Sage Barista Pro. Detailed Review + Comparisons

This is a review of the Sage Barista Pro espresso machine, with comparisons against the other Sage espresso machines.

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I’ll be aiming to answer the question “is the Sage barista Pro worth it?” – or more specifically, is the barista pro worth throwing the extra money at vs something like the Barista express. 

I’ll also be looking at other comparisons including the Sage Barista Pro vs the Sage Bambino Plus and stand alone grinder. 

I’m talking about Sage espresso machines, assuming that you’re also on this little rainy island in which they go by this brand name.

If that assumption is incorrect and you’re in the States or Australia or some other country which is probably warmer and drier than the UK, you’ll probably know this machine as the Breville Barista Pro. 

If you’re wondering about that, it’s really not that interesting ;-), it’s just that Breville worldwide sold the brand name here in the 80s. 

I wrote my Sage Barista Express review a while back, and I’ve since been sent the Barista Pro by Sage so I could produce the video series I’ve been doing on the pro, below, but I’ve been dragging my heels on writing the review post, so here goes :-).

I’m intending for this post to be both a review, and also a comparisons post, looking at whether or not the Barista Pro is worth pumping the extra cash into vs the Barista Express.

I do have a definite answer to this, by the way, and I’ll explain why I’ve come to this conclusion, and you’ll see it’s based on experience, not opinion.

I think I’m the right person to write such a post because I’ve used all these machines, and I’ve used them side by side. 

So I’m not just sharing what others have said about these machines, or re-hashing other people’s opinions, I’m telling you the opinion I’ve formed based on my experience with these machines. 

So I’ll start out with the review, and then get into the comparisons. 

Sage Barista Pro Review

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The Sage Barista Pro is one of the best selling espresso machines from Sage, and it’s an integrated grinder espresso machine, as is the Barista Express and the Barista Touch (which is the touch screen version of the Barista Pro).

For details on the full range of Sage coffee machines, see:

Sage Coffee Machines

The Barista Pro, Barista Touch and the Bambino Plus (and that one is a stand alone espresso machine, not an integrated grinder machine) all feature the new “thermojet” water heater, while the original machines (Barista Express and Duo Temp Pro) feature the original thermocoil. 

I’ll get more into the differences a bit later in this post, but what the thermojet is all about, is speed.

This has lead many people, though, to make the assumption that the Barista Pro is just the Barista Express in a slightly re-styled case with a faster heat up time.

I know from speaking to my fellow coffee botherers, AKA coffeeblog readers, that this assumption has prompted many people to make the decision that the pro isn’t worth the extra hundred money, and they’ve opted for the cheaper Express.

This assumption, though, is incorrect – as I discovered when I first used the Espress and the Pro side by side.

Yes, one difference (not the only one) is the newer thermojet, but this isn’t just about heat up time, but also steam ready time, how long it takes to steam your milk, and how long it takes for the machine to be espresso ready again after pulling the shot. 

So going back to the pro, this machine is closest to the Barista Express in features and in price, and while the Barista Express was one of Sage’s best selling machines, I think the pro is beginning to take over as people are beginning to understand that there’s a lot more to the pro than just being the Express with a faster heat up time. 

Features: 

  • 2 Litre water tank
  • Large removable drip tray with storage space behind
  • New thermojet heating system
  • 3 second ready time
  • Very fast steam ready time
  • Vast milk steaming
  • Fast shot ready time after steaming milk
  • Adjustable PID for temperature stability and adjustable brew temp
  • Cup warmer (kind of)
  • Integrated grinder with 30 grind settings 
  • Automatic and manual pre-infusion
  • 9 bar shot pressure (15 bar pump with over pressure valve set at 9 bars)
  • LCD display with shot timer
  • Easy access to cleaning cycles via LCD screen
  • Easy brew temp control via LCD screen 
  • Dedicated hot water spout for Americano / Lungo

My Observations:

As you can see, that’s one big list of features, and it’s quite a bit bigger than it’s older sibling the Barista Express, which I’ll come to shortly.

