Miracle of the Oracle
The Breville Oracle is quite an espresso machine. Grinding and tamping are built into this machine, which does traditional espresso extraction in a commercial size portafilter. But that’s just the beginning. The Oracle froths milk for Lattes and cappuccinos too. Now, you can do it manually as you would on any semi-automatic machine... Or, the Oracle can do the frothing for you.
There are several machines on the market that have some level of auto-frothing but the Oracle takes it to a new level. So you froth in a pitcher but the unique part is you have precise control of milk temperature. It stops steaming at the temperature you set. And, precise control of the type of froth. That’s pretty incredible. Great milk based drinks are all about getting the temperature and froth just right. Unless you’re a pro barista that’s one of the difficult parts of making a really good latte or cappuccino.
The Oracle let’s you set it exactly how you want it. We say it a lot in our videos, but we’re convinced many people froth their milk too hot. Our recommendation for the sweetest flavor is between 140 and 155 degrees. With the Oracle, heating stops at the temperature you set. But the Oracle knows right? When setting a milk temperature it puts a little smiley face in the display when you’re in a good range. Set it to hot and the smile goes away.
As for espresso, there are a few features that you always find on top of the line machines, and the Oracle has them all. It’s a dual boiler machine which means you can brew and steam at the same time. It has a PID brew temp control so you can set ultra-precise brew temps to match the coffee you’re using and get the same brew temp with every extraction. You can also adjust the temperature of the steam boiler as well. Another brewing variable you have is pre-infusion time and adjustable pressure. Pre-infusion wets the coffee prior to full pressure brewing. Working with that can help with crema production and getting the best out of a coffee.
That’s just the start of your control. You get easy precise adjustment of the built-in conical burr grinder. Just attach the portafilter to the grinding section, give the handle a push to the right, and coffee is automatically dispensed with zero mess. If you’ve ground coffee into a portafilter before, you know it’s inevitable some is ending up on your counter. With the Oracle there’s zero coffee spillage or waste.
Once the coffee is ground, the machine automatically tamps and polishes the coffee in the portafilter. What’s nice is you can adjust both the tamping pressure and the polishing time. Tamping by hand is a skill. The idea is to be consistent, and it’s difficult to do without consistent practice. The Oracle makes it easy to find the right tamping pressure for your coffee and then do it exactly the same every-time. That consistency is a recurring theme in the espresso world. The ability to make a small change to one variable while all the others remain the same. With adjustable grind size, tamp pressure, pre-infusion and PID brew temps, the Oracle makes it easy to get the most from your coffee.
Another first of its kind feature is the one-touch Americano. The hot water spout is positioned so you can make one without moving your cup. There are 3 preset sizes but you can program up to six more. So we like how there’s no coffee spill or waste with the built-in grinding and tamping. The steam system is clean too. After use, just push the steam wand down and it automatically runs a blast of steam through for a thorough cleaning.
Programming the various functions of the machine is easy. A bright, easy to read plain language display is intuitive to use. Espresso extractions are programmed using your choice of volume or duration. From a single menu you can access all the programmable functions like turn-on and turn-off times, water hardness settings, whether you want units displayed in metric or imperial measurements, and more. This display also alerts you when you need to fill the water tank, when it’s time to change the included water filter, when to run back flush, and when the machine should be descaled.
The exterior jacket of the machine is all stainless steel. One exception is the actively heated cup warming surface up top which is made of aluminum. You can add water from a flap up top or remove the tank from the back of the machine. Getting to the back of the machine is a cinch. Remove the high capacity drip tray turn a knob and a roller is extended, allowing the machine to move easily. In a slot behind the drip tray there’s a slot for storing the many tools included with the machine.
Overall the machine is just less than 18 inches high to the top of the bean hopper, so it should fit under most overhanging cabinetry. The hopper has a knob that allows for removing it without spilling any beans -- very handy for switching out to a different coffee.
Another consideration is cost. The Oracle is not cheap but compared to the cost of a traditional dual boiler PID machine -- add the grinder to go with it -- the Oracle can save you some money while adding convenience. It comes with everything you need except for coffee and milk. The Oracle also comes with a 20 oz. frothing pitcher, knock box, water filter, cleaning supplies, and a full set of accessory tools.
What do We Think?
So what do we think overall? Simply put, the Oracle is a modern take on the classic semi-automatic espresso machine. It’s kind of a cross-over between semi-automatic and super-automatic machines. It brings together the best of both. If you’re set on a traditional Italian style semi-auto, this might not be the machine for you. But if you’re looking for the quality of a traditional machine with modern ease of use and consistency, there isn’t a machine out there that does it better.
You should also know this machine is very popular. In fact, Breville has warned us that demand for the Oracle has at times exceeded supply to the point of having to ration units to dealers.
We’ll see how things go, but if you want one it might be best not to wait.