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Nemox Opera - Greg Pullman's Review
Posted: July 21, 2002, 5:23pm
review rating: 8.9
feedback: (3) comments | read | write
Nemox Caffe Dell'Opera (Napoletana)
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Arrow The Nemox Opera has 10 Reviews
Arrow The Nemox Opera has been rated 8.22 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since June 14, 2002.
Arrow Nemox Opera reviews have been viewed 76,433 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Alan Chen 9.00
Greg Pullman 8.92
Cal Cotter 6.71
Jared Simpkins 6.67
Tim Collins 6.33

Previous Review  
Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 9.2
Product Reviewed: Napoletana II
Manufacturer: Quaha Quality: 9
Average Price: $650.00 Usability: 8
Price Paid: $380.00 Cost vs. Value 10
Where Bought: Coffee for Connoisseurs Aesthetics 10
Owned for: 4+ years Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Kenwood Cremissimo ES571
Bottom Line: Unbeatable value for money; excellent results and quality. Highly recommended!
Positive Product Points

Excellent value for money and quality. Built-in burr grinder produces consistent grind. Heavy chromed brass portafilter. All brass internals, and stainless steel body. Easy to get consistent excellent results.

Negative Product Points

Built-in tamper too small. Steaming wand a bit too short. Tank removal is difficult.

Detailed Commentary

Although I didn't actually own the Kenwood, I bought it for some friends and made good use of it. I was quite happy with the results, at the time I wasn't really into espresso at all, and it made quite drinkable cappuccinos. I'm still not an espresso drinker particularly, I prefer milked coffee, but this machine has the capability to produce top results in both categories.

The Napoletana is exactly the same as the Junior, except the Junior doesn't have the grinder. Any comments about the brewing part of the Napoletana should be equally applicable to the Junior.

The Napoletana represents excellent value for money. To get a machine with a 300ml brass boiler, 3-way solenoid valve, full stainless steel body (not black plastic as shown in this picture), solid chromed brass portafilter, built-in burr grinder with infinite worm-screw adjustment which can go from large chunks of bean to Turkish dust and beyond, all for under $400 is truly excellent value for money. Considering the price of the Rancilio Lucy, which is at least double, the Napoletana's obvious strength is its exceptional value for money. For close to the same price, or even more in some cases, you can buy an over-rated, plastic, gimmicky thermoblock machine. There's really no decision to be made!

The instructions were originally written in Italian, so the English translation isn't perfect, but is readable. http://www.coffeeco.com.au/Napoletana_Instructions.html provides a much more understandable version.

Filling the water tank is the first (of only a couple) disappointment with the machine. It's difficult to get the tank out, because two rubber tubes need removing from the top of the tank before it can come out. Once these are removed, it's still a squash to get the tank past these hoses (there's no room for them to be moved out of the way when removing the tank, so they get a bit squashed). It's not that hard to fill the tank in situ, and adequate drain holes are located beneath the tank, so it doesn't matter if some water spills during this process. The tank holds a generous 3.5 litres, and two cutouts in the machine's body provide instant line of vision to the water level within the translucent tank.

The bean hopper holds around about 125g of coffee beans (very approximate, haven't measured it), which does leave one with a bag of opened beans to store somehow. But I keep them sealed in the fridge anyway, they keep a lot better there than sitting in the hopper, so this isn't really an issue with me. Anyone serious about maintaining the life of their beans shouldn't be storing them at atmospheric conditions in the hopper anyway (unless you keep your espresso machine in the fridge...!).
The grind selection is made via a knob on the righthand side of the machine, which rotates the hopper and thereby provides a visual readout of the current grind selected, via the 1-12 scale marked around the hopper's exterior. Once the correct grind is selected (I've used setting 4 so far), grinding can commence. By placing the 1 or 2 cup basket in the portafilter handle, the portafilter assembly is then pressed between two locating forks on the right side of the machine. This contacts a switch which activates the grinder, and dispenses ground coffee directly into the portafilter. The grinder is noisy, but not objectionable. A plastic shroud directs the ground coffee into the portafilter, although this would ideally be located a little further back, as it dispenses the ground coffee fairly close to the handle end of the filter basket. This should be simple to adjust though (only had the machine 4 days when writing this review). It requires shaking and tamping a few times to get a basket full of firmly tamped coffee. As mentioned, the tamper is really too small, and requires some practice to get an even tamp across the whole filter, but again, this should be simple to modify. A silly design oversight which could and should have been corrected by now, but one which doesn't present the user with any major or unworkable issues. (Note: I have since manufactured a 57mm stainless steel tamper to take the place of this unit. If you have one of these machines and are interested in upgrading your tamper, go to http://www.coffeetamper.com.au)

