Breville the Dual Boiler Review
Pros: Excellent espresso and milk steaming, can pull and steam simultaneously, multiple programmable features, relatively user-friendly
Cons: Expensive, requires some effort and a learning curve, no built-in grinder
Compare to Similar Products
Breville the Dual Boiler
$1,600 at Amazon
$636.99 at Amazon
$599.95 at Amazon
|$300 List||Check Price at Amazon|
|Pros||Excellent espresso and milk steaming, can pull and steam simultaneously, multiple programmable features, relatively user-friendly||Excellent espresso, can achieve near-perfect microfoam, relatively easy to use for a semi-automatic machine||Great taste, cafe quality lattes and cappuccinos||Great espresso, impressive milk steaming performance, compact design||Good espresso and milk steaming, quite inexpensive|
|Cons||Expensive, requires some effort and a learning curve, no built-in grinder||Pricey, requires more effort/practice than fully-automatic machines||On the pricier side, requires some effort and a learning curve||No built-in grinder||Doesn't quite achieve cafe quality results, somewhat slow, no built-in grinder|
|Bottom Line||A great choice for those that want the best possible at-home espresso quality, but it comes at a hefty price||A cafe-quality machine that manages to still be friendly towards beginner baristas||A perfect choice for those that don't mind putting in a little work to get the best tasting shot||One of the smallest machines we've found that can achieve cafe-quality results||Offers good taste and overall quality at a far below average price|
|Rating Categories||Breville the Dual B...||Calphalon Temp IQ||Breville Barista Ex...||Breville Bambino||Gevi|
|Ease Of Use (30%)|
|Ease Of Cleaning (15%)|
|Milk Steaming (15%)|
|Specs||Breville the Dual B...||Calphalon Temp IQ||Breville Barista Ex...||Breville Bambino||Gevi|
|Dimensions||14.7" x 14.8" x 14.7"||5.6" x 14.5" x 17.3"||13.2" x 12.5" x 16"||7.7" x 12.6" x 12.2"||13" x 10" x 16"|
|Milk Frother||Steam Wand||Steam Wand||Steam Wand||Steam Wand||Steam Wand|
|Water Tank Capacity||84 oz||94 oz||67 oz||47 oz||42 oz|
|Cost per Shot||$0.45||$0.45||$0.47||$0.45||$0.45|
|Lifetime Cost per Shot||$1.08||$0.70||$0.76||$0.58||$0.50|
|Number of Cafe Replacement Shots to Make Up List Price||588||235||277||118||51|
|Number of Cafe Replacement Lattes to Make Up List Price||351||141||165||70||30|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Dual Boiler is one of the best overall machines we've ever tested, making exceptional espresso and steaming milk with a deftness not seen in many consumer machines. If you're willing to make a bit of an investment in your at-home espresso rig, look no further.
No matter how fussy you are about the taste of your espresso, we don't think this machine will disappoint. When used properly, it truly provides a cafe-quality shot.
This machine uses pressure profiling, which starts with a low-pressure pre-infusion, then ramps up to 9 bars of pressure to get a full espresso extraction, before tapering off a bit at the end of the shot. This results in both a more even (and thus better) extraction of the coffee grounds, and one that is a bit more forgiving to slight inconsistencies in grind size and tamping technique. While many of the higher-end machines utilize this technique as well, we found the Dual Boiler generally did it with more aplomb. Its shots felt just a bit creamier, sweeter, and well balanced than the shots we tasted from other top-tier consumer machines.
Apart from offering a steam wand that is both more powerful and more capable than most of the competition, the eponymous double boilers allow you to both pull a shot and steam milk simultaneously. This means your fresh shot can be stabilized by combining it with freshly steamed milk mere seconds after it has been pulled. In contrast, most other consumer machines require that you do one first, and then either let your espresso slowly oxidize and lose much of its boldness and richness, or let your milk fester to lose much of its aeration and creaminess, while you wait for the single boiler to heat up again and prep the other ingredient for your drink. This may seem like a minor thing, but proper timing really can result in significantly more enjoyable cappuccinos and lattes. This is also a capability seen in very few consumer espresso machines.
Ease of Use
Using any semi-automatic espresso machine can be a bit intimidating, but that's especially true for a behemoth like the Dual Boiler. Despite the somewhat daunting exterior, this machine makes manually pulling a shot and steaming milk as easy as it can be, and adds some thoughtful touches that solve many of the problems of its large stature.
We found the setup of this machine to be quite straightforward. We had it out of the box, full of water, and heating up within ten minutes. Just make sure to have a friend to help you lift the machine onto the counter, it's heavy!
