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Nuova Simonelli Oscar - Stan Shepard's Review
Posted: April 16, 2004, 3:06pm
review rating: 8.2
feedback: (2) comments | read | write
Nuova Simonelli Oscar
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More About This Product
Arrow The Nuova Simonelli Oscar has 36 Reviews
Arrow The Nuova Simonelli Oscar has been rated 8.51 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Nuova Simonelli Oscar reviews have been viewed 275,072 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Jay H 9.38
Andrea Karsh 9.00
Lisa Swehla 9.00
Rob B 9.00
Eric Wooten 8.86

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.8
Manufacturer: Nuova Simonelli Quality: 8
Average Price: $1,050.00 Usability: 10
Price Paid: $500.00 Cost vs. Value 10
Where Bought: Used Aesthetics 7
Owned for: 6 months Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned:
Bottom Line: The value is quite high for the price.
Positive Product Points

Internals are mostly commercial quality.

Portafilter is 58mm and heavy chrome plated brass.

Steam wand can be pointed at the drip tray to catch the condensed water that always comes out after the machine has been sitting unused for awhile.

Disassembling the group's dispersion screen assembly is easier than with a E61 group, the gasket doesn't need to be removed, it only takes one screw to be removed.

Able to produce excellent shots, once the pstat is set correctly.  

Steaming ability is good.

Doesn't need a cooling flush of the group before making a shot, the group head temperature is correct without it.

Reservoir water level sensor allows you to empty the reservoir before you need to refill it and an empty reservoir only stops the pump, it doesn't shut the whole machine off.

The reservoir is easily accessed and doesn't require you to lift off a large hot panel to get at it, you don't need to move the cups sitting on top of the machine to get to the reservoir either.

Easy to keep clean.

Huge drip tray.

The top of the machine is large, can fit many cups on it to keep them warm.

It does fit under the cabinet if need be, though you will need to pull it out to refill the reservoir.

New model has Sirai pstat and satin external finish.  No more shiny ABS or failing pstats.

Negative Product Points

Even though it doesn't need a cooling flush of the group head, the temperature of the group continues to go down with rapid successive shot production.  

Had a bad pstat, had to replace it and the safety relief valve.  It's a skipping record.  I think every review or forum post about this machine mentions a bad pstat.

Some would say that the lack of hot water spigot is a negative.  Since I've never owned an espresso machine before I don't miss it.

Didn't like the water reservoir refill hole, I made it much bigger.  Sharp knife does wonders.

Draining the boiler has the potential to get the electronic control module wet.

No drain hole in the body, I had to drill one myself.  

If you drain the boiler it will fill up the body of the machine,  you have to tip the machine almost all the way over to get the water to drain out, this is why I drilled a hole in the external skin of the machine.

You have to open and close the steam wand valve when you first turn the machine on for the day to bleed off false pressure after the boiler heating element does it's first heating cycle.  Many machines in the same class make this initial pressure bleed off automatic.

It's ABS plastic on the outside.  Looks like something you would buy from Wal-Mart.  Though I do like the way it hides splatters.

Detailed Commentary

This espresso machine has been a real learning experience.  This review is not a detailed point by point recitation of the features of this machine.  Plenty of other people have written wonderful reviews that contain the list of features and how well they work.  This review is only my personal experience with the machine.  And now on to the commentary.

I got the machine almost on a whim.  Don't say it, whatever you're going to say.  I bought it used from a small coffee shop.  The water reservoir was moldy.  the group head was set up for pods and extremely dirty.  After I bought it I drained and descaled the boiler twice.  Cleaned up the reservoir.  Got a grounds kit for the group head.  I did a lot to make it useful.  Including replace the pstat and relief valve.  

Since I bought my grinder from Chris Coffee, I tried to get a replacement pstat from them,  they didn't have a sirai pstat and the retrofit kit needed to fit it to the machine but they advised I call Nuova Simonelli directly.  I called the Nuova Simonelli North American distribution center in Ferndale Washington.  I ended up talking to the guy that designed the pstat change for the Oscars sold in the US.   Yes, if you buy a new Oscar today it will have the sirai pstat on it, so you don't have to worry about getting a bad pstat.   I talked to him about the part change out, and he answered all my questions no matter how obvious the answer may have seemed to him.   He made sure I was getting all the parts I needed and I think he even fabricated one of the parts, a curved piece of copper pipe with two compression fittings soldered onto it.  This curved piece of pipe allows the enormous sirai pstat to fit inside the Oscar's case.   The new pstat has to lie on it's side but it can be done.  I need to make a clarification, the pstat retrofit kit I got from Simonelli is not what is in the current production Oscars.  The pstat is the same but the configuration of the parts is very different.   A few online retailers have photos of the insides of the current production Oscar, in those photos you can see that the sirai pstat is positioned upright and it's bolted to the frame, it's not on it's side just laying on the frame.  You might be able to find photos of the old Oscar if you are curious about the old pstat that I replaced.

