Sage Barista Express Review – A Cheap Espresso Machine

Sage Barista Express Coffee Machine Review

What is the Sage Barista Express?

The Sage Barista Express is what you might consider the mid-range espresso machine in Sage’s lineup. The Barista Express is a very simple to use espresso machine. It is designed primarily for use at home, giving the user the ability to make quality espresso based drinks without the need for high end, expensive equipment.

We Rated The Sage Barista Express
4.5

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Sage Barista Express fills a significant gap in the market by combining two important parts of making espresso at home. That is the espresso machine itself and it’s most important counterpart, the grinder.

In this machine, the grinder is included, permenantly fixed to the machine and operating in conjunction with it. This removes the need to purchase a separate grinder to go alongside your chosen espresso machine.

This makes the Sage Barista Express very appealing to first time users. Grinders are just as important as the espresso machine itself and with so many options out there it can be time consuming doing your research to find the right one. It’s also very easy to pick a grinder that isn’t going to suit the needs of your machine exactly. Sage have entirely removed this concern by integreating the grinder with the machine, so you know, no matter what, you’ve got the right grinder.

Table of Contents

Who should buy the Sage Barista Express?
Features
The Grinder
Grinder Adjustment
Steam Wand
Hot Water Dispenser

Is the Sage Barista Express Easy to Use?
Cleaning
Living with the Sage Barista Express
Conclusion

Who Should buy the Sage Barista Express?

This is an espresso machine that suits the needs of a wide range. While the machine is perfect for novice users, new to making espresso at home, it also performs well and can produce consistently good quality espresso as your skills improve.

Novice users will find operating the machine very intuitive with very little maintenance required. To add to this Sage offer a variety of products to cater for machine servicing and care. Perhaps the most user friendly aspect of this espresso machine is the quanitity and quality of information available online. The Barista Express is one of the most popular home espresso machines on the market which means users have been sharing their experience with the machine for some time now. You won’t ever struggle to find helpful information on any problem you may encounter or even basic use of the machine.

For more advanced users that may already be familiar with using an espresso machine the Barista Express still won’t let you down. With sturdy construction all round, including weighty portafilters that can hold temperature well, highly adjustable grind settings and a 15bar pump pressure you can really begin to make superb espresso based drinks with ease.

Sage Barista Express Features

The Barista Express is a feature rich espresso machine, including just about everything you need to get your cafe quality espresso at home. This means you’ve got a machine producing enough pressure (15bar at pump), a solid portafilter with a 54mm basket, shared by the Sage Barista Pro and Sage Duo Temp Pro, an integrated grinder and steam wand.

Water Tank Capacity2 Litres
Grinder TypeConical Burr
Grinder Capacity450g
Grinder Adjustment18 Step Adjustment
Boiler TypeSingle Boiler
Pump Pressure15 (bar)
Warranty2 Years (Sage)

The Grinder

The Barista Express is one of very few machines on the market that comes with a grinder integrated into the machine itself. That’s right, no need to go and buy another expensive piece of equipment, you’ve already got it. The grinder takes up most of the left hand side of the machine. Of course this is the ideal placement for the grinder as you want your ground coffee as far away from the steam wand as possible for cleaner operation.

The grinder on the Sage Barista Express is equipped with a 450 gram hopper for storing your beans ready to be ground. This is a fairly standard size and you will find most retail bags of coffee come in 250 gram packages as a minimum. Another feature making for quick and easy operation, you can dose your beans out for each individual use if you are planning on using more than one coffee or you can empty the whole bag into the hopper and just forget about it until you want it. The hopper is one of many serviceable parts, although it’s constructed of very durable materials so it’s unlikely you’ll need to replace this in your machine’s life span.

The grinder dispenses directly into your portafilter. Again this is a feature often seen on high end commercial grinders, allowing for quick and accurate dispensing of coffee grounds. On the front of the Sage Barista Express you can set the size of your basket (single or double) and also the amount of coffee you want to dispense each time you grind. This is achieved by the use of a small dial adjustment found on the front of the machine. You wont have to do this every time since the Barista Express has a handy program feature too, another great time saving feature for the home barista.

PROS
450 gram hopper, larger than many more expensive home grinders
Fully integrated, massive savings on space
Grinding straight into basket saves time and mess
CONS
Grinding is a little on the slower side
Not the quietest grinder

Grinder Adjustment

Grind adjustment is made possible by an 18 step adjustment dial found on the left hand side of the machine. There isn’t a huge amount of possibility with only 18 steps of adjustment. However for our uses we found this to be more than enough since there seemed to be plenty of difference in grind at the finer end. Sage have made the assumption that you will be using the grinder exclusively for espresso, so you’re not going to be able to get really course grinds from this. Although we did find it was perfectly fine to use for french press at the coarsest setting. Obviously this will vary massively from coffee to coffee. One sore point with the grinder on this machine is that it can only be operated when the portafilter is pushed into it’s holder. Again Sage have designed it expecting you to be using the grinder solely with the machine it’s attached to, so we can’t fault them for this.

Steam Wand

A typical problem with home espresso machines is the lack of a steam wand that can steam and texture milk correctly. Many of the cheaper espresso machine’s steam wands may heat and ‘froth’ your milk but it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible to create micro foam and get consistently textured milk. The Barista Express’ steam wand doesn’t fall short when it comes to creating great textured milk. It’s easy to use, mounted on a sturdy universal ball joint and comes with a heat resistant grip as standard.

The steam wand is also remarkably easy to clean, with a removable tip, commonly seen in professional espresso machines. Meaning you can dismantle the steam wand and soak in hot water, making sure to get rid of all those nasty bits.

As this is a single boiler machine, you do have to wait for the boiler to heat the water to a higher temperature for steam. This isn’t a problem as the Barista Express has a fantastic heating element, bringing the water temperature up in seconds. Just remember, after you’ve finished with your espresso, switch over to steam and give it a second or two, you should hear the element begin to work right away.

PRO TIP
After using your steam wand, don’t forget to give it a thorough clean with a damp cloth and turn it back on for a second to purge. Do this every time to prevent nasty build up around the steam wand tip.

Hot Water Dispenser

The Sage Barista Express has more than just a few useful features, however one that really sets it out from other entry level espresso machines is the ability to have hot water dispensed from right there on the machine. Even though the Barista Express is a single boiler machine, it provides hot water from the steam wand almost instantly.

So if you’re in the mood for an Americano or you just want to pre heat your cups, you can do so with the touch of a button.

Is the Sage Barista Express Easy to Use?

Sometimes we can over complicate making coffee at home. Even to the point at which it becomes easier just to visit your local cafe and let them do all the leg work for you. However, with the plethora of features to be found on the Barista Express, it really is about as user friendly as it gets.

We feel that most of Sage’s machines are targetted at novice and beginner users, often found next to the cheaper espresso machines as the high end alternative. It’s for this reason that Sage have created a machine that intergrates so many aspects of making coffee at home.

Of course, this machine comes with a fairly detailed set of instructions but from our experience, you probably won’t really need to concern yourself with these for daily use. Right out of the box this machine has clearly labelled functions in and intuitive layout so even if it’s your first time using an espresso machine at home, you know what you’re getting.

Cleaning the Sage Barista Express

If you have ever used an espresso machine, whether it be at home or in the workplace, you’ll know how important it is to keep it clean. When we say clean, we mean clean, we have had the misfortune of seeing what happens when an espresso machine is neglected. It can take hours to clean an espresso machine that hasn’t been properly maintained.

Sage have knocked the ball out of the park yet again with the Barista Express. Keeping in line with the other espresso machines they offer the Barista Express has an easily removable water tank, allowing you to properly empty, clean and dry at intervals. To add to this the steam wand has a threaded tip meaning you can unscrew and clean thoroughly. Sage also provide blank baskets to fit the portafilter, this allows you to properly backflush the machine by simply running a few cycles. The group head filter is also removable.

Whilst Sage offer some of their own cleaning products, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using your own, there are plenty of great descalers available that do the job just fine. We recommend at the very least descaling the machine on a monthly basis, more if you’re a heavy coffee drinker.

Living with the Sage Barista Express

We found the Barista Express to be one of the better daily work horse coffee machines. While we are very well aware that for a larger investment you can get an almost commercial level machine, we feel this is also going to bring a desire for much higher cost maintenance. Having all of the user friendly features that the Barista Express does really speeds up use even for expert level users. You may have to work a little harder to get that perfect shot but that’s why you’re paying considerably less for this machine. It is still very much an entry level option, however we found it scales well as your skills improve.

Conclusion

Having used the Sage Barista Express for some time now, it’s clear to us that it’s a top tier machine for new users. We can’t say enough about how straight forward and simple using this machine has been. If you ever do encounter issues the amount of information available isn’t comparable to any other machine on the market. To add to this the Barista Express shares some components with other Sage machines like the Duo Temp Pro.

In terms of looks, it may not be the prettiest machine but it packs a punch by combining so many features into a small unit. Lets face it, you aren’t going to get a real espresso machine and a grinder into a smaller space!

The only concern we had whilst using the machine was the grind adjustment, we would have liked to see more available settings for the built in grinder but found it was still enough for us to work with.

Overall, we highly recommend this espresso machine to anyone thinking about starting out making espresso at home. It removes one of the biggest barriers to entry, the high cost of owning an espresso machine and grinder.

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