the same functionally as the full stainless steel but comes in a black and stainless steel contrast.
Both are beautifully designed and look stunning in both colours and not only produce great coffee but complement the look of any kitchen.
Some of the other coffee machines at this price point have a black base but Sage has managed to make the body of this coffee machine completely stainless steel from top to bottom with a hint of black on the built-in tamper but even that has a stainless steel rim which shows how much thought has gone into making this coffee machine look fantastic
This is a strong and sturdy product that looks and feels like it has been manufactured with high-quality components. Nothing cheap or plastic looking at all.
This has been made to last and you get reassured by things like the portafilter. When you hold it in your hand it has a nice heavy feel to it reassuring you of the high-quality steel. This is one of the areas which gets cut back on with some of the cheaper machines.
Sage also includes a temperature controlled stainless steel jug with this coffee machine which has a temperature gauge on the front that allows you to monitor the temperature of the milk whilst heating.
This is wonderfully pleasing to the eye but how does it measure up when it comes to producing a great coffee?
You will need to spend a few minutes making a cup of coffee with the Barista Express as it is not a fully automatic bean to cup coffee machine.
With a bean to cup coffee machine you literally press one button and the machine grinds the coffee beans, tamps (compresses) the coffee and then forces water though the compressed ground coffee at high pressure into your cup.
Some bean to cup machines also come with a milk carafe so if your drink of choice is a cappuccino or latte then it will fully prepare your drink without any interaction required. Press a button. Done.
Bean to cup coffee machines are incredibly popular and they are a great solution for many people and they do deliver a good cup of coffee if you choose the right one.
But there is a reason that you will never find a bean to cup coffee machine in a coffee shop and that is because you cannot fully control all of the variables that make a great cup of coffee.
I’m sure one day there will be a machine that can perfect the coffee making process and make humans redundant but that day hasn’t come yet and is likely to be a number of years away and thats why Costa and Starbucks and Café Nero still use expensive manual espresso machines because that’s the only way to get a really great cup of coffee.
There are several very important things that all come together to make great coffee and if you get them all right then coffee heaven awaits.
So it just depends how great you want your coffee to be. If you want it to be as good or better than one of the high street coffee chains then the Barista Express is the kind of machine you should be taking a serious look at but you can’t just press a button to get your coffee, you have to get involved yourself and it will take a few minutes to prepare your beverage.
If its ultimate convenience you are looking for then take a look at a fully automatic bean to cup coffee machine.
If you drink coffee every day and want it to become an experience rather than just a caffeine hit then the barista express can help you achieve that.
The variables that you can take control of with the Barista Express are as follows:
Dose. This is the amount of coffee that goes into the portafilter. You need 19-20 grams of coffee for a double espresso. With the Barista Express you can add the exact amount, with a bean to cup machine that automates the process you can’t.
Grind fineness. In order to deliver your coffee correctly, you need to fine-tune how finely the machine will grind the beans. The Barista Express has a good burr grinder that allows you to get the coffee exactly as it needs to be for perfect delivery. Bean to cup coffee machines won’t do the job as well.
Tamp. The Barista Express comes with a tamper included so that you can compress the bed of coffee yourself. With a little practice you will get it just right and have the coffee delivered in the way it is supposed to be and you can tweak the pressure applied to suit. Bean to cup machines just tamp one way and you can’t change it.
Pressure. The Barista express uses 9 bar of pressure when it forces the water through the coffee and into your cup. That’s optimum. Bean to cup machines tend to use 15 bar of pressure which is fine but not as good.
You are looking for a double espresso to be delivered in around 25 seconds as described below and with this machine you can achieve that by playing around with the variables above and with a bean to cup machine you have limited to no control.
This coffee machine is somewhere in between a traditional pump espresso machine and a bean to cup coffee machine.
They have tried to replicate the experience you have come to expect in your local coffee shop and a result this is a semi-automatic machine which will require you to do the same amount of preparation as the barista on the high street.
Firstly the grinding process. Pretty straightforward here. Have a play around with the amount of coffee that goes into the portafilter by adjusting the “grind amount” dial on the front left of the machine. Bear in mind that you should be aiming for around 9 grams of coffee per cup.
