Sage Barista Pro Review
Sage Barista Pro espresso machine is a new model from the popular home appliance brand, launched in 2019. Barista Pro was released as a more advanced, and more expensive, alternative to the longtime best-seller, the Sage Barista Express.
Home Grounds has been recommending the Barista Express for years, so of course, we were curious to see how this upgraded version compares. What is new and improved? Does the Sage Barista Pro have enough extra features to warrant the additional cost?
Overall, we were impressed. The Sage Barista Pro is a clear upgrade from its predecessor. The added features aren’t just for show; they truly contribute to making barista-quality coffee and an improved user experience. Keep reading to find out if this is the espresso machine for you.
Summary: The Sage Barista Pro
- Automatic espresso machine with integrated conical burr grinder.
- Intuitive LCD display makes it easy to use and maintain.
- Upgraded ThermoJet heating system for quick heat-up and better steam pressure.
I can honestly say I never knew coffee at home could taste so rich and fresh. It didn’t have a bitter taste that I have experienced in the past.– Customer
The Full Sage Barista Pro Review
Sage Barista Pro is a relatively new addition to the brand’s line-up of stylish espresso machines. It was first released in 2019 and immediately gained accolades, being awarded Best New Consumer Electrical Product at the Specialty Coffee Expo that year (1).
It can be best described as an upgrade to popular Barista Express, a longtime favorite of home espresso enthusiasts and perennial inclusion on our list of the best espresso machines. Is it a worthy successor? What has changed, and does it justify this model’s higher price? Let’s find out in this review of the Sage Barista Pro.
Brewing Capacity – 4/5
Like the Barista Express, the Sage Barista Pro espresso machine includes an integrated conical burr grinder equipped with steel burrs and fed from a plastic hopper with a 225 g capacity for coffee beans. However, the Pro has 30 grind settings compared with only 18 settings on the Express. While this might not seem hugely important, true espresso lovers know the importance of dialing in the ideal grind size. There is nothing worse than feeling like the perfect espresso shot is “stuck” between two grind settings, and with the built-in grinder of the Barista Pro, that is far less likely to occur.
Perhaps the biggest upgrade to the Sage Barista Pro is the heating element. The new ThermoJet heating system is ready to roll in just 3 seconds! It uses a PID controller to maintain a default brewing temperature of 93°C. A PID controller is the best way to maintain a stable and accurate brew temperature, which experts like Carles González of the Rancilio Group will tell you is crucial for precise espresso extraction (2).
Many of the soluble compounds that we enjoy tasting in espresso will extract at the right concentration within a small temperature range. Temperature is like a prerequisite to good extraction, with many other variables affecting the process as well.
The default temperature was chosen to be suitable for the majority of roast levels, but you do have the ability to easily adjust the brew temperature with this machine. It never hurts to have more variables to tweak in the search for perfect extraction (3). There are five settings – two warmer than 93°C and two cooler – and I’d suggest cooler temperatures for darker roasts and warmer for light roasts. It would be even better if Sage allowed you to set a precise temperature, rather than the generic “warmer” and “cooler,” but having any control at all is a nice perk at this price point.
Note that to take advantage of the stable brew temperature, you need to ensure the portafilter is also pre-heated. This is easily done by letting the machine warm up for ten to 15 minutes with the portafilter locked in place. Or, for a faster alternative, just pull a shot without coffee to warm the portafilter with hot water.
Most Sage espresso machines, with the exception of the Dual Boiler, use 54 mm portafilters. This is in contrast to the commercial standard 58 mm portafilters found on professional machines. While Sage claims you can still get the standard double-shot dose of 18 to 22 grams, I haven’t found that to be the case. Between 16 and 18 grams is more realistic.
The Sage Barista Pro features automatic pre-infusion, an impressive addition to the price. This is a level of control more often found on pricier espresso machines. Pre-infusion is a low-pressure pre-wetting of the coffee puck. It produces a more even distribution of coffee grounds, which results in a more flavorful extraction (4). Following the pre-infusion stage, extraction occurs at the standard 9 bars of pressure, which is easily achieved by the 15-bar Italian vibratory pump. Note that this model doesn’t allow for any control over extraction pressure or flow rate.
Ease of Use – 4/5
Sage espresso machines tend to shine when it comes to ease of use, and the Sage Barista Pro is no exception. Indeed, this model is easier to use than most thanks to the LCD display – another major upgrade from the button interface of the Barista Express.
All the options are set using a single knob that is also a push button. Using this, you can adust the grind size and dose, the extraction time, and the brew temperature. You can also access additional features like cleaning cycles. Cute animations on the screen make it intuitive and – dare I say – fun to use.
