Today, we take a look at the two top tiers of the Breville espresso lineup. The Dual Boiler and The Oracle. Which one of these machines is going to be best for your home, and which one can make better drinks? Let’s find out!
The first thing to understand when comparing these two units, is that the Oracle is essentially the exact same machine as the Dual Boiler, with a build in grinder, and automated brewing features. This means that apart from the grinder perched on top of the Oracle, their form factors are also essentially the same. They both have top cup warmers, a front filling port for a 2.5 L water reservoir, a retractable power cord, hidden tool compartment behind the drip tray, and integrated castors for moving the machines around.
Specification-wise, they are both Dual Boiler espresso machines, meaning that you can brew and steam at the same time, they both feature digital displays to easily change settings such as when the machine turns on each morning, and they both offer a class-leading range of brewing parameter customization. Steam temperature, brewing temperature, pre-infusion time, pre-infusion pressure, and shot volumes can all be programmed in to suit your coffee of choice. Or, you can also run both machines manually.
Workflow (the big difference)
The first, and most significant, difference between these machines is in their workflow. Because of the automated features on the Oracle, it can make a double shot latte in around 1:30, compared to 2:00 on the Dual Boiler. However, a much larger difference is in the “touch time”, or how long you need to actually be tending to each machine during that process.
When making a latte on the Oracle, you are only physically working for 0:50, compared to 1:45 on the Dual Boiler. Over double!!
If the Dual Boiler is paired with Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro, a resulting shot that is dialed in to the same flow rate as on the Oracle should taste exactly the same. But there’s more to it then that! On the Oracle, you are trusting the machine to distribute and tamp evenly, which it does a pretty good job of… but with some practice, you can certainly do better by hand. This can be seen when looking at two side-by-side bottomless portafilter shots. On the left, we can see a nice, even filling in of the basket, an no channeling. However, on the Oracle, we can see some spraying indicating channeling through the coffee puck. It’s not TERRIBLE channeling by any means, but it did happen on almost every shot with the Oracle
The automatic steaming on the Oracle can not be faulted in the same way. It produces great textured milk at any texture and temperature combination you desire. This can, of course, also be accomplished manually on the Dual Boiler, but nowhere near as easily, and not without a lot of practise. The steaming IS quite slow compared to more pro-sumer level espresso machines, but if you start it at the beginning of the process, it will be finished with plenty of time to spare.
If you are someone who regularly entertains, the loads of downtime in the Oracle’s process flow is a big benefit, as it allows you to not be constantly tending to the espresso machine. Leaving you free to socialize, prepare food, or any other hosting duties. and the fool-proof nature of the brewing process means you can even teach longer-term guests how to use the machine themselves, something that is simply not possible on more hands-on machines. There is quite literally no way to mess up a coffee when using the Oracle’s automated modes. Whether they want a latte, or an Americano which the Oracle will also automatically dispense water for to suit small, medium, or large cups. You don’t even need to move the cup after brewing.
And that convenience is what you’re paying for! The ability to spend only 15 seconds actually tending to the machine, and also get a café quality drink out of it. If you pair The Dual Boiler with the Breville Smart Grinder Pro this combo will make the same quality espresso as The Oracle, but for less money. OR, you could pair the Dual Boiler with a higher quality grinder, and be able to produce BETTER espresso than The Oracle, at a similar total price.
Both of these machines are EXTREMELY capable at their respective price points, you just need to determine how much value YOU place on the automatic features available on The Oracle. I consider myself an espresso enthusiast, and I am still considering keeping the Oracle for the sheer convenience it provides, despite owning several other more “prosumer” level machines.