Sage Oracle Espresso Machine Review
Updated 02-03-2021 – Dan Alvazrez
There are a lot of espresso machines and some of them are great and some of them are not so great. The Sage Oracle BES980BSS espresso machine is one of the best ones around not only in features but also in taste. Of course, there are as many machines as there are coffee tastes, so it is important to take a look at what the machine has to offer before you commit to it. After all, the Sage Oracle BES980BSS bean-to-cup coffee machine is a bit on the pricier side, and it is always good to know if the device is worth it before pulling the trigger.
For this review, I took the Sage Oracle Espresso Machine home with me for 3 weeks. It was my daily coffee machine for that duration and as I work from home these days, I got to spend a lot of time playing with it and enjoying the coffee it produced. The machine is highly recommended by almost everyone, including critics and reviewers on the Internet. A few of my friends are big fans of Sage appliances, and they also recommended that I try it and the coffee it makes.
When it comes to espresso machines there are several options you can choose from. That’s not all, there are several types of coffee machines at your disposal. Some take coffee capsules, some make coffee directly from the beans, and then there are manual espresso makers. Each of those has its advantages and disadvantages.
Sage Oracle Espresso Machine BES980BSS
The Sage Oracle espresso machine is a bean-to-cup coffee machine which means that it takes coffee beans directly, grinds them fresh, and makes you a good cup of coffee. This makes the whole process a lot easier than manual coffee making and a lot faster as well. If you simply need a good cup of coffee in the morning and don’t want to make it yourself, the Sage Oracle espresso machine is going to serve you really well.
Sage Oracle Espresso Machine Review – The Wise Oracle
The Sage brand was once associated with a celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, which is no longer the case. We’re not going to go into the nitty-gritty why Heston Blumenthal is no longer with the brand but if you see his face on the official pages, you’ll know why it was there.
- Bean to cup coffee machine that is automated
- Manual or automatic steam wand
- Automatic ground tamping
- 2.5 L water tank
- Digital pressure control
- Automatic self-cleaning functionality
- The integrated conical burr grinder
- Dual boiler
- 15 bar pressure
- Grind control
- The hopper capacity is 280 g
- Brushed stainless steel and aluminium build
Let’s explore what the Sage Oracle bean to cup coffee machine has to offer in this detailed review.
Sage Oracle Design-Best of Bean to Cup Machines
The very first thing you notice about the Sage Oracle espresso machine is its striking design. Sage is famous for making beautiful-looking high-end coffee machines and this one is no different from the rest of the catalogue. The machine will take a little bit of extra space on your kitchen top, but it is not that big that it dominates completely. The design itself is very striking, and I really liked having it in my kitchen, it was certainly a head-turner whenever someone visited.
As it is an expensive piece of equipment I certainly expected high-quality materials to be used in the making. Brushed stainless steel surrounds the machine which gives off a premium aura and a look that is not only beautiful but also classic at the same time. I’ve gotten used to using plastic-based bean-to-cup coffee machines and this was a pleasant surprise. Stainless steel is a bit easier to clean as well and looks strikingly beautiful.
The Sage Oracle espresso machine almost looks like a manual espresso machine that you’d see in a café. This is partially due to the materials used and partially because the brewing and grinding are happening in separate units. I personally wouldn’t call this design beginner-friendly, there are a lot of dials and nooks and crannies to look at when you first unbox it. It can be a bit overwhelming for someone that has no previous experience using an espresso machine. If you are someone that wants to simply press one button and get a cup of coffee, the Oracle might be a bit daunting at first. I’m not saying that you can’t achieve that goal, but it will take some time to reach that.
There are 2 ground holders on the machine, one is under the water output and one is below the grinder. While the machine is not as complex as some other dedicated high-end bean to cup machines I’ve tested, it certainly has a couple of intuitive features. I personally love having a water tank in the front for easier access, but the Oracle espresso machine does a great job with its flap-based design. The water tank is on the back, but you don’t have to move the whole machine to access it. Another great feature I was impressed with was the pop-out wheels. Simply remove the drip tray, and you will see a huge dial that activates the wheels which makes the whole process of moving the machine easier.
Overall, the Sage Oracle BES980BSS impresses with its design. The machine is quite pricey so having good quality materials is expected. The whole machine is made out of stainless steel and aluminium, there is a few plastics on the interior, but even those are all very high quality.
This espresso machine is 37 cm wide, 41 cm deep, and 45 cm tall.
Sage Oracle – Making Espresso
This is the very reason you bought the Sage Oracle BES980BSS in the first place; making espresso. It may seem like a fully manual machine but the Oracle does take care of a lot of stuff automatically. Is it a fully automatic bean-to-cup machine? It can certainly be considered that. All you need to do is take the portafilter to the group head, and you are ready to go. A portafilter is a smallholder for ground coffee and the group head is where it goes in.
There are 3 things that are important when it comes to making a good cup of coffee; bean grinding, coffee production, and milk heating. There are secondary things that are also needed like the coffee amount, water temperature, pressure during the extraction phase, and steam pressure for milk heating. We will be discussing all of these features and how they perform on the Oracle.
