Cheap and compact, the Breville Bijou Espresso Machine VCF149 will easily fit into any kitchen. For those looking to get started with making espresso, it’s a great basic machine. However, I found that coffee poured too fast and was a little too hot. Milk frothing was better, though.
If you want something cheap, then this machine serves its purpose; but you’ll get better results from more powerful espresso machines, or even an entry-level bean-to-cup coffee-maker.
- Very small
- Decent frothing
- Coffee pours too fast
- Espresso is too hot
- Coffee machine moves when you insert or remove handle
- UKRRP: £144
Entry-level manual coffee machines are few and far between, so I was excited to get my hands on the Breville Bijou Espresso Machine VCF149. At under £150, it appears to be the perfect model for getting started with making coffee the “proper” way, or even for those who don’t drink coffee often, but still fancy a proper espresso.
Design and Features
- Very small and light
- Single and double filters
- Proper steam wand
As an entry-level coffee machine, the Breville Bijou Espresso Machine VCF149 is super-compact and takes up little counter space. In that regard, it’s similar to the Beko Espresso Coffee Machine CEP5152.
In the box, you get a group handle and two portafilters: one for a single shot of espresso, and one for a double-shot of espresso. As you’d expect of a cheap machine, the VCF149 uses the smaller 52mm filter size, rather than the professional 58mm.
There’s a basic tamper/scoop in the box, although it’s quite flimsy. I recommend buying a solid metal one – you won’t regret it.
Once you’ve put coffee into the filter, the group handle locks into position underneath the machine. Be careful, since the lightweight Breville Bijou Espresso Machine VCF149 is prone to moving around both when inserting and removing the handle.
Under the spout there’s room for mugs up to 110mm in height, which means you won’t be able to fit in taller, latte-style glasses.
Water is provided by the lift-out 1.5-litre water container that sits at the rear of the machine. Given the Bijou Barista’s compact size, that’s a decent amount of water; you won’t have to constantly keep filling it up.
Controls are just as simple. Once the coffee machine is turned on, it warms up to espresso temperature. Just turn the dial to the left to dispense water and you’re good to go.
When you want to steam, just hit the steam button and the single boiler increases temperature, with the status light turning solid when it’s ready. You can then turn the dial to the right to dispense steam through the wand.
This kind of set-up is neat; it means you can turn the dial to expel any water in the wand before you start, and then flush milk through once you’ve finished.
There is one issue, however: when you’ve finished steaming and want the coffee machine to go back to coffee temperatures, there’s no auto-venting. Leaving the Breville Bijou Espresso Machine VCF149 to cool down takes a while, so I resorted to manually venting steam out of the wand into an empty jug until water ran through.
- Pours very fast
- Easy to get espresso out
- Coffee is a little too hot
For those new to making coffee, trying to get a decent shot of espresso can be difficult: get the grind and tamp wrong and you could even end up with nothing at all coming out of the spout. As such, entry-level coffee machines try to avoid that situation with filter baskets.
In that regard, it’s easy to get coffee out of the Breville Bijou Espresso Machine VCF149. The downside is that it’s pretty much impossible to get espresso to pour at the right rate; 20 seconds for a single shot and around 30 seconds for a double shot is my go-to.
No matter how fine the grind or hard the tamp, I found that the Breville Bijou Espresso Machine VCF149 poured the coffee very fast. This left the final shot of espresso with quite a foamy crema that disappeared quite quickly.
Measuring the temperature of a shot of coffee, I found that it sat at 73.5ºC – which is far too hot for espresso. Ideal would be closer to 60ºC. In addition, there’s no temperature control on this model to make any adjustments.
As a result, my espresso tasted a little too bitter on first being poured, and my Fairtrade Peruvian beans lacked their usual subtlety. Once the shot was cooler, it tasted a little better; but I’ve tasted better shots of espresso from entry-level bean-to-cup machines such as the Beko CEG5311.
- Nice control
- Good texture is possible
The steam function on this machine is pretty good. As mentioned, you can flush out water before you start steaming in earnest. With that dial control, I found it fairly easy to foam milk, with a nice spinning action to blend it together.
Using it to pour a flat white, the result was okay. The milk had a nice texture to it, but the crema wasn’t quite thick enough for the milk to be poured with a pattern on top of it.
- Very easy to look after
- Basic cleaning and descaling
Since this is a basic coffee machine, there isn’t too much to worry about in terms of maintenance. The drip-tray can be removed and should be cleaned out regularly to prevent any mould growth.
Descaling should be carried out at regular intervals, too – every three to six months should suffice, depending on the hardness of your water. Note that there’s no descale indicator on this machine, so you’ll either need a calendar reminder or perform the job if you notice that water isn’t flowing at its usual rate.
Should you buy it?
If you want a basic manual espresso machine to get you started, the Breville Bijou can teach you some of the basics of making proper coffee.
If you want the best results, then look elsewhere – this machine delivered coffee too fast and too hot.
The Breville Bijou Espresso Machine VCF149 comes in at an attractive price, and its compact form makes it an appealing purchase, especially for those just getting into coffee. The downside is that the machine pours too fast, and the coffee is too hot.
As such, while the Breville Bijou Espresso Machine VCF149 produces acceptable results, I’d rather spend extra on the Gaggia Classic, or go for a different choice from my list of the best coffee machines.
How we test
Unlike other sites, we test every coffee machine we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Used as our main coffee machine for the review period
Tested for at least a week
We roast our own beans for regular coffee machines, so we can fairly compare each machine; pod machines are tested with a variety of compatible capsules
Depending on capabilities, we test each machine’s ability to make espresso and cappuccino
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You can make two single shots of espresso or one double-shot at once.
There’s a steam wand for manually frothing milk.
You can fit mugs up to 110mm tall.