There’s no doubt about it, this is an impressive machine for the money.

It’s actually cheap, by the way. If you think the best part of seven hundred quid is expensive – welcome to the world of being a home barista. This really is quite cheap given that it’s the espresso machine and the grinder in one, and given all of the features. 

I have used this machine quite a bit, as I have the other Sage espresso machines, and I love it, overall. 

There’s only one thing I don’t really like about the Sage Barista Pro, and that’s the integrated grinder – which I know is a bit ironic given this is one of the main selling points of the Barista range, but hear me out. 

Everything about this machine makes it perfect as an entry-level home barista espresso machine apart from one thing, and that one thing is the ability, or lack of, when it comes to finely tuning the grind for precisely dialling in the shot. 

With almost double the grind settings of the Barista Express, it does a better job, but it’s still not perfect – you’ll still find that with some coffees the sweet spot with the grind settings to nail the extraction would be somewhere in between two settings. 

If you’re one of the many people I speak to who want to go down the home barista path but aren’t super fussed about exactly dialling in, and are more than happy with getting somewhere in the ballpark, then the Barista Pro would suit you fine. If you want to get perfect results with each coffee bean you buy, though, the grinding range is possibly going to frustrate you. 

I find this annoying simply because everything else about this machine is so brilliant!

The LCD display of the grind settings is great, really easy to see what grind you’re at. The ability to really simply re-program the volumetric shot buttons via the LCD screen is great, as is the low pressure preinfusion and the fact that you can easily pull shots manually if you prefer. 

I love the LCD shot timer which also tells you when you’re at preinfusion stage and at shot pulling stage, and the fact that if you want to you can really simply adjust the brew temp, and that it’s so easy on this machine to get into the cleaning cycles. 

I love the size of the machine, the size of the drip tray – which really is a practical size compared to some machines (including the bambino plus), and the weight of the machine, meaning it feels solid when you’re using it, it doesn’t slide around when you’re locking and unlocking the portafilter as lighter machines do.

I love how quickly the steam is ready on this machine, and the power of the steam thanks to the newer thermojet coupled with the 4 hole steam tip, and I also think it’s great that this machine gets to shot ready again so fast, which is due to the lack of retained heat with this thermojet vs more standard thermocoils, and thermoblocks, which retain more heat. 

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It’s fairly quiet, it’s fast at just about everything, it’s easy to clean both outside and inside, and overall it’s just a brilliant machine, at a very low price – and I actually wish they made a slightly lower cost option without the integrated grinder, with more space on top for cup storage, allowing users to pair it with a capable grinder for better ability to dial in. 

Re the cost, by the way – I sometimes have discount codes to share from Sage Appliances which they allow me to share with members of the coffeeblog mailing list. So if you’re in the UK and you’re thinking of buying a machine from them (any machine, not just the Barista Pro) just join my mailing list, and then drop me an email, and if I have a current discount code I’ll reply with it. 

So that’s my review of the Sage Barista Pro, and you can watch my video review below:

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Comparisons:

I’ll get into the main comparisons shortly, firstly I just wanted to briefly touch on the various Sage espresso machines to explain what they all do differently.

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This is Sage’s cheapest espresso machine, and the easiest way to describe it really is as the Barista Express without the integrated grinder. 

OK, there are a few other differences, including size as the Duo Temp Pro is smaller, but it is quite similar to the Express without the integrated grinder. 

As with the Express, the Duo Temp Pro has the original thermojet, so it’s slightly slower when it comes to steam ready time and steaming time. 

I would say that the duo temp pro is a great low priced option, the problem for me is it’s only £20 less than the Bambino Plus at retail, and I don’t think the price difference is enough. 

I also wish that there was something like this but based on the Pro.

If there was a version of the Pro without the integrated grinder, with the LCD screen, shot timer and everything else that the Pro has going for it, and if it was priced right allowing the owner to be able to afford a capable espresso grinder at a similar price to the pro, I think it would be one of the best entry-level machines. 

