The perfect shot
How good is your coffee? Probably not as good as it could be. Absolutely trials Sage’s new Barista model
My home coffee game was fine – excellent, even. I prided myself on my flawless flat whites, the grind just right, good pressure and well-judged foam. My espresso machine was simple, yes, but I had found my favourite beans and things were good. That was before I took delivery of the new Sage Barista Touch Impress machine. It’s on temporary loan and I’m already worried about how I’ll cope when they take it back.
Because this big beast of a bean-to-cup machine makes great coffee, with minimal effort and no mess, midway between a manual machine and one where you just press a button. It’s operated by a touch screen, which makes me slightly nervous (what if the screen fails: no coffee? But then, high spec cars use them too and if it’s good enough for Audi, then espresso should be fine surely?) and you can simply select your drink. Even a toddler could choose a flat white from the picture.
And from there, the machine talks you through the process with simple on-screen instructions. Put the filter arm in the grinder, touch the screen to start the grind and then pull the tamper lever when it stops. Here’s one of the clever parts: it learns about your beans through experience, so to begin with, it might under- or overestimate quantity and ask you to grind a bit more, or to remove a bit with a special razor attachment. Once you’re at the right level – green tick! – you move the filter and touch the coffee icon. A timer counts down to the optimum 30 second shot and if it finishes too soon, there’s a suggestion that you adjust the grind for next time (there are 15 grind settings). And then comes the milk. This is possibly the best part because not only can you choose your default milk – dairy, almond oat, soy – but you don’t even need to hold the jug. You just fill it up, put the wand in it and sit it on the temperature sensor while it creates perfect 60 degree microfoam all on its own. It then even reminds you to wipe the wand clean, and purges itself briefly afterwards.
And the coffee, needless to say, is excellent, particularly thanks to the brilliant foam texture. Is your taste not for one of the standard programmed recipes? No problem – create your own, and name it after yourself. It will remember you. Settings include tea, hot chocolate and babycino – but I have no need for those.
This is clearly the ultimate in home espresso machines. Some years ago I graduated from capsules to beans, grinding them in a high quality burr grinder that partnered with my espresso machine, and performing a ritual than now seems hopelessly outdated, and messy: I would put the filter arm into the grinder, select my measure, tamp it manually and then slide it into the espresso machine. In doing so, bits of coffee would fly all over my kitchen counter. Not with the Barista Touch. The drip tray tells you when it needs emptying and there is no mess at all. Admittedly, there is some maintenance: the water filter will inevitably need replacing more often than you think, and I haven’t had to descale it yet. But I’m willing to put in the hours. This is a coffee machine of dreams and I wish it were mine.
Sage’s Barista Touch™ Impress retails for £1199.95 and is now available nationwide.