Quick Answer: I’d only recommend the Breville Barista Pro over the Breville Barista Express if you’re going to take the time to properly dial in your machine and/or you’re going to be making a lot of milk-based drinks. If neither of these apply to you then you’ll get better value with the Barista Express.
In this comparison of the Breville Barista Pro vs Breville Barista Express, I’m going to look at:
- What are the differences between the two espresso machines and how this affects their performance and usability?
- In what situations you’re justified in paying the typical $100 – $150 premium for the Barista Pro instead of the Barista Express?
- If you can get a better espresso set up for around the same price as the Breville Barista Express (answer: yes, with the Breville Bambino and the Baratza Sette 270).
Which is Better: The Breville Barista Pro or Breville Barista Express?
The Breville Barista Pro is a better espresso machine than the Breville Barista Express. It has a superior thermojet heating system, more grind settings, and a more intuitive user interface.
These additional features mean that the Barista Pro espresso machine outperforms the Barista Express in the following ways:
- More control over your espresso brewing: More grinder settings, a built-in shot timer, and a display screen with a dedicated settings menu mean that it’s far easier to dial in the Breville Barista Pro than the Barista Express. This means that, if you’re willing to put the effort into dialing the espresso machine thoroughly, you can get a better-tasting shot with the Barista Pro than with the Barista Express.
- Quicker milk steaming: The Barista Pro’s superior heating mechanism and four-hole steam wand means that you can steam a serving of milk in about 45 seconds. The Barista Express takes about 90 seconds to steam the same quantity of milk.
- Better shot consistency: The Barista Pro’s thermojet heating system gives it greater temperature stability than the Barista Express’s thermocoil system. This means you’ll get more consistent shots with the Pro than the Express, especially if you brew multiple shots in a row.
- Easier to change its settings: The Barista Pro’s LCD screen allows you to access a settings menu where you can change the machine’s default brewing temperature, shot volume settings, and rinse and descale cycles. The Barista Express requires you to access a lot of these settings by pressing seemingly random combinations of buttons (it does not have a dedicated settings menu).
I, therefore, recommend paying extra for the Breville Barista Pro over the Barista Express if one or more of the following applies to you:
- You’re going to go through the effort of properly dialing in your machine.
- You’re going to regularly make milk-based drinks.
- You’re likely going to be making several shots in a row regularly.
If none of the above apply to you, then you’d get better value from the Breville Barista Express than the Barista Pro.
What’s the Difference Between the Breville Barista Pro and Breville Barista Express?
There are four key differences between the Breville Barista Pro and the Breville Barista Express.
- Heating system: The Breville Barista Pro has a thermojet heating system that allows the machine to heat up in 3 seconds and switch from brewing espresso to steaming milk in under ten seconds. The Barista Express espresso machine has a thermocoil heating system which allows the machine to heat up in 40 seconds and switch from brewing espresso to steaming milk in 35 seconds.
- Grind settings: The Breville Barista Pro has 30 grind settings whereas the Barista Express only has 16 grind settings. Both machines have the same integrated conical burr grinder, aside from their number of grind settings.
- User interface: The Breville Barista Pro has a button-controlled LCD display screen user interface. The Barista Express is just controlled by buttons and dials with a visible pressure gauge.
- Price: The Breville Barista Pro is typically $100 – $150 more expensive than the Barista Express.
|Breville Barista Pro
|Breville Barista Express
Heat up time
Time to steam 5 oz of milk
Button controlled LCD display screen
Built in shot timer
Stainless steel conical burr grinder
Stainless steel conical burr grinder
Number of grind settings
Breville Barista Pro’s Thermojet vs Breville Barista Express’s Thermocoil Heating System
The Breville Barista Pro’s thermojet heating system allows it to froth milk faster and produce marginally more consistent shots than the Barista Express. Their difference in time to brew an espresso is negligible, however.
What is the Difference Between a Thermojet and Thermocoil Heating System?
- Thermocoil (used by the Barista Express): Your brewing water runs through a coiled stainless steel pipe which is surrounded by an aluminum block. The aluminium block heats up which in turn heats up the water within the stainless steel pipe.
- Thermojet (used by the Barista Pro): Your brewing water also runs through a stainless steel pipe but this is instead surrounded by a thin, highly conductive membrane. This membrane heats up which in turn heats up your brewing water.
The Barista Pro’s thermojet system gives the espresso machine superior temperature stability, faster milk steaming, and a quicker heat-up time than the Barista Express.
