Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Review

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seekjim20

#1: Post by seekjim20 »

Hello everyone,

I've been using my Nuova Simonelli Oscar ii for little over a week now, and would like to share with you my impression of this machine. My previous espresso machine is Saeco Aroma / Capresso Infinity combo. So the Oscar ii is my first pro-sumer espresso machine. FYI, I'm using it with Baratza Vario.

Appearance
Oscar ii is big. Even though it is considered a compact, entry level machine, when it came it still surprised me a bit by its size. If you put it under the cabinet, it barely fits, without putting cups on the cup warmer. If you get the tank version, as I did, you'll have to move it out of the cabinet to fill the water every time.

On the flip side, it is very sturdily built. All metal cases, except the top with hard plastic for the cup warmer. It has a polished modern look, and will look great in all kitchens. I particularly like the portafilter, which feels very substantial in the hand.

Shot quality
I can't compare with other high-end machines, but I can definitely say it produces better shots than what I had with the Saeco Aroma, and even a lot of espressos from local coffee shops. The espresso comes out dark, syrupy, a lot of body, and flavorful. It doesn't come with a lot of crema in my favorite grind settings, but that could be my own preference. What I found is that if I grind slightly coarser, it produces a more crema, but slightly less flavor and body.

Milk texturing
I'm still learning the art, so can't say too much here. At the moment, I still can't produce the milk for latte art, but it is likely due to my own techniques instead of the machine capability. It does have a lot of power though, and the steam is very dry. If in a few months, the result is still not good, I will consider buying another steam tip.

Convenience
The big difference compared with the previous Oscar model is the programmable dosing. Unfortunately, this is also my least favorite feature at the moment. Due to some unknown reason, (which could be inconsistency in grinding, tamping, bean age), sometimes the coffee comes out very late. Does this mean that this machine is finicky with the grind, I'm not sure yet. Since it's a timed program instead of volumetric, it cuts off the pump too early, leaving one unable to salvage the situation by running it longer. Therefore, for beginners, I recommend not using the programmable dosing. Then there is no manual button on the machine, therefore every time, you have to go into the program setting in order to run a manual shot. Not too difficult, but a bit annoying.

Other differences are: default installation of a vacuum breaker. So put it on a timer and you are good to go. Water level warning, it completes the previous shot even if water level is low, instead of completely shutting down the machine, so thumb up there.

Other observations
It might be because I come from a single boiler machine. But Oscar ii is very sensitive to the temperature change inside the boiler. (it's pressurestat based instead of thermometer based) In other words, it has a small dead band. The boiler turns on frequently, and heat a little bit, and turns off again. This makes the boiler temperature more stable, which to me is a plus.

I believe Oscar ii has a similar behavior as preinfusion, even though when I called the technician and he told me that wasn't a designed function. What it does is when the pump is turned on, it pumps for a few seconds, and then stops for a second or two, and then it pumps again.

The portafilter group gasket seal is not very tight. I'm not sure if it is just my machine, but I did notice on a youtube video that the other user had a similar problem. If the protafiler is not sealed tightly (over the middle line), there will be a small water leak around the edge of the portafilter. I'm a bit hesitant to over tighten it, lest it damages the group gasket.

To summarize, I do believe that this is a very good entry level heat exchanger machine, just like its predecessor. It does require some additional learning, coming from a single boiler machine, but it's well worth it.

Like:
+ Well built
+ Good looking
+ Shot quality
+ Default vacuum breaker

Dislike:
+ A bit bulky
+ Programmable function

abw

#2: Post by abw »

Great review! I'm on the fence, bit I'll probably buy but wait until September and match it with a Baratza Sette.

Have you thought about doing a video review?

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russel

#3: Post by russel »

Are you sure that the dosing is timed and not volumetric? Online specs claim volumetric. Are you using a scale to weigh your in and out when programming?
russel at anacidicandbitterbeverage dot com

seekjim20

#4: Post by seekjim20 »

It's been a few months now. I'd like to give an update on the original review.

It turns out that my Oscar II had a small leak at the top of the boiler (side when it's assembled), where the wiring is connected. It started with a hissing sound when the boiler was hot. Initially I thought it's due to some over-pressure valve, and didn't pay much attention. But it got worse over time, and eventually I could see drips of water coming out of the bottom of the machine. I sent it back to Nuova Simonelli for repair. The turnaround was quick (about 1 week, not including shipping), and it's all free of charge, including shipping.

Now the machine runs even better than before. The dispensing of shots is much more reproducible, though I'm not entirely sure if it is due to the repair, or if it's just me becoming more dialed in with the machine. Now, I use 16 grams of freshly ground coffee, and I can get output within +-1 gram using the programming function. So now I start to like the program function, as I can just forget about the shot and focus on frothing the milk when I make a latte or cappuccino.

@ russel: yes, I'm pretty sure it's time based, not volumetric. You can also check the official brochure (http://www.nuovadistribution.com/images ... ochure.pdf) where it states that it's "timed dosing"

Nick Name

#5: Post by Nick Name »

Oscar II sounds really good and it is an amazing value (at least in Europe - for under 700€). If I were to buy my first machine, I would not look elsewhere.

I've been thinking about a Europiccola/Professional or a Ponte Vecchio for our family summer place, but now I have a keen eye on the new Oscar (I personally would love a lever, but other people who might use the machine won't) coupled with a reasonably priced grinder such as the Sette or Bezzera BB005 (it is a summer place, I'd use them only a few weeks per year). :?

It looks like we have a winner in the semi-auto entry-level price range. It's less than a couple hundred more than a Silvia (here in Europe).

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CoffeeBar

#6: Post by CoffeeBar »

Would it be great if you install the OPV in this Oscar II? I still wonder why this does not come with the machine as standard package. :(

http://www.elektros.it/ph/en/installazi ... AR_II.html

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tmaarten

#7: Post by tmaarten »

seekjim20 wrote: Then there is no manual button on the machine, therefore every time, you have to go into the program setting in order to run a manual shot. Not too difficult, but a bit annoying.
Hi,

I have programmed the "1 cup" button for 60 seconds and use it as a manual button. You can manually stop whenever you like. Isn't that a better solution?

I also think that is usefull for blindfiltering and descaling.

DeGaulle

#8: Post by DeGaulle »

seekjim20 wrote:In other words, it has a small dead band. The boiler turns on frequently, and heat a little bit, and turns off again. This makes the boiler temperature more stable, which to me is a plus.
So there is very little swing in the boiler temperature when the machine is standing idle.
Just out of curiosity: What about cooling flushes to get the brew temperature right? Did you try no-flush, long flush, short flush, flush 'n go, flush 'n wait etc. and notice any effect on taste?
Bert

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tmaarten

#9: Post by tmaarten »

CoffeeBar wrote:Would it be great if you install the OPV in this Oscar II? I still wonder why this does not come with the machine as standard package. :(

http://www.elektros.it/ph/en/installazi ... AR_II.html
I see water running into the driptray when I'm making espresso.. Is't that from a OPV?

TheJavaCup77

#10: Post by TheJavaCup77 » replying to tmaarten »

Do you have any pictures of the machine?

Does it have a different portafilter to the Appia and Aurelia..
It could be as complex or as simple as you want. It's the choice of the barista.