Breville Cafe Roma vs Barista Express: What Is the Best Espresso Machine?

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Breville is a brand that always comes up when talking about the best coffee machines. And in the popular category of espresso machines, you have this mainstream debate between Breville Cafe Roma vs Barista Express.

Go ahead and buy the Breville Cafe Roma if you want an entry-level espresso machine that’s downright straightforward to use. This is a great choice for those who want to familiarize themselves with the espresso machine world. Plus, it has a higher 15-bar pressure for extraction, a compact design, and a sturdy build quality.

As for the Breville Barista Express espresso machine, it’s the best for espresso-brewing geeks who want to have it all. This one has all the functions people find in a bean-to-cup espresso machine. If you are interested in practicing your barista skills, you will love this machine.

Breville Cafe Roma vs Barista Express: Comparison Chart

Image
The Winner (#1)
Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine BES870XL, Brushed Stainless Steel
The Runner-up (#2)
Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma Stainless Espresso Maker,1.2 liters
Model
Breville Barista Express BES870XL
Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma
Dimensions (WxDxH)
12.5" x 13.8" x 15.9"
8.5" x 8.7" x 11.8"
Weight
23 pounds
13 pounds
Water Tank Capacity
67 oz
41 oz
Pump Pressure
15 bar
15 bar
Construction Materials
Brushed Stainless Steel
Stainless Steel + Aluminium Warming Tray
Bean Hopper Capacity
227 g / 8 oz
N/A
Milk System
Steam Wand
Steam Wand
Heating System
Thermocoil
Thermoblock
PID Temperature Control
Integrated Grinder
Automatic Dosing
Low Pressure Pre-infusion
Compatible With Espresso Pods
CLEAN ME Light
Adjustable Water Temperature
What I Like
Price
$696.99
$225.91
The Winner (#1)
Image
Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine BES870XL, Brushed Stainless Steel
Model
Breville Barista Express BES870XL
Dimensions (WxDxH)
12.5" x 13.8" x 15.9"
Weight
23 pounds
Water Tank Capacity
67 oz
Pump Pressure
15 bar
Construction Materials
Brushed Stainless Steel
Bean Hopper Capacity
227 g / 8 oz
Milk System
Steam Wand
Heating System
Thermocoil
PID Temperature Control
Integrated Grinder
Automatic Dosing
Low Pressure Pre-infusion
Compatible With Espresso Pods
CLEAN ME Light
Adjustable Water Temperature
What I Like
Price
$696.99
More Info
The Runner-up (#2)
Image
Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma Stainless Espresso Maker,1.2 liters
Model
Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma
Dimensions (WxDxH)
8.5" x 8.7" x 11.8"
Weight
13 pounds
Water Tank Capacity
41 oz
Pump Pressure
15 bar
Construction Materials
Stainless Steel + Aluminium Warming Tray
Bean Hopper Capacity
N/A
Milk System
Steam Wand
Heating System
Thermoblock
PID Temperature Control
Integrated Grinder
Automatic Dosing
Low Pressure Pre-infusion
Compatible With Espresso Pods
CLEAN ME Light
Adjustable Water Temperature
What I Like
Price
$225.91
More Info

Last update on 2024-04-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Breville Cafe Roma vs Barista Express: Differences

After weighing the differences between these two espresso machines, I conclude that the Breville Barista Express wins 4:0 and ties 1 against the Breville Cafe Roma due to its phenomenal coffee flavor and wide range of functions. Read the breakdown below to dive into detailed reviews, and then you will decide which one is the better option for your needs.

Dosing and tamping

The winner: Breville Barista Express

The Breville Barista Express makes it easy for users at all levels with its two types of filter baskets: pressurized and non-pressurized. The pressurized basket is a helpful tool for novice espresso makers. It allows you to pull a satisfactory shot without worrying too much about the grind size and tamping. The result will still have a crema, although it may not be as authentic. It is also an excellent choice for those who want a quick, no-fuss espresso.

However, if you’re aiming to elevate your coffee skills, you’ll want to shift to the non-pressurized basket. This kind of basket requires more control over the brewing process, enabling espresso aficionados to adjust variables such as grind size, dose, and tamping technique for a more sophisticated and flavorful shot.

