Makes steamed milk and espresso simultaneously
Many customizable settings
Complicated to set up
Requires involved cleaning after every use
We purchased the Breville Dual Boiler Espresso Machine so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
If you're someone who loves a latte or a cappuccino, there may be some wisdom in purchasing an at-home espresso machine versus buying lattes three (or more) days a week. Eventually, the appliance will pay for itself—even if it’s a high-end model like the Breville Dual Boiler Espresso Machine.
Breville is a well-known brand that makes high-quality kitchen appliances, and its Dual Boiler Espresso Machine is well-regarded but boasts an extremely high price tag. We wanted to see if it was worth it, so we put it to the test by making lots of espresso-based drinks over the course of several days. We tested its convenience, setup, cleanup, and mechanics, as well as the quality of its espresso—keep reading to see what we found.
Design: Commercial features in a home design
The Dual Boiler offers several features that typically aren’t found in at-home espresso machines. For example, as the name implies, this machine has two separate stainless steel boilers and dual Italian pumps, which allow you to make espresso while simultaneously steaming milk. It also has a 15-bar pump system—this refers to the amount of pressure that gets applied to the coffee grounds—which is widely considered the “sweet spot” for making the best espresso.
Another commercial feature on this product is its customizable settings for extraction temperature, shot volume, shot duration, steam temperature, pre-infusion duration, and pre-infusion power. This allowed us to make an espresso shot to our exact preference, and the Dual Boiler also has a hot water outlet that let us make hot water for tea and other hot drinks.
As for the aesthetics, the Dual Boiler boasts a sleek, upscale look that is sure to fit into any kitchen design. We have the stainless steel version, and it looks great with the rest of our home appliances. The only issue we ran into with this machine’s design was finding enough room for it on our kitchen counter. It’s quite bulky, measuring 14.7 x 14.8 x 14.7 inches, and it weighs a hefty 30 pounds. We had to do some rearranging before finding the right spot for it.
Additionally, this machine comes with several extras to help make perfect espresso drinks, including an integrated tamper, stainless steel milk jug, single- and dual-wall filter baskets, and a razor dose trimming tool, which is a beautiful bronze color.
Setup: Complicated the first time
One of the downsides of this espresso machine is that it has a fairly involved setup process prior to first-time use. We had to read through the thick instruction manual (which is 75 pages) thoroughly to ensure we didn’t miss any essential steps.
This machine has two separate stainless steel boilers and dual Italian pumps, which allow you to make espresso while simultaneously steaming milk.
To get started, we had to first clean the machine by washing all of its parts and accessories. Then, we soaked the filter for five minutes in water before installing it into the water tank. From there, we filled the 84-ounce water tank with cold water, which can be done by opening the top-fill lid or removing the tank from the back of the machine. We found that pouring water through the top opening was much easier and less messy than filling the tank from the back.
But that’s not all! Per the instructions, we ran a water hardness test (which comes with the appliance) to set the correct level on the machine. Finally, we flushed the machine several times to wash its inside components, running water through the group head, steam wand, and hot water outlet. After we finished the cleansing steps, which took around 20 minutes, we were ready to make espresso drinks.
Performance: Good espresso, not very quick
To use the machine, we turned it on and waited for it to heat up—it took about 10 minutes until it reached 200 degrees. Once it reached the set heat, we placed the portafilter with packed espresso grounds inside the filter into the group head on the machine. Correct dosage and tamping recommendations can be found in the manual.
Depending on which size filter was used, we selected the size of our shot and pressed the corresponding button—1 cup or 2 cup—to extract the shot. The extraction time in the default settings takes 30 seconds to pull the shot, but you can change that time in the more advanced settings or stop the extraction early by pressing the button again.
There’s no doubt that the Dual Boiler makes high-quality espresso. We used the default settings most of the time when making our shots, and we found that the espresso consistently tasted like what we would get from a local coffee shop.
There was consistently a crema atop the espresso, which adds a rich flavor to the shot, and the drink didn’t have a burnt or dull taste as long as we properly cleaned our machine after each use. We also made cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos using the steam wand function (more on that in the next section).
However, to begin enjoying an espresso beverage, we had to wait for the machine to heat up, which can take up to 10 minutes, and that’s not including the time it takes to steam milk if we wanted to make a latte or cappuccino. The time to make an espresso beverage with milk foam was closer to 15 minutes.
There was consistently a crema atop the espresso, which adds a rich flavor to the shot.
For more experienced users, the machine offers customizable settings, which can be accessed by pressing and holding the “1 cup” and “Power” buttons. The up arrow on the machine allows you to select the feature to customize. We played with these settings a little, adjusting the extraction time as well as the extraction temperature, and while it was nice to have the option to tweak the settings, it didn’t make a huge difference in the final result.
To use the machine’s hot water function, there’s a dial on the left side of the unit. We simply rotated the dial to start and stop the water from coming out of the outlet, located in between the group head and the swivel wand. We used this function several times to make tea and dirty chai lattes—chai tea plus an espresso shot.
