Baristas rely on high-quality machines to produce consistently amazing coffees for their customers.
With so many products on the market, choosing the right espresso machine can be very daunting.
Novice coffee drinkers and barista-wannabes would want to start with a machine that can offer an excellent brew every time without putting a hole in their pocket.
The machine offers an exceptional performance in a compact package without a hefty price tag.
The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Espresso Machine
Nuova Simonelli is one of the top producers of high-quality espresso makers in the world. It was established in 1936 in the historic and picturesque Italian region of Marche. The company’s Eureka espresso machine introduced in 1959 is still very famous to this day.
Even the brand’s compact Beach and the futuristic ISX espresso machines are still a favorite among baristas and coffee purists alike.
In 2001, Nuova Simonelli merged with another famous espresso brand, Victoria Arduino. Together, they made the limited-edition VA Venus. One of these machines was given to Pope Benedict XVI during the 2005 papal inauguration at the St. Peter’s Square. Since 2009, Nuova Simonelli has been the machine provider of the World Barista Championships. The company’s latest creation is the Black Eagle.
The Oscar II is one of Nuova Simonelli’s best-selling espresso machines. Although first introduced in 2008, this Nuova Simonelli creation remains a favorite among coffee shop owners and professional baristas. It is proof of the enduring design of the machine and its unparalleled performance in making espressos. Its stainless-steel construction lends strength and durability to the machine. It has an elegant design that should complement modern kitchen décors.
This semi-automatic espresso machine features a pre-infusion system that prepares your coffee grounds for optimum extraction. The unit also comes with a heat exchange boiler that guarantees faster heating and without any significant loss of water temperature. There is also a water level sensor that monitors the level of water in the pour-over version of the unit. The machine can hold up to 94.7 ounces of water. If you get the plumbed-in version, then there is no need to actively monitor the water level in the reservoir.
The Oscar II also features a professional-grade 58-mm portafilter and an integrated cup warmer. The latter is a very useful feature in retaining the optimum temperature of the beverage, given the fact that Nuova Simonelli does not provide very accurate and very precise temperature measurements. There is only the volumetric dosing system that one needs to program in the machine. Programming the volume of beverage with each touch of a button is simple enough.
- Very fast to heat and produce espressos
- Easy to program and use
- Easy to determine the right dose for your coffee
- Makes excellent espressos all the time
- Allows you to make your own milk-based coffee beverage
- Capable of producing espresso for a large group of people
- Provides a cup warming platform
- Ergonomic and modern design to complement any kitchen décor
- Large footprint
- Only makes espresso
- Outdated design
- Does not provide very precise temperature selection
- Requires a more thorough cleaning
Aesthetics, Footprint, and Form Factor
Nuova Simonelli designed the Oscar II to catch people’s attention. It has sexy curves in the right places and comes with a C-shaped frame that adds a futuristic dimension to the machine’s styling. The brew head features a rippled effect. It creates a fantastic reflection on the machine’s drip tray to create an image that is reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica’s Cyclon. Unfortunately, these elegant edges and sexy curves of the machine get interrupted by the steam wand switch will stick out from the brew head like a sore thumb.
The color scheme of the Oscar II is also quite intriguing. The front panel has chrome, while the top features matte black. Sadly, we find the use of gray for the side panels to be dull and boring. The machine would look more impressive if the side panels were also in either chrome or black with accents of gray or silver. Nevertheless, the overall aesthetics of the Oscar II can make for an excellent addition to any modern kitchen.
Most reviewers of the Oscar II say that the espresso machine is compact. It is 12 inches wide, 16 inches deep, and 16 inches tall. We have seen espresso machines that are more ‘compact’ than the Oscar II. There are machines that are only 9 inches wide and 13 inches tall, although they are often deeper than the Oscar II. This machine also weighs in at a hefty 52 pounds. There are similar espresso machines that are heavier, however, making the Oscar II seem like lightweight.
Features and Functionalities
We recommend getting to know the different features of the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II before making the decision to buy one. You need to understand the different functionalities, too. This will help you make a more honest evaluation of the machine, whether it is the right appliance to buy or not.
Soft Infusion System
This feature is equivalent to what other brands call the pre-infusion technology. It prepares the coffee grounds by immersing them in the correct amount of water for a certain period. Such a process ensures the correct extraction of the coffee grounds’ full flavors and aromas. This results in a full-bodied espresso with unique taste and scent characteristics that make it so much more enjoyable to drink.
The soft infusion system of the Oscar II utilizes low-pressure water to saturate the coffee grounds in the group head. After saturation, the machine automatically blasts the coffee grounds with pressurized water. The 2-step process addresses the issue of channeling. Such an issue can prevent water from soaking all the coffee grounds. If this happens, the resulting espresso will have tone and clarity of flavor that is substantially less than an espresso that has undergone full extraction.
Baristas like pre-infusing the coffee grounds that they serve to their customers. Pre-infusion can help address the issue of tamping errors. No two tamping actions are ever identical because of the possibility of human error. This produces drinks that are not consistent. One drink can have a different flavor from another, even though the barista made it right after the other drink. Coffee aficionados can notice the slight difference that tamping errors can have on the espresso.
Programmable Volumetric Dosing
The Oscar II comes with two buttons that serve only one purpose: give drinkers one-touch convenience of a single or a double shot espresso. This is already a standard in modern coffee machines. One press of the button and you have an amazing shot. Press the other button and you have an espresso for two.
One admirable thing about the Nuova Simonelli machine is that you can also program the device to dispense your preferred beverage volume with a button. Programming the Oscar II is simple. Even a tech-averse person will have no issues programming the dose of the Oscar II’s shots.