With the Barista Express, you get two choices: auto-dosing or manual-dosing. For manual dosing, you’ll insert the portafilter into the grinding cradle, then press and hold it down until you have just the right amount of coffee grounds. On the flip side, the auto-dosing feature allows you to simply tap the “Filter Size” button to choose between single or double shots.

The front side of the Breville Barista Express
The front side of the Breville Barista Express

Switching gears to the Cafe Roma, this machine doesn’t come with an integrated grinder, so you have to dose and tamp your coffee manually. You do get two filter baskets, one smaller for single shots and a larger one for doubles. The machine also includes a basic plastic scoop and tamper. However, let’s be honest—the plastic tamper can’t really compete with the Barista Express’s removable magnetic tamper in terms of quality.

Heating system and brewing technique

The winner: Breville Barista Express

Heating system

Regarding the heating system, these two machines feature different technologies. The Barista Express features a Thermocoil heating system, whereas the Cafe Roma utilizes a Thermoblock. In case you’re not familiar, Thermoblock is well-known for its fast heating capabilities, while Thermocoil generally provides a more stable and consistent temperature.

According to my experience, the Cafe Roma heats up really fast. However, if you brew coffee right away, the water temperature will only vary between approximately 150 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the time the shot is taken. It can’t achieve the ideal temperature range of 195–205 degrees Fahrenheit required for making espresso. Therefore, I recommend leaving the machine on for a couple of minutes so that it is really warmed up.

Meanwhile, the Barista Express utilizes digital temperature control (PID) technology alongside the Thermocoil heating system. This technology helps you ensure that the temperature remains consistently within its optimal range. It gives the machine better temperature control and stability, so the coffee will always be brewed at a standard temperature.

The Breville Barista Express also have a bean hopper
The Breville Barista Express also has a bean hopper

The Barista Express also heats up relatively quickly. However, what we actually need is for the entire coffee machine to be at the ideal temperature for brewing; not only the brew group but also the filter basket and portafilter must be heated. Thus, I suggest having the machine on for about 20 minutes or so before making coffee.

Besides, remember that the Barista Express only uses one heating element, so you can’t brew coffee and steam milk simultaneously. Thus, you should steam milk first and then brew coffee afterward to guarantee your espresso does not get cold.

Brewing technique

When it comes to pumping pressure, both the Breville Barista Express and Cafe Roma operate at a robust 15-bar level. That’s the gold standard if you’re after an espresso with a rich crema layer and a body that’s full of character.

One standout feature of the Barista Express is its pre-infusion functionality. For those not in the know, the machine will initially wet the coffee grounds with a small amount of water and allow them to sit for a short period of time. This process ensures that the grounds are evenly saturated, ultimately leading to a more balanced and flavorful extraction.

As for programmability, the Barista Express comes with a feature that lets you reprogram the default volume of your shots. This means you can adjust the settings to match your preferred espresso strength and cup size. The Cafe Roma, on the other hand, opts for a more manual approach. There isn’t a preset button for water volume, so you’ll need to start and stop the shot manually.

Grinder

The Breville Barista Express is advantageous due to its built-in, conical burr grinder. If you’re a “from bean to cup” kind of person who loves the aroma of freshly ground coffee filling your kitchen, this feature is an absolute game-changer. On the flip side, the Breville Cafe Roma doesn’t come with an in-built grinder, so you’ll need to invest in a separate unit if you want to grind your own beans.

Now, let’s delve into the Barista Express’s grinder. There is a dial located on the right-hand side of the machine that can be used to control the grind size. This dial offers a range of 16 different settings to choose from. The smaller the number, the finer the grind size. The larger the number, the coarser the grind size.

The dial to alter the grind size on the Breville Barista Express
The dial to alter the grind size on the Breville Barista Express

If you’re new to this, you might find it a bit tricky at first to dial in the perfect grind size for your go-to coffee drink. However, don’t fret. Simply begin with the middle setting and adjust accordingly.

In terms of customization, you can also modify the amount of grind, which is a frequently ignored feature that can significantly impact the strength and taste of your espresso. With the ability to experiment with both grind size and amount, you have the ability to personalize each shot.

