Photo: Breville.

For those in the lifelong quest to find the perfect coffee machine for a enthusiast's kitchen, we think we've finally found the Holy Grail. 

Tim Cebula
September 21, 2017

After decades of indifference toward coffee, I now suddenly find myself caring about the stuff. A lot. Buying good beans, looking forward to the morning cup (cups, really). Actually noticing the taste and texture. What once was mere fuel to me has become a near delicacy. I have the folks at Breville to thank for my epiphany.

I recently tested Breville’s new super-automatic espresso machine, the Oracle Touch. I’ve been a Breville fan for years—their fantastic Smart Oven countertop unit is my go-to for small toasting, roasting, and convection work at home—so I was eager to see their latest offering for bean brews.

Know this right from the get-go: It retails for $2,500, so it’s not for the budget-minded. But this is no mere coffee machine. It’s an investment in your quality of life. When Ferris Bueller described the 1961 Ferrari Spyder, he really was actually referring to the magic of the Oracle Touch.

Photo: Breville.

The machine weighs in at nearly 40 pounds, a mix of gleaming and brushed steel, commercial-grade sturdy. It’s surprisingly easy to set up, even for someone who’s never worked something more complex than a plastic and plexiglass budget-branded coffee machine. The setup procedure includes a hardness test of your tap water so the machine can account for that factor and keep it from adversely affecting the flavor of your brew. You fill up the 84-ounce water tank that fits in the back of the machine, put your fresh-roasted beans in the hopper on top, and the touch screen guides you the rest of the way.

The screen works like a smartphone, allowing you to swipe and press your selections. The menu displays preset icons for espresso, long black/Americano, latte, flat white, and cappuccino, and you can add up to eight customized recipes of your own.

Photo: Breville.

I start by picking a cappuccino, something I’d never made, and rarely ever drank, but figure what the hell. The screen prompts you through the automated process of grinding, brewing, and milk frothing. The built-in burr grinder is fully adjustable for fineness-coarseness, but the default setting worked perfectly for me. I’m told that grinding is a precise science in espresso making, since the grounds need to be fine enough for pressure to build as the water filters through, but not so fine that they stop water flow. The grounds collect in the machine's hefty commercial portafilter, then an internal fan blows for a few seconds to tamp them to the ideal level of compactness.

Move the portafilter into the brewing head, put your mug below and hit “brew,” and the machine delivers espresso the consistency “of warm, dripping honey” – as the instruction manual puts it, and if there’s a more alluring description of this espresso, I’ve yet to find it.

Milk goes into the included steel milk jug, which you set below the steam wand. Hit the “milk” button, and the machine steams and froths your milk in seconds to the preset temp and consistency (you can easily customize both of these settings, like most other options, of course). 

Photo: Oxmoor House

So after a couple of minutes, with no barista experience or technical skills to speak of, I find myself sipping a café-quality cappuccino. And loving it.

I went on to try the other beverages on the menu, and customized a few of my own. Just as I came to realize several years back that I’d never really eaten a peach until I had the pleasure of trying a farm-fresh, genuine Georgia peach, my test runs with the Oracle Touch proved eye-opening (in every sense). I actually noticed and truly appreciated the nuances in flavor and the rich, full-bodied texture (known as crema). And the process was even easier than making regular coffee from whole beans with my mini-grinder and standard coffee machine.

I’ve heard some folks justify the cost of a machine like this by tallying their weekly fees at the local coffee shop and calculating that it’d pay for itself in a couple of years. That’s sound logic. But Breville’s Oracle Touch appeals less to my reason than my senses: that warm, dripping honey-thick espresso, with all of its complex yet balanced flavor, is the only way to start the day.

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