I finally broke up with Silvia. More than a decade ago, I wrote an article for the print edition of Forbes about making the world’s best cup of coffee at home. Back then, at the recommendation of barista champions and prominent Los Angeles cafe owners, I acquired a Rancilio Silvia espresso machine, the best home espresso machine at the time.
Silvia and I were a heavenly couple for years. We made beautiful crema together, things often got hot and steamy, and her delicious aromas frequently drew FOMO glances from envious friends and neighbors. But during the pandemic, I started noticing “issues.” The heat just wasn’t there anymore. Our output was inconsistent. Reader, not long ago, I sent her off to live in the laundry room.
And so, I started searching for a replacement.
Through deep research I kept landing on models by Breville that got stellar reviews and excited me about making a change. I craved something less fussy and less messy than the Rancilio. I also just wanted some magic. After years of pouring Silvia’s vague latte art (“Hey, a giraffe!” my wife might say, when it was supposed to be a heart), I wanted a stronger steam wand so I could finally master the type of pours I obsessively watch on Instagram.
My new love arrived this week in the form of the Barista Pro. A mid-range model on the Breville lineup, the Pro has a small footprint at 14″ W x 16” D x 16″ but its talents are mighty. And, not to brag, but she’s kinda gorgeous, too. The LCD displays make me feel like our kitchen is a cafe—with an accent aigu. The shiny steel face lights up my mornings. Overall, the Barista Pro makes Silvia look—and I hope you’ll excuse me—like a dowdy old aunt.
Performance is really where it’s at, though. Whereas Silvia took more than five minutes to heat up, the Pro is ready to go in — get this — three seconds! And the machine heats to exactly 200°F for perfectly balanced flavors.
I own an exceptional Baratza Virtuoso grinder but what’s beautiful about the Barista Pro is its integrated grinder that dispenses ground coffee on demand for maximum flavor. The hopper atop the unit looks small but it somehow contains an entire 12 oz bag of Arabica beans.
With the Silvia, everything was manual and nothing was tailored to my whims. I’d push the on button, wait and wait, then push the brew button and I’d get what I got. With the Barista Pro, you can select options on grind size, dosing times, and espresso extraction times (that’s coffee talk, people), as well as choose between one or two shots. There’s also an option to go fully manual for tighter control.
That’s all great but what thrills me is the Barista Pro’s steam wand. The powerful 266°F steam delivers silky microfoam, which is the paint-like consistency you need to be the Leonardo of latte art (With the Silvia, I was more of a Jackson Pollock). Part of the trick there is four steam holes instead of the standard one-hole configuration you see in most home espresso machines.
The Pro is Breville’s follow-up to the Barista Express, and it’s quieter, heats up faster and gives you more options (for example, the grinder now has 30 grind size options as opposed to 18 on the Express). For me, it’s an upgrade after years of “pretty good.” And now that I’ve seen sensational, I’m wondering why I held onto Silvia for so long. All these years I could have been a pro!
The Barista Pro is available for $849 on Breville’s website or at Williams-Sonoma, Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.