The Barista Pro is a volumetric automatic espresso machine. What does that mean? Let’s break it down:
- Automatic means that once you have programmed the Barista Pro just the way you like it, pulling a shot is as easy as pressing a button. You don’t need to worry about shot timing as you would with a semi-automatic espresso machine. The default settings are the standard 30 mL single shot and 60 mL double shot, but you can easily adjust this if you prefer a lungo or ristretto, for example. You also have the option to pull a shot manually if you enjoy the control of a semi-automatic espresso maker.
- Volumetric means that the programming is by shot volume rather than by time. So your double shot is programmed to be 60 mL, which is measured by a flow meter inside the brew head, rather than 25 seconds. This allows for much more consistent shots, even if your puck preparation isn’t 100% perfect.
Milk Frothing – 4.5/5
I have used and reviewed many Sage models, and milk frothing is always a category where they excel, especially compared with other appliance-grade espresso machines. There isn’t a DeLonghi that can match the steam power of the Sage Barista Pro; indeed, it is on par with many more expensive prosumer models.
The impressive steam power of the Barista Pro is facilitated by the innovative ThermoJet heating system, which quickly heats to 130°C. Paired with a manual steam wand with a four-hole tip (compared with a one-hole tip on the Barista Express), this translates to tons of steam power for quickly producing ultra-creamy microfoam milk for your latte art or airy froth for your cappuccino (5).
Steam power isn’t the only advantage of the ThermoJet heater. Fast heating also means less waiting between pulling a shot and steaming milk.
Because brewing espresso occurs at a much lower temperature than steaming milk, there must inevitably be a pause between brewing and frothing while the espresso machine heats to steam temperature. The faster this heating occurs, the quicker you can prepare your latte and the better it will taste.
The alternative is to buy an espresso machine that uses different boilers for the steaming and brewing process, which allows you to do both simultaneously – for example, the Sage Dual Boiler. But these are generally much more expensive. So, the ThermoJet is a wonderfully affordable solution to the problem.
The Barista Pro includes a separate hot water spout, which I found even more useful than I expected. Sure, it’s great for making an Americano. But thanks to the 3-second heat-up time, it’s just the fastest way to get hot water in my kitchen in general. For tea, hot chocolate, instant soup, and quick oatmeal, I default to the hot water spout on this espresso machine!
Cleaning – 4/5
Cleaning the Sage Barista Pro is a piece of cake because everything is automated. It alerts you when cleaning is required, and then it’s just a matter of using the LCD screen to start the appropriate cleaning cycle.
There are two different cleaning cycles pre-programmed on the Barista Pro, a backflush and a descale. If you’re a longtime espresso machine owner, you’ll be familiar with both of these.
The Sage Barista Pro is programmed to require a backflush after every 200 espresso shots. The backflushing should be done using a cleaning solution or tablet (two of which are included with the purchase), and it takes about 5 minutes to complete. You can also backflush more frequently using just water, which I would recommend as an easy way to keep things clean and prolong the lifespan of your espresso maker.
Descaling Barista Pro
Descaling is required only when the Barista Pro detects sufficient build-up of limescale inside to warrant it. If you install the included water filter or use another source of filtered water, you may be able to go years without a descale. Descaling can be done using a descaling solution or white vinegar as a budget alternative, and again, the cycle takes about 5 minutes.
Cleaning Barista Pro
When it comes to day-to-day cleaning and maintenance, there is little to do, but that little goes a long way. After use, empty the drip tray and rinse off any drips of coffee or milk froth. The manual steam wand purges automatically with hot steam, ensuring the interior stays hygienic, but make sure you wipe the exterior with a soft rag after use. I’d advise also wiping down the shower screen every day or two, as this is an easy spot for coffee oils to build up.
The water tank has a 1.9-litre capacity, so most users won’t need to refill it on a daily basis. A nice update from the Barista Express is that it now features a low water level sensor, so you never have to worry about it running dry.
Build Quality – 3/5
Sage is known for prioritizing features over build quality. This is not a criticism; it is just a matter of knowing your priorities. You can get a longer-lasting machine around this same price point – for example, the Rancilio Silvia – but it won’t be as enjoyable or intuitive to use.
The quality of the Sage Barista Pro is still good. It’s mostly made of stainless steel, and none of its few plastic parts come in contact with hot brewing water. It’s certainly a step up from cheaper home espresso machines. But it doesn’t offer the same commercial-grade components you’ll find in a prosumer espresso machine at a similar price.
Plus, all Sage machines are backed by a one-year warranty and the brand’s excellent customer service. With appropriate care, a realistic lifespan for a Sage espresso machine is 5 years, though there are plenty of examples of longer-lasting models.
The Sage Barista Pro is quite compact, measuring 35.4 x 34.3 x 40.6 cm, and it is an undeniably beautiful model. It looks the part of a more advanced Barista Express, with angular lines and an overall more futuristic aesthetic. It’s also available in a huge selection of colours, including familiar favorites like brushed stainless steel, black, and white, and more fun alternatives like damson blue, royal champagne, and red velvet cake.
One notable perk of buying a Sage espresso machine like the Barista Pro is that it comes well-equipped with accessories.
You aren’t just buying an espresso machine; you’re getting an entire latte-making kit. The Sage Barista Pro comes with a 480-ml stainless steel milk jug, a metal tamper (that cleverly affixes to the machine with a magnet), the Razor precision dose trimming tool, a water filter, and a cleaning kit. There is a convenient storage area hidden behind the drip tray to keep many of these items, great for those of us who hate coffee bar clutter.
The Barista Pro also comes with a 54 mm portafilter and four different filter baskets – pressurized and non-pressurized options for both single and double shots. If you’re an espresso pro willing to put the time into dialing in your grind size perfectly, you’ll get gorgeous and flavorful shots from a non-pressurized filter basket. If you’re more of a novice, pressurized filter baskets (also known as dual wall filter baskets) are much more forgiving, even if the grind and puck prep isn’t quite right.
What we liked:
- PID digital temperature control and automatic pre-infusion
- Easy to use with intuitive LCD display
- ThermoJet heating system is ready in 3 seconds
- High-quality burr grinder with 30 grind settings
What we didn’t like:
- Can find better build quality at this price
- Hard to get a full double shot dose in the portafilter
- Limited control of brew temperature
Don’t Buy the Sage Barista Pro If…
- You want automatic milk frothing: If manually preparing perfectly steamed milk every morning – before you’ve even had a coffee – sounds like a lot to ask, you’re in luck. Many Sage models feature excellent automatic milk frothing. You could opt for the Barista Touch, which also sports a beautiful touchscreen display. Or you could go for the more compact and affordable Bambino Plus, though it lacks an integrated grinder.
- Milky drinks aren’t a priority: One of the major upgrades in the Barista Pro is the milk steaming system. If you rarely enjoy a latte or cappuccino, you will find better value in the Sage Barista Express, a semi-automatic espresso machine. This popular model – or its sister version, the award-winning Barista Express Impress – has been a top seller for years thanks to its excellent balance of features and price (6).
- You don’t need a built-in grinder: If you already have a coffee grinder or simply prefer using pre-ground coffee in a pressurized portafilter, you can save a lot of money by opting for one of Sage’s cheaper models. Both the Infuser and the Duo-Temp Pro are wonderful machines for the price.
The Sage Barista Pro espresso machine is for you if you want the features demanded by serious home espresso geeks – PID, pre-infusion, ample steam power – coupled with the ease of use and beautiful design that Sage is known for.
The Barista Pro is priced a bit higher than other appliance-grade models, but it’s a cost worth paying if you want coffee shop quality espresso without the learning curve.
- Schmerler, B. (2019, April 15). Breville’s Barista Pro™ Espresso Maker Named Best New Consumer Electrical Product at the 2019 Specialty Coffee Association Expo. Retrieved from https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190415005774/en/Breville%E2%80%99s-Barista-Pro%E2%84%A2-Espresso-Maker-Named-Best-New-Consumer-Electrical-Product-at-the-2019-Specialty-Coffee-Association-Expo
- Stanley, Z. (2022, June 20). How does temperature stability affect espresso extraction? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2022/06/how-does-temperature-stability-affect-espresso/
- Fekete, M. (2019, February). How brew water temperature affects espresso extraction. Retrieved from https://beanscenemag.com.au/brew-water-temperature-effect-espresso-extraction/
- Joseph, H. (2019, December 10). Longtime Espresso Pro Michael Teahan on Pre-Infusion, the Problem with SO, and Much More. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2019/12/10/longtime-espresso-pro-michael-teahan-on-pre-infusion-the-problem-with-so-and-much-more/
- Korhonen, J. (2020, June 15). Milk Steaming 101 – Basics of Creating Microfoam. Retrieved from https://www.baristainstitute.com/blog/jori-korhonen/june-2020/milk-steaming-101-basics-creating-microfoam
- Red Dot Design Awards. (2022). Breville Barista Express Impress BES876. Retrieved from https://www.red-dot.org/project/breville-barista-expresstm-impress-bes876-55490