Sage Barista Express Review - A real use Barista Express Review
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Sage Barista Express Review

Sage Barista Express Review

Sage Barista Express Review


One of the few things that makes me want to get out of bed early is looking forward to that delicious first morning coffee, or shot of espresso. It is very hard for me to resist the perfect espresso. Enter the Sage Barista Express! - Who needs an alarm clock?

I have been using this wonderful espresso machine for about 18 months now and I have to say, as a real coffee lover, I am extremely impressed with it. So much so, that I just had to write a review on the Sage Barista Express and share with you what I have found from my daily use of the Barista Express to feed my addiction and love of coffee.

So, if you are a real coffee lover, please read on. I will tell you everything you need to know about this coffee machine, from its parts, features, set up, maintenance and problem solving to its production of the all-important 'Coffee Dose'. And remember, this review of the Barista Express is written from my real experience — I have used this coffee machine give or take every day for about 18 months.

Jump to:

  1. Why do you need the sage barista express machine?
  2. What is a Bean to Cup Coffee Machine?
  3. Who is Heston Blumenthal & what is 'Sage by Heston'?
  4. What is the Sage Barista Express?
  5. Setting up the Barista Express
  6. Using the Barista Express
  7. Trimming the Dose Using the Razor
  8. Using the Steam Wand to Stretch and Texture the Milk
  9. Stretching and texturising the milk tips
  10. Cleaning and Maintenance of the Barista Express.
  11. How to Run the Cleaning Cycle and clean the Sage Barista Express
  12. Sage Barista Express Review in a Nutshell
  13. Verdict
  14. How to Buy

Why do you need the sage barista express machine?

So, first things first: Why would you need this espresso machine? Well, obviously, to make coffee! I am not being flippant here. Making good coffee is important to me, and I am guessing that as you are reading this review, it is important to you too! You would buy this espresso machine to make coffee, to have control of the whole coffee making process from beginning to end. The Sage Barista Express does indeed give you full control over how you produce your coffee. It allows you to select the raw ingredients -your favourite coffee bean, and process them your way to produce the coffee dose that you require.

Here are some reasons why I think you should buy the Sage Barista Express:

  • If you love real coffee you and you look forward to that coffee hit first thing in the morning — as I do, then you need this espresso machine!
  • If you want to develop your Barista skills using a milk frother to develop that velvety milk foam for your latte art, and have control over the technical process of making excellent espresso, then you need this espresso machine!
  • If perfect on demand coffee is important to you then you need this espresso machine!
  • The Sage Barista Express is a beautiful piece of engineering. It looks great. If you want to impress your girlfriend, boyfriend, best friend, or neighbour then you need this espresso machine!
  • If you are on a budget, or you cannot justify the expense of buying the more expensive machines like the Barista Pro or, you can’t afford a standalone grinder, the Barista Express is a great choice for a professional entry level machine. Also, it’s not as big as the Sage Barista Pro.
  • If you are short on countertop space the Barista Express is very compact. Here are its dimensions: Height = 400 mm, Width = 330 mm, and Depth = 310 mm. By way of comparison The Sage Barista Pro dimensions are: 354 mm x 410 mm x 406 mm and as it has an integrated grinder you save space by not having a freestanding separate grinder too!
  • Are you are concerned about the environment? Are you worried about filling landfill sites with all those plastic and foil used coffee pods? If so, then the Barista Express is a great choice. The only waste from my daily use is 'the puck' — the used coffee grounds that are left over from the coffee creation process they come out looking like an ice hockey puck. I recycle the puck by spreading it on my garden. It is good for acid loving plants like Azaleas. However, if you are going to fertilize your plants be sure to rinse your used coffee grounds to neutralise the acid before using them on non-acid soil loving plants.

What is a Bean to Cup Coffee Machine?

The Barista Express is a 'Bean to Cup' machine with an integrated grinder. As the term suggests 'bean to cup' is the method of taking your roasted coffee beans and grinding them into a fine coffee powder ready for the production of the coffee dose known as 'The Crema' - the lovely creamy, concentrated coffee liquid you can use in all of your coffee recipes. A bean to cup machine allows you to start with the raw beans and end up with a cup of real coffee. You, and not some pod producing factory in the middle of nowhere, are responsible for the whole coffee making process.