Milk system

The winner: Breville Barista Express

Both Breville Barista Express and Cafe Roma use steam wands for their milk frothing systems; however, these wands have slightly different designs.

The Breville Barista Express is equipped with a 360° swivel-action steam wand. This is a manual steam wand that gives you full control over the frothing process. If you’re new to using a steam wand, it may be challenging as it requires specific skills. You need to know how to direct air into the milk to create foam, determine the appropriate temperature for the milk, and understand the duration of the frothing process.

Based on my experience, the optimal temperature for milk foam is between 55 and 65 degrees Celsius. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can gauge the temperature by holding the jug in your hand. If the bottom of the jug is too hot to hold, then it’s done. Additionally, avoid filling the milk jug too much, as this will cause the milk foam to spill over later. Instead, I suggest filling the jug to around one-third to one-half full with milk.

The steam wand of Breville Cafe Roma comes with a finger looper for easier control
The steam wand of Breville Cafe Roma comes with a finger looper for easier control.

Achieving the perfect milk foam for a cappuccino with the Barista Express should not be a challenge for experienced baristas. I personally satisfied with the milk foam quality, too.

As a suggestion for newcomers, Cafe Roma may be a safer option. What I want to emphasize is not only the affordable price but also the user-friendly design. Their steam wand has a “pannarello tip”, which is a finger loop located on the outside, making it easier to control the frothing milk process. However, using the finger looper to create milk foam doesn’t result in the desired consistency.

To have a greater influence on the foam’s consistency, you may choose to detach the “pannarello tip”. However, keep in mind that this will make the steam wand shorter and more difficult to maneuver.

Design and convenience

The winner: Breville Barista Express

Weight and dimensions

When comparing the weight and dimensions of the Breville Barista Express and the Breville Cafe Roma, there are some notable differences that could impact your decision, especially if kitchen space or portability are concerns for you.

The Breville Barista Express is really heavier than its opponent, weighing approximately 23 pounds. It’s because of the durable stainless steel construction, the larger water tank, the built-in grinder, and more. Measuring about 12.5 x 13.8 x 15.9 inches (WxDxH), it requires a decent amount of countertop space, so it may be best suited for those with larger kitchens or a strong dedication to their coffee. Also, it’s not something you’ll want to move around frequently.

In contrast, the Breville Cafe Roma is more lightweight, coming in at approximately 13 pounds. It’s a smaller and more compact machine, generally measuring around 8.5 x 9 x 12 inches (WxDxH). If you ever need to reposition or store it away, this machine is easier to move around. It’s perfect for smaller kitchens and apartments, and you can even take it on vacation.

Build quality

Both the Breville Barista Express and Breville Cafe Roma offer robust build quality and a sleek design for your kitchen.

Starting with the Barista Express, the machine boasts a brushed stainless-steel exterior that is sleek, visually striking, and built to last. Its metal body adds durability, making it ideal for anyone planning to use their machine regularly. Inside, commercial-grade components like a 15-bar pump and a built-in grinder further solidify its robust build.

Both machines has a brushed stainless-steel exterior
Both machines have a brushed stainless-steel exterior.

On the other hand, the Cafe Roma is generally considered a more entry-level machine but still brings quality to the table. Although it’s built with stainless steel, the construction may not feel as premium or heavy-duty as the Barista Express. What’s noticeable is that the Cafe Roma tends to be lighter, which might mean more vibrations during the brewing process, affecting shot consistency.

Water tank design

The Breville Barista Express has a larger water tank located at the back of the machine. Convenient indicator bars on the side will let you know when it’s time to refill. It’s recommended to check the water level before brewing and to use cold, filtered water for a clean and original coffee flavor.

The Cafe Roma has a water level indicator located at the front, but it’s difficult to see the indicator since the plastic is clear and glossy, like the water. If you use the machine frequently, a straightforward solution is to use a pitcher to fill it up. This can actually extend the machine’s lifespan by reducing strain on the rubber gasket and preventing leaks from occurring prematurely.

