Breville Oracle Review
Here it is! We’ve reached the top of the Breville Espresso totem pole, this, is the Oracle. What added features justify the significantly higher price over the already stellar Dual Boiler we looked at earlier? And more importantly, are these features actually worth it?
Let’s start by looking at the physical machine itself, this thing is BIG, and not just in its width, but the height as well. The Oracle takes the already slightly exaggerated height of the Dual boiler, and adds an integrated grinder perched on top. However, other than being visually large, this will not pose any functional problems, as the top of the grinder is just barely under the standard 18” opening height for overhead cabinets.
Quickly running through the rest of the physical details, the Oracle has 3 digital displays on the front. The left displays the grind setting, the right allows you to select the milk texture and temperature, and the middle handles all other settings and information display.
The drip tray follows the other machines from the Breville lineup by pulling straight out to reveal a hidden tools bin, and what I think is the greatest feature in espresso machine design, Breville’s integrated castor system.
The rear of the machine has the same clever power cord shortener as found on the Dual Boiler,
as well as access to the water reservoir.
Now you may be thinking, that’s an awfully inconvenient location for a water reservoir, but luckily the Oracle also includes the very convenient front-filling port which actually makes it significantly easier to fill than the smaller Breville models.
What Makes it Special?
The Oracle takes the already great and highly-programmable brewing performance from the Dual Boiler, takes away the opportunity for user error, and effectively eliminates the espresso learning curve (sort of). It does this, by handling the dosing, distributing, tamping, and milk texturing for you, meaning that your only job is to move the portafilter from the dosing cradle to the group head, select the shot size, and hit go on the steam wand.
When I bought this machine to review, I had some big hesitations about the automated tamping, because I was already familiar with how clumpy and uneven the integrated Breville grinders can be, from my time with the Barista Express. If you were to immediately tamp this portafilter without distributing, you’re going to have some horrendously uneven flow, and sour tasting espresso.
This is why I was pleasantly surprised to see that the tamping on the Oracle is actually accomplished using two rotating distribution blades, and not a flat tamper. Makes sense. The tamping pressure and duration is also adjustable, but so far I’ve left it on the default setting of 5 and for 4 seconds.
And the performance of this tamping system has surprised me. I’ve been using this machine for just over a week now, and only once have a gotten a shot that exhibited any form of channeling. In all other cases, the extraction has been VERY consistent from shot to shot. I was cynical, and I’ll admit that I was proven wrong by the great tasting, and highly repeatable shots it was able to produce.
Just like on the Dual Boiler, the Oracle also offers you a huge range of adjustment to the critical brewing parameters like brew temperature, pre-infusion time, and shot volume… but I get the feeling that the majority of the users that this machine appeals to won’t even dive into many of these great options.
Let’s move on to the automated milk steaming. I’m not sure why I expected there to be little flexibility in steam settings, but I was again pleasantly surprised by being able to create anywhere from large cappuccino foam, to the elusive glossy “wet paint” texture required for latte art, all at the push of a button…
AND at any temperature from 45 up to 75 celcius. Steaming pressure, like on the Dual Boiler, wasn’t anything to write home about, taking 50 seconds to heat a pitcher of milk up to a standard 65 degrees. I would argue that this is less-critical on an automated machine like this, as you aren’t holding the pitcher the entire time, you just set it down and let it run.
Who is it For?
The beauty of this system in my eyes can be targeted at two groups of people. The first group, are those that entertain, or have guests over often. This is because you can make about one latte a minute on the Oracle, and not even need to be attending to the machine the whole time, leaving you free to socialize, prepare food, or bring the drink you just made to the guest that it’s for.
No more standing at the espresso machine for 30 minutes making everyone drinks. Even more conveniently, if your guests are staying for longer, you could even teach THEM how to use it. An option that many existing espresso machine owners will recognize is simply not feasible on more traditional 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.
The second group of people that I believe this machine will appeal to are those that simply want the best coffee possible at home, WITHOUT needing to learn how to properly distribute, tamp, struggle with dialing in, properly texture milk… they want a push button solution, but they DON’T want to sacrifice quality.
And from my experience during my first week with the Oracle, this has been true. For the last 7 days, each morning when I woke up in a rush, I without fail opted to use the Oracle over the Appartamento because it was already warmed up thanks to the ability to schedule when it turns on, and I didn’t need to worry about all the fussy weighing, distributing, tamping, purging, backflushing, associated with the Rocket. I simply continued making my breakfast as the Oracle did its job.
HOWEVER, in the afternoon when I got home from work, the decision was different. I wanted to take my time with the more involved and classic brewing process on the Rocket, maybe practise my latte art, maybe even experiment with a new coffee like this delicious Guatemalan roast Mirror Coffee Roasters sent us. Point being, that even though I’m a BIG coffee enthusiast, when it came to wanting convenience and speed, I happily chose the Oracle, and struggled to find a drop in quality over the shots I was getting on the Appartamento.
What Did They Get Wrong?
Now, Breville claims that this machine is the final, compromise-ending machine for espresso lovers because you can use the automated modes, or do everything manually. With this statement, I’m going to have to disagree. I’ve already fully admitted that I was pleasantly surprised by the automated tamping and steaming, but this is not a machine that will give you any added joy, or coffee quality, from using manually.
You still can’t grind and tamp yourself without buying a completely separate grinder, the manual shot pulling is identical to all the other Breville machines (press and hold to pre-infuse, release to extract, press again to stop), and you’d be hard pressed to create better textured milk yourself, not that you’d want to try while using the awkward stubby panarello style wand.
Play to this machines strengths, and take advantage of the automated features. Otherwise, you might as well go with the Dual Boiler, and use the money you saved on a better quality grinder.
And I think that right there is a slight sticking point for the Oracle. For the same money (depending on where you live), you could buy a Dual Boiler and a Niche Zero for the same price as the Oracle, and make better quality espresso.
So the decision really comes down to what you’re looking for. If you want that extra 10% of espresso quality, there are certainly other machine and grinder combos you should be looking at. However, if you just want to get the quickest, most fuss-free espresso experience at home while still having a commercial sized 58mm portafilter, dual boilers, and still very very good quality… absolutely take a look at the Oracle. I never thought I’d even consider keeping this machine when I first bought it, but the convenience is very tough to ignore, and when you consider that it’s a 58mm, dual boiler, PID controlled espresso machine, with adjustable pre-infusion, a built in grinder, a built in puqpress… the price starts to look a little less crazy…