Bean to cup coffee machines are those big, beautiful, and shiny espresso machines you see in all the fancy coffee houses, cafés and hotels. So, if you are a coffee lover or espresso purist, you really owe it to yourself to buy a 'bean to cup' espresso machine.

Read on for why I think the Sage bean to cup espresso machine is one of the best.

Who is Heston Blumenthal & what is 'Sage by Heston'?

Heston Blumenthal is an award-winning celebrity chef.
Heston helped design the Sage Barista Express machine. He is an advocate of multisensory cooking where all the senses are brought into play for the ultimate gastronomical experience. What could be better than the multisensory experience of coffee preparation and consumption?

Heston is also a proponent of Molecular Gastronomy -the scientific and precision engineering of modern food preparation. In 2013 Heston started to work with Sage to develop kitchen appliances that reflected his knowledge of the scientific application of food and drink creation. The result has been the creation of a range of beautiful and intelligent appliances called 'Sage by Heston' You can clearly see Heston's influences in this Sage Bean to Cup espresso machine!

What is the Sage Barista Express?

The Sage Barista Express (also known as the Breville Barista Express in other countries) is a beautiful piece of engineering. The one I use is a shiny brushed stainless steel, expensive looking machine that would not look out of place in the piazza coffee houses of sunny Italy.
Its main parts are (See photo):

  • A large bean hopper that holds 250g of beans.
  • A 2-litre water tank with built in water filter.
  • An integrated conical burr grinder for grinding your beans.
  • A milk jug with a built-in temperature gage and steam wand for steaming and 'stretching' the milk.
  • An expensive looking portafilla — this is for peculating under pressure the freshly ground coffee.
  • A 'tamper' for pressing down the fine coffee powder. The tamper is held in place magnetically to the underside of the machine.
  • A drip tray which is used by the system for the waste created from flushing and priming the steam wand and hot water dispenser.
  • An espresso pressure cage. Especially important for checking if you are under or over expressing your coffee!
  • The top of the machine doubles as a built-in cup warmer shelf.

The whole setup looks very professional and is small and compact ideal for small kitchens and workplaces.

The machine also comes with the following accessories:

  • Cleaning disc.
  • Cleaning tablets.
  • Dual Wall filter baskets — (1 cup & 2 cup) Use with pre-ground coffee.
  • Single Wall filter baskets- (1 cup & 2 cup) Use when grinding fresh whole coffee beans.
  • Water filter holder and filter.
  • Cleaning brush.
  • 'The Razor' precision trimming tool.
  • Cleaning tool.
  • Allen key.
  • Operations Manual.

Setting up the Barista Express

There are detailed setup results in the accompanying manual, so I will not go into detail here. However, if you, like me, are in a rush to produce that first cup of perfect coffee here are the basic setup steps:

  1. Unpack your machine carefully and ensure you have all the parts and accessories to hand. Check them off from the above list.
  2. Locate the water filter and soak it in a jug of water for 5 minutes, then rinse the filter under a running tap.
  3. Snap the water filter into its holder (push down) and lock the holder into the bottom of the water tank. There is also a dial on the filter to allow you to set the date of first use. Sage recommend the water filter is changed every 3 months. You can buy replacement Sage Water Filters here.
  4. Fill the water tank up with clean water and put it back into position on the machine. Be careful if you spill any water into the exposed integrated grinder you could damage it. If you do get the integrated grinder wet let it dry out before you use the coffee machine.
  5. Lock the bean hopper. - The bean hopper sits on top of the integrated grinder. If it is not fitted correctly the 'filter size' light will flash.
  6. Plug in the power cord and turn the machine on.
  7. Flush the coffee machine. Allow water to run through the group head by pressing the '2 cup' button. The water will run into the drip tray- do not worry the drip tray can hold a lot of water. I would also flush the portafilter with the desired filter basket at this point. Now flush the steam wand. Make sure it is pointing over the drip tray and turn the water dial to steam (see photo). Allow it to build up pressure and run steam through it for at least 10 seconds. Next turn the hot water dial to the hot water and let it run for 10 seconds. Repeat the above flushing steps until the water tank is empty. You may have to empty the drip tray at some point.

