Learning to love the Breville Oracle

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solo

#1: Post by solo »

After exhaustive research, and recently purchasing then returning a dual boiler, E61 machine due to workmanship issues, I ended up making the transition from a traditional Hx machine (Isomac Tea), to the Breville Oracle. Thought I'd share because I'm sure there are others out there traumatizing themselves like I've done, lol, trying to decide on the perfect machine. That process was frustrating for me because it seems every machine I looked at was missing one thing or another that I wanted (the same might be said of the Oracle too). It didn't even pop up on my radar, and I had not even considered it, until after my initial purchase had gone awry, but that's what I ended up with. Here's why:

Buying experience: Wanted to see this machine before I actually purchased. Fortunately, there are numerous reseller options with Breville products. In fact, at the time of purchase, most online vendors were out of stock/back-ordered for this product. Of several local options, only Sur la Table had one in stock and, fortunately, available for demo in the store. One of two in-store extractions was pretty sour, another passable though. The automatic frothing was off the mark too, but I liked what I saw well enough to take a chance on the machine, so I purchased a few days later. It helped that the Sur la Table sales staff were super helpful. The advantage of buying local: they gave me a 10% coupon off the sales price, which offset the tax I had to pay vs. buying online with free shipping and no tax, so I paid $70.00 less at the store than I would have online. Also, coming from a lever operated semi-auto and a Mazzer Mini, they reassured me I could simply return it for a refund if I got it home and absolutely hated it. All told, very happy with Sur la Table to this point.

Out of the box: Wow! This is really a nice looking unit on the counter top! Initial setup was a breeze using quick start instructions (I wasn't new to espresso/cappuccino making either though). Exterior finish is very sharp, but scratches easily, so be careful taking drip tray in/out, avoid sitting portafilter on drip tray, etc. Machine is well thought-out, and well designed. Front fill on the water tank, and front sight gauge are very convenient. Accessories kit includes a frothing pitcher, knock box and a slew of other goodies, including a spare steam tip with spare o-ring and washer.

First impression: Wasted half a bag of beans dialing in the grind/shot volume without even tasting. Dialed in for 2 oz pour in default 30 seconds, using default 7-second pre-infusion. Machine ready for a first taste next morning before rushing out at 0630 for the first of three 13 hour workdays, which points to one reason this machine appeals to me: love the fact that I can get a quality coffee done in 2 minutes on days when I have to work, so convenience was part of the equation for me.

First shot: OMG. The most sour, abhorrent, piece of crap cappuccino I've ever forced myself to drink. Had to get to work though, so no time to futz with the result. That's what I get for trying to dial in on the eve of my 3-day foray into the hospital (RN). Even with a good brushing and mouthwash rinse, couldn't seem to get that taste out of my mouth all day, lol. For whatever reason, that a.m. pull was way under-extracted [edit], despite that I had seemingly dialed it in the previous night. I began to wonder about repeatability on this machine, and the thought of returning it crossed my mind at that point, as one of my concerns all along was not having enough control over the finer points of any of the processes. Later, at work, still swirling that sour taste around in my mouth, it dawned on me what else was wrong with the result: I had habitually grabbed the wrong milk from the fridge, using skim instead of the usual milk I buy specifically for cappuccinos. One thing was certain: the next morning's result couldn't get any worse!

Dialing in: Sneaking up on the grind, and trying to avoid over-correcting, made a minute adjustment, from 35 to 34 on the 45-step dial (surprised it's not somewhere closer to the middle: 45 = coarser). Result was improved, but still with a distinctive sour note, and still under-extracted [edit]. Dialed the grind down to 33 for the next morning's attempt: still a hint of sour, so moved it again to 32. That seemed to be the sweet spot using Counter Culture's Big Trouble whole beans. Using an ultra-pasteurized 2% milk, coaxed a very smooth, velvety cappuccino out of her. Watching the espresso pour into the cup this morning though, I had this nagging feeling that the pour was just a tweak short at the 32 setting, and just a tweak long at 33, pointing to one obvious difference between the Oracle's grinder and my stepless Mazzer Mini. Still, very happy with the result. Need to sample some straight espresso shots to see what the milk might be masking, but I also want to leave it where it is for a few days to see how consistent this thing is day-to-day. I used to have to tweak the Mazzer depending on the ambient humidity, as my shots would always run longer on rainy/humid mornings vs. dry. Those tweaks should be a piece of cake on the Oracle though.

