Breville BES840XL the Infuser Espresso Machine
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266 of 282 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon August 21, 2012
Color: Stainless SteelVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Bottom line: I was expecting the Double Boiler to blow the BES840XL out of the water when it came to shot quality. That was not the case at all. While the milk texturing capability of the 840 is a pale shadow of the DB, and it lacks the multitude of convenience features of the DB, the 840 absolutely holds its own with regards to shot quality.

Full review:
I've been using the Breville Double Boiler espresso machine for nearly a year and have been very pleased with it. I was hesitant at first, but great shots and the many, many convenience features won me over. So, when the opportunity came up to compare their top of the line Double Boiler (DB) with their new machine (I'll call it the 840) I thought it wouldn't be a fair fight. Well, I was wrong.

I've never been a fan of thermoblock machines since the temperature stability is just not there. Breville seems to have solved that using two methods. First, the thermoblock is really a thermocoil -- it's a solid block of metal that has two channels machined through it: one for water, the other for the heating element. Cold water enters at one end and emerges heated at the other. They also added a PID for temperature control. Collectively, these techniques produce excellent temperature stability for shots, and very fast recovery time.

The machine itself is classic Breville design -- lots of stainless and high quality plastic. It has a small footprint, and looks much like the baby brother of the DB.

But it's the shots that count. I started with an easy test: Lavazza Super Crema. It's not a high-end bean, but tasty, and one that I've found is very forgiving of less than perfect prep. After a few test shots to get the new machine dialed in, I pulled a double shot from both machines. I could not taste the difference. Did it again and had others taste it, and they agreed with me -- no appreciable difference in taste, mouth feel, crema, you name it.

The next test was a little more challenging -- Lavazza Dek decaf. Decafs in general are (to my palette) more sensitive to temperature variations, and the Dek is especially sensitive. Again, both machines produced the same quality shot. The 840 seemed a just a bit less consistent when I did back-to-back shots quickly, but the difference was very minimal.

My final test was with one of my favorite beans - Red Bird. This is where I did taste a difference between the 840 and the DB, but it was subtle. The shot from the DB was more creamy and full-bodied. But the 840 shot was quite good as well. The small differences became almost nil when I made Americanos from Red Bird.

For my tests I used my Baratza Vario grinder for both machines. While I have a Breville Smart Grinder it does not pair well with the DB (although it is excellent for any non-espresso use). I tried it with the 840 and got better results, but still much prefer the Vario to the Smart Grinder for espresso. Still, the 840 appears more tolerant of lower-level grinders. I also found I needed to go slighly coarser with the grind for the 840 than the DB.

The DB does pull ahead strongly in two areas -- milk foaming and convenience. The thermocoil just can't match the steam production of a dedicated boiler. It did a decent job with milk (albeit with the annoying thump-thump-thump sound that every thermoblock design makes), but it was much slower than the DB and the steam was a lot wetter. Functional, but not at all impressive.

As expected given the price, many of the DB's convenience features are not found on the 840. However, the 840 does have a few of the DB features such as a dedicated hot water dispenser. This is operated with a knob (turn one way for steam, the other for hot water). It splatters more than the DB when dispensing, but the temperature is spot on: I got 197 with the 840 and 197.5 with the DB (same thermometer held in the water stream for 10 seconds).

The 840 also appears to have the same excellent quality head gasket as the DB. The portafilter is well made, although I was really disappointed to see that it was 54mm, which means I can't use my 58mm VST baskets, tamper or the bottomless portafilter I have for the DB. The included tamper is decent quality, and stores easily in the machine. The shot volume is programmable and can be overridden in manual mode. It has a three-way valve so you can backflush (plus it keeps the puck dry). It has an automated cleaning cycle and a "clean me" light, which is handy.

Misses are often related to convenience issues. I wish it was a bit heavier or had better gripping feet, since it's relatively easy to jar when you're putting on the portafilter. A bigger water tank would also be nice. The thing I missed the most was a water level indicator. I didn't expect it to have all the bells and whistles of the DB, but no water level indicator? That seems to be a basic feature that should have been included.

