This beautiful and well built machine will provide you with excellent, fresh coffee – but don’t buy it thinking you’ll get one-touch espresso. It’s not a fully automatic machine, so you’ll need to enjoy tinkering with settings and be on board with the fiddly business of filling and using a portafilter.
If you’re in the US, you’ll find Sage machines, including this one, for sale under the Breville brand name. They’re exactly the same appliances, made with the same attention to detail. And that’s worth knowing because, when it comes to getting café-quality coffee at home, there aren’t many brands that do it like Sage.
Championed by Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal, Sage is renowned for creating top-quality machines aimed at the average Joe, while replicating the coffee shop experience through innovative professional-grade features alongside intuitive interfaces and programmable settings.
Build quality is also a big focus for the company, using high-grade stainless steel and durable components to ensure its products don’t only look the part, but they’re built to last.
While the company offers a variety of models to cater to different preferences, its latest release – the Barista Touch Impress – is one of its best yet. It sports some impressive, high-performing features such as an in-built LCD display with pre-defined options such as latte, flat white and cappuccino, which steam the milk automatically to the correct consistency and temperature.
But is the coffee as good as it looks? I’ve been testing this machine for a few weeks to find out.
Design and build quality
Super stylish and well-made
Premium design features and accessories
2-litre water tank with removable filter
There’s no denying that the Barista Touch Impress is a beautifully designed and well-made machine. Despite an impressive suite of features, it’s designed to be minimal and sleek. Everything – from the drip tray to the tamping lever – is of top quality, feeling super sturdy.
It’s these features and high-end design that really help set the Barista Touch Impress apart from other coffee machines of its type. However, what we need to point out is that the Barista Touch Impress isn’t a fully automatic bean-to-cup machine like the De’Longhi Eletta Explore. Instead, it’s a semi-automatic espresso machine with a burr grinder, LCD display and milk frothing built in.
On top, you’ll find a sealable bean hopper for storing 340g of coffee beans sitting above a built-in steel precision conical burr grinder, which will transform full beans into brewable coffee in a matter of seconds. You can also control how fine this is ground up via a dial on the side of the machine, which offers 30 grind settings.
Next to this dial is the machine’s tamping lever, which is pulled down (in a rather satisfying motion) to evenly pack the coffee grounds together for a richer, better-quality shot when brewing.
Lee Bell / Foundry
On the front of the unit is an integrated automatic steam wand, which allows you to froth milk from a jug, just like a barista. This also allows you to adjust milk temperature between 40ºC and 75ºC as well as offering eight levels of texture (frothy, smooth, bubbly, etc) to suit your taste. Just under this is a generously sized drip tray with a red float and enough height to dispense straight into a mug.
At the back, there’s a two-litre water tank. This isn’t super easy to get to, but Sage has given it a nifty fold-out carry handle on the top so it can be easily lifted out and filled with water without having to move the entire machine. Inside this tank is another well-thought-out addition: a water filter. This is there to help reduce the inevitable limescale build-up, which – over time – will affect the running of your coffee machine, especially if you live in a hard water area.
Annoyingly, this will need replacing every three months, but since it should increase the longevity of the appliance while also improving the quality of your coffee, it’s worth it, in my opinion.
The standout feature of the machine, however, is its large LCD touch display, which gives it its “touch” moniker. It’s bright and of a decent size (there’s no info anywhere on its specs) but more on how well it works later.
Lee Bell / Foundry
For such a competent machine, the Barista Touch Impress is pretty compact, measuring approximately 34x42x33cm/ 13.4×16.5x13in. Still, it will probably still take up quite a big portion of counter space, so be sure before buying that it’s something you’ll use often. It’s a little big and heavy to be moving in and out of a cupboard – and way too beautiful to hide away anyway.
If you only want a coffee maker to use on special occasions, it might be worth buying something simple and way cheaper, like the Bambino Espresso Maker, which is easier to clean and store away, or a Moka Pot, which is even more straightforward.
The Barista Touch Impress model that I tested had a brushed stainless steel finish, but it’s also available in black, white and black stainless steel, to match your appliances or kitchen. I should add, however, that while the stainless steel finish looks slick, it is quite easily marked by fingerprints.
In the box, you’ll get the machine itself, which comes with a removable portafilter and water reservoir. There’s also a stainless steel milk jug and Razor precision trimming tool, which is supposed to help you trim down the coffee puck to the correct level in order to achieve consistent extraction.
Also among the accessories are four portafilter baskets: two single wall (for one and two cup volumes) and two double wall (again, with two volume options). These create some versatility of use for households with varying preferences when it comes to coffee making.
Here’s why: Single wall filter baskets should be used with fresh, evenly ground beans. They’ll allow baristas-in-training to experiment with their espresso grinding, dosing and tamping to get the perfect cup.
Pop in a double wall basket, however, and you’ll be able to use older, less evenly ground or lower quality beans and the basket will regulate the espresso produced. You might not get a mind-blowing espresso with one, but you’ll get a perfectly drinkable cup – every time.
Guided coffee making makes the barista process easy
Manual or automatic milk frothing
Steep learning curve; takes some fine-tuning
Sure, the Barista Touch Impress looks incredibly stylish but does its performance match up?
