Breville Dual Boiler Review | The Best Dual Boiler Espresso Machine?

In this Breville Dual Boiler review I will show you the features and Pros & Cons of this excellent espresso machine. The Dual Boiler offers commercial features at a consumer price, making it one of the best espresso machines around.

Featuring PID heat management, a pressure gauge, and user-friendly steam wand, this device allows you to make the most delicious espressos, cappuccinos and latte. And because of its hot water spout, you can make Americanos in an instant. 

But even more important, the Dual Boiler comes (as the name suggests) with two separate boilers and pumps. You will find this often on espresso machines costing over $2,000, but not so much at the price point of the Dual Boiler. This allows you to extract espresso and steam milk foam simultaneously, saving you precious time and heat. Its high-quality espressos, and low price makes this the best dual boiler espresso machine on the market.

Breville Dual Boiler
BES920XL

Breville Dual Boiler review

To help you in your decision, I have also included two alternatives along with how they compare against the Dual Boiler. There's a budget alternative, in case you find the price of the Dual Boiler simply too high. Also, there's a more expensive alternative to show you what you can get if you up your budget.

Quick 1-minute breakdown


If you're in a hurry and just want to know whether or not you should purchase the Breville Dual Boiler BES920XL (the latest model), let me give you a quick breakdown:

  • If you're looking for an espresso machine which can make consistent, high-quality espressos with just a small learning curve, this is your best bet. Same goes for making cappuccinos and lattes.
  • If you specifically are looking for a double boiler espresso machine, the Dual Boiler is your best bet. You won't find a double boiler machine with these specifications anywhere cheaper. 
  • If you don't need a double boiler espresso machine but still want high-quality, consistent espressos, the budget alternative in this review will probably be a better fit.

Features
Ease of use
Durability
Price
Average

If you're still unsure, please keep reading. Hopefully, after reading my full and detailed Breville Dual Boiler review, you can make a solid decision. If not, just let me know in the comments, where I am happy to answer any questions.

Full Breville Espresso Machine line-up

The Breville Dual Boiler is a high-end espresso machine within the Breville espresso machine line. From the entry-level Duo-Temp Pro to almighty Oracle, there's a Breville for every budget. Below you will find a short overview of all the Pros & Cons of each device. If you want more detailed information, please read: "So, What is the Best Breville Espresso Machine?".

Breville Oracle BES980XL

the Oracle

With automated tamping and frothing, meet the world's first automated semi-auto espresso machine.

High-end

  • Fully automated
  • Consistent espressos
  • Perfect milk foam
  • Requires high budget
  • Large footprint

Price:

$$$$$

Breville Dual Boiler BES920XL

Dual Boiler

The perfect machine if you want to improve your barista skills with full control and a dual boiler for excellent heating.

High-end

  • Exellent heating
  • Improves your skills
  • Competitive price
  • Build quality, could use less plastics.

Price:

$$$$

Breville Barista Express BES870XL Best Choice

Barista Express

Best choice!
Capable of making a perfect espresso, with an built-in grinder to save space and money.

Prosumer

  • Perfect price point
  • Built-in grinder
  • Small footprint
  • Single boiler/pump
  • Bit messy grinder

Price:

$$$

Breville Infuser BES840XL

the Infuser

Same as Barista Express but without grinder, in case you want/own a better grinder, but still want the same quality.

Prosumer

  • Smaller footprint than the Barista Express
  • Not much cheaper than Barista Express 

Price:

$$$

Breville Duo-Temp Pro BES810BS

Duo-Temp Pro

An entry-level espresso machine, with some of the professional features or its bigger brothers, at a very friendly price tag.

Entry-level

  • Lowest price
  • Has some of the higher-end features
  • No pressure gauge
  • No fine-tuning

Price:

$$


This article can be found under:

Brand(s): Breville
Budget: $1000+
Level: High-end
Type of coffee: Espresso, Americano, Cappuccino

First published: 2/28/2017
Last update: 2/28/2017


How did I review the Breville Dual Boiler BES920XL?

The goal of each of the reviews on Let's Grind Some Coffee is to do an insane amount of research, so you don't have to anymore. We work with a number of talented and experienced writers, who know what they're talking about. Each writer is responsible for conducting his/her own research, so there's no miscommunication possible. When doing this review I didn't own the Breville Dual Boiler BES920XL. For the comparison I used product reviews, customers comments, and instruction videos and manuals.