Using the Barista Express

Using the barista express is easy, although, at first, it does take a bit of trial and error to set it up to get the coffee you require:

  1. Fill the hopper with your coffee beans. Obviously, you should buy quality coffee beans ideally freshly roasted within 2 weeks. After spending so much money on a luxury semi-automatic espresso machine, such as the barista express, it would be a real shame to let the side down by not using quality beans and make sure it's a fresh bean at that!
  2. Set the grind size dial (see photo). It is recommended that you start at 8 and adjust to a coarser or finer grind accordingly. The size of the ground coffee you produce will influence the water flow which in turn with effect the strength and flavour of the coffee. You will need to experiment. You will need to sacrifice a few beans to get the coffee grinder's correct grind setting. Also, this will need to be done if you change your beans.
  3. Set the grind amount dial (see photo). It is recommended that you start the amount at the '3 o'clock' position. Again, you will have to experiment with the amount of coffee produced by the integrated grinder; varying amounts will influence the strength and flavour of the coffee.
  4. Choose the correct coffee dose basket - the dual wall basket is for pre ground coffee and the single wall is for when you are freshly grinding the coffee. Insert the coffee dose basket into the portafilter, so that is either a single shot or double shot of coffee. I am hardcore and always go for the double!
  5. Place the portafilter in its holder giving it a light tap - this starts integrated conical burr grinder and the coffee grinding process. The finely ground coffee powder will slowly fill the Portafilter. You can stop the integrated grinder at any time by pressing in the handle again. Also, you can keep the integrated grinder going by holding the handle in until you have the desired amount of ground coffee powder.
  6. Take the tamper and lightly press down to compact the ground coffee powder. About 15 – 20 kg of pressure is recommended.
  7. Use the Razor to 'trim the dose' to the correct amount — see below for how to do this.
  8. Take the portafilter and lock it into the extractor with a turn to the right.
  9. Place an espresso glass under the portafilla and then press the corresponding dose button; either one or two shots. The machine will now deliver your coffee dose by pumping hot water at pressure through the portafilter. The espresso pressure gauge will indicate whether you are over or under extracting. Ideally the needle should be in the middle of the gauge. Depending upon your desired coffee drink you can then add hot water using the hot water dispenser or froth and stretch your milk using the steam wand.

Trimming the Dose Using the Razor

The Barista Express comes with a precision tool called ‘The Razor’.

The razor is used for trimming down the puck after you have used the tamper. This allows you to get conformity in the coffee dose and allows a bit of room between the group head and the portafilter - needed for steam pressure.

The razor is a great tool if you want to be consistent and accurate with your coffee dose. However, I have to say I very rarely use it.
To use the Razor follow these steps:

  1. After tamping down your coffee insert the razor in the portafilter basket so that it's shoulders rests on the basket.
  2. Hold the portafilter at an angle as you turn the razor 360 degrees allowing the excess ground coffee to fall away. This action will trim down your coffee dose.

Using the Steam Wand to Stretch and Texture the Milk

For me this is the fun part. I love using the steam wand to texture and stretch the milk and to practice my latte art!

The steam wand will need to be primed fist by pointing it over the drip tray and moving the water dial to the steam setting. Allow it to build up a jet of steam and then pause it by retuning the dial to standby (steam pressure will be held for about 8 seconds) Poor some cold milk into the milk jug and insert the steam wand about 1-2 CM into the milk and start the steam.

Tilt the jug in your hand and hold it so that the steam wand is at about the 3 o'clock position. Under the pressure of the steam the milk should now be spinning around the jug creating a vortex sucking in air. As you steam the milk keep an eye on the temperature gauge and keep steaming until the temperature gets to between 60-65C at this point turn the steam off and put the jug down.

Wipe the steam wand immediately with a damp cloth and flush it with steam.
Now add you milk to your coffee and practice your latte art!

