From Delphi to Your Kitchen
Tested: Breville Oracle
Every once in a while, a product so revolutionizes your day that you feel compelled to brag to your friends about it. You fantasize about it throughout the day, and when you go to sleep, you can’t wait to get up, just so you can jump out of bed and use it. That good. Such is the case with the Breville Oracle ($2,000), which promises — and delivers — high-quality, easily made espresso at home.
The 35-pound Oracle, which is roughly double the size of a standard coffee maker, is neither the prettiest belle at the espresso-maker ball nor the one hiding in the corner. Its brushed stainless steel body is refined, but not quite sexy. What’s inside, however, is definitely enough to get an espresso savant excited: the machine’s double-boiler configuration makes brewing and steaming milk simultaneously possible. Set-up is easy — adjusting the grind takes time, but it’s enjoyable time. Imagine training a very cute puppy; you’re rewarded as you work. Every button is solid, every knob fun to turn.
On top of the machine sits the integrated conical burr grinder. When you’re ready for caffeine, turn on the machine, pour in beans, add water to the tank, put the portafilter into the automatic tamper, give it a crank to the right and the tamper delivers the perfect amount of coffee. Lest you feel like it’s too easy, you then need to move the filled portafilter from the tamper to the group head. This is where the Oracle stands out — unlike some of the higher end machines, the Oracle, somewhere between fully auto and super auto, puts you in the driver’s seat. It holds your hand, but lets you do the cranking and pressing. Thus: the romance of espresso-making lives.
Once you secure the portafilter to the grouphead, you can choose between a single shot, double shot or three sizes of Americano — small, medium or large — all pulled to within one degree Celcius of your desired temp. An attached milk frother automatically textures milk to the selected temperature and style, though we generally left it alone — although it worked, we don’t know how to draw foam milk hearts, and the espresso tasted too good to necessitate any additions.
Over the past 45 days, the office has, as a collective, pulled somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 shots. Though we’ve used espresso machines before, we’ve never felt more inclined to make coffee: the Oracle’s brewing process is just interactive enough without any hassle.
Is it expensive? Yes. That’s one of its flaws — maybe its only flaw. But is it amazing? Yeah. It’s amazing. And after you pull 500 shots, the Oracle practically pays for itself.