Sage Dual Boiler – The Best Dual Boiler Espresso Machine?

The Sage Dual Boiler, or Breville Dual Boiler if you’re not in Europe, is an espresso machine I’ve been wanting to review for ages, and if you’re among my fellow coffee botherers (what I call my readers and viewers) who have been asking me to review the Dual Boiler for ages, apologies for the delay!

The model I’m reviewing is the current model in 2021, by the way, which is the Sage Dual Boiler bes920UK.

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A quick note on the Sage vs Breville thing.  These machines are brewed by Breville Worldwide, and they would be known as Breville here in the UK, except for the truth that they sold the brand name in Europe in the 80s. So machines made by Breville Worldwide (HQ is Australia) are sold in the UK under the brand name Sage, also known as Sage Appliances & Sage by Heston Blumenthal.

The Sage Dual Boiler probably ought to have been among the first machines I reviewed, nevertheless to review machines in the order I wanted to work in quite than reviewing machines that manufacturers or suppliers were looking for reviews on, would have meant buying espresso coffee machines myself. 

As you can probably relate to, when it comes to buying expensive espresso coffee machines it’s not only affordability that can hold you back from buying the machine you fancy, justifying the cost of such an expensive machine to significant others can likewise be a genuine challenge.

To someone who hasn’t caught the home barista bug, or to someone who doesn’t even ingest coffee, spending hundreds or even thousands on a coffee brewing equipment must seem really odd, I get that.

Trying to convince my wife (who doesn’t ingest coffee) when I’d just started the blog, that I essential to spend over a grand on an espresso machine, would have gone down like a brass blimp!

I reviewed the Sage Oracle not long after starting the blog, however that was because Sage had a demo machine doing the rounds at the time, and they were kind enough to trust me with it for a couple of weeks on loan. 

It simply was sort of them, thinking back to when I got in touch with them. The blog was brand new at the time, they didn’t understand me from Adam (who’s Adam?), they can’t have known that the blog would take off as it did, that took even me by surprise! 

Anyway, I’ve used and reviewed various other Sage coffee machines over the past few years, however the Sage Dual Boiler is the one that has got away until now.

Recently although I’ve decided it’s in reality daft that although I know the Sage Dual Boiler is one of the best home barista espresso machines on the market, I still haven’t used it and reviewed it, so quite than waiting for Sage to send me a demo unit, I decided to buy one, so I can work with it and review it over a long period of time as I did with the Bambino Plus review.

I can justify such a purchase these days, given that I make my living from writing about coffee machines ;-), though I can never bring myself to call what I do now “work”.

Sage would have sent me a demo model, nevertheless buying one myself means I can use it and review it over a longer period of time, and likewise means I can do some modding, which I’m planning to feature in some future youtube videos and blog posts, but more on that shortly. 

OK, so I’ve got one, I’ve been using it for a few weeks so far – now let’s get into what I think of it. 

My Sage Dual Boiler Review in a Nutshell

If you’ve been here before, you’ll probably learn that my blog posts tend to be quite long. I don’t apologise for that ;-), I love writing, and this often suggests my posts end up much longer than they would be if I simply got on with it. 

But I do definitely value that some people don’t want to read about a machine in rather as much detail as I tend to go with my reviews, and really want me to cut to the chase, so if that’s you – you don’t need to read the full review article, here’s my nutshell review:

It’s incredible buy it! BUT – buy the Dynamic Duo Package, I’ll explain why later. 

Sage Dynamic Duo

Sage Dynamic Duo

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OK that’s not in reality my nutshell review ;-), nevertheless it is my overall opinion – as long as you’re looking for a home barista espresso coffee machine, not bean to cup. There’s in reality not much that competes in terms of these sort of features for this sort of money.

An exceptionally quick word on why I’m saying to buy the Dynamic Duo, I’ll explain more later on, but basically, if you buy this package you get the grinder for a greatly reduced price. Even if you don’t plan on using this mill, and more on that in a bit, getting this grinder for such a low price still isn’t a bad idea.

Here’s my short review:

Taking everything into account, I think the Sage Dual Boiler is an an incredible machine, and that it’s potentially the many great espresso coffee machine I’ve ever used.

I think it’s a brilliant machine regardless of your home barista skill, being just as good a option for seasoned home baristas as for folk who are yet to pull their first shot.

This is a machine which is really simple to use and amazingly user friendly, but at the same time, it has simply advanced potential that the home barista can unlock as he or she develops their skills, due to the extent of control (in some cases unrivalled, indeed at this price) that this machine offers over certain aspects of shot pulling.

So this is a machine that you could start with, and grow with – rather than beginning with a more entry-level machine and then upgrading. There’s one for you if you’re looking for ways to justify this purchase to the boss ;-).

The benefit of this over the more common approach of going for an entry-level single boiler or thermoblock machine is that although it’s mega user-friendly and modest to use, it’s also very temperature stable, thus removing one of the common hurdles (temperature instability) of using a more entry extent machine which can make things more complex & lengthen the learning curve.

Here’s a list of the main features off the top of my head, along with an explanation of what this truly provides you:

  • Dual Boilers | Pull shots and steam milk simultaneously
  • PID controlled (adjustable) brew boiler | Offers you temperature control and stability
  • Heat exchanger | for better temperature stability 
  • Temperature-controlled steam boiler | Instantly available steam with adjustable pressure
  • PID controlled Heated group head | Increases temp stability, stops the group head zapping the temperature of the coffee
  • Easy (via LCD) adjustment of brew temperature with a range of 86 – 96C | Allows you to get the perfect result with different roast profiles
  • Programmable timed shot buttons   | Allows you to control how long the shot flows for, extremely handy.
  • Programmable volumetric shot buttons (toggle between timed and volumetric via the LCD) | In theory, provides you better shot repeatability
  • Manual shot button | Allows you to bypass the shot buttons and pull shots manually on the fly
  • Easy (via LCD) adjustment of pre-infusion time from 0-90 seconds | Gives you further control of the shot
  • Easy (via LCD) adjustment of pre-infusion power (range of 55-99) | As above, further shot control but likewise in combination of the above this is a way to potentially pull some really special shots, however more on that later in this post.
  • Timed auto on (via LCD) | Suggests you can have your machine heated up and ready when you wake up
  • Digital shot timer | Implies you don’t have to mess about using the timer on your scales
  • Pressure gauge | Offers you a visual of the pressure being applied
  • Pro steam wand on a ball joint | Offers you excellent access to the wand with the jug, and provides you various wand position options
  • Steam lever, quite than a rotary steam knob | It’s just easier, less effort, and I find it in truth satisfying using a steam lever
  • Dedicated hot water spout | hot water for Americano / Lungo, and it’s a needle valve which lends itself as a potential flow profiling mod (more on this later)
  • Fast heat-up time | It’s heated up in around 5 minutes, an amazing for a dual boiler  machine
  • 2.5 Litre water tank, filled from the top at the front or by removing tank from rear | Big tank with different filling options suggests less filling and less faff.
  • 1.2 Litre drip tray capacity – with an “Empty Me” indicator | Big drip tray implies less trips to the sink to empty it, and the empty me indicator implies you don’t forget to empty it and end up with an over flowing drip tray. Why this isn’t a standard feature I don’t know
  • Really visible, LED lit water extent indicator | Again, why this isn’t basic I don’t find out, but it’s great to be able to see when you need to refill the tank
  • Digital tank empty warning | So even if you don’t notice the rather obvious reality that the tank is low, it’ll warn you via the LCD
  • Hidden moving wheel accessible under the drip tray | So when you do need to move it, to access the water tank for example, you don’t scratch your worktop or gain a hernia
  • Fairly Compact at literally over 37cm tall, wide and deep | Will fit in a lot of kitchens or coffee corners without too much of an issue
  • Internal cable tidy | So any cable not necessary is stored inside the rear of the machine, rather than looking messy

This isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s just the the majority of obvious stuff off the top of my head.  All this, and it’s one of the cheapest dual boiler espresso coffee machines on the market!

Sage Dual Boiler in my Kitchen.

Sage Dual Boiler in my Kitchen.

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By the way, if you’re buying it from Sage Appliances in the UK, it’s worth dropping me an email to see if I have an active discount code, simply in case.

Now for the bullet list of negatives. Are you ready?

  • I can’t find any!

As you’ll learn if you’ve read my other reviews, I review stuff very honestly, and I can always find the warts to make my reviews “warts ‘n all” – so far, I’ve never reviewed an espresso machine without being able to find some not so good stuff to speak about. 

With the Sage Dual Boiler, although, I honestly haven’t been able to find any.

I’ve only used the machine for a few weeks, so I will talk about potential long-term issues later on. on in this post, but these are from scientific research quite than from experience. 

If you’re concerned about longevity, even though, I ought to probably point out that the machine I’ve bought is over 6 years old, and has pulled around one thousand one hundred shots! 

I didn’t buy a new one purely because I was planning doing some mods to it, and I thought I might break it ;-), I likewise wasn’t expecting to be so impressed with it to the point that I wanted to keep it!

I bought it from an independent espresso coffee machine engineer who reconditions them. I picked his brains for technical info on the Dual Boiler when I went to collect, and the things he told me simply gave me most confidence about this machine when it comes to longevity – and my research since then has backed up what he told me.

Going back to my personal experience with this machine so far, the only undesirable thing I can mention is something beyond Sage’s control, and something you’ll find on other lately manufactured home espresso machines, which is the 15-minute auto-off due to this EC directive.

I’ll talk a little more about this later on., but by using the auto-on role and being a little bit bit more organized, this auto-off role could be an extremely good thing for the environment, although that’s not what I muttered under my breath the first time it turned itself off ;-).

