I Might Love This Coffee Maker More Than I Love Coffee
Ask people which home comfort they miss most while traveling, and their bed probably comes top of the list. For me, it’s my coffee maker. Every time I have to fumble with a hotel room K-Cup machine or pour a freshly brewed french-press cup at a friend’s house, I’m reminded just how much I love my Breville Oracle Touch ($2,700).
My morning routine goes like this: My Philips Wake Up Light gently wakes me from my slumber at 6, I shuffle downstairs and open the back door to let the dogs out. Then I lean across the counter and press the button to turn on the Oracle, a semi-automatic espresso machine that churns out coffee-shop level beverages from the comfort of my own home.
With a happy jingle, the touchscreen illuminates. As the machine warms up, I slip into barista mode to decide whether it’s an Americano kind of day or a flat white morning.
I’ve owned my share of coffee makers and home espresso machines over the years, including a few Nespresso machines that impress. But the Breville Oracle Touch is arguably the best automatic espresso machine on the market. Since giving it the prized position on my kitchen counter a few years ago, I’ve frequented fewer coffee shops—why bother when you can make a perfect oat milk flat white without leaving the house?
I recommend it to anyone looking to upgrade their espresso machine. But is it worth the high price tag? Here’s my review.
- Easy to use
- 8 prebuilt options with the ability to add more
- Built-in grinder and milk frother
- Able to alter grind size, shot temperature and duration, and milk temperature and texture
- Durable stainless-steel body
Coffee Shop-Level Menu Options
Turning on the Breville Oracle Touch is like walking into your local java joint in that you’re greeted with a menu of drinks. Simply swipe the screen, then tap your choice of an espresso shot, Americano, latte, flat white, long black, or cappuccino. There’s also a hot water option and a setting to simply heat milk—something my kids take advantage of for making hot chocolate.
The machine has presets for each drink, but you can also customize your brew by grind size (there are 45 settings, from very fine to coarse; the finer the grounds, the slower the pour), size (small, medium, or large), and water temperature. According to the National Coffee Association, the ideal water temperature for extraction is between 195°F and 205°F. I have my machine set at the low end of that range because it minimizes the potential for bitter flavors from the darker roast beans I use. If you prefer a lighter roast, a higher temp can help speed up the extraction.
You can also adjust the temperature for the milk, and the amount of froth the machine creates for drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
If you make any of these adjustments, rename your customized creation and save it. It’ll appear on the home screen, ready for the next time you brew.
Related: Just Buy the Vitamix Already
Easy to Use
With all the above customization options, the Breville Oracle Touch is a semi-automatic espresso machine that makes it pretty hard to brew a sub-par cup of coffee.
Once you select your drink option (I opt for an Americano most mornings), the machine automatically measures the perfect amount of beans from the storage hopper on the top of the unit and runs them through a conical burr grinder. The ground beans are dispensed into the portafilter (the little silver cup on a handle that holds the ground beans), and a tamping fan tamps them down into an aromatic hockey puck.
When the tamping is done, you move the portafilter into the group head—the ring where the hot, pressurized water comes out—and hit brew. The machine builds up the water pressure for about 10 seconds before letting it gradually flow through the grounds. This slow flow helps prevent bitterness. The shot that comes out is deep and rich (Breville describes it as the texture of warm honey).
If your drink needs milk, you can steam, foam, or froth it while your espresso shot is pouring—a blessing on busy mornings. The Oracle Touch comes with a 480ml stainless steel milk jug; simply place it under the wand, tap the milk button, and create perfectly steamed or foamed milk in under a minute.
The Oracle Touch is a beautiful machine. All shiny brushed stainless steel, it looks classy on the counter and new visitors are always impressed by both how high-end and high-tech it appears. Some are also put off by its sheer size: Measuring 14.7 x 14.5 x 17.6 inches and weighing 37.3 pounds, the Breville Oracle Touch may not be a good fit for every kitchen.
The end product—an exceptional espresso drink—is largely created by what you don’t see. Let’s look under the hood at all the components of the Oracle Touch.
The Oracle Touch’s conical burr grinder can chew coffee beans into very fine pieces or more coarse ones. You can fine-tune your grind size based on what type of coffee drink you’re making or how strong you want your brew.
PID Controlled Adjustable Water Temperature
Water temperature is a key parameter for pulling a perfect shot on an espresso machine. The Breville Oracle Touch has a dual PID system (Proportional-Integral-Derivative) which regulates the water temperature. One PID is on the boiler, ensuring precise water temperatures; the second PID controls the temperature of the group head to maintain precise brewing temperatures when pulling shots. This combo ensures you pull consistent and even shots.
And sitting right behind the group head is a water spout where the perfectly heated H20 for my morning Americano is poured directly into the mug.
The milk wand has secret talents, too. When you place the jug of milk under the wand, a sensor gauges the milk temperature and adjusts the steam pressure accordingly. Cold milk straight from the fridge foams differently than a gallon that has been sitting on the breakfast table while you eat. When the foaming and frothing is done, the wand shoots out pressured air to clean the interior of the wand. There’s a catch tray below the wand for drips, but I like to put a sponge underneath to avoid stale smelling milk later in the day.
Related: Is Cold-Press Juice Better for You?
Cleaning the Oracle Touch
When you have a high-end machine like the Oracle, you have to maintain it. After each use, you need to dispose of the espresso puck. The machine comes with a mini grounds bin; I wait until it’s full then dump the grounds into my composter. And you also have to wipe down the steam wand and group head after each use.
After you brew about 200 espresso shots, a “clean me” message pops up on the screen. To clean the machine, just put a grey silicone disc in the portafilter, and add a cleaning tablet (you can order replacements from Breville directly, but I’ve found ones on Amazon that work just as well). Then lock the portafilter into the group head, fill the water tank, and allow the machine to run a cleaning cycle to remove coffee oils and residue from the brew head. The process only takes a few minutes.
You’ll also have to regularly replace the filter in the water tank. Here again, the machine pings you when it’s time to do this, so you don’t need to worry about setting a calendar reminder.
It’s hard to find too much to fault about the Oracle Touch, but there are a few bugbears. If I could fix one thing about the machine, it would be adding a sensor in the water tank to alert you that there isn’t enough water to brew a cup of coffee before you hit brew. Many a morning the machine has stopped in the middle of making my Americano to tell me the water tank is empty.
Also, it takes a few tries to get the hang of it. That’s not a problem if you’re buying the machine and plan to use it daily, but when guests come over, you’ll become the default barista, whipping up coffee drinks on order for friends and family who are a bit intimidated by the Oracle Touch.
The machine also takes up a significant amount of counter space. I’ve got room to spare in my suburban kitchen, but apartment dwellers might struggle to find room for the unit.
And then of course there’s the cost. The Oracle Touch retails for a pricey $2,700. Full disclosure: I was given the machine a few years back so didn’t have to cough up the dough myself. But if the Oracle ever breaks, I’ll have a hard time convincing myself to replace it. Even if you spend $5 a day for a coffee shop latte, it would take 18 months to offset the cost.
- Width: 14.7 inches
- Height: 14.5 inches
- Depth: 17.6 inches
- Weight: 37.26 pounds
- Water Tank Capacity: 84 ounces
- Bean Hopper Capacity: ½ pound
The Bottom Line