Let’s think big here, with one of the more popular models in the prosumer price range. The Breville Oracle Touch is an all-rounder and one of the most attractive automatic coffee machines out there, known to attract five-star reviews and absolutely justifying the high price tag.
Whether you’re highly technical about your coffee, or really couldn’t give a damn about the details and care more about ease of use, it’s tough to argue against this being the single best super automatic espresso machine on the market.
it does a lot to try match the value, automating every stage of the coffee making process without compromising on quality.
You can do pretty much everything you’d want with the Breville Oracle Touch, and short of thinking even more expensive with a commercial-grade La Marzocco or Rocket, it’s the best for your home, even if you have no idea what you’re doing.
The super automatic coffee machine takes care of all the grinding (it’s a customisable burr grinder, so expect a fine, even extraction), tamping, and heating for you. And it’s consistent, so you get your ideal dose every time. The only real thing you have to worry about handling yourself is deciding on the coffee strength, and the texture worked up by the milk frother. Even if you’re brain is fried at 6am, good coffee from the Breville One Touch is often just a matter of pressing lightly on a LED screen.
The downside is of course that you’ll need to be discerning about which coffee beans you’re using if you want to milk out the best this machine has to offer. Bad quality will still mean subpar results, even if the machine works wonders. It also requires much more regular cleaning than a pod coffee machine would, and the 280g hopper on the top (where the beans go into) makes it tough to fit the brushed stainless steel body under shelfing units.
Also note that parts of the Breville Oracle Touch are not dishwasher safe, so it’s not as quick to clean.
If those small annoyances don’t matter, and price isn’t an issue, it’s tough to recommend anything that’s strictly for home use other than this dependable super automatic espresso machine. Although as you’ll read below, there are more than a few espresso machines that can compare
What To Look For In A Coffee Machine
What you’re looking for in a coffee machine is entirely dependant on your preferences, but there are a few features to keep in mind if you want value for money, and want to zone in on the machines coffee drinkers love the most.
If you like your milk based espresso coffee, like a latte, flat white, or cappuccino, then one of the primary features you’ll want is a dual boiler. This enables you to brew coffee and steam milk at the same time, so you can better align the textures.
Compare this to a single boiler coffee machine, where you’ll usually need to do one after the other, which either means your espresso sits there waiting for you to steam your milk, or your steamed milk loses its texture while it waits for your espresso shot to be prepared.
Another important thing to look out for is what kind of pump your machines uses, and what kind of pressure it’s capable of. This is important as it will effect how much coffee is extracted into your final espresso or cup of coffee. In order to propel the water as evenly as possible through a dense bed of ground coffee, your machine’s electric pump needs at least 9 bar of pressure – 15 bar if you’re really serious.
This pressure can come from either a vibration pump or a rotary pump. The latter is seen as the more elegant and modern way, with rotary pumps much quieter, complex, longer lasting, and more consistent with their pressure. Consistency is the key to even extraction, so these are often preferred by those who like their espresso coffee as close to perfection as possible.
The problem with rotary pumps is that they require a bigger machine, and hence are typically found in the more expensive prosumer models. Vibration pumps are less expensive, easier to replace (due to their simplicity), but louder and not as long lasting.
Vibration pumps also built up pressure slowly, and while this can be ideal sometimes, this is nothing when you compare to a rotary pump which can reach 9 bar almost immediately and typically extracts so well that you’d get a darker, more consistent crema that’s thicker, richer, and more complex.
Why is extraction important? Simple. Under-extracted coffee from an espresso machine typically means the espresso will be sour and salty with a thin, barely-there finish. Conversely, an over-extracted coffee would be too bitter, too dry, and just all around unpleasant.
A perfectly extracted shot of espresso should be sweet with a lot of complex acidity, and build up a longer, linger finish which is where much of the flavours of your coffee bean and the terroir it represents comes through.
Or you can just stick to capsule machines (AKA pod coffee machines). They’ve become much more reliable in the past few years with Nespresso picking up their game, especially when it comes to the more barista friendly single original pod options.