Other than this even though, nothing undesirable to report.

The only way I’d be able to find negatives is by comparison, but only by making unfair comparisons. For example it’s obviously a lot bigger than the Bambino plus, so by that comparison it’s big.

It takes 5 minutes or so to warm up, so compared with the Bambino plus and Barista pro that’s slow.  It’s around three times the price of the bambino plus and roughly twice the price as the barista express, so by that comparison, it’s expensive.

However as I say, that’s only by creating unfair comparisons, as the Dual Boiler is a really different machine to the other Sage espresso coffee machines.

If you compare the Sage Dual Boiler to other dual boiler machines when it comes to these areas, warm-up time, size & cost, the Dual Boiler would usually come out on top.

If you compare the Sage dual boiler to other dual boiler machines, especially when it comes to temperature stability you’d have to search quite hard to find a machine that competes. 

It has proven in lots of SCACE tests to be similar in temperature stability to saturated group espresso coffee machines including the La Marzocco GS3, which is about six grand!

In terms of longer-term issues, obviously I can’t understand about such things from a few weeks of work with, however I’ve done some fairly extensive scientific research, and I can’t see a ideal deal of issues, and I’ll go to these in more depth a little later on. on in this article.

Yes, if you look through the Amazon reviews, although it’s largely positive you’ll find a few scathing reviews from people who’ve had problems, and you always will do with any espresso machine.

There has been a “valv error” which has caused a little bit of controversy in the past, which is where the machine gets its knickers in a knot during the descaling procedure, which you’ll find mention of if you do some googling.

I’ll cover this in more depth later in this post, however the long and short of it is to not let your machine get scaled up, as this appears to be caused by lumps of limescale being dislodged, usually during descaling, which stop the valves from working. 

This is why it’s so important to refresh the filter often enough depending on your water hardness, and to keep on top of descaling, or better still if you’re in a hard water area don’t use tap water. This goes for all espresso coffee machines. Any espresso coffee machine engineer will tell you that the greatest cause of damage is scale.

The other thing I’ve seen a few complaints about is the plastic group collar insert.

This is an incredibly low-cost part, and in all likelihood, it won’t go on your machine within a few years of use. If you’re buying one reconditioned, though, then I’d ask the seller to confirm this has been replaced, but I’ll talk more on buying recons a little later on. 

If you’re buying a new one, I in reality don’t think this is something you need to be concerned with.

To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything you need to be especially anxious with if you’re buying a Sage Dual Boiler brand new. They come with a 2 year warranty, if anything takes place within this period you’ll be looked after.

I’d literally suggest that once you’re out of warranty, you find someone to give it a service for you, replace the fundamental bits, O rings and so on, to prevent any small wear and tear issues causing anything much bigger. 

I’ve read a few complaints online about bigger issues, usually outside of warranty, and in lots of cases I suspect that these have been caused due to really insignificant issues such as a worn internal O-ring leading to some internal leaking which then triggers a much bigger problem. 

So, either basically before the warranty ends, or not long after, if you give it a once over or get someone to do that for you, and then just have this done on a yearly basis (maybe sooner, depending on how much use the machine gets) this must prevent any genuine issues from developing. 

So in short, the Sage Dual Boiler is a stonking machine for the price, and I’ve determined this from a combination of spending a few weeks so far utilizing the machine, and from a heck of a lot of science.

Sage Dual Boiler in my kitchen, excuse the mess

Sage Dual Boiler in my kitchen, excuse the mess

But Wait – is the Sage Dual Boiler the right machine for you?

I wanted to add this short section before I get into my more detailed review due to the fact that I don’t want my enthusiasm for this machine to lead anyone to buy this machine if it’s not right for them, and it’s not right for everyone.

This is the right kind of espresso coffee machine for me, truly, I’m keeping the machine I’ve used for reviewing as my main home espresso coffee machine. But this doesn’t mean it’s the right espresso coffee machine for you.

The first thing to keep in mind is that this is a home barista espresso coffee machine – that is, it’s a classic espresso machine, which will require home barista skills to operate. 

I can find out why some people would look at the likes of the Sage Oracle and Oracle Touch, determine that these ought to be the perfect, and then look a little closer to the middle in terms of cost, nevertheless that doesn’t work here because we’re talking about different forms of coffee makeking tool.

The Sage Oracle and Sage Oracle Touch are the same machine as the Dual Boiler in numerous ways, the same dual boilers, same triple heating system and so on, however there’s one major difference which is that the Oracle machines are aimed at bean to cup users, while the Dual Boiler is aimed at the home barista market.

Being a home barista is a hobby, it’s not just a case of buying a machine so you can press a button and get wonderful espresso and espresso-based drinks, there’s a genuine skill to it, and this is a skill which takes time and effort to master.

If you simply want to get a machine out of the box and press a button, meaning a coffee makeking equipment for you is literally simply a means to an end, and you’d rather pinch yourself very hard somewhere soft than to start a new hobby – then what you need is a bean to cup coffee makeking tool, not a classic espresso coffee machine.