I’d prefer it to be the same size as the pro, though.

I think the Barista Pro is absolutely fine when it comes to footprint, machines like the Duo Temp Pro and Bambino Plus are great, but I think the majority of users don’t quite need the tiny footprint, and would prefer the bigger drip tray and more solid feel of a slightly bigger machine.

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The Sage Bambino plus is an amazing little espresso machine. I don’t know how they managed to pack so much, including a 1.9L water tank, into such a small machine, but they did. 

This machine has similar features to the Barista Pro, featuring the thermojet, so the same fast start-up, steam ready time, and fast steaming with the four hole steam tip. 

It features the PID (temperature control),  automatic and manual shot pulling with low pressure pre-infusion.

Automatic and manual milk steaming (3 temp settings and 3 texture settings with the auto steaming), auto purging steam wand – it’s an impressive little machine. 

It doesn’t have the LCD display that the pro has, so it doesn’t have the shot timer, easy access to cleaning cycles and so on, and you can’t change the brew temp. 

Being such a small machine, they’ve kept the drip tray very small, and that’s my only reel peeve with this machine, the drip tray does fill up incredibly quickly, if you’re steaming milk and pulling shots, you’ll need to empty it every couple of shots even if you’re doing what I do and putting a jug under the wand when it auto purges.

That’s not a deal breaker, though, you just need to get into the habit of regularly emptying the drip tray. The other issue with it having such a small footprint is it does move around when you’re using it, but again this is something you just get used to. 

Also see:

Sage Bambino Plus Review

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This is the touch screen version of the Barista pro, and it’s a very interesting machine actually. 

While the Oracle range (which I’ll talk about shortly) are like the Sage Dual Boiler with an onboard barista taking care of the tricky stuff, the Barista touch is like the Barista Pro but with an onboard barista talking you through the espresso making, and steaming the milk for you. 

You swipe and touch the screen to select the coffee you want to make, and the machine takes you through the process and allows you to customize that particular coffee to your taste. 

You grind, tamp, use the razor tool to get the dose right, insert the portafilter and press the shot button. The machine then handles the milk texture for you, and then you handle pouring the milk.

The only danger I think with the touch, is that it looks like a full bean to cup machine with the touch screen, but it’s not.

The most tricky part of using a home barista espresso machine are dialling in, getting the grind and dose right as well as learning the knack of tamping, and the Barista touch doesn’t do any of this for you.

So there’s the same learning curve to be expected when it comes to the espresso-making side as with any other traditional espresso machine, but the milk side of things is taken care of, and there is guidance from the machine on the espresso side that you wouldn’t get from other home barista espresso machines.

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The Dual Boiler is Sage’s flagship home barista espresso machine.

It has two boilers, of course, a 2.5L water tank, PID controlled heated group head, and I won’t go into detail as this post isn’t about the Dual Boiler, but it’s really a lot of espresso machine for the price tag. 

To the uninitiated, this may not appear to be a bargain machine – but it really is priced at the entry-level for a dual boiler machine,  and given the quality of this machine and the features they’ve packed in, it does represent very good value for money.

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The easiest way to describe the Oracle is the Dual Boiler with an integrated grinder and an onboard Barista, and this is Sage’s characteristically innovative answer to fully automatic bean to cup machines.

While most bean to cup machines tip the scales quite heavily away from coffee quality towards convenience, the Oracle achieves much better balance, achieving far better results than I’d ever expect to get from a bean to cup coffee machine.

In addition to the dual boilers, PID (temperature control) and heated group, the Oracle handles grinding, dosing and tamping, and steams the milk for you to your required temperature and texture. 

All you need to do is handle the portafilter, knock out the used puck of coffee into the knock out box, and pour the milk – and I can tell you from experience that the cup quality this machine is capable of in the hands of a complete novice, is quite something!

I know this because the Oracle is the first coffee machine I ever reviewed, Sage sent it to me (on loan only) at a time when I had zero home barista skills, and the espresso & milkies I drank via that machine quite frankly blew me away. 