My concerns are two-fold. Breville does not seem to have mastered the reliability issue with their espresso machines. I'm on my second DB, and it is again starting to act up. The Breville customer service has been great in replacing machines, but I'd rather not have to deal with that at all. Plus, with only a one year warranty and no local service centers, I don't have the warm fuzzies about getting years of service out of either of these machines.

My second concern is about scale build-up. It's harmful in any machine, but truly deadly in a thermoblock/coil design. Breville includes their water filters (the same as with the DB) and recommends a descaling every month and a filter change every 2 months. The fact that they are taking such precautions tells me that they are concerned as well. If you get this, don't skimp on descaling!

But those concerns aside, I'm really impressed with the performance of this machine given the price. While it is not perfect, it holds its own where it counts: what's in the cup. This is definitely a machine that should be on your short list in the under $600 category - don't let the thermocoil design scare you off in favor of a SBDU design. At this price point it's a 5-star machine. I'll update this should reliability issues warrant a revision in the score.

Sorry for such a long review, but feel free to post a question if there's something I didn't cover.
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122 of 131 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2013
First and foremost, this is an absolutely fantastic home espresso machine for the price. It definitely takes some practice to learn how to get the most out of and find the sweet spot (which i've learned always differs depending on the type of beans & grinder you are using). But now after 3 months and a LOT of researching/learning/practice/more practice, I am now consistently making absolutely fantastic espresso drinks.

If you are new to the world of espresso, or have some knowledge, I wanted to write about my experience buying this machine 3 months ago knowing little to nothing about espresso, to now consistently pulling absolutely delicious espresso drinks on a daily basis with this machine. Here we go:

I waited 3 months after purchasing this unit to write a proper review, and I wanted to give a lot of information I have learned and discovered to help others looking into buying a home espresso setup. I honestly knew little to nothing about espresso before purchasing this machine, and have done A LOT of research, reading, testing, and barista questioning in order to learn how the art of making quality espresso is done. I now make 2-3 espresso drinks a day with the Infuser and am EXTREMELY satisfied with its performance. It's not easy to make a high quality espresso by any means, but once you figure out how to manage all the important espresso variables (type of beans, grind coarseness, dose, tamp pressure), this machine produces truly remarkable results that any professional barista will be highly impressed with (yes I did receive this feedback).

The most important aspects of making this machine work well (and any espresso machine for that matter) are having a quality grinder and fresh, quality beans.

When I first got this machine, I was under the impression you wanted to grind as fine as possible for making espresso. I set my Infinity Burr Grinder to its finest setting, using some peet's espresso beans, and immediately the machine clogged up, not producing any espresso. I tried again, dialing the grind a little coarser, and again the machine clogged up. Same thing with the third time, although this time I was able to produce a few drops of espresso. After about 5 tries I was able to pull an actual shot of espresso which tasted incredibly strong to me but good (at this point in time I didnt really know what to look for in a quality shot of espresso).

Long story short I realized the beans I was using were INCREDIBLY oily and played a huge factor in easily clogging up my machine. Next I purchased some Blue Bottle espresso beans, which got along with my machine MUCH better. Now I was making some great progress, tasting more like espresso, but still not close to what the baristas at Blue Bottle were serving.

I went through a lot of beans & brands playing with the grind coarseness, and soon became familiar of the "sweet spot" settings on my grinder where the espresso came out tasting best. I was now becoming more familiar with what a good shot of espresso was supposed to taste like after spending a bunch of time at Four Barrel & Blue Bottle cafes in San Francisco. I also learned to start timing my shot times and that also helped me immensely improve the quality of my espresso (typically between 24-30 seconds depending on the type of beans you are using).