Sage’s answer to bean to cup machines are the Oracle range, featuring the Oracle, and the imaginatively named touch screen version “Oracle Touch”.

They’re based on the Dual Boiler, and they’re capable of the same incredible quality espresso, however they’ve extremely cleverly built on-board barista skills into the machine itself so that you don’t need to develop them.

For more on the Oracle machines see:

Sage Oracle Review + Oracle Touch

If you want a bean to cup machine however you don’t have the budget to stretch to the Oracle machines, there are plenty of “normal” bean to cup coffee machines which are available at much lower prices.

To explain what I mean by “normal”.

Fundamental bean to cup machines compromise quality for the sake of convenience, which is perfectly fine – for many, it’s a compromise worth creating. The Oracle machines, although, provide the best of both worlds, the cup quality of traditional with the ease of use of bean to cup. 

The only downside is that the oracle machines aren’t cheap, there are a number of bean to cup machines which are much cheaper. For more on bean to cup machines see: 

Perfect Bean to Cup Coffee Machines

So with that said, let’s get on with the review in a little bit more depth.

Sage Dual Boiler Review in More Depth

Sage Dynamic Duo

Sage Dynamic Duo

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OK so if you’re still reading this now and you’ve not already gone off to buy this machine, you’re obviously someone who likes to in fact do their homework ;-), which isn’t a bad thing. 

Either that, or you just really love reading my stuff and you can’t close this post ;-), and if that’s the case, fantastic. 

Small things

Sage (Breville worldwide, they’re sold as Sage in the UK as they sold the brand name here in the 80s) simply are clever, they don’t tend to do things the same as everyone else. Instead they tend to look at the way things are currently being done and to ask if there a better way to do it which may be more convenient & user friendly.

Some of these features with the Dual Boiler are there to improve coffee quality, things like the high level of control over brew temperature and pre-infusion.

Some of them seem like truly small things and don’t relate to coffee quality, but they very make so much sense, you’ll wonder why all other manufacturers don’t do the same.

The cable tidy for example, I’m so used to having to try to tidy up cables on the worktop behind espresso coffee machines, as the plugs are fairly close so I usually don’t need the full cable length available. This internal cable tidy seems obvious, however it’s not something I’d usually expect to see on an espresso coffee machine.

The locking wheel is another example of this. It’s a fairly heavy machine, as dual boiler espresso machines tend to be, especially when the water tank is full, so being able to simply turn a dial to then move it in reality easily, simply steeps sense, and it’s not a standard thing at all. 

The tamper which slots into the tamper bay and is held magnetically, it literally steeps sense, you always understand where your tamper is. Unless you forgot to put it back in there of course, and put it somewhere daft.

The reality that you can really push the front of the top of the machine and the flap slowly opens up, for you to fill the tank from the top – or if you prefer, you can just remove the tank from the back, again simply little things like this make this machine so user friendly.

The little “Empty Me” paddle that pops up when the drip tray is full, it very brews sense, and you’d think drip tray full indicators would be a standard thing, but they’re definitely not.

The steam being started and stopped by a lever instead of a rotary valve. This isn’t something Sage invented, it’s something you’ll find on some commercial machines and some high-end espresso machines, but the vast majority of espresso coffee machines have a rotary valve, and having a lever just brews so much sense.

The fact that it has an auto on function, meaning you can set it to be ready when you wake up needing coffee, again this is something you don’t get on many espresso coffee machines, and it just brews sense. 

The storage tray behind the drip tray, allowing you to store bits like your other basket & backflush disk etc.

How easy they’ve crafted everything via the LCD, such as changing brew temperature, setting the preinfusion time and power, re-setting the shot button times or volumes if you choose to switch it to volumetric. 

It’s unlikely you’ll use a Sage machine and think “hmm, It would have been better if they’d done this…” due to the fact that if there was any better way of doing something, they’d probably have done it. 

Bigger things

OK so Sage are wonderful when it comes to the little things I’ve explained above, but there are some literally big things they’ve innovated with the Sage dual boiler. 

The dual boiler was a project that was around three and half years in the creating. Phil McKnight and the Breville team set out on what they refer to as a “blue sky project”, which truly implies a project without limits.

The basic approach to designing a new domestic espresso machine would be to try the best domestic machines on the market, reverse engineer them and look at making them mildly better. Nevertheless for this project, the purpose was “cafe quality espresso coffee at home” and they did their research based on commercial equipment, not domestic.

What they ended up with was not just something unique to domestic espresso machines, however something I think which is fairly unique even to commercial machines, and the long and short of it is that you end up with ridiculous temperature stability at a much lower cost than would usually be essential to achieve that. 

At the heart of this espresso coffee machine are a 950ml steam boiler, a PID controlled 450ml brew boiler, a heat exchanger and a PID controlled heated group.

Usually, you’d either have dual boilers, or you’d have heat exchanger, it’s not usual to have both.

A heat exchanger is a pipe which runs through the steam boiler, utilising the heat from the boiler to heat the brew water. 

Having dual boilers does away with the need for a heat exchanger, nevertheless what they figured out is that by using a heat exchanger, which is after all really a pipe so it’s fairly inexpensive, they can work with the heat of the steam boiler to bring heated water into the smaller brew boiler to avoid the thermal shock of pulling in cold water. 

Literally like the little things, the cable tidy, the locking wheel & so on, this seems such an obvious thing to do, to help with thermal stability, but it certainly wasn’t obvious until they designed it. 

Grasp that temperature stability is paramount, they didn’t stop here, they fitted heating factor to the group, and they fitted a temperature sensor in the group and a separate one in the brew boiler. 

They then installed two PID controllers (PID: Proportional, Integral, Derivative – an very technical name to describe what is simply a way to control the temperature with accuracy and stability) which independently receive feedback from these temp sensors, allowing them to work together to ensure that the brew temp the user has requested, is the brew temp that is delivered.

This is a big thing, it offers you amazing brew temperature accuracy and stability.

If you’re utilizing a light roasted bean, and you decide to up the brew temp to 96C for instance, when the LCD tells you you’re getting 96C, you’re going to be getting this temperature with almost unrivalled accuracy (unrivalled I’d say until you spend over double or possibly even triple the price).

There are numerous elements to getting a excellent shot of espresso, but one of the most important is brew temperature, if you’ve got that sorted, you’re a big jump towards excellent espresso.

Simply having PID control doesn’t give you this degree of accuracy. You can fit a PID to a Gaggia Classic or Rancilio Silvia, for example, nevertheless having a PID alone doesn’t give you the temperature stability or accuracy that this combination of technology and engineering inside the Dual Boiler provides. Likewise the entry degree Sage machines including the bambino plus, duo temp pro and the barista express and barista pro all have a PID, nevertheless they won’t provide this degree of precision.

It doesn’t stop there, either. Something else Breville did which is truly big, is when it comes to pump control.

By the way, just to add at this point, in case you weren’t aware and/or if you didn’t read this earlier in this article, what we know as Sage Appliances in the UK is known as Breville in most other countries, they sold the brand name in Europe in the 80s which is why we know of a different Breville here.

The pump in the Breville dual boiler is a fairly basic espresso pump, the Ulka EX5, which is a 15 bar pump used on various other machines. 

But Breville being Breville, they weren’t simply going to leave it at that ;-). They designed and patented a way to control the power of this pump, similar to using a dimmer switch, which allows the user to control not only the pre-infusion time, but likewise the pre-infusion pressure.

So well as being able to set the preinfusion time via the LCD (by pressing and holding the up and down arrows) within a huge range of zero to 90 seconds, you can likewise set the preinfusion power, and you can also determine the preinfusion manually by pressing and holding the “manual” button. 

This offers you most control over the shot, ane makes it possible to pull different shots to the usual zero or short preinfusion and a 25-30 second shot time. 

One of the opportunities this presents, is to allow you to pull what are mainly discussed as “Slayer like” shots, even without doing any modding. The Slayer being a brand of espresso machine with unique control over the pump pressure, which will set you back about ten grand.

With a machine like this which gives such control over pump pressure, you’re no longer restricted to the norm when it comes to pulling espresso coffee, and it’s possible to pull some incredible shots with the Slayer.

You can pull similar shots with the Dual Boiler basically by changing the preinfusion power to the minimum setting of 55 (via the LCD) and then pressing and holding the manual button, which keeps the machine in pre-infusion until you take your finger off the button, which you’d do when you start to see the first drips of espresso coffee.

I’ve pulled some incredible “slayer-like” shots with the Dual Boiler, by doing the following:

  • Grinding mildly finer than I usually would (At the moment I’m utilizing my Cranberry & Toffee blend, at approx grind size 7 on the Niche Zero, and I’d usually be at around 9 for this coffee)
  • Pre-infusion power set to the minimum, 55 – which you only have to do once but you can alter back at any time (by pressing the up and down arrows together, then pressing menu to toggle to “PP”).
  • Utilizing the bottomless portafilter, because it looks ace, and it offers feedback on what’s happening with the shot.
  • Pressing and holding the manual shot button, aiming for the first drips at around 20 seconds.
  • Releasing the manual shot button at that point, and continuing the shot at full pressure.

It’s likewise possible to go further than this, and do what is known as flow profiling, with the help of a scale which offers you flow data such as the Acaia Lunar, and with an extremely modest (and free, and entirely reversible) mod to machine which enables you to control the pump pressure via the hot water knob. 

I’ve found you can likewise back off the brew pressure very rather precisely without any mod, by just opening the hot water valve extremely mildly while pulling the shot, and in theory this does exactly the same, the only undesirable being that you waste some hot water.