Press one of the volume buttons on the machine and hold it until it flashes. Release the button and press briefly to start dispensing coffee into your cup. Press the button again once it has dispensed your desired volume of espresso. This programs the Oscar II to your desired coffee volume. The machine will now dispense the same amount of coffee every time you press the button.
Heat Exchange Boiler
Most commercial-grade espresso machines use stainless steel in the design of their boilers. Nuova Simonelli decided to use copper instead. Copper is an excellent material for conducting and retaining heat. This leads to faster heating, allowing you to enjoy your drinks in a matter of minutes.
The design of the heat exchange boiler allows it to produce intense steam power while ensuring an amazing brew, both at the same time. Part of the design is a thermo-compensating unit. There is a thermo-siphon that constantly circulates hot water through the system. This helps prevent temperature loss that may occur as the brew water moves to the portafilter.
There is another advantage to the design of the Oscar II’s boiler. The rapid brewing process prevents the tainting of the espresso flavor. You get a stunning espresso every time. There will never be that odd taste of metal that can ruin the pleasure of drinking espresso.
Baristas will love this feature. That is why we believe that the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II is best for small coffee shops and restaurants that have baristas. This feature of the Oscar II allows the user to have a very clear view of the espresso extraction process. What ordinary people do not know is that baristas always rely on their senses to ensure the best possible coffee extraction. They use their sense of sight to determine any issue that may arise from the process of extraction.
Other coffee machines come with a solid, opaque, and non-reflective casing. These machines do not provide visual access to their inner workings. While the Oscar II does not have a transparent casing, it does have a reverse mirror. The back plate of the machine has a mirror function that allows baristas and coffee experts to monitor the extraction process from different angles. Spotting an issue and making the necessary correction right away can help ensure a higher quality of espresso.
Push Pull Steam
Most coffee machines come with a steam arm controlled by knobs and levers. The problem with such a design is that the person may experience discomfort in the wrist and finger joints because of the repetitive action. This can lead to health issues in the long run.
The Oscar II comes with a commercial-grade push-pull steam arm that allows for easier opening and closing of the steam valve. The design also minimizes wear and tear of the joints. If you want more precise control of the steam wand, you can also push the lever a little bit. This will throttle the steam coming out of the arm. There is also an anti-siphon valve integrated into the design of the steam arm. This prevents the backflow or entry of milk into the machine’s boiler group.
The steam arm comes with a 360-degree ball joint. You can put the steam arm into any container and at any angle. The tip of the wand also comes with very small holes for making fine foam. The best part of the steaming wand of the Oscar II is that it is impressively hot. You can put froth into a glass of ice-cold milk and have the entire beverage heat up in seconds.
Operation, Cleaning, and Maintenance
The Oscar II is a very different kind of espresso machine compared to super-automatics. However, Nuova Simonelli designed it in such a way that you can be brewing your very first cup of coffee in less than 20 minutes. This pales in comparison to super-automatics, but is still quite fast compared to double boiler espresso machines.
Setting up the Oscar II for the very first time is easy. You should know that there are two variants of the model. One is a plumbed-in version and another is a poured over version. The former requires installing the machine by connecting it to your existing water line. This can increase the amount of time of setting up the machine. On the other hand, the poured-over version is ready to set up the moment you remove it from its box. Fill the reservoir with water, plug the unit, and watch it start to heat up. There are light indicators on the front panel of the machine that will tell you when it is ready to brew.
Programming is also easy-peasy. There is only the volume of the beverage that you need to program. Right after programming, you can begin enjoying your drinks with one-touch convenience. One issue we have about the Oscar II is that it does not provide you with very precise beverage temperatures. Other brands, like the La Spaziale Vivaldi II and Mini Vivaldi II, have very specific temperature readings that you can program.
Cleaning the Oscar II can be a bit of a hassle, too. This is a product that is not great for people who despise maintaining and cleaning their appliances. However, Nuova Simonelli designed the machine for easy maintenance. The brew unit has a large chute that is easy to open. The group’s compartment is large enough to accommodate the hands for a more thorough cleaning. Cleaning the machine’s exterior is also easy. A simple wipe using a clean piece of cloth is enough.
Of course, cleaning the portafilter and other removable components will require more than a simple wipe. The fact that you can remove these components should make maintenance and cleaning easier. Do take note that there are parts of the machine that you will need to replace from time to time. The replacement parts can also be expensive.
Who this Product is For? / Should You Buy This?
There is no question that the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II is a high-performance espresso machine. It did not become a mainstay in the World Barista Championships for nothing. For all its remarkable features and amazing performance, the Oscar II is not for everyone.
For instance, this is a product that is not for ordinary homes. The Oscar II may be less expensive than other espresso machines. This does not mean an ordinary household should get one. The machine makes perfect espressos. However, you will need to be more creative in using the espresso-making and milk froth-making capabilities of the machine to enjoy beverages other than espressos. There are no dedicated buttons to make lattes, cappuccinos, flat whites, café lungos, macchiatos, and other specialty recipes. You will have to make these beverages manually.
It is for this reason that the Oscar II is best for homes that only enjoy perfect espressos. It should also be great for families who love to experiment with their creations. On that note, the Oscar II would be invaluable in a small coffee shop, restaurant, or bar. It can also be a worthy investment in businesses that want to provide a more pleasant experience for their clients.
The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II is an amazing espresso machine. It has many remarkable characteristics that have made it a great choice of champion baristas all over the world. It has a compact design that can sit perfectly in any kitchen. It also provides amazingly quick and delicious espressos. While the machine is already more than 12 years old, it remains a wonderful option for small businesses who want to wow their customers by making world class-quality espressos available every time.