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Question about Oscar
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Tobb
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Joined: 6 Nov 2013
Posts: 25
Location: DC
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Wed Nov 6, 2013, 6:04pm
Subject: Question about Oscar
 

Well it has been a long strange trip. I started off in March with a Breville Single boiler HX. I quickly realized it was not good. I found some work arounds to make acceptable espresso (not pucker up bitter). I have decided to step up but I want to try to take a couple steps but budget is a real limiter.

First is a used Oscar a huge step up? I thought it was but I have seen some HX hate in the last couple of days? The answer is small, like Silva, or double boiler. I think double boiler is simply out of my range. I thought the Oscar would be my answer to solid espresso and milk drinks for the years to come.

Lastly I have a chance at a Oscar, said to be used only 30 or 40 times probably a few years old for $600 and a long drive (2 to 3 hours). Is there any issue with the lack of use? Is this a good price?

Thanks in advance! Have to make a quick decision so sorry for lack of introduction. I am a long time reader.

Dan
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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,030
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Wed Nov 6, 2013, 7:45pm
Subject: Re: Question about Oscar
 

I think it is a great starter machine, but I would want to pay less than 600.

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

My coffee treasure map...
Click Here (maps.google.com)

Oscar trick out: http://s156.photobucket.com/user/GandBteam/story/14231
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Tobb
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Joined: 6 Nov 2013
Posts: 25
Location: DC
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Wed Nov 6, 2013, 8:09pm
Subject: Re: Question about Oscar
 

Thanks for the reply!

I am going to sleep on it and see if there are more replies to potential issues. If you had time on your side, and $500 to $600 for used machine, what would wait to pop on craigslits/ebay/ forums?

Thanks,
Dan
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boar_d_laze
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Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,256
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Wed Nov 6, 2013, 8:19pm
Subject: Re: Question about Oscar
 

Cheap Breville:
Breville doesn't make a single boiler HX.  Single boiler and HX designs are not only different, but mutually exclusive (i.e., "either/or").  I could be wrong, but I believe Breville doesn't make either type, only making thermocoil and double boiler machines.  

Silvia
No.  There's no good reason to buy a Silvia anymore.  It's a design well past its time.  If you absolutely, positively, must have an SBDU (single boiler dual use) machine, buy a Gaggia Classic.  It's better, cheaper, and can be set up with a PID as effectively.  Personally, I wouldn't consider an SBDU for myself or as a gift -- but some knowledgeable people are enthusiastic.  

Oscar:
Used machines can only be judged individually.  I can't give you a dollar value without knowing significantly more.  

The Oscar group is pretty basic, and not very stable.  There is no good way to make an Oscar "pre-infuse, and its made without a vac breaker -- which means you can't warm it up with a timer.   On the other hand, the group is adequate, far better than a Silvia, e.g.; the boiler is decent sized; recovery time is adequate; the machine is a good steamer -- especially compare to a CC1; and a vac breaker can be added by a reasonably proficient DIYer.  

False HX Preconceptions:
HXs in general and Oscars in particular aren't much more difficult to master than double boilers, but far easier than SBDUs (like Silvia).  The truth is that , the major part of temping is "dialing in" (establishing the right temp for a given bean), and that's entirely palate driven.  A digital readout -- PID or otherwise -- is no help.  Furthermore, you have to understand that coffee's aren't that tempramental, and the "right" temperature is a roughly four degree farenheit range.  Once you have enough basic understanding, palate  and technique earn to control temperature to dial in, it's almost as convenient to return to whatever temp you want with an HX as it is to set a DB's PID.  

DBs have a huge advantage over traditional HXs -- at least HXs without elaborate thermo-compensation -- in busy, cafe settings.  In residential use, not so much.  However, some people are more comfortable using DBs -- and more power to them.  Don't forget appearance, ergonomics and touch.  You're going to be living with your espresso machine for years.  Youse pays yer money, youse takes yer cherce.  

Bottom Line:  
An Oscar is a decent, entry-level HX which is priced (new) very fairly.  It's nearest competitor for price/performance is probably the Astra Pro; the Breville Double Boiler is also around the same price, considerably friendlier (pre-infusion, stabilized group), far more consistent, but not so well built.  At not much more than $600, the Crossland CC1 (v. 1.5) is also much easier to use than an Oscar, but nearly as solidly built nor as good a steamer.  As you'd expect from their respective prices, an Oscar is a lot better than a Silvia, but not nearly so good as- say - a Vetrano.  

GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER
The money you spend on the grinder carries bigger penalties and rewards than that spent on the machine.  There are limits below which you cannot go and still make acceptable coffee.  Figure $300 minimum for something adequate (new Baratza Preciso), $400 for something good (Baratza Vario factory refurb).  Remember that until you spend significant money, an espresso grinder (no matter how adjustable the manufacturer claims it is) must be used "espresso only."  

Hope this helps,
BDL
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Tobb
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Joined: 6 Nov 2013
Posts: 25
Location: DC
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Nov 7, 2013, 7:51am
Subject: Re: Question about Oscar
 

Thanks for all the great info!

I current have a Breville BES870XL. To get it to make a noneterrible espresso I have to put HOT water in the reservoir then run several blank double shots to get everything up to temp. It's not made well and the results are tough.

I am planning on getting a couple of Baratza Varios, have to have decaff for the wife. I will have one shortly the other will be around Christmas.

Thank you for putting the Silva and the SBDU to bed for me. I really just want to stay away from Breville they are made to look nice and have lots of whistle and bells and then takes a hit to the build quality.

Funny you went to the CC1, that was my second choice. Just not sure the CC1 will be running like a champ in five years.

I am happy to put $30 and a bit of time to install a vac breaker, I am guessing I would do other mods. Appearance is not very important to me. It just needs to blend in, not BLING out. What should I look for while inspecting a used Oscar? Any good or bad signs?

Again thanks so much for the time and info!

Dan
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DanoM
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Joined: 20 Mar 2013
Posts: 372
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Bezzera Strega, '84 La...
Grinder: Compak K10, Kludge grinder,...
Posted Thu Nov 7, 2013, 7:51am
Subject: Re: Question about Oscar
 

boar_d_laze Said:

There is no good way to make an Oscar "pre-infuse, and its made without a vac breaker -- which means you can't warm it up with a timer.

Posted November 6, 2013 link

My opinions based on my Oscar:
I do miss the ability to pre-infuse with the Oscar, but since it has a vibe pump it does take a 1-2 seconds to hit max pressure.  Not an ideal pre-infuse, but it gives you a second to turn on the pump for pre-infusion and turn it off for a couple seconds if it works for you.  I stopped bothering about pre-infusion on the machine and just pulled the shots.  The machine works out fine.

You can put these on a timer even with out a vacuum breaker.  I use the steam wand for my faux vacuum breaker:  Typically you have to open the steam wand 1-2 full turns to get the steam to start coming out, so I open the steam valve 1/4-1/2 turn and leave it that way for the timer.  When the machine is hot there is no steam coming out at that level, but when cool some air does pass.  When the machine cools it will pull air through the barely open steam valve, and as it is coming up to temp it will automatically bleed out the dry air from the boiler until the valve heats up and seals again.

A real vacuum breaker would be better, but the steam wand valve trick works pretty well too.

Temp stable groups aren't a huge problem for me since I only run a few espressos a day.  A quick flush until the 'dance' stops while prepping the portafilter or tamp, few seconds pause and then the pull.  Fits nicely in the process once you get used to it.
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Tobb
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Joined: 6 Nov 2013
Posts: 25
Location: DC
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Nov 7, 2013, 8:21am
Subject: Re: Question about Oscar
 

Thanks for the info. I think the Oscar will be fine for me. I want to be able to pull two or four double espresso per session. About 2/3 of the time they will be made into a milk drink.

I don't want sour or bitter.

There is enough enthusiast out there that love the Oscar that I know it can do what I need.

Now do I drive 3 hours for a barley used older machine for $600 LOL.

Dan
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DanoM
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Joined: 20 Mar 2013
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Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Bezzera Strega, '84 La...
Grinder: Compak K10, Kludge grinder,...
Posted Thu Nov 7, 2013, 10:04am
Subject: Re: Question about Oscar
 

Tobb Said:

Now do I drive 3 hours for a barley used older machine for $600 LOL.

Posted November 7, 2013 link

If it is truly barely used then it MIGHT be worth it, but that depends on the maintenance that has been performed.

I purchased an Oscar for $250, had to replace the controller $150, had to replace the heating element (partially my fault for not disconnecting when testing out the controller issues) $60, bottomless portafilter $60, backflush blank insert $10?, and some detergent $5, new group seal $6, some time and effort to descale the whole system, clean it out, deal with drain tube issues, ...  All in all I have between $500-$600 into this machine and it works great.

Since you are buying used you might want to try and talk the guy down a little bit.  $400 would be a better price for an older machine, and many seem to have problems with the controllers.  (I've read that water can get to where the controller is on these machines when the OPV triggers, and this is what leads to failures.  I haven't gone in to verify or inspect that myself.)
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Tobb
Senior Member


Joined: 6 Nov 2013
Posts: 25
Location: DC
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Nov 7, 2013, 10:50am
Subject: Re: Question about Oscar
 

My assumption is that they bought this set up and just never got into it. Then it just set there for years. So applying what I know about machines and gaskets, even slightly used long sitting unused can be very bad.

I would also assume it has had no maintenance.

edit:
So if I was to drive the 1:30 and open it up with a screw driver what should I look for?
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calblacksmith
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calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,772
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Thu Nov 7, 2013, 12:20pm
Subject: Re: Question about Oscar
 

The BES870XL is a thermocoil machine, not even a SBDU and positively not a HX.

I agree that for a used machine that price is on the high end, about what I paid for my first Oscar, an open box, new but slightly less than new condition machine.

There isn't much that just looking at it will tell you. It should be clean inside, no rodents should have made a home in there either. The best test is to put water in it, plug it in and turn it on. If it operates well, it likely is OK, if there are problems, the problems are wedges to get a better price. For the most part, there isn't much to go wrong inside Oscar.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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