Also found out that if the relief valve is popped once it needs to be replaced because the tension on the spring has changed.  So I replaced that too.   One thing to keep in mind when getting factory fittings off a machine like this.  The threads have a thread locking compound on them.  Getting the fittings unstuck especially if they are directly connected to a thin skinned copper boiler can be a little stressful, on the boiler's skin and on your nerves.  Getting the old pstat and relief valve off was harder than putting the new ones on.

I bought many tools to help with this project.  Shopping for tools is fun!  

   I have spent many hours doing research on the web so that I can be sure I am getting the most out of this machine.  It has been very enlightening.   Coffee is much more complicated than I ever imagined.  Simply put, It's a great machine.  I am able to produce shots that are much better than most coffee bars, definately better than starbucks.   The first americano I made with Intelligentsia's Oromo blend made me bliss out.  I had never had coffee that tasted so good.

The sad part about a purchase like this, it makes you buy more stuff to go with it.  Or maybe it isn't sad if you love gadgets.  Yes I am grinning.  What else have I bought?  A  La Cimbali Junior grinder, and lots and  lots of accessories.  Crystal Illy cup set, big stainless steel tamper, knockbox, four or five thermometers, shotglasses, machine cleaner.   I think you get the idea.

To sum up, I've had a lot of fun.

Buying Experience

I noticed that the coffee shop I frequent has a new espresso machine, a La San Marco 85-16M Practical.  I get curious about it and do some research on the web.  I find this site.  You know how the rest goes.  You evil coffee junkies.  Anyway I also remember the old unused machine.  I find out how much the Oscar goes for retail.  I read reviews.  I find out that what I thought was a cheap piece of crap was actually a great machine.  Neither the shop manager not the employees knew how to use the machine correctly.  They couldn't make anything that was drinkable.  It was set up for pods and they used pods, and they would always scald the milk.  Needless to say nobody bought espresso there.  I knew I had a chance to get a commercial grade machine for a consumer level price.  I decided to go for it.  Even though I had only ever had one straight espresso in my life.

I walk up to the manager of the coffee shop that day after the research and ask what they are going to do with the Oscar they haven't used for several months.  They say they are thinkning about selling it on eBay.  I ask how much they want for it.  They say $500.  I grin and whip out the check book.  I become the dubiously proud owner of a used Oscar.

Three Month Followup

I have been able to dial in the pstat finally.  I haven't been excessively diligent in this up to now, 201 degrees F was good enough and the shots were good enough.   But I knew I could do better.   Well, I've done better.   I recently got a couple of pounds of Espresso Vivace beans.  I decided to tweak the pstat as much as it needed so I could get the most out ot the beans. I have finally seen the red flecks in the crema for the first time.  The taste has been superb, even the fast flowing grinder dial-in shots have been tasty.

Part of the motivation to tweak my machine has been my exposure to a Isomac Millienium.  While using the Isomac I saw deep red crema for the first time.  I also saw what temperature stability was all about.  All hail E61.

One Year Followup

I've been pleased with this machine.  It does what it is supposed to without undue aggravation.   You wouldn't think so after reading the original review considering it's all about the initial repair process and not really about making coffee.  I only have three things to add at this time.  The first concerns what I ended up doing in relation to the replaced pstat. The second has to do with pumping pressure and this machine's lack of any pressures gauges.  The third has to do with relieving false pressure upon initial machine power up.

The pstat replacement was a retrofit.  The parts came from Nuova Simonelli but they are not the standard plumbing for this particular pstat.  The pstat is large and because of it's installed position in the case it extends above the frame at the top of the machine.  The top cover can be reattached and screwed down snug but this presses down on the pstat and deforms the pipe fittings causing unneeded stress and a possible future materials failure; I hear sputtering leaks when I do this.  To avoid this I do not tighten the screws of the top cover, I let it sit loose.  It still holds heat in the machine's case and keeps things from falling inside but the machine really isn't completely reassembled.  In the larger scheme of things it's a minor annoyance but it still rankles a little that the machine is jerry-rigged in this way.  I can live with it.  The Oscar still runs great.  Besides replacing the group head gasket nothing else on this machine has failed.

I've been making shots for a year now and have lately begun to become concerned with the water pressure at the group head.  The only thing I can really adjust is water temperature by adjusting the pstat.  I have no way of measuring water pressure even if I found out how to adjust it.  Reading other reviews here over the last several months and how many new espresso machines require water pump pressure adjustment upon delivery I have become concerned.  Concerned I am not getting the optimum water pressure at the group head.  Since my machine is the only machine I have access to I have no way to know whether I could actually do better.  I would really like a pressure gauge.  

One of the rituals of turning the machine on is manually turning on the steam wand to relieve false boiler pressure after the first heating coil cycle.  Other machines have relief valves especially for this task, you simply turn the machine on and wait for it to heat up.  I've come to covet this feature.

Looks like I'm gonna be getting another machine.  Oops, did I just say that?

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review rating: 8.2
Posted: April 16, 2004, 3:06pm
feedback: (2) comments | read | write
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