Breville Oracle

The Breville Oracle BES980XL :: Auto, What?

Published by Mark
May 5, 2014 8:00 am


The Oracle has arrived.

Over the past two weeks the team here at Clive has been testing out Breville’s new double boiler espresso machine, neatly dubbed the “Oracle.”  The Oracle debuted at the SCAA last year, and Breville has finally released the machine to a few select markets in the US. We even had the opportunity to be given a demonstration by Breville’s own Phil McKnight, who helped design the machine. The Oracle shares many features of their earlier Dual Boiler (BES920) machine, with three independent heating elements and an elegant, programmable interface. The main departure stems from the addition of a built in burr grinder and an automatic steam wand that generates consistent, integrated, micro-textured foam.  Due to its simplicity and ease of design, the Oracle has quickly become our go-to machine to pull a shot of espresso or make a cappuccino when we’re running off to a meeting or getting ready to ship out a ton of deliveries. Now that I’ve extolled the virtues of the beast, it’s time to look under the “hood” and take a closer look.

The Oracle’s temperature stability is generated by two stainless steel boilers, three independent heating elements, and controlled by a programmable PID. While the coffee boiler has its own heating element, it is unique in that it acts like a heat exchange by drawing pre-heated water from the steam boiler. There is also an independent heating element in the group head that insures minimal temperature fluctuations as the water moves from the boiler to the bed of coffee in the portafilter.

The most noticeable feature of the Oracle that alludes to its grinding capability is the large hopper (which can hold up to a 1/2 pound of coffee) that sits atop the machine. Breville designed a proprietary auger system that enables you to insert your portafilter and the coffee will be automatically dosed, ground, tamped, and polished. The grind setting can be adjusted and viewed via an LCD display on the front by a simple twist of the knob on the side of the machine. The result is a well-groomed, solid, puck that extracts evenly and helps to prevent channeling. Theoretically, you can adjust the dose, but we’re still working on that one. An interesting aspect of the automated tamp is that both the pressure and duration can be programmed. We’ve also just started to test how the gradation of this feature impacts the quality in the cup. We’ll report back in a future post.

Breville Oracle Breville Oracle
Breville Oracle Breville Oracle

Outside of locking the portafilter in the group head, all features involved with pulling shots can be both programmed or done manually. Pre-infusion time, shot yield (timed or volumetric), and temperature (coffee boiler temp) can all be programmed. They’ve even included a nifty timer on the main LCD screen while you pull your shots. We spent quite a few days pulling shots and so far they have been very consistent. For the seasoned barista who’s accustomed to pulling shots manually, there are plenty of variables you can adjust and experiment with.

For the americano enthusiast, there is a dedicated knob that enables you to pull a shot and fill your cup all with a single push of a button. This is achieved by a hot water spout that sits directly behind the group head and fills your cup with water directly after the shot has completed. You can also twist the knob to adjust the volume of water to be dispensed. If you choose to be traditional, you can of course pull your shot manually and use the hot water button (or if you want tea instead of espresso) to fill your cup.

Probably the most remarkable innovation is the ability to steam consistently beautiful, integrated, micro-textured foam. A combination of steam and pumped air ensure a silky texture that most novice baristas would lust after. It is as simple as filling your pitcher, inserting the steam wand, and pushing a lever. Both the temperature (aided by a smiley face icon when the proper temperature is selected) and foam density can be programmed. Again, you can choose to steam your milk manually, but it does such a beautiful job you would be hard pressed not to let it do the work for you. In a few tests we did get a few larger bubbles that we had to knock out, otherwise the foam is super consistent.

Breville Oracle Breville Oracle

A few other cool features include: A reservoir that you can fill from a top panel or from back of the machine.  The boilers are super easy to drain through two screws on the front of the machine. You will also receive a suite of accessories, ranging from cleaning gear to a pitcher and a knock box.

Before Breville released the Oracle, they took enormous pains to ensure that the machine would meet the expectations of their customers and withstand regular daily use. They performed nearly 15,000 use cycle tests, which if you do the math, is equivalent to ten years of making four (and a little bit more) drinks a day. They have also extended their warranty to two years, and all service inquiries go through Breville themselves.

So, is the Oracle prophetic in the delivery of exquisite espresso? We’ll report back with a more detailed analysis in a future post.

Categorized in:


  • Written by: Mark

    You guys and gals ever figure out if the dose size can be adjusted as you eluded to in the third paragraph?

  • Written by: Kevin Haugen

    Thanks for the question Mark.

    Breville informed us that by adjusting the tamp pressure/time you can only adjust the dose VERY slightly (on a range of .5 – 1 grams).

  • Written by: Jeffro

    Any updated post on how you guys are getting along with  The Oracle?

  • Written by: Mark

    Hi Jeffrey,
    We’re working on some detailed posts of other products at the moment, but can say that everything we wrote previously about the Oracle stands true today! We feel this is a very strong espresso machine option for those that want an integrated grinder and auto-frothing. It’s the only machine on the market with these features that we’d consider carrying. You can adjust the dose very slightly, but this is not a great machine for those that really want to tweak the parameters of their shots (other than grind setting). If that’s you, I’d recommend the Breville DB instead. Any other detailed questions? Email us at or 800.520.2890. We love to talk shop. Thanks! -Mark

  • Written by: Oliver

    One thing I can find on any websites is if I can make a Swiss coffee / cafe creama on this machine. Meaning can I adjust the grind settings sufficiently to run 6-8 oz of water through the puck?  Any thoughts?

  • Written by: Hayley McNabb

    Thanks for the question. We gave it a go and found that the grinder doesn’t grind coarse enough to achieve a good Swiss coffee. The best we could do was a 6oz extraction in 40 seconds. However, it does make a fantastic americano!

  • Written by: Jon

    How would this machine compare with say the Rocket R58 ? How is the quality of the cup produced.

  • Written by: Hayley McNabb

    Hi Jon,
    Provided you have the grind set correctly and the machines are up to temperature you’d be hard-pressed to pick the difference in a blind taste-test. In fact, when we used a bottomless portafilter with the Breville Oracle we found the shot to pour perfectly (i.e. no channelling) due to the way the coffee grounds are perfectly distributed during the auto-grind, dose and tamp process. We were impressed, as it can take a lot of practice for a human to achieve this!

  • Written by: Rod

    I’m trying to get some sort of handle on all the different brands and models out there,… you can imagine, my brain hurts!
    To get to my question,…

    Based on the fact that I am totally inexperienced at this level of “coffee” (I basically just drink it :-)) but I do love to drink it and want to produce my own caps and espresso’s at home, would you suggest this as a “first” machine? Or is it going to be more than I can handle,….OR, is there a better option out there?

    What I’m finding is that there are too many choices and brands out there that it just becomes overwhelming. I can’t seem to find any black and white answers for “beginners”. HELP!

  • Written by: Ben Piff

    Hi there!

    I totally relate to the challenges of finding the right equipment. We try to keep it simple by only carrying models we love and know well, but it’s always hard to make a confident first choice when there are so many good options. I think you should call us at (800) 520-2890 to chat espresso, compare features and find the best fit for your goals. But really, I think you’ve zeroed in on the easiest machine to learn how to make commercial quality espresso drinks with. If you want to learn about more manual machines, we have a number of great options. But if you just want to dive straight into great shots and fluffy milk without a learning curve, this machine is in a class of its own.


Join the Conversation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *