Back in November 2014, we put our money where our mouth is and bought an espresso machine we recommend: the Breville The Infuser BES840. It proved a popular addition to our office, used daily by more than a dozen Consumer NZ staffers.
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Since new, the quality and consistency of its coffee has impressed. It’s a semi-automatic machine — packing and tamping coffee into the portafilter is a manual task, but The Infuser manages how much water is pushed through to the cup. The machine is tolerant of our staff’s at-times dubious levels of “baristability” — how much coffee they pack in and how hard they tamp it down. As The Infuser has aged, we’ve had to change to coarse “stovetop grind” coffee. Using a finer “espresso grind” results in a lot of pressure but not much coffee dripping through to the cup.
In two-and-a-half years, it has produced an estimated 12,000 caffeine hits. For a domestic user making 3 coffees each day, that’s about 10 to 12 years of solid service.
Excessive or unexpected noise in our open-plan office is a regular cause of annoyance, and the Breville is no silent star. The pump emits a metronomic thump while steaming milk and when it’s done it purges the boiler, making an unmissable “vibrating pump” sound. But the rest is noise from the user: banging out used grinds and frothing milk with poor form (making a high-pitched squeal). After initial concern it would be too much to tolerate, the sound of espresso-making has become part of our daily background hum.
Regular users say milk frothing is an area the Breville could improve. The Infuser does a decent job with small quantities of milk, but doesn’t generate enough steam to heat more than a cup at a time.
The use we’ve put The Infuser through is way beyond your average consumer. In two-and-a-half years, it has produced an estimated 12,000 caffeine hits. For a domestic user making 3 coffees each day, that’s about 10 to 12 years of solid service. So how has this home espresso machine held up to our abuse?
We’ve carefully looked after our machine. We clean it weekly with Breville cleaning tablets, as recommended in the user manual. After a year of use, a service by our local espresso machine experts with a couple of new O-ring seals set us back $180. While we can’t be certain that care and maintenance has helped its longevity, it’s safe to assume it’s done no harm.
There have been minor reliability niggles. The float that indicates a full drip tray has taken on water and no longer pops up, so we occasionally get an overflow on to the kitchen benchtop. The dial that turns on the steam has also stiffened with age.
While annoying, we could live with those.
However, of considerably more concern, our Infuser recently starting emitting a worryingly loud noise when pulling shots. Our local servicing experts discovered the control board was failing, the noise was from the solenoid valve that releases water through the group head. It also needs a suite of seals to replace many that have cracked and worn out.
It could be fixed, parts are available. However, the quote to extend its life is almost as much as an identical replacement. After 12,000 shots our little Breville has exceeded life expectancy for a domestic espresso machine. It’s just not economic to keep it alive any longer. So we’ve retired The Infuser and invested in a Rocket Appartamento, a machine more suited to the volume of coffee we consume around publication deadlines.
The Infuser is dead. Long live the Rocket.
This was a trial from the perspective of our product expert. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.
By Paul Smith
Head of Testing
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