Barista coffee makers offer you the experience of barista grade in the comfort of your kitchen. They guarantee café-quality brews without enduring long queues at your neighbourhood coffee shop. It's no wonder many coffee enthusiasts across Australia prefer it.
In this guide, I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different barista coffee makers. I’ll also explore the confusing terminology and teach you how to make a barista-style coffee in the comfort of your home. Ready? Let’s get started.
Coffee Maker vs. Coffee Maker Barista
Before anything else, let's clarify the common terminologies. There is a “Coffee Maker” and a “Coffee Maker Barista.” Don't worry if it sounds confusing; I will simplify it now.
A coffee maker, also known as a coffee machine or coffee brewer, is a kitchen appliance designed to brew coffee. It simplifies the process of making coffee by automating many of the steps involved. There are various types of coffee makers available, each with its unique features and brewing methods.
The four main types include automatic, single-cup, programmable, and manual. Drip machines are one of the most popular coffee makers due to their ease of use, affordability, durability, and ability to quickly produce coffee for one to four coffee drinkers at a time.
Another popular type is the single-serve coffee maker, such as the Breville Precision Coffee Brewer, which is compact and affordable. Manual coffee makers such as French presses and pour-over coffee makers are also popular options for those who enjoy brewing their coffee.
Coffee Maker Barista
A barista is a skilled professional who specialises in preparing and serving coffee-based beverages, typically found in coffee shops, cafes, and other establishments that offer espresso and specialty coffee drinks. The term "barista" originates from Italy, referring to a bartender or someone who works behind a bar.
In the context of coffee, a barista is responsible for creating a wide range of coffee drinks, including espresso shots, cappuccinos, lattes, americano, macchiatos, affogato, caffe mocha, cafe au lait, and more. They often engage in latte art, a creative practice in which they manipulate the milk froth to create intricate designs on the surface of the coffee.
Being a barista involves more than brewing coffee. To deliver top-notch and consistent flavours, you must understand coffee bean traits, grind sizes, extraction times, and milk frothing methods. It also involves interacting with customers, taking orders, and offering personalised recommendations.
Why is a Barista Called a Barista? A Brief History
The term "barista" originates from Italy, where it means "bartender" or "person who works behind a bar." In its original context, "barista" referred to individuals who worked in bars serving alcoholic beverages, much like bartenders do in modern times. Over time, this term took on a more specialised meaning in the context of coffee.
The evolution of the term "barista" to its current meaning is closely tied to the rise of coffee culture and the emergence of espresso-based drinks. In the mid-20th century, especially in Italy, espresso machines became popular, creating a new type of beverage: espresso. Preparing espresso and other coffee drinks required specialised skills and knowledge similar to those needed for bartending.
As a result, individuals skilled in making espresso and other coffee beverages started to be referred to as "baristas." Just as bartenders were responsible for crafting alcoholic drinks, baristas became responsible for preparing coffee drinks, including espresso shots, cappuccinos, lattes, and more.
Today, "barista" is recognised worldwide as the title for a skilled professional who specialises in coffee preparation, focusing on creating not only delicious beverages but also visually appealing ones, often including the art of latte art. The term has become synonymous with making specialty coffee drinks, and baristas are respected for their expertise and the quality of the beverages they produce.
What is a Barista Coffee Maker?
A barista coffee maker is a specialised coffee machine designed to replicate the art and craft of espresso making that is typically found in cafes and coffee shops. Barista coffee makers are aimed at enthusiasts and home baristas who want to create high-quality espresso-based beverages in the comfort of their own homes. They offer more control and precision over the coffee brewing process.
Key Features of Barista Coffee Makers
There are key features that make this type of coffee machine stand out and deliver the barista experience.
- Espresso Brewing: The core function of a Barista coffee maker is to brew espresso shots. Espresso is a concentrated coffee beverage that forms the base for various drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, and Americanos.
- Portafilter and Group Head: Barista machines are equipped with a portafilter and group head, which hold the coffee grounds and facilitate the brewing process. Some models have commercial-style portafilters that provide better heat retention and stability during extraction.
- Grinder: Many Barista coffee makers come with built-in grinders, allowing users to grind coffee beans just before brewing. Freshly ground coffee preserves the flavours and aromas, resulting in a better-tasting espresso.
- PID Temperature Control: PID (Proportional-Integral-Derivative) temperature control systems are used to regulate the water temperature during the brewing process. Temperature stability is crucial for consistent extraction and optimal flavour.
