This Is the One Espresso Machine to Top Them All
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. How Ferris Bueller felt about the 1961 Ferrari Spyder is how it actually feels to experience the magic of the Oracle Touch.
Why This Model Is the Best Home Espresso Machine You Can Buy
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.
It 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. 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 just 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).
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.
Which Espresso Machines Are the Best For My Kitchen?
I ended up working my way through most of the other beverages on the menu, realizing that 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.
Maybe the key to the smoothest home-brewed coffee is swapping a standard coffee machine for an espresso option—and if you go that route, you don't have to buy this particular model. There are three more affordable options for you to choose from that can stand up to Breville's Oracle Touch, minus a few bells and whistles. We're highlighting the best customer-reviewed options below:
Breville Barista Express
This Breville model is a close sibiling to the Oracle Touch, minus the high-tech user interface. But that doesn't mean there's a lack of automation: in fact, this machine automatically adjusts steam temperature to ensure a smooth espresso beverage, and it's also equipped with a similar burr grinder. For those who are comfortable making custom beverages on their own, this $484 kitchen workhorse will perform wonders and will brew coffee that rivals your local coffeehouse.
This is also one of Amazon's top-ranking home espresso machines: more than 1,700 customers have left reviews on the site, with 72 percent granting this Breville model top marks.
Nespresso Lattissima Pro
If an automated touch screen is a must have for you, this Nespresso model is able to create layered espresso drinks with piping hot foam at the touch of a button. It is also designed with an exterior milk carafe that makes frothing very easy: simply direct the machine to do so (it's an automated featured, which means milk is never burned), and detach the carafe to clean afterwards.
More than 350 Amazon shoppers have left glowing reviews of this more affordable, single-serve model, applauding Nespresso's durable appliance that is also very easy to clean and maintain. Sixty-nine percent of those who reviewed this $340 machine gave this model five stars.
Krups Calvi Steam and Pump
Maybe you're not interested in anybells and whistles, and would just prefer a reliable hot espresso thanks to a machine equipped with only one button? This Krups model is for you. It's one of the cheapest of Amazon's picks, due to the fact that it's a single-serve machine with minimal customization options. The $120 machine is neatly compact for any kitchen countertop, but it still features a steam nozzle for you to create smooth foam at home.
Most reviewers left between four and five stars on Amazon, with customers highlighting that this is a very simple model to use, and it's very easy to clean—making it a great choice for any espresso newbie.
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 my experience with espresso machines appeal 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.
This Story Originally Appeared On Cooking Light