I'm obsessed with my new espresso maker—here's why
The Oracle Touch is smarter than we are, and we're OK with that.
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We humans have an obsession with coffee. And why not? The magical bean offers a host of benefits beyond the surge of energy we rely on to kickstart our days. And coffee chains like Starbucks cash in big time on our addiction, to the tune of $24.7 billion in profits in 2018.
There was a time when a Starbucks latte was in my hand most weekdays, and I shudder to think about how many hundreds of dollars I gladly spent on cups full of beverages that were just OK.
But then I got a beast of an espresso machine, and though I knew zilch about espresso beans, frothing milk, or using anything but a drip coffeemaker, the Oracle Touch by Breville made me feel like a seasoned barista—and one who rarely spent money on lattes from Starbucks. The Oracle Touch is a smarter version of our very favorite espresso machines, and there are several reasons we're a fan of Breville's espresso machine lineup.
What is the Oracle Touch?
Breville’s Oracle Touch does so much more than make espresso shots. It’s like having a whole coffee shop on your kitchen counter. The Oracle stores espresso beans in the hopper, grinds them and tamps the grounds for you, dispenses the perfect amount of hot water for your Americano, froths perfect foam for your latte, and even heats your favorite coffee mug with a warming panel on top of the machine. The best part? All you have to do is select the beverage you want on the touch screen.
How does it work?
This very talented machine takes its orders from a full color touch screen panel. Making an Americano, for example, is very easy. You place the portafilter (the silver cup with the handle that holds the espresso grounds) in its spot under the bean grinder and tap Grind. The Oracle immediately feeds the perfect amount of beans into the grinder, grinds and tamps them down (tamping correctly can be tricky if you aren’t experienced). Next, move the filter to the group head (where the water dispenses to flow through the grounds and trickle out each side of the portafilter), place your cup beneath it, and tap Brew. That's literally it.
The Oracle Touch brews and dispenses your espresso shot, and then it pours piping hot water into your cup. The process for making lattes and other milk-based beverages is only slightly more complicated. Simply fill the included stainless steel jug with milk, stick it under the frothing wand (which is part of the machine), and tap the screen again. With zero human help, it produces perfect micro-foam for the drink that was selected. Like, make-hearts-in-the-foam kind of perfect. And then the steam wand cleans itself, because of course it does.
What I love about the Oracle Touch
This review would be the length of a Tolstoy novel if I were to take the time to spell out everything the Oracle Touch can do. Just about every step of the brewing and crafting can be tweaked to produce your perfect cup. In fact, you can even create your personal drink on the machine and save it as a beverage choice in the menu. But really, what I love most about the Oracle is that using it is only as involved as you want it to be. Making espresso shots, lattes, cappuccinos, flat whites, and even hot chocolate couldn’t be any simpler or more intuitive thanks to Breville's user-friendly design. But it’s not so automated that someone who knows espresso drinks can’t craft something completely unique.
What I don’t love
All this brilliance does, however, take up some real estate on the kitchen counter. It looks downright massive in my little galley kitchen, and it’s also very tall thanks to the bean hopper. In fact, the Oracle Touch won’t even fit under the lip of our cabinets with the hopper in place. When we need to add more beans, we have to remove the hopper while it’s still under the cabinet before we can roll it out. (Yes, it has wheels.) This wouldn’t be a big deal except that the mechanism that locks/unlocks the hopper is a piece that has to be turned with some force, and it is located at the bottom of the hopper. So there’s some struggling to reach it every time we pull the machine out.
Should you get the Oracle Touch?
A machine this smart and capable doesn’t come cheap, as it rings up around $2,500. Most people could easily opt for a great drip coffee maker or a much less expensive espresso machine and be happy with the results (though, most other espresso machines can’t walk you through the process or create micro-foam like the Oracle Touch can). It’s a lot of money, but it's also very high quality and built to last, so it could theoretically pay for itself after five or six years if you’ve got a serious latte-buying habit. Also, it’s pretty awesome being able to whip up custom drinks for guests.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.