- Steam Wand: A steam wand is a key feature for making milk-based drinks. It froths and steams milk, creating microfoam for lattes and cappuccinos. Achieving the right milk texture is an important aspect of creating quality beverages.
- Manual Control: Barista coffee makers often offer manual controls over variables like grind size, grind amount, tamping pressure, and extraction time. This allows users to customise their espresso shots based on personal preferences.
- Design and Build: Barista coffee makers often have a stylish design, with some models featuring stainless steel construction that adds durability and a professional aesthetic to the kitchen.
While barista coffee makers offer greater control and flexibility, they require more effort and skill than regular coffee makers. As such, they are better suited for those passionate about their coffee and willing to invest time honing their barista skills.
A coffee maker brews coffee and is a kitchen appliance. On the other hand, a coffee maker barista is a skilled pro who excels in preparing coffee-based drinks, often in coffee shops. For the café experience at home, choose the specialised barista coffee maker designed to replicate the espresso-making in cafes and coffee shops.
Coffee Maker Barista Style
"Barista-style coffee" is a coffee beverage prepared and presented like what you might expect from a skilled barista in a coffee shop or cafe. These beverages are often characterised by their premium quality, attention to detail, and artisanal presentation. They aim to replicate the experience of enjoying professionally-crafted coffee drinks in the comfort of your own home.
Key Features of Barista-Style Coffee
There is a remarkable difference between a barista-style coffee drink and an ordinary one. The following are key markers of a barista-style coffee.
#1 - Espresso-Based
Many barista-style coffee drinks are based on espresso, a concentrated coffee brewed by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee under high pressure. Espresso is the foundation for various coffee beverages, such as cappuccinos, lattes, affogato, and Americanos.
#2 - Latte Art
A defining aspect of barista-style coffee is the skillful creation of latte art. This involves pouring steamed milk into espresso in a way that produces aesthetically pleasing patterns or designs on the surface of the drink. It adds an element of visual appeal and craftsmanship to the coffee. However, this skill requires consistent practice and patience to master.
#3 - Milk Frothing
Barista-style coffee often involves properly frothed milk. Baristas are adept at creating different levels of milk foam to suit various drinks. This skill contributes to the texture and taste of the final beverage. Automatic coffee machines now have automatic milk-frothing features, but manual frothing with a steam wand can be more fun.
#4 - Attention to Detail
Barista-style coffee preparation considers various factors, including the quality of the coffee beans, proper grind size, precise extraction time, and temperature control. These factors collectively influence the coffee's flavour, aroma, and overall quality.
#5 - Customisation
Just like in a coffee shop, barista-style coffee allows for customisation. You can choose the type of milk, the coffee's strength, the sweetness level, and other aspects to suit your taste preferences.
#6 - Variety of Drinks
Barista-style coffee encompasses a range of popular coffee beverages, such as lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, flat whites, affogato, latte au lait, and more. Each of these drinks has its unique preparation method and presentation.
#7 - Use of Professional Equipment
While you might not have access to the same commercial-grade espresso machines as a coffee shop, preparing barista-style coffee at home often involves using high-quality home espresso machines, grinders, and other tools to replicate the barista experience.
How to Make Barista-Style Coffee at Home?
Creating barista-style coffee in the comfort of your home requires a blend of technique and attention. I'll go over the step-by-step procedure below to help you prepare those exquisite barista-style coffee drinks.
Step 1: Choose High-Quality Coffee Beans
Start with freshly roasted, high-quality coffee beans. Opt for beans that suit your preferred taste profile, whether light, medium, or dark roast. The bean quality will affect the outcome of your coffee brewing. There are plenty of top-grade Australian coffee beans that you can buy online.
Step 2: Grind Your Coffee
Your coffee's best mate? A fresh grind. Grind those beans just before you’re ready to brew. Consistency is key, so using a burr grinder is your best bet. And remember, the type of drink you're after will dictate your grind size – think finer for espresso and a tad coarser for your regular drip coffee.
Here are the best coffee grinders in Australia if you don’t have a coffee machine with a dedicated grinder. I recommend the Breville Smart Grinder Pro for its large hopper capacity of 450 g, user-friendly design, and 60 precise grind settings.
Step 3: Brew Espresso
Espresso is the base for many popular coffee drinks, including lattes, cappuccinos, and Americanos. Here's how to nail it using an espresso machine:
- Ensure your machine is preheated and properly calibrated.
- Portion and tamp the freshly ground coffee into the portafilter.
- Lock the portafilter into the group head and start the extraction. Aim for about 25-30 seconds for a double shot.
For a broader insight on brewing a perfect espresso, read my detailed guide on how to make the perfect espresso using an espresso machine.
Step 4: Steam and Froth Milk
For milk-based drinks, use the steam wand on your espresso machine for froth milk. Follow these steps for frothy perfection:
- Start with cold milk – it froths up best.
- Position the steam wand just below the surface of the milk.
- Start the steam wand to create microfoam (small, velvety bubbles). Submerge the wand deeper for heating and less froth.
Step 5: Pour and Create Latte Art
Pour the freshly brewed espresso into your cup, then pour the frothed milk in a controlled manner to create latte art. Now, tilt the cup and use wrist movement to guide the milk stream. It's a dance between milk and coffee, and while it may seem straightforward, mastery takes time.
Tips for Brewing Barista-Style Coffee
It takes time and patience to build the experience necessary to brew consistently good barista-style coffee in the comfort of your home. To help you accelerate your process, here are tips from my journey to up your game:
- Temperature Control: The heart of a perfect coffee lies in getting the temperature right. For espresso, aim for 90-96°C (195-205°F). When frothing milk, your sweet spot is around 65°C (150°F).
- Consistency: Keep your brewing process consistent, including grind size, tamping pressure, and extraction time.
- Practice Latte Art: Like any art form, mastering the swirls and patterns of latte art is all about practice. Start simple and gradually challenge yourself with more detailed designs.
- Experiment: Your perfect cup is personal. Play with different coffee-to-water ratios, frothing methods, and extraction times to discover what tickles your tastebuds.
Remember, achieving barista-style coffee at home may take some time and practice. Don't be discouraged if your first attempts aren't perfect; each step is a learning experience that will lead to a coffee you'll be proud to enjoy.
Barista Coffee Makers for Barista Coffee
Based on expert reviews, testing, and ranking, I have curated a list of Australia's top 5 best barista coffee makers. These coffee makers are necessary if you want to try coffee-making like a barista.
1. Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine
Best Overall Barista Coffee Maker
The Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine is a widely recognised and popular option for Australian home coffee enthusiasts crafting espresso-based beverages. It combines an integrated grinder, manual controls, and advanced features to provide a well-rounded coffee-making experience. The machine is built with durable materials, including stainless steel, which adds to its longevity and gives it a sleek and modern appearance.
Best Bits of the Breville Barista Express
The Barista Express Espresso Machine features a high-quality conical burr grinder built directly into the machine. This ensures that you can grind your coffee beans just before brewing, preserving the freshness and flavour of the coffee.
Combined with precise espresso extraction and preinfusion, the machine offers manual control over grind size, grind amount, and tamp pressure. There's also the pressure gauge for real-time feedback on extraction pressure.
Breville's Barista coffee maker includes a preinfusion function for richer coffee aroma development. It features a steam wand with enough control to rotate to 360 degrees, which enables you to create rich, creamy microfoam for lattes and cappuccinos. You also get a digital temperature control (PID) that maintains a stable water temperature throughout brewing. This is crucial for achieving consistent espresso shots.
While it offers manual controls, the Barista Express features a user-friendly interface with dedicated buttons for single and double shots and an easy-to-read display. The machine includes a magnetic tamper and a built-in dosing tool for consistent and even coffee grounds distribution.
Drawbacks of the Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine
The Barista Express is also relatively large and might require a fair amount of counter space. Like many espresso machines with integrated grinders, it can also be noisy, especially during grinding. Consider this if you prefer a quieter environment, especially early in the morning.
Likewise, while the built-in grinder is convenient, it might not provide the level of grind adjustments that standalone, higher-end grinders offer. This could impact the precision of your grind size.
2. Gaggia Classic Pro
Best Barista Coffee Maker Without Grinder
The Gaggia Classic Pro is a well-regarded semi-automatic espresso machine first released in 1991. Its classic design, durability, and ability to produce high-quality espresso shots are trademarks of the barista coffee maker.
Gaggia's Classic Pro is built with sturdy and durable stainless steel housing, contributing to its longevity and adding a touch of classic elegance to the kitchen countertop. It has a 2.1 litre water tank that gives you enough capacity to brew with.
Best Bits of the Gaggia Classic Pro
The machine features a commercial-style, 58 mm heavy-duty portafilter and group head and offers better heat retention and stability during the extraction process, resulting in consistent espresso shots. The Solubles Retention System (SRS) in the portafilter allows for a cleaner and drier puck after brewing, simplifying the cleaning process and ensuring better flavour extraction.
Gaggia also offers a steam wand on the Classic Pro, which is effective at frothing milk for lattes and cappuccinos. It provides enough steam pressure for creating microfoam, a key element in crafting velvety milk-based drinks. Unlike the Breville Barista Express, you won't have much movement around the wand, but it does froth powerfully. There is also a rotating dial on the side that allows you to control the steam pressure.
Even better, the machine's rapid heat-up time means you won't have to wait long between brewing and steaming, making the coffee-making process more efficient. It has a single aluminium boiler that heats up pretty fast; you won't have to wait beyond five minutes to have your hot coffee ready.
Drawbacks of the Gaggia Classic Pro
The Gaggia Classic Pro is a semi-automatic machine, meaning you must understand coffee brewing techniques to get the best results. This could be a con if you prefer fully automated machines.
And unlike the Breville Barista Express, the Gaggia Classic Pro has no built-in grinder, so you must purchase a separate grinder for fresh coffee beans. This adds to the initial cost and counter space required.
It also has limited programmability compared to other machines; there are no preset drink options or digital interfaces.
3. De'Longhi La Specialista Arte
Best With Thermoblock Heating
The De'Longhi La Specialista Arte is a semi-automatic coffee machine designed to cater to the demands of coffee lovers who seek precision, control, and the ability to craft a variety of coffee beverages with professional-level results.
The machine also packs enough tools to get going on purchase. First, you get a free stainless steel milk pitcher. Then, there is a tamping mat, a tamper, a water hardness test kit, a descaler solution, a dosing funnel, single and double shot filters, and a cleaning brush and needle, all included. You will also get a tamping and dosing guide to get you started.
De’Longhi La Specialista Arte Pros
The La Specialista Arte features a thermoblock heating system that ensures optimal temperature control for brewing and steaming. This allows you to brew espresso shots and froth milk simultaneously, reducing waiting times and enhancing efficiency. The steam wand is efficient, allowing you to get the best steam pressure for perfect frothing.
It has a stainless steel conical burr grinder that allows users to adjust the grind size. The precision grinding ensures consistent results and optimal extraction, contributing to the quality of each cup of coffee. There are eight grind levels for you to experiment with and a three-level control over the temperature on the De’Longhi La Specialista Arte.
Wondering if we’re still discussing a semi-automatic coffee machine? Well, that’s a master touch from De’Longhi. You can easily select between Espresso, Americano, or Hot water with a smooth dial on the De’Longhi La Specialista Arte. Technically, the hot water does not qualify as a coffee drink, but it is still a worthy improvement for a semi-automatic machine.
De’Longhi La Specialista Arte Cons
The numerous advanced features and customisation options of the La Specialista Arte might be overwhelming for users new to espresso machines. The learning curve might be steep for beginners.
And, while not overly large, the La Specialista Arte might require a fair amount of counter space, making it less suitable for smaller kitchens with limited room to spare. It is also a bulky machine weighing 9.8 kg.
4. Breville Barista Pro Coffee Espresso Machine
Best With LCD Display
The Breville Barista Pro Coffee Espresso Machine is another semi-automatic coffee machine with a dedicated grinder. Renowned for its precision, user-friendly features, and sleek design, this espresso machine offers a comprehensive experience for coffee enthusiasts who want to explore the world of espresso, cappuccinos, and lattes at home.
The Breville Barista Pro has an LCD screen and easy-to-use buttons. The digital display and intuitive controls make it easy for beginners and experienced users to customise their espresso settings. You can control the grind size, brewing temperature, and filter size. This is more than decent for a semi-automatic espresso machine.
Best Bits of the Breville Barista Pro
First, the built-in, conical burr grinder, with size adjustments, ensures that you have freshly ground coffee for every shot, preserving the aroma and flavour of the beans. It combines this with a PID temperature control system that ensures stable water temperature during extraction, leading to more consistent and flavourful shots.
Breville's steam wand can create microfoam that enhances the quality of milk-based beverages, allowing for latte art and creamy textures. The steam wand is quite similar to that of the Barista Express but slightly sturdier. Likewise, you get the preinfusion function, like most Breville coffee machines.
Preinfusion is a short moment of magic that intensifies your coffee taste and aroma. It is a process of dampening the ground coffee for a short while under low pressure before brewing. The Barista Pro gives you the option of adjusting the preinfusion time.
Breville Barista Pro Cons
The Barista Pro, with a price tag slightly above $800, might be considered steep. It is about $100 more than the Barista Express, which can be a concern when you consider that there is no serious gap between what the two machines offer in functionality.
The integrated grinder can be relatively noisy during operation. You cannot have a quick coffee cup early in the morning without waking up a family member. That can be a bother or not if you have a deep sleeper.
5. Sunbeam Barista Max Coffee Machine
Best Value Barista Coffee Maker
The Sunbeam Barista Max Coffee Machine is a compact coffee maker below the $500 mark. It has an integrated grinder, making it a good value for money at that price.
Sunbeam offers beginners an excellent place to start their home barista journey without taking much out of their cash flow. The best part is that you can opt for the Barista Mini option for way less and a sacrifice on the grinder. Let us see the Pros and Cons.
Sunbeam Barista Max Pros
One of the standout features is the integrated conical burr grinder with 30 adjustable grind settings. This allows users to grind coffee beans just before brewing, preserving the flavour and aroma of the coffee. It features a preinfusion function that wets the coffee grounds before extraction and thermoblock heating technology for fast and consistent heating.
The machine uses a PID temperature control system to maintain a consistent brewing temperature, contributing to more accurate extraction and flavour consistency. It has a Temperature IQ function that combines the Preinfusion, Thermoblock, and PID temperature control functions for great coffee brewing.
Even better, the Barista Max has auto volume control and shot timers, allowing you to customise the shot extraction time for single and double shots, and a steam wand capable of producing decent milk froth for lattes and cappuccinos. While not as advanced as some higher-end machines, it's suitable for basic milk-based drinks. It also comes with a 460 ml stainless steel milk pitcher.
Drawbacks of the Sunbeam Barista Max
The Barista Max incorporates plastic components in its construction, which might impact its overall durability and longevity compared to machines with more metal components.
Likewise, as with any espresso machine, there's a learning curve associated with achieving consistent results. The Barista Max is no exception; beginners might need time to master the techniques.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some frequently asked questions about barista coffee makers.
What is a Barista coffee maker, and how does it differ from regular coffee makers?
A Barista coffee maker is a type of coffee machine designed to replicate the espresso-making process commonly found in cafes. It allows you to brew espresso shots, which form the base for various coffee beverages like lattes, cappuccinos, and Americanos. Unlike regular coffee makers that brew drip coffee, a Barista coffee maker typically offers more control over variables like grind size, extraction time, and milk frothing, enabling you to create a wider range of coffee drinks.
Can I use pre-ground coffee with a Barista coffee maker?
Yes, most Barista coffee makers allow you to use pre-ground coffee. However, using freshly ground coffee is often recommended for better flavour. If your Barista coffee maker has a built-in grinder, you can grind your beans just before brewing to preserve the coffee's aroma and taste.
What is the importance of a PID temperature control system in a Barista coffee maker?
A PID (Proportional-Integral-Derivative) temperature control system is essential in a Barista coffee maker because it helps maintain a consistent and precise brewing temperature. Temperature stability is crucial for proper coffee extraction and flavour consistency. With a PID system, the coffee maker can quickly adjust and maintain the water temperature, ensuring that each shot of espresso is brewed at the optimal temperature for the best taste.
Can I make milk-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos with a Barista coffee maker?
Yes, most Barista coffee makers come with a steam wand that allows you to froth and steam milk, making it possible to create milk-based coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. The steam wand helps you achieve creamy and velvety milk foam, which is essential for enhancing the texture and flavour of these beverages.
Is a Barista coffee maker suitable for beginners?
Barista coffee makers vary in complexity, but many are designed with user-friendly interfaces to cater to beginners. However, using a Barista coffee maker does involve a learning curve, as you'll need to understand factors like grind size, tamping pressure, and extraction time to achieve the best results. If you're new to espresso brewing, consider starting with a machine that offers semi-automatic features and provides guidance through the process. With practice and experimentation, beginners can gradually improve their barista skills.
The Final Shot
Investing in a barista coffee maker can elevate your coffee experience by enabling you to craft expertly brewed beverages at home. Each machine has pros and cons, catering to different expertise and preferences.
Whether you're seeking the perfect machine for your home or looking to upgrade your cafe's equipment, our guide provides invaluable insights through reviews and a careful examination of the pros and cons.
With the right Barista Coffee Maker, you can elevate your coffee-making experience, savouring every cup of expertly brewed coffee to its fullest potential. Remember to consider your brewing style, skill level, and budget as you decide.