So now I soon learned my Capressa Infinity burr grinder did not have nearly the adjustability I would need to lock in the perfect grind setting for espresso, so I decided to upgrade to the Breville Smart Grinder. The Smart grinder ended up being a much better grinder, but again long story short, it also seemed to lack the real "fine tuning" ability that I was learning is truly needed with espresso. After using the Smart Grinder for 3 weeks, I decided to pull the trigger on a much higher quality grinder, the very highly recommended Baratza Vario. After getting familiar with the Vario by some trial & error, I must say this was the ultimate step (and proved to be most important) towards producing amazing quality espresso. I've also ground for drip coffee with it a few times and the taste was truly amazing compared to both of the other grinders I had tried.

So, back to the Infuser. After much more research into the art of espresso, I purchased a gram scale in order to weigh my doses of coffee & amount of liquid being extracted from my shots, which also have helped a LOT in improving the quality of my shots.

Now after a couple solid months with all of the above in my home espresso setup, I believe I have dialed in this machine to its maximum potential, and it is really producing fantastic results which I get excited about drinking every morning as soon as I wake up.

Some notes I would like to share which I have discovered that may or may not relate directly to this machine, or to every espresso machine:

-The type of beans used almost always require a different coarseness setting in order to pull the perfect shot. For example, beans like Four Barrel & Blue Bottle always require much more fine grind settings, where beans like Stumptown & Barefoot require much coarser grinds. This seems to be hard to get used to, but now that I have tried many different quality espresso roasts and have narrowed down my favorites (Sightglass is #1, Stumptown #2, Barefoot #3) I know what setting to use ahead of time and I can almost always nail a perfect shot on command.

-The milk steamer does a great job, but now after trying so many quality cappuccinos & lattes through the area, I feel like this steamer does the milk more on the creamy side. I believe I understand the technique for creating quality microfoam to use for cappuccinos & latte's, and im using the same Clover Organic whole milk that almost all cafe's use, and mine always seems to turn out a bit sweeter & creamier. It seems hard to get the microfoam as velvety thin as Sightglass/Four Barrel/Blue Bottle does, and because of this, my cappuccinos dont have quite the "intense coffee bite" but its getting pretty close. I believe this is as good as I can ask for again using a $500 home espresso machine.

-The hot water dispenser is great. One trick I figured out a while back was when I pulled OK shots and didnt want to waste them, I would just instantly make them into Americano's, since its a bit harder to taste a bad shot in an Americano than it is in a Cappuccino or Latte.

And thus has been my experience with the Breville Infuser since purchasing about 3 months ago. I'm sure I will be updating this review further as time goes on, but so far it has been an incredibly positive experience and I would HIGHLY recommend this machine to anyone looking for a semi-automatic machine in this price range. Hopefully this was helpful and not just me rambling.
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112 of 123 people found the following review helpful
Color: Stainless SteelVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you can't decide between the two, maybe I can help. I've owned the Breville Barista Express BES860XL Machine with Grinder almost 2 years. Eleven months into my 1-year warranty, I woke up to find water all over the counter. Breville has superior customer service and replaced my leaking Barista Express within a week. Two weeks ago I woke up to the same thing with the warranty replacement. It turns out that the Barista Express has a 2 piece ThermoBLOCK heater and the gasket where the 2 pieces join together eventually leaks.

This new Infuser has a one-piece ThermoCOIL heater. Will this one last longer? Only time will tell and I will update this review if I have a leak with this model.

Where the new Infuser excels:
-- Smaller footprint, the Infuser measures slightly over 10" wide
-- Hotter espresso, 5 degrees hotter according to my thermometer
-- Quieter pump
-- Drip tray is easier to clean
-- Instant hot water feature (The Barista Express has only a steam wand)
-- Around $100 less expensive than the Express, but you are lacking a grinder

Of course, the new Infuser also has its shortcomings:
-- No grinder - either buy a separate grinder or use ground beans
-- Smaller water tank (61 oz. vs. 67 oz)
-- Not as "beefy" as the Barista Express, so you need to hold it stationary when inserting/removing the Portafilter or it slides across the counter

So which model has the better tasting coffee? I can't tell any difference - both are/were just as good as what I used to pay for at the coffee shop.

My only complaint is for what these machines cost, a one-year warranty is almost a joke.

