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Hello friends! Today I am sharing on how to use the Breville Barista Express espresso maker to make an incredible latte at home. When I tell you this is just as good (or better!) than any coffee shop latte, I am not exaggerating in the least. This is coming from a gal who LOVES a good latte from the coffee shop and hasn’t purchased one out in months! It really is that good.
If you are reading this, you either own a Breville Barista Express machine or you are researching buying a new espresso machine. If it’s research and you are looking for a budget-friendly option, my suggestion is to trust me and go right ahead and make the investment in THIS ONE.
I researched espresso machines for almost a solid year before landing on this particular Breville machine. I’ve used cheaper and more expensive versions of this machine, and I can tell you without a doubt that this is the best bang for your buck you will find for an at-home espresso machine. We got ours for about $500 on a Black Friday deal. In terms of great espresso machines, this is a steal. BUT it was still an investment, but in my opinion, one very worth it for our family and one we were willing to make. It honestly paid for itself very quickly in our household.
If you think about it. If you buy one coffee a day, let’s say that averages in at around $5. That’s $35 a week. That’s $140 a month. And let’s say you buy this espresso machine for $600. Well then it’s paid for itself in about 4 to 5 months. And then will just be saving you loads of money!
Over the past 6 months, I’ve been a bit of a perfectionist and have been studying and practicing creating a latte better than the coffeeshop. Admittedly, I have a little work to do when it comes to latte “art,” but the latte itself tastes like magic.
I’m also sharing what I have found to be incredibly helpful tools to accompany this machine. Not necessary, but helpful! Basically, giving you the low down of everything I’ve learned through trial and error with my Breville Barista Express.
What is the Breville Barista Express?
Well, I’m glad you asked! The Breville Barista Express is a tried-and-true, stainless steel, quality machine that has been around for about 10 years. The fact that it’s STILL selling so well so many years later speaks volumes about this machine. In my opinion, the Barista Express gives you the most for your money in terms of what’s included in it’s all-in-one design. You essentially do not need to own anything other than what comes with this machine (other than a couple of coffee mugs) ;). Others I researched for around this price range or a bit less would have required additional purchases, such as a burr grinder for grinding beans… and man oh man, one of the quality needed to produce great espresso is downright pricey.
I dare to say that the Breville Barista Express is the easiest and most convenient at-home latte maker. There are newer, fancier versions of this machine with a few new features by Breville and other brands. However, the Breville Barista Express does the same job at a lower price-point.
What Beans Should I Use in My Breville Barista Express?
Whole espresso beans! HIGH QUALITY & FRESH whole espresso beans. I cannot stress that enough, as not all beans are created alike. These will greatly effect the outcome of your finished latte, and while I can give you all the advice in the world – if you are not using quality beans, the outcome is iffy.
I always check the roast date on the bag to make sure they were roasted recently. I aim for them to have been roasted within the last 7 days. Whole beans keep their freshness longer than pre-ground, so I highly suggest always purchasing whole beans.
MY FAVORITE BEANS in the whole of the U.S. (and I’ve been all over!) are from an incredible little coffeeshop around the corner from our house, if you can even believe that. I’m going to link those for you here because I think everyone and their mama needs a bag of these. I purchase 5lbs of their Chimera blend once a month. Upshots beans are fresh roasted before shipping, so you can be sure they aren’t arriving stale. For free shipping, enter the code FREESHIPPING at checkout on orders over $50.
I want to add that I get no kickbacks and have no partnership with them – just a genuine fan and lover of their beans. The shop is owned by a wonderful family, which makes supporting this place even better.
How do you keep espresso beans fresh?
I highly recommend purchasing an air-proof container and storing in your freezer immediately after purchasing. I have found that this keeps the beans fresh as the day they were roasted for about a month. Freshness makes a real difference, so I strongly encourage this!
I store ours in the freezer and just pour them frozen directly into the grinder when I fill it. Frozen beans produce a more “uniform” grind, creating a better and more flavorful extractions.
What tools do I suggest for this machine (other than what it comes with)?
Honestly, not much! As I mentioned above, this machine actually comes with everything you need to make great espresso. My suggestions are what I have found make it easier and better, but they are not *necessary.*
I love my two-in-one hand tamper for easy leveling and tamping. This tool has single-handedly changed the game for me in terms of getting consistently great shots.
You will also need a digital scale for accuracy.
I also love these double walled shot cups. These are really handy for making iced lattes when you aren’t brewing directly into a coffee or latte mug. You can brew directly into one of these and transfwer over to a tall glass or a plastic cup.
And a cheap, bulk pack of microfiber cloths for cleaning the steam wand.
Plastic cup and lid set from Amazon for on-the-go iced coffee. This is very extra of me, but I even like to use these at home. It makes the coffee feel more coffee-shop official.
For the purposes of this post, I will be describing a DOUBLE SHOT. This is my go-to since a double shot of espresso makes the most flavor latte, in my opinion. You can still use this post as a guideline for a single shot, but your grams will be different. You’ll want to make sure you are using your double shot portafilter head if you are following this tutorial with no changes.
STEPS FOR MAKING AN INCREDIBLE LATTE WITH YOUR BREVILLE BARISTA EXPRESS:
Check that your water reservoir is full.
Always check your water reservoir to make sure you are not nearing the minimum water line. I have ruined many good shots by forgetting to re-fill the water and it running out midway through.
Fill grinder with whole espresso beans.
As stated above, I store ours in the freezer and just pour them frozen directly into the grinder when I fill it.
Your beans defintiely do not have to be frozen, but it keeps them fresher for longer. And frozen beans produce a more “uniform” grind, creating a better and more flavorful extractions.
Program your double shot extraction time.
This may already be done, as it’s usually a one and done deal once it’s set. But if you’re not sure, run a 2-cup cycle with water and time how long it takes with your phone.
You will want to make sure that your machine is taking 25 – 30 seconds to extract your espresso on a double shot cycle. Easy peasy though!
You will do this by turning your machine on and hitting the program button. From there, lock your empty portafilter into place and place a cup underneath. Grab your phone or a timer and hit “start” on your timer at the same time you press the 2 cup button. When your timer has reached 25 seconds, hit the 2 cup button again. And voila! Your extraction time is set. You most likely won’t need to do this again.
Adjust your grind size (if needed).
This is found on the left side of your machine. Remember, the finer the grind, the slower the extraction. Mine usually sits at a 6, and I know this is actually what Breville recommends. Honestly, you won’t have to move it from this spot very often, so it’s a great place to start and you can adjust accordingly if necessary.
Fresher beans will hold more moisture, so sometimes you will need to make the grind more coarse to adjust for this (I usually only have to go to an 8 or 9 if this is the case).
Set your grind amount.
This is one of those things that once adjusted, you will rarely have to do it again. I suggest turning the knob so the line lands right in the middle for the first grind, and then adjust accordingly.
This is usually where mine stays – right in the middle.
Make sure you have “DOUBLE” selected on filter size.
Make sure you are using a 2 shot portafilter head before proceeding. If you’re filter size is set to single, press the circle button once to change it to double.
Once you set it to double, it will not change back to single unless you unplug the machine or manually change it back. I only make double shots, so I’ve messed up a few lattes by missing this step!
Weigh your empty portafilter.
Set your digital scale to GRAMS. This is important because you want to know that your ground beans are weighing in at around 19 grams.
Making sure your portafilter is clean and dry, you will weigh it and then “zero” it out so that your scale will not count the weight of the portafilter when you measure your grind.
Grind your beans.
You will do this by inserting the portafilter into the holder and pushing in once. You’ve already set your grind amount, so the machine will know when to stop.
It will overflow a bit, but that’s okay. I put my hand underneath the portafilter when I remove it and carefully bring it down to my tamping mat or scale to keep the grinds from spilling over.
Weigh your portafilter with your ground beans.
I aim to have this weigh in at about 19 grams. If you’re getting more or less, you will need to add or remove a little coffee and then adjust the grind amount on your machine. This will ensure you are set for next time.
You can do this every time you make an espresso, OR you can make sure it’s set every time you get a new bag of beans and then check it periodically like me. I find that in general, once I’ve adjusted it for a new bag of beans, it stays around 19 grams. Easy peasy!
This is the digital scale we use. It comes in a variety of colors and works great.
Tamp your ground beans.
I have had so much trial and error with this. A good shot comes from many things, but ESPECIALLY, how well it’s tamped. The EASIEST and most fail-proof way I’ve found of doing this is using this handy little hand-tamper from Amazon. One side allows you to clean and smooth the beans (this is why I REALLY love this tool), and then you simply flip it over and tamp. The side that cleans and smooths also creates a completely level surface, which is crucial to a good shot. This can definitely be achieved without this tool, but this makes it much easier.
The tamper allows for adjusting the depth so you can get the right amount of pressure. I really appreciate this aspect because it takes the guesswork out of my tamping pressure.
If you don’t have one of these, no fear! You will clean up and even your beans by hand and then give your espresso a firm tamp with the Breville handle tamper that your machine came with. You want to add a good amount of pressure but not too much. You still want water to flow through! I press semi-firmly until I feel it kind of “bottom out” and stop immediately. You want it compact but not TOO compact (I know that’s helpful, lol).
This takes some trial and error, but once you have it, you have it.
