Sage Barista Touch Espresso Machine Review
Choosing the right Sage espresso machine feels daunting because they all share a similar aesthetic. But they aren’t all created equal, and each is designed with a particular target audience in mind. The Sage Barista Touch isn’t the most affordable option, but you’re paying for convenience. If you want a reliably delicious and easy-to-prepare morning coffee and you aren’t on too tight a budget, you’re going to want to keep reading.
Is Sage Barista Touch for you, or are you better off spending your money on a different model? This is the review for you.
Summary: The Sage Barista Touch
- Touchscreen-operated automatic espresso machine for espresso, Americano, latte, cappuccino, and flat white.
- Built-in conical burr grinder with 30 grind settings.
- Automatic milk frothing with customisable milk temperature and texture.
This machine offers a perfect combination of features that allow me to adjust the grind, amount, and timing to get a good shot…And it reduced the total espresso footprint on our countertop.– Michael M
The Full Sage Barista Touch Review
Sage is known for making some of the top espresso machines for home use. And while its lineup is substantial, each machine has unique selling points.
So what’s so special about the Sage Barista Touch? It might look like it’s just a Sage Barista Express with a touchscreen and a bigger price tag, but looks can be deceiving. This espresso coffee machine has a lot more going on under the hood, and that’s what this review digs into.
If you value convenience and ease of use just as highly as great espresso and frothed milk, then prepare to be impressed.
Brewing Capacity – 3.5/5
The Sage Barista Touch has a few standout features in brewing capacity and quality, including PID temperature control, a built-in, conical burr grinder, and automatic preinfusion. Let’s look at them in more detail, starting with the grinder.
Integrated Burr Grinder
If you’re serious about good coffee, you know that it’s important to grind your coffee beans as soon as possible before brewing to get the best flavour. If you’ve been using pre-ground beans or a blade grinder, you will immediately notice a huge flavour improvement when you switch to the freshly ground beans of the Barista Touch.
The grinder in the Barista Touch has 30 grind size settings, which is a significant upgrade from the 16 settings on the Barista Express.
With more settings, you can find just the right grind size for the perfect extraction. With too fine a grind, your espresso will be overly bitter; too coarse, it will be weak and watery. There is nothing worse than knowing the ideal shot is impossible to achieve because you don’t have enough settings for dialling in the grind size, and this should never be a problem with this espresso coffee machine.
The dose is programmed by time, and grinding is hands-free. Just slot the portafilter into the cradle beneath the grinder, and it will grind as needed for a single or double shot. You can also dose manually by holding the portafilter against the grind button.
Like most Sages, the Barista Touch uses a 54 mm portafilter basket, which is smaller than the commercial standard 58 mm. Though Sage claims you can get a total double shot dose of 18 to 20 g in the basket, 17 g is more realistic. It would be nice to see a 58 mm portafilter at this price point, as you’ll find on the Sage Dual Boiler.
You get four filter baskets with your Barista Touch, both pressurised and non-pressurised options for single and double shots. If you dial in freshly ground coffee beans correctly, the non-pressurised baskets are preferable, yielding sweeter and more flavourful shots. On the other hand, if you need to use pre-ground beans – like to pull a quick shot of decaf, for example – the pressurised baskets are a better choice as they will compensate for any grind flaws you still have an excellent result.
As one of the newer generation machines, the Barista Touch has an upgraded ThermoJet heating system. It comes to the temperature in just 3 seconds! It isn’t hot enough inside to warm the portafilter simply by locking it into the machine. So make sure you pull a blank shot or two or run your portafilter under hot water, so the cold metal basket doesn’t interfere with extraction.
PID and adjustable control the brew temperature to eight different settings. Having an accurate and steady brew temperature is vital when striving for the perfect shot of espresso, and a PID controller is the best way to achieve that (1). PIDs are standard in more expensive espresso machines, so it is great to see them here.
This espresso coffee machine offers automatic preinfusion, one of the best features for improving espresso quality. The low-pressure pre-wetting of the espresso puck ensures a more even extraction and, thus, more flavourful coffee (2). It would be nice if preinfusion time were adjustable, but Sage has opted for a one-size-fits-all in this case.
Ease of Use – 4.5/5
One of the best entry-level espresso machines – its ease of use is the main selling point of the Barista Touch, and Sage has succeeded on this point. You pay a premium for a touch screen and automatic milk frothing, but they make it oh-so-easy to craft delicious espresso and cafe-style drinks.
Using the touchscreen, you choose pre-programmed brewing options for espresso, Americano, flat white, latte, or cappuccino. Or you can customise any of these to your taste by adjusting brewing temperature, coffee strength, and milk temperature and texture. You can also create up to 8 custom recipes, which can be named and saved for repeated brewing.
In either case, the process is intuitive and straightforward. You won’t have to keep pulling out the User’s Manual.
In contrast, anyone who has used a Sage without a touchscreen knows that it is an exercise in memorising various combinations of button pushes – not impossible, but not as obvious.
The Barista Touch is an automatic espresso machine, which you should not confuse with a super-automatic machine. You’ll still need to be involved in tamping, locking in the portafilter, steaming the milk, and mixing the milk and espresso. But prompts on the screen walk you through each step, so it’s as simple as an automatic.
Milk Frothing – 4/5
The touchscreen is the most apparent difference between the Barista Express and the Touch. At the first glance, that is. But the milk frothing system is the difference you’ll notice most when using this machine. The Barista Touch has automatic milk frothing, using a temperature sensor built into the drip tray.
