Dual Boiler Espresso Machines

Written by
Chris Caruso
(we're on a mission)

Breville Dual Boiler


Espresso machines use various techniques and technologies to heat water for brewing and provide steaming for milk drinks like the latte or cappuccino. While some machines prioritize a compact design or low-priced components, dual boiler espresso machines stand king in quality, durability, and shot-after-shot staying power!

So, what are dual boiler espresso machines?

In this post, we'll cover exactly what a dual boiler espresso machine is, explore the many benefits of dual boiler espresso machines with a case study on the Breville Dual Boiler, and finish with a guide on how to pick the right dual boiler for you.

Let's get brewing!

Table of Contents

What is a Dual Boiler Espresso Machine?

Dual Boiler Espresso Machine Heating

A dual boiler espresso machine is a specific type of espresso machine that is built with two internal water boilers. The first is warmed to approximately 200 ° F, perfect for brewing a shot of espresso. The second boiler is superheated to over 250 ° F and provides piping hot steam to the machine's steam wand and hot water dispenser.

When a dual boiler machine is turned on, it first heats the brew boiler, with the steam boiler following. Dual boiler espresso machines heat up in 10-15 minutes, providing consistent temperatures and powerful steam shot after shot.

This two-boiler design takes a step forward over the single boiler machine that shares one water boiler for both brewing and steaming, needing time to heat up and cool down depending on the deep for brewing espresso or texturing steam.

Dual Boiler Espresso Machine Benefits

Benefits Of Dual Boiler Espresso Machine

Temperature Stability

With large brass or stainless steel boilers, dual boiler machines have phenomenal thermal stability. This means that the brew water and hot steam stay at a consistent temperature shot after shot. This constant temperature allows any home barista to pull repeatable espresso shots without worrying about large temperature swings.

Back-to-Back Capabilities

As dual boiler espresso machines have independent water and steam reserves, they can often make many drinks back to back without running out of water or steam. Unlike single boiler machines, dual boiler machines can often make 5 to 10 shots without having to refill and reheat the boilers.

Brew and Steam at the Same Time

With two independent heating elements, dual boiler espresso machines can dispense hot water for brewing and steam for milk-texturing simultaneously. Pulling a shot and steaming milk at the same time significantly reduces the time to make a latte or cappuccino. This time savings can make your busy mornings less hectic and even allow you to start entertaining with your machine.

The Breville Dual Boiler

THe Breville Dual Boiler

The Breville Dual Boiler is one of the most recognizable dual boiler espresso machines in 2024. Made by the established and reliable home appliance brand Breville, the Dual Boiler is their top-of-the-line offering.

While all other Breville espresso machines heat water and steam through an entry-level 'thermoblock,' the Breville Dual Boiler stands alone, packed with features and a powerful dual boiler system.

Two Powerful Boilers

The Breville Dual Boiler has a 0.3-liter brew boiler, a 0.9-liter steam boiler, and a 2.5-liter water reservoir, giving it the power to handle six to eight drinks without a reset or refill.

Packed with Features

Like many dual boilers, the Breville Dual Boiler is packed with features to aid in the brewing process. With an integrated pressure gauge, timer for measuring shot timer, and boiler temperature control, the Breville Dual Boiler gives near total control over the brewing process.

Volumetric Control

The Breville Dual Boiler has a unique feature rarely found on dual boiler espresso machines. Volumetric Control is the ability to program the volume of espresso to output for a single or double shot. While most machines require you to manually start and stop the shot, the Breville Dual Boiler automatically handles it, making your brew even easier.

Price and Footprint

While dual boiler espresso machines are more expensive than their single boiler counterparts, the Breville Dual Boiler is one of the market's most affordable and value-focused dual boiler machines. Priced at $1,599, the Breville Dual Boiler punches way above its weight class. And while most dual boiler espresso machines are relatively large, the Breville Dual Boiler is only 40 cm (15") across and weighs under ~14 kg (30 lbs).

Delicious Espresso with a Dual Boiler Espresso Machine

Dual boiler espresso machines have incredible thermal stability and can retain temperature better than any other type of machine. Most dual boilers can also set the specific temperature and adjust it by individual degrees. Ensure you are using the right temperature for your beans: approximately 200 ° F for dark roasts, 205 ° F for medium roasts, and 210 ° F for light roasts.

Using High-Quality Water

Quality water is among the most critical inputs to brewing great espresso. Not only does quality water improve the taste of espresso, but it also prolongs the life of dual boiler espresso machines. Low-quality water, particularly hard water full of calcium and magnesium, can leave residue inside the boilers and cause "scale" to develop. Over time, if left untreated, scale build-up will ruin your espresso machine.

Letting the Machine Heat Up

While dual boiler espresso machines have incredible temperature stability, they also require a little bit of time to get up to temperature. Although the boilers can reach optimal temperature within 5-10 minutes, allowing the heat to radiate throughout the entire machine helps ensure overall stability as you start to make your espresso. Give your machine 10 - 20 minutes to get up to full temperature to get the most out of your machine.

Choosing The Right Dual Boiler For You

Beautiful Espresso Machine Photo

If you have decided that a reliable and robust dual boiler is the best option for you, consider the following variables:

Heat-Up Time

Although all dual boilers take slightly longer to heat, some take extra time to heat massive internal boilers. While the Breville Dual Boiler may take 10 - 15 minutes to heat, machines like the ECM Synchronika may take 20 - 30 minutes to come to temperature

Workflow and Design

Dual boiler espresso machines come in various designs and features. Some machines have a more modern design, using buttons or toggles to activate the brew and steam, while other machines have a more classic design, using more manual and tactile lever and knobs.

Features & Control

Dual boiler machines offer a wide range of features and fine-tuneability. Some dual boilers are straightforward, with just enough control to start and stop brew and steam. Other machines have integrated shot timers, the ability to pre-wet the espresso puck before extraction, and even app connectivity.

Price & Budget

Historically, dual boiler machines were reserved for professional cafes, costing between $10,000 and $40,000. In recent years, professional-tier consumer machines, referred to as 'prosumer machines,' have brought the cafe home. Today, these machines start at $1,600 and soar to $8,000. While the majority of dual boilers hover around $2,000 to $3,000, there are options for all home baristas who are willing to invest in quality, durability, and longevity.

The Final Sip

Dual-boiler espresso machines are robust and reliable. With an independent boiler for brew water and another for hot steam, dual boilers allow home baristas to brew and steam at the same time, shot after shot, without slowing down.

If you are a home barista looking to speed up your morning workflow, entertain a crowd with a delicious cappuccino or espresso martini, or want total control over your espresso extraction, then a dual boiler may be for you.

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