Breville Barista Pro vs Barista Express

This is my comparison of the Breville Barista Pro vs Barista Express, two of Breville’s mid-priced espresso machines.

I own the Breville Barista Pro. A friend of mine owns the Breville Barista Express and I spent a morning at their house testing the Express to put together this comparison.

The Breville Barista Pro was designed to be a direct upgrade of the Express and as such costs around $300 more than it. 

I’ll therefore be paying specific attention to whether the Pro can justify this additional cost compared to the Express.

Let’s get started.

Should I Buy the Breville Barista Pro or Breville Barista Express (Quick Verdict)?

I’d recommend buying the Breville Barista Pro over the Barista Express – but only just.

Both are excellent machines.

The extra features on the Pro vs the Express justify its additional cost because they significantly contribute to the quality of drinks that the machine can make. They are not just featured for features’ sake.

The area where the Pro really outshines the Express is its milk frother.

If you are buying a machine just to make black espresso drinks, then the extra money that you will have to spend to get the Pro probably is not justified.

If this applies to you, then you are better off getting the Breville Barista Express.

Overview of the Two Machines

The Breville Barista Pro and Barista Express are both automatic espresso machines with built in grinders and steam wands.

Both machines use portafilters to hold your ground coffee and require you to tamp your puck of coffee and move it from the machine’s grinder dispenser to its brew head.

The machines also both have manual steam wands. These have a bit of a learning curve but allow you to make better-frothed milk than machines with more automated milk frothing systems.

Below is a table showing the key specifications of these two machines:

SpecificationBreville Barista ProBreville Barista Express
Dimensions (width x depth x height)15.9” x 13.9” x 15.9”12.5” x 12.”6 x 13.1”
Available coffeesEspresso
Double espresso
Manual milk frothing
Double espresso
Manual milk frothing
User interfaceDigital Display and buttonsPressure gauge and buttons
Grinder typeStainless steel conical burr grinder Stainless steel conical burr grinder 
Number of grind settings30 settings16 settings
Pump strength15 Bar15 Bar
Heating systemThermojetThermocoil
Heat up time3 seconds30 seconds
Steam wand typePinhole with 4 holesPinhole with 1 hole
Buy on AmazonCheck latest priceCheck latest price

Key Differences Between the Two Machines

The image below shows the four key differences between the two machines:

I’m now going to run through what these differences are and how they affect the machines’ respective performances.

Pro’s Digital Display Screen vs Express’s Pressure Gauge

The Breville Barista Pro’s digital display screen gives you better information about your brewing than the Express’s pressure gauge does. Therefore you can fine-tune your espresso with much more precision with the Pro compared to the Express.

The Breville Barista Pro has a digital display screen which tells you the following data points about the espresso you are making:

  • The amount of ground coffee you are using (measured in the time it takes to grind it)
  • Your grind size
  • The length of time it takes you to brew your espresso

The Express does not have such a display screen but instead has a pressure gauge in the same position where the Pro’s display screen is.

The Pro’s inclusion of this information on its display screen enables you to make a much better espresso than the Express does.

The Pro telling you how long your brew takes is particularly useful, as this is the best way (along with the taste of course) to know how to adjust your grind size.

Espresso should take 25 seconds to brew. Any more than that and your grind size should be coarser, any less and it should be finer.

The Express telling you your brewing pressure does not give you useful information on how to adjust your brewing conditions.

While a general rule of thumb is that too low brewing pressure means that you should grind your beans coarser (and vice versa), the range of “ideal pressure” (6-9 bars) is too wide to accurately guide you on the minutiae of your espresso making.

To fine-tune your espresso with the Express, you will have to time your shots with your own timer. This is a lot of additional work.

Breville Barista Pro’s Thermojet Heater vs Breville Barista Express’s Thermocoil Heater

The Pro’s more powerful heating system means that it heats up in three seconds compared to the Express’s 30 heat-up time.

The Pro’s superior heating system also means that it can steam larger quantities of milk than the Express before overheating.

This makes the Pro a better machine than the Express for groups of people who drink milky coffees.

Bear in mind that the Pro’s superior heating mechanism does not mean that it can make multiple coffees in quicker succession than the Express.

The limiting factor in how fast an espresso machine can make multiple coffees is its pump, not its heating mechanism. 

The Pro and the Express use the same pump, so they both need a similar amount of rest (around 30 seconds) between shots.

Breville Barista Pro’s Four-Holed Steam Wand vs Breville Barista Express’s One-Holed Steam Wand

The Pro’s four-holed steam wand allows it to create a finer and more even microfoam than the Express.

The Pro’s four-holed steam wand means that it can push out steam more evenly in the milk than the Express with its single-hole wand.

This gives you a couple of advantages when you steam milk with the Pro vs the Express:

  • Four holes disperse heat with a wider range than one hole. This gives you more even heat and texture in your milk.
  • A naturally wider dispersion range means that you have to do less manoeuvring of the four-holed steam wand than the one-holed steam wand to get your desired milk texture.

The Pro’s four-holed steam wand especially helps you improve the quality of your latte-style fine milk foam.

For larger bubbled milk foam, such as that to top a cappuccino, the difference between the two machine’s steam wands is reduced (although the Pro still does this better than the Express).

Breville Barista Pro’s 30 Setting Grinder vs Breville Barista Express’s 16 Setting Grinder

There is not too much of a difference between these machines’ grinders, despite the large difference in their number of settings. This is because only a small handful of these settings on either machine are usable.

Although the Pro has 30 grind settings, I’ve only ever been able to use grind sizes 10-15. Any finer than that and the portafilter clogs up; any coarser than that and my water just runs through the coffee bed without any real extraction occurring.

My friend who owns the Express says similar things, but that she can only brew with settings 4-7.

Therefore, I don’t think that the Pro’s additional grind settings make a huge difference to the overall performance of the machine.

While some might argue that more precise settings give you greater control over your brewing, I think that the difference between the two machines here is so minimal that only geeks who like precision for its own sake will appreciate it.

One problem that I noted when testing out the Express is that its grinder would dispense too much ground coffee, even when on its lowest volume setting.

While you can manually stop the Express from dispensing by removing the portafilter from its holder, this means that you need to keep an eye on the machine as it’s grinding.

This is not a problem with the Pro. I find that a grind time of 10-14 seconds (depending on your grind size) gives you the perfect dose of coffee.

What Are the Similarities Between the Two Machines

The Breville Barista Pro and Express have the following features in common:

  • They both use an Italian-made 15 Bar espresso pump.
  • Their exteriors are both made out of chrome-plated plastic.
  • They both have 67 oz water tanks that attach to the back of the machine.
  • They both have removable, but non-dishwasher-safe drip trays.
  • They both take water filters and need to be descaled every three months.
  • Both machines have a dedicated descale mode and come with some descaling solution.

I am now going to compare these two machines across the following criteria:

  • Quality of Drinks
  • Ease of Use
  • Ease of Cleaning
  • Design and Build Quality
  • Value for Money

Quality of Drinks

The Breville Barista Pro can make a marginally better black espresso and significantly better milk-based drinks than the Breville Barista Express.

Quality of Black Coffee

Although both machines have a similar brewing mechanism, the Pro can allow you to dial in your espresso with more precision than the Express because the Pro times your shots.

As mentioned earlier, brew time is one of the most important measurements when fine-tuning your espresso.

The fact that the Pro gives this extra data point makes a real difference to both the quality of espresso that you can make with the machine and the consistency to which you can pull excellent shots.

Quality of Milk-Based Coffee Drinks

The Pro’s four-holed steam wand means it makes significantly better milk-based coffee drinks than the Express.

This difference is most pronounced when you make lattes and other drinks that call for a fine foam. The Pro can foam milk to a much finer texture than the Express.

Quality of Drinks Winner: Breville Barista Pro

Ease of Use

Both machines have a very similar workflow, however, the Breville Barista Pro is easier to calibrate than the Express due to it giving you your brewing times for every shot you make.

Both the machines are virtually identical to set up and make coffees with.

They have the exact same workflow, both automating the coffee and water dosing, but leaving you to tamp your coffee and steam your milk manually.

The most fiddly bit about making espresso (other than perhaps the cleanup afterwards) is adjusting your grind size and dose to achieve optimal taste.

One of the most useful barometers of adjusting your “espresso recipe” is brew time. 

While the Pro gives you your brew time for every shot you pull, the Express does not do this.

This alone makes the Pro an easier-to-use machine than the Express.

While some argue that the Express’s visible pressure gauge has a similar function to timing your shot, this is actually a much more crude way of evaluating your espresso recipe.

Ease of Use Winner: Breville Barista Pro

Ease of Cleaning 

There is no significant difference between the ease of cleaning of these two machines.

Removable/ Dishwasher Safe Parts

Both machines are exactly the same in terms of which of their parts are removable and dishwasher safe. You can find a table of this below:

PartRemovableDishwasher safe
Portafilter basketYesYes
Drip trayYesNo
Water tankYesNo

With both machines, cleaning out the grinder when it gets clogged up is quite laborious. You need to scrub the inside of it with a small brush. 

Both machines come with a brush that is specifically made to do this.

Ease of Descaling

Both machines take a filter in their water tank and need to be descaled when their filter is changed every three months.

Both machines have a dedicated descale mode which walks you through the descaling process and makes it really easy. 

They also both come with one sachet of descaling solution which has enough solution for one descale.

Messiness of Machine

Both machines can get quite drippy after they brew espresso and steam milk.

You will have to wipe them down after every coffee you make. This can be particularly annoying when milk drips into the drip tray as milk residue will drip in through the drip tray’s grills.

Winner: Breville Barista Express (actually a draw but the Express wins as it is a cheaper machine)

Design and Build Quality

The Pro has a better internal build quality than the Express. In particular, it has a more powerful heating system and a better-built steam wand. Their external build is pretty much identical.

Size and Aesthetics

The two machines look really similar, however, the Breville Barista Express is three inches slimmer and two inches shorter than the Barista Pro.

This is a significant enough difference in size for the Express to be more suited for people with limited space in their kitchens than the Pro.

Build Quality

The Pro has a superior heating system to the Express which decreases its time to heat up from 30 seconds to three seconds.

The Pro also has a better steam wand and finer-tuned grinder than the Express. 

The only way that someone could argue that the Express has a better design and/or build quality than the Pro is that it has a visible pressure gauge. 

As I have argued earlier, I don’t think that this is a very important feature as it does not give you much useful information to help you fine-tune your espresso.

Known Technical Issues

The Breville Barista Pro has two known technical issues. These are:

  • Its grinder has a tendency to jam up on its finer settings
  • It sometimes fails to complete its initial rinse cycle when you first turn the machine on

You can find out more about these issues in my Breville Barista Pro Review.

The Barista Express’s grinder also seems to jam up when grinding on its finer settings.

I also found several reviewers on Amazon complaining about the machine’s lack of brewing pressure. 

It seems that the machine’s pump has a tendency to deteriorate over time and that this causes problems at about the 12-month mark of ownership. 

Even though the Pro uses the same pump system as the Express, I have not seen anyone complain of the Pro having this problem.

I could not find any complaints about the Express failing to complete its rinse cycle, which is something it has over the Pro.

Design and Build Quality Winner: Breville Barista Pro

Value for Money

The Breville Barista Pro is typically around $300 more expensive than the Breville Barista Express.

I think that the Pro’s additional cost is warranted only if you are going to make a lot of milk-based drinks.

There is not too much difference between the quality of black espresso that these two machines make, although you can achieve an excellent espresso more consistently with the Pro.

Value for Money Winner: Draw

What Users Say

Here is a summary of what users of these machines have to say about them in Amazon reviews and on Reddit.

Breville Barista Pro

As of September 2022, the Breville Barista Pro has been reviewed 1659 times on Amazon, with an average rating of 4.7 stars out of 5.

Positive reviews of the machine talk about how powerful its steam wand is, with some reviewers specifically saying that it compares favorably to the Express’s steam wand.

Amazon review, May 2022: The steam is much stronger than previous. I make two lattes at a time and froth using a double pitcher. Using this machine is much faster and the 4 hole nozzle helps to produce a more velvety foam.”

Several positive reviewers also posted pictures of latte art that they made with the machine. Latte art is only possible if your machine’s steam wand can make really fine microfoam. 

Most espresso machines sold for the home market cannot do this.

Negative reviews of the machine mentioned the problem that I had with its grinder clogging up.
Amazon review, June 2022: “While the grinder came on, the beans did not grind or produce coffee. I troubleshooted, watched YouTube videos, took out the burrs to clean, and tried everything for half of a day before giving up. After reading other reviews online, this seems to be a common problem. Grinder does not grind the beans!!! Bummer!”

Breville Barista Express

As of September 2022, the Breville Barista Express has been reviewed 16,668 times and has also an average rating of 4.7 stars out of 5.

Almost all its positive reviews mention the excellent espresso it makes and how easy it is to use.

Amazon review, August 2016: Every day it makes amazing espresso, and as long as I keep it clean it performs beautifully. This thing is also easier to maintain and requires less cleaning than other cheaper espresso machines I’ve tried.”

Many of the negative reviews of the Express mention its pump deteriorating over time, to the point of failure.

Amazon review, August 2015: “It has been quite reliable until now. I maintain and clean it regularly. However, recently it has started to vibrate loudly when I am pulling shots, and I think the pump may be failing. Many other people in online forums have complained of buzzing noises just before their unit failed”

Although there are many reports of the Express’s pump failing at around the 12-month mark of its lifespan, the machine’s high average rating on Amazon suggests that this is only a problem that affects a small number of the machines.

Final Thoughts

The Breville Barista Pro is a better machine than the Express, and justifies its additional cost, especially if you plan on using its steam wand a lot.

The quality of the steam wand is the biggest separating factor between the two machines. If you only intend on making black espresso, then you might want to stick with the more affordable Express.

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