Pros:
1) I'm surprised at how good a job the auto-steam wand does. Love being able to set the temp cut-off in particular, and preset the texture. Really makes this machine one of the few that people will actually use to steam and pull shots simultaneously in the home setting. Steam wand auto-purge function is also nice.
2) Very fast warm-up time: <10 minutes (see related in "Cons")
3) Features and control galore. Auto start feature is nice, shot timer not found on most non-PID (and many PID) lever semi-autos. I have always loathed superautos because I thought they produced an inferior product, sacrificing quality for convenience, and I worried about that with this machine too. With this machine, however, you still have control over all the variables, albeit electronically. Although you can manually steam your milk, I doubt the result is going to be better than the automatic result, with this wand anyway-it's designed for the automatic process, and does a good job. The electronic controls are pretty sweet though: LCD displays for grind size, milk temp and texture, volumetric or chrono shot timing, and a slew of machine settings, all provide a combination of control and convenience that don't leave me feeling hamstrung by limitations of the machine. The tamping function should theoretically prove to be more consistent than manual tamping. Nice.

Cons:
1) Using the auto-steaming feature, I throw away about half the milk I use when pulling one double cappuccino in the morning. This milk volume is the minimum amount the machine requires for auto-frothing. Caveat: I wasted about the same amount steaming on my old Isomac Tea, as it seemed to be the minimum amount of milk I required for manual steaming too. So, moot point I guess: hated wasting it then, still do. Maybe I should get a cat.
2) No idea what the tamp pressure settings 1-9 correlate to in terms of PSI. Currently using the default setting.
3) The machine has been criticized for its lack of coffee dose control, and it does seem pretty boneheaded of Breville to omit that, expecting that you should pull a single shot with 20 grams of ground coffee. Fortunately, this is really a non-issue for me. I never once used my single portafilter/basket in the 11 years I owned the Isomac Tea.
4) Fast warm-up but portafilter requires a flush to heat up adequately. I utilize this step to heat my cup too, so no biggie.
5) Portafilter seems stiff when mounting in group head. Maybe because the machine is new.
6) Auto-start feature not independently programmable day-to-day. I'd like to program 3 days/wk at 0430 and 4 days/wk at ~0800 (days off) but you can't do it without futzing with the settings twice a week. I just turn auto-start off on my days off and punch the machine when I get up instead.
7) I was concerned about heat exposure and bean degradation due to the proximity of the bean hopper to the boilers. Checked the machine out in the store though-the folks at SLT were gracious enough to make sure the machine was on and heated up for me one day-and the beans didn't seem like they were catching too much heat. Removed the hopper and felt the burrs and surrounding housing and, although it was slightly warm, it wasn't excessive by any means. While it might be a problem if you left the machine on for hours at a time, I'll rarely be leaving the machine on for even a full hour, and then only if I forgot to turn it off and the programmable auto shut-off had to do that for me. Another potential "con" that simply doesn't affect me with the way I'll be using the machine. YMMV.

Long term reliability remains a question mark, obviously, but I'm super happy with the machine so far. It makes good use of available technology to provide elegant control over all the variables, providing the right synergy between control and convenience. That said, I'm still looking for the perfect PID'd, double-boiler, E61 machine, and I'm not selling my Mazzer just yet.

angman

#2: Post by angman »

Thanks for the write up. I too am very interested in how this continues to perform for you and others. I have used and witnessed this machine and it really does do what super autos aren't supposed to be able to do. A la Cimbali dealer was praising this machine to me a year ago and most recently on a trip to Clive Coffee they also demonstrated how good it was as well. Clive is bog on their custom Vivaldis and I had one previously as well. I went there to look at the Forte to compliment my HG One grinder with. The Forte alone was half the cost of the Oracle so I just had to pull some shots on it. Every machine was previously warned up but the Zoracle was off and cold. We turned it on and it came up yo operating temp fast while we chatted. The shots we pulled were very good and the Capps we made were very good as well.