Stretching and texturising the milk tips

Here are some tips that will help you to stretch and texture your milk:

  1. Make sure the milk jug is clean and cold. Always use fresh cold milk full fat is better than skimmed.
  2. Do not fill the jug with milk as the milk will expand. A good starting point is to fill the jug to the bottom of the spout groove.
  3. Always clean and purge the steam wand before you start. The steam wand will have old water that has condensed from its last use, clear it away with a quick purge of steam.
  4. Place the steam wand in the milk about 2 cm in and at angle hold it in the 3 o'clock position so that it causes the milk to form a vortex. You should hear the wand hiss.
  5. When the milk is at the required temperature put the jug down, tap it a few times on the table-top to break down any big bubbles and swirl the milk in the jug for a few seconds to evenly mix the bubbles or micro foam.

Cleaning and Maintenance of the Barista Express.

Like all kitchen appliances the Barista Express will need to be cleaned and maintained for optimal performance. However, unlike a lot of other kitchen appliances, the Barista Express is quite easy to clean and maintain.
The machine housing is easy to wipe clean and buff up with a soft non-abrasive cloth. Important - never get the inside of the integrated grinder wet!

The drip tray is easy to empty and clean as it just pulls out. The drip tray has a floating pop-up indicator that tells you when it needs emptying (see photo).

How to Run the Cleaning Cycle and Clean the Sage Barista Express

After a certain amount of use the group head will develop a build-up of coffee oils, these will have to be cleaned away. The Barista Express has a pre-programmed cleaning cycle, and it will warn you when this needs to be run by flashing the 'clean me' led. Follow these instructions to engage the cleaning cycle:

  1. Turn the machine off. Make sure the water tank is full.
  2. Insert the 1 cup basket into the portafilter. Place the rubber cleaning disk into the basket and add one cleaning tablet. You can buy more cleaning tablets here
  3. Lock the portafilter into the group head as normal.
  4. Press the 1 CUP and 2 CUP buttons together, then also press the POWER button. Hold in all 3 buttons together for approximately 10 seconds. The cleaning cycle will begin.
  5. The cleaning cycle will last for about 5 mins.
  6. When the cleaning cycle ends remove the portafilter and check that the cleaning tablet has dissolved, if it hasn't rerun the cleaning cycle.
  7. Remove the cleaning disk and lock the portafilla into place and flush it by pressing the 2-cup button.

That is it you have completed the cleaning cycle.

Sage Barista Express Review in a Nutshell

As I have said at the beginning, I have been using the Sage Barista Express now for approximately 18 months. I really love this machine and would genuinely recommend it for purchase. Here are my pros and cons of the Barista express.


  1. It looks the part. The Barista Express looks expensive and is a beautiful piece of engineering.
  2. It is very compact and will not take up a lot of room on your countertop. After all, who wants a big bulky machine dominating their kitchen landscape. Here are its dimensions: Height = 400 mm, Width = 330 mm, and Depth = 310 mm.
  3. Once set up, the coffee making process is simple. It makes great coffee.
  4. The Barista Express gives you complete control of the coffee making process whether you want an espresso or latte you have everything at your fingertips!
  5. The steam wand is great at stretching and texturising the milk. You can hone your Batista skills.
  6. The Barista express gives you control of the bean grind size and amount.
  7. The cup warmer on the top of the machine is a nice touch.


I am really struggling to find anything wrong with the Barista Express, honest. Some may complain about the price, but I think you are getting a superb professional entry level machine for the money. If you are serious about your coffee, then you won't go far wrong in buying this machine.
At a push, the only con I can find is that if you leave the drip tray full for a while it can become smelly. However, there is a simple solution to this!


No Sage Barista Express review would be incomplete without a verdict so here it is.
This is a great coffee machine that is easy and quick to operate. It produces great espresso and textured milk for cappuccinos.
It looks good and is not big and bulky.

The Barista Express gives you full control over the coffee making process and using the machine is a great way to develop your all-important Barista skills and latte art. Buy it! It is a great investment or gift for a coffee lover!

How to Buy

Click this link to buy the Sage Barista Express from Amazon*.

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases