- Professional quality coffee
- Look like a pro barista with no training
- Consistently ground, dosed and tamped every time
- Excellent customer service
- White Glove Service for in home demonstration
- Easy to set up
- Adjustable coffee grind
- Price makes it out of reach for many
- Requires overhead space on counter
- Auto-off features means waiting for it to heat up
- Dose cannot be adjusted
- Metal finish is easily scratched
Can £1,500 for a coffee machine be considered a good value?
When talking about the Sage Oracle Coffee Machine and Grinder by Heston Blumenthal it is! Though it isn’t affordable to everybody, the premium quality and performance outweigh the price tag.
Bringing the same quality of espresso found in the best coffee houses could see one spending upwards of £10,000. Not to mention the barista training required to make a proper espresso and cappuccino.
The Oracle is the world’s first automatic manual espresso machine. Well, which is it, then? Automatic or manual?
It’s both. It’s automatic in the sense that the most difficult parts of the process for non-baristas are taken care of by the machine itself. The grinding, dosing and tamping of the coffee and the milk texturing are all automatic.
It’s manual, since it puts part of the coffee making process into the user’s hands. Making the coffee customisable without too much of a learning curve.
If this sounds like your type of machine, then carry on reading… otherwise Sage do have another model that is less automated and a fair bit cheap too for those wannabe barista’s out there – Barista Express Coffee Machine & Grinder.
The Oracle is a stella bean to cup coffee machine if your budget can stretch that far, that’s why we thought it well deserved a place in our top 5 bean to cup coffee machines.
What makes the Oracle coffee machine by Sage different?
Bean-to-cup coffee making has become a bit of a catch phrase of late. For most high-end coffee machines that means a completely automated process.
Press one button and your coffee is delivered from bean form to steaming coffee in your cup.
The Oracle, similarly, gives a bean-to-cup experience. The journey is what makes it different than it’s peers.
The design is similar to the large, manual machines found in fashionable coffee houses. The process is comprised of three stages. The grinding, dosing and tamping stage. The coffee extraction phase. And the milk frothing stage, assuming that a cappuccino or latte is desired.
One can use pre-ground coffee, but the Oracle really shines when high quality, freshly roasted beans are ground a la minute. It’s a one touch process as the Oracle recognises that this is the part of coffee making that trips people up.
Pour the coffee beans into the hopper. Simply set the desired coarseness of the grind and insert the portafilter into the socket. (The portafilter is the basket with the handle where the coffee is held) A 21 gram dose is ground and deposited into the portafilter. The coffee is then expertly tamped into a puck.
The tamping is extremely important. Too tight and the hot water takes too long to pass through the beans. The result is a sour, over-extracted coffee. Too loose and the water passes too quickly. That turns out a weak and insipid espresso.
The Oracle smartly determines the best pressure to tamp the coffee based on how coarse or fine the grind is. No barista can be that consistent.
How good is the coffee it makes?
As with any coffee machine, the better the beans, the better the coffee.
This is where the user takes some control of the process. Gripping the handle and turning to the left, the portafilter is removed from the grinder area. Moving to the center of the unit, the portafilter is inserted into the group head where the extraction takes place. With a touch of a button, the user selects a single, double or Americano.
The extraction begins with a low-pressure, pre-infusion of water into the grounds. By slowly letting the pressure build, the grounds are expanded allowing for greater extraction. The pressure tops out at a maximum of 15 bars. Anything less than 9 bars is considered too low for a perfectly extracted espresso.
As the coffee is released, one should see the coda di topo. The mouse tail. The stream of coffee should literally look like a mouse tail flitting into the cup. The end result should be a shot of coffee with a golden, frothy top. The crema. The tell tale sign that an expertly crafted coffee was produced.
If there is no crema present, the grind must be adjusted. It may take a few tries to get the espresso just right. Your diligence will be rewarded with a rich, deep and satisfying shot of espresso!
What about making a cappuccino or latte?
This is the part of the process with a typical machine that gives users fits.
The Oracle makes expertly frothed milk at the touch of a button. With some customization, of course.
The user can select milk for a latte, cappuccino or something in between. Pressing the lever for the frother delivers a burst of steam through the wand, expelling any water that has condensed. Nice attention to a seemingly small detail that makes a difference in the quality of the foam.
