Sage the Barista Express Impress review

One-minute review

For anyone who loves to try new coffee bean blends and experiment with ground coffee flavours, the stylish Sage the Barista Express Impress is a joy to use. It’s designed to help you achieve the barista-style “4 keys formula” as created by some of the best coffee machines in professional settings. This comprises the perfect dose of ground beans, a precise temperature, optimal water pressure and impressive microfoam for experimenting with latte art. 

The Barista Express Impress is an update on the popular Sage Barista Express coffee machine, which we’ve reviewed previously here. It has many of the same features as its predecessor such as a 2-litre water tank, 54mm portafilter and steel conical burrs. However, the Barista Express Impress comes with 25 precision grind settings, as opposed to 16 of the older model. The new machine also features a smart dosing “puck system” with assisted tamp lever. This offers up an easy-to-read LED display that provides dosing feedback as soon as you press the grind button and hold down the tamp lever, offering guidance to achieve great-tasting coffee. Each grind delivered to the filter basket is based on the previous grind – which you can adjust to your liking – so you can make the best cup of coffee tailored to your taste. 

Overall, the design aims to present the same features you’d expect on a commercial espresso machine in a compact, consumer-friendly size – and we were impressed by the results.   

Price & availability

List price: £729.95 / $AU 1, 199

The Sage Barista Empress Impress coffee machine is the latest model in a large line-up of beautifully designed coffee machines from the company. The brand also makes a wide range of slow cookers, air fryers, pizza ovens, kettles, toasters and more. 

Known as Breville in the US, Sage prides itself on creating eye-catching and ergonomically designed coffee machines with built-in coffee grinders, programmable controls and useful features – which are an attractive buy for those who are serious about great-tasting coffee. At £729.95, the Sage Barista Express Impress espresso machine is a mid-priced model in the range and only slightly more expensive than the Express model at £629.95. At the time of writing, it isn’t available in the US, but it can be bought in Australia for AU$1,199

Those wanting an entry-level Sage coffee machine could try the Bambino Plus, for £399.95. If you’re looking for a top-of-the-range model, consider the Sage Oracle Touch, £2,099, which offers touchscreen operation to simplify the coffee-making process. 

Design

 Comes with a selection of pressurised and non-pressurised filter baskets   Stylish and informative labelled control panel  2-litre water tank  

Featuring a similar setup to that you’d find in a commercial espresso machine, but in a more compact design, the Sage Barista Express Impress delivers an “impressive puck, less mess and less fuss”. It has all the tools on board to enable you to experiment and achieve a cup of coffee just as you like it. Tamping to create the perfect puck can be a challenge for those making coffee at home, with under- or over-extracted espresso offering up very different flavours. But this espresso machine lets you decide your level of involvement, delivering the perfect dose of ground beans via its “auto” or “manual” dosing system. Creating decent-tasting coffee in the way a professional barista would takes time – but we found that the ceremonial approach to using this machine, whereby you need to tamp and dose correctly, made the process of making coffee almost as enjoyable as drinking it.

(Image credit: Future)

Aesthetically, the Sage Barista Express Impress is beautifully designed in a brushed stainless steel finish, and will catch the eye on any kitchen worktop. Measuring H41cm x W33cm x D38cm, it has a fairly large footprint. It’s tall, too, struggling to fit under our kitchen cabinets, for example. As such, it’s worth measuring up before you buy and ensuring you have enough space to house it.  

We liked the easy-to-navigate interface, whose dose-level indicator flashes red when there isn’t enough coffee in the 54mm stainless steel portafilter. You’ll see a smiley face when the level is just right. The aim is to get an even, well-balanced puck, with an on-board tamp lever that helps you create a 7-degree barista twist just like a professional. Meanwhile, the manual steam wand that sits neatly to the right of the machine is useful for making micro-foam textured milk. It comes with a stainless-steel jug, which feels premium, as well as a selection of one- and two-cup single and dual-wall filter baskets to suit your blend. The 2-litre water tank is a reasonable size and can easily fit the compact water filter in the set; this will require changing every three months. 

(Image credit: Future)

The steam wand and hot water control dial can be found on one side of the machine, so you can dose and tamp on the left and add milk and hot water on the right. The set also includes some cleaning tools, an Allen key and descaling powder, to ensure you have everything you need to keep the model in tip-top condition.

(Image credit: Future)

Overall, we found the design easy to use and clean – any smudges were easily buffed away with a soft cloth, for example, while the drip tray could be pulled out without issue for emptying. Any filter coffee that comes out while dosing can simply be brushed into the tray before emptying at a later stage.

