The Breville Barista Touch (Almost) Turned Me Into a Latte ArtistJanuary 20, 2023
I don’t get along with caffeine. I’ll never forget the time I had a glass of RC Cola as a kid (that was my first mistake, who even drinks that???), and had no idea why I was so ill with unexplainable physical symptoms for the rest of the day. This relationship with caffeine followed me into my teenage angst phase, when I would order sickly sweet Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccinos. Those are so damn good, by the way, but even those fancy milkshake-coffee hybrids sadly sent my body into an anxious state, and I thought I had to say farewell for good to my relationship caffeine. How can something so impeccably tasty be such a traitor? I missed the Frappuccinos, but past loves are in the past for a reason.
You may be thinking, “Why don’t you just visit a coffee shop and order decaf?” It sounds simple on paper, but baristas are in such a rush making elaborate skinny oatmilk mochas with three pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup that they simply don’t give two sh*ts when it comes time to get my order right. The result of that coffee shop chaos means my should-be-decaf order gets messed up more often than not.
To be clear: I love the taste of coffee, but I have trust issues about carefully managing the caffeine content of my drinks. With a particular POV on how I want to caffeinate my body on a daily basis, my solution is to take the artistry of coffee making into my own hands, and that’s how I ended up with the most beautiful coffee machine I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning—the Breville Barista Touch.
If you’re unfamiliar, Breville is an Australian brand founded in Sydney way back in 1932, so it's had plenty of time to become a powerhouse in the at-home coffee-making industry. And, I’m not just saying that—it has proven to me that this glorious espresso machine is, in fact, a workhorse. My first experience in engaging in the world of at-home coffee-making came via Nespresso machines; while many brands produce machines that create capsule-coffee goodness, my past experience has shown me that Breville makes some of the best. But, that was just popping pods into the machine—it’s time to kick things up to a professional level.
I’ve always wanted to be a barista while in high school and college to pick up some extra cash, but it just never happened. Instead, I was a smoothie barista (LOL) and worked at a high-end Italian restaurant and steakhouse that was way too high-brow for me (and mean). Long story short: Now that I have a proper espresso machine, the time has come for me to live out my coffee-making dreams.
The Breville Barista Touch is loaded with features, so unlocking its full potential can be challenging to get the hang of, but it’s also entry-level enough to learn on. It also comes with everything you need to be a coffee master: single and double wall filter baskets, a stainless steel frothing jug, a dose trimming tool, a cleaning kit, a portafilter, tamper, and water filter. At first glance, it is a somewhat big boy that you’ll definitely need counter space for, but it seems pretty easy to operate with its automatic functions. Dare I say this is a coffee machine for dummies? It comes with a variety of pre-programmed drinks that can be automatically made via touchscreen, but I learned it won’t exactly translate to five-star tasting espresso without customizing the settings yourself. There’s one thing that made me really fall in love, though: the automatic milk frother. She’s beauty, she’s grace, and, with that automatic frothing sensor, she froths my almond milk flawlessly better than a teen barista ever would.
The tech behind it
This may be a coffee machine, but it’s also a robotic, espresso-making genius. Grinding whole bean coffee has always intimidated me, but the automatic grinder with 30 different settings does all the work for me and delivers the right dose of coffee right into my puck. You can opt for the manual setting if you wish to control how many seconds it takes to grind, and it can all be controlled and adjusted via touchscreen. Speaking of time: With its 15-bar Italian pump brewing system integrated with a ThermoJet heating system, it takes only three seconds to heat up the water for a piping hot cup of joe. The machine also automatically times the espresso pull and frothed milk if you prefer not to be bothered with getting into the nitty gritty of things. You can also adjust the coffee strength, milk foam level, and temperature, while saving up to eight personalized coffee drinks that you’ve made previously.
What’s tricky about it
Even though this machine boasts a touchscreen that makes everything from a flat white to cappuccino, there’s a lot more strategy behind this machine. Depending on the type of roast your beans are, you need to adjust how coarse and fine the grind is. It sounds easy, but it’s actually pretty tedious and takes pulling many trial-and-error espresso shots to get the taste just right. (Personally, it took a lot of YouTube-watching to educate myself before nailing things down). To practice and play, I treated myself to some local decaf coffee beans from Devocion in Brooklyn. The specific coffee I used was a medium roast with notes of sugarcane. By the time I really got things exactly where I wanted them, I must’ve pulled 20 shots of espresso (over the course of a few weeks).
As of now, I set the burr (the grinding wheel) to four and the coarseness and fineness to a setting of 12. This is an extremely important step to have great-tasting espresso and takes a lot of trial and error to get right. The coffee can either come out under- or over-extracted or (ideally) balanced depending on your settings. Under-extracted coffee will taste sour, finish pouring too quickly, and will be almost unbearable to drink, while over-extracted coffee will taste bitter and be watery. A good shot should be almost sweet, balanced, and have a complex acidity. For my specific roast, the ideal time for it to start expelling espresso is eight seconds and then stop running at 30 seconds.
Latte art is hard [sigh]
The automatic frothing function is one of my favorite features of the Barista Touch, instantly producing warm, foamy milk like you’d get at your favorite coffee shop. The temperature can reach up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit and the machine offers eight frothing levels. I, of course, tried everything up to the highest setting possible because I wanted the
*full experience*. I use almond milk which isn’t the easiest to froth, so I need all the help I can get (although Califia’s Barista Almond Milk is hands-down the foamiest brand I’ve experienced). I’ve tried numerous times to master heart and leaf latte art, but I’m still working to earn the title of a “latte artist.” Even still, I would like to flex my makeshift bunny (or bird???) and janky leaf.
Is it hard to clean?
I’m going to be honest: I haven’t cleaned it much since using it, but I’ve only had it for a few weeks (yes, I’m defending myself). It does, in fact, look easy to clean and it’s stainless steel, which is a simple exterior to wipe clean. To clean the burr, all you have to do is use up all your beans and run it. It will expel the excess. As for the bottom grill where grinds fall, just remove it and wipe clean. After using the milk frothing wand, it automatically expels water to self-clean its tract. Just make sure to remember to wipe the wand clean immediately after use with a wet, clean cloth so dried, stanky milk doesn’t get stuck to this precious metal baby.
My TL;DR is thus: I’ve been having hot dates with my Breville Barista Touch day and night. It’s a great kitchen gadget to make your friends jealous, the star of any party if you want to wow guests with espresso martinis, and simply a game changer for any coffee freak that wants to get into the art of coffee-making and needs some guidance. I never knew making an impeccable espresso shot took so much work, and now I’m highly appreciative of the art behind the coffee. I guess I apologize to all the baristas I cursed out in my head for screwing up my order, but I’d rather make my own (except a select few—I love you Devocion—*chef’s kiss*).
Now, excuse me, I need to practice my latte art.
The Breville Barista Touch is available for purchase at Breville and Amazon.
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