delicious. reviews: the Sage Barista Express Impress coffee machine

When a coffee machine costs £729.99 (or the price of some people’s monthly rent), it would want to be astonishingly good. The Sage Barista Express Impress is. And we’ll be giving you the lowdown on why – from its mess-free mechanisms to its automatic tamp and dose settings that make brewing your espresso fault-proof.

Discover all of our expert reviews here.

delicious. reviews: the Sage Barista Express Impress coffee machine

A lot needs to be taken into account when making the perfect cup of coffee. Water temperature, the quantity of coffee, the coffee grind size, the pressure of the water as it is forced through the coffee… Sage have handled all the essential elements of the perfect cup of Joe with this ‘assisted manual’ version of their bestselling Barista Express machine, The Barista Express Impress. This new model has a smart dose system which has taken everything that users love about the brand’s bean-to-cup machine, and managed to make it even more user-friendly.

What’s good about it?

The main advancement is the auto-dose feature which ensures that enough coffee is ground and dosed into the basket, which comes in the form of a light system. You’ll see a green light and a smiley face when the exact correct weight of ground coffee is dosed – which will make you feel warm and fuzzy like you’re back at school and just got given a well done sticker.

Green light

If the grind is under-weight, you’ll see only 2 or 3 bars light up, and know you need to press the button again to dose a little more. If too much has been ground – the lights above the green light will light up. If this happens, a useful ‘razor’ scraper tool comes with the machine which makes light work of cleaning out excess, and the system will know to grind less next time. It’s as if it can listen to you! The machine learns how long to grind for to hit the perfect level, so once you’ve chosen your basket (single is best for solo drinkers while double is ideal for couples), you’ll not need to play around with the settings too much and it will do the work for you.

The second, equally impressive, auto feature is the tamping wand on the side of the machine, which means you can use a lever to tamp the coffee, with the ideal 10kg of pressure and the 7-degree twist that will keep the pro baristas happy. Users of espresso coffee machines will know that the mess of ground coffee is one of the biggest bugbears. The auto-tamp feature happens directly where the coffee gets ground into the basket so there is no mess. This no-waste, perfect portion of coffee is then ready to be inserted into the extraction area for a well-balanced espresso shot. With the press of a button and a pull of the lever then, you’ll have yourself a great tasting coffee in seconds.

Express Impress

The Barista Express Impress doesn’t use a boiler but an energy efficient water heater which heats up in seconds so you can pour shots and froth milk very soon after powering the model up. There is a hot water tap, so you can make a long black entirely with this machine without the use of a kettle, and the milk wand is powerful and fast. Water pressure is 9 bar, and temperature is set to the ideal 65-70°C for heating milk, meaning you’d have to try very hard to burn the milk. It’s an easy machine to clean (and there are many great tutorials on Sage’s YouTube channel to aid the process). The drip tray pulls out in once piece for easy draining and rinsing: and niftily you’ll know it’s ready to to be emptied when the floating “empty me!” sign appears as soon as it’s full.

With so much managed by the machine itself, only the grind size is the variable which the user needs to manage. You learn this quickly too, so if a coffee runs through with too much water and produces a pale espresso that’s over 30ml, you know you need to change the dial on the left of the machine to a finer grind for a slower extraction. If the water runs through too slowly and produces a short and bitter drink, you’ll need to turn the dial to a coarser grind.

What’s not so good about it?

Lovers of manual espresso machines might find the Barista Express Impress makes things a little too easy. The guess work is alleviated by the machine-learning dose feature, but each new bag of beans still requires trial and error the first time you make a coffee with it – as each roast will behave a little differently – so we feel there’s enough input from the user needed to keep coffee nerds happy. Grind size is adjusted using a dial on the side of the machine, and you can use the manual dose setting if you prefer to override the machine-learning aspect of the model completely (no need to be scared of this robot, then).

The size of the machine does require a lot of bench space (near a plug). You’ll also need to place it somewhere that allows you access to the back to refill the water tank (which needs doing at least once a week for the daily coffee drinker).

Overall verdict

This slick machine’s price places it at the higher end of the scale, and the purchase of a Knockbox or similar tool to empty the used espresso pucks is also advised for the easiest experience. While not a cheap investment, if you work from home or drink coffee everyday, the bean-to-cup Barista Express Impress has a lot to offer you. There are few achievements that will make you feel as chuffed as managing to create a café quality flat white at home and sipping away on it at your desk… and the Barista Express Impress makes light work of the job.

Available from Sage or John Lewis (£729.95) in silver, black, white or grey.

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