Click to learn more about our review process


An introduction to the Breville Dual Boiler Espresso Machine

The Breville Dual Boiler was originally introduced in 2011 as the BES900XL. Even though it was popular right away, it was missing some important features (which I will cover below in a comparison to the latest model). In 2014 Breville introduced the current model, the Dual Boiler BES920XL. The BES920XL proved an instant success, especially at its MSRP of $1,299.95.

The Dual Boiler offers excellent heat management, often only seen on more expensive devices. It also has Breville popular steam wand design, which allows you to make milk foam fine enough for latte art, without the risk of exploding milk.
Its dual boilers and pumps make simultaneous brewing and steaming possible, so you can two cappuccinos or latte in just two minutes (as long as the device has been warmed up in advance).
Learn more about why a boiler is better than a thermoblock:
Thermoblock vs. Boiler

Coffee 101:
PID Temperature Control?

PID temperature control allows you to specify the brew temperature of the espresso machine. Learn more:
PID Controlled Espresso Machine


When making espresso, consistency is the key. This is ensured by offering a pressure gauge (to accurately measure the extraction pressure, PID temperature control, a 9 bar over-pressure-valve (to prevent, well, over-pressure), and low-pressure pre-infusion (for soaking the grind before full pressure extraction starts). I will cover these features in more detailed below, but these are features you are looking for in a high-end espresso machine. The fact that Breville is offering it at a relatively low price is quite impressive.

Is the Breville Dual Boiler the Best Dual Boiler Espresso Machine?

When conducting this Breville Dual Boiler review, it was hard to find any significant downsides of this machines, even after reading through many other reviews and watching many videos. It does offer a number of features you will find on much more expensive devices, and really does a great job at making consistent espressos. This brought me to the conclusion that the Breville Dual Boiler is probably the best dual boiler espresso machine unless you're willing to spending many thousand dollars. We'll be doing a dedicated round-up within a few months to make a final conclusion.

Now let's dive into its features, along with its most prominent Pros & (minimal) Cons.


Breville Dual Boiler Features | Pros & Cons

The Dual Boiler shares a number of features with the much more expensive Breville Oracle. This isn't strange, as the Oracle is basically a Dual Boiler with built-in grinder, along with some (pretty impressive) automation. These shared features are:

  • PID temperature control, along with various heat management systems like for optimal espresso temperature (195°F to 205°F). You can specify the temperature yourself for fine-tuning. 
  • Low-pressure pre-infusion, for soaking the grind a bit before extraction starts, after which pressure increases during extraction to allow for an even flow. The time used for pre-infusion is something you can specify as well, along with the amount of pressure you prefer.
  • Dual stainless steel boilers and Italian pumps, so you can extract and espresso while making the milk foam at the same moment (huge benefit over single boiler espresso machines).
  • Over Pressure Valve, which regulates the extraction pressure. Capped at 9 Bar, this ensures that your coffee won't taste too bitter due to over-pressure (which basically burns the grind because of the high temperatures).

Coffee 101:
What is pre-infusion?

Pre-infusion takes place a few seconds before full pressure extraction starts. By slowly building up the pressure, the grinds are better saturated, resulting in more flavor coming into the cup.

Now let's have a look at what it's good at, and what can be better.

The Good

Dual Boilers and pumps
As the name suggests, the Dual Boiler has two separate stainless steel boilers and pumps. When properly preheated, these allow for extracting coffee and steaming milk at the same time. With single boiler espresso machines, you need to wait for each process to be finished. This waiting time can be reduced when a heat exchanger is used (which "swaps" heat between the group head and steam wand), but a dual boiler beats a single boiler in waiting time.
Once you get the hang of it, it's certainly possible to make two cappuccinos in just two minutes, as long as you properly preheat the device. 

Breville Dual Boiler PID

Perfect heat management
As mentioned above, the temperature of both the espresso shot and steam wand can be programmed using a PID. This is especially important for making espresso, which is sensitive to heat. You want your water to be extracted at around 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C), and the Dual Boiler allows you to specify the temperature with increments of 1°F/1°C.
The steam temperature will probably be just fine at factory setting, as long as the steam is dry enough. The group head is preheated, so you'll get a consistent temperature throughout the device.

