Breville has just released its latest machine, the Breville Barista Express Impress. There is now one more option thrown into the mix of machines that Breville offers. Today, let's take a look at how the Barista Express Impress compares to the Barista pro.
Build Quality and Design
The Barista Pro actually has quite a large advantage in this area despite being the less recent machine. It is using the newest chassis from Breville with a more angular design, curved metal backsplash, and an array of really nice colour finishes on top of the standard stainless steel colour. Other colours available include Black Stainless Steel, Black Truffle, Hickory and many more.
The Barista Express impress is using the same chassis from the now very old original Barista Express although it is still all metal and does feel solid, things like the grind adjustment knob do feel noticeably better on the Barista Pro. The Impress comes with fewer colour options with just the Stainless Steel colour, Black Truffle or Sea Salt White.
Moving on to user experience, there continue to be some significant differences between these two machines. For example, the Barista Pro can heat up in three seconds thanks to a newer heating system that it is using. In comparison, the Impress is still using an older heating system which takes a still impressive but much slower 45 seconds to heat up. On the Impress, the water spout is located in the front right corner of the machine.
On the Pro, the hot water spout is conveniently located behind the group head so that you don't need to move your cup when making an Americano. The user interface is also much more granular and easier to navigate on the Barista Pro thanks to the digital display. Things like changing the Brew temperature, programming the shot time, and running the cleaning cycle can easily be found. Whereas on the impress, you're going to need to refer back to the manual to find the correct combination of button pushes and holds.
Other than that, the features are essentially the same. Same size water tank, same grinder, same sized portafilter, same programmable single and double shot buttons and same drip trays with hidden storage
Espresso Brewing and Quality
Until this point, this comparison has been pretty lopsided in favour of the Barista Pro. However, the most important part of any espresso machine is the actual espresso brewing and this is an area where the impress slightly claws itself back depending on your experience level and desired use case.
Potential cause of frustration for new users are dialing in a new coffee or machine. This is the process of finding the right grind size and brew recipe so that your espresso flows not too fast and not too slow and tastes the best it possibly can.
On the Barista Pro this process is completely manual. You need to tune in the grind timer to grind the right amount of coffee. You need to Tamp with enough pressure to get out any air pockets, you need to Tamp flat, and you need to tweak all these parameters accordingly.
On the Barista Express Impress, you absolutely still need to dial in and you will absolutely still dump many shots down the drain in the process, but their new intelligent dosing and tamping system takes away the dosing and tamping variables, making the process far less frustrating for first-time users. You grind your coffee, pull the lever to Tamp and then the machine will check if there is enough coffee in the basket, or if you need to grind more after the machine gets the right amount. It remembers this for next time so that you only need to grind once.
After that, you can brew and adjust the grind size accordingly based on whether the flow is too fast or too slow. The beauty of this is that not only is the process less frustrating but once you are dialed in, anyone in your house or even guests can walk up to this machine and easily and consistently make espresso. The dose is controlled, the Tamp is identical each time. The espresso will be good.
In comparison, the Barista Pro is not as easy to just walk up to and start using. The Impress also has a pressure gauge which looks nice and is good to show that you're reaching Brewing pressure but it is not a necessity. Pressure is a very broad indicator of espresso shot quality flow rate, and overall brew recipe are far more precise and important and those can be measured on any machine, pressure gauge or not.
Now it's important to remember that all the advantages in terms of espresso on the Impress are to do with repeatability and dialing in. If these are things that you are already confident with, then there's really no reason not to go with the Barista Pro. Not having an all-enclosed dosing and tamping chamber gives you more control over your Puck prep which when done properly, can result in a better shot on the Barista Pro. But when done improperly, it can result in a much worse shot.
Moving on to steaming performance, this is another area where the Barista pro has a pretty big Advantage thanks to the new heating system mentioned earlier. Not only does the pro take three seconds to heat up, but it also only takes three seconds to warm up to steaming temperature after brewing and then 40 seconds to steam the milk.
Compare that to the 30 seconds it takes the impress to start steaming and additional 75 seconds to steam the milk, and you're left with a latte-making process that is almost a minute longer on the Barista Express impress. If you're looking to only make maybe one or two drinks at a time then this won't be too big of an issue. However, if you want to serve many people back to back or you're just really tight on time, then the Barista Pro is a far more accomplished steaming machine.
Both of these machines can steam great quality milk that is easily usable for latte art if that is what you are looking for. So in the end the decision between these two machines is actually pretty clean cut.
If you simply want the easiest machine to dial in and use or the easiest machine for guests to use and don't want to learn the intricacies of puck prep, then the Barista Express Impress is a clear choice. However, if you're already an experienced Barista or have the willingness to go through some of the potential frustration of learning, then the Barista Pro is a much better overall machine. It has a newer updated design, a great digital display, and far superior steaming performance.