The automatic milk frothing is foolproof. You can set your desired milk temperature anywhere between 43 and 76 °C, at 10-degree increments (3). HomeGrounds recommends 60 °C for the best flavour, but you can experiment to suit your taste or if you’re using non-dairy milk (4). You can also choose one of eight milk textures, ranging from creamy foam for a latte to airy froth for a cappuccino. Then it’s just a matter of putting the steam wand in the frothing pitcher and letting it work its magic. It even purges on its own when it finishes.
The Barista Touch uses a Panarello-style steam wand that automatically introduces air into the milk as it froths (5). The results are reliably frothy and delicious, but this design does make it more challenging to get the creamy microfoam needed for complex latte art. However, it is still a considerable step up from the Panarello wands on cheaper machines. Even legendary coffee expert James Hoffmann was impressed with Sage’s milk frothing technology.
If you don’t want to get into how to steam milk and you want some good results, that’s kind of impressive to me.
If you want to master complex latte art – swans and the like – you’re probably better off buying the Barista Pro and investing some time into mastering its manual steam wand. Learn more about it here.
If you’re a lover of Americanos, you’ll be happy to hear that the Barista Touch has a dedicated hot water spout. This is a nice treat as usually cheaper machines will have the steam wand double as a hot water tap.
Cleaning – 4/5
The Barista Touch features the same automatic cleaning cycles as all Sage machines, making it easy to maintain. Thanks to the touch screen, it’s easier than the average Sage. The screen alerts you when cleaning is needed, and the cleaning options are all accessible via the main menu.
It has a removable 2-litre water reservoir in the back. The handle on the water tank might seem overkill, but you’ll appreciate it when the tank is full of water.
I will say that grinding directly into the portafilter can be messy. You’ll inevitably end up with spilled grounds in the drip tray, affecting accurate dosing. To avoid this problem, consider using a dosing cup instead. There are a few inexpensive options explicitly designed for Sage machines.
Build Quality – 3/5
When it comes to building quality, the Barista Touch is on par with the other best Sage espresso machines, like the Barista Express, Infuser, or Barista Pro. This is not to say that the quality is poor, but you aren’t getting a more premium quality for your extra cash. That money is going into more advanced technology, not higher quality components.
The exterior of the Barista Touch is stainless steel, and it’s available in the classic Sage-style brushed stainless or in a matte black, dark blue, or grey. The matte finish and touch screen give this machine a more premium look than the older models, but this is purely an aesthetic difference.
The Barista Touch is compact, especially when compared with a separate machine and grinder. Even with the 8-ounce bean hopper on top adding to the height, it’s only 40.6 cm tall so that it will slide neatly under your upper cupboards. Its footprint is equally practical, at just 31.75 cm wide by 32.2 cm deep.
I always appreciate Sage machines because they come with all the accessories you need, so you don’t have to budget for extras. Along with the portafilter and four baskets, the Barista Touch comes with a frothing pitcher, a water filter, some tools for maintenance and puck prep, cleaning tablets, and a nice metal tamper (6). Many tools and accessories can be stored inside the machine in a clever space behind the drip tray.
Don’t Buy the Sage Barista Touch If…
- You don’t care about a touchscreen – If the convenience of a touchscreen doesn’t seem worth the extra cost, there are a few other great Sage machines with integrated burr grinders to consider.
Check out our Sage Barista Express review for the least expensive option, which uses a button interface. Or spend a bit more for the Barista Pro, which has an LCD display. Though be warned that along with lacking a touchscreen, neither of these offers automatic milk frothing either.
- You already have a grinder – If you already have a good espresso grinder, there is no need to pay for a second. Instead, we at HomeGrounds love the Sage Bambino Plus – one of the best value Sage machines on the market. This relatively new model is half the price of the Barista Touch, and while it doesn’t have a touchscreen, it is equipped with the same impressive automatic milk frothing.
- You want to froth milk and pull a shot at the same time – If you’re really serious about espresso and cafe-style drinks, then you’ll want to read our Sage Dual Boiler espresso machine review. It’s a bit more expensive than the others, but its features – including the ability to brew and steam simultaneously – put it in a different league, closer to the prosumer range.
I started this review by saying it would help you decide if the Sage Barista Touch is the suitable Sage model for you, so let me sum it up here.
Regarding coffee quality and build quality, the Barista Touch is on par with less expensive models like the Barista Express and Pro, but it far exceeds both of these when it comes to ease of use. If you’re a busy person willing to spend a little extra for the added convenience of a touch screen and automatic milk frothing, the Barista Touch is made for you.
- La Marzocco. (2015, October 15). A Brief History of the PID. Retrieved from https://home.lamarzoccousa.com/history-of-the-pid/
- 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. (2017, Marc 3). 5 Easy Tips That Will Make Your Latte Art Flourish. Retrieved from https://www.baristainstitute.com/blog/jori-korhonen/june-2022/5-easy-tips-will-make-your-latte-art-flourish
- Grant, T. (2020, August 14). A Guide to Working with Plant Milks. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/08/a-guide-to-working-with-plant-milks/\
- Gaggia. (n.d.). Steaming and Frothing. Retrieved from https://www.gaggia-na.com/pages/steaming-and-frothing
- Stanley, Z. (2022, March 29). What is channeling and how does it affect espresso extraction? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2022/03/what-is-channeling-espresso-extraction/