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The first thing you must know about me is the sheer volume of coffee brewing methods I employ at home. There’s the Chemex pour over, the multiple French presses (one with a scale built right in for accuracy to the gram), the Hario V60 pour over, the Moka pot stovetop espresso maker and a Delonghi Nespresso Lattisima for when I’m feeling my laziest. I’m from Seattle, so what else would you expect?
The thing missing from my java arsenal for the longest time was a true espresso machine—one where I could enjoy cappuccinos and lattes without having to wander to the Blue Bottle down the street from me. That, dear reader, has changed now that I have a secured a Breville Oracle Touch, the top-of-the-line machine from the Aussie appliance company. And in the months I’ve tested it, all of my other methods for brewing coffee have gathered dust.
What the Oracle Touch offers is the right amount of automation and control. The machine stores, grinds and tamps your beans for you, ensuring the right dose of coffee each time. Then the dual boiler maintains the temp for superior shot extraction and repeated use—there’s no waiting for the machine to reheat to make your next drink. And the touch screen controls let me select my drink and customize my grind and extraction length so I can make my drink just how I like it and do it easily.
For me that means a double americano with slightly longer extraction, and for my wife, it’s oat milk lattes where I get to use a wand to texture the foam. With other automatic espresso machines, they have chambers that steam the milk and then pump it into the drink, but in my experience, that usually produces foam that doesn’t have a silky texture. The Oracle Touch’s wand can foam milk at the push of a button, but the results are much closer to café-quality, where the milk and foam are more integrated with the coffee. And it’s left her skipping regular runs to Blue Bottle as well.
There are some nits to pick with the Oracle Touch, for sure. One thing I’ve noticed is that because I like to mix up the beans I use, the first time I use a particular bag, I’ve got to recalibrate the grind settings so I’m optimally extracting my espresso shots. Some beans lend themselves to finer grinds and other to coarser. Your first shot of coffee from new a new bag won’t be a disaster, but it may also be a bit off, so you have to pay attention and dial it in for future extractions.
Also, it would be great if there was a dual hopper so that I could make decaf espresso drinks without having to empty out the beans already loaded into the machine. I love an after-dinner cappuccino, but not everyone wants that jolt of caffeine in the evening.
Finally, users in the past have reported the grinder and tamper malfunctioning: The machine stops dosing the right amount of coffee into the portafilter and thus you’ll pull shots that are watered-down garbage. I, too, had this fate befall the first unit I tested. I did all the troubleshooting I could to fix it, but it simply would not cooperate, and I had to get my machine replaced. The Breville customer service was very helpful in getting that done and this latest machine has had no such problems at all.
And so our local coffee shops have lost some business since the Oracle Touch came home, but my latte art is still crap compared to theirs.