The Barista Pro’s improved temperature stability means that you’ll get more consistent espresso shots from it than from the Barista Express.
So long as you keep the same coffee bean type, grind size, and brew ratio with the Barista Pro, your espresso should always come out the same. The Barista Express is slightly more unpredictable due to its more fluctuating brewing temperature.
The Barista Express’s lack of temperature stability is particularly noticeable if you brew several espresso shots in a row.
The Express has a tendency to overheat if you do this, which results in an overly bitter espresso with your second or third shot.
The Barista Pro has no such problems. It can brew consistent-tasting espresso shot after shot as its thermojet keeps it at the perfect brewing temperature.
This improvement in temperature stability is the biggest advantage that the Barista Pro’s thermojet heating system offers over the Barista Express’s thermocoil system, as far as espresso quality is concerned.
Milk Steaming Time
The Barista Pro can steam a portion of milk in half the time as the Barista Express.
The Barista Pro’s thermojet heating system means that it takes quicker to transition between pulling an espresso shot and steaming milk and that its steam wand heats your milk more quickly once it gets to temperature.
The Barista Pro’s four-hole steam wand compared to the Barista Express’s single-hole also contributes to the former espresso machine’s faster milk steaming.
The table below shows the time it takes for each machine to heat 5 oz of milk to 140 Fahrenheit:
|Breville Barista Pro
|Breville Barista Express
Time for steam wand to turn on
Time for steam wand to heat your milk to 140 Fahrenheit
Total steaming time
The most common complaint that reviewers have about the Barista Express is the slowness of its steam wand. You can see someone showcasing this below (watch from 2:00 – 2:41):
This is why I specifically recommend the Breville Barista Pro over the Barista Express if you are going to be using its steam wand most days.
The Barista Express’s steam wand can still make good frothed milk (you can make silky microfoam for latte art, as with the Barista Pro). It’s just frustratingly slow, especially if you use it often.
Heat-Up Time (Less Important Than You Think)
The Breville Barista Pro has a three-second initial heat-up time compared to the Barista Express’s thirty seconds. Since you need to grind and tamp your beans with both machines before you pull a shot, this difference in heat-up time does not actually make that much difference to each coffee machine’s overall espresso brewing time.
Breville makes a big deal about how the Barista Pro’s thermojet allows the espresso machine to heat up in three seconds. Personally, I think that this faster heat-up time isn’t actually all that important.
Both espresso machines still require you to grind and tamp your coffee beans before you pull a shot. This takes well over 30 seconds anyway.
Since the Barista Express allows you to grind your beans before it’s heated up, this difference in heat-up time doesn’t actually affect how long it takes to make an espresso with each machine.
The only time that the Breville Barista Pro is significantly faster than the Breville Barista Express is when you want to make a milk-based drink (because of its superior steaming performance).
Breville Barista Pro’s 30 Grind Size Settings vs Barista Express’s 16 Grind Size Settings
The Breville Barista Pro’s 14 extra grind sizes give you more control when “dialing in” your espresso. This gives the Barista Pro a higher espresso quality ceiling than the Barista Express.
Changing grind size is the most precise variable that you can adjust in the espresso brewing process.
The smaller the difference between each grind setting the more precisely you can control your brewing and the closer you can get to a perfect shot.
The steps between each grind setting on the Barista Pro is almost half the size as that on the Barista Express (16/30 =0.53).
This is a significant enough reduction in size to give the Barista Pro a noticeable increase in espresso quality ceiling (especially in combination with its more consistent temperature stability).
I should also note that, in the grand scheme of things, both the Barista Pro and Barista Express do not have the best quality grinders.
If you have either of these espresso machines and want to make better espresso at home, the first place you’d start is by getting a high-quality burr grinder to use instead of their integrated grinder.
I talk more about the limitations of Brevile’s grinders in my Breville Barista Pro review.
Breville Barista Pro’s LCD Screen User Interface vs Breville Barista Express’s Button and Pressure Gauge User Interface
The Breville Barista Pro’s LCD screen user interface makes it easier than the Barista Express to dial in your shots, change your machine’s settings, and run descale and flush cycles.
While the two coffee machine’s control panels look very different, there are two main differences that affect their usability:
- The Breville Barista Pro has a built-in shot timer, whereas the Barista Express has a visible pressure gauge.
- The Breville Barista Pro has a dedicated settings menu on its display screen, the Barista Express uses a convoluted light system to indicate its current settings (I’ll explain this in more detail in a bit – it’s as unintuitive as it sounds).
I’ll now explain how these two differences make:
- The Breville Barista Pro is easier to dial in than the Barista Express.
- The Breville Barista Pro is easier to change the settings of than the Breville Barista Express.
Ease of Dialing In
The Breville Barista Pro is easier to dial in than the Breville Barista Express because a shot timer gives you more information on your espresso extraction than a visible pressure gauge
The Breville Barista Pro has a built-in shot timer which gives you feedback on how well each espresso shot is extracting.
The Breville Barista Express uses a visible pressure gauge to try and give you this same information.
You can see a table below of how these measurements translate into feedback on your brewing technique:
|Breville Barista Pro’s shot timer
|Breville Barista Express’s pressure gauge
Under extracted (you to grind finer)
Shot pulls in under 22 seconds
Needle does not reach the middle of the “espresso range”
Over extracted (you need to grind coarser)
Shot pulls in over 32 seconds
Needle goes beyond the middle of the “espresso range”
Shot pulls in 22 – 32 seconds
Needle hits the middle of the “espresso range”
Timing your shots gives you much more usable feedback on how you need to adjust your espresso shot than seeing your brewing pressure because there is more consensus on ideal brewing time than ideal brewing pressure.
Baristas almost universally agree that espresso should be brewed for between 25 and 30 seconds for optimal espresso extraction.
With pressure, things get a lot more complicated.
While we know that we want to hit (around) a maximum of nine Bars of pressure, there’s still a lot of debate around how long we want to be at nine Bars before our espresso becomes over-extracted.
The move towards using time, rather than pressure, as the metric for espresso extraction is highlighted by the fact that specialty coffee roasters tend to give the following instructions in their brew recipes for espresso bean blends:
- Grind size
- Brew ratio (weight of ground coffee to the weight of liquid espresso)
- Brew time
Brewing pressure rarely gets mentioned in these recipes. So the Barista Pro’s built-in timer is better suited to current espresso brewing trends than the Barista Express’s pressure gauge.
The Barista Pro’s shot timer also allows us to control our preinfusion length.
Preinfusion is where we soak our espresso puck prior to brewing. This helps ensure that our coffee puck is even, making channeling less likely to occur when we brew at full pressure.
Preinfusion time is a variable (albeit a minor one) in espresso brewing. In other words: lengthening or shortening or preinfusion time can affect the way our espresso tastes.
When we dial in our shots with the Breville Barista Pro we can control our preinfusion length by holding down the brew button for the preinfusion length we want (as measured by the machine’s built-in timer). There’s a video on how this works below (watch from: 0:15 – 0:45):
The Barista Express espresso machine does not give you this option, instead, its preinfusion length is fixed at seven seconds.
This preinfusion control, along with additional grind settings, means that you get more control over your shots with the Barista Pro compared to the Barista Express.
Ease of Changing Temperature and Shot Volume Settings
The Breville Barista Pro has a dedicated menu where you can change its shot volume and brewing temperature settings. The Barista Express requires you to press and hold multiple combinations of buttons to do these, and it’s not at all obvious which buttons correspond to which functions.
The Breville Barista Pro has a menu button that takes you to a dedicated menu on its display screen.
You then use its grind amount dial to toggle through the options on the machine’s menu and press that same dial to select a specific option. You can see a video of someone running through how this works below:
Changing these settings is far more difficult with the Barista Express.
You generally need to press and hold a combination of buttons to access different menu items, and then when you do access these menus, existing buttons double up as option buttons.
It’s hard to put this into words…below is a video of someone explaining how to change the Barista Express’s temperature settings (watch from 2:00 – 4:00):
Safe to say you’ll need to look at the machine’s manual if you don’t already know how to do this (and probably dig out its manual every time you want to change these settings because it’s so hard to remember how to do this).
While the Barista Express does have a “program” button which tells the machine that the next shot you pull will be manual and will become the default shot volume size, its lack of a shot volume timer makes it harder to measure out your desired shot volume than the Barista Pro.
The Barista Pro is Typically $100 – $150 More Expensive than the Breville Barista Express
The key question behind whether you should buy the Breville Barista Pro vs Barista Express is whether you want to pay an extra $100 – $150 for a slightly higher espresso quality ceiling, easier and more precise dialing-in of your machine, and faster milk steaming.
You’re therefore only going to get value for money with the Barista Pro if one (or more) of the three things apply to you:
- You’re going to put in a significant amount of time playing around with brew ratio and grind size to get as good an espresso shot as possible.
- You’re going to be using your machine’s steam wand regularly (more than every other day).
- $150 really isn’t that much to you and you’re happy to pay that just to have a machine that’s slightly easier to use.
If you can say yes to one or more of these claims then go with the Breville Barista Pro
If you can’t then go with the Breville Barista Express.
What Do the Breville Barista Pro and Breville Barista Express Have in Common?
The Breville Barista Pro and Barista Express both have an integrated grinder, a mediocre quality grinder, and neither are the most durable espresso machines on the market (even for their price).
Relative Lack of Durability
Both the Breville Barista Pro and Breville Barista Express lack the durability of espresso machines with boiler heating systems.
Thermocoil and thermojet heating systems do not last forever and once they burn out the whole machine needs to be replaced.
While you can reasonably expect a Breville espresso machine to last you five years, it’s unlikely to last you ten years or more.
If you want a “buy it for life” machine of a similar price to the Breville Barista Pro and Barista Express, I’d recommend the Rancilio Silvia.
Built-in Grinder and Mediocre Grinder Quality
Both machines have built-in grinders. While these grinders are good enough to allow you to brew a nice espresso, there are certainly better grinders on the market.
Although many people will see an espresso machine with an integrated grinder as a good thing (after all, no need to fork out for a separate grinder), I don’t like how the Breville Barista Pro and the Breville Barista Express financially commit you to their built-in grinder.
I have owned the Barista Pro for about 18 months now, and I am growing frustrated with its lack of grind size control.
I want to get a separate grinder, but that will mean I’ve paid a premium to have an espresso machine with an integrated grinder and then will pay again for a separate grinder.
It would have been cheaper in the long run to buy a separate machine and grinder.
If you are torn between the Breville Barista Pro and the Barista Express and think that you might want to upgrade your espresso set-up beyond that in the future (honestly, this is a more common scenario than you’d imagine, especially if you are a beginner to espresso brewing) then I’d recommend getting a separate espresso machine and grinder.
Alternative to the Breville Barista Pro and Barista Express: Breville Bambino and Baratza Sette 270
If you’re worried you might fall into the aforementioned “integrated grinder trap”, then I’d recommend getting the Breville Bambino espresso machine and Baratza Sette 270 grinder instead of the Breville Barista Pro or Breville Barista Express.
The Breville Bambino uses the same thermojet heating system as the Breville Barista Pro, so has a similarly high level of temperature stability and quick milk frothing.
Although the Bambino is harder to dial in than the Barista Pro due to its lack of a shot timer, once you dial in the Bambino you can brew a tastier espresso than with the Breville Barista Pro because of the former setup’s superior grinder.
The Baratza Sette 270 has 270 grind size settings compared to 30 on the Barista Pro and 16 on the Barista Express. This gives you far more control over your brewing, allowing you to pull better espresso shots.
I talk more about the virtues of this espresso setup in my roundup of the best espresso machines under $1,000.
Breville Barista Pro vs Barista Express: Final Verdict
While the Breville Barista Pro is a better espresso machine than the Barista Express, I only think that you’re justified in paying more for the Breville Barista Pro vs Barista Express if you are going to take the time to dial it in properly or you’re going to be using its steam wand a lot.
If you’re just going to use the coffee machine to make a quick and easy espresso then you’ll get better value from the Barista Express.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions that I’m often asked by people comparing the Breville Barista Pro vs Barista Express.
Is the Breville Barista Pro Good for Beginners?
The Breville Barista Pro is a good espresso machine for beginners because of its built-in grinder and automatic shot volume dosing. This means that you can make a good espresso without the need to buy a fancy grinder or use scales to measure out every shot manually. The machine features in my roundup of the best espresso machine for beginners.
Is the Breville Barista Pro Worth The Price?
The Breville Barista Pro is only worth the price if you are going to make full use of its additional grinder settings and faster milk steaming. You only make full use of these premium features if you dial in the machine properly and/or make a lot of milk-based espresso drinks.
What’s the Difference Between the Breville Barista Express and Impress?
The Barista Express Impress has an assisted tamping system which the Barista Express does not have. With the Barista Express Impress, you just grind your beans and pull down a lever on the machine’s left-hand side to tamp your puck. The Barista Express requires you to tamp your puck manually.