It’s an espresso machine which automatically froths milk to your desired temperature and froth quality. Even a superfine micro-foam capable of pouring latte art. And even if art isn’t your thing, you’re going to love how much of a difference barista quality froth makes in your drinks.
Hey latte lovers, Marc here from Whole Latte Love. Today I’ve got an in-depth look at the Breville Barista Touch. Along the way I’ll show you how to make a custom flat white. So I’ve gotta say right of the bat, if you love milk-based espresso beverages like those flat whites, lattes, and cappuccinos, and a drink quality that’s the same or better than what you’d get in a cafe, Breville’s barista touch is one of the easiest and most cost effective way to get them.
The machine combines a high quality burr grinder, semi-automatic espresso brewing, and highly controllable automatic milk frothing in a single unit. A touch screen controls all functions except for grind size adjustment. From the screen you select from espresso, Americano, latte, flat white or cappuccino. You can use the default settings or customize those drinks including: grind duration, your espresso — so you can do a single, a double or timed duration extraction — and then what I think is the coolest part, you can set your milk temperature ranging from 110 degrees up to 170. But, even hotter? You’ve got eight levels of froth density to choose from. At a setting of one you’ll get a superfine micro foam, with a delicate silky smooth mouthfeel and latte art capabilities. As you go up to higher settings you get an increasingly airier froth — what you’d use for a classic cappuccino.
Checking all the Boxes
Beyond the default drinks, you can create and save eight of your own with a custom icon and name. And you can base those off a default drink if you want. For instance I adjusted the default flat white which I’ll make in a minute. I set a grind time of twenty seconds, a milk temp of one hundred forty degrees, and a froth level of two. Then I press the cup plus icon to start saving. Next I can adjust my brew time if desired and then press the checkmark to save these settings. Next I choose an icon for the drink and give it a name. I’ll call this one Marc F-W for flat white… Press the checkmark and now my creation is part of the main screen. Again, you can save up to eight custom drinks. Really nice if you have a number of people using the machine, or you could create custom drinks for different days or times.
Breville’s automatic and controllable milk frothing really is incredible! Ya know, I get more questions on frothing technique than any other topic. Stuff like, "Marc, how do I froth milk for latte art?" Or, "Marc, it’s too airy, too cold, too hot and I’m making a mess, what do I do?" The truth of the matter is frothing takes good technique and lot’s of practice.
Or, you can skip the techniques and practice and go with the Barista Touch for easy, automatic barista quality frothing that’s consistent and controllable.
A Barista at the Touch of a Button
So how does it work? Well, like I said, you choose the temperature and froth quality. Fill the pitcher to between the lines, lift the wand, press milk button, and the machine does the rest. A sensor on the drip tray monitors milk temperature and air is injected into the milk based on your froth setting. One for less air and on up to eight for an airier froth. As the milk is frothed, the display shows the current temperature. When it reaches your set temperature, frothing stops automatically. Now we like 140 degrees for best flavor. But have it how you like. It’s adjustable in 10 degree increments from 110 degrees up to a burn-your-tongue one hundred seventy.
I did some testing to see how accurate the finished milk temps were. In general, I found about five degrees of overshoot. That’s not surprising and could be due to ambient conditions or just plain old lag. Even when frothing manually with a thermometer, there’s lag so you need to stop about ten degrees cooler than your desired temperature.
So that milk system is awesome, but let’s look at the espresso side of things. Whole bean coffee is loaded into a hopper with a half pound capacity and fed to a conical burr grinder. A wheel on the side adjusts grind size in 30 steps which shows in the display. Coffee dose is adjustable by time. Grinding starts by pushing the button on the display or by pressing in momentarily with the portafilter. If desired you can grind manually by pressing in the portafilter and holding it in place. The portafilter rests in a cradle so you can grind hands free.
The portafilter is 54 millimeters and comes with standard single and double shot baskets, and dual wall pressurized baskets for use with pre-ground coffee. The machine comes with a useable tamper which has a built in holder. In my testing the double basket had a maximum capacity of about 17 grams. Now you could squeeze in a little more by overfilling but you are likely to have a little spill onto the drip tray depending on the grind size setting.
Lock the portafilter into the group and you’re ready to brew using automatic single or double shot extractions. Or, you can choose an automatic extraction time or go completely manual. Brew temperature is PID controlled for accuracy. You can adjust it in the main menu. My testing showed at the ideal setting, it produced a brew temperature of about 199 degrees. You’ve got four steps hotter or colder on either side of ideal to suit your coffee.
The machine has automatic pre-infusion. That wets the coffee and slowly builds up to full brewing pressure for deeper more aromatic extractions.
A Look at Custom Drinks
So let's make my custom flat white. I’m using a grind setting of seven and grind time of twenty seconds which gives me a coffee dose of about 16 grams. After the coffee grinds, I use the tamper to evenly compress the coffee, and lock the portafilter into the brew group. I’ve set a custom brew time of thirty-five seconds which will make a two ounce espresso in about twenty-five seconds from first drip after that pre-infusion.
While my espresso is extracting I’ll fill my frothing pitcher a little above the minimum line, lift the frothing wand, and place my pitcher so it covers the temperature sensor. When my espresso is done, I press the milk button to start frothing. I’ve got my milk programmed for 140 degrees and a froth level of two for a very fine micro-foam. Once the milk reaches temperature, frothing stops. I remove the pitcher and wipe the wand clean. Pushing the wand down starts an automatic purge which runs hot water thru the wand so it’s all cleaned and ready to go for next time.
I give my pitcher a few swirls to polish the texture, and then pour over my espresso and that’s it. My flat white, customized just the way I like it.
Other details: The Barista touch is compact at just under 16 inches high and 12.5 inches wide. A more compact setup than a separate machine and grinder. The exterior is predominately metal. A 2-liter water reservoir can be filled at the machine or removed for filling at the sink. It comes with a water filter, a variety of tools, and the frothing pitcher. The drip tray slides out the front and behind that is a box for holding tools and accessories.
The Barista Touch reduces the skill required to make consistently excellent barista quality drinks, it’s easy to use even if you are a total beginner, and it’s clean and quick. The milk froth quality is amazing. You get professional features like pre-infusion, PID brew temperature control and more at a lower cost than a traditional separate machine and grinder package.
The Breville Barista touch is a modern take on espresso. It’s available now from Whole Latte Love. If you have questions on this machine or anything coffee use those comments and I’ll get you the answers. I’m Marc, thanks for reading.