The espresso machine, the pinnacle of all coffee makers. It’s a shame you have to go to a cafe to get a high quality espresso though, right?
Wrong! Luckily, there are some incredibly simple espresso machines that produce amazing coffee, that are made for the at-home barista. This Breville ESP8XL review will dive deep into whether or not this is the right espresso machine for you.
So go put a brew on, and let’s jump right in.
- How The Breville ESP8XL Works – A Brief Run Through
- The Main Features
- What We Like About The Breville ESP8XL
- What We Don’t Like About The Breville ESP8XL
- Who’s The Breville ESP8XL Not For?
- Some Alternatives
- Final Thoughts
How The Breville ESP8XL Works – A Brief Run Through
Imagine you’ve just woken up to start your day. You walk downstairs to your kitchen, and you’re wanting that coffee you’ve been dreaming of. Lucky for you, the Breville ESP8XL makes for easy brewing.
Firstly you’ll need to turn the machine on. Once you’ve done this, a light will come on at the front of the machine, letting you know the Breville has started to heat up. Once that light goes off, you know it has reached temperature.
Next, you decide whether you want to steam milk, or extract an espresso shot. You do this by simply turning the dial to the left or the right. You also have the choice of using a coffee capsule or ground coffee.
When extracting an espresso, you have to keep in mind that it’s a manual machine, meaning you have to tell the machine when to stop brewing. You’ll have to have a play around to figure out what tickles your taste buds, but anywhere between 15-30 seconds is a good start.
Steaming the milk can take a couple of minutes, but is also a nice and easy process that we’ll dive more in to further down.
The Main Features
The Breville ESP8XL comes with some nice features which make using the machine even more enjoyable.
A Steam Wand
An essential feature for a good quality espresso machine is a good steam wand. If you’re wanting to make speciality coffees like lattes and cappuccinos, you need nicely frothed milk.
The Breville isn’t an advanced espresso machine, and so there is no way to control the flow of the steam. You turn the dial to the left to start the steam wand. Although you don’t have much control, it’s incredibly simple to use.
Like with all steam wands, be sure to turn it on for a few seconds before you put the frother into the milk. Until the wand heats up, there will be a little bit of water that comes out and you don’t want that in your milk.
A super easy to use steam wand, that requires no experience in frothing milk to be used effectively.
High Pressure Extraction
For a ‘proper’ espresso, you need to extract it through high pressure, which is exactly what the Breville does. This is what sets espressos apart from a regular cuppa jo.
Coming with a 15-bar thermoblock pump, and with each filter incorporating Brevilles dual wall crema technology, you get a rich and smooth espresso shot.
The sign of a good espresso is in the crema, and this at home espresso maker produces wonderful crema every time! It’s thick, consistent, and the flavour is rich and smooth. Very impressed.
The Water Reservoir
The built in water tank can hold 40.6oz of water which is plenty for brewing espressos, and is a good size for the size of the machine.
You can access the water reservoir from the right hand side of the espresso machine, where it’s easy to remove and refill.
There’s also a window that runs from the bottom to the top of the water tank, making it convenient to see if you have enough water to brew an espresso.
One thing to note is that although the espresso machine itself is made out of stainless steel, the water tank is made from Polycarbonate plastic, which contains BPA. Ideally, we don’t want any plastic touching what we’re ingesting, but that of course, is up to you guys to decide if it’s okay.
The Drip Tray
The drip tray catches any spills or overflows that might happen while you’re brewing your coffee. It’s removable making it easy and convenient to clean.
The only issue is how close the drip tray is to the spout. There isn’t enough room to put a normal mug underneath, unless you remove the drip tray.
This isn’t so much a negative, as it is an espresso maker and brews an espresso, but if you’re wanting to brew straight into your favourite mug, you might struggle.
Upon receiving your Breville ESP8XL, you not only get an espresso maker, but also a milk jug, tamping tool, measuring spoon and cleaning tool.
I like that these accessories are included. They’re a vital part of making a good brew, and so the fact you get them with your espresso maker enhances the experience of making coffee at home.
