Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Review
If you love cappuccinos and lattes, your single-boiler espresso machine will quickly get frustrating. But upgrading to a heat exchanger or dual boiler can feel intimidatingly expensive.
Not anymore. Enter the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II, a heat-exchange boiler espresso machine that’s only slightly pricier than a single boiler.
Is it exactly what you need to reach your cappuccino dreams? Or is it cheap for a good reason? Let’s find out in this detailed review.
SUMMARY: Nuova Simonelli Oscar II
- One of the lowest-price heat exchange espresso machines you can buy.
- Impressive steam power with included 4-hole steam tip.
- New-and-improved stainless steel build and futuristic design.
I can’t understand why people aren’t talking more about this fabulous machine.– Customer
The Nuova Simonelli Oscar Review
The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II, released in 2016, represents a HUGE UPGRADE over the original Oscar. It’s almost surprising they kept the same name. In terms of build quality, design, and ease of use, the Oscar II is a big leap forward.
Brewing capacity – 3/5
If you’ve been using a single boiler dual-use espresso machine, like the Rancilio Silvia or the Gaggia Classic Pro, the Oscar II is aimed squarely at you. Also, if you’re tired of waiting between steaming milk and brewing coffee, you’ll love Oscar II. With its 2-liter insulated copper heat exchange boiler, it can steam milk and pull a shot simultaneously (1).
And it’s probably one of the least expensive prosumer espresso machines to boast this capability.
It uses a vibratory pump, which is a bit louder than a rotary pump but equally capable. In some cases, it’s even preferable.
There’s nothing wrong with a vibration pump. In fact, some users prefer them as they ramp up to brew pressure more slowly than a rotary pump.
Unusually, Nuova Simonelli has strayed from the traditional E61 group head in favor of a thermo-siphon group, which continually circulates hot water from the boiler. In comparison, the E61 might be slightly easier to maintain in the long run. The thermo-siphon system functions just as well for temperature stability.
The Oscar II uses a pressure stat rather than the PID often found on higher-end machines
But this is very common with heat exchangers, where a PID is less valid anyway. And it keeps the price low.
This current iteration of the