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Nuova Simonelli Appia Tour

Postby pitpat on Fri Jan 23, 2009 6:11 pm

The Elektra A3/T1 is a pretty popular machine here, so I figured I'd write up a little review on a comparable machine that isn't mentioned much here, the Nuova Simonelli Appia.

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I recently bought the 1 group automatic version off CL. According to the previous owner, it was used for a few months in a home, then was sitting in a garage for a year. The machine was in excellent shape when I received it. Just needed a good cleaning, descaling, and I need to replace the silicone 3-way drain tube that looks like a small rodent had for a snack. When I first saw the size of the machine, I was sure I would flip it and use the extra cash for a prosumer machine, but after using it for a month or so, it's a keeper. Right now it's plumbed in through a softener, filter, and regulator set to a little under 3bar. For draining I have a bowl under the machine I empty all the time. It'll eventually get nicely built into my new kitchen.

Stats:
5L copper boiler
Large (maybe 1L) HX
Plain 115 volt, 15 amp plug (cheap timers welcome)
1500 watt heating element
2-way lever controlled steam valve that can be locked on
Rotary pump
Sirai pstat
Must be both line and drain plumbed-in
Also available in semi-auto form, or with auto-steamer, with more fancy side panels

Outside:
The Appia is very big, probably too big for a typical kitchen, even by our standards. This is mainly due to its height (20" at a bare minimum, with holes drilled in the right spots in your counter). Without holes in the middle of your formica, it's probably 21/22" plus cups.

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The non-shiny, brushed SS is really easy to keep clean. Adjustable feet, also including super-tall NSF ones. Even with all the plastic panels, it weighs almost 100 lbs. The group has a lot of space under it, and NS includes a nice little wire shelf for our little cups. Dual dial for pump pressure and boiler pressure. Boiler water level sight, helpful for descaling. Very easy to clean drip tray.

Inside:

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Lots of empty space. High quality all around. Seems easy to service. Easy to adjust pstat and pressure. I'll insulate the boiler at some point.

Group:

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NS has a lot of information available online: part diagrams, prices, etc. It appears the Appia uses a different, but similar group to the Aurelia. Appears to use flow restrictors (on both hot and cold HX lines?) and maybe a preinfusion chamber in the group. My guess is this group suffers less from a "cold nose" problem than E61 types due to its mounting inside the machine and bulk of metal on the top of the group. 1 layer dispersion block, with 8-holes towards the center of the screen. I don't think a convex tamper is recommended for the Appia. I don't think there is much headroom between the screen and block. I don't have a Scace device, but here's a video showing another Appia's impressive temperature stability:

Usage:
The dosage buttons are easily programmed. The hot water button can also be programmed. The blue LED brightness can be adjusted. You can also select whether you want the pump to come on during autofill, or just use line pressure. It sometimes intentionally leaves the pump running during anticipated quick repeated autofill cycles, like when using hot water, to maybe reduce the on/off cycling of the motor. I keep the pump off for autofill, for noise reasons. The power is soft-button controlled, but when the plug is pulled, it remembers its on/off state, so timers can be used. Nice. Takes about 20 minutes for the pstat to first turn the heater off. I think it's about stable at 45 min.

Espresso & Steam:
I've been using a non-PID Silvia/Rocky for the past 2 years, and the Appia certainly is an improvement. I'll try to hold back on comparisons since I'm relatively inexperienced, and I'm still using the Rocky. I'm currently shopping for a much better grinder. I was getting pretty good at using the Silvia: WDT, temp surfing, even opening the steam wand for ghetto preinfusion. For what it's worth, the Appia is a dramatic improvement in consistency. Huge reduction in channeling, blonding comes later. The aroma and certainly the body of shots are improved. It was rare to get a decent single out of the Silvia; the Appia makes it much more possible. Steam dance ending easily heard with the PF out. Its steam performance is what you can imagine with 5 liters of superheated water and steam. It is a pleasure to use such a solid appliance.

Comparisons:
It's natural to compare this machine to the other 1-group beast HX machines, the Cimbali Junior and Elektra A3/T1. I have zero experience with the others, so pure opinion and speculation follows. Looks wise, the Appia is pulling up the rear, though it really is easy to keep clean. The Appia's modern HX and group were designed for excellent temperature stability. The internal plumbing of the Elektra and Appia are very similar, except the Appia uses a solenoid for hot water. I don't know much about the Cimbali's. Drink quality-wise, there probably isn't much of a difference between the three machines. Temperature stability and ergonomics may go to the Appia, while looks and size go to the others. No idea of the relative pricing. Someone send me a Scace and I'll get some hard numbers on stability and recovery.

Whew! Well, I hope this was helpful for those curious about this monster.
- John
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Postby Marshall on Fri Jan 23, 2009 7:27 pm

As you may know, the Aurelia, Appia's big brother, is the new official espresso machine for the World Barista Championship. So, I expect there is going to be a lot more discussion about them. Four of them were in service today at the Western Regional Barista Championship here in L.A., and I'll be interested to read any online comments from the competitors.

Knowing about the machine's sophisticated temperature control system, I asked one of the baristas how he adjusted it "on the fly." Just as with any other HX machine, he said he adjusted by flush.
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Postby puchang on Sun Jan 25, 2009 11:53 pm

First off, I am glad to see my Scace recording made its way to this thread. :)

I have been using my Appia for almost two years now. Suffice to say I am still very happy with it. Temperature wise the Appia has solid temperature performance thanks to its large HX (0.75L is the answer I got from an NS representative). I can adjust the temperature on the fly by flushing. On my unit (boiler pressure set at 0.8~1.0 bar), 2 seconds past the end of the water dance plus 20 seconds rebound gives 201~202F brew temperature. 4 seconds gives ~200F. 5 seconds gives 198~199F. The pattern is very consistent. After extensive experimentation with the Scace device, I found that the intrashot temperature fluctuation is around 0.5F (as shown in the video) when I use around 20 seconds rebound. Flush-and-go seems not as stable and consistent. But maybe that is just my unit. I use the 20 seconds to tamp, get rid of the residual grounds around the portafilter, and not worry about the rebound.

I do use a convex tamper for my machine. I think the group is very tolerant to any shape of the tamper bottom as long as there is appropriate headspace.

There is not much to say about steaming. I can only say that I am totally spoiled. Latte art is so much easier with appropriately steamed microfoam. This is a 5.5 ounce double cappuccino:

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My coffee buddy (javacat) is waiting for the arrival of the set of flow restrictors NS people install in the WBC Aurelias. He will try those in his Appia. But for now, I am a happy espresso and short milk drinker. Only occasional lust for the Speedster and Robur-E. :P
- Pu-Wen
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Postby Marshall on Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:10 am

At the WRBC today I asked some of the baristas if they were taking advantage of any of the Aurelia's sophisticated temperature adjustment features. They said they hadn't gotten into that and were just adjusting by flush as with any HX machine.
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Postby shadowfax on Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:38 am

Wow, John, thanks for the write up. It's helpful to have this simple type of information available on equipment that hasn't been officially tested. There's an incredible amount of room inside that machine... very nicely laid out. It looks like it would be a pleasure to work on (service wise). How easy is it to get to the pump pressure adjustment? That was the only feature I did a double take at. Seems like a strange orientation for the pump to me.

Have you thought about insulating the boiler?
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Postby Beezer on Mon Jan 26, 2009 2:12 am

Thanks for the write-up. I've been wondering why more people looking for a high-end single group machine don't look at the Appia. It's definitely a very nice machine, and should compare favorably with some much more expensive machines. Currently, Chris' Coffee is listing the Appia for $3,240 for the semi-auto version, versus over $4,500 for the Elektra A3. The money saved on getting the Appia would pay for a nice grinder.
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Postby Lockman on Mon Jan 26, 2009 3:40 am

Hey John,

Sweet machine! Congrats on your find. Write up is great. I am keeping my eyes open on the pacific coast for a used one as well.

Nice Latte art Pu-Wen Chang ! :)
LMWDP #226.

"It takes many victims to make a culinary masterpiece"
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Postby pitpat on Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:27 am

Thanks for the replies everyone.

Pu-Wen, thanks for posting your flush routine. I've been doing something similar, though not quite as long a rebound. I'll try it out.

Shadowfax: Adjusting the pressure is not too hard. Take off the drip tray and 2 screws for the plate under it. The adjustment screw is facing down on the pump. Or if you're superman just tip the machine up and get it from the bottom. I plan on insulating it, just trying to decide what material. Plenty of space.

In a previous thread I asked what this meant in the manual:
"1. Enabling the pump during levelling. Use the 1 espresso key to set pump enabling during levelling: if the key is lit, the pump is enabled together with the level; if it is switched off, the pump is not enabled with the level function"

They're trying to explain how to disable the pump during autofill. Here's a better translation:
Go into setup mode by holding down the continuous key until everything blinks. Then, while holding down the continuous key, press the double espresso key. The lights should change and you're in the double-secret setup mode. Now if the light for the single espresso is lit, then the pump is on for autofill. Press the single espresso key to toggle. Press the blinking double cappuccino key to change brightness. Press continuous a couple times to get out of setup. I'm pretty sure this only applies to the auto model.

I'm curious to hear about the Aurelia flow restrictors.

- John
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Postby webgelato on Thu Sep 09, 2010 3:33 am

I've just bought the Appia and this thread was useful for my choice. Thank you Pu chang and pit pat

Concerning restrictors from Aurelia i would like to hear from someone who has made the changes. Which one was used?
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Postby Javacat on Thu Sep 09, 2010 1:39 pm

Luc, the restrictors you need are a .5 for the flow meter and a 1.75 in the group (can be ordered from Nuova Simonelli). Once you swap these out your group will run cooler by about 2-4 degrees. I had to drop my pressurestat down to about 1.1 also, but now I consistently get 201 -202F at the puck as opposed to the 203 -205F previously. I use a flush and go routine - I flush about 1-1/2 - 2oz then pull my shot. Hope this helps.

-Matthew
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