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Breville Barista Express vs Touch

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Last updated: December 19, 2023

Quick Answer: I’d recommend the Barista Express if you will primarily be using the machine to make plain espresso and Americano and the Barista Touch if you will be mainly making milk-based drinks.

The four differences between the Breville Barista Express vs Touch are:

  • User Interface: The Touch is operated by a touchscreen whereas the Barista Express is operated purely by buttons (no screen).
  • Steam Wand: The Touch has an automatic steam wand that can heat and froth milk to a preselected temperature and texture. The Barista Express has a manual steam wand where your milk’s final temperature and texture are determined by how you steam it.
  • Heating system: The Touch has a thermojet heating system and can go from off to being able to brew in three seconds. The Barista Express uses a thermocoil system and takes around 20-25 seconds between turning on and being able to brew.
  • Price: The Touch is around $350 more than the Barista Express.

Let’s see whether the Touch can justify its additional price tag over the Express.

Which is Better: Breville Barista Express or Touch?

The Breville Barista Touch is a better machine than the Express. The Touch is significantly easier to use than the Express and you can get more consistent drinks from the Touch than the Express.

However…

I think that the Touch only justifies its additional $350 over the Express if you are going to make a lot of frothed milk drinks with the machine.

Best for Milk Drinks
Breville Barista Touch
$998.45
The Barista Touch’s automatic steam wand and preset favorites make it much easier to make milk drinks with than the Express.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/03/2024 01:39 am GMT

The main benefit that the Touch has over the Express is that it’s much easier to steam milk with the Touch than the Express.

If you aren’t going to steam wind regularly (say, the majority of the time you use the machine), then I think you are better off saving your money and going with the Express.

Best Value
Breville Barista Express
The Breville Barista Express can make plain espresso and Americano just as well, and just as easily, as the Touch
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We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Overview of Breville Barista Express and Touch

The Breville Barista Express and Touch are both espresso machines with portafilters, steam wands, and a built-in grinder. 

Both machines require you to dose and tamp your coffee yourself. 

They differ from super-automatic espresso machines that just require you to fill your machine with beans and water and do all the brewing for you.

You can find a table of the two machines’ key specifications below:

Breville Barista Express Breville Barista Touch
Description
Semi automatic espresso machine with a built in grinder and manual steam wand
Semi automatic espresso machine with a touchscreen, built in grinder and automatic steam wand
User Interface
Buttons only
Touchscreen
Grinder Type
Conical burr grinder
Conical burr grinder
Number of Grind Settings
25
30
Steam Wand Type
Manual pin hole steam wand
Automatic pin hole steam wand with built in heat sensor
Visible Pressure Gauge
Yes
No
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
11” W x 12” D x 13.5” H
15.5″ W x 12.7″ D x 16″ H

What are the Differences Between the Breville Barista Express and Touch?

There are three differences between the Breville Barista Express and Touch:

  • User interface: Barista Touch has a touchscreen whereas the Barista Express is operated solely by buttons.
  • Steam wand: Barista Touch has an automatic steam wand with a heat sensor whereas the Barista Express has a manual steam wand.
  • Heating system: The Barista Touch uses a thermojet heating system whereas the Barista Express uses a thermocoil heating system.

I’m now going to go through how these three differences affect the two machines’ usability and performance and examine whether these differences justify a $350 price jump from the Express to the Touch.

User Interface: Touch’s Touchscreen vs Barista Express’s Button Only Control Panel

The Touch’s touchscreen makes the machine easier to use than the Barista Express. By far the biggest difference in usability comes when you are using the steam wand. I, therefore, think you’d only get the most benefit from the Touch’s touchscreen if you make milk drinks regularly.

Below are photos of the Touch’s touchscreen and the Express’s button-operated control panel:

The Touch’s UI is clearly more engaging and intuitive than the Express’s, however, I want to now show you exactly how the two types of control panels affect the usability of the machines for their three main functionalities:

  • Pulling espresso shots
  • Steaming milk
  • Cleaning, descaling, and adjusting the machines’ settings

Pulling Espresso Shots

The process for pulling espresso shots is pretty much the same for the Express and Touch.

The only difference between the two machines is literally that one involves pressing a touch screen and the other involves pressing buttons.

Both machines require you to:

  • Select a grind size with a dial on the machine’s left-hand side.
  • Select a grinding length that determines how much coffee the machine grinds (the Express has a dial for this whereas the Touch has a touchscreen button).
  • Select whether you want a single or double shot.

The Touch also allows you to select a “brewing time” for each shot which determines how long it dispenses your brewing water. This will in turn affect how large your espresso shot is.

With the Express you can set brewing time in programming mode and then this is hard coded for all your shots until you go back into program mode and change it again.

You can see a video of the process for pulling an espresso shot with the Barista Express below (watch from 5:48 until 12:20, he pulls three shots in this time):

You can see a video of someone pulling a shot with the Breville Barista Touch below (watch from 3:30 – 7:05):

As you can see from these videos, the process is just the same with the only difference being that the Touch’s time to grind is set by time and adjusted to the nearest 0.5 seconds whereas the Express’s time to grind is set on a seemingly arbitrary scale.

Express’s “grind amount” scale

While the Express’s “grind amount” scale is still based on how long it takes to grind (each notch is an extra 1-second grind time) this is certainly not as clear or easy to understand as the machine measuring your coffee dose on a specified scale.

Still, most espresso drinkers will just set the machine to a specified dose and then keep it on that, so I don’t think that the Express’s vague measurements here are too much of an issue.

Steaming Milk

It’s far easier to get consistently good steamed milk with the Touch than with the Express.

The Touch allows you to preselect your steamed milk’s final temperature and texture for every drink that you make.

You can program your milk’s temperature to the nearest 10 Fahrenheit/5 Celsius and its texture on a scale of 1-10 (1 is silkiest and 10 is frothiest).

The Touch has an automatic steam wand and a heat sensor in the drip tray under its steam wand. 

Just put your milk jug on the heat sensor and lower your wand into the milk. The machine will do the rest.

No need to even hold the milk jug

The Touch’s steam wand just has an on button.

Your milk’s final temperature and texture are based purely on how you steam it. 

If you want as precise temperature and texture control as the Touch then you’ll need to steam your milk with a thermometer in it (the machine does not come with such a thermometer) and a fair bit of practice.

I have a Breville Barista Pro which has a very similar steam wand to the Express. I have owned the Pro for about a year and use its steam wand around once a week and I still get inconsistent results with it.

While I can make well-steamed milk, I definitely cannot steam it to a specified texture. It’s still a bit of a crapshoot how the milk ends up.

While these inconsistent results are due to my poor steaming technique and not the steamer itself, this puts into perspective the amount of steaming practice you need to match the Breville Barista Touch.

Maintenance and Adjusting the Machines’ Settings

The Touch’s settings menu makes its maintenance and adjusting settings much more intuitive than Express. 

Barista Touch

The Touch has a dedicated settings menu, accessed by pressing the cog on the top right-hand corner of its touch screen:

This then has options for all its settings adjustments and maintenance, including rinsing and descaling.

Select the option you want and the machine will walk you through what to do in plain English.

Barista Express

While the Barista Express has the same customizable settings as the Touch (save for its milk wand settings), it’s a lot less easier to access these than with the Touch.


For example, to change the machine’s brewing temperature you first have to press the program button then either:

  • Press the program button again to set its temperature to the lowest
  • Press the one-cup button to set its temperature to the middle
  • Press the two-cup button to set its temperature to the highest

The machine gives you no indication of which button refers to what (other than the fact that all available buttons are illuminated). You can only find this information in the machine’s manual.

Descaling the machine also involves a near-random selection of button presses and holds, you can see a video on how to do this below:

This again is much more complicated than the Touch which tells you what to do on its touchscreen through every step of the process.

In short, it’s going to take more work to get your head around the programming and maintenance needed to use the Express to the fullest compared to the Touch.

Barista Touch’s Menu and Saved Presets

The Barista Touch’s menu makes it quicker to make milk-based drinks than the Express.

The Barista Touch’s touchscreen has a menu with five preset coffee types and the option to make eight more custom coffee types.

I personally think this menu is a bit gimmicky and is mainly there because it looks good on product photo shots. This is because the difference between each drink type is the quantity and texture of milk used.

You can alter the quantity and texture of milk simply by using more or less milk or adjusting your milk’s texture before you make each coffee. I’m therefore not sure if there’s much point to having this menu.

I do like the fact that the machine can save eight preset coffee types. This means that you do not need to adjust your brewing length, milk temperature, and milk texture for every coffee that you make.

Instead, you can make whatever coffee you want with one button touch (so long as it’s saved to your favorites).

In summary, the Touch’s touch screen makes it much easier to make milk-based drinks than the Express. It also makes it easier to clean, descale and adjust the machine’s settings, especially when you are doing this for the first time.

Steaming Milk: Touch’s Automatic Steam Wand vs Express’s Manual Steam Wand

As I covered earlier the Touch’s automatic steam wand allows you to steam wand to a specified texture and temperature without any effort or past practice.

The Express’s steam wand requires practice to master, and you’ll need to buy a separate thermometer to measure your milk’s temperature while you steam if you want to steam as accurately as you can with the Touch.

I’d therefore recommend the Touch over the Express if you are going to be making a lot of steamed milk drinks, especially if you have never used a steam wand before.

Can you Make Microfoam for Latte Art with the Barista Touch?

You can make latte art with the Barista Touch’s steam wand but only if you use it in manual mode.

During my research, I saw a lot of people asking on Reddit whether they can pour latte art with Touch’s automatic steam wand.

To make the fine microfoam needed for latte art you need to steam your milk with the tip of the milk wand barely touching the top surface of your milk.

The Barista Touch’s automatic milk frother will not do this in automatic mode. When the jug sits on the heat sensor (this is necessary for the machine to steam your milk to a preset temperature) then the want has to be deeply submerged in the milk to steam it.

You can still steam milk to make latte art with the Barista Touch, but you have to put its wand into manual mode and then maneuver it in the milk as you steam it.
You can see a Reddit thread talking about this here:

 “I have the Breville Barista Touch and froth my milk manually for latte art because the auto froth only work okay for normal foam not the mircofoam you need for latte art.”

u/robertjandreu

The Barista Express’s manual steam wand can also steam milk for latte art.

In summary, the Touch’s automatic steam wand allows you to make consistent steamed milk for drink after a drink. The Express’s steamed milk depends wholly on your skill with a steam wand. Both machines can make fine microfoam for latte art, but you’ll need to put the Touch’s steam wand in manual mode to do this.

Heating System: Express’s Thermocoil vs Touch’s Thermojet System

The Touch’s can go from off to ready to brew in three seconds. The Express takes about 25 seconds before it is ready to brew. Both machines can control heat during brewing to the same extent.

The machines’ two different heating systems only affect the amount of time for them to be ready to brew after turning on.

It does not affect the quality of coffee or steamed milk as they both have flawless temperature control during brewing and steaming.

The Express is just a bit slower to get started and noisier when brewing than the Express.

Breville Barista Pro: Happy Medium Between the Express and Touch

The Breville Barista Pro has a display screen (but not a touchscreen) which makes it easier to use than the Express. At just $100 more than the Express I think that it offers a happy medium between the hard-to-use Express and the pricey Touch.

My Breville Pick
Breville Barista Pro
$849.95
The Breville Barista Pros display screen makes it easier to use than the Express. The Pro is closer in price to the Express than the Touch.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/03/2024 05:13 am GMT

It also times your shots which makes it much easier to optimize your shots than with the Express or Pro.

It also has a settings menu that walks you through descaling and cleaning the machine (it’s similar to the Touch in this way).

The Barista Pro has a manual steam wand so you still have to go through a learning curve to make consistently good milk-based drinks.

To find out more about how the Breville Barista Pro compares to the Express and Touch please see my comparisons of:

Final Thoughts

I’d recommend the Breville Barista Express over the Touch if you are looking for a machine to mainly make black espresso and Americano with. The Touch’s added features over the Express mainly improve how the machine makes milk-based drinks.

Best Value
Breville Barista Express
The Breville Barista Express can make plain espresso and Americano just as well, and just as easily, as the Touch
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
Best for Milk Drinks
Breville Barista Touch
$998.45
The Barista Touch’s automatic steam wand and preset favorites make it much easier to make milk drinks with than the Express.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/03/2024 01:39 am GMT

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