You will get a single and double filter basket delivered with the machine and we would suggest sticking to the double filter for a double shot of espresso each time.
Without getting too nerdy, you need to get around 18 grams of coffee ground into the filter basket and importantly, if you truly want to try and replicate a coffee shop coffee, you need to extract 60ml of coffee in about 25 seconds. Combining these 3 factors of dose amount, amount of coffee in the cup and the time it takes to deliver the coffee is not possible to perfect with automatic bean to cup coffee machines that can cost a lot more than this Barista Express semi-automatic espresso machine. If you can follow these 3 steps then you will find your coffee tastes even better than the one you get in Costa or Starbucks.
It’s easy to deliver 18 grams of coffee by a little bit of trial and error by having a play around with the grind amount dial but the secret to getting 60ml of coffee in 25 seconds is finessing the grind size which you can adjust on the side of the machine. If 60ml of coffee is being delivered in say 60 seconds the coffee is being too finely ground and will taste sour or bitter if it is delivered in 15 seconds its too coarse. Adjust the grind fineness until you get it just right and you will be rewarded with superior coffee time and time again.
Once you have it just right then the settings are set forever and you can enjoy the perfect coffee each time and it will take around 60 seconds to make it. Brilliant. The beauty of this coffee machine is that you can make the adjustments you need that are restricted by most bean to cup coffee machines.
If you really care about producing a truly professional cup of coffee the Sage Barista Express allows you to play around with all the variables to make it happen.
Sage also has a clever way of delivering the ground coffee into the portafilter. Just push once and release and the coffee will begin to be ground and will stop automatically. If you push and hold it will grind until you release. This is a unique function with this type of machine and it one that we like. Simply and flexible.
The design of this machine is excellent but, in our opinion, the best part of this coffee machine is the bits that you can’t see which are the internal components that enable coffee production.
The best coffee is produced at 93 degrees and Sage have a digital temperature control which makes sure that water is delivered through the coffee within 1 degree of the optimum.
These are the things that you pay a little extra for that are not obvious because you can’t physically see them and they do make a significant difference to the quality of coffee that you get.
Once the portafilter is inserted into the water outlet then simply press the “one cup” button or “two cup button” depending on how much coffee you have ground and the barista express will do the rest.
The amount of water delivered is automatic and should be left as the default but if you want more or less then you can easily programme your preferences.
The steam wand delivers the right amount of pressure to ensure that you get the correct milk texture to produce the perfect cappuccino or latte.
Because this is a domestic coffee machine that has professional coffee making abilities it does take a little getting used to but once you do its worth it.
The built in grinder will deliver the coffee straight into the portafilter and then you just need to tamp the coffee and insert the portafilter into the machine and the machine will do the rest.
Once you’ve practised it a bit then it will take no more than a few minutes to produce a double espresso.
The steam wand is activated by a dial on the side and delivers powerful enough steam for creamy, fluffy milk perfect for cappuccino or latte.
It comes with a milk frothing jug that shows the temperature so you can always ensure you heat it to 60-65 degrees. Any hotter and you risk burning the milk and affecting the taste.
This is a really simple and straightforward coffee machine to use. We particularly like the “one push” grind function.
The tamper is magnetically attached to the machine for easy access to push down the coffee before brewing which we like a well.
Nothing negative to report here from an ease of use perspective.
This is a great coffee machine but it is only as good as the coffee that you put in.
Keep the coffee as fresh as possible. Get the beans from your local coffee shop and don’t look at the use-by date, look at the roasting date.
Try and use beans that are no more than 1 month from the date they are roasted NOT the use-by date.
If your local supermarket beans only have the use-by date try Starbucks – they didn’t get that popular by having bad coffee……
In our opinion, this is close to a professional espresso machine for home use. The grind size is excellent and the coffee is umped through perfectly for a great crema and a great tasting coffee.
Put it next to one produced in Starbucks in a blind taste and you would struggle to tell the difference. Therefore maximum score for value for money.
Here is a video demonstrating exactly how the Barista Express works and how to achieve coffee shop quality coffee at home:
Last update on 2021-09-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API