Sage the Barista Express Espresso Machine vs Breville Barista Max

Which is better, the Sage the Barista Express Espresso Machine or the Breville Barista Max?

When we compare the Breville Barista Max vs Sage Barista Express, we can see these are two of the most popular mid-level bean-to-cup espresso machines in the UK and both have the ‘Amazon Choice’ markers if you search for an Espresso Machine on the Bezos Behemoth. Both are capable of producing espresso straight out of the box and their features and design look similar, but with £200 price difference, there must be a lot more going on under the covers, let’s find out. But first;

Are Sage and Breville the Same Company?

It depends where you are in the world. There are two Breville companies, one was formed in Sydney Australia (Breville Aus) and owns the Sage Brand and the Breville brand outside of Europe, and the other is owned ultimately by Newell Brands and owns the Breville brand in Europe and UK (Breville UK).

So, confusingly for us in the UK, if we look at online espresso forums or on Reddits best espresso setups, we are going to see lot’s of mentions of Breville Barista Express, which is where the confusion for the UK consumer market lies, as Breville(UK) both make Espresso machines and more confusingly both sell a “Barista” coffee machine, that look conveniently similar to the Sage (Breville Aus) award winning espresso machine.

However, the name and the look is where the similarities end, what really matters is in the quality of the espresso.

At a glance;

Sage Barista Express

  • Customisable and great tasting espresso

  • Good quality, integrated stepless grinder

  • OK grinding range

  • Premium quality feel

  • More expensive

  • Still only a single boiler

  • Steam wand takes a while to heat up

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Breville Barista Max

  • Cheaper than other bean-to-cup machines

  • Has pre-infusion and a PID

  • OK grinding range

  • Big water tank and drip tray

  • Messy grinder

  • Shots come out a little cool

  • Takes a while to heat up

  • Internal parts made from plastic and may wear out

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The similarities are uncanny...

When it comes to coffee machines, the materials used play a significant role in the overall experience and quality of the espresso produced. Both the Breville Barista Max and Sage Barista Express feature stainless steel bodies on the top and sides, ensuring durability and an elegant appearance.

The Breville Barista Max boasts a metal base, while the Sage Barista Express has a plastic base, giving the former a slightly sturdier feel. They both feel built to last from the outside.

The Portafilters - Holding Premium Matters

The main part of the coffee machine that you hold is always going to be the Portafilter, so no matter how the rest of the machine feels and looks, how 'premium' the machine feels is quite dependent on the portafilter. Despite the fact that you can buy after market bottomless portafilters, you want to know that out of the box, the espresso machine has considered this premium feel.

The portafilters of both machines have a similar construction, featuring an aluminium case with a plastic handle. However, the Sage Barista Express portafilter has a more refined design, providing an additional 100 grams of weight, giving it a more premium feel. This extra heft is crucial for stability, heat retention and even extraction, leading to a more consistent and flavourful espresso.

Furthermore, the Sage Barista Express and the Breville Barista Max both have a 54mm portafilter. The larger size in the Sage model allows for better distribution of grounds, ensuring a more balanced extraction and is the same size as commercially used, so precision baskets are more abundant and more competitively priced (an important upgrade for any one serious about their espresso).

Integrated Grinders

When buying a bean to cup espresso machine, as opposed to a separate grinder, you want to know that the grinder is quality enough to grind fine enough for an unpressurised basket, and that the construction will last.

The Sage Barista Express comes with an integrated conical burr grinder, which allows you to grind beans right before brewing, ensuring maximum freshness and flavour.

The Breville Barista Max also has a conical burr grinder, but on closer inspection some of the parts used to spin these look prone to wear and tear, and replacement parts are not as available for the Breville as they are the Sage. For a coffee enthusiast, the precision of the grind is paramount, and the Sage Barista Express delivers on this front.

Justifying the Price Difference: Is the Sage Barista Express Worth It?

The Sage Barista Express is, without a doubt, a more advanced machine with superior features, such as a larger portafilter, integrated conical burr grinder, and a more precise steam wand. These enhancements contribute to a more consistent and flavourful espresso, which is the ultimate goal for any passionate coffee lover.

While the Breville Barista Max is an excellent machine, the Sage Barista Express's additional features make it a worthy investment for those who are truly passionate about coffee and looking for a machine that can elevate their brewing experience.

The £200 price difference may seem steep, but when considering the long-term enjoyment and the ability to craft the perfect espresso, the Sage Barista Express justifies its higher price tag.

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Moreover, the Sage Barista Express is designed with the passionate home barista in mind, providing a wealth of customisation options and a more professional brewing experience. For those committed to refining their skills and exploring the world of espresso, the Sage Barista Express offers the necessary tools to do so.

Which should you choose?

In conclusion, the choice between the Breville Barista Max and the Sage Barista Express depends on your passion for coffee and your desire to delve into the art of espresso making. Both machines provide excellent value depending on what you want to get out of them, the Sage Barista Express offers superior performance and control, making it a better investment for those who are passionate about coffee and willing to spend the extra £200.

It provides more customisation options, better consistency, and advanced features, allowing you to grow and refine your espresso-making skills. If you're committed to honing your skills and seeking a machine that will grow with you on your coffee journey, the Sage Barista Express is the ideal choice.

If you are more constrained by budget and not interested in taking your espresso further, then the simplicity and the cheaper price of the Breville will probably swing your choice more in that direction. However, it may be worth considering other budget machines like the Sage Bambino or De'longhi Dedica.

Why the Sage Barista Express Is Better for The Espresso Hobbyist

The Sage Barista Express is designed to grow with you on your coffee journey by offering features and capabilities that can adapt to your evolving skills and preferences as a home barista. Here's how it can grow with you:

  1. Customisation and control: The Sage Barista Express allows you to customise various aspects of the brewing process, such as grind size, extraction time, and water temperature. As you become more knowledgeable about espresso, you can experiment with these variables to find the perfect balance that suits your taste preferences. 
  2. Manual and automatic options: While the machine comes with automated settings for brewing and milk frothing, it also provides the option for manual control. As you gain experience and confidence, you can transition from relying on automated settings to taking full control of the process, honing your skills as a barista. 
  3. Advanced steam wand: The 360-degree swivel steam wand offers precision and flexibility, allowing you to practice and perfect your milk frothing techniques. As you progress in your coffee journey, you'll be able to create microfoam for velvety cappuccinos and intricate latte art. 
  4. Room for upgrades: The Sage Barista Express is compatible with various accessories and upgrades, such as bottomless portafilters, precision shower screens, and different filter baskets. As your skills develop and your understanding of espresso deepens, you can invest in these accessories to further improve your brewing experience. 
  5. Consistent performance: As you grow in your coffee journey, you'll appreciate the consistency and reliability of the Sage Barista Express, allowing you to focus on refining your skills and experimenting with different coffee beans and brewing techniques.

In summary, the Sage Barista Express grows with you by offering a range of customisable features, manual control options, and compatibility with accessories and upgrades. This adaptability allows you to refine your skills and explore various aspects of espresso making, providing an enriching and satisfying coffee journey.


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