Grinding the beans is perhaps the most important step in the process of making a good cup of coffee. The Oracle features a traditional integrated stainless steel conical burr grinder. You have to turn the portafilter towards the right, and it will grind 22 g of coffee on demand. This is a fairly easy process to do and doesn’t take a long time to start.
The Sage Oracle’s grinder is capable of grinding the exact amount of beans that are required for a drink. It is also capable of tamping the coffee right and giving you the perfect amount you need. While the machine is capable of accepting already ground coffee, I personally highly recommend that you use fresh coffee beans. The kind of beans you use depends entirely upon your taste. The machine also gives you the freedom to choose the grind size. There is a dedicated dial on the left side of the machine that allows you to adjust how coarse or fine you want them. This also depends upon what you like, I personally go for the finer grind because I like a stronger cup of coffee.
As with most coffee grinders, it can get a bit loud, but it is over in a flash. A small price to pay for a fresh cup of coffee.
The whole process of grinding the beans is seamless and easy, the Oracle BES980BSS handles it really well, and I have absolutely no complaints when it comes to the grinding process. Although it took me a few tries to get the coffee ground exactly how I wanted, that was to be expected.
After the coffee beans are freshly ground, now it’s time to get what you paid for; a good cup of coffee. All you need to do is move the portafilter to the group head and lock it into place. That is all the manual labour you’ll need to do for your coffee. I’d say it’s well worth the effort, especially when you take a sip out of your cup and the coffee is brilliant.
The Oracle has a dual dispenser, this can be used if you’re making 2 cups of coffee at the same time. However, the stream of coffee from those flows inwards, so you can fill a single cup as well without any problems. Just make sure the cup is beneath them both, so you don’t waste any coffee.
If you are spending a lot of money to get a good quality bean-to-cup coffee machine, I recommend that you focus on the “bean” aspect as well. Buy from a local store and try to go in person to check the roasting date, this will result in a better-tasting coffee.
From there you can simply select the kind of shot you like and hit the brew button. The Oracle BES980BSS bean-to-cup coffee machine will do everything from here on out, without any need for input from you. The device has preprogrammed extraction times however you can adjust them according to your needs. I personally went with the presets and tried them out to see what agrees with me. I was pleasantly surprised to see a preprogrammed option for Americano and long black. Not a lot of bean-to-cup machines have these features.
There are several processes that work behind the scenes to make that perfect cup of coffee for you. There is the pre-infusion function which gradually increases the water pressure during the brew. This results in the gentle expansion of the coffee grinds. The result is an even and balanced flavoured espresso shot.
The Oracle also comes with Digital Temperature Control which brings the water temperature at an optimal extraction range. There is also a heated group head that makes sure the brew is happening at the right temperature. Everything I just talked about is fully automatic, and you don’t need to do anything for this to happen. This is what you’re paying for after all, and all of it works well together to result in a great cup of coffee.
Handling the Milk
The Sage Oracle BES980BSS comes with a stainless steel jog that has a thermometer built-in. It can be used while making cappuccinos, lattes, or flat whites. All you need to do is fill the jug with milk and place it on the drip tray while the wand is fully in it. It may seem like you have to do a lot of manual stuff to get good quality milk texturing here but trust me, this is all you need to do.
The steam wand is designed well and allows the machine to do its job perfectly. Just like the rest of the machine, the whole process is fully automated. Of course, if you want to try out being a barista, you can do so by switching to manually frothing milk with ease. So basically, the Sage Oracle BES980BSS bean-to-cup machine has the best of both worlds.
Once you have readied the setup, the only thing left is to choose what you need. There is a dial on the machine that lets you select how much foam or froth you want. I highly recommend going to town with these options because they are not only fun to try, but also you may get something you like even more than your standard preferences.
As for the quality of the textured milk the Oracle produces. It is wonderfully smooth and silky. The foam is a bit on the bubbly side but is still very fine, not a big problem at all, but it is certainly something I noticed. The difference between Oracle and other automated machines is the integration of a milk jug.
While it is certainly one more step to do manually, it does allow you to do some customization yourself. You can easily create latte art and impress people, or if you’re like me, try to make latte art and fail miserably. Even though I am a coffee enthusiast, I can only make a heart that is a broken one most of the time.
If you decide to use the manual mode there are a couple of great features that can aid you. The coffee machine cuts off the steam when the milk gets a bit too hot. This means that it becomes virtually impossible to burn the milk. You can also use this machine to simply heat up the milk if you so desire. The machine also comes with a dual boiler, so you can make your coffee as well as froth the milk simultaneously. This also saves you a bit of time in the long run.
Maintenance and Cleaning
Cleaning a bean-to-cup coffee machine is very important, but if you’re anything like me, you don’t want to clean yourself a lot. Thankfully, the Oracle has some great descaling features that will take care of the process automatically. Of course, you’ll still need to do manual cleaning once in a while. Many people recommend that you wipe down the machine after each use, but I’d say you can do it after 2 days or so. Sure, if you want to clean after each usage that is up to you, but I don’t think it is that required, especially if you are careful during the brewing process and don’t allow the coffee to drip.