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For that review see: 

Sage Oracle Review

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This is the touch screen version of the oracle touch. It’s about five hundred quid more, so it does seem quite a lot more cash to stump up just for the touch screen, although it is a bit more than that. 

With the oracle all of the coffees are pre-programmed, meaning you can just swipe and select your coffee, so it’s more towards the one touch end of bean to cup machines. 

Not only that, but you can completely customise each coffee by tweaking the strength, amount of foam and milk temperature, and you can save these settings, you can also create and name your own personalised coffees. 

Sage Barista Pro Vs other Sage espresso machines

OK so we’ve discussed all of the machines from Sage briefly, now let’s get into the most common comparisons & get into the nitty gritty details of these other Sage espresso machines Vs the Barista Pro.

Sage Barista Pro Vs Sage Barista Express

This the most commonly asked question when it comes to comparing other Sage machines the Pro, and specifically the question I’m wanting to deal with here is, is given that the pro costs more, is it worth it? 

My simple answer – yup, worth every penny. 

Want a more in-depth answer? OK then ;-).

There’s a hundred quid difference between these machines, and I wouldn’t pay this just to get the same machine which heats up faster.

That wouldn’t be worth it, for me, especially given that the Barista Express heats up fast too, we’re only talking maybe 30 seconds difference if that. 

But this is a common misunderstanding.

I’ve spoken to fellow coffee botherers, some of who even already bought the Barista Express, who did so because they made the assumption that the only real difference was the faster heat up time, but actually this is one of the most insignificant differences. 

I’ll list what I believe to be the most significant differences, which I believe add up to one compelling whole as to why the Pro is worth the extra hundred quid:

  • Faster steam ready time
  • Faster milk steaming
  • Faster shot ready time after steaming
  • Much easier to change the brew temp
  • Shot timer
  • Much easier to enter the cleaning cycles
  • Easier to see what grind size you’re at
  • Almost double the grind settings
  • Less noise

Faster steam ready time

How long it takes for the steam to be ready is fairly important, I think, simply because you don’t want the shot sitting there for ages while you’re messing with the milk. Even if you do the milk first as some do (I don’t) longer steam ready time means you have to wait longer for your coffee.

As you’ll see below, when I tested the steam ready time with both machines, the Pro started steaming 12 seconds faster than the express, 24 seconds on the Express and 12 seconds on the Pro. 

Faster milk steaming

Again as you’ll see on the video below (I’ve set it to start playing at the appropriate time) you’ll see that the steaming time is quite a bit quicker with the Pro Vs the Express, 72 seconds on the Barista Express to get 200ml of milk to 60C, and 47 seconds on the Pro, so a saving of approx 25 seconds there. 

This is partly due to the 4 hole steam tip that comes with the pro, while the Express has a one hole steam tip, but it’s not only that, I tested this too and although the express is a bit faster with the 4 hole tip attached, it isn’t as fast as the pro – so it’s partly down to the new thermojet water heater.

So if you combine steam ready time with steaming time, we’re saving about 37 seconds. This might not sound like a lot, but if you make just 2 coffees per day, that’s almost 40 minutes per month saved, or around 8 hours per year, of waiting. 

Faster shot ready time after steaming

I’ve not actually measured this, and there’s probably not a massive amount in it – but the express engages the pump after steaming milk, to flush the thermocoil to drop the temperature down to shot temp, the whole process probably takes 30 seconds or so.

With the Pro, though, there’s none of that, the thermojet water heater is back down to brew temp almost immediately after you’ve finished steaming. 

Much easier to change the brew temp

Changing the brew temperature with the Barista Express is a series of button presses, it’s not rocket science but it’s not as easy as it is on the Pro. With the Barista Pro you just use the dial and scroll to the temperature settings and adjust, couldn’t be any easier.

Shot timer

The LCD display on the pro features a shot timer, which also displays what part of the process the machine is in, preinfusion or pulling the shot. This, for me, is a big thing, because it means you don’t have to faff around using the scales as a timer. 