Added on 1/4/2013: This ground espresso is VERY good: Lavazza Crema e Gusto Ground Coffee, Italian Espresso, 8.8-Ounce Brick
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2013
---UPDATES 5/25/15---

1. Used this every day for over a year. Solid buy, would do it again. No breakages. I do follow the cleaning instructions religiously.

2. I was wrong about the machine only delivering 1 or 2 ounce cups. This morning I finally read the instructions on how to "program" the machine and made myself a 4-ounce cup of strong coffee, similar to what you find in europe. Divine! I got everything ready as usual. Hit the program button. Hit the "one cup" button. Let it fill up about four ounces. Then hit the "one cup" button again. The "one-cup" is now programmed to deliver about 4-oz of coffee. Brilliant!

---Original Review---

I found it difficult to research espresso machines:
- Price range is huge, from $50 to $5000.
- Reviews come from a bewildering range of backgrounds: coffee-snobs & anti-snobs, professional baristas & novices.

After reading reviews for a couple of days, I selected the Breville 840XL.

I've had the machine one month.

I am no barista, so this review is geared towards the novice explorer.

General Observations:
- The pressure of the water/steam is controlled by the machine. It is amazingly repeatable & scientifically-precise.
--> i.e. the pressure gage on the machine responds to even tiny changes in grain size or tamp-pressure.
- The temperature of the espresso is also very controlled, and it's not as hot as your regular cup of Joe.
- It's taken me one month to find & consistently reproduce a cup that I enjoy. It was worth the wait.
- My guests & visitors have all been amazed by the shots. They unanimously say they're the best they've had.
- This machine serves exactly one-ounce or two-ounce shots. It will not make a pressed cup of coffee like you get in Europe.
- It's strong. I mean really strong. Like I-feel-it-in-my-brain strong.
--> i.e. after two older guests got hot flashes and a third got heart palpitations, I stocked up on decaf beans.

Specific Tips:
- Buy a burr grinder first, learn how to use it, clean it, etc. (I bought the Breville & am happy with it.)

- Buy the Breville milk frother second, learn how to use it, clean it, etc.
--> It'll change your life.
--> Way easier than wand-frothing: faster to make, easier to clean-up.
--> The Breville milk frother makes Angelina's-style hot chocolate easily, which makes it worth the 120-bucks right there.
----> Guys, if you don't know what that is, then look it up & make it for your girl. & beware the consequences!
----> Only change from the instructions: don't drop room-temp chocolate into the frother, nuke it first & use a spoon to drop it into the hot cream.
----> ...but, I digress.

Bean Selection
--> Consensus from Amazon-reviewers is that Lavazza Super Crema whole bean is the ideal. My guests seem to like this bean the best.
--> Personally, I prefer Starbucks Sumatra. These beans are very oily.
--> NOTE: if you decide that the bean you like best is an oily bean, then you'll need to clean the grinder weekly. Takes five minutes and gets less messy as you get the hang of it.

Grinder
- Follow the darned grinder instructions!
--> Start at the coarse end of the espresso-spectrum, work your way towards fine.
--> Only go as fine as you need to get the results you want. Middle worked best for me.

Espresso Machine Pressure Gage
- Watch the pressure gage carefully for every shot. But defer to your palate. The machine can't tell you what tastes best.
- I find that the best tasting shots come at lower pressures. I go with the lowest possible pressure that still produces a nice crema.

Water Source:
- I use a five-gallon water-dispenser to fill the espresso-machine's tank. TDS reading is about 4, which is almost distilled.
- Rationale: for five hundred bucks, I don't want to fill it with rusty-calcium well water & then have to decalcify every month or have it break. You can get a TDS meter for about twenty bucks on Amazon. Buy one. Test your water. Only use water with a low TDS reading. Don't assume bottled water has a low TDS. I've seen it as high as 200.

My Patronizing Opinions:
- Many people point out that this machine is Barista-Child's-Play, since you control only four variables: bean, amount, fineness, and tamp-pressure. (Not temp or pull-pressure.)
- I took a rigorous scientific approach and it still took one month to find the right combination.
- Other reviewers bought this machine & made an espresso they liked on the first pull.
- Pay attention to the process and you will begin teaching yourself how to be a barista.
- Be willing to work with the four variables for several weeks to get it right.