You can wipe down the drip tray, the filter baskets, portafilter, and the steam arm. The stainless steel jog that is included can be washed just like any other utensil. You can soak all of these in warm water without any worries because of the stainless steel build. Speaking of stainless steel, it is a bit hard to keep it in a polished condition so don’t be worried about some minor blemishes even after you wipe it down.
The Oracle also comes with a water filter which is great if you live in an area with high water hardness. The water filter will help you avoid any limescale buildup and directly result in your machine working perfectly for many years to come. Speaking of descaling, there is a dedicated program that you can run once every couple of months. This depends upon your usage, if you use your machine multiple times a day or have many people living in your place, it is best for you to run the descaling program.
All you need to do is mix the descaling solution and add it to the water tank. The machine will fully flush it automatically after it is done. A point to be noted here is that the descaling program takes around 30 minutes or so to completely finish, so make sure you run it when you are not in need of a cup.
Sage Oracle Espresso Machine – Some Observations
There are some great features that come with the Sage Oracle bean to cup coffee machine and here are a few of them that I really liked:
The Oracle gives you the option to froth the milk automatically, and it will use pre-programmed measures for your cappuccino or latte. If you’re feeling the need to do everything manually, you have the option to do so as well.
There are a total of 40 grind settings on the Sage Oracle, this is a lot more than other machines have to offer. Each option brings a different density and taste to your coffee, so I highly recommend that you play around with it every day. Of course, the taste depends upon your coffee bean as well.
The Oracle comes with an automatic shutdown feature as well as a standby mode. The automatic start feature turns the device on each morning as well. This, in turn, helps you not only save electricity but also a good amount of time in the morning.
This bean to cup machine comes with a good capacity 2.5 L water tank that also filters the water for you. Using a filter has a lot of benefits and one of them is the longevity of the machine itself. I highly recommend that you use the filter that comes with your machine all the time.
Consistent Brew Temperatures
The Oracle has extremely accurate brew temperatures on the machine. It allows you to change the heat levels according to your personal preferences and directly result in you getting the perfect cup of coffee. This is just another positive feature that adds to the overall experience and freedom of customization the machine provides.
Warming the Cup
There is a dedicated heat mat that helps keep your cups warm. It is quite a handy feature to have on an espresso machine and results in a better cup of coffee for even the most inexperienced baristas. I found that the cup warming feature works really well, especially when directly compared to the competition. Many bean to cup machines lack this feature, or it is too weak to be of any use.
The Sage Oracle is consistent and gives delicious results almost all the time. There are 6 coffee presets available for you to use from the get-go, but you can also add 8 extra ones if you please. Overall there is a healthy selection of presets that most coffee machine users will find abundant.
A Few Negatives
The Sage Oracle does so much right that it is hard to find anything bad about it. The biggest downside of Oracle is its price, however, it justifies its high price tag with the quality of the build as well as the quality of the coffee it produces. After all, price is subjective, and I am talking purely from a personal standpoint.
Another slightly negative thing is the bubbly foam it produces. It is certainly not a big con here, but it is something that should be mentioned in a proper review like this. So if you absolutely dislike bubbly foam, this machine may not be for you. Personally, I think it’s fine and makes some of the best coffee I ever had the pleasure of drinking.
Are Sage Coffee Machines Any Good?
Yes, they are pretty great. The Sage Oracle bean-to-cup coffee machine is a stunningly beautiful piece of equipment that also makes some of the best coffee with minimal effort. You will need to tinker with the settings to get to the coffee you personally love but once you’re there, it will serve you the same cup each morning without any hiccups.
Is the Oracle Worth It?
I spent a lot of time playing with the Oracle and had a lot of fun as well as good coffee. While it cannot reach the levels of an actual good quality barista, it certainly comes very near to that experience. I was constantly surprised by how well the coffee turned out and how easy to use the whole interface is. Some people may argue that the interface is a bit too simplistic but personally, I think it’s the right amount of customization options.
Of course, I wouldn’t mind a bit more options at my disposal but at the end of the day, I simply want my coffee to be ready by the time I’m dressed (yes I’m one of those weird people who dress up to work from home as well).
Which Sage Coffee Machine Should I Buy?
We will have a dedicated Sage article up soon however, at this time, I can easily recommend this amazing machine.
The Oracle is perfectly capable of a quick and hands-off coffee-making experience. If you can afford the high price, this espresso machine has a lot to offer with its stellar design as well as coffee. A lot of people ask if the Oracle BES980BSS is worth the high price tag, all I can say is that the company is asking for what they are delivering. While it is quite easy to call Oracle the Apple of the coffee world, I’d argue that their prices are quite reasonable for the quality they are providing.
I fully recommended the Sage Oracle to those who have the money to spare and a larger kitchen to accommodate its slightly larger size.
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