Miele Capricorn


Avg. consumer rating = 83/100 

If you want quality and don’t like to compromise then the Miele Capricorn may be the right vacuum cleaner for you (recently replaced by the Complete C3 Brilliant).  It is made in Germany, has a life expectancy of some 20 years, and comes with many, many features.  The Miele S5981 Capricorn is the top end of the Miele Canister vacuum cleaners and, as expected, it also gets very good ratings from owners.  The downside of this machine is that it is expensive.

A review of consumer comments provides insights into Capricorn likes and dislikes.  In this case we can see that the pros outweigh the cons.

- Vacuum has the feeling of quality – well designed, well built
- Very quiet
- Powerful suction
- Filtration works well leaving air fresh (HEPA filtration, activated carbon and a sealed system)
- Controls are easily accessible on the handle
- The SEB-236 Power brush is very good on pet hair
- Good on both carpet and bare floors (has attachments for both)
- Canister moves easily
- Vacuum hose rotates 360 degrees and does not tangle or kink
- The Power brush comes with a bright light (and 5 height settings)
- Adjustable suction controls on the handle
- Automatic power cord rewind
- Attractive styling
- Changing bags is easy and clean

- Expensive machine
- Power cord is a little short
- Some folks feel it is too heavy

Consumer ratings were found on several sites but this is a relatively small sample size (72 ratings).  Also as of October, 2017 we have updated the ratings for this vacuum and as it was replaced by the Miele Complete C3 Brilliant canister vacuum we are now using the ratings for that vacuum.

Ratings Updated October 2017
 Source  Consumer Ratings  #Ratings
 Amazon  4 stars out of 5  62
 Williams Sonoma  5 stars out of 5  5
 Mr Vac & Mrs Sew  5 stars out of 5  2
 Sylvane  5 stars out of 5  3


The Miele Capricorn is powered by a 10.2 amp 1200 Watt vortex motor. Miele motors are robust and use lifetime lubricated ball-bearings as well as fan blades designed to optimize airflow and increase motor efficiency.  As a result this motor has a 1000 hour life expectancy and a 7 year warranty.

The Capricorn comes standard with HEPA filtration - a feature that removes pollen, ragweed, pet dander, dust mite feces, etc. from the air.  This level of filtration is popular with folks suffering from allergies or asthma. In addition the vacuum uses “sealed system construction” which ensures that all air entering the vacuum passes through the filters before it is exhausted.  Vacuum cleaners without a sealed system often allow dirty air to bypass the filters or simply leak out of the casing back into the environment.  The air exiting the Miele Capricorn is truly HEPA filtered.

The HEPA filter on the Capricorn is an Active HEPA filter which means it also contains a layer of activated charcoal.  This extra layer removes odors from the air – certainly useful if one has pets.  The HEPA filter has a lifespan of about 1 year (or 50 hours of use) and there is a change filter indicator on the vacuum to tell you when a change is needed.

Miele take dust elimination seriously and this also extends to their approach with the Capricorn vacuum cleaner bags.  The bags used in this machine have 9 layers of electrostatically charged material that helps trap dust.  The bags also come with a spring loaded self-sealing collar so that dust will not escape during a bag change. In addition, there is a quick snap hook that helps in removing a vacuum bag and disposing of it without getting dirty or releasing dust back in the air.  The bags are quite large with a capacity of 4.76 quarts and are “AirClean Dustbags (Type G/N - S5 Series)".

Miele SEB236
Miele SEB236 Powerhead

Two different cleaning heads are provided with the Capricorn.  One for deep cleaning of carpets (the SEB 236 Powerhead) and the other for vacuuming hard surfaces (the SBB300-3 Parquet Floor Brush).  The SEB 236 is a powered nozzle with a 13.4 inch wide brushbar (that can be turned on or off) and a swivel neck for extra maneuverability. It also has 5 height settings which can be adjusted via a foot pedal/button.  This allows one to adjust the nozzle to the optimal cleaning height for different carpets.  The powerhead also sports a headlight and rubber bumper guard to limit scrapes and scuffs.

Miele Parquet Floor Brush
Miele Parquet Floor Brush

The Parquet Floor Brush is a hard floor tool and can be used for vacuuming tile, hardwood floors, laminate and other hard, smooth surfaces.  The natural bristles will not scrape flooring and the unit is also very maneuverable as the head can turn a full 90 degrees.  In addition, the Parquet Floor Brush head is low profile which allows it to easily get under low furniture.

Many owners are pleasantly surprised at the low noise level produced by the Capricorn.  This has been made possible via a noise optimized fan and the addition of silence insulation.  Some owners claim that they can easily hear the phone ring when they are vacuuming – something they could not do with their previous brand of vacuum.

Tools that are stored on-board (inside a small compartment on the canister body) include:

- a crevice tool
- a dusting brush (has soft, natural hair bristles)
- an upholstery tool (features lint catcher strips on both sides of the nozzle)

There is also a telescopic stainless steel wand that has 18 different length settings.  The wand securely attaches to the hose and to the tools.  It also conveniently clips on to the side of the vacuum.

Miele Capricorn Handle
Miele Capricorn Handle

Many an owner is impressed with the vacuum cleaner control buttons and the LED display panel on the handle of this machine.  Controls at your fingertips include a standby button that will “pause” the vacuum for a short while without turning the motor off, power nozzle on/off (this turns the brushbar in the SEB 236 on and off), and suction adjustment. The suction is adjusted via power level buttons and there are 6 different settings (from 300 to 1200 watts) – each for a specific use:

• Curtains, lightweight fabrics
• Upholstery, cushions
• Thick pile carpets, rugs and runners
• Energy saving, daily vacuuming with low noise level
• Low pile carpets
• Hard flooring and intensive cleaning of carpets

Different icons illuminate in the LED display to indicate which setting you are on.  Vacuum power on/off is controlled by a footswitch on the canister body.

Additional Miele Capricorn features include automatic cord rewind (activated via a step-on button), an airflow indicator which will let you know if there is an obstruction or if you need to change the bag, and overheating protection.  Overheating protection immediately shuts the vacuum off if for some reason (like an obstruction) it begins to overheat.

Despite the wide range of features and tools on this machine, Miele have managed to keep the weight very reasonable at about 13 lbs (canister only).  With its carrying handle it can easily be moved about the house or up and down stairs.  The canister is also easy to pull along and turn as it rolls on 3 swivel casters that rotate a full 360 degrees.   The Capricorn is advertised as having a 33 foot operating radius but this translates into a 21 foot power cord, which frankly is a little short.  This has been brought up by a few owners.  The hose on the s5981 is electric (uses the SES130 Electric Hose) and is also crush proof.

Miele recommend the Capricorn for medium to high-pile or plush carpeting, area rugs and all smooth flooring.  It carries a 1-year warranty on parts and labor and a 7-year warranty on the motor.

NOTE:  You'll have a hard time finding this machine now and it has been replaced by the Miele C3 Brilliant.

Miele Capricorn Manual
Check out the vacuum manual here.  It is quite detailed and provides insights into the vacuum features and accessories, as well as maintenance advice.


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About Me


I'm Nigel Russco, a 50 year old professional engineer who loves to review vacuums, and I’ve been doing just that since 2008.  

I strive to write unbiased, intelligent vacuum cleaner reviews and I provide a score for each and every vacuum I investigate.  My goal is to help you find the best vacuum for your cleaning needs.

Also, watch my video reviews on the Vacuum Cleaner Advisor YouTube Channel.