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Breville Barista Express vs. Gaggia Classic | Epic Match-up!

Breville Barista Express BES870XL vs. Gaggia Classic 14101

Breville Barista Express vs. Gaggia Classic

The Breville Barista Express and the Gaggia 14101 Classic are a solid match-up when comparing espresso machines in the semi-automatic category.

The Breville is the young gun, the modern tech-y ingenue in the espresso market.

The Gaggia is the old guard, created by a long-established Italian brand in a classic Italian style.

What I like about comparing these two machines is that the answer of which one is the better pick isn’t going to be the same for everyone. Both machines will cater to slightly different needs and preferences. The question of which is the best machine will depend on what espresso experience you are looking for.

shot

The Final Shot: The Breville Barista Express gets the top spot overall for its built-in grinder and programmability. If you already have a top-notch grinder and prefer a slimmer machine or a slightly larger water tank, then the Gaggia may be a better fit.

This article will break down the similarities and differences and provide a definitive answer of which machine to purchase based on your needs.

Gaggia Classic vs. Breville Barista Head to Head

 
NameBreville Barista ExpressGaggia Classic 14101

Size (L x W x H)
12.5 x 13.25 x 15.75 in9.5 x 8 x 14.5 in

Weight
23 lbs20 lbs

Pump Pressure
15 Bar17.5 Bar

Frothing Wand
YesYes

Water Tank Size
67 oz72 oz

Grinder
Built-inNo Grinder

Programmability
YesNo

Similarities

To start, the Breville and Gaggia have some key similarities.

Both machines are semi-automatic. Not sure what that means? Basically, semi-automatic machines require the user to have some involvement in grinding and tamping of the beans, and in frothing or steaming the milk, if needed. This provides you with some control over the brewing process.

While they are both semi-automatic machines, they do require different levels of involvement. I’ll dive into this a bit more in the differences section, but just keep in mind that semi-auto doesn’t always mean the machines are identical.

sharedfeatures

Shared Features:
  • Large built-in water tank
  • Steaming and frothing wand for making lattes, macchiati and cappuccinos
  • Filter basket size options for both single and double shots
  • Hot water dispenser for making Americanos or tea
  • Built-in cup warmer
  • Coffee tamper included

Differences

grinderGrinder

The main difference between the Breville and the Gaggia is pretty obvious just from a quick glance at the photos: the grinder.

If you are making espresso, you’re going to need a grinder. There’s no getting around it. The Breville comes equipped with a really well-made, top-notch stainless steel conical burr grinder for an excellent coffee preparation. It has a bean hopper that will seal and store up to a ½ lb of beans at a time.

The Gaggia requires a separate grinder. I recommend getting a comparable conical burr grinder over one with stainless steel blades. Having well-ground coffee really makes a huge difference in the quality of the shot.

I personally really enjoy the convenience a built-in grinder offers. I own the Barista Express and use it several times a day to make espresso and lattes for my wife and for me. It saves a ton of time, and the quality is excellent. It’s also a lot less messy and I enjoy having my grind amount and coarseness settings saved. Unless you already have a separate grinder that you love, my preference is for the Barista Express when it comes to this feature.

pressurePressure

The Barista Express and the Gaggia also differ on how much pressure they offer: 15 bars with a dual-boiler for the Breville and 17.5 with a high-voltage boiler for the Gaggia. So, what does that really mean?

With these machines, not a whole lot. The dual boilers on the Breville and high-voltage on the Gaggia means that they heat up quickly and are ready to pull the next shot without a long wait. Both systems (dual boilers v. a high voltage boiler) are pretty comparable and the time difference is negligible.

In terms of pressure, the ideal for espresso is 9 bars. You never want less than that, but is more better? Not really.  After 9 bars, the added amount of pressure doesn’t improve the quality of the shot or the extraction time. It sounds nice, but isn’t something to base your overall decision on.

On this count, these two machines are pretty much even.

settingsSettings + Displays

While both machines are semi-automatic, the Breville has a slightly more automated process to offer than the Gaggia.

Nothing about the Gaggia is pre-programmable. But since it doesn’t have the built-in grinder, there also isn’t a ton to program. On the Breville, you do have the option to save the grind coarseness and amount you prefer. For the Gaggia, you would need to buy a grinder that allows you to leave your settings intact, which isn’t really a tough find.

For frothing, the Gaggia also allows you to adjust the steam pressure. On the Breville, the steam pressure is not adjustable and is pre-programmed for optimal steaming and frothing.

When it comes to displays, I do really like the pressure gauge display on the Breville. It is a front and center dial that allows you to gauge change in pressure and the ideal extraction point. This makes it easier to ensure you are getting an optimum extraction and if not, you can adjust your bean grind accordingly for another round. The Gaggia doesn’t have a gauge for this, which is a little disappointing if you like to be a little more involved in the process.

frothingSteam + Frothing

On the Gaggia, it takes 50-60 seconds for the water temperature to heat and the steam wand to be ready to steam your milk. The Breville is definitely a bit speedier. The heat time is generally about 20-30 seconds, thanks to the thermocoil heating system, which is really convenient for impatient espresso lovers, like me.

The steam wand on the Gaggia also requires a quick purge before AND after steaming, while this is done automatically on the Breville. It is especially important if you are switching back to brewing to make sure the machine is purged of steam before pulling a shot. Since this isn’t generally a process that improves the espresso for the barista to be in control, I consider it a bit of a negative for the Gaggia.

In terms of quality of the steam wand, the Breville’s wand is stainless steel, and swivels 360 degrees. The Gaggia wand also swivels, but it is made of plastic. Some users have taken issue with this, but there is a separate upgrade option to a chrome wand for more precise latte art manipulation that has been pretty successful. The added cost is also pretty minimal for that.

Overall, when it comes to frothing, unless you enjoy the extra control of manually purging, which isn’t really necessary for a better espresso shot, I’d say the Breville is the clear winner.

waterWater Tank Storage

This is a small difference, but worth noting: the Breville has a 67 ounce capacity, the Gaggia holds 72 ounces. I really don’t enjoy refilling the tank on my Breville, so if you’re like me, those extra 5 ounces might matter!

Summary

Overall, if you look at both machines point by point, the Breville is the clear victor on most. It offers greater convenience, in the form of a built-in grinder, faster heat times and programmable and automated processes. The Gaggia allows for a bit more control by the barista and features the slightly larger water tank. It also doesn’t have the built-in grinder, so if you already have a grinder you love, the Gaggia might be more attractive.

The Gaggia is also a less expensive option than the Barista Express. If you need to purchase a separate grinder, the price gap is much smaller, but if you already have a grinder, that could be a big deal for your wallet.

Overall, our preferred option is the Breville Barista Express. It offers just enough customization to allow you to enjoy the experience, combined with some great automation to make home brewing easy and enjoyable.

If you prefer the features of the Breville over the Gaggia but already have a great grinder, you may want to check out the Breville Infuser, which has all the features of the Barista Express, minus the grinder and the bigger price tag.

Happy brewing!

Helpful Videos

How to use the Gaggia Classic

How to use the Breville Barista Express

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About the Author Michael York

I am a die-hard espresso fan. I love every form of the drink from straight espresso shots to lattes and cappuccinos. I currently use a Breville BES870XL Barista, it is an awesome machine. BUT, my dream machine is definitely an Italian Quickmill Andreja. Those bad boys make badass espresso. I love answering your questions, leave a comment or question below!

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