The Breville Oracle (BES980XL) Review
You know those crazy “life goals,” where you dream of the day you’ll wake up and magically make the perfect cup of coffee every morning?
Well, the Breville Oracle BES980XL might make you do a coffee-related, life-goal-achieved happy dance.
Whether you want great espresso with at the touch of a button or you want to tweak all parameters of your shot manually, this is the coffee machine. Maybe. Read on to find out.
Summary: The Breville Oracle BES980XL
- Automation for grinding, dosing, tamping, & milk steaming
- Dual boiler — you can brew and steam at the same time
- Almost endless programmability
The Oracle® creates café quality coffee that tastes like you’d get in your favorite café.– Breville
The Breville Oracle Review
With the Oracle espresso maker, Breville left no stone unturned to make it as easy as possible to brew excellent espresso at home. It’s price might blow your mind, but so will its features and capabilities.
Design – 4/5
With the Oracle, the designers at Breville bridged the gap between the semi-automatic machines (which need some expertise to operate) and the super-automatics (which take away a lot of control from you). This stylish espresso maker has a brushed stainless steel outer casing with an aluminum top surface, which has a built-in cup warmer.
Despite its good looks, it might not be a good fit for every kitchen. Measuring 14.5 x 14.7 x 17.6 inches and weighing 35 lbs, this coffee maker is a real beast. However, the designers have given it a nifty roller bearing system that you can engage using the knob located below the drip tray. It allows you to swivel this heavy machine around to reach the water tank at the back.
Brewing System – 4.5/5
The Oracle eliminates the wait time between brewing and steaming thanks to its dual boilers. Now you can pull your espresso and steam your milk at the same time. The pump, capable of maintaining 15 bar pressure, ensures that the extraction happens at the ideal pressure, while the PID that lets you set the brewing temperature. This is good news because, according to Coffee Technicians Guild (1):
The tighter control provided by a PID system will make it easier to guarantee that you will get a perfect shot each and every time.
Oracle’s stainless steel conical burr grinders are fed via a ½ lb bean hopper. You can adjust the grind settings via the dedicated dial. It’s a cinch to grind directly into the portafilter after you have adjusted the grind settings via the dedicated dial. Insert the portafilter into the holder, and give the handle a slight push to the right to start grinding.
The water tank has a gargantuan 84-oz capacity and will accept a charcoal water filter (included in the box). There’s a water level window located at the front, but the display will warn you when it needs to be topped off (or when you need to change the water filter). The best part is that you can open the lid on the top to refill the tank. No need to turn it all the way around.
We think the best feature of the Breville Oracle is its programmable, hands-free milk steaming wand.
You can adjust the steam temperature and the amount of foam you want in the milk. Then you position the milk jug under the wand and let the machine work its magic. There is a sensor in the tip of the wand that indicates when the desired temperature is reached so you can shut off the steam. Or you can take full manual control of the entire process. It’s up to you.
Coffee Quality & Versatility – 4.5/5
The Oracle uses a 58 mm stainless steel portafilter to brew the espresso. But all you have to do is fix the portafilter in position and hit a couple of buttons. The machine automates the grinding, dosing, and tamping.
You can even program the Oracle to your heart’s content.
- You can change the dose to adjust the strength of the brew.
- You can set the tamping pressure and polishing time according to your liking.
- The single and double shot buttons are programmable for volume or duration.
- The Americano button has 3 programmable settings for size and strength.
- You can even program the pre-infusion time, wait time, and brew time for that perfect layer of crema.
Those are just the settings for your coffee. You even get to control the temperature and frothiness of your steamed milk via its dedicated control dial.
All of this programmability translates into one thing — the Breville Oracle makes shot after shot of identical espresso.
The espresso tastes great after you’ve dialed in all the settings. And that makes us happy. That first cup in the morning can be hard to make, and the Oracle makes it so much easier. And if you choose to experiment with your brew on the weekend, you can override the automation and take back control.
Cleaning & Maintenance – 3.5/5
Since the Breville Oracle brews coffee like a traditional espresso machine, there is no brew head or dregs container to clean. However, you’ll have to dump the used grounds into the knock bin after every brew, and give it a wipe with a cloth. However, the display will flash a warning to let you know that it’s time for running a backflush cycle or descale the machine.
Speaking of descaling, we have to admit that it’s an onerous process. It can take anywhere between 60-90 minutes from start to finish. Luckily, Breville has an instruction video to guide you through it:
The steam wand is another part of automatic espresso machines that requires frequent cleaning. You will have to wipe down the exterior after every use. But after you’re done steaming, push the wand back into place, and it automatically cleans the nozzle by forcing steam out of the tip. How smart is that?
Breville makes a bevy of coffee equipment and has a huge network of service centers. That comes in handy if you ever have to invoke Breville’s 2-year Repair Warranty. Every once in a while, you will hear about some problems with the Oracle; don’t worry, the company will help you sort it out.
Value For Money – 4/5
This Breville Oracle has no competitor among super-automatic espresso machines. It is a super-automatic machine that brews espresso in a traditional portafilter, and has a dual boiler system. Not to mention, you can control and program almost every single aspect of your brew to get the perfect shot. And if you choose to, it offers you the convenience of one-touch brewing without compromising on the quality of the coffee.
We acknowledge that it is big, heavy, expensive, and packed to the gills with automation. That might put off some people from buying this espresso machine. But there’s nothing like the Breville Oracle in the market; it truly is in a class of its own. That’s why we feel the price is justified.
Do Not Buy The Breville Oracle If…
You want one-touch brewing, but don’t care for the programmability – If you love good black coffee, check out the Jura ENA Micro 1. It is an ultra-compact espresso machine that brews 1 cup at a time. It might not have a steam wand, but it is fast and makes great espresso at the touch of a button. We found it to be a great option for those who don’t drink milk-based coffee. It’s an even sweeter deal if you can pick up a refurbished model.
You want an affordable espresso machine – There are a lot of super-automatic espresso machines that make great espresso. They might not offer automatic milk frothing, like the Breville, but produce great coffee drink nonetheless. The DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM3300 is one such machine. It costs significantly less than the Oracle, and lets you brew everything from an espresso to a latte. We find it to be a tremendous value for money proposition.
The Gaggia Brera is another affordable option. It makes delightful espresso shots, and its Pannarello-style steam wand produces silky smooth milk foam. If you usually drink coffee with milk and/or sugar, you might want to take an in-depth look at this machine in our review.
If you would like to take a look at some other super-automatic espresso machines, take a look at our top picks.
The Verdict On The Breville Oracle BES980XL – 4.1/5
This is a great coffee machine for the person who might want to take the easy road on some days but also wants to maintain some control over the brewing process.
It will appeal to the coffee lover who has a fair amount of knowledge but also likes to automate some of the tasks once they have set the machine up to deliver exactly what they want.
The Breville Oracle offers extensive programmability and impeccable performance that takes the headache out of making café quality espresso at home.
We like the idea of having an espresso maker that enables us to have incredible coffee at home effortlessly. Yet, it empowers us to contribute our brewing expertise and knowledge, if we so choose.
You can reset your Breville Oracle espresso maker by holding down the single shot button and power button simultaneously. The display will show “reset.” Press the select button to reset all settings to factory default. Oh, and make sure your machine is “off” when you’re trying to reset it.
Yes, you can clean your Breville Oracle espresso machine with vinegar. The company does provide you with a few packets of cleaning solution in the box, along with instructions to use them. But white vinegar is a good replacement. Breville support recommends using a 50/50 mixture of water and white vinegar to clean your espresso machine (2).
- PID vs Pstat. (2017, December 05). Retrieved from https://coffeetechniciansguild.org/blog/2017/11/21/pid-vs-pstat
- Breville USA Support (n.d.). Decalcifying. Retrieved from https://www.brevilleusasupport.com/bes870xl/care-and-use/care/