To load the machine with beans – these can be bought from beanz.com – you simply pop your coffee beans into the neatly positioned 250g bean hopper, which we found was the ideal size for a standard bag of 227g beans. Similar in design to the Barista Express, there’s an extraction pressure gauge and two buttons that provide a choice over one- or two-cup espresso extraction. You can switch between auto and manual dosing via the dial and adjust your grind size on the side of the machine. A nice touch is the razor tool to perfect your puck and scrape away any excess ground coffee when you’re manually dosing your cup.

Performance

Comes with a dial to adjust the grind sizeQuick to grind and release ground coffee into the filter  Easy to decipher controls  

To work out if the Sage Barista Express Impress would be a winner for any bleary-eyed coffee addict first thing in the morning, we conducted a series of tests. The first was to create an espresso, assess the thickness of the crema and measure the temperature at which it was served; the recommendation is between 60ºC and 80ºC.

The machine has an auto mode that delivers espresso coffee to your filter basket, which is calculated using your previous grind to get it just the way you like it. The dose-level indicator indicates whether you have enough ground coffee in the portafilter; lights to tell you whether you have severely under-dosed, over-dosed or have the level just right. A good dose is highlighted with a smiley face in the middle of the dose-level indicator.

It took us some time to work out just how much coffee was needed, and it was a matter of trial and error for the first 10 or so cups. We soon got the hang of how to produce the perfect coffee puck, however. The grind dial on the side of the machine ranges from 1 to 25 – with “1” delivering a fine grind and “25” a coarse grind. On first use, we didn’t realise just how much the grind size affects the water flow through the coffee in the filter basket – and, therefore, the flavour of the resulting cup of coffee. We whacked it up to 20 to experiment, and found ourselves with a very thick and short espresso. The instructions suggest a grind size of 16 to start, and once we had made this change our espressos came out beautifully: a rich, full-bodied blend with a satisfying crema.

Making a single espresso, the machine hummed away at 66dB on the decibel meter app. We chose the single espresso option, but our espresso cup felt small, struggling to capture all the flow without dripping down the sides of the cup. It took us a while to figure out the perfect position so as to not lose any coffee as it poured. While there is space for a second espresso cup, if you want a double espresso in one cup then we’d suggest using a standard coffee cup to capture the flow from the two spouts more effectively. Our first espresso was 61ºC in temperature, rising to 68ºC on our second attempt; this felt satisfyingly hot. Using French-style dark roast coffee beans, the machine produced a thick crema just as you’d find in a coffee shop. We poured a spoonful of sugar into the espresso and were suitably satisfied to see how well the crema held the sugar in the foam before sinking to the bottom – and how nicely the crema reformed thereafter.

Making a single espresso (Image credit: Future)

By the time you’ve extracted your dose and levelled it up just the way you like it, the machine is good to go for another espresso straight after the first.

Making a cappuccino (Image credit: Future)

Our next test was to create a cappuccino. We followed the same process for making an espresso, adding some hot water via the hot water dial. We then used the steam wand to froth the milk and create micro-foam. The stainless-steel jug is just the right size for steaming and foaming the milk for a couple of lattes or cappuccinos, but it doesn’t come with a temperature strip that changes colour as the milk heats up – this was a feature of the previous Barista Express model. This made it difficult to determine whether the milk had reached the correct temperature. Nevertheless, following a minute of using the steam wand, we were able to get a good froth from both dairy and oat milk; the semi-skimmed milk was 75ºC in temperature, while the oat milk measured 63ºC. Both were able to top our cappuccino – although our latte art skills were found to be wanting. We’re hoping that a bit of practice should see our skills improve. Noise levels weren’t too offensive, either, reaching 88db mid frothing.  

The result after milk frothing on top of a cappuccino (Image credit: Future)

Keeping the machine clean proved easy enough – a simple wipe of the steam wand and emptying of the drip tray was sufficient to keep the Sage Barista Express Impress in good condition day to day.

If you need some support with your new coffee machine, we recommend setting up an account with Sage to get access to weekly masterclasses, personalized tutorials and support and free shipping on all orders over £10 – all for free.

Scorecard: Sage the Barista Express
AttributesNotesScorePrice & availabilityA reasonable price for a premium design that comes with all the essentials for making delicious tasting coffee. 4.5/5DesignA very stylish and smooth design in a brushed stainless-steel finishes that includes easy to navigate controls such as one-touch single and double espresso buttons and a tamp lever. 5/5PerformanceThe four keys formula with the perfect dose of ground beans, the optimum temperature control, water pressure and microfoam, makes this machine fun to use and the results satisfying. 4.5/5

Buy it if…

Don’t buy it if…

First reviewed: September 2022

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