Breville Dual Boiler Pressure Gauge

Shot clock and pressure gauge
Timing and pressure are two important factors when making espresso. The Dual Boiler has an integrated shot clock. You could always use a separate timer, but it's nice to have it included in the LCD display. Even though you can predefine extraction times, there's also a "Manual" button. This is the one you use the shot timer with, as this requires you to stop the extraction yourself. The pressure gauge helps you to get the needed 9 Bar pressure for optimal extraction. When your pressure it too low your grind is probably too coarse or tamped to loose, and a high pressure indicated a too fine grind or too hard tamping. There's also an Over-Pressure Valve set at 9 Bar, to prevent the pressure getting too high, which results in bitter coffee.

Shot clock and pressure gauge
Timing and pressure are two important factors when making espresso. The Dual Boiler has an integrated shot clock. You could always use a separate timer, but it's nice to have it included in the LCD display. Even though you can predefine extraction times, there's also a "Manual" button. This is the one you use the shot timer with, as this requires you to stop the extraction yourself. The pressure gauge helps you to get the needed 9 Bar pressure for optimal extraction. When your pressure it too low your grind is probably too coarse or tamped to loose, and a high pressure indicated a too fine grind or too hard tamping. There's also an Over-Pressure Valve set at 9 Bar, to prevent the pressure getting too high, which results in bitter coffee.

Full control over the whole process
The Dual Boiler has tons of options to configure. For example, you can choose between a time based or volume based extraction. The former means the timer will start running when you hit the espresso button, after which it runs for the predefined amount of time. The volume based extraction measures how much water has run through the group head before it cuts off the process. This way you won't overflow your cup, but you still should aim for an extraction time of 25-30 seconds for a good espresso.

Breville Dual Boiler Steam Wand

User-friendly steam wand
Something very noteworthy is the steam wand, for making milk foam. The steam arm has three holes, where other devices mostly come with two holes. This divides the steam pressure more evenly and makes its use safer.
It still is more than capable of producing fine enough foam required for latte art, but you will have less risk of a milk explosion in your milk jug. It might take a bit longer than with a two-hole design, but especially if you're new to milk foaming, this will benefit you a lot. Don't forget, because of the dual boiler design, you can start making your milk right away.

Hot water spout for Americano
This is something you will find on almost all Breville espresso machines and is very convenient if you like making an Americano. The hot water spout, located right next to the group head, gives you hot water to add to your espresso, so you don't have to brew this separately. As simple as it sounds, it's something you won't always find on other espresso machines. You can also use it to preheat your coffee cups.

Auto- start, auto cleaning, included accessories
Even though I could go on and on about all of the features of the Breville Dual Boiler, let's wrap it up with a few more noteworthy ones. The Dual Boilers allows you to specify a time at which you want the device to turn on and start preheating. Breville recommends having it turn on 15 minutes in advance.

Coffee 101:
What is an Americano coffee?

An Americano is basically a dilluted espresso, to make it less stronger. It consists of 2/5 espresso, and 3/5 hot water.


The auto clean function is another one of those conveniences this machine has. After approx. 200 shots the LCD will inform you its time to clean the device. You just insert the 1-cup filter basket in the portafilter, insert their cleaning tablet, and place the portafilter in the group head. Hit the clean button in the menu, wait a few minutes, et voila, it's done. I have the same auto cleaning feature on my Breville Barista Express, and it works perfectly.

The Breville Dual Boiler comes with four different filter baskets: Single-wall and dual-wall filter baskets for both a single and double shot. The dual-wall filter baskets are useful if you're still practicing the relation between grinding coffee, and applying the right amount of pressure. These baskets even out any irregularities in the preparations, but won't give you the best espresso. For that, you need to use the single-wall basket, so I would advise using those right away when you start your practice. Trust me, once you get the hang of it, it's quite easy.
Quick tip: Consider spending some money on a bottomless portafilter (this one), which really helps you in making visual where you go wrong (LINK Bottomless Portafilter).

The Bad

Durability
The lower price of the Breville Dual Boiler BES920XL comes with a caveat; The sometimes questionable build quality. Don't get me wrong, most of the devices can stand quite some years of daily usage before they break down. However, the most common complaint is that it's possible that parts are breaking within the first year. In general, the whole thing is made from high-quality steel and plastics, especially the parts that come in tough with heat and/or pressure.

But there are also smaller parts, which are constructed of lower quality materials, like a rubber ring in the group head. If that gets broken, you can't properly place the portafilter in it anymore, and your machine stops working. There are also many owners who don't run into these problems, and luckily, there's a 2-year warranty with Breville replacing devices quite easily.

Buying a decent grinder
While this applies to all high-end espresso machines, it's still something you will have to factor in: You have to use a good coffee grinder. Even the best espresso machine can't make even a decent espresso from improper grinds. This means you need a coffee grinder capable of producing the fine grinds needed for espresso. Also, you want the grinds to be as consistent as possible, as clogging causes for interruptions in the extraction process.

So what grinder should you get? Well, you can have a look at our article on espresso grinders. In that article, we recommend the Rancilio Rocky, as it is a high-quality coffee grinder at a competitive price.

Whatever grinder you may choose, be sure that it can make espresso grind, otherwise all of your efforts in making espresso will be useless. Also, please have a look at our espresso beans article, for which we have selected the most delicious coffee beans.


Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL vs. BES920XL

The current model Breville Dual Boiler BES920XL is the successor of the BES900 XL, and came out in 2014. Visually they are almost identical, the only difference is the background color of the water container, just below the group head. The BES920XL has a dark background, while the BES900XL had a light background. The BES920XL looks a bit darker overall, but that's only distinctively visible when you see them both next to each other.

The most important update is the ability to descale at home. With the BES900XL you'd have to send it in to Breville, but with the BES920XL you can descale at home.

Feature

Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL comparison

Breville BES900XL

Breville Dual Boiler BES920XL comparison

Breville BES920XL

Descaling at home

Adjustable steam boiler pressure (265°F to 285°F)

Shot volume control

Volumetric only

Duration and volumetric

Additional colors

Red & Black


Alternatives to the Breville Dual Boiler BES920XL

As this is the machine I own, I thought it would come in handy if I throw in a few ways to make maximum use of your Breville Barista Express. Feel free to add your tricks in the comments, and I will include them in this article.

Best Alternative: Breville Oracle BES980XL

Same espresso features,  tons of automation.

As I mentioned above, the Breville Oracle and the Dual Boiler share many features. The espresso functionality in the Dual Boiler is mostly the same as in the Oracle, and it also operates roughly the same.

But, what sets the Oracle really apart, is it awe-inspiring level of automation. With the Oracle you don't need to tamp the grind yourself, this is done by the machine. Also, making milk foam is a breeze as well, you just need to place the steam wand inside the milk jug and it takes care of everything else.

And if you think the Dual Boiler has lots of programming options; The Oracle even has more. From the amount of pressure applied during tamping to the fineness of the milk foam, you can modify it all.


If you are looking for an almost hands-off approach, but still want excellent espresso quality, the Oracle is the best alternative to the Dual Boiler. All of this automation has a cost, though; An extra $700, based on a MSRP of $1,999,95.

If you want to learn more about the Breville Oracle, please head over to our Breville Oracle review.

Budget alternative: Breville Barista Express BES870XL

Single boiler espresso machine with grinder, nothing automatic.

The Barista Express is a very popular Breville espresso machine. The main difference with the Dual Boiler is that the Barista Express only has a single boiler and pump. This means waiting between espresso extraction and making milk foam. As this is the device I own myself, I developed a tight routine for making optimum use of the single boiler. You can find this routine in my extensive Barista Express review.

The Barista Express comes with a built-in grinder, with auto-shutoff you get the same amount of coffee grind every time. It has a different steam wand than the Dual Boiler, as it is a bit smaller. However, I find no problem in making fine enough milk foam. In fact, the foam is fine enough to allow for some great latte art (if my skills were a bit better...).

A nice feature is the pressure gauge, but unlike the Dual Boiler, it has an "espresso range" instead of actual numbers. It's still very helpful in making espresso. It also has PID temperature management, but without the heat group head, which you have to do yourself by running hot water through it. At about $600 MSRP, it is about half the price of the Dual Boiler, but its built-in grinder does save you money as you don't need to buy an expensive coffee grinder.


Rounding up the Breville Dual Boiler Review

Unfortunately, the Dual Boiler isn't available in my country (the Netherlands), as it would be a perfect successor to my current Breville Barista Express. I have seldom seen an espresso machine with so little flaws as the Dual Boiler, while still offering many professional features. Hopefully, that is something Breville fixes with their next release.

However, most of the devices they ship are perfectly capable of lasting you for many years to come. Should you be so unlucky that you get a flawed device, there's always the 2-year warranty. I think this is one of the best espresso machines you can get, and it's certainly the best dual boiler espresso machine considering its price.

Jacco, Chief Grinder

Breville Dual Boiler
BES920XL

Breville Dual Boiler review

Resources used for this review

  • Seattle Coffee Gear review on Youtube, showing all the features discussed in this Breville Dual Boiler review.