Breville seems to have a product for your every need and the BES840XL Infuser Espresso Machine is no exception.
Sitting at a price point between the more popular Barista Express and the Duo Temp, the Infuser focuses on providing a stellar cup of espresso without treading into the territory of high-end espresso machines or adding too many extra bells and whistles.
We wondered if the Infuser was really worth the purchase: it’s not quite a budget machine, but it’s also not fancy enough to compete with dual boiler machines. Here is what we think of this solid, mid-range product.
classic design & history never goes out of style
the price fairly matches its reputation in the industry
our rating, based on our sound and impartial assessment
The biggest selling point for the appropriately named Infuser is the pre-infusion feature, which evenly coats espresso grounds at a low pressure before beginning full extraction.
One of the many keys to the art of making a quality espresso is to ensure that your espresso grinds are evenly extracted. The goal of pre-infusion is to saturate the coffee grounds with a controlled volume so that each grind then extracts at the same rate.
The pre-infusion feature, in addition to the internal PID temperature control and 15 bar pump, is what makes the Infuser a quality espresso maker. Beyond that, you won’t find many extra features beyond some simple user-friendly additions:
The Infuser fits an interesting market gap: it’s not a budget machine but it’s also not quite fancy enough to be a high-end machine either. We think the best consumer for this product is someone who is experienced enough in espresso making that they are willing to pay extra for better quality shots but who isn’t looking for the gadgets and gizmos that come on some of the more expensive, dual boiler machines.
Rather, the Infuser is designed to produce quality espresso without investing thousands of dollars. If you are new to espresso-making, we recommend looking at the Duo-Temp Pro or Gaggia Classic. Those machines allow you to practice your shot-pulling skills without the financial investment required from the Infuser.
The Infuser will give you a quality espresso with no-frills attachments. You won’t find anything particularly exceptional about the Infuser other than well-built, user-friendly features and the sparkling pre-infusion feature.
Here is our breakdown of the Infuser.
Performance & Quality
The Infuser is capable of producing consistently good espresso. It uses an automatic pre-infusion function to evenly coat grounds with low-pressure water at the beginning of extraction for a better overall tasting shot. If that right there is enough for you to invest the extra money in the Infuser then this is likely the machine for you.
Pre-infusion is a rare feature on machines with a lower price point so the fact that the Infuser does it without treading into the price ranges of dual boiler espresso makers is impressive. The Infuser also uses a 15 bar Italian pressure pump and 1600w stainless steel thermocoil single boiler system with PID to keep temperature and pressure stable during espresso extraction. All of these elements are essential to pulling a really great shot.
However, there is a limit to what you can do with the Infuser and therefore a limit to how great you can make your shot. You won’t get a ton of control over some of the more fine-tune parts of espresso-making so consider that if you are looking for more autonomy over your machine.
The manual steaming wand is perfectly adequate for a machine of this caliber and will give you decent milk for latte art. However, there will not be a lot of finesse involved if you want to switch between steamed and frothed milk for cappuccinos and lattes.
The included tamper is nifty in that it magnetically attaches to the machine for easy storage, but we feel that it leaves a lot to be desired. If you’re a skilled barista, you likely already have a favorite tamp and will be unimpressed with the one included. If you are newer to the game, we suggest investing in a tamper that is a little heavier and sturdier so that you have an easier time learning how to tamp correctly.
The Infuser has an average learning curve when it comes to espresso machines. Don’t expect to pull a perfect shot the first time, but espresso-making is never a guarantee so we’re hoping you’re ready for some trial and error if you are ready to invest in an at-home espresso maker.
If you are an experienced or skilled barista, keep in mind that the Infuser does not allow you to control the pressure or temperature of your espresso extraction. You can opt to manually control shot volume, but you don’t have control over much else.
Also keep in mind that because this is a single boiler machine, there is a waiting period between when you can pull a shot and steam milk. The machine does a fairly good job of purging itself to speed that process along, but you’ll still have to wait for the temperature to adjust before you can go back and forth between steaming and extraction. This is something to keep in mind if you plan on entertaining.
There are some additional user-friendly features on the Infuser that come with many Breville products and make for an easier experience. We like the “clean me” light that comes on at the front of the machine when it’s time to descale and the “empty me” sign that literally pops up when you need to empty your drip tray.
As far as durability goes, the Infuser ranks right along with most of Breville’s at-home espresso maker: somewhere in the middle.
Most of the body of this machine is made of stainless steel, which is a sturdy, durable choice for a machine that is likely to get a lot of use during its lifetime.
The upgrade from a thermoblock heating element to a thermocoil system means that this machine will perform well for a longer period of time. The lesser quality thermoblock systems often do not get hot enough and will eventually fail and need to be replaced, often meaning you’ll have to buy a whole new machine.
However, what we don’t like about the Infuser and many other Breville machines is the use of plastic on some of the smaller machine parts. Most of these areas will not come into direct contact with your hot espresso, but it does lower the overall durability rating. Plastic, even BPA-free plastic, is not the highest quality material.
In short, if you take good care of the Infuser (regularly descale, use good quality beans, etc.) you should get a decent lifespan out of it.
How Does It Compare?
This is a strange machine to compare because it seems to create its own little niche out of the market. However, as far as basic, high-quality machines with a mid-range price go, we can compare the Infuser to two other products: the Gaggia Classic and the Breville Barista Express.
The Gaggia Classic is a popular starter espresso machine, and for good reason. It’s chrome-plated brass portafilter, 17 bar pump, and three-way solenoid valve are all commercial-grade features packed into a novice-friendly machine. In this regard, the Gaggia has the ability to outperform the Infuser just in the quality of espresso alone.
However, the Gaggia lacks some of the heating element quality that is built into the Infuser, namely the fact that the boiler is made from aluminum. In terms of durability, both machines are scattered with plastic buttons and various small components, but the Infuser has an edge with the higher quality boiler.
We prefer the Gaggia as a starter machine because it’s not a huge investment, produces outstanding espresso, and is just an all-around good machine to get you used to the art of pulling espresso shots. The Infuser is better for a consumer who already understands what they’re doing and is willing to pay for a better heating element and improved extraction methods.
For a slightly higher price point than the Infuser, Breville makes the Barista Express. This is a hugely popular machine that we highly recommend for espresso enthusiasts of all skill levels. The Barista Express shares the same heating element, pressure pump, and PID system as the Infuser. Since they are made by the same company, there isn’t much variation in quality.
The main difference between these two machines is the built-in grinder included with the Barista Express and the generally wider set of programmable features. If you like the Infuser, but wouldn’t mind the included grinder, go ahead and go with the Barista. Otherwise, they are almost identical machines.