Transition from Coffee-Drinking to Espresso-Drinking:
- Until now, I've made a brutally strong batch of French-pressed coffee each AM.
- When I go to Starbucks, I get either a triple-tall Americano or a four-shot Grande Americano.
--> Either way, each would last about 2-hours each AM.
- This machine makes only one thing: a single-ounce or a two-ounce shot of espresso, like in Italy.
- The Italians drink it straight, right there, standing up, within five minutes. I'm guessing that even an Italian would rate this espresso as authentic.
- This machine forced me to depart from my old ways: It's a smaller cup & I have to drink it within 15-minutes or so before the flavor goes sour.
--> I'm aware that the ideal Americano has the hot water in the cup prior to the shot, to preserve the crema. Will do that eventually. Right now, I still taste each shot first.

Conclusion:
- This machine is a safe bet for your first real espresso machine.
- Be willing to work at it
- Be aware that drinking shots of espresso is a very different experience from regular coffee-drinking.
- Cappuccinos or lattes are also a safe bet. But, they get cold quicker than those made at Starbucks. Maybe Starbucks makes shots at a higher temperature?

Biggest surprise so far the joy it brings to guests. Let them watch you make one, then ask them to play the barista. They have so much fun! Go all the way & buy a burr-grinder, knock box, & tamping mat.

There's a documentary on Netflix on the history of the cappuccino called "Perfect Cappuccino." Content aside, this 1.5-hr documentary will give you plenty of opportunity to see professional baristas making espressos & hear their theories on how to pull a good shot. Watch it after you buy it and you'll really appreciate how much they put in, how they tamp it, and how it looks as it comes out. Personally, I enjoyed the documentary -- I found the narrator's views compassionate & well-balanced. Other reviewers found her anti-Starbucks.

Lastly, if you buy all three pieces of equipment at once, then you'll be on instructions-overload. I staggered the purchases by two weeks for each machine: Burr Grinder, then Milk Frother, then Espresso Maker. This may sound silly, but many of the reviewers say things like: "I Couldn't get a pressure reading on the espresso machine, so I cranked up the grinder to super-fine and then grinder wouldn't work." All of that is covered in the grinder instructions. But if you get all three things at once, you're going to try it blind (come on, admit it) and only go to the instructions for each machine as a last resort.

It's only been one month. Perhaps in another month, all of my advice will be different. I'm still on the left side of a steep learning curve.

Good luck!
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2013
The Breville BES840XL espresso machine looks great and functioned well during the first four months of daily operation. Now, it no longer auto-purges or refills the thermocoil following steam. When a shot is pulled following steaming, an awful buzzing noise would last about 3 seconds.

I called Breville USA (Mike) and I was told to send in the receipt. I emailed the receipt, but did not hear back from them. When I called back, I was asked to videotape the problem. Upon sending in the video, Breville claimed the noise is "normal" but could not provide me any audio files of any other machines making this noise.

Update 4/27/2013: The problem is with the valve that opens to direct hot water to the group head. It now chatters every time I run the unit... with or without steaming. Breville did not aid in troubleshooting.

Update 5/6/2013: Breville replaced the machine. Be ready for a battle if you have a problem with your BES840XL.

Besides the customer service problem, the machine functions well and is a good semi-auto espresso machine. The pressure gauge is very helpful for getting the grind/tamp right.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2013
April 28, 2014:
I have this machine for more than 8 months now. What can I say..? I wake up to drink espresso, rather than drink espresso to wake up!

I am a guy that comes from Greece, a place where coffee drinking is a culture and not a morning routine. I have also been many times to Italy and tried almost every coffee blend (Brazilian, Colombian, Guatemalan, Kenyan, Ethiopian, Nicaraguan you name it...) Staying in Chicago, IL for the last 5 years, I couldn't stand going to a coffee shop and watch the barista having no clue on how to pull an espresso shot or "expresso" as they most call it for Christ sake. With that, I decided to "invest" on a good coffee machine and give myself a break.