In terms of heating up, the answer is yes. Thanks to the machine’s Thermojet heating system, it’s able to heat up extremely quickly, meaning the coffee is ready to dispense seconds after switching it on – and you can swap between using the steam wand and coffee dispensing pretty much instantly.
Although, unlike some pricier machines, you can’t dispense the brew and steam the milk at the same time, which – despite being a very first-world problem – I found extremely irritating. You can, however, press the milk froth command button and it’ll start steaming as soon as brewing has finished.
The Barista Touch Impress control panel, while elegant, has its own flaw. It’s great in that it allows you to swipe between eight drink presets such as flat white, cappuccino, latte, etc – or customise eight of your own. But the screen’s responsiveness is exceptionally sluggish.
When attempting to select different drink options, there’s a noticeable lag which I think is unforgivable in a machine at this price point – it really impacts its overall premium feel. As the Barista Touch Impress doesn’t have Wi-Fi capability, there’s no chance of a firmware update to fix it either.
Nevertheless, once a preset is selected, the machine will guide you through a barista-style coffee-making process, from grinding to brewing and milk frothing, all matched to a preset. For example, it’ll brew a shorter espresso for a flat white and tell the integrated steam wand to froth the milk to the corresponding temperature and texture, so your cup of coffee is just how it should be.
Lee Bell / Foundry
The integrated steam wand can also be used manually if you’d like more control over the result of your frothed milk like a true barista. And you can even select which type of milk you’re frothing, from oat, soya or dairy, so the microfoam is adjusted appropriately – which is essential for pouring latte art, for example.
These innovative and super customisable features are what make this device one of the best coffee machines on the market today (apart from the laggy display, bleurgh).
One of my favourite features on the Barista Touch Impress is the addition of a sensor within the grinder, which will notify you when there are enough grounds in the portafilter, or if more should be added. It will also tell you if the grind size needs to be changed and if extraction is too fast or slow. I found this very helpful and I can imagine many budding baristas looking to skill up in the art of espresso making will, too.
Lee Bell / Foundry
However, getting to grips with this, getting the pour and extraction speed and consistency just right will take many attempts – so be prepared for a bit of a learning curve, especially if you’re a beginner. You’ll also have to tweak it when using a new type of coffee bean, as all beans are different. It can sometimes take days to get all the different elements set correctly so that your first coffee of the day is perfect, first time.
But this is the whole point of owning a machine like this, if you ask me. It’s a constant learning experience, but it’s a fun one. If you didn’t want to tinker around and experiment with how you make your coffee and feel like a barista, then surely you’d just buy a Nespresso machine and be done with it?
Price and availability
The Barista Touch Impress sits somewhere in the middle of Sage’s coffee machine line-up, but unlike older machines, this brand new appliance delivers a ton of fresh features that Sage’s espresso makers haven’t seen before.
In the US, it’s available on the Breville website and from other retailers, including Amazon for $1,499.95. At this stage, there’s no price advantage from buying at any retailer.
In the UK, you can buy it directly from the Sage website, or from a number of retailers such as John Lewis and Very, for its RRP of £1,199.95. This makes it more than three times the price of the budget-friendly Breville Barista Max, which can currently be picked up on sale at Currys for an amazing £299.
Both are excellent machines for their price points but the Barista Touch Impress has a superior build quality and design, heats pretty much instantly and gives you way more control over how your espresso is made, from infusion to more detailed pour times.
The Barista Touch Impress is expensive but if you want the full espresso making experience, you’re not going to get better home-made coffee at this price. But if what you’re after is a fully automated machine, we’d suggest you take a look at De’Longhi’s Eletta Explore.
If you’re in the market for a top-quality, head-turning coffee machine that’ll be the talking point of your kitchen while offering up cafe-quality coffee at home, then look no further. The Barista Touch Impress is one of the most impressive bean-to-cup appliances we’ve tested.
But while the coffee you brew is akin to something you’d pay £3/ $5 a pop for, be prepared to work for it. Owning this machine is not a matter of just pushing a button and having perfect coffee on tap every time. It’ll take some time to adapt to as well as some tinkering to get your coffee to a place that you’re happy with.
If this is not something you want to do, or don’t see the point of doing it, then this machine is not for you. The Barista Touch Impress is one for the coffee curious; for beginners or intermediates who are somewhat excited by the art of coffee making and content in experimenting to get the perfect cuppa.
While its disappointingly sluggish touch display is a bit of a letdown, it’s not a deal-breaker. Overall, this is a brilliant, stylish and smart coffee machine that, yes, does cost a lot of money, but can intuitively guide you through the coffee-making process while offering lots of customisable options, all packed up in an impressive build quality that’s bound to stand the test of time.
If there’s one thing this machine can do and do well, it’s make you feel like a proper barista in the comfort of your own home.
For more home coffee-making options, have a look at our round-up of the best coffee machines we’ve tested.
Dimensions: 41.7(W)x35.8(D)x 34.3cm(H)/ 16.4″ x 14.1″x 13.1″ x 13.5″