Sage Oracle Touch SES990 espresso machine in the test: A portafilter for comfortable coffee lovers.

Sage Oracle Touch SES990 espresso machine in the test: A portafilter for comfortable coffee lovers.

Making a delicious espresso or even a cappuccino with a great milk froth at the push of a button sounds too good to be true.

However, if you are faced with the decision to buy a machine for your own four walls, lovers of good taste are spoiled for choice these days. Would you like an all-round carefree package or do you want to do a few barista handicrafts yourself?

As is well known, a real portafilter machine delivers excellent results in the cup, but it is anything but convenient. Compared to a portafilter machine, a fully automatic coffee machine is easy to operate but does not deliver the taste that you know from your favorite third-wave café. To combine both, the company “Sage Appliance” thought about it and developed the Oracle Touch SES990, in which “every step is automated”. It should offer the coffee connoisseur a convenient way to make a tasty “coffee in barista quality at home”.

I was able to test for myself whether these statements are true. Sage kindly provided me with an Oracle Touch SES990. This is what awaits you in my Oracle Touch review.

About Sage

The Sage brand was made in 2013 by the Australian company Breville Group Limited. Breville has been producing high-quality small kitchen appliances for 85 years. The devices are known for their high functionality and easy cleaning and are, therefore, predestined for daily use in your own four walls. 
You can learn more about Sage here.

Four points that I like about the Oracle Touch

The Oracle Touch knows how to convince coffee lovers. So that you can find out what I particularly like, here is a brief overview.

Intelligent construction

It immediately becomes clear that the machine has been consistently developed for home users. In addition to the touch display, the engineers at Sage have built in other useful elements that are useful and also very helpful in everyday use.

The milk foam

The quality of the milk foam left me speechless. The way the machine produces fine-pored, high-quality latte art foam is simply awesome – and that at the push of a button, mind you.

Stainless steel dual boiler with PID control

The Oracle Touch has a stainless steel dual boiler with PID control, with which the brewing temperature for drawing off the espresso can be set manually in one-degree steps (from 86 to 96 degrees Celsius). The PID control makes it possible to minimize the acidic or bitter notes of espresso by adjusting the temperature.

Short heat-up time

The boiler, in which the hot water for drawing off the espresso is located, was installed directly above the brewing group. Besides, the brew group is actively heated. This results in a very short heat-up time of just five minutes.

You can buy the Sage Oracle Touch online at amazon.com

The delivered package: unboxing, optics, and dimensions of the Oracle Touch

sage oracle touch package

Even while unpacking, the first “Oh” goes through our kitchen. The delivery is extensive. Included are a double sieve holder, a 0.48 l milk jug, a water filter for the tank, a water hardness test strip, two real stainless steel sieves, a rubber blind sieve, and a stainless steel knock-off container. All parts look very high quality. The whole thing is rounded off by a cleaning set consisting of various cleaning brushes, cleaning tablets, and cleaning powder.

At first glance, the design of the Oracle Touch SES990 looks really good. I like the good workmanship and the great feel. The brushed stainless steel is high quality and looks good in the kitchen. And the innovative touch display also shows that this is a contemporary device.

The Oracle Touch weighs 20.5 kg and has dimensions of 37.5 x 36.2 x 45.4 cm (W x D x H). The handsome cuboid is certainly not one of the smallest and lightest machines in the market.

Two refinements are noticeable: when removing the drip tray, there is a small drawer for storing accessories. There is also a rotary wheel there. If you turn it, rollers under the machine are released. Now it can easily be moved back and forth on the work surface. This is ideal for cleaning the work surface under the machine or for removing the water tank installed on the back.

Points are only deducted for the drip tray: Unfortunately, this is made of plastic and not stainless steel.

Coffee - 46989
Coffee - 46989

The machine has been given a test place in our kitchen. And off we go with the test of the Sage Oracle Touch SES990.