Cold milk is key to a great froth. An included metal frothing pitcher can be kept in the fridge until ready for use. The cold milk is poured into the pitcher and then the wand is inserted. Once the desired temperature for the milk is selected the lever is pressed again and the frothing begins.
And that’s it. You can safely walk away while it is steaming and not worry about scalded milk. It will shut off automatically once the temperature is reached.
For the bold or experienced, there is a manual setting. You can take matters into your own hands and froth the milk. According to your own preference. The wand is adjustable so you can keep the tip deep into the milk and then slowly raise it to the top. The temperature is shown on the digital screen.
Espresso waits for nobody. It is important that the milk and coffee be done around the same time, or the precious crema will disappear. Oracle’s dual boiler system allows for the milk to be frothed while the coffee is extracted.
Once the coffee is made, a quick wipe down of the wand cleans it up. Pushing the wand to it’s resting position issues four quick pulses of steam to discharge any milk that might have gotten inside.
The result? A cappuccino or latte that can compete with any high street coffee houses. You can even get some good foam art done with enough practice!
Frequently Asked Questions About the Oracle Coffee Machine
How long does delivery take?
Is the coffee machine guaranteed?
Yes. Sage guarantees the Oracle for 2 years against faulty workmanship and materials. Any damage caused by misuse or accidents are excluded, of course.
How big is the machine?
The dimensions are 40.9 x 37.3 x 45.3 cm. There needs to be a bit of clearance for the beans to be poured into the hopper. The machine weighs 19 kilograms.
What are people saying about the Oracle by Sage?
Consistency is key with any product. You want to know that it is going to deliver the same way every time. The Oracle is extremely consistent and reliable. Once you have the settings to where you like them, it will produce an exceptional coffee every time.
If there is a problem with the machine, Sage appliances customer service is top notch. Starting with an actual person answering the phone rather than forcing one through many menu options!
Setting up the machine is a breeze, too. Within minutes of unboxing you can be enjoying a amazing espresso. To really get the most out of your machine, though, you can set up a White Glove Service call. A technician will come to your home and demonstrate how to properly use the machine.
They will set it up for you, if you like. They guide you through all the details of the machine and make a few coffees with you. One downside is that it seems that they can get booked up. You might need to wait a bit before being seen.
Customers are also saying that the Americano is better than what you get from other high-end machines. In most cases the Americano is just an espresso that has more water pumped through the exhausted grounds, resulting in an over-extracted, weak coffee.
The Oracle, on the other hand, adds hot water right into the cup after the espresso is extracted. That’s a proper Americano! The difference is immediately apparent when all the nuances of the espresso are still experienced.
Cup warming can be on the slow side, however. It is important for the cup to be hot when the coffee is issued. The crema doesn’t last long enough in a cold cup. Even in a warm cup the most you can wait is 3-4 minutes before the coffee loses its complexity.
The machine itself heats up quickly. From the moment it is turned on to when it is ready to make a coffee is about 2.5 to 3 minutes. A handy timer can be set so it is on and ready to go once you are up and out of bed in the morning.
A minor annoyance is the fact that it shuts off automatically after 20 minutes. This is not due to a company policy. EU regulations prohibit a heatable machine to stay on for more than 20 minutes and require an automatic shut off.
Clean up is very low maintenance. The steaming wand only needs to be wiped down after it’s used. It cleans itself once it’s pushed back to the proper position. A drip tray is removable and can be washed in the sink.
Is the Oracle by Sage and Heston Blumenthal worth it?
The attention to detail that Sage applies to the Oracle coffee machine elevates it far above its peers.
From the self-cleaning and adjustable steaming wand, to the automated grinding and tamping process. From the preinfusion of the grounds, to the hot water added to the Americano. It seems that the Oracle has accounted for just about everything.
It’s as easy and intuitive as any one-touch system, but, with the ability to customize the coffee. Feeling like you are taking part in the process with little risk of ruining the coffee or making a mess is very appealing to many.
No product is without its downsides. Of course, the Oracle is no exception. The inability to adjust the coffee dose and the slow cup warmer keep it from being the ideal machine. They are not big enough reasons to not want one in your kitchen, however.
The level of quality in the coffee it produces is reason enough to make the Oracle coffee machine worth it. Simply put, no other coffee machine available for home use will deliver a better tasting coffee. When anything less than a high-end coffeehouse quality coffee won’t do, your only option is the Oracle by Sage.