Breville is one of the most well-known and respected names in coffee and one of the leading brands for home coffee enthusiasts. Breville coffee makers come in many makes and models with various options aimed at beginner, intermediate, and advanced coffee enthusiasts. Breville specializes in espresso equipment, and the Breville Barista Express is largely regarded as the best home espresso machine.
In this article, we’re going to teach you some of our favorite tips and tricks for using Breville espresso machines, focusing on the features available on the Barista Express. Many Breville espresso machines share features and come with similar functionality, so many of the tips we cover in this guide apply to more than just the Barista Express. If you’re the proud owner of a Breville espresso machine and are looking to get the most out of it, you’ve come to the right place.
Some Preliminaries: Get to Know Your Breville Espresso Machine
There are a lot of moving parts and settings on Breville espresso machines, so take some time to familiarize yourself with your machine’s features. All Breville espresso machines come with a user’s manual that covers everything the machine can do in painstaking detail. It might not be the first thing you want to do when you open your shiny new Breville, but it’s important to know what the options are before getting your hands dirty.
The first thing you should do before you use your espresso machine is to wash all of the removable and accessible parts. New machines shouldn’t be dirty, but it’s always a good idea to give things a quick cleaning to be safe. Once everything is squeaky clean, install the water filter and run a few brew cycles to flush the lines and make sure the pump is working properly.
One extremely important tip is to always check the water level in your Breville before using it. Unfortunately, Breville espresso machines typically don’t come with a low water warning indicator. Running the machine without water can permanently damage it and, in some cases, start a fire. Checking the water level should always be the first step to your brew.
Your First Brew
Now that your machine is ready to go, it’s time to fire it up and pull your first shot. Before you dump the coffee in and get going, you must preheat the machine. If you use your machine from a cold start, the water might not reach the necessary temperature to extract the coffee properly, and your espresso won’t taste as good as it could. Preheating only takes about 15 minutes, so it won’t delay you for too long.
Another helpful tip is to put your cup on top of the machine on the warming tray while it preheats. Starting with a warm cup goes a long way to keeping your espresso hot while you enjoy it.
The Barista Express has a built-in grinder which is essential for getting the freshest possible espresso experience. Using freshly ground beans is the best way to improve your espresso if you’re used to using pre-ground coffee.
Time to start brewing:
How to Use a Breville Espresso Machine
- Breville espresso machine
- Whole coffee beans
- Filtered water
- Add fresh whole coffee beans to your Breville's hopper.
- With the grinder hopper full of beans, you're almost ready to make your first espresso with your Breville. Before you push start, make sure the grind size is set to the middle setting. As you gain experience using your Breville espresso maker, you'll adjust the grind size to home in on the ideal setting, but the middle of the range is a good place to start while you learn.
- Similarly, you should set the grind amount to the middle setting as a good starting point. Now you're ready to select the shot size—single or double—and start the grind by firmly pushing the portafilter in.
- One helpful tip is to weigh the portafilter using a kitchen scale and zero the scale before you grind the coffee. After the grind finishes, you can put the portafilter with coffee back on the scale to see how much coffee you ground. Ideally, you want to use around 8-10 grams of coffee for a single shot and between 15 and 18 grams for a double shot. If your grinder is outside this range, you can adjust the grind amount setting next time.
- Give the ground coffee a quick tamp by firmly compressing the grounds and removing the tamper with a quarter twist. Don't stress too much over using the right tamping pressure. Getting the pressure right takes practice and is something you can learn as you gain experience.
- Now the moment of truth! You're finally ready to pull your first shot. Insert the portafilter and turn it until it reaches the "lock" position. Press the appropriate button—either 1-cup or 2-cup—and voila, you've made your first espresso.
Perfecting Your Espresso Shots
Diagnosing your shot to improve future shots is important, and thankfully, the Barista Express has a helpful gauge to help you dial in your technique. While your espresso is extracting, watch the gauge on the front of the machine. The goal is to have the needle sit in the middle of the gray band labeled “espresso range” during the pull. If the needle is lower than this range, you need to increase your tamping pressure next time and if it is above the range, use less force in subsequent shots.
This guide barely scratches the surface of using your Breville espresso maker but will help you build a solid foundation for the future. There are so many features, settings, and bells and whistles on Breville espresso machines that it can be overwhelming in the beginning. Once you master the simple technique outlined here, you can delve deeper into your owner’s manual and experiment with all the wonderful features your machine has to offer.
The fundamentals aren’t as exhilarating as learning fancy milk frothing techniques or pulling more advanced shots, but you need to learn how to walk before you can run. Hopefully, you’ve found this guide helpful as you learn to use your Breville espresso machine. A wonderful world of home espresso fun awaits!
Related Read: How to Descale Breville Coffee Makers (Simple Steps)
Featured Image Credit: Angela CoffeeRank, Flickr CC 2.0 Generic (Breville Barista Express)