The commissioning of the Sage Oracle Touch

The machine is ready for use in a few minutes: remove the protective film, rinse the water tank, insert the water filter, fill the water tank with water and place it in the machine, place the bean container on the grinder and fill it with espresso beans, plug in and press the power button. Finished.

The quick start guide allows me to go through the setup of the machine step-by-step. I think it’s great that Sage has included a water hardness test strip that can be used to determine the hardness of the drinking water. Depending on the discoloration of the test strip, the water hardness can be set in the machine. Amazing!

Manually regulate the amount of ground coffee in the portafilter

According to Sage’s description, the built-in conical grinder should grind, dose, and automatically press 22 grams of ground coffee. In contrast, the amount of ground coffee after the very first grinding process was 25 grams, well above the 22 grams specified by Sage.

sage oracle touch grinder

The portafilter was simply overfilled with 25 grams, the extraction was anything but optimal and the espresso tasted not at all the way I imagined. Since there is no help in regulating the amount of ground coffee in the operating instructions, I had no choice but to search the Internet for a solution.

The solution: You first have to pull off the tamper base with one of the supplied magnetic cleaning brushes and then the pen above the tamper base. You then have to change the length of the pin by loosening a small screw with the included Allen key. You can use it to trick the Oracle Touch system, which is mechanically dispensing via the filling level of the screen. The result after the adjustment: 19 grams of ground coffee – a value that I usually also use to prepare a double espresso with a lighter roast. Now the coffee party can begin!

The preparation process

The bean container should, of course, be filled with freshly roasted coffee beans at the beginning. Approx. 280 g of coffee beans fit into the bean container.

Besides, water must be filled into the tank (volume 2.5 liters). There are two ways to do this. On the one hand, the water tank can be removed from the rear. On the other hand, the water can also be supplied from above through a flap on the front of the machine that gently swings open at the touch of a finger.

I find the second option super practical. Of course, that depends on how the machine is. But often there is a machine with its back against a wall. With the Oracle Touch, water can be poured into the tank without having to move the machine. Thumbs up!

After pressing the power button, the menu opens on the touch display. The menu is very user-friendly at the touch of a finger.  I think that the operation of the menu with the help of the icons is intuitive.

At the same time, the machine starts heating up. The machine comes to life. You can hear that from the noises the machine makes. The heating-up time is really short: it takes about five minutes and the device is ready for use. However, I recommend extending the heating time by a further ten minutes so that the portafilter is properly warmed through. Letting out hot water also helps the portafilter to heat up.

Pre-set drinks such as espresso, black coffee ( Cafe Americano ), caffè latteflat white, cappuccino, hot milk, and your drinks can be selected via the touch display.

A bonus is that there is the option to customize drinks to your taste. The brewing time of the espresso, the temperature, and the texture of the milk foam are freely configurable. Up to eight individual drinks can be saved under your name.

sage oracle touch menu

The drink is now selected. The menu guides you through the program very easily. The preparation steps appear on the display from left to right: grinding, brewing, milk.

All preparation steps are started manually by tapping the appropriate menu item.


You can buy the Sage Oracle Touch online at amazon.co.uk 

Grinding, dosing, and tamping

A conical grinder with an automatic tamping mechanism is integrated into the Oracle Touch SES990. The machine is designed in such a way that it grinds and doses beans and then automatically compresses the ground coffee. Compaction – also called tamping in professional circles – is usually done by human hands.

sage oracle touch tamper

The grinding degree – from level 1 (very fine) to level 45 (very coarse) – can be set using a rotary knob on the side or via the touch display. The degree of grinding and the optimal compression of the coffee grounds determine the flow time of the hot water through the portafilter.

sage oracle touch menu

To start the grinding process, the portafilter is hooked into the grinder sleeve. Either you turn the portafilter all the way to the right (marked on the machine) or you press “Grinding” on the display to start. The machine loosens for a short time with a maximum volume of up to 86 dB. The step is marked as finished with a green tick on the display.

My verdict: The finished tamped result is really good! Nicely compressed and smooth. A comparable result can only be achieved manually with a lot of practice. Therefore, from my point of view, this is an absolute relief and enrichment.

Brewing: The Espresso Extraction

Espresso with sage oracle | pixabay.com

When the portafilter has been filled with ground coffee, the espresso brewing process can start. To do this, you clamp the portafilter in the brewing group and start drawing on the touch display. Easy right? Yes, if the parameters of ground coffee, grinding degree, brewing temperature, and extraction time are coordinated.

It took me a few tries to extract a delicious espresso. I will now explain step-by-step how I actually proceeded with a slightly lighter single-origin espresso roast:

  1. Weigh the amount of ground coffee in the portafilter (for me: 19 grams)
  2. Define the desired amount in the cup in advance (for my lighter roast: 48 grams; for darker classic Italian roasts, I recommend 38 grams)
  3. Set the brewing temperature (for me: 94 degrees Celsius)
  4. Define the desired extraction time in advance (for me: 33 seconds)
  5. Adjust the grinding degree until the target (48 grams in 33 seconds) has been reached and the espresso tastes delicious (for me: grinding degree level 19)
  6. Possibly. Adjust the brewing temperature, extraction time, and target amount a little to further improve the taste

I have to admit that this process took time to accomplish- I have high demands on “my” espresso. 

However, once the Oracle Touch is set correctly, super balanced and above all constant results can be produced. The entire process of preparing espresso is child’s play with the Oracle Touch. And in terms of taste, the machine delivers results at a very high level! Hence, it is a clear recommendation from me.

Tips & tricks for preparing the espresso

I can advise you to plan a little more time when setting up the espresso and to be very meticulous here. Believe me – it’s worth it. And you should also keep the type of bean after setting the parameter – otherwise, the procedure described above will start all over again.

The main challenge when preparing espresso is to achieve a pleasant and harmonious balance between acidity and bitterness. Here are a few simple tips on how to do it:

  • If the espresso tastes too thin, too watery, and too sour, the espresso has probably run through the portafilter too quickly. The grinding degree must be set finer. This increases the extraction time.
  • If the espresso tastes too strong and bitter, the espresso has probably run too slowly through the portafilter. The grinding degree must be set coarser. This shortens the extraction time.

Pre-infusion

For me, the highlight of espresso extraction is the pre-infusion of the Oracle Touch SES990. In the first eight seconds of the extraction – the pre-infusion phase – a small amount of water is left on the coffee grounds with little pressure before the actual pressure build-up.

The pre-infusion causes the coffee grounds to be moistened, which means that it swells “gently” and solidifies before the actual pressure build-up begins with a brewing pressure of 9 bar. The decisive advantage of pre-infusion: the aromas in the coffee grounds can be extracted better. You can definitely taste that with an espresso from the Oracle Touch. And the espresso puck also looks dry and evenly extracted after it has been drawn off. That’s how it should be!

Milk foam with Oracle Touch SES990

To say it right from the start: The milk foam is awesome! That surprised me. What is sensational is that the milk foam is even latte-art capable. It is a mystery to me how that works. But it works.

The jug is filled with cold milk up to the lower edge of the spout. A little tip: for a good result, the jug must not be too warm. Now the steam lance is raised and lowered into the milk jug. The desired temperature and texture are then determined on the display.

You can choose a temperature between 40 – 75 degrees Celsius. For the temperature, I recommend a maximum of 65 degrees Celsius. From 65 degrees Celsius, the milk is too hot and begins to burn. The consistency and the delicious, sweet taste suffer from this. The steam lance has a measuring sensor. This measures the temperature when the milk is frothed.

The choice of milk foam texture depends on your own preferences. You can choose between levels 1 – 9. At level 9, the consistency of the milk froth is firmest. With levels 3 – 4, it is actually possible to pour latte art.

