Breville Barista Max+ Review: Breville goes upmarket with a smart bean to cup espresso machine

This natty bean-to-cup machine offers freshly ground coffee and textured milk whenever you need it

Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine
(Image credit: Breville)
T3 Verdict

The sizeable Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine lets you make brews from scratch and it does this with ease. We love the ability to vary coffee grinding intensity, the one or two cup push button options and the excellent steam wand-cum-milk frother. If you get good use from it the price doesn’t seem too bad either, although there’s rather more plastic in evidence than the plethora of stainless steel we were expecting. Nevertheless, it does look good on a countertop and the fresh coffee isn’t bad either. Worth investigating.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    You can grind fresh beans

  • +

    LED information screen

  • +

    Great milk frothing

  • +

    Easy to master

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Has quite a big footprint

  • -

    Not much stainless steel in evidence

  • -

    Some questions over durability

The Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine review in a sentence: enjoy fresh coffee whenever you want it with this deceptively versatile bean-to-cup machine.

Breville isn’t a name that is normally to be found if you’re looking through the best coffee maker and best bean to cup coffee machine buying guides here at T3 – if you’re in the UK. Confusingly Breville in Britain is a totally different brand to most of the world. In the USA and Australia (and elsewhere), Breville is the brand that’s known as Sage in the UK. Confusing? You bet. 

However, that might be about to change with the arrival of the Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine. It’s just one of two new machines aimed at coffee fans who want value and quality cups of the black stuff. Where Breville UK has long been synonymous with kitchenwares that both are cheap and feel and look cheap, this machine has more in common with products from the other Breville, aka Sage. Could this make things even more confusing? You bet! 

The other machine is the Breville Bijou, which is a more compact option. However, if you’ve got the space for a decent sized coffee machine the Breville Barista Max+ is the one to go for. We recently got given the chance to try one, and it’s been so impressive that it continues to be used daily. It’s already munched its way through one bag of M&S beans, and believe me, more are lined up.

Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine

(Image credit: Breville)

Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine: price, availability and what is it?

What you get here then is essentially a bean-to-cup coffee machine experience, which lets you get heavily involved in the action. If you don’t want to have any input in making your coffee then it might be wise to look elsewhere, perhaps in our best espresso machine guide for starters. Or maybe just head for your preferred local coffee outlet.

However, if you’re keen to have a say in just how your cup of coffee turns out, the Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine is a neat option worth considering. The appliance is available now and can be had for £499.99 in the UK from the likes of Currys.

Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine: Design and features

Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine


(Image credit: Breville)

Having been offered the Barista Max+ in either stylish black or classic stainless steel and opting for the latter, I was slightly disappointed to find that it isn’t quite as shiny, shiny as the glossy press images suggest. What you actually get is quite a lot of silver-coloured plastic, some chrome buttons and the odd flourish of stainless steel.

Nevertheless, the Barista Max+ does look the part, and does also take up a decent amount of countertop space. You’ll want to keep it out mind as it’s not the sort of thing that’ll fit in a cupboard particularly well either. It does actually look okay though, and the overall barista effect is nicely complimented by the tools and accessories that come with it.

These include the chunky lever that you pop the ground coffee into prior to pouring. There’s a solid plastic tamper tool too, plus a milk jug that’s acceptable in feel, rather than premium. Meanwhile, some aspects of the design leave you wondering how well they’ll fare over time. The plastic coffee grinding receptacle slots into place on the top of the machine and you really have to twist it to reach the required grind number. A potential weak link? Maybe.

Similarly, the handle that you lock into place prior to pouring is really tight the first few times you use it. Almost to the point you wonder if you’re going to break it, although the manual does at least tell you this. It loosens slightly the more you use it. Prior to that though you have to slot the lever, plus the coffee size insert into the slightly flexible plastic coffee grinder outlet. It took me a few goes to get the gist of this, and I did it wrong more than once.

Suddenly though, the click-into-place action it requires to do this right started to make sense. Once you’ve got the knack, it serves up ground coffee very well actually while the digital readout tells you how much is being dispensed into either of the two filter baskets. Around the back there’s a large water container, serviced from the top or you can detach it if you prefer. Back around the front, there’s a grill and tray assembly that catches any spilt coffee grinds and excess fluids. The steam/milk frother pipe sites over on the right side of the unit.

Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine

(Image credit: Breville)

Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine: Performance

I’ve taken to the Breville because it seems particularly good at turning out consistently solid cups of coffee, suited to my taste. That means not too strong and with the benefit of being able to add in lots of hot, frothy milk. Of course, the manual intervention part of the process means you can also tailor brews to be stronger, depending on how you’ve set up the grinder. As with anything, it takes a little bit of practice to hone this to suit your palate, but it is achievable.

It's well worth picking through the manual first though, especially if you’ve never used a bean-to-cup machine before. The first time you have a coffee-making run through it seems like there’s a lot to do, and it can get quite messy. After a few goes though the Breville proves to be quick and efficient. Getting the right amount of coffee is easy as you can choose those one or two cup metal inserts that go into the lever and get filled with coffee grinds.

Pouring coffee can be done using the one or two cup buttons on the front of the unit too. There’s a manual option if you prefer. Over on the right, a left/right dial allows you to get steam up, clean your nozzle and begin milk frothing duties as the mood takes you. Again, practice makes perfect with this routine and, to be honest, I’m still getting mixed results with my milk frothing moves. It’s quite good fun though, especially if you’ve ever harboured a sneaking desire to be a barista.

Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine: Is it any good?

Breville Barista Max+ Espresso Coffee Machine


(Image credit: Breville)

The Breville Barista Max+ leaves a generally positive impression although at only slightly under the £500 mark it’s not a cheap and cheerful machine. In fact, for the money I felt that some elements of the coffee maker could have been more robust and nicely finished. While nothing has broken yet there are aspects of this machine that leave me a little nervous about their longevity.

That aside, the coffee-making capabilities of the Barista Max+ are pretty decent and you don’t need a barista’s degree in order to master the controls. The so-called intelligent grind and dosage process does offer a helping hand, as does the LED screen and subsequent readouts. I’ve yet to try more than one coffee type in the machine and, based on my own efforts, the results have been mild rather than strong. A brew like that suits me, though it may lack oomph for some more choosy palates.

I’ll need to spend some more time, and coffee-making sessions, to fully make up my mind. However, the Breville Barista Max+ does everything I want it to do. As is often the case, you might be able to pick this machine up with a discount further on down the line. As it stands, the Barista Max+ is worthy of its not cheap price tag, just as long as you use it as much as me.

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.