If you have found this article about the Breville Dual Boiler, and are willing to spend the time reading it, then chances are at least three things are true about you:
1) you love espresso (a good start!),
2) you are at least considering buying an espresso machine (exciting times), and
3) You are interested in quality rather than a cheap joke of a machine (a sign of the true coffee lover).
If you fit the bill for these assumptions then you are at an exciting stage of your coffee journey. You love espresso, you want to make it and make it well, and you are willing to invest to make the dream a reality. So if this is you then we are excited you are here and who knows maybe the Dual Boiler by Breville might be the next step for you.
Breville Dual Boiler (BES920XL)
The Dual Boiler espresso machine is an excellent mid-range espresso maker that is capable of producing superb coffee, is very easy to use, and allows for a high level of control over brewing parameters.
So who or what is Breville or Sage? Breville is a fairly new Australian company which is actually primarily known for kitchen appliances in general.
You could assume a company like that knows next to nothing about decent coffee gear, and yet surprisingly you would be flat wrong. This company, from down under, has been making waves in the coffee world for a number of years now, and has come to be associated with excellence, especially when it comes to espresso machines.
The Dual Boiler espresso machine comes in as their top-of-the-range semi-automatic espresso machine. In fact part of their advertising for this coffee maker is commercial features and performance in a domestic footprint.
It is a big claim, but is it true? Well let’s find out.
Breville Dual Boiler Review
What’s to Love?
Makes Great Coffee
It is almost too obvious to mention, but perhaps the best thing about the Dual Boiler espresso machine is that it can pull a truly balanced and good espresso shot. And while you can still make fantastic coffee on cheaper espresso machines, this machine is just better.
Prior to owning this machine we used and loved the model below it which is the Breville Infuser. The Infuser is a great coffee maker and is definitely our favorite entry-level espresso maker. But the Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine simply makes better coffee. It has a stronger steam wand which aids milk texturing and the customization allows you to really refine the extraction process. Especially when paired with some prior espresso experience, it can pull a fantastic, balanced espresso shot and cafe quality results.
In fact, my wife and I have found that the espresso coffee we brew on the Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine easily compares to the local coffee shop in flavor. We still enjoy visiting specialty coffee shops but with the Breville Dual Boiler we feel we no longer NEED to.
Perhaps the biggest strength of the Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine is the level of customization it allows. As you probably know, people who really love espresso like to be as involved as possible in the extraction process. That is why many end up transitioning to entirely manual espresso machines such as the Flair, so that they have complete control over every parameter in the extraction process.
Well the Dual Boiler is about as close as you can go to manual without sacrificing some of the conveniences and strengths of semi-automatic machines.
Most of the customization possible on this machine is done through the LCD interface on the front of the machine. This interface is incredibly user-friendly and simple to use. Some of the customization possible includes:
This level of customization makes it a great machine for those who are interested not only in making a good morning brew, but in really experimenting, and playing around with different parameters for optimal espresso flavor.
High End Features
As you will have no doubt gathered by this point ,the Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine is about as feature-rich as coffee machines get. Even after owning this machine for almost a year, I feel like I am constantly learning about new things that it is able to do.
Some of these features are centered around the extraction process. Because it comes with stainless steel dual boilers, you can steam milk simultaneously to extracting the coffee. This both saves time and makes for nicer tasting coffee.
The Dual Boiler espresso machine has what is called a Triple-Heat System. This simply means that there are three different boilers in the machine which respectively control the temperature of the steam wand (900w), the grouphead (100w), and the water for extraction (700w).
These boilers are all governed by an electronic PID (Proportional Integral Derivative for the coffee geeks out there) temperature control for precise water temperature. The PID ensures a consistent extraction temperature, which is essential for producing balanced shots. It also comes with an Over Pressure Valve (OPV) which limits maximum pressure for optimal extraction.
These, along with the low pressure pre infusion function, are features that are regularly found on commercial machines, and set the Dual Boiler espresso machine apart from many similarly priced espresso machines. They are features that help achieve optimal espresso flavor.
Ease of Use
Breville machines tend to be a real pleasure to use and the Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine is no exception. Almost all the customization is done through the LCD interface which is both easy to navigate and just enjoyable to use. Similarly, our experience using the machine is that everything sort of makes sense. From how to fill up the water reservoir to using the steam wand and pouring out the drip tray, everything is intuitive which makes life easy.
Breville also tends (perhaps because they make so many other home appliances) to think of handy features that few other coffee machines have. For example, because this machine is both bulky and heavy it comes with handy retractable wheels which can be switched on or off with a knob under the drip tray, making it easy to move.
And the Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine has a range of little features like that to make your experience with the machine that little bit more enjoyable. Some of these include an espresso shot clock/timer that starts on the interface as soon as your coffee starts extracting, the ability to programme your machine to start up 15 minutes before you get up in the morning, and the option to fill up your water tank from behind or from the front.
What we have personally loved about this machine is that it fits into the narrow niche of coffee makers that is user-friendly to both the espresso beginner and the expert. While this coffee maker allows you to play around with extraction temperature and pre-infusion, it is still simple and easy to use for those with less experience.