I didn't buy it but I keep thinking about this machine. I now know of 3 people that have switched from traditional setups to the Oracle. One individual sold his Vario and Rocket R58 and another is even a barista in Seattle. If reviews keep coming in good and longevity is decent I might make thst switch as well.

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AtlGator

#3: Post by AtlGator »

That sounds like an interesting machine. Sourness isn't necessarily grind fineness, and you mentioned a 10 min warmup time as a "pro."

I'll bet you're brewing too cool, despite what the electronics are telling you. I'd give that machine at least a half hour to warm up, like any proper espresso machine would need.

User avatar
uscfroadie

#4: Post by uscfroadie » replying to AtlGator »

It doesn't need anything more than 10 minutes since it has a heated grouphead, but you need to pull a blank shot to get the portafilter up to temp. The boiler AND grouphead have their own heating element in addition to the steam boiler. Proof that it comes up to temp in under 10 minutes below. Look at the color of the crema; notice the speckling, which you can only get at the proper temp. Too cold and you'll get very light crema. Granted this is the BES900, but it's the machine the Oracle is based upon.
Merle

Mrboots2u

#5: Post by Mrboots2u »

I had one of these for a short while to try . Here is a demonstration of some of its other features...
Dosing and tamping
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4zggV3VHXU
Auto milk steaming
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfVeSJnuK6M
Making some drinks...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3y0XPRZrROQ

cpreston

#6: Post by cpreston »

Re 900 warmup: I have done a fair amount of Scace testing of mine.

To get within 1-2 degrees in 10 minutes or so (as fast as I can), I found I have to:
- power on and wait until the display shows the set temp, around 10 minutes
- then flush for quite a while until the temp display starts flashing again due to low temp
- then wait a couple of minutes for it to restabilize.

For fully warmed, stabilized machined (about 45 min or more), I have to flush about 6 sec. for the first shot. The machine tends to idle a bit cool.

For subsequent shots after the first one, no further flushing is needed.

YMMV of course.

solo (original poster)

#7: Post by solo (original poster) »

AtlGator wrote:That sounds like an interesting machine. Sourness isn't necessarily grind fineness, and you mentioned a 10 min warmup time as a "pro."

I'll bet you're brewing too cool, despite what the electronics are telling you. I'd give that machine at least a half hour to warm up, like any proper espresso machine would need.
I'd def be concerned if I didn't think I could trust the electronics, but you're right...the PF feels more ready after 20-30 minutes. The manual recommends purging the group for just 5 seconds prior to pulling the shots. With a longer warmup this seems to be adequate to fully heat the PF. If I need/want to jump the gun, I might bleed 4-6 oz. into the cup to better heat the PF. The machine has a little recovery time while I pour the milk, start to steam, wipe the PF and grind/tamp before coming back to the brew group. Still playing with it. What's nice is, when properly choreographed, the entire process can happen, including clean-up and power off, inside of 5 minutes. When I looked at the Oracle initially, I thought it was an extraordinarily good idea, but I'll tell you, if early impressions are any indication, this thing could redefine what a "proper espresso machine" is. As a version 1 product, I am pretty impressed. FWIW, I returned a Profitec Pro 700 that I was disappointed in (workmanship, not performance) before purchasing the Oracle.

PS-confusion over the sour shots may be a question of semantics. In my original post I attributed it to over-extracted shots, when I should have said under-extracted. My bad. Edited the original.

-mark

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angman

#8: Post by angman »

How time flies. Looking back at my last post I now have both the Forte and the Oracle along with my previous equipment.

