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 Breville espresso 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). (More: Different types of coffee beans)
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).