I would still use the scales, but only to weigh the coffee in and out, espresso machines with shot timers do away with the need to press the timer button on the scales or to put the scales into timer mode if your scales have that. 

Much easier to enter the cleaning cycles

As with changing the brew temp, this is a series of button presses with the Barista Express – and it’s actually fairly easy to mess it up. When I first tried to enter the backflush cycle for instance, I accidentally simply re-programmed the single shot button to the max.

With the Barista Pro, though, it’s really simple, you just use the dial to get into this part of the menu on the LCD screen.

Easier to see what grind size you’re at

If you’re putting your espresso machine on the kitchen worktop under wall cupboards, and if you don’t have lighting under there – or if like us, you do but the bulbs went ages ago and you can’t be bothered changing them – seeing what grind size you’re at may involve pulling the machine out a bit further or turning on the torch on your phone. 

With the Barista pro, you can very clearly see what grind setting you’re at via the LCD screen.

Almost double the grind settings

A fairly big deal for me, is the fact that you have almost double the number of grind adjustments, or grinding steps, on the Barista Pro vs the Barista Express, at 30 Vs 18. 

The grinding range is the same, but you have more settings, and as I said earlier this still isn’t perfect, but the pro does have slightly better ability to dial in than the express does. Dialling in meaning to get the best grind setting with the bean you’re using as part of the process to getting the best extraction and therefore the best possible tasting shot.

A quick note on the grinding range, you’ll see some people suggesting that the Barista Pro and the Barista Express don’t grind quite fine enough for espresso, particularly with lighter roasted beans. This is wrong, they do.

This misunderstanding comes from the fact that out of the box they come set with a view to grinding for both standard baskets and pressurized baskets (the Express and Pro come with both). But what many people don’t realize is that this is very easily adjusted. 

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As well as the external grind adjustment, the grinder on these espresso machines (and on the smart grinder pro) has 10 internal grind settings on the top burr. They come from the factory at 6, which I think is a bit on the coarse side for espresso with standard baskets, from experience – so all you need to do is really simply move the internal grind setting a notch or two finer. 

You don’t need to go mad with it, you will probably find that with new burrs with no wear, if you just take it down to five, you’ll be absolutely fine.

Less noise

This isn’t about noise volume as such, they’re both about the same in terms of decibels, but the Pro makes less noises than the Express. 

The Express is a noisy little bugger ;-), it engages the pump after steaming milk, and then makes a series of moans and groans, making a bit of a drama of cooling the heater back down. There’s none of this with the pro, it’s silent except for when grinding, pulling shots and steaming milk. 

Any pros for the Express?

There are three pros I can think of for the express vs the pro:

  • Price
  • Pressure Gauge
  • Cup warmer

Price

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At RRP the pro is a hundred quid more. At times there are deals for both, but in the past there have been some better deals available for the Express which stretch that price gap.

Deals have been thin on the ground for a while for obvious reasons, with demand usually being ahead of supply, and the only deals I’ve been aware of recently is via discount codes, which give the same % off any of the machines. 

Pressure Gauge

The Barista Express has a pressure gauge, the pro doesn’t, and I suspect the main reason it doesn’t is that there isn’t room due to the LCD display. 

Personally I much prefer the shot timer on the Pro, and all of the other benefits the LCD brings, than the pressure gauge on the Express. You don’t really need a pressure gauge anyway, you know the grind size is right by the shot time.

Cup Warmer 

The original thermocoil retains and gives off more heat than the newer thermojet. As a result, the cup warmer on the Barista Express does get hotter than the cup warmer on the Barista pro.

There’s not a massive amount of difference, the cup warmer on the Express doesn’t really get that hot either, as is the case with most cup warmers on espresso machines, to be fair.

Sage Barista Pro Vs Sage Bambino Plus

This is another common question, whether you would be better off going with the Barista Pro or the Bambino Plus paired with a stand-alone grinder, and this is a difficult one for me, to be honest. 

