In the search for perfect control every time, there are a number of espresso machines with options that promise to bring out the inner barista.
The Breville BES840XL is a brewer that gives the control to you. This semi automatic espresso machine features special temperature and pressure controls and boasts a thermocoil heating system as an improvement in thermal control.
Breville claims the Infuser provides a “perfect espresso,” but is it perfect for you? Read our review and find out.
Breville Infuser Review: Is The BES840XL Any Good?
- Manual overrides allow you to control most aspects of brewing
- Dry puck feature makes getting rid of the used grounds in the filter much easier
- Auto purge function automatically cools the water after steaming milk
- The dosing feature takes some trial and error when you first start
- Cleaning can be tricky until you get used to Breville’s instructions
The Breville Infuser BES840XL is one of the top sellers for the brand, with key features that set it apart from other espresso machines Breville offers. The Infuser has both automatic and programmable features, and includes a built-in water dispenser, interchangeable dual wall, and single wall filters, and incorporates several interesting tweaks from previous models, such as the pre infusion function.
The closest comparison would be to Breville’s BES870XL, aka the Barista Express. Both are semi automatic machines, and offer digital temperature control and a pre infusion function to get the most balanced flavor from the espresso. They also both boast a top of the line milk wand that allows you to create the perfect micro foam milk texture.
One key difference between the Infuser and the Barista Express is that the BES870XL has a conical burr grinder built in. This built in grinder makes the Barista Express slightly bulkier compared to the Infuser, so the Infuser definitely wins out if you’re short on counter space. It’s also a better bet if you’ve already got a grinding setup that you like.
If you’re looking for a standalone espresso brewing station, don’t need a grinder, but still want to have dial-in control over your espresso, the Breville Infuser might be the perfect match.
One of the key features that sets the Infuser apart from some other machines on the market is the PID temperature control. This feature means that the heating system constantly checks itself for changes in temperature, and adapts accordingly. What this means for your cup of coffee is a higher level of consistency and accuracy when it comes to brewing temperature.
The thermocoil heating system is another mark in its favor. Many brewers on the market use a thermoblock, made up of multiple pieces of metal held together. Thermocoil systems like the one in the infuser use a single tube, meaning that there’s a lot less potential for breakdown. While both types of boiler will heat water effectively on the fly, the thermocoil is more efficient.
Another unique element to the Infuser is the pre infusion function. In basic terms, the espresso machine increases the water pressure gradually, which allows the coffee to expand slowly. The result is a slightly slower brew but a more even extraction and therefore, a tastier cup of espresso. The pre infusion method also means a more consistent result every time.
As a semi automatic machine, the Infuser splits the difference between fully manual control over pressure and water temperature, and fully automatic presets. The BES840XL has automatic settings for pressure and temperature, but it also allows you to override the settings and change them to your preferences, and solid gauge to watch the water pressure.
The Infuser also gives you volumetric control, which is not always a feature of a semi automatic machine. As with many similar machines, you can select a single or double shot but you can also override the basic presets and pull larger volumes of coffee.
The Breville Infuser is a solid, compact espresso machine, weighing in at 17 pounds. It has three color options (stainless steel, cranberry red, and black sesame) to match your kitchen decor. The individual components of the machine are all well-designed, and there are few weak spots in the overall build.
Starting from the back, the Infuser has a 61 fl oz. (1.8 L) top-fill water tank, with a replaceable water filter to cut back on water impurities and scale. This improves the quality of the water you use for espresso extraction, which in turn improves your cup of espresso.
The BES840XL uses a 54mm stainless steel portafilter with commercial-style spouts, and two options for filter baskets. Dual wall filters are a good choice for espresso beginners, who may not be as comfortable with their skills, while single wall filter baskets may be tricky for novices but better for the more experienced home barista.
At the front of the machine, buttons for power, programming, and shot volumes are big and backlit, which makes the features more accessible even for those with less nimble fingers. The pressure gauge is clear and easy to read so you can make sure of the best espresso extraction.
In addition to the standard steam wand and brewer head that any espresso maker would include, the infuser espresso machine has a dedicated outlet for hot water, which is useful for making americanos, or tea or hot chocolate for guests who may not be as keen on coffee.
The top and bottom of the machine also have some noteworthy features: at top, the Infuser boasts a cup warmer. The removable drip tray has a partition for wet and dry spills, and includes an “empty me” indicator that’s nicely visible. Just as importantly, the drip tray is easy to remove, so there’s less danger of spilling it everywhere when you go to empty it.
All in all, a sturdy, compact machine with thoughtful design.
A major mainstay of specialty coffee shops and cafes is the latte, and a major third wave coffee trend in the past several years has been latte art. The Infuser incorporates a few features into its steam wand that will help a budding barista learn the tricks of the trade. High pressure steam creates a decent micro foam, which is absolutely necessary for making latte art.
The auto purge function allows a seamless transition from steaming milk to brewing espresso, by immediately cooling the hot water slightly as soon as you switch from the steam wand. This ensures that the coffee doesn’t brew at too hot a temperature, so the coffee beans don’t take on unpleasant flavors.