Once the coffee is all tamped, the heavy portafilter locks positively into the grouphead assembly. The group is of the older overhead stainless showerscreen design, as opposed to the water distribution system on the Silvia, which is now the 'commercial standard'. Having said that, I found no problems at all with the system used in the Napoletana. On activation of the brew switch, rich, full, crema-loaded espresso appears in the cup. Due to the tamping issue, it's not always possible to get entirely consistent distribution into two separate cups, so it can be better to make the full shot into one cup, and then tip half into the second cup. Practice, though, does yield fairly consistent distribution.

Once the brew switch is turned off, the 3 way valve releases pressure from the grouphead, and drains this into the generous 1.3 litre removable drip tray. It's surprising how quickly this fills up, and you'd probably want to be emptying it every 6-10 brew cycles. Much better that be the case, though, than having hot water and coffee going everywhere, as can happen without the 3 way valve. The Napoletana I didn't have the 3 way valve, the II does (II was released in April 2001). The Silvia only has a drip tray capacity of about 600ml, so I imagine this would need emptying on an even more regular basis. I did notice that water can get under the drip tray, and I'm not quite sure where this comes from - perhaps it was from filling the water bottle or from the steam wand dripping, I'm not sure. In any case it's not a large volume, but you can sometimes get a bit of water running from the base of the machine.
After a couple of minutes, it's easy to extract a nice firm puck from the portafilter.

Steaming milk is a simple exercise. The steaming wand has two switches - one for steam and one for hot water. The steam one is obvious, the hot water one allows hot water to pass out of the wand, which can be handy for Americanos (long blacks), hot chocolate, tea or whatever. It's also useful for refilling the boiler after a steam cycle, and cleaning any milk from inside the wand.
The steam circuit takes under a minute to get to temperature, and there's plenty of steam available. Though the unit does come with a 'froth enhancing cylinder', a little practice should yield excellent results without this, and the wand level can easily control when it froths and when it heats. The wand itself is a little short if you've got a big jug with not much milk. But then at least you can still have the wand at the top of the milk level when the froth is getting near the top, without the jug hitting the bench top. I guess if the whole machine sat a little higher, a longer wand would be good, but this isn't a major inconvenience. The unobtrusive overall size of the machine is worth any inconvenience with the steam wand.

Once the milk's all frothed, the hot water switch cleans the wand out and refills the boiler. The area on top of the machine, while not an element-heated area, gets quite warm from the boiler located directly beneath it, and is large enough to hold at least 4 full-sized mugs. The overall exercise from switch-on to cleaned up can take under 5 minutes. The drip tray grates aren't as sturdy as the Silvia's (Napoletana has separate drip trays for the grinder and group), but they are quite adequate. I generally fit the appropriate sized filter basket to the portafilter, and lock it into the grouphead when turning the machine on. That way it warms up with the rest of the internals, so by the time it's ready to brew, it produces full hot espresso.

Alan Frew has an excellent comparison between the Napoletana and the Silvia at http://www.coffeegeek.com/columnists/alanfrew/12-28-2001. He's got photos of the internals and essentials of both. A better picture of the Napoletana's exterior is available at http://www.coffeeco.com.au/Napoletana.html.

The Napoletana does have a few little disadvantages - the water tubes, the tamper and the steam wand. But none of these are major, and a number of workarounds are posted at http://www.coffeetamper.com.au/kb/imat/ These are far outweighed by the overall quality and ease of use of the unit, the excellent results it produces, and the value for money it represents.

Buying Experience

This is the only one I've bought, but was the cheapest price available.

Three Month Followup

Well after four years I still have no regrets. I've had to change the group gasket once (nearly time for the next change), but nothing else has given me any trouble other than the issues noted in the original review. http://www.coffeetamper.com.au/kb/imat has a lot of tips which I've picked up over the years, and may be of assistance to other owners.

One Year Followup

I eventually sold this machine to upgrade to a Rancilio Silvia and a Mazzer Mini. The results with the new combo are a bit better, but the change was mainly driven by the need for machine with a 58mm portafilter to allow for quicker tamper prototype testing. I'd buy one again if I was in the same situation again, and I recommend these regularly to others.

Previous Review  
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review rating: 8.9
Posted: July 21, 2002, 5:23pm
feedback: (3) comments | read | write
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