Initial impressions are very good. All the pros mentioned by OP are spot on. I haven't had any issues yet outside of a little overdosing. I will play around with tamp settings more to see how this affects the actual dose amount. I would love for this machine to prove the high end espresso world wrong and prove that for the same price of a high end grinder I can have 1 machine that does it all and does it well. As for the comments that its a made for home machine and the quality isn't of commercial quality....who cares? I know I don't as long as its well built. To be honest I am not a fan of having a Bunn grinder for my drip coffee nor a K10, Mazzer Major or K30 Vario even the HG One for my espresso in my kitchen. I am lucky enough that I have a dedicated coffee bar for all that equipment for my hobby but in my kitchen for daily use and simplicity I want something like the Oracle. My wife puts up with all the tampers, scales, whisks, cups, single dosing glass jars and stray grounds but would be much happier if she just had to put up with 1 thing beside the toaster instead.

I will continue to update with use as longevity and reliability is the Oracles only major concerns.

Séb

#9: Post by Séb »

I also got a Breville Oracle last week after i saw an ads for a brand new machine at half price! Since i am waiting...and waiting...and waiting for my Salvatore Compact Spring Lever to come home (someday i will have it i hope!) i decided to jump on this super deal and offer an upgrade to my wife's cheap automatic espresso machine :D Since i am a micro roaster i needed an espresso machine to continue to test and develop my roast while waiting for the "true" machine. Well, i have to say i am quite impressed by the Oracle so far....

The machine is nice to look at, high WAF :wink: It is not small but not huge too, just a perfect size for a home kitchen. It is very well designed in term of ergonomic, three small LCD, adjustable backlight, two small LED also adjustable to nicely lights the cup while the espresso pour. Very nice knob for the digital grind adjustments, nice lever for the milk (both manual and automatic). Well, everything is nicely designed. The grind/tamp does a really good job, always perfectly tamp, 30lbs is applied by default but you can increase/decrease it and also increase/decrease the polishing time. So far i did not play with theses settings. Being a double boiler you steam the milk automatically while the espresso pour in your cup. Easy to adjust the milk temperature or texture and it works beautifully! I was extremely surprised by the quality of the microfoam, i have a hard time to do better manually on a regular steam wand. I did adjust the milk temp to 145F and texture in the middle or just slightly below the middle is perfect for microfoam.

Now, how it taste? Once i had the grinder adjusted correctly and the timer on the double shot set i was ready to do some espresso. We can adjust either the volume of the shot or the timer. I went with 30 seconds for the single and i am now at 38 for the double but it include the 8 sec pre-infusion (default is 6 i think). I let the pressure at 60% of the max pump pressure during the pre-infusion (default). At first i was at 30 sec total but i felt it was too short so i did try a lot of things including few different grinder setting and end up at 38 sec to be the best to my taste. My grinder setting is at 16 now (default was 20). This way i get 60ml with the crema volume and it taste really good. The shot is well balanced, no bitterness. Oh and i did increase the temp from 200F to 201F. Because of the very nice microfoam, the latte are very good. Better then what i could do best on my Silvia. But the Oracle do it all the time, extremely accurate and stable which is very important for me when i want to test a new blend for example. So both the espresso and latte are very good and it will help me wait for my own machine!

I am not a fan of Americano but my wife loves the new one touch americano! Also configurable for various cup volume.

Now the cleaning is easy, the drip tray is of a good size, the water tank is 2.5L and easy to fill from the front or back. I did configure mine to turn on and off automatically so it is nice to have a timer function. Also, i forgot to say that there is a shot timer too! Well, in conclusion it is a very nice machine, almost automatic but that offer good quality drinks. My only fear is the long term durability because it is known to be a cheaper "made in china" machine but at the price i got it i can take that risk. Time will tell but anyway i should soon have my lever machine from Salvatore.

day

#10: Post by day »

Not that i am in the market but, how much retention does the grinder have? I assume searching would yield the replaceable burr sizes and easy access?

Its funny. I just got active again a few months ago-had an old account since disappeared...had the old breville which i sold and purchased a classic, loved the exterior looks and quality of the breville. When i was just becoming inactive on hb and cg breville announced the 900 and i thought "thats going to take the home barista community by storm" been awesome to see what it has become now, kind of like time traveling :)

but i have a hard time believing the grinder will perform so well...it is expensive though ...if it has super low retention and static maybe...
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