One potential weak point is that the single boiler in the Breville Infuser means that you can either steam milk or brew espresso, but not do both at the same time. But this isn’t usually an issue, unless you’re trying to make a high volume of coffee drinks.
Ease of Use
One major question that comes up when you buy an espresso machine is what type of learning curve there is to it. Fortunately, the Breville Infuser is fairly easy to use, whether you’re a complete novice or an amateur barista.
For those in search of a coffee machine that will help them learn to make specialty coffee drinks at home, without needing to learn everything first, the Infuser is a solid option. The automatic settings for temperature, pressure, volume, and so on allow you to pull a good shot without tweaking anything.
The machine comes into its own when you gain a bit more confidence and decide to be a bit more specific in your espresso extraction and milk steaming choices. In order to change the automatic settings, you only have to press a few buttons. There is a limit to the degree to which you can tamper with the settings, of course. The volumetric control is the most flexible of the different options.
The PID temperature control makes it easy to tweak temperatures, but it provides a slightly narrow range. It’s a good thing if you’re new to making espresso drinks at home, but it may become frustrating as you gain greater confidence and want to experiment more.
The Breville Infuser may not be a good option for people who don’t already have a coffee grinder, because it doesn’t have one built in. But if you have your own grinder, or you’re used to buying ground coffee, it’s not a big hurdle. Otherwise, you can always purchase a a conical burr grinder to open up all brewing options, including espresso.
Cleaning an espresso machine can sometimes be a major pain and frustration. Because they have more parts than some other types of espresso maker, there are more places for things like coffee to build up, and in some machines it can be difficult to access all of them properly. It can also be difficult to know when the machine needs to be cleaned beyond a casual wipedown.
The Breville Infuser has a few features that make it easier, and some that make it a bit trickier. One key benefit you get with an Infuser is the alerts on the front dash of the machine that prompt you to clean it. This means that you won’t have to wonder if you’re doing it too often or not often enough.
The Infuser also comes with cleaning tablets and allen key access to the back of the brewer. The cleaning tablets take the guesswork out of the usual recommendation of vinegar and water to clean any type of coffee maker. While the allen key makes it easy to get to the parts of the machine that are easy to miss or neglect otherwise.
If you’re confident in your use of vinegar and water to clean out your machine, you can, fortunately, use that method with the Infuser with no difficulties.
One potential sore spot is that cleaning according to Breville’s instructions may take a bit of getting used to. The instructions are not as intuitive as some espresso novices might need, but a little bit of practice and review will make them come more easily. They’re also important to keep your machine working properly, so stick with them.
While accessories aren’t a replacement for a solid machine, a good set of accessories can really bring the features of espresso machines to life. The Breville Infuser comes with a large accessory set that complements the unique points of the machine and helps you create a solid coffee shop type experience.
One valuable accessory is the razor dose trimming tool. A key point of the Infuser’s flexibility is the option to adjust your coffee dose. This isn’t just done through tweaking the volume of water, but also through adjusting how much coffee you put into the portafilter. The razor tool allows you to trim down the ground coffee puck in your portafilter with no fuss.
The water filter and filter holder are also important to the experience, as any true coffee lover knows. Water quality makes a big difference in the flavor of your coffee, and with espresso it’s especially key. Hot water tends to highlight unpleasant flavors even more strongly–so whether you’re making a doppio, an americano, or a latte, the water filter will make the difference.
The stainless steel milk jug might not seem like a very big deal at first, but it means that you won’t struggle to find the right size container for steaming your milk. In addition to the fact that it’s sized for the machine, stainless steel is the standard in coffee shops for good reason: it’s easy to clean, it holds heat fairly well, and it doesn’t risk adding weird flavors to your milk.
The Breville Infuser BES840XL Isn’t For You If…
While the Infuser is a solid option for many people who want to make espresso at home, it isn’t the perfect option for everyone. If you don’t have a good way to grind your own coffee, it won’t be as convenient for you.
It might be better to look into espresso machines such as the Barista Express with a built in conical burr grinder if you like the look of the Infuser but need grind functionality.
The Infuser is also not the best option for someone who wants to be able to just press a button and have their cup of coffee come out automatically. While there are not a lot of different controls to work with the Infuser, it’s not fully automatic and you will have to do a little work for your coffee. Instead, check out the Brera by Gaggia for a more automated brewer within a simillar price bracket.
The Final Verdict
When you’re shopping for an espresso machine, there are a few key features to look for. Ease of use and cleanup, and the ability to use the machine for a long time, are among the important factors. In these categories, the Infuser stacks up very well.
The BES840XL by Breville sets itself apart in a few key ways. Pre infusion espresso extraction makes for a more even shot, and a better flavor. The auto purge function means that when you switch from steaming milk to brewing coffee, you won’t have to deal with over-extracted or burned flavors.
If you’re looking to simply press a button and get your coffee, this may not be the best option, and if you don’t have the ability to grind your own coffee, it won’t be as convenient as some other models.
However, all in all the BES840XL is a solid value for the price point. It offers a lot of features that don’t show up in other machines, and for someone looking to expand their repertoire when it comes to coffee, it has the security of automatic functions and the flexibility of overrides.