HOW TO TAMP WITH BREVILLE HAND-HELD TAMPER:
Start by moving your portafilter to your tamping mat (or solid surface). Gently sweeping excess grounds off while moving the grounds towards the center of the portafilter by hand so that they do not fall out when you tamp.
Using the handheld tamper, place on top of your ground beans and apply pressure – but not too much. You don’t want it to so compact that the water cannot come through. This does take some trial and error, but once you have it, you have it!
HOW TO TAMP WITH ALL-IN-ONE TAMPER:
Start by gently sweeping excess grounds off and moving the grounds towards the center of the portafilter by hand.
Use the “sweeper” side of the all in one tool to create a smooth surface for the beans. You simple place it on top of the ground beans and twist.
Flip it over to the flat side and twist to create a smooth, compact surface for grinding. You may need to adjust the depth of the tamper. The tamper allows for adjusting the depth so you can get the right amount of pressure.
Did I go through a couple bags of cheap beans to perfect this? You bet.
Insert portafilter and press the 2-cup button.
Make sure to clean off any excess grounds before inserting your portafilter into the machine. I do this gently shaking the portafilter and blowing off the excess grounds. You want it to look clean and tidy.
Insert your shot cup or coffee cup underneath the filter. The machine should run for at least 25 seconds, and if not, make sure to customize your extraction time (I talk about this above).
Make sure to note if your pressure gauge is falling within the “Espresso Range.” You want it to look something like this below.
*If it’s not hitting espresso range, you may not have tamped your grounds hard enough. Alternatively, your beans may be too coarse.
*If it’s going past espresso range and barely coming out, you may have tamped too hard. Alternatively, you may have ground the beans too fine and need to make them more coarse. Remember, once you have this, you will not need to adjust very often!
Remove your portafilter and dump your ground “puck” into the trash can.
If your trash can is not near by, you will want to purchase a “knock box” to keep next to your machine. This will prevent leaking espresso across your kitchen or house!
If you’ve had a good extraction, your espresso will look something like this.
Run a 1-cup cycle of water through the portafilter to clean any remaining grounds.
Make sure to do this before proceeding, otherwise you may forget. It’s important to do this every time to keep your machine clean.
I just run this into an empty shot cup. A coffee cup would work just as well.
Fill your milk froth pitcher to where the spout begins (almost 1/2 of the way full).
Do this now so that you’re ready to go once you turn on your steam wand.
Make sure you are using whole milk for the best results!
Remove your espresso cup from the machine and turn on the steam wand.
Make sure your steam wand is pointing down into the hole of the drip tray before turning on. You will find the steam setting on the right side of the machine. Turn the dial to the left, so it’s pointing to the steam setting. Allow this five to ten seconds to heat up. The steam should be at full strength and ready when the machine starts making what sounds like a clicking noise and spraying a strong steam.
Steam your milk.
When the steam wand is at full strength, turn it to standby and immediately place your pitcher underneath with the wand touching the spout. You will insert the tip of the wand just barely into the surface of the milk and then turn the dial back to steam.
You will steam your milk holding the pitcher with both hands. With the steam tip about 2 centimeters (just barely) inserted into the top of the milk, turn steam on and allow it to “hiss” and bubble for a few seconds to introduce air. Then you will fully submerge the wand and tilt to the side until you get a “whirlpool” of milk – it will be spinning in a circle. This aerates the milk and allows those bubbles to create microfoam.
You will do this until it’s too hot to hold for more than a couple of seconds, and then turn the steam wand to standby again.
For the PERFECT steamed milk to give you the best texture and creaminess, I highly recommend watching Breville’s short video tutorial. This is a huge part of an excellent latte, especially when it comes to making art!
Purge your steam wand and wipe with damp microfiber cloth.
Turn the steam back for a couple of seconds to purge it and then clean it with a damp microfiber cloth. This ensures that there is no milk remaining to clog up your machine.
Highly recommend these cheap, bulk pack of microfiber cloths from Amazon to keep on hand.
Add steamed milk to your freshly brewed espresso!
For the best latte milk, you’ll want to make sure it looks something like this. The goal for it to be thick with micro-foam and not a ton of actual bubbles on the surface.
If it’s purely about taste and you are not aiming for art, feel free to pour the milk in as you please and then – VOILA! You have made the perfect latte!
*IF* you do want to create latte art, you will need to follow these quick tips to get started.
Enjoy your delicious latte!
Making this beauty every morning has become one of my favorite parts of every day.
I’m still trekking along on my latte art journey, so stay tuned 🙂
Updated to share that my latte art is slowly improving! Hehe 🙂
And that’s it, folks! That’s how I make amazing at-home lattes with my Breville Barista Express. I hope this has been helpful and helps you on your latte journey 🙂
Until next time,
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