Despite these both being brand new models, the chassis used on each are drastically different. The Touch Impress uses the newest generation body and design that can also found in the Barista Pro. While the Express Impress is still using the now ancient body style from the original Barista Express.
While the differences are mostly aesthetic, the Touch Impress does overall just feel like a more modern and well-polished product strictly from build quality standpoint, and this is an aspect that’s tough to overlook when you’re buying a brand new machine.
Moving on to the functional differences, let’s start with making straight espresso, or Americanos.
Both of these machines are new-generation Brevilles meaning that they are running at the proper 9 bar of pressure needed for traditional single-wall basket espresso shots. In terms of workflow, the machines are also almost identical.
They use the VERY convenient and consistent integrated dosing and tamping system that gives them both their “Impress” designation, and at the same grind, temperature, and shot size settings, they will produce an identical shot of espresso to one another.
On aspect worth considering is if you’re comfortable getting to that point on your own, IE, dialing in the grind size to achieve the proper flow rate for your specific coffee.
If this is the first time you’re hearing about dialing in, then the Touch Impress has pretty big leg-up in that it will walk you through this process step by step by monitoring the flow rate and telling you what adjustments to make based on that. Of course, this is also something you can do with a little bit of research and practise on the Express Impress, but the additional hand holding on the Touch is very nice for brand new users.
Rounding out the coffee section of this comparison, let’s quickly talk Americanos. If you enjoy a full-sized drink rather than an espresso shot, both of these machines have dedicated water outlets for that purpose, which are also just handy for quick hot water for other things such as tea or baking.
On the Touch Impress, this water outlet is located right behind the group head, so that you don’t even need to move your cup in between pulling a shot and adding water. In fact, you don’t even need to press any additional buttons. If you select Americano from the drinks menu, the machine will pull the shot, and then automatically dispense the desired amount of water after.
On the Express Impress the water spout is on the front corner of the machine, and is manually controlled, meaning you turn it on with a switch on the side of the machine, and it will run until you turn it back off.
Moving on to milk-based drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos, this is where we see the biggest difference between these two machines.
On the Express Impress, much like its older body style, it also uses the older generation heating system, meaning that after pulling your shot there is a good 20-30 second transition time while the machine gets up to steaming temperature. Once up to temperature, the steaming power is also weaker, taking around 60-70 seconds to steam a single drink.
In comparison, the newer heating system found on the Barista Touch Impress only takes a few seconds to start steaming, and will steam your drink a good 10-20 seconds faster once it gets there. It may seem like nitpicking when talking about a matter of seconds, but overall the Touch Impress is going to be around 40 seconds quicker PER DRINK, which really adds up if you’re serving multiple people back to back.
Apart from pure steaming speed, the next biggest consideration is the fact that the steaming on the Touch Impress is also automatic. Meaning that you don’t need to manually add air, integrate it in to make that silky texture, and stop it once it’s at the right temperature. You simply set the milk type, texture, and temperature you want, and the machine takes care of the rest, leaving you free to prep the next espresso shot, or start cleaning up.
Each set of settings can also be saved into a drink profile so that you don’t need to re-enter it every morning. I could create a recipe called Matt’s latte, and it would create a cow’s milk latte at 65 degrees Celsius, with medium foam, every single morning.
On the Express Impress, you’re on your own, and for people who crave a manual “home barista” experience, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, do keep in mind that there is a learning curve to steaming milk to get the correct texture, so if latte art is what you’re after, expect at least a few weeks of ugly blobs at the beginning while you learn the proper technique.
Overall, these are two of my favourite machines to recommend to brand new home baristas because of how they remove the typical frustrations of learning how to dial in and prep an espresso puck.
It gives new owners the experience they’re probably imagining when owning an espresso machine where you walk up, press a few buttons, and walk away with a great tasting drink.
If you are going to be making lots of milk drinks, or even just lots of different drinks, then the Barista Touch Impress does have some significant advantages with its programmability and improved steaming performance.
However, if you just want espresso, or you’re willing to take a little more time to steam and time learn the intricacies of texturing milk for yourself, then you can go with the Express Impress confidently knowing that you aren’t sacrificing anything in terms of overall quality in the cup.