Breville Dual Boiler, five+ years on

Need help with equipment usage or want to share your latest discovery?

#1: Post by pcrussell50 »

I got my Breville Dual Boiler back in late fall of 2011. I was getting ready for a promotion at work that I was going to celebrate with a saturated brew group machine, probably a GS/3 because of their value in comparison to the single group Cyncra (that I really wanted) and Slayers and Speedsters and such that were available at the time. But there was a little niggle. After the reviews and the Scace testing of the BDB started coming in, with it's temperature stability up in the saturated brew group range, (even better than some), something told me I had to at least look at it first. It was plastic under the thin stainless veneer, and made in China. The talking heads were already writing it's epitaph because how could it possibly last? Then in November of 2011, Williams Sonoma had a sale for 30% off items over $1000. That did it. I simply had to see what all the fuss was about with this thing, and for 30% off, I could keep it through the generous warranty, and if it failed after that, the talking heads said they weren't user-repairable, so then on to my original plan to go with a proper saturated group machine, right?

What a journey of discovery it's been:

1) Things are becoming known about it's standard failure modes at least through the five-year point.

1a)The 3-way solenoids tend to go buzzy after about 3 years, are VERY easy to replace and not hard to find. They go in and out of stock at Popular item. It still works fine buzzing, but it eventually got annoying to me so I replaced mine.

1b) The o-rings on top of the stainless steel steam boiler seem to be good for 3-years max. They are also easy to replace, standard size and shape items. $10 delivered by Amazon Prime will give you two human lifetimes worth.

1c) In the "big pimpin' " category... Because it uses standard Ulka vibe pumps, it is ridiculously easy to replace with one with a the threaded brass outlet, that you can screw a proper brass OPV on. This is "big pimpin' " because the stock OPV is not a common failure mode at least up to the five year point. Except for a few folks who constantly adjust, (something that may well be superfluous, see section 2), putting extra wear on the plastic OPV. Me? I set mine to 9 bar with a blind filter called it good.

2) Useful ability to keep up with the current trends in extraction experimentation

2a) Low pressure extraction: Breville has a patented means of controlling the Ulka vibe pump output. Only it's limited to pre-infusion. But by fortuitous unintended consequence, they have given us full control of pre-infusion both output power and duration. You can set pre-infusion time to 99 seconds, so it never "leaves" pre-infusion, and then you can set pump output electronically, to from anywhere between 60% and 90%. So I can do low pressure extractions from anywhere between 1 1/2 BAR to max... All through keystrokes on the panel. And it nails it.

2b) Pressure profiling. Easy 10 minute "mod" with a Phillips screwdriver. Totally reversible for warranty work. No cutting fabricating or actual modifying (that's why I put "mod" in quotes). All you do is remove the microswitch from the hot water knob inside the cabinet, and let it dangle or zip tie it out of the way. To profile during a shot, you open the hot water knob and it bleeds pressure away from the boiler in a FULLY linear and unbelievably easy and responsive fashion. And you can vary it back and forth (why you would want to, I don't know, but you can). It's the most direct and responsive manual profiling I've ever seen. On any machine.

A surprising LOT of good here.^^^

From this thread, check this quote from a pro barista here in Socal:
Quick look at Breville Dual Boiler Espresso Machine

If you can believe it.

A friend/my boss sold his GS/3 to get the BDB.

And he is super happy. I went over and checked it out. Now I have one also. These machines are no joke. Totally worth it at twice the price.

I love this machine.

And even though, (Regulatorjohnson/Jon Stovall excepted), it's been largely ignored by the kind of experts who could _really_ do something with it, I've just GOT to wonder what kind of magic could be gotten out of it, if some of our techy experts were interested. Full digital control of temperature and pressure by: Reverse engineering the source code, or simply replacing it with an Arduino. The possibilities are miles ahead of where we are today, if the "right" people were to take an interest.

In the mean time, like Jon, I'm tickled pink... still... even five years on. Fortunate that I can afford whatever I want, my plan to get a proper saturated brew group machine nevertheless remains on hold, until this machine either limits me, or can't be repaired for a pittance. Neither of the latter is even beginning to loom.

LMWDP #553


#2: Post by new2espresso »

Glad to hear this! I'm beginning year 3 of my BDB so I'm glad that resources are available for diy fixes. Thanks for the information!
Kind regards,


#3: Post by gr2020 »

How are you getting to 1.5 bar from the front panel? Setting the PI pressure to 60% would be 9 x 0.6 = 5.4 bar.

pcrussell50 (original poster)

#4: Post by pcrussell50 (original poster) »

I don't think you're setting "pressure" I think you're setting flow. Or you may be setting whatever wave shaping or clipping parameter (really stretching my tech here), that Breville has patented. This is why I lament the lack of interest from the kind of guys who really know this stuff. Bill Crossland has chimed in minimally here and there. Wish he and his ilk would more.

Pressure comes from the amount of resistance, which in this case has to do with your grind and or your basket (VST baskets offer lower resistance to flow than standard baskets).

In any event, it's easy to dial in whatever pressure you want to extract at, by combination of pump setting and grind.

LMWDP #553


#5: Post by owenegan »

Hi Peter.

Thanks for posting this. Your description of how the preinfusion pressure control works may have helped me pre-diagnose a problem in my BES900.

My machine was failing to pump out any water during preinfusion - instead it would just deposit whatever water was sitting in/near the head, while buzzing faintly.

But when I turned the preinfusion pressure up to 99 - voilĂ  , I got a healthy pump-buzz and water flow. So, it seems that whatever voltage (?) or magic trick that produces the default 60% pressure in a brand new machine can, with time and/or wear, become insufficient to coax the pump into action.

Is this a failure mode you've seen (or seen discussed)?

I'll also mention that the hot water dispensing on this machine suffers from a very similar failure - opening valve releases a blob of water, but no real pump action is heard, and no sustained water flow is seen. I'm guessing this is not coincidence, and the pump the BDB uses to dispense hot water is similarly getting the insufficient power/whatever from the electrical side of things.

Thanks for any and all help.


p.s. is there any sort of technical manual for this thing available anywhere?


#6: Post by mirceat »

Hi Peter,
how satisfied are you with the pressure profiling using the hot water knob?
Is it just a game or do you really get a better result in the cup?
Do you use this manual pressure profiling only in preinfusion or both in preinfusion and extraction final stage?

pcrussell50 (original poster)

#7: Post by pcrussell50 (original poster) replying to mirceat »

A serious profiler would be very satisfied, since you get full, instantaneous control. Every bit as good as you see in the La Marzocco video where they are demonstrating it on the new GS/3. Me? I haven't gone too far down that road yet with my BDB. I'm very busy experimenting with low pressure, "Slayer extractions", where I set a fixed, lowered pump output pressure on the panel. I do use the profiler every so often to slow down an extraction that looks like it's going too fast. I do pressure profile by feel on my manual lever machines.

Anyhow, if you are serious about pressure profiling, the BDB should be perfect. Just remember that to get full control, you need to get the microswitch off of the water knob, (single Philips screw) and push it out of the way... I just left mine dangling. You could zip tie it out of the way.

LMWDP #553


#8: Post by mirceat »

pcrussell50 wrote:A serious profiler would be very satisfied, since you get full, instantaneous control...
Thank you so much Peter. Your experience gives me more motivation to work on the same direction, in my case on a SBDU like Gaggia.
My goal is to get the pressure control on it, besides the current boiler temperature control provided by an Arduino board.
I'm assuming the result won't be on par with your BDB, but hopefully pretty close to it.

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#9: Post by RogerB »


Thanks for this timely post. I'm nearing a purchase and keep going hot and cold on the BDB. Your experience with it so far makes it hotter for me again.

Which one do you have? 900 or 920? Sorry I don't recall when the 920 came out.

I've seen many reviews out there that I categorize as either "I've had it for a week and love it!" or "Only six months and something's broken!" Or "Year 3 and I'm on my 3rd machine," or, "I don't know how to do espresso but I'm blaming this machine."

Finally a long-term review with some expertise behind it. Thanks again.


#10: Post by JimL »

No doubt the BDB is an absolute steal for the price. But it looks..... :lol: Sorry.