Steaming Wand: Designed for simultaneous use
The Dual Boiler comes with a 360-degree swivel action steam wand with a three-hole tip for a silkier milk texture. To begin using it, we filled the included milk pitcher to just below the “V” at the bottom of the spout. Next, we positioned the tip of the wand above the drip tray and lifted the steam lever, which is located on the right side of the machine, to purge the wand of any condensed water. Finally, with the lever in the closed position, we inserted the steam tip about 1 to 2 centimeters below the surface of the milk and moved the steam lever to the open position.
The tip should remain just under the surface of the milk until it produces a vortex. From there, we had to slowly lower the jug to bring the tip to the surface of the milk, where it can steam air into the liquid. Once the desired volume of milk has been reached, we lowered the tip beneath the surface again until the jug was hot to the touch, and then closed the steam lever before taking the tip out of the milk.
What’s especially great about this machine is that this process can be done while extracting an espresso shot to obtain maximum heat in both the milk foam and the espresso shot. We found that the Dual Boiler makes a really good microfoam if using the steam wand correctly, but it’s a little tricky and may take a few failed attempts before you get the right consistency.
Cleaning: Regular, involved cleanup required
The Dual Boiler, like most espresso machines, requires regular cleaning if you want to get the best results. After each use, you need to clean the filter baskets and portafilter by rinsing each under hot water. The group head interior and the shower screen should also be wiped with a damp cloth to remove any leftover coffee particles. You can also flush the machine by placing an empty filter basket into the portafilter and letting it run for 20 seconds.
The instruction manual also recommends doing a clear water backflush before turning off the machine after each coffee-making session. This requires placing a cleaning disc in the filter basket of the portafilter and then into the group head and letting it run for 20 seconds. The brand recommends repeating this five times to purge any ground or coffee oils. We found this to be too much work to do after every use—we have yet to do a clear water backflush, and our espresso hasn’t suffered.
The Dual Boiler requires thorough cleaning after each use if you want to get the best results.
The steam wand should also be cleaned after each use, and you’ll want to wipe it with a damp cloth immediately so dried milk doesn’t remain on the wand. Be careful not to touch the wand directly with your hands, as it will be really hot.
The drip tray will also need to be emptied on occasion, and there’s a sign that pops up showing the phrase “Empty Me!” in yellow, indicating it’s time to dump the excess water. Plus, if the machine needs more intensive cleaning, the word “Descale” will pop up on the LCD screen. (Further instructions for descaling can be found in the manual.)
For the times when your machine needs a more intensive cleaning, the Dual Boiler comes with a number of accessories that help make the process a little more bearable: a cleaning tool for the steam wand tip and filter basket, allowing you to clear out anything that may be blocking the small hole openings, as well as cleaning discs and tablets, and a hex key for the descaling process.
The Dual Boiler is one of the more expensive espresso machines on the market, retailing just under $1,500. The dual boiler system and many customizable features on this machine are likely the cause of this higher price tag, and if you plan to use these features, it could be a worthwhile investment. After all, if you spend $5 per day on a latte, five days a week, your espresso habit is likely costing you well over $1,000 a year.
Breville Dual Boiler Espresso Machine vs. Mr. Coffee ECMP50 Espresso/Cappuccino Maker
The Mr. Coffee ECMP50 Espresso/Cappuccino Maker, which we also tested, is another espresso machine that costs much less than Breville’s, retailing for around $80. Like the Dual Boiler, it has a frother tube to steam milk, as well as the ability to brew single and double shots of espresso. However, the Mr. Coffee machine does not have customizable settings, nor does the espresso and foam taste quite as good. The Mr. Coffee Espresso Maker does earn points for its fast heat-up time—it’s ready to use in just a few minutes, whereas the Dual Boiler takes about 10 minutes. It’s also quicker to clean after each use, which is quite appealing.
Overall, the two machines are very different and cater to different types of users. The Dual Boiler is aimed toward the more advanced user who wants to carefully tailor their espresso beverages, while the Mr. Coffee machine works best for the average customer who wants decent, but quick espresso beverages.
Advanced users only.
For experienced users, the Breville Dual Boiler Espresso Machine offers the ability to steam and extract espresso simultaneously and adjust a wide range of settings, but its high price, long heat-up time, and complicated cleaning make it more hassle than it’s worth for beginners.
- Product Name The Dual Boiler Espresso Machine
- Product Brand Breville
- Price $1499.95
- Weight 30 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 14.7 x 14.8 x 14.7 in.
- Model Number BES920XL
- Color Options Brushed Stainless Steel, Black Sesame
- Water Tank Capacity 84 ounces
- Power 1,700 watts
- Voltage 110–120V
- Warranty 2-year warranty
- What's Included Breville Dual Boiler Espresso Machine; Razor dose trimming tool; 58-mm stainless steel portafilter; single and dual wall filter baskets; integrated tamper; stainless steel milk jug; cleaning disc and tablets; cleaning tool for wand; hex key; water hardness test strip; water filter holder; and water filter