My friends reaction when they saw the piece was like I bought a Lamborghini!
It is indeed a fantastic machine with very elegant design.

Long story short,

Pros:
a) magnetic tamper (keeps it in place and you 'll never lose it)
b) hot water dispenser (very useful to warm up the portafilter and the coffee cup prior pulling shots)
c) 4 different filters (2 x single wall + 2 x double wall)
d) pressure gauge (very helpful especially in the beginning when you experiment a lot)
e) warms up quickly (less than 5 mins!)
f) look the price again! You will never find a professional machine in this price.
h) espresso shot flavor is exactly like you are drinking it in Italy! (buy Lavazza Gold Selection ground coffee and you can start a business!)

Cons:
a) shots are indeed not as warm as they suppose to be (but this can be easily fixed if you let the machine warm up for little longer, or pull a shot of water before you actually make your coffee)
b) frothing jug is big and useless (except if you want to make 4 lattes at the same time, you ll not use the jug. If you want to make one or two cappuccino or latte, simply go and buy a Motta Europa no matter the bucks and you 'll see the difference in frothing milk quality right away)
c) comes with one water filter and two cleaning tablets (that means that you have to be prepared to spend some extra bucks in few months when the "clean me" button will flash on..)
d) lacks grinder (if you really want to see the power of this machine, do yourself a favor and buy the Breville Smart Grinder. No matter what you do with your previous $20 grinder, you haven't seen anything yet)
e) yes, you might have to hold the machine a bit once you try to turn the portafilter in place, but this is not a reason not to buy this machine.

If you are not convinced yet, stop reading reviews cuz you will never be!

I highly recommend this product. End of story.-

June 1, 2014 (Update):
The machine still runs like new!

I drink 2 espressos per day, 7 days a week and considering that as normal use, I am really pleased with the performance of the machine. Please note that I use bottled spring water in order to avoid changing water filters very often or de-calcifying the machine. The only thing I do every now and then is the auto-clean when the flashing light appears using Breville capsules (maybe every 4 months). The Inox finish of the body is very easy to clean with a slightly wet cloth and the maintenance is very easy.

As I mentioned a year ago, I am very happy with my "investment".
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2013
It broke down only after two years of use - at that time I paid closer to $400 for this piece of flimsy engineering. I called the service at Breville, and they suggested to mail it for repairs (for a whooping fee). When they quoted the repairs, I told them that it would be cheaper to buy a new machine - which, incidentally, they enthusiastically offered to me. Fat chance!

Just think for yourself, if it were a car, and it broke after two years with repair costing as much as a new car, would you buy that make again? And an espresso machine is a simpler gadget than a car, so why can't they figure out how to make a coffee machine that works for at least 10 years?
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2014
My wife treated me to this machine as a gift for my 40th birthday (a little early since I got it in January and my B-day was a few months off). Before this I used a DeLonghi, which had lasted me for 3+ years, and I enjoyed it. But this machine had excellent reviews and I figured it would be a step up from the $89-$100 machines I'd had thus far.

And it was! This is good and bad. We'll get to the good in a minute.

The bad is that the Krups and Mr. Coffees and DeLonghis are great if you want a simple, Starbucks/Caribou coffee in the morning and don't want to spend the money (that's me!). Although, honestly, I didn't know what I was missing there.

I was using Lavazza Crema e Gusto pre-ground espresso coffee. I tried Qualita Rossa (didn't like the heavy robusto). I tried inBlu, not a big fan for the price. Point is, I used pre-ground.

When I got to this machine, the only way you can get a decent crema is to use the pressurized double-wall filters. There is a single shot and double shot of these bad boys. The machine also comes with a single and double of the single wall, non-pressurized filters.

The pressurized filters are for us noobs who don't know how to pull an espresso shot.