Once everything has been selected and the jug is in position, you can start by touching it. It hisses and bubbles for a few seconds and in the end, there is a creamy milk foam in the jug. I can only say: that’s madness! 

milk frother from sage oracle touch

To prepare a cappuccino, I froth up about 200 ml of milk. I achieve the best milk foam result for me with a temperature of 61 degrees Celsius and consistency level 3. The frothing is quick: Cold milk from the refrigerator is perfectly frothed and tempered in about 45 seconds.

After the foaming process, the outside of the lance must be cleaned with a damp sponge cloth. The machine does the internal cleaning of the steam lance itself and is a real plus point. For this purpose, water vapor is automatically blown through in several bursts when the lance is lowered – and it is clean for the next foaming process.

It would have been desirable to have an additional cut-out in the drip tray, into which the steam and milk residue could be drained when the steam lance is self-cleaning. Unfortunately, the milk residues collect on the drip tray and must also be removed. But that’s whining on a high level …

Who is Oracle Touch for?

The word beginner sounds so clumsy. However, the machine is suitable for beginners who would like to do a few things themselves during the preparation process without having acquired professional knowledge.

The few simple steps are manageable, because the Sage Oracle Touch SES 990 takes over a large part of the tasks that would otherwise have to be done manually. The portafilter is clamped into the grinder outlet by hand and then hooked into the brewing group from there. And the steam wand just needs to be dipped into the jug filled with milk. And of course, the processes are controlled via the display at the touch of a finger. In the end, only the milk is poured into the espresso. Well, and last but not least, tapping the coffee puck into the knocking container and wiping the steam wand must also be done by hand.

The leveling and tamping, for which you otherwise need practice, and the tricky part, the frothing of the milk, are taken care of by the automatic system. There is also a step-by-step guide in the menu. This makes the machine very user-friendly.

For a correct portafilter machine, you need a lot of knowledge about espresso, a love of detail, additional equipment, and time. This machine is exactly the right choice for those who simply do not have the time or inclination to acquire coffee knowledge, but still value a sensual taste. But even advanced coffee lovers will have a lot of fun with this machine. Because despite the many automatic processes, there is the possibility of manually controlling and influencing processes.

For those who really “only” drink espresso, I can only recommend the Oracle Touch to a limited extent. In my opinion, the price for the all-round package is too high to simply prepare espresso. The full potential of this machine can only be exploited if you use it to make milk froth on a regular basis.

Conclusion

sage oracle touch ses990

I would describe the Sage Oracle Touch as the perfect fully automatic machine among the manual portafilter machines. The machine takes over important tasks of a barista almost automatically, which really requires some practice and sensitivity. And after more than eight weeks of endurance testing, I can safely say that the Oracle Touch delivers espresso, cappuccino, flat white & Co. in solid barista quality. So Sage makes “barista-quality coffee possible at home.” So the statement is NOT marketing bullshit.

I was won over by the integrated conical grinder with auto grind, auto can and auto tamp technology. This is where the advantages of the Oracle Touch as a semi-automatic machine become apparent. Because just buying a portafilter machine is a long way from getting a good espresso conjured up in your cups. You need numerous accessories such as an expensive espresso grinder, a tamping station, a tamper, and possibly an espresso leveler. The Oracle Touch combines all things under one roof!

Actually, I’ve already raved enough about the milk foam above. Here in conclusion, once again very clearly: There is probably no device for home use with which coffee beginners can enjoy this creamy, silky latte art foam. For this reason alone, in my opinion, the purchase of the Sage Oracle Touch SES990 is worthwhile.

However, it is not completely easy and stress-free with the Oracle Touch: Preparing a good espresso is and remains a challenging matter – especially if you like to experiment with lighter third-wave roasts. You need, just as with a traditional espresso machine, some time to plan until you master the quantity of ground coffee, grinding degree, brewing temperature and extraction time to extract a really good espresso. Here you definitely have to leave your comfort zone and get involved with the machine and some coffee theory. But don’t worry: once correctly configured, the machine simply delivers brilliant results and makes every fully automatic machine look ancient.


You can buy the Sage Oracle Touch at amazon