If this is all beginning to sound actually complicated, don’t fret about it, all you need to understand is this machine has some very advanced capabilities if you get to the stage that you want to start providing them a try.

Why so underrated?

The Sage dual boiler, for me, is among the the majority of capable yet among the many underrated espresso machines currently available in the UK. Why this is, well there are probably a few reasons, nevertheless I think the main things are:

1) The tendency for people to judge a book by its cover

2) It may seem too good to be true

Re judging books by their covers, the Sage Dual Boiler doesn’t look like many other prosumer, or home barista espresso machines. 

Most people looking for a dual boiler espresso coffee machine would expect to find something looking like this:

ECM Synchronika Dual Boiler PID Espresso coffee Machine.

ECM Synchronika Dual Boiler PID Espresso coffee Machine.

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Something more along the lines of a retro-looking Italian made machine, despite the reality that in truth, ECM machines are German brewed ;-).

However the point is the likes of ECM, Profitec, Rocket, Lelit, and commercial espresso machine brands who likewise produce home machines including La Marzocco & La Spaziale, tend to produce machines which look the part. They’re crafted for the home but they do tend to look like scaled down versions of commercial machines.

The Sage Dual boiler looks more like the other Sage machines, which to some of the more seasoned home barista crowd looks too much like a modern kitchen appliance, and not enough like a classic espresso coffee machine. 

For some people this is a blessing. If you’re a coffee-swigging bloke with a tea-drinking wife (as I am) she might not be perfect pleased about you spending the cost of a decent holiday on a machine that will take up half the kitchen worktop & looks like it might come to life and attack her while you’re out.

Sage machines on the other hand, are crafted to fit in nicely in modern kitchens. They’re inoffensive to look at – they do look extremely much at home in a domestic kitchen. I think this is what offends the senses of some of the more hardcore home barista crowd who prefer their traditional espresso coffee machines to look like traditional espresso coffee machines. 

Some will say they look cheaper too, than other dual boiler espresso machines – but then, they are ;-), and they don’t look cheap to me, I’ve always really liked the look of Sage machines. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I think they say.

Re seeming too good to be true, the Sage Dual Boiler is a dual boiler machine, with a PID, with a heated group, and with most other features, for around the price of an entry extent heat exchanger machine. 

If someone launched a car that appeared to have all the same features as an Audi Q7 for the price of the Ford Mondeo, would you be sceptical? Well, you might not be, I might not be as I don’t know a thing about cars, nevertheless car enthusiasts would probably look down their noses at it for rather some time before finally accepting it, if it’s for genuine. 

This is literally what’s happened with the Sage Dual boiler. The home barista community has mostly come around to accepting this espresso coffee machine now for the fantastic machine it is for the relatively tiny price tag, with some of the the majority of well known and respected folk in this arena having come out to sing its praises more lately.

Potential issues in more depth

I think it’s important to accept that regardless of what espresso machine you buy, there are going to be issues further down the line. Whether this is in 3 years, 5 years or beyond, at some time your machine is going to need some TLC.

One of the reasons the home barista community were probably sceptical to begin with is that when this machine was newer, no one had had one for long enough to understand if there were any potential long-term issues, and the price of this machine does seem a little too good to be true.

It’s now been 10 years since the release of the Dual Boiler, so there are plenty of folk who’ve had these machines for long enough to have figured out the potential weak points and so on. 

For a huge thread on this, see Home Barista Forums – Breville Dual Boiler 5 years on.

What has come to light from the Home Barista forums, also from threads on the UK coffee forums, is that in terms of the issues that are likely to need dealing with, generally it’s just the regular stuff. 

If you’re fairly comfortable with taking things apart, most these things can be done DIY. If you don’t like getting your hands dirty, just have a look around to see if there’s an independent espresso repair engineer in your area.

The official repair firm in the UK for Sage are Coffee Classics, these guys are who Sage will refer you to, however being a bigger firm their minimum cost will probably be a little bit over the top for fundamental stuff like swapping out o-rings.

The a lot of common things are literally rubber seals and o-rings, which are just standard parts, really cheap & easy to get hold of and most of them are extremely modest to replace. The rubber seal on the group & the o-rings on the boilers are what most in the understand will usually suggest you replace after a couple of years as part of ongoing maintenance, and to check for any leaks internally which may mean the replacement of other o-rings.

In addition to this, the solenoid valves can start to get a little noisy, or “buzzy” after 5 years or so (making a loud metallic sounding buzz) nevertheless again this is a fairly cheap and easy part to replace. 

Any espresso coffee machine can develop bigger issues requiring major repair tasks, but from looking through the huge thread on the Home Barista forums and from speaking to engineers, I don’t believe you’re any more likely to encounter such an matter with a Sage Dual Boiler than any other dual boiler espresso machine.

Valve Error or “Valv Error”

As I pointed out in the nutshell review, you’ll find a few people complaining about this if you dig through Google effects.

I’ve done quite a little of scientific research on this, including picking the brains of the Sage Appliances team, and independent engineers, and this appears to be caused by large chunks of limescale causing havoc with the internal valves.

This can be caused if a number of scale has built up and is then dislodged in big lumps, either by the machine being knocked or by aggressive descaling solution. 

So the advice here is to regularly change your water filter based upon your water hardness, and likewise ensure you follow the descale schedule also depending on your water hardness. If you look after your machine and avoid severe limescale, it’s really unlikely you’ll encounter this issue. 

If you do get this error, see this guide on fixing it.

Group head collar. 

The other thing I’ve seen a few complaints about is the plastic group collar insert. This is an incredibly humble a cheap part sitting inside the group, which shouldn’t cause a problem, nevertheless it can do. If you do enough research study you’ll find one or two complaints about this, nevertheless I suspect that this is coming from reviews on reconditioned machines. 

As the dual boiler is a machine which can last a long time, and can be maintained and repaired, most them have sold reconditioned. This plastic part is in fact rather sturdy, I wouldn’t imagine it would need changing within a few years.

What I think may sometimes happen is that machines are sold which have had quite a bit of work with for several years, have had the basic bits replaced, the easier bits to alter such as the seal and the shower screen, internal screen and so on, O rings, maybe the solenoid, but this part has been missed.

If this does happen, which would be diagnosed if you’ve got water leaking through the group and you changed the rubber seal however that didn’t troubleshoot it, it’s an exceptionally humble part, nevertheless it’s fairly labour intensive, as you’ll need to remove the brew boiler. It in fact looks fairly straight-forward, I’m sure I could do it – and that’s saying something – however it doesn’t look like a five-minute job.

I’ve not found enough people talking about this to make me think it’s a especially common matter, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about it personally, if it does happen it’s fixable.

More on the Auto-off role

As I explained in the short review, the newer version of the Sage Dual Boiler, in the UK, have the 15 minute auto shut off. 

There are a couple of versions of the bes920UK Sage Dual Boiler, so if you’re buying a used or reconditioned machine you may end up with the version which doesn’t have the auto-off, which would have been made before this directive. 

While it did get on my nerves, to begin with, this isn’t the fault of Sage, and as I explained earlier, though it’s an annoyance it’s probably a helpful thing.

If I were left to my own devices, I might turn the machine on, let it warm up (5/6 minutes) get caught up with something, make a coffee an hour later, and have it in my head to make another one 10 mins later which turns into another hour. 

I’ve then wasted a load of energy, really through being lazy and disorganized. This is where this EC directive came from, I’m told.

Apparently, it was calculated that if just a quarter of people in Europe who own a coffee makeking tool, left their machine on for one hour longer than they required to before or after creating a coffee, this would equal the amount of energy produced in an entire year, by the Loviisa nuclear plant in Finland!

I think most us are at least by now starting to realise that we all need to start making some changes if we don’t want our great-grandkids to have to move to Mars, and I think having an auto-off on electrical appliances that are used a few times each day is a small sacrifice, personally.

I’ve found myself becoming (or at least trying to become) a little more organized when it comes to when I make my coffees, by utilizing the auto on, and then changing the auto-on after making my first coffee, so it’ll be warmed up and ready to go when I come to work with the machine again.

OK this doesn’t always work, at times I get caught up with something and the machine turns itself on and then back off again in 15 minutes, but the worst-case scenario is I need to wait about 6 minutes to make a coffee, not a big deal.

Who is the Sage Dual Boiler for?

So I’ve ranted on about this machine for a while now, you’ll see that I’m extremely positive about it, I think it’s remarkable machine especially considering the price, but the question now is – is it for you?

In my opinion, the Sage Dual Boiler is for anyone who wants to get into the home barista hobby, regardless of experience. I think it’s just as good a preference for the absolute beginner home barista as it is for the seasoned home barista. 

I’ve had a few emails from readers telling me that they’re new to home espresso and they can afford the Sage Dual Boiler, nevertheless they have it in their head that they’d be better starting out with a more entry-level machine such as the Bambino plus, and working their way up.

My answer is always that this isn’t quite right, extremely. In my opinion, the complete beginner would probably be better off starting with the Sage dual boiler than just about any of the other more entry degree machines, including all of the cheaper Sage espresso coffee machines. 

The reason for this is just that there are lots of variables to pulling best shots, grinding, tamping, dosing & so on – and if you start off with an espresso coffee machine with the temperature stability and accuracy that the Sage or Breville Dual boiler has, this is one variable out of the way.

The only reason I would start out with a more entry-level machine, personally, would be affordability. If you can’t afford to shell out this sort of money, then of course you need to look within your budget, nevertheless if you can afford to invest in a machine like the Sage Dual Boiler, I’d definitely suggest it.