The biggest concern with a large machine is that it's going to be difficult to access the water tank. The Dual Boiler solves that in two ways. You can top off the water tank from the top of the machine, which is great if you just want to toss in a few cups to make sure you have enough water for one last latte. If you want to completely fill up the 84-ounce tank, it's much easier to remove it from the back of the machine and take it over to the sink. In that case, you can remove the drip tray to reveal a large knob. Turning that knob lifts the machine and engages a set of wheels that then allow you to spin all of the machine's bulk around with ease.
Any semi-automatic machine that asks one to manually brew espresso and steam milk is going to require at least a bit of effort, but the Dual Boiler manages to keep that effort to a minimum. First off, it's one of the few consumer machines that can both pull an espresso shot and steam milk simultaneously, which means less time sitting around while you make your cappuccino. For reference, we were able to make a cappuccino in 2 minutes and 8 seconds with this machine, which is at least a full minute faster than all of the other semi-automatic machines we tested (and we all know an extra minute in the morning can be precious). The preinfusion brew method is also forgiving towards things like a less than ideal tamp, meaning your technique doesn't need to be perfect every time to get a good shot.
The steam wand is quite powerful, but we also found it relatively easy to control. The head of the wand tends to create a nice, circulating motion in the milk, even if held at a less-than-perfect angle. This leads to better aeration and heat distribution with less fuss than some of the not-so-lenient wands that scream and scorch the milk if you don't hold the pitcher just right.
Perhaps the best thing about the interface on the Dual Boiler is the LCD screen, which tells you the water temperature, the time, and how long your shot has been pulling for. That screen, along with a menu and arrow buttons, also allows you to easily access and adjust the machine's many settings. Additionally, there is a pressure gauge that displays exactly what pressure profile your shot is getting, dedicated buttons for starting and stopping brewing, and large knobs on the side for turning the steam wand on and off and dispensing hot water (which is great for americano lovers).
Programmability on this machine is top-notch. Possibly the most useful thing you can program the Dual Boiler to do is turn on at a set time, meaning you can wake up to a machine with a fully-heated water tank that is ready to spring into action straight away. For those that like to delve into the intricacies of how their espresso is being brewed, the Dual Boiler offers several more specific adjustments. For example, you can preprogram shot temperature, shot volume, and even pre-infusion duration and pressure. If you want to get even more control, you can manually control the time for each shot as well.
Finally, the Dual Boiler is largely built like a commercial machine, with a heavy-duty, 58mm portafilter, and a burly tamper that conveniently stores away with a magnet.
Ease of Cleaning
In day-to-day use, the Dual Boiler is about as easy to clean as a semi-automatic machine can be. Longer-term cleaning is a bit more involved, but by no means arduous.
The tip of the steam wand is rounded and smooth, which makes it quite easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth. Like any steam wand, it can build up some gunk if you forget to wipe it off and purge it right after use, but even then the grime tends to shed fairly easily. The larger portafilter is also quite easy to rinse or wipe clean with a cloth. The drip tray is larger than most, requiring less frequent emptying. We found the drip tray to be quite easy to remove and maneuver to the sink, as long as you don't let it get overfilled (there's a helpful floating "Empty Me!" sign that pops up to prevent this from happening).
This machine also makes backflushing incredibly easy. This is a general cleaning to clear out any build-up in the machine — most home users will want to do this about once a week, depending on use volume. Just insert a backflush tablet and the special backflush portafilter head, press a button, and it does everything for you.
In regards to deeper cleans, we found running through the descaling process for the Dual Boiler to be straightforward, but a bit involved and long-winded. All in all, it took us about 90 minutes to complete and required our attention for most of that time. This is less than ideal, but seeing as this is a task that will likely only need to be completed once every few months, it's certainly not a deal-breaker.
The Dual Boiler is one of the few consumer machines we've found that can create a truly cafe-quality pitcher of steamed milk.
In our testing, we found it relatively easy to get the fine microfoam production that results in that ideal wet paint look and texture of steamed milk. This, along with the fact that the Dual Boiler can steam milk while simultaneously pulling a shot, meant this machine created some of our favorite and freshest lattes, cappuccinos, and cortados.
In the world of home espresso machines, the Breville Dual Boileris certainly towards the luxury end of the scale and asks a corresponding price. It also does not have a built-in grinder, necessitating that you make an additional purchase on top of the machine itself. Does it provide the best value per dollar? No, but it does provide some of the best performance you can get from a consumer espresso machine. If you're willing to pay a premium to get the best possible machine for your kitchen, the Dual Boiler is a worthwhile purchase, but budget shoppers need not apply.
The Breville Dual Boiler is a premium consumer espresso machine that delivers a professional cafe-quality experience at home. If you're willing to pay its premium price, there's a good chance it will be your favorite appliance.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell