The Sage Barista Pro is a stellar manual machine that can make a great selection of different coffees. Its advanced heating system also makes it one of the fastest around, and an ideal companion for coffee-lovers looking for a quick and easy way to get their caffeine fix each morning.
- Compact design, easy to clean
- Great manual steam wand
- Super-fast heat-up and pouring
- Un-intuitive for newbie baristas
- Review Price: £599.99
- 2-cup support
- 250g capacity grinder
- Steam wand
- 2l water tank
- Thermojet heating system.
The Sage Barista Pro is a mid-range manual bean-to-cup machine. It’s designed for semi-serious coffee enthusiasts looking for a quick and easy way to make their own lattes and flat whites.
You won’t find fancy features such as app support or strength settings here, but the machine’s easy setup process and rapid heating system make it a great choice for coffee fans looking to take their morning caffeine injection to the next level.
Confusing grinder settings and the Barista Pro’s completely manual steamer will be intimidating to first-time manual machine owners, however. The two-cup capacity and single bean tray also make it inappropriate for larger shared houses.
Sage Barista Pro – What you need to know
- Features – Single grinder with 30 seconds, steam wand, two-cup capacity
- Espresso – Quick and accurate pour, tasty results; but flavour can on occasion be slightly acidic
- Milk drinks – Excellent for lattes and flat whites, but the steam wand requires some skill to use
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Design – The Sage Barista Pro is neat and well built, with an integrated coffee grinder
At first glance, the Barista Pro looks like most other manual bean-to-cup machines. It has a 354 x 410 x 406mm body, with a single burr grinder on its top that can hold around 250g worth of beans (a standard bag’s worth). This model also comes with all the accessories you’d expect of a machine at this price including a well-sized steel jug for steaming milk, one of Sage’s razer tools for getting the right amount of coffee in the filter basket, a basic tamper and a 54mm portafilter.
The setup process is super-easy as a result. Simply remove the coffee machine from its packaging and slot the bean holder, drip tray and water tank into their allotted areas. From there you power up the Barista Pro and follow a few commands displayed on the machine’s front LCD screen. All in all, you’ll have it ready to make coffee in less than five minutes.
The Barista Pro feels well built, for the most part. The main body and drip tray’s metal finish feels premium and the included portafilter is noticeably sturdier than the versions you’ll find on Sage’s cheaper machines.
My only minor qualm with the design is that the rear tank only has a 2l capacity, and can be a little painful to refill in smaller kitchens. Its rear placement is normal, but the hinged lid’s mechanism is oddly tight and has a thin profile. This means you’ll have to pull the machine out, if it’s set against a wall whenever you want to top it up with water, or risk regular spillages.
Features – A fully manual machine that will require some tuning
Under the hood, Sage has made a few key changes to differentiate the Pro from its cheaper manual bean-to-cup models. The two biggest are the addition of the firm’s custom Thermojet heating and volumetric pouring.
According to Sage, the Thermojet tech lets the Pro heat up and be ready to pour a shot of espresso only three seconds after it’s been turned on. Volumetric is a more precise approach to pouring, where the machine measures exactly how much water it’s pushing through the ground coffee.
By comparison, cheaper machines just push out water by time. The benefit is that it means you should always get the same amount of espresso in your cup with each pour, something you can’t guarantee with budget machines.
Real-world testing saw both features perform as stated, making it quick and easy to achieve single or double espressos and americanos – once you get your head around the Barista Pro’s slightly unintuitive grinder settings, that is.
Unlike some machines, the Barista Pro isn’t smart, and doesn’t come with any form of app support. As the name suggests, it’s also fully manual. Newbie users won’t find on-screen instructions for lattes or auto settings for specific drinks.
Instead, you get manual controls for the amount and size of your grind. You can pick between up to 30 different grind sizes using a left-facing dial. The amount is measured in seconds and controlled using the front-facing dial. The only auto control on offer is whether you want a single or double shot’s worth of coffee. This is selected by pushing on the front dial.
Being fair to Sage, a lack of help for beginners is common on most manual machines, but at this price the manual’s complete lack of guidance for newbies does lead to early wastage. It took me about a fifth of a bag of beans to find the correct settings for each new coffee I drank, and even then I often found myself reaching for the razer cleaning tool to remove excess in the portafilter each time. You may want to read our guide on how to use a coffee grinder for some help.
Espresso quality – Excellent espresso at the right temperature
Thankfully, once you have the settings locked down and are familiar with the system, the Barista Pro is generally excellent. The heating tech means the machine is lightning-fast and you’ll be able to go from the grinder to cup in less than half a minute.
The heating system is also great for americanos, with a right-facing dial making it quick and easy to add hot water to your cup with zero delay, or fuss. The same dial controls the machine’s steamer.
A cup of coffee made using the out-of-the-box settings has a robust crema and is delivered at around 63 degrees, which is pretty much spot on for espresso. There are also manual controls for those who wish to tweak their drink’s temperature. My only issue is that the flavour on the test beans I used was a little acidic on occasion.
Thankfully, this is easily fixed using the machine’s adjustable infuse time controls. These are accessed by pressing the machine’s menu buttons and scrolling across to the pour settings. Here you can select how long the machine keeps hot water in the coffee before pushing it through, and it’s a key way to tweak the flavour of the end result.
Milk – Learn the correct techniques and the steam wand delivers
Like pretty much every part of the Barista Pro, the steam wand works well, but doesn’t have any hand-holding features for newbies. The biggest omission is the lack of texture controls. This means if you want to get a frothy cappuccino or piping latte, you’ll have to spend some time learning the correct techniques.
Once you do, the system works great, however. The wand is just as snappy as the rest of the machine, generally taking between seven and eight seconds to build pressure and then delivering wonderfully uniform results. Within a few minutes you’ll be able to create frothy cappuccinos, velvety lattes and pretty much any coffee you like with the wand.
As an added bonus, I found the system worked great with non-dairy milk including soy, almond and oat. This is great news for vegan users and something I can’t say about all the frothing systems I’ve tested.
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Maintenance – Super-easy to keep in operating condition
Maintenance is super-easy. On a day to day basis, you’ll just have to empty the drip tray when it’s full and wipe up any accidental spillages. The drip tray easily separates from the main machine and has a handy red token that floats to the surface when it needs emptying.
The only minor issue is that the drip tray doesn’t feature adjustable heights. The machine is prone to splashing when pouring into espresso cups as a result. This, plus the slightly difficult to gauge manual grinding, means early on you’ll find yourself needing to wipe the Barista Pro down fairly regularly.
Longer-term you’ll need to sporadically run descaling and general cleaning cycles, both of which can be activated in the machine’s settings menu and simply require you to follow a series of on-screen commands.
Should you buy the Sage Barista Pro?
The Sage Barista Pro is an excellent machine for coffee fans looking for a compact and speedy manual bean-to-cup machine for their morning brew. Featuring a well-made, easy-to-clean compact body, this machine easily slots into even the smallest of spaces with zero fuss. The only downside is that a lack of automatic controls and lacklustre instructions make it an intimidating option for first-time manual machine users. For the experienced user who wants an all-in-one manual machine, however, this is an excellent choice.