I really like the little Bambino Plus, it’s such a great machine for the cash, it really does punch above its weight both in terms of its price and its stature. But, there are many pros for the Bambino Plus too. 

Pros for the Sage Bambino Plus Vs Barista Pro

  • Price
  • Footprint
  • Auto steaming function
  • Better ability to dial in when paired with a capable grinder

Price

The Bambino plus paired with the Sage Smart Grinder Pro works out at the same price as the Barista Express, so about a hundred pounds cheaper.

If you pair it with a higher level espresso grinder such as the Eureka Mignon Specialita, you’ll only end up paying about £50 – £70 more than the price of the Barista Pro.

If you went for the Mignon Crono, which has 50mm burrs rather than the 55mm burrs, and doesn’t have an LCD – depending on the current price of the grinder, you’ll probably pay less than you would for the Barista Pro.

Footprint

The Bambino Plus is tiny! Just 19.5 x 32 cm footprint, and x 31 cm tall. The Barista Pro isn’t huge, at 35.4 x 41 footprint and 40.6 cm tall, but it’s quite a bit bigger than the Bambino Plus as you can see. 

If you’re really pressed for space, especially if you’re buying a machine to use in a motorhome for example, then this may be a fairly important consideration.

Auto steaming function

The Bambino plus has the ability to auto steam your milk, with three texture settings and three temp settings to choose from.

Better ability to dial in when paired with a capable grinder

As mentioned above, it’s possible to pair the Bambino plus with a much more capable espresso grinder, giving you better ability to fine-tune the grind size to better dial in, starting at under what you’d pay for the Barista Pro, depending on which grinder you go for. 

Pros for the Barista Pro Vs Sage Bambino Plus

  • More solid on the worktop
  • Bigger drip tray 
  • Shot Timer
  • Easier to enter cleaning cycles
  • Ability to change brew temperature

I won’t expand on the pros which are shared with the Barista Pro vs Barista Express as I’d be repeating myself, but re the other points:

More solid on the worktop

Being bigger and heavier, the Barista Pro stays where it is when you’re using it, while the Bambino plus tends to move around when you’re locking and unlocking the portafilter.

I’ve just found that this is something you get used to with the Bambino Plus, though, and I always habitually keep the machine steady with one hand while I’m holding the portafilter in the other one. 

Bigger drip tray 

This is definitely a pro for the Barista Pro vs the Bambino Plus from my point of view, as the tiny drip tray on the Bambino Plus does wind me up a bit if I’m honest. It’s that small that unless you really keep on top of it by emptying it after every couple of times you’ve used it, you’ll end up with a pool of water around the machine. 

With the Barista Pro, and the Barista Express, you have a much more practical, usable drip tray. Not only that, but you even have a little storage compartment behind the drip try which is a clever little touch.

Ability to change brew temperature

With the Barista Express and Barista Pro, you can change the brew temperature, which gives you another dimension to dialling in the shot. You cant change the brew temperature on the Bambino plus.

Conclusion, is the Barista Pro worth it?

In my humble opinion, yes, the Barista Pro is well worth the extra cost over the Barista Express.

The extra grind settings, the shot timer and everything else the LCD display brings to the table just takes the pro to a different level than the Express as far as I’m concerned. 

When it comes to comparisons with the other Sage machines, above, this just comes down to personal preference, I don’t think there’s a right answer. The Bambino plus is the perfect machine for some people, while the Barista Touch or even one of the Oracle machines will be the perfect machine for other coffee lovers. 

Don’t forget, if you’re thinking of buying one,  just join my mailing list, and then drop me an email, so I can share the discount code with you if I have one at the time. 

Life is like a box of chocolates, so join my Brew Time list, subscribe to my YouTube Channel, become an accredited coffee botherer (Patreon supporter), try my coffee at The Coffeeworks (use discount code coffeebotherers), follow me on Twitter & Instagram, follow the coffeeblog FaceBook page, and that’s all I have to say about that.

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This article firstly appeared at Coffee Blog – The UK Specialty Coffee Blog – For Lovers of REAL Coffee!

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