My results were inconsistent. Most of the time I'd end up with watery crema. Occasionally, I'd end up with decent crema, but the flavor was iffy. Sometimes a bit bitter. I was a little irritated at this expensive machine that seemed to do worse than the DeLonghi.

Then there was my one issue with Breville, which others have mentioned. The pressure went out and it stopped working. There were a few times I'd over-dosed the basket, or had a grind that was too fine, so the machine struggled. But, I don't think a $500 machine should just break. I contacted Breville and they were excellent! They walked me through diagnostics, then sent me a shipping label and provided a brand new machine.

Though I'm sure that was just a lemon, I decided I'd be even more careful about dose and grind. I had just gotten some inBlu Lavazza, and it choked the machine every time. I tried some from each of the 4 containers, same result. Shout out to Amazon, who provided a refund for the coffee since it was ground too finely, despite being listed as good for "espresso machines."

I decided then and there to dive in to the whole bean, grinding game. I had an old blade grinder that a friend had given me, so I ordered some beans. I'll skip a few things and just tell you NEVER USE A BLADE GRINDER FOR ESPRESSO.

What I needed to get this machine to work for me was a good grinder. The price for those can range from $40-$1,000. Breville has a the SmartGrinder, which is mid-range and costs around $200. Some say it's pretty good.

I wasn't going to find out because I don't just have $200 lying around. So, I tried the Capresso Infinity (I think). It was decent. But, as reviewers have pointed out, it will grind too fine or too coarse. It doesn't do the "just right" grind.

Finally, I got a Hario Slim, manual grinder from Amazon. That has enough settings to satisfy any machine. After clicking it to the finest setting and clicking back from there, I found the precise grind for the Breville Infuser.

Once I found this grind, I pulled out the single-wall double-shot basket. I ground fresh Lavazza Crema e Aroma beans and poured them into the basket. I tamped them down with a little twist at the end, then made sure the dose was right with their precision razor. I placed it into the group head, steamed up some smooth milk, then pressed the double-shot button.

The pre-infusion began and I didn't see coffee for about 5 seconds (that's good!). Black strings ran down, quickly becoming thick, light caramel-colored rivers of crema as it filled the cup to about 2 oz. The color in the cup was an even caramel-brown. When I placed the sugar in, it sat on the surface for about 20 seconds before slipping down into the coffee.

The flavor was unlike any coffee I'd had before. There was a nutty texture and hints of other flavors in the brew.

With the same grind consistency and the single-wall filter basket, I've pulled perfect shots 3 mornings in a row. The pressure gauge increases steadily, not all at once. It starts in the pre-infusion range, then slowly ascends to about the 3rd black line, sometimes the 4th in the "espresso zone." Once it gets to that area, the shot is done, and perfect.

There are coffee snobs who dismiss the Breville Infuser. To them, you better be spending $1,000 on a machine from Italy and buying a high-end grinder, or they won't even look at you. I can assure you, this machine pulls an excellent shot when you have the right things in place. You want to avoid pre-ground. You want to get a grinder that will give you the proper fineness. You want to make sure you dose properly and don't over-tamp. When you get that combination, you'll discover a great experience. I can't wait for morning to enjoy another cup.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2013
If 4 stars = "I like it" and 5 stars = "I love it" then I have to go with 5 stars because once you get the hang of the Breville BES840XL, it's a great machine. As a number of the other reviews have said, though, there is some trial and error involved before you finally get it working the way you want and getting there is frustrating.

After the La Pavoni unit we'd had for 10 years died a couple of months back, I did a fair amount of research on rival models as well as the 860XL as a replacement but kept coming back to the two Breville models. The built-in grinder would have been really handy but concerns over leaks over time reported by owners in the seal between the dual boilers (not to mention the price difference) prompted me to go with the 840XL "Infuser".

First off, it's a beautiful-looking machine and it looks great on the kitchen counter. Also, Breville's packaging is Apple levels of gorgeous. There's a handy storage tray behind the spill trap for all the bits and pieces, including pins to unclog the foaming spout, etc. .