Also, as with all Breville Espresso machines, this comes with almost everything you need to get started on espresso. It comes with a tamp, a milk jug, Breville’s own grind level, the portafilter, and four different portafilter baskets (single and double of both dual wall filter baskets and non-pressurized).
These accessories are a great place to start, but for those who want to go places with espresso, we recommend investing in a better quality milk jug and tamp. The pressure gauge (a common occurrence on Breville espresso machines) is a helpful addition. It also comes with a dedicated hot water outlet, which is helpful for those americanos.
The recommendation is that this machine should be switched on 10-15 minutes before use, and we usually do this, but if pushed for time it can heat up in around 3-4 minutes which is also handy. So if you tend to like the style of Breville coffee makers and want lots of features then the Dual Boiler espresso machine may well be the machine for you. This is not a coffee maker for the minimalist!
Cleaning and Maintaining
One of the biggest differences between this model and the older BES900XL is that the newer Dual Boiler espresso machine provides the ability to easily drain the boilers for descaling. This means that the Dual Boiler can be descaled from home rather than having to pay for the professionals to do it which is a handy option. Similarly, the Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine is easy to clean and maintain. It comes with cleaning tablets which can be placed into the portafilter for cleaning cycles. See our guide on cleaning a Breville Espresso Machine for full instructions.
This is a section that will only really appeal to the espresso gurus and experts. The sort of coffee lovers who spend hours on coffee forums like Home-Barista. If you are that sort of person then you will be aware that there is a robust community of coffee lovers who have, and continue to, modify their respective espresso machine.
And the good news is that the Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine is very easily modified. The two most common mods are installing the Acaia Lunar within the drip tray, and adding what is often termed the slayer mod which allows complete control over extraction pressure through the hot water knob.
So, through these modifications, this already superb espresso machine can give almost complete control over every parameter of the espresso shot. So if mods are your thing then the Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine is an extremely worthwhile option.
What’s not to Love?
While we have personally loved our Dual Boiler, there have been some common complaints about this machine. Many of these have to do with comparison to a commercial espresso machine, and so are really only weaknesses for those who are actual baristas or regularly use commercial machines.
Fixed Extraction Pressure
One of the most common complaints about the Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine is that it doesn’t allow the user to alter the pressure at which the water is passed through the grinds.
This seems to have been an intentional choice by Breville, and will make little difference to most home brewers, but is a pain for those looking for complete control of the brewing parameters. While this can be altered by rewiring parts of the machine, it is a pity that Breville didn’t include this in their range of features.
Weak Pressure in Steaming Wand
Another common complaint is that the steam wand lacks the pressure of a commercial steam wand for milk steaming. This is undoubtedly true and will frustrate those used to working regularly with commercial machines. It simply does take longer to texture the milk.
However, if you are not used to commercial machines this weaker pressure actually works to your advantage, as it means that it is easier to steam milk to the right texture and is more forgiving. So personally, my wife and I really appreciate the steam wand and find it easy to use.
Again some users have found that parts of the machine age easily and can break over time. We have not personally found this to be the case with our machine, but it is true that there is plastic in the design. However, this issue is somewhat offset by the warranty that comes with the machine.
Finally, the dual boiler is simply a bit of a monster of a machine. It is big, bulky, and heavy. So if you like minimalistic decor or have limited bench space then this may not be the machine for you. It simply is a big machine and in physical size is significantly bigger than its younger brother the Infuser.
Who’s the Dual Boiler For?
The Breville Dual Boiler is really designed for the coffee lover who is serious about pulling excellent espresso shots. This coffee maker is Breville’s top-of-the-range semi-automatic espresso machine and as such is intended for those who already have at least some previous exposure in making espresso.
While it could easily function as a first espresso maker, it would be a little bit of an overkill considering the price. If you are looking for an entry-level or first espresso maker then we recommend the Breville Infuser, you can read our extended review here.
As such, the Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine is for the coffee lover who is seeking to refine the espresso-making process. The real strength of this machine lies in the number of parameters you can experiment with in the extraction process. These include pre infusion time and pressure, extraction temperature, and steam wand temperature. You don’t need professional barista skills for the Breville dual boiler, but some experience with using espresso machines will help.
As the name indicates this machine has dual stainless steel boilers, which means you can both extract coffee and steam simultaneously. This is real strength and a major step up from most entry level espresso machines.
So the Dual Boiler espresso machine is for the coffee lover with both some previous experience in espresso and the desire to really develop in this method of coffee brewing.
Should you Buy it?
Well as we have hopefully shown throughout this article, we have been thoroughly satisfied with our investment in this coffee maker. The Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine is a superb machine that can aid in the making of delicious coffee, has more features than you will ever need, and is a pleasure to use.
We recommend this machine for those who love espresso, have at least some prior experience in this brewing method, and are willing to spend the money for quality. This is one of the few espresso makers which fits in the space between entry-level machines and high-end machines which often cost thousands.
So if you want to take your espresso game to the next level, then this may well be the machine for you. As a side note, if you are spending this amount of money on an espresso maker, then you really do need a decent burr grinder alongside it. We use a Niche Zero coffee grinder alongside ours and have found it works a treat. If you aren’t yet convinced, see our guide to the best espresso machines for some other options.