Crew Review: Breville Oracle
This entry was posted on August 5, 2016.
How Does It Compare?
Who says you can’t have it all? If you want the control of a semi-automatic and the programmability of a superautomatic, then you’re in the right place! We have the Breville Oracle here ready to change the name of the game for semi-automatics.
Let’s walk through making your morning cup. The Oracle has a built-in grinder and tamper—you heard right, this machine tamps for you—that are both adjustable using a digital display. What makes the Oracle a hybrid machine are the automated features like the steam wand. You don’t see this sort of programmability in a semi-automatic and that makes it easier to brew a quality shot and spend less time dialing it in. While Breville Barista Express also features a built-in grinder, the Oracle’s set up is more advanced with digital programmability and automatic tamping. There’s really no semi-automatic machine that compares to or impresses customers like the Oracle.
Equipped with dual stainless steel boilers, 58mm stainless steel portafilter and built-in conical steel burr grinder, the Breville Oracle is built as a high-quality semi-automatic machine. The built-in grinder with automatic tamping is definitely the highlight of this machine! We’ve only seen this sort of functionality in a superautomatic, but make no mistake, the Oracle makes cafe quality espresso.
To activate the grinder, slip the portafilter under the grinder and with the flick of a wrist it will grind and tamp. To adjust the grind size and tamp pressure, use the small screen and dial located next to the bean hopper. We should mention that the tamp pressure is numeric and not in pounds. Of course, Breville understands the importance of applying the appropriate pressure for espresso, so the tamp is calibrated. Even though it’s a fantastic semi-automatic, if you wanted to learn how to dial in grinds or hone your skills, the Oracle wasn’t designed to learn traditional techniques, but for convenience without sacrificing quality.
With dual stainless steel boilers, you can brew and steam at the same time for a quick latte to-go. And thanks to the programmable PID, you can adjust the brew boiler to your desired temperature and maintains it within a degree, which we totally expect on a machine of this caliber. The Oracle includes two programmable time-based espresso buttons like we’ve seen on other high-end semi-automatics, including the Breville lineup, and we’re happy to have this automatic feature!
Like everything else on this machine, the steam wand impressed us with its programmable milk temperature and texture. The display makes it easy to choose and achieve the type of milk drink you desire—and it’s all programmable. You can set the temperature up to 170 degrees, but be careful not to scald your milk! We typically set it for 150 degrees and then adjust our foam by pressing the steam again and turning the dial to a nice cappuccino foam. Once it hits the temperature, it’ll automatically shut off!
Feel like steaming yourself? No problem! The steam wand has a manual steam option that’ll allow you to control the temperature and amount of foam. It’s not a traditional wand nor a panarello, although it automatically aerates for you, which functions more like a panarello-style wand. While this is a high-quality semi-automatic, for coffee connoisseurs the wand might feel more appropriate on entry-level machines. Of course, we mentioned earlier that this machine is designed as a superautomatic with convenience and ease-of-use dominating its functionality. For a real barista experience, the Breville Dual Boiler is better suited to hone your technique.
Are you an Americano drinker? Behind the brew head, you’ll find the hot water dispenser ready to deliver a piping hot Americano and it features its own programmable button! If you just wanted hot water for tea or other beverages, there is also a separate hot water button.
Let’s address the elephant in the room—the Breville Oracle is huge. It’s nearly three inches wider and two inches taller than the Breville Barista Express. It’ll probably be difficult to fit under small cabinets, but that’s just an excuse for a dedicated espresso bar, right? Fortunately, Breville included a drop down swivel foot that brings the machine up on a roller bearing so we can swing the Oracle around to access the swimming-pool sized water reservoir (it’s 84 ounces). Or, because Breville’s on top of it, you can refill the water tank in the front by popping open the door.
When it comes to style, the Oracle’s brushed stainless steel casing screams modern—sure, it’s unoriginal. But it’ll complement kitchen appliances and will never go out of style. Semi- and superautomatics alike have stainless steel casing but on the Oracle, the casing doesn’t feel cheap. Even the buttons feel sturdy as our caffeine-deprived fingers impatiently smash away. When you press a button, a ring around it lights up to show you it’s working. All the dials are also well-built and make it easy to dial in features from the grind size to the steam temperature.
We know you’ve been itching to ask—can it grind my dark roasts? Rejoice French and Italian roast lovers, it can! Since this isn’t a superautomatic, you can grind oily, dark roasts. Just don’t forget to clean it more often because those roasts tend to leave more residue. Luckily, it has a removable bean hopper! We don’t always see removable hoppers on superautomatics, so this added bonus makes it easy for us to change beans. You can also get to the burrs and clean out excess grounds, which is important if you’re using a darker roast. Pro Tip: If you’re having difficulty removing the burrs, adjust it to a coarser grind and it’ll be easier to take off. This machine is smart too and will wait for you to lock the hopper back on before it’ll grind again.
Featuring dual stainless steel boilers, automatic tamping and frothing and an intuitive digital display, the Breville Oracle functions like a superautomatic with the quality build (and quality espresso) of a semi-automatic. And with the programmable espresso and automatic steaming, it’s like having your own personal barista whipping up cafe-quality lattes in minutes. If you’re looking for convenience, we highly recommend this machine.
Have you checked out our Gear Guide series? The Breville Oracle made the list! Check out Gear Guide: Finding The Right Espresso Machine For You.