You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Review: Breville Dual Boiler

Wired logo Wired 9/18/2021 Jess Grey

I don’t like big kitchen appliances. I have a small space, so I like to keep surfaces as clear as possible. More work surfaces mean more room to get up to weird stuff, whether that’s brewing my own dye from black walnuts, mixing up dozens of varieties of fermentables, or just making a cup of coffee. If an appliance takes up any of that real estate, it really has to be worth it. 

For my household, that means our stand mixer, food processor, rice cooker, and electric kettle all have permanent homes on our countertops. The Breville Dual Boiler is bigger than all of them. If you glued all those countertop appliances together into a monstrous ball of plastic and metal, the Breville might still be bigger. But after several months with it, there isn’t an appliance in my entire kitchen that has earned its keep more. It’s big, it’s expensive, and it’s worth every penny.

Instant Boil

The Dual Boiler is a $1,500 coffee pot. Let’s just get that out of the way. It’s the price of a MacBook Pro, a 65-inch OLED TV, 600 cups of drip coffee, or 300 lattes. It's a commercial-grade espresso machine built for at-home use, and I’d wager most people don’t need commercial-grade kitchen equipment to get them through the day. It is not a machine any household needs—but it’s really nice to have.

As the name suggests, it has two internal boilers. The boiler is a metal chamber where the water is heated up and turned into either hot water or steam. Most at-home espresso machines have just one that does double duty. Having one boiler means you have a smaller amount of water available for espresso shots, steam (for milk frothing), or hot water (for tea). When you use all that water, the machine needs to pull more into the boiler and heat it up again. It's not a big deal for most homes, it just takes a few more minutes than usual. Unless you’re making more than a couple of cappuccinos in short order, you probably won’t have any issues with having just one boiler.

Commercial-grade machines usually have at least two boilers. That means you can pull a couple of shots of espresso, steam up that milk, pour a cup of tea, and have hot water to spare. You never even have to think about the capacity of your boilers. My partner and I drink a lot of coffee and tea throughout the day, and we’ve never had to stop and wait for the Dual Boiler to heat up. It’s always ready to go. 

That’s compared to a single-boiler machine I was testing recently, which kept us waiting for hot water so long that we just put the kettle on instead of trying to use it for coffee and tea at the same time.

Built to Last

a microscope on a table © Photograph: Breville

The front face of the Dual Boiler has four tiny buttons under its LCD display, and four big buttons around it—a power button, one to automatically brew one shot, one for brewing two shots, and one for manual control. It’s a nice, clean interface. 

In the middle is a pressure gauge. I don’t always love these, because on cheaper machines they don’t tell you much, but this one has a little section of the gauge to indicate where the needle should be at every stage of brewing. It’s great for troubleshooting your espresso shots.

Every time I encountered an issue with my shots, I did some quick Googling and I found a result that was immediately applicable to the Dual Boiler. If your shots are too strong, you might be under-extracting and need to let the machine run a little longer. It’s easy to tell because the LCD screen gives you a stopwatch for each extraction.

When I’d pull a less-than-satisfactory shot, I knew that it was my fault. Something needed to be adjusted, and it was a problem I could solve. Yes, that means you do need to put in the work to craft perfect coffee. If you just want to press a button and let the machine do everything, the Dual Boiler is not for you. But if you're invested in the art of making coffee, the Dual Boiler is a patient teacher. It does every single thing exactly the same every single time.

That also applies to the machine's build quality. The Dual Boiler expects to be taken apart and put back together. You can service it like a vintage motorcycle, learning more about it every time you dig into its pump system to swap out the built-in water filters or disassemble the portafilter to clean out coffee gunk. The internal components are all stainless steel and mostly replaceable, and there are lots of little notes on the parts explaining what they do and where they go.

It comes with just about everything you need for a great cup of coffee. That includes a little tamp to pack down the grounds, which stows away on the Dual Boiler in a magnetized cubby. My only gripe is this little tamp. It’s light and plasticky, and it doesn’t feel like it goes with this machine. For $1,500, I’d have expected the included accessories to all be of high quality. That said, the milk steaming pitcher is delightful.

Machine Mentor

Every time I used the Dual Boiler, I felt like it was helping me get better at making coffee the way I liked it. Part of making great coffee at home is familiarizing yourself with your equipment. Here’s how I make my favorite iced mocha every day: 

First, I set the machine to 200 degrees. This is its default setting, and it’s a great place to start, especially for mixed drinks like mochas. At 200 degrees I find it pulls out the stronger flavors of the coffee without crushing out light, floral notes. If I were making a latte or Americano, something more coffee-forward, I would dial the machine down to 190 or 180 degrees. That way the water that’s pushed through the grounds will carefully extract all those intricate notes that sometimes get lost when you add syrups with strong flavors (like chocolate syrup for my mocha). 

Next, it’s time to grind. There's no built-in grinder here, so you'll want to grab one (we have recommendations here). For espresso, you want a very fine grind. Once I have my grounds, I scoop them into the portafilter basket. A lot of purists will tell you to weigh the amount of coffee you’re putting in, but honestly, I never do unless I’m having some problems with my shots. Think of the scale as a troubleshooting tool more than a thing you must do every single time. 

Then I scoop some coffee into the portafilter, enough that it’s full but not so much that it’s over-filled. You won’t really know until you tamp. Speaking of, it's tamping time! I press down until the grounds are compressed—I press with my hand, then my shoulder, then lean into it a bit. 

I twist the portafilter into its place and press the brew button. In seconds, the Dual Boiler’s pressure gauge springs to life, the needle swinging through the pre-infusion stage. It should land anywhere between 7 and 9 when the water starts to push through the grounds. If my extraction is a creamy light brown streaked with darker brown, I’m spot-on. I wait until I see the color start to thin before I press the button to stop the extraction.

For the perfect iced mocha, I put two good squirts of dark chocolate syrup into a mason jar, topped with five or six ice cubes, then pour the coffee on top. I top it off with oat milk or 2 percent milk. I like to use a mason jar so I can just put a lid on it and shake it up to mix, instead of stirring to make sure the syrup is all dissolved. Shaken, not stirred.

Beyond Expensive

The Dual Boiler wants you to succeed. Or it feels that way. I’ve used cheaper espresso machines that inscrutably seem to over-extract or under-extract coffee. Being able to control all the fine points of coffee-making, from the temperature to manual extraction, helps me make my perfect cup.

Do you need a $1,500 espresso machine for good coffee at home? No, of course not. You can get killer espresso out of a $30 Aeropress. And machines like Breville's Barista Pro ($800) or Barista Express ($600) can get you very similar results. 

But the Dual Boiler is more about getting better at your chosen art form. It removes obstacles and smoothens the path between you and a professional-grade shot of espresso.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Wired

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon