Breville Barista Max espresso machine review

We've reviewed the Breville Barista Max espresso machine to see just how pro you can go when you make coffee at home

Breville Barista Max espresso machine review by Real Homes
(Image credit: Breville)
Real Homes Verdict

A stylish bean to cup coffee machine for near-esteemed home coffee brewers that are looking to go pro, with some top notch equipment

Reasons to buy
  • +

    All the features of a commercial machine

  • +

    Easy to use

  • +

    Built-in grinder

  • +

    Customisable extraction temperature and other features

  • +

    Good value

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Could do with a temperature indicator

  • -

    Milk frother not so powerful

  • -

If you're into proper coffee, and want to take your coffee at home experience to the next level, then having a top rated bean to cup coffee machine about, like the Breville Barista Max espresso machine, is a great place to start. 

Smart-looking and complete with all the clever tech you'd expect from a commercial coffee machine, I couldn't wait to put this model to the test. And, as expected, it was a good experience.

Keep scrolling to see how to fared it one seriously coffee-loving home.

  • Looking for more coffee machine options? No worries: see our best coffee machines guide for 12 more top buys for your morning caffeine fix

Barista Max specifications

  • Type: ground/bean to cup
  • Pressure: 15 bar
  • Capacity: 2.8 litres
  • Dimensions: 407 x 347 x 322 mm

BREVILLE VCF126 Barista Max Coffee Machine

Product shot of the Breville Barista Max espresso machine 

(Image credit: Currys PC World)

Who will the Barista Max suit? 

The Breville Barista Max will suit anyone who likes a solid espresso and more high quality coffee experience at home. It's a good buy for anyone that works from home (like myself) and who wants the option of making fancier coffees every once in a while.

It took a little getting used to, as I've been using a cafetière/percolator most of my life, but once you know what you're doing it runs like a well-oiled machine, and delivers a really good cup of coffee whenever you need it.

Getting started

There's a lot to this machine, and although all its features are stylishly packed away, you need to familiarize yourself with all of them before getting started.

As it's a sizeable machine, you'll want to find it a good spot on your counter, where you can get to the water tank easily. Once in position, you can start washing, drying and placing the parts/accessories all into place. This includes the drip tray, one and two cup filter baskets, a 460ml milk jug, plus a few nifty cleaning utensils: cleaning disk, pin and brush. 

It's worth noting that if you're new at this, you'll soon adopt some more barista vocabulary. Think 'Top Burr', 'Bean Hopper' and 'Tamper', it's all naturally part of the package.

First use

Once the machine and all its components are in place, it doesn't need heaps of priming, which is brilliant. You simply need to fill up the water tank and press the power on button. This will illuminate the 'start' and 'grinder' light, which will flash. Once all the buttons are illuminated, the machine is ready for priming, then use. 

You'll want to purge a couple of main parts of the machine, starting with the group handle, then the steam wand, ahead of making your first cup.

BREVILLE VCF126 Barista Max Coffee Machine

The freshly ground coffee beans are now ready for pouring

(Image credit: Currys PC World)

The basics of espresso extraction

Grinding your coffee beans is the first, and most key step in creating the ultimate coffee. Thankfully, Breville's guidelines start you off on the right track: from advice on using freshly roasted coffee beans, to grinding and extraction temperature tips, you're in good hands. While some may take to it straight away, I personally found it took a little getting used to. This isn't too much of an issue, as the coffee is still good, but it's even more satisfying when you get it right and, practice makes perfect.

The Barista Max has a total of 30 different grind levels. One, delivering the fastest extraction and 30, the slowest. The optimal and recommended 'pour time' is between 20-30 seconds, and this will deliver a rich, caramel colored espresso that is robust, sweet and vibrant. Breville recommends you start on 20.

The coffee beans and the grind setting are mighty important, then it's all about the dosage and tamp force. You want to grind enough beans for about 13-15g for one cup and 20-22g for two cups, then you're looking for about 10-15Kg of tamp force, pivoting the tamp a little as you go.

Another vital part of ensuing the best extraction, is temperature. Breville Max's default is set to 92°c, but you can actually customise this to suit your needs. 

You can also customize the pre-infusion profile, to give your espresso the perfect finish for your taste. There are three profiles to choose from in total: gentle, distinct and constant. You can then, of course, return to the default settings if you wish.

Using the milk frother

The Breville Barista Max's wouldn't be complete without it, however, it's not one of its best features. There's no ability to customize the power and temperature and I find the quality of the finish, not so impressive. The milk will be warm but often lacks in texture.

The jug included is large enough for a variety of coffee drinks and you can, of course, use dairy milk alternatives like soy, oat or almond milk. Breville does include advice in the manual on how to best steam these also.

Otherwise the wand is easy to wipe clean, and by turning the steam dial anti-clockwise, you can remove any remaining milk in the wand.

Coffee creations

Breville's Max espresso machine does give you access to a full coffee shop menu. From the classic espresso to macchiatos, babyccinos, mochas and more, there is a full list of speciality coffee recipes and other hot drinks that you can try to recreate.

With it being a bean to cup machine, you do enjoy a full flavor profile and it's great getting to know the best grind setting for the your favorite beans. A simple espresso will be complete with a lovely crèma layer, aromatic, and at a good temperature also. It's the steam wand that can be temperamental at times which I can imagine would be a nuisance if you're a dedicated Flat White artist. 

It's quick and easy to use, so makes a great first bean to cup coffee machine to impress your household, parents and any guests alike.

Cleaning and maintenance

Some parts should be cleaned after each use which is easy, and others weekly – for which there are cleaning tablets available and a cleaning cycle to run. Some need maintenance every 2-3 months like the filter baskets and grind outlet. 

For the daily parts, some are dishwasher safe (top shelf only) while others can easily be cleaned by hand. And there is a specific de-scaling cycle to run also when needed.

About the reviewer

Camille Welch is the Digital Editor at Real Homes and when she's not looking for the latest kitchen looks or garden trends, she's making a cup of coffee. It could be the French in her but good coffee, brewed in a great machine, is paramount. When it comes to coffee machines, she prefers bean to cup, so the stakes are high in terms of design, ease of use and taste. If you're really into coffee and rarely without a flat white, you can count on one of these reviews.

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Camille Dubuis-Welch

Camille is Digital Editor at Realhomes.com and joined the team in January 2020. As an interior design aficionado, when she’s not developing evergreen content and furiously researching keywords, she is most definitely finding new ways to spruce up her rented space, usually involving a houseplant or two. She loves the challenge that comes with making a room look stylish and feel homely, and her ultimate goal is to renovate the house of dreams, somewhere marvellously sunny with a wild and lavish garden, of course.