What We Like About The Breville ESP8XL
There’s a lot to like about this espresso maker, but here’s a few of the highlights.
The Choice Of Coffee
Although for the most flavourful brew possible you should use freshly ground coffee, it’s still nice you get a choice of whether to brew with beans or capsules.
You can use whatever coffee beans you like, whole beans or pre ground, providing you have a coffee grinder separate to the coffee maker. But you can also use capsules, in case you have a favourite brand that you like.
This espresso machine is so simple to use it’s fool proof. I can’t believe there are espresso machines out there that can make amazing coffee, and all you have to do is turn a dial or push a button.
With the simple dial on the front, the clear light to indicate temperature, and the window in the water tank, there’s not a lot you can get wrong.
It’s a beautiful looking machine to have sitting on your kitchen counter. The stainless steel finish is a really nice touch, and with the simple layout of the controls, it doesn’t stress you out to look at.
The size is also a plus. It measures at 9.25 x 9 x 11.75 inches (W x L x H), making it the ideal espresso maker for small kitchens, or places where you don’t have a lot of countertop room.
The Cup Warmer
This is also a really nice touch that adds to your espresso making experience.
Have you ever noticed that the cups in cafes live on the top of the espresso machine? Well there’s a good reason for this. The heat generated by the boiler in the espresso machine means the top gets hot, and therefore warms the cups.
There is enough space on the top of the Breville for around 6 espresso cups.
We mentioned that the Breville makes beautiful crema further up, but it’s true and deserves to be on our list of advantages.
When brewing an espresso, you really do want a nice, thick, and creamy crema. Or else you may as well just brew a black coffee! The Breville consistently produces the ideal crema, giving you the authentic espresso taste.
What We Don’t Like About The Breville ESP8XL
The Steam Takes A While To Heat Up
Although the steam wand is really easy to use, and produces nicely frothed milk, it does take quite a bit of time to heat up.
This was one of the biggest flaws I could find about the Breville. One way around this would be to heat up your milk before frothing. This is annoying and requires a little more effort, but it works and results in hotter, and better frothed milk.
The main building material for the Breville is stainless steel, and the build quality is really good. It feels sturdy and well put together.
What’s not great is the amount of plastic, especially where it touches the water/coffee. The water tank is made from polycarbonate plastic, which puts me off a little bit.
Who’s The Breville ESP8XL Not For?
There are lots of people who would enjoy using the Breville, so it’s probably easier to list who shouldn’t buy it.
If You Want A Carafe Of Coffee
If on a morning, you prefer to make a large carafe of coffee and sip away at it all morning, then an espresso maker probably wouldn’t be best for you. You want something like a drip coffee maker, or automatic pour over coffee maker.
Unless you’re wanting to mix up your coffee routine, then I’d say the Breville wouldn’t be best for you.
You’re Expecting A Top Of The Range Espresso Machine
This isn’t a commercial or high end espresso machine, and it doesn’t advertise to be. This is an espresso machine that can be used by a complete novice, meaning it doesn’t come with all the advanced features.
I’d recommend you check out some Gaggia espresso machines if this is what you’re after.
Just in case the Breville ESP8XL doesn’t float your boat, here are some alternatives you can check out.
This is a pretty awesome bean to cup espresso machine, producing an incredibly high quality espresso made from freshly ground coffee beans. It’s got a 67oz water tank and a 1/2 lb coffee bean hopper. A great espresso machine for the experienced at-home barista.
Gaggia are a household name when it comes to espresso, so there’s no doubt they make awesome at-home espresso machines.
Another super simple to use machine, coming with all the controls you need to adapt your espresso to your liking, and to create textured, microfoam milk.
It’s important that when looking for the best at-home coffee maker for you, you find one that fits all your needs. I hope this review has helped you figure out whether the Breville meets those needs or not.
Overall, I think the Breville ESP8XL is a cracking entry level espresso machine. It’s so easy to use, looks great, and produces espresso that you cannot complain about.
Let us know what you think of the Breville ESP8XL in the comments!