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When it comes to choosing an espresso machine for the home there are several factors to consider.

First of all, we need to ask ourselves a few questions such as what I’m looking for, what I want to achieve, how much I’m willing to spend and so on. Today, I’m going to talk about the Sage Oracle by Helston Blumenthal.

But before getting into the details, let’s make it clear about the brand.

People are lazy and usually, don’t want to figure out things that they notice and look odd. I’m talking about Sage and Breville, two different names that are under the same brand so they look identical.

Or, to say it better, one is the UK brand and the other one is the “original one”. Indeed, I was doing the same mistake at the very beginning while looking at the Breville machine.

The Breville one came from Australia where it was founded in the 1930s and just later in the 80’s it sold the rights in Europe with a different company called Sage. And that’s why when you search on the web you find two identical machines with two different names, the Breville and the Sage.

sage oracle coffee machine by helston blumenthalThe Sage Oracle coffee machine by Helston Blumenthal

The Oracle belongs to the bean-to-cup espresso machine category, which means that unlike any machine that requires a grinder, you can brew fresh coffee from fresh beans. But that’s not the only idea behind this machine; the main idea is to eliminate the learning curve by making all the steps automated, leaving only a few tricks to the operator. I’m saying operator and not a barista, just because you don’t need any particular skills as the machine does everything for you.

How does the Sage Oracle work

There are a few steps to follow to brew coffee with the Sage Oracle machine. Here’s a small guide on how the machine works.

  1. Turn on the machine and just wait a couple of minutes to let it warm up (very quick!);
  2. fill the tank with water; it doesn’t need to remove the tank to fill it but instead, it just needs to be filled from the front (smart and cool thing!);
  3. fill the hopper of the incorporated grinder with fresh beans;
  4. bring the portafilter and put it into the grind outlet, in where the coffee comes out automatically ground, dosed and tamped by the machine;
  5. insert the portafilter into the group head and
  6. press the desired button to brew coffee.

Main features of the machine

  • conical burr grinder that automatically grinds (adjustable grind settings), doses and tamps 22 grams of coffee dose: as human being we make mistakes and this feature enables us to avoid them achieving consistency shot by shot;
  • dual stainless steel boilers and a PID to keep the group heated bringing hot water to the right temperature (the temperature of extraction is controlled to within +/-1 degree). Also, two different boilers allow to steam the milk while extracting the beverage (in case of a single boiler machine we don’t have enough pressure so we can only steam after the extraction);
  • long, low pre-infusion to wet the puck properly and avoid any chance of channelling; also an overpressure valve to limit the release of the pressure and avoid any bitter taste on your cup (the machine can reach up to 15 bar of pressure).
  • one dedicated boiler for the steamer for the perfect micro-foam milk texturing. Also, the option to set a temperature to reach so the steamer shuts off once the temperature is reached and the option to choose the texture of the milk for the favourite flavour profile (from latte to cappuccino).

Pros and cons

Pros

  • no barista skills required as the machine does everything for us. We can make nice shots of coffee that taste brilliant from the very beginning;
  • easy to set up from the very first time; the machine just asks us to set the extraction temperature, the grind setting (I would recommend starting with 30) and the temperature for the milk;
  • ensured consistency thanks to the automatic process of making all the steps from grind the coffee and distribute evenly into the portafilter to the tamp part;
  • the auto-off option that can be programmed and get the machine ready at the desired time.

Cons

  • the price makes the machine out of the budget for many;
  • the coffee dose is 22 grams and cannot be modified; a bit limiting as you can experiment different recipes but it’s a bean-to-cup machine after all.
  • the machine shuts off automatically after 20 minutes of inactivity; it’s about an EU regulation and not a decision made by the company but it’s still a bit annoying because you need to heat the machine again.

Is this machine worth it?

The Oracle is the world’s first automatic manual espresso machine. It’s both automatic and manual as most of the steps are made from the machine itself. And it’s also manual, with few tricks that the user can personalized such as the temperature. I think it’s worth it despite the price: when it comes to buying an espresso machine the first thing I would like to consider is about consistency. And this machine is extremely consistent delivering the same quality shot by shot. However, in case you want to save a bit of money you can opt for the Barista Express which is more personalised but required a skillful barista as you need to grind your coffee and tamp it.

Is it suitable for everyone?

This single touch coffee machine brings a real coffee experience at home. The Sage Oracle by Helston Blumenthal is made for the ones that are looking for a compromise between interaction, quality and stylish. A bit for the lazy people that pretend something with the minimum effort. Just need a few moves before pressing a button and watch the machine doing the rest. The price doesn’t sound great but another good point is that we don’t need to buy a grinder to place on the side. So, I think there is a lot of value because we are paying someone to do everything no matter if we don’t have time to do it by ourselves, the machine does everything for us. Moreover, the quality delivered is reason enough to make it worth it.

Where to buy the Sage Oracle machine

The machine is available on several websites such as Amazon but also on many retailers including House of Fraser, Harrods, Debenhams, John Lewis and Selfridges and it’s on sale from £1,000 to £1,500 depending on the retailer.

Just pay attention from whom you are buying as you want to make sure they can guarantee you a full maintenance service.

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