Don’t be intimidated by the truth that it has some very advanced features, you don’t have to utilize these first of all. Actually, I’d hazard a guess that only a small percentage of Sage or Breville Dual Boiler owners even realize that their machines have these features.

On the other hand, if you’ve already been utilizing a more entry-level single boiler or thermoblock machine for a while and you were thinking of upgrading, I’d give the Sage Dual Boiler some serious thought, particularly if you were considering upgrading to the next logical step which would be a heat exchanger machine.

If you want some other home espresso coffee machines to consider before making a decision on what to buy this article may help:

Perfect Espresso Machines For Home Work with

Which is the perfect coffee mill for the Sage Dual Boiler?

The grinding machine is incredibly important, anyone who knows their stuff will tell you that, so if you’re thinking of buying the Sage Dual Boiler, you’ll need to carefully consider which grinder to pair it with. 

Sage Dynamic Duo

Sage Dynamic Duo

Check Price - Sage Appliances

Right then, this may sound confusing ;-), I’m going to tell you to buy a particular coffee mill, but I’m not necessarily going to advise that you utilize that grinding machine with your Sage Dual Boiler. Confused? You will be ;-). Actually kidding – I’ll explain. 

Sage Appliances are currently promoting their “Dynamic Duo” package, which gives you a huge discount on the Sage Smart Grinding machine pro, and this is a excellent grinding machine, see:

Sage Smart Mill Pro Review

I suggest this coffee grinder for brew methods, and I advise it as an preference when looking for a coffee mill to be paired with entry-level machines including the Sage Bambino Plus, Duo Temp Pro, Gaggia Classic & Rancilio Silvia.

So my advice is – buy the Dynamic Duo package while it’s giving such a discount on the smart grinding machine pro. Nevertheless, this doesn’t necessarily mean you must work with the smart grinding machine pro with your Sage dual boiler.

No doubt, this is a best grinder for the money – nevertheless, it’s a 38mm conical burr mill, with stepped adjustment albeit 60 of them so it’s not bad at all when it comes to fine-tuning, but I simply feel it’s a bit underpowered to pair with the likes of the Sage Dual Boiler.

I’ve not yet done blind taste testing and so on, so I have to hold my hands up here and tell you that I’m talking theoretically only, but in theory I’d usually think of pairing a machine of this calibre with among the Eureka Mignon grinders (my favourite is the Specialita) – the Baratza Sette 270, the Baratza Sette 270Wi, the Baratza Vario or the Niche Zero. 

We’re talking about £300-£500 grinders here, and personally, I’d suggest investing at least this type of money on the mill to pair with an espresso machine at this extent. 

If you have the budget, the Baratza Forte is worth considering, as are the Eureka Mignon XL and the Eureka Atom 65.

But regardless of which coffee mill you’re going to utilize, I’d say if you’re buying the Sage Dual Boiler, and you don’t buy the Dynamic Duo while that indicates getting the smart coffee grinder pro so cheap, you’re missing a trick.

What I’d advise is that you either start out utilizing the smart coffee mill pro with the Sage dual boiler, and then look at upgrading further down the line – or, even if you’re not planning to work with the smart coffee mill pro with your dual boiler, get the Dynamic Duo package, and then either sell the smart coffee grinder pro or utilize it for brew if you likewise work with manual brew methods. 

If you plan on re-selling it, that’s really easy to do – if you put it for sale brand new, unused, at the moment you’ll probably find that it sells very quickly at close to RRP, just because they’re out of stock so often and they rarely come up new for sale online, so you can put that profit towards your chosen grinder. 

If you likewise work with manual brew methods, although, I’d highly advise keeping the smart coffee mill pro, and using it for this.

The smart mill pro is ideal when it comes to really easily switching between brew methods, for example it’ll have no problem jumping up to cafetiere grind and then right back down to stovetop top. You could utilize one mill for espresso coffee and for brew, but the problem with that is if you do way out of espresso range to utilize the coffee mill for brew, you’ll have to dial back in again, which isn’t perfect.

Is the Sage or Breville Dual Boiler being discontinued?

Before signing off, I just wanted to handle this question, as it’s something I’ve read some rumours about. In truth if you Google Breville Dual Boiler, you’ll find one of the predicted searches is “is the Breville dual boiler being discontinued?”.

The answer: No, this is a myth.

I think this has simply come from the fact that the machine was out of stock with most re-sellers for quite a while, particularly in the States I think, due to issues stemming from Covid.

We’ve seen this in the UK with various espresso machines, truly, the Dual Boiler has been in stock at Sage Appliances and largely available on Amazon in the UK many the time over the past year or two, while machines like the Bambino Plus and the Smart Grinder pro have been out of stock quite a bit.

Anyway, it’s not true – I spoke to Sage Appliances, and they assured me that there are no plans to discontinue the Dual Boiler, which I’m very pleased about!

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This article to start with appeared at Coffee Blog – The UK Specialty Coffee Blog – For Lovers of GENUINE Coffee!