Around 18 months ago we decided that it was time to invest in a decent espresso maker. We had previously owned a Nespresso machine as well as a faulty second hand espresso maker that was, needless to say, less than satisfactory. So it was time to upgrade. We did our research. We knew that we were willing to spend up to $500 or so to get a machine that would last, that would make delicious shots, and that would be easy to navigate for beginning brewers. And so with some trepidation we brought the Breville Infuser espresso machine…and came to love it!
This is a great little machine that we use multiple times a day. It is user-friendly, customisable for the veteran brewer, makes a great shot of coffee, and has a stack of mid to high end features at an entry level price! What really sets apart the Infuser from other comparable machines is the pre-infusion function for crema-rich shots, the PID controlled and adjustable water temperature, and the auto-purge function which allows for a quick transition from steaming milk to optimal shot extraction.
Breville the Infuser
Who is the Breville Infuser for?
The Barista Infuser is a great option for the beginning brewer who is serious about learning to pull a shot or the more experienced home barista who wants quality at an affordable price.
What’s to love about the Breville Infuser?
Probably the biggest attraction of the Infuser is the pre-infusion function from which the machine gets its name. Basically the espresso maker inserts a small amount of water at low pressure which soaks the ground coffee and allows it to expand before the main extract at full pressure. This initial water “infuses” all the irregularities in the tamped grinds and so makes for an even extraction of the coffee puck. This is a feature which is common in high end and commercial machines and is great for both beginning brewers and professional baristas.
Customisable Volumetric Control
One of the best things about the Infuser is that it is a great option for both the brewer just beginning to dip his toes into the espresso world and the experienced home barista who is all about pulling the perfect shot. The Infuser has both pre-programmed single and double shot buttons for the newbie as well as an optional manual override for the veteran which can be set as the new norm.
PID Controlled Adjustable Water Temperature
As you will likely know water temperature is a key parameter for optimal extraction on espresso machines. The Infuser boasts a PID (Proportional-Integral-Derivative for those who love acronyms) controller which carefully regulates the water temperature with great precision. In fact, in the Infuser the espresso expert can even manually adjust the water temperature in 2F increments up to 4F above or below the standard temperature. This is a great feature for the advanced espresso lover.
Water is heated in the Infuser by circulating it around a 1600W heating block called a “thermocoil.” The auto-purge function automatically adjusts the water temperature after using the steam wand for a quick transition (max 15s normally) to optimal extraction temperature.
As noted above, we bought this machine as relative newbies to the espresso world. We have consistently found the Infuser to be easy to navigate and very user friendly. The buttons are well labelled and straightforward, the manual steaming wand is easy to use and master, and the option of either pressurized (Double Wall), or unpressurized (Single Wall) portafilter baskets is great for beginners. As with virtually all decent espresso machines, the Infuser pulls the best shots with the richest crema when using beans that have just been ground rather than beans that have been pre-ground. We use a Rancilio Rocky with the Infuser and find they work a treat together. It is also worth noting that you will find it far easier to transition to the single wall baskets when using freshly ground beans (provided you are using a decent burr grinder!).
The steaming wand on the Infuser is great for beginners but we have found it a little on the weak side. As espresso rookies we found the steam wand relatively easy to achieve the desired microfoam but does take a little longer than some other machines. The tip of the steaming wand also needs to be cleaned in a specific way to prevent it blocking up.
Another feature that really sets apart the Infuser in terms of functionality is the pressure gauge. This gauge on the front of the machine shows you the pressure used in the extraction process with tan area between two screws coloured to show the optimal espresso pressure of 9 bars. We have found this gauge to be immensely helpful both for the process of dialing in a grinder and for experimenting with tamping pressure.
It is also worth noting that we have found the Infuser to be incredibly durable and lasting. We have used our Infuser multiple times every day for the past 18 months and it still looks and works as good as new! This Australian company is fast growing a reputation for quality coffee gear that lasts and we have certainly found the Infuser to fit the bill.
Other Notable Features
- Hot Water Dispenser for Americanos or Long Blacks
- Removable 61oz Water Reservoir
- Relatively Compact size of 10.2 x 12.5 x 13.2 inches
- 15 bar Italian Single Boiler Pump
- Removable Drip Tray with ‘empty me’ feature so you don’t need to constantly check it
- Elegant brushed stainless steel design
- Dry Puck feature for easy and clean removal of grounds
- ‘Clean me’ light which shows the machine needs to go through the cleaning process which is relatively straight forward.
- Sleep mode kicks in after an hour and auto shut off after three hours
What’s not to Love about the Breville Infuser?
There are a number of relatively minor complaints that we and others have had with this espresso maker.
Useless Cup Warmer
The Infuser maximises on space and so converts the top of the machine into an intentionally designed cup warmer. However, the sad truth is that this cup warmer is pathetic and so we almost always opt instead to heat our cups with the hot water dispenser (needless to say this is a bit of a pet peeve!).
Less than satisfactory Drip Tray
The removable Drip Tray on the Infuser is both too small and lacks functionality. We probably end up emptying the drip tray after every two or three coffees which can be a pain. Even more irritating is that almost without exception water will have leaked into the storage container which sits behind the drip tray (for which reason we never use this for storage).
Cannot extract and steam simultaneously
Because the Infuser only has a single boiler it does not allow the user to steam the milk while the coffee is being extracted. This means that you have to steam your milk prior to pulling the shot. To be fair almost no other machines in this price bracket have double boilers which allow for simultaneous use, but it would be nice :). Also as noted above, while the steam wand works well, but it would be nice if it was more powerful.
Relatively Light Free Tamp
While the free tamp is okay and better than many other free tamps, the experienced home barista will likely find it too light. While it is fine for beginners, the partially plastic and lightweight design will likely not satisfy the more experienced barista and may require the purchase of an additional fully stainless steel tamp.
These complaints about the Infuser are relatively minor points that while real, detract little from the overall extraction process or use of the machine. Still that jolly cup warmer…
So Should you Buy It?
Well it depends on what you are looking for. We believe that this great little machine is a very worthwhile investment for either the beginning home barista who is passionate about mastering espresso or the more experienced brewer who wants quality without breaking the bank. Breville is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the coffee world and the Infuser is a great example of why.
The genius of the Infuser is the combination of high end features and remarkably easy functionality and usability and all at a great price! So should you buy it? Basically our answer and experience is, if you are already looking in the up to $500 or so range and are passionate about understanding and mastering espresso then absolutely Yes!
However, If you are completely new to the espresso scene then this is certainly at the higher price and skill end of what you should be looking for. While from experience we think it is a great machine to learn espresso on, some of the advanced features such as adjustable water temperature are probably more than you need at least to start with. A great alternative for you might be the Breville Duo Temp.
The other group that might find the Infuser unsatisfactory is the espresso expert with a wide range of experience on mid range machines. Because the Infuser is only single boiler it can’t simultaneously extract and steam. Also there is only partial control over temperature and no control over pressure which the trained barista might find frustrating. To be honest though, if this is you then you should probably be looking in the $500-$1000 price bracket rather than under $500.
We have owned our Breville Infuser for around 18 months now and have truly fallen in love with this great little machine. It is easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to make great tasting espresso. And that is really our takeaway. While there are all sorts of nifty features to recommend this espresso maker, the main thing is it makes a great shot of coffee. So whether you are a beginner or veteran home barista, the Breville Infuser is deeply worthy of your consideration. If you are interested in checking out the Breville BES840XL Infuser, you can check it out here.