It's also really easy to operate and I love that you can re-program the one- and two-shot volume to draw your own size of shot. When it gets dirty, the "Clean Me" light comes on and you initiate the self-clean program with the supplied detergent tablets.

And, most importantly of all, it makes great espresso. Night and day better than the La Pavoni Lusso we had before which was really inconsistent in the quality of shot and has no programmable shot option so everything is manual. Also, the La Pavoni's steaming spout was designed in such a way that build-up inside the spout (which was almost impossible to clean properly) would really diminish its ability to froth the milk properly. The Infuser has a completely different design and it's awesome, giving you complete control.

It took time to master The Infuser, though, and it was frustrating trying to get any consistency out of it. And that was knowing going in, based on other reviewers' experiences, that a lot of it was in the tamping and volume of ground coffee going into the basket.

I would say now, based on my experiences, the beans and the quality of the grinder (see below) might be the biggest determining factors -- I would never have guessed just how *much* difference there can be between different types of beans when it comes to tamping pressure and volume. I did a lot of experimenting early on -- even resorting to extracting two singles instead of one double because that was the only way I could get a decent extraction in the middle of the unit's "Espresso Range" putting the grounds in in three stages and tamping down each time in between -- but once I'd upgraded to a better grinder, I was set.

Now that it looks like I've nailed the process, I couldn't be happier. And my wife, who has incredibly discerning taste buds, especially for coffee, has really noticed the difference.

*****************

UPDATE May 2014

My old Krups burr grinder died last December so I decided to make the investment in a Breville BCG800XL Smart Grinder and I have to say that The Infuser is a LOT more consistent now than it used to be. Not entirely -- I find that the strength of the extraction changes over time between cleaning cycles so that more tamping pressure is needed -- but I no longer need to mess around with two single pulls or staged tamping.

I just grind the beans, tamp them down and let The Infuser do its thing. One small issue that has cropped up in the last few weeks is that water leaks down the steaming wand where it joins the underside of the unit but that has not had any effect on the function of the machine.

Still very happy.

*****************

UPDATE August 2014

The leak in the steam wand worsened over time to the point that the unit had to be replaced but I give a HUGE thumbs up to Breville customer service here. They responded quickly to my initial support request and had arranged to replace the machine free of charge within 48 hours.

Not only that but they offered to ship the new one to me in advance of the return of the faulty one (they placed a temporary charge on my credit card as insurance) enabling me to only ship the old one back after the new unit had arrived. Excellent service all the way around.

I note that this machine prefers the beans to be ground slightly more finely than the previous one so another reason to invest in a grinder where you can customize the grind.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2012
Got this machine from Amazon about two weeks ago now. Setup was a breeze and the machine works very well. Overall very satisfied.

Pros:
-Looks great
-Pressure gauge is very helpful - though good shots are usually pulled on the high end of the pressure range
-Pre-infusion has generated good results
-Pre-programmed shot amounts are really helpful
-Machine prepares quickly
-Quiet operation
-Steam arm is long and on a great ball joint
-hot water dispenser is nice
-Great tamper holder built into machine
-large water tank
-Includes both pressurized and non-pressurized baskets
-Uses a thermocoil instead of a thermoblock
-Easy cleaning cycle

Cons:
-Shots pull fine, but come out not as hot as expected (when pulled stand alone). I haven't measured temp on them but if cups and porta-filter are warmed as suggested in instructions i'm sure I would have better results.
-In-spite of built in feature to cool water down to make a shot after steaming, the water stays too hot for a good shot. You have to wait a min or run a bit of water through it first to get the right temperature for the shot. This makes it difficult for latte art purposes because you can't swirl your milk forever. I usually just pull my shots first and then steam last. Shot looses a little but when drinking the latte you couldn't tell the difference if you tried. This problem is not as much of a problem as it is just the limitation of single boiler machine. I just didn't like how it was advertised as being able to pull a shot very quickly after steaming. I mean...you can pull one....just not a good one.

Overall very good machine and I'm very happy with it. I would recommend it. I use it in conjunction with the Breville Smart Grinder which has also been a great product. 1 year warranty on all Breville products
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