The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II - beautiful and easy to operate!
If you’re wondering what espresso machine to buy or you’re looking to upgrade your old single group machine for something new, the Oscar II is a very good option.
When I first started making espresso at home I didn't think there was any difference in what equipment you used…WRONG!
Everything is important, and as with most things in coffee, the variations in anything will affect the final flavour in the cup - from the beans that you choose, to the grinder, to the water and so on….this blog is just about the machine and what you should be considering before you outlay hard cash.
Yes, there are cheaper machines on the market for home use… and like cars or anything else, you get what you pay for. I started on the Oscar I, and it’s a machine that a lot of home baristas start with mainly because it’s a reputable brand (Nuova Simonelli has been the supplier of the World Barista Championships for the last 6 years with the Aurelia II) so you know the technology is excellent and the build quality is top. The group-head is the same as the professional / commercial machine with the same 58mm portafilter (the part that you grind the coffee into and tamp) so no different to the one in your local cafe.
The upgrade from the Oscar I to Oscar II are significant - being Italian, the sexy metallic panels make it more durable and more similar to a cafe look than a domestic appliance, but it’s still very sleek and compact at 40cm high x 41cm deep and only 30cm wide. (This is important, as space is at a premium on kitchen counters which are usually 60mm deep, and usually there’s toasters, kettles and other things fighting for space!)
Back to pulling shots - the Oscar II has borrowed the volumetric interface of the Professional model, the Musica (the upgrade from the Oscar and a semi-professional machine) which means you can lock in your portafilter, hit the “double shot” button and the machine will run the exact right amount of water through the coffee and into your cup - you can multi task with other things without having to worry about the shot. (If you don't get 60mls of espresso after pressing the double shot volumetric button - you need to dose less, make the grind a tiny bit courser or tamp with slightly less pressure - but these three variables are the subject devoted entirely to espresso extraction! )
This is the Musica, the semi-professional machine. Previously one had to go straight from the Oscar I to the Musica (and double the price!) but now the Oscar II is the perfect in-between step in terms of machine and price. Win-Win!
Then onto the milk, so you can perfect your silky, smooth cappuccinos! In the words of All African Barista Champs, Craig Charity, cappuccinos are all about experience - and by this, the texture of the beverage is everything - The Oscar II has a lever instead of a wheel to open and close the steam wand (which on the Oscar II is extra long and straight, which I love!) This means more control and precision when steaming milk.
Other technical things that I like - The boiler has excellent insulation and thus uses less energy and builds pressure much quicker than other espresso machines (especially when you’re making for more than 4 people at a time!), the water tank is a 3l reservoir (up from 2,5l), so you you can make quite a few coffees without having to re-fill, and it’s super easy to remove and drain the drip tray.
All in all, it’s a great little espresso machine - I take this and it’s partner in crime, the Grinter Grinder with me away on weekends (I kid you not) as they are small enough to pack into the van and make the weekends away so much more enjoyable, knowing you’re going to enjoy a perfectly crafted cappuccino in a magical setting.
Delicious coffee in a magical setting - even at the beach cottage!