Cleaning and maintenance

The winner: Breville Barista Express

Let’s discuss the Breville Barista Express, a fantastic espresso machine with a convenient self-cleaning cycle. With just a simple button press, this machine will take care of the dirty work and flush out any old coffee residues. Additionally, the drip tray, water tank, and portafilter are all easily removable for quick cleaning. If you’re a coffee lover who hates the mess, the Barista Express is the perfect choice for you.

As for the Breville Cafe Roma, it’s a bit more traditional, and you’ll need to clean it manually, but it’s not difficult.

There is one final aspect to consider: if you value high-quality water for your coffee, you may prefer the Barista Express as it includes a water filter. The Barista Express may provide a better-tasting and cleaner cup of coffee. Meanwhile, Cafe Roma is not compatible with a water filter. To ensure that the coffee is of good quality, I recommend using filtered water to fill the water tank.

Great for value

Tie

The Breville Barista Express is a high-end bean-to-cup espresso machine that comes with a conical burr grinder, a self-cleaning cycle, a water filter, and customizable options. It is priced on the higher end, but it’s perfect for home baristas or anyone who wants a personalized coffee experience. While it may be expensive, it’s definitely worth the investment for those who appreciate a quality cup of espresso.

The Breville Cafe Roma is affordable without compromising on the necessary features. It has a reliable 15-bar pump, although it doesn’t come with luxurious add-ons such as an automated cleaning cycle or an integrated grinder. If you’re a beginner in making espresso or prefer an easy-to-use machine that still delivers a good shot, the Cafe Roma is a great option.

So, if you are seeking a comprehensive and high-end option and are ready to invest in your coffee-making endeavor, the Barista Express provides excellent value despite its higher price. However, if you are new to the home espresso scene and prefer a more affordable option, the Cafe Roma offers significant value for a lower cost.

In essence, it comes down to what you value more: high-end features and customization or affordability and simplicity. Each machine has its own strengths, so it’s important to choose the one that aligns best with your coffee habits and lifestyle.

Quick Rundown of Breville Barista Express

Sale
Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine BES870XL, Brushed Stainless Steel
  • Earn up to $200 cashback with a Beanz coffee subscription when you purchase a selected Breville espresso machine. Valid Aug 1, 2023 until Jun 30, 2024
  • The Breville Barista Express delivers third wave specialty coffee at home using the 4 keys formula and is part of the Barista Series that offers all in one espresso machines with integrated grinder to go from beans to espresso in under one minute, helping you make the perfect cup of Cappuccino or Latte
  • DOSE CONTROL GRINDING: Integrated precision conical burr grinder grinds on demand to deliver the right amount of freshly ground coffee directly into the portafilter for your preferred taste with any roast of bean
  • OPTIMAL WATER PRESSURE: Low pressure pre-infusion gradually increases pressure at the start and helps ensure all the flavors are drawn out evenly during the extraction for a balanced tasting cup
  • PRECISE ESPRESSO EXTRACTION: Digital temperature control (PID) delivers water at precisely the right temperature, ensuring optimal espresso extraction

Last update on 2024-04-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros
  • A barista-grade setup that is user-friendly and professional.
  • Steaming and espresso at a precise temperature.
  • Better control over the size and grind of espresso.
  • A sleeker and more durable design.
Cons
  • It’s a big machine
  • The bean hopper is a bit small

Quick Rundown of Breville Cafe Roma

Sale
Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma Stainless Espresso Maker,1.2 liters
  • Stainless-steel espresso machine with 15-bar thermoblock pump
  • Dual-wall filter system for excellent crema; froth enhancer, cup-warming plate
  • Accesories: Stainless steel frothing pitcher Tamping tool/measuring spoon/cleaning tool
  • Removable drip tray and grid; Frothing jug included
  • Measures 9 x 9 x 12 inches; 1-year limited warranty

Last update on 2024-04-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros
  • More compact stainless steel espresso machine
  • Very high 15-bar thermoblock pressure
  • Single-shot and double-shot filters
  • Adjustable steam wand with easy-control finger looper
  • Removable water tank and drip tray, thus quick, easy cleaning
Cons
  • The steam wand’s design is a bit akward to operate.
  • There is no programmable features to adjust the coffee volume.

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