Nuova Simonelli Appia Review: New and Improved
You’re running a small business. Plus, you want to be able to offer your customers top-notch coffee without hiring a dedicated barista. Well, that’s easy – you want the Nuova Simonelli Appia.
This quality-commercial espresso machine has been around a long time, thanks to a reputation as an affordable and easy-to-use workhorse. That tradition continues with the new Appia Life. Built for the modern era, it’s even more user-friendly and has a less environmental impact.
In this review, we’ll dig into the different Appia Life models so you can find out if this is a suitable espresso machine to add to your business. Keep reading for all the details.
SUMMARY: The Nuova Simonelli Appia
- Heat exchange boiler espresso machine available in Volumetric, Semi-Automatic, and Compact models.
- The new Appia Life is more energy efficient and easier to use than the Appia II.
- Optional EasyCream system automates milk frothing, so anyone can produce perfect microfoam.
It’s a utilitarian workhorse…designed to be durable and keep up with commercial volumes.– Customer
The Nuova Simonelli Appia Life Review
Nuova Simonelli’s line of Appia espresso machines has long been popular. The latest update is the Appia Life, which replaces and improves upon the Nuova Simonelli Appia II.
There are three models in the series: a Semi-Automatic, a Volumetric, and the Appia Life Compact, volumetric and semi-automatic options. As we get into the details in this review, we’ll discuss the differences and similarities.
Brewing Capacity – 3.5/5
The Appia Life is designed to fill a particular niche in the espresso machine market. It is reliable, affordable, and easy to use. It may not be the fanciest espresso machine on the market, but that is not the role it is trying to play. That said, its brewing capacity is certainly impressive for its price tag.
It centres on a stainless steel heat exchanger boiler that’s paired with a rotary pump. This allows you to pull espresso and steam milk simultaneously, a necessity in a busy commercial environment. It’s available with 1, 2, or 3 group heads, with boiler sizes of 5, 11, and 15 litres, respectively. To get an idea of capacity, Nuova Simonelli has found the model with two group heads can make about 250 cappuccinos a day.
The Appia Life Compact shaves about 9 inches of width off the 2-group model but is otherwise nearly identical in its components and design. The compact footprint comes at the expense of boiler size. The 2-group has only a 7-litre boiler.
This model is an excellent choice for a low-to-medium volume business where coffee isn’t the primary focus, but quality espresso is a nice bonus.
For example, it fits nicely on a sidebar at a restaurant, art gallery, or even a conference room.
Every model in the Appia Life series includes the Soft Infusion System (SIS). This low-pressure infusion gently wets the grounds, causing them to settle uniformly before high pressure is applied (1). In the latest update, the pre-infusion chamber has been made larger, which increases the saturation period. The advantage of the SIS is that it minimizes the importance of levelling and tamping, which further removes the possibility of human error from the equation.
Let’s talk about the volumetric and semi-automatic options.
The Volumetric model is no doubt one of the most manageable commercial espresso machines to operate. Suppose you’re setting up a small business and don’t want to focus on high-level barista training. In that case, it is the perfect way to make reliably delicious espresso without resorting to a super-automatic machine.
Each group has three programmable buttons for single, double, and triple shots. There’s also a manual button for unusual drinks or when the barista wants more control. You can program each of the buttons with a set volume, so all the barista needs to do after programming is pressing a button. The machine then automatically does the pre-infusion, wait time, and high-pressure extraction.
This model is perfect for high-volume coffee shops. It improves workflow efficiency and leaves staff more time to interact with customers. To make things more efficient, the Volumetric model is also available with EasyCream automatic milk frothing. We’ll talk more about that below.
The Semi-Automatic version is the base model. Though less expensive than the Volumetric, it has all the same commercial-grade components, including the stainless steel boiler, rotary pump, and Soft Infusion System. The primary difference is the lack of programmable buttons. The barista needs to start and stop the shot, so it requires a bit more skill and attention.
User Friendliness – 5/5
User-friendliness is the claim to fame of the Appia series, and its fame is WELL EARNED! The volumetric models, in particular, are nearly foolproof to operate, but the entire series has a collection of nice features designed with the barista in mind.
The reverse mirror is such an easy and thoughtful addition; it’s a surprise not to find it on more machines. Luckily, it’s on the Appia. This clever design uses an angled mirror behind the drip tray to let you watch a shot from below without having to bend over. Small ergonomic touches like this can make a big difference when you’re pulling hundreds of shots a day.
Ergonomic design is present all over this machine. For example, the responsive push-button controls located above the group heads or the push-pull steam wand controls, which I’ll talk more about later. This is a commercial machine designed for all-day use.
Any of the Appia models are available with a slightly pricier XT upgrade. An upgrade adds a TFT display screen, making it much easier for the barista to program and monitor the machine.
The Appia is known for having a lot of clearance between the raised group heads and the drip tray below.
Raised group heads are great for accommodating larger mugs and allow the barista better visibility and more room to manoeuvre.
Risers are included so you can pull a shot into an espresso cup without splashing. Unlike most brands, Nuova Simonelli has engineered the risers to slot firmly onto the drip tray, so they don’t slide around. These small but valuable touches are what makes these machines stand out.
Milk Frothing – 4.5/5
When it comes to milk frothing with the Appia, we need to talk about the two different options. There are pros and cons to both, but both are perfectly designed for what they hope to accomplish.
With the Volumetric model, you have the option of adding the EasyCream automatic frothing system. This is precisely what it sounds like. The barista needs to pour the milk, put the wand in the pitcher, and press go. The machine uses a temperature sensor to stop at just the right time.
In a busy environment, particularly in situations where the baristas aren’t specialised, this is a huge advantage. It speeds the workflow, and even novices will create perfect microfoam — no easy task (2). The trade-off is that this option is slightly more expensive. And, of course, skilled baristas will probably prefer the control of manual steam wands.
So, what’s the manual steam option like?
The manual steam wands are excellent, as you would expect. That is, Nuova Simonelli espresso machines have a reputation for INCREDIBLE steam power. Even their lower-end home models have four-hole steam tips. The Appia’s wands have a nice 360-degree swivel and are available in either standard or cool touch design.
As already mentioned, the controls use an ergonomic push-pull system, which is preferable to knobs when working a long shift. The feathering capability is particularly nice and rare to see at this low price. You can use it for short bursts of steam or exercise more control. This is useful when steaming small quantities or, increasingly relevant when working with alternative milk kinds (3).
David Jiscoot, Marketing Director for Alpro, a plant-based milk company, says:
Demand for plant-based coffees out of home has exploded over the past 12 months, with more than half (50.3%) of coffee drinkers now claiming to drink plant-based coffees out of home.
The 2-group models, including the Compact version, all have two steam wands and a hot water wand. This is not always the case on smaller machines like this, making a big difference in terms of efficiency.
Build Quality – 3.5/5
Ultimately, they built the Appia Life to be affordable. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that it can’t match the build quality of machines twice its price.
That said, it’s a sturdy and durable machine, and if corners have been cut to save costs, it’s not in ways that you’ll notice. Most users describe the Appia as a “workhorse.” The design might be basic, but it can consistently churn out shot after shot, day after day. And in many commercial settings, that’s the priority.
Compared with the Appia II, the Appia Life has been redesigned with an eye to energy efficiency, a clever decision in the modern era of climate change and rising energy prices. To this end, Nuova Simonelli has invested in a new boiler insulation material, Drytex Thermical, which increases energy efficiency by 13% compared to the Appia II. This is paired with a few other new materials, an internal redesign, and general optimisation of mechanical parts to yield a machine that now has 20% less environmental impact than its predecessor (4).
Aesthetically, the Appia Life has a basic, box-like design — which is not a criticism. It’s timeless rather than trendy, and it will fit into any space without dominating. It’s available in three colours, heart red, black, and pearl white, to suit your style. But if you’re looking for a machine to be the aesthetic centrepiece of your coffee shop, this probably isn’t the one.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4/5
Most commercial espresso machines have similar maintenance needs, and the Appia Life is no exception. You need to keep things tidy and backflush regularly to get the longevity you expect from this machine. For starters, always use filtered water to avoid scale or other contaminants inside the boiler and plumbing. As a bonus, filtered water will improve the taste of your espresso too!
As a commercial machine, the Appia doesn’t have a built-in water tank. You need to plumb it into a water line and drainage system. This eliminates a lot of day-to-day water management, so it makes perfect sense in a busy coffee shop setting. But it’s something to keep in mind if you’re considering the single-group model for your home.
An important consideration for cleaning is that only the Volumetric model is equipped with an automatic backflushing. The Semi-Automatic model requires you to do this manually. This bit of convenience is worth factoring in when deciding which model to buy.
Don’t Buy the Nuova Simonelli Appia Life If…
- You want a machine for home use: You could get away with a single-group Appia in your home, but they designed it for commercial use. For something more suitable for home, check out the Nuova Simonelli Oscar review or our Nuova Simonelli Musica review. Both are heat-exchanger high-end espresso machines made for home use.
- You want more barista control: The Appia is designed with ease of use as a priority. If you’ve hired professional baristas and want them to be able to showcase their skills, consider a machine that offers more manual control. For example, the La Marzocco GS3 or any of the Slayer models allow for flow profiling (5).
- You have a bigger budget: If you have the money to spend, there’s no reason not to choose a higher-end showpiece espresso machine for your cafe. The Unic Mira espresso machine, the Nuova Simonelli Aurelia Wave, and the La Marzocco Strada all have iconic style while still offering user-friendly volumetric dosing.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use and environmentally friendly espresso machine for your business or coffee shop, take a close look at the affordable Nuova Simonelli Appia Life. With optional volumetric controls and automatic milk frothing, the right model takes all the guesswork out of delivering delicious and reliable espresso. Your staff and customers will thank you!
- Joseph, H. (2019, December 10). Longtime Espresso Pro Michael Teahan on Pre-Infusion, the Problem with SO, and Much More. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2019/12/10/longtime-espresso-pro-michael-teahan-on-pre-infusion-the-problem-with-so-and-much-more/
- Aupiais, S. (2018, February 19). Barista Basics: How to Texture Milk in 14 Steps. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/02/barista-basics-how-to-texture-milk-in-14-steps/
- Grant, T. (2020, August 14). A Guide to Working With Plant Milks. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/08/a-guide-to-working-with-plant-milks/
- Brommer, E, Stratmann, B & Quack, D. (2011, March). Environmental impacts of different methods of coffee preparation. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262859699_Environmental_impacts_of_different_methods_of_coffee_preparation
- Grant, T. (2020, July 29). How Flow Profiling Impacts Espresso Extraction. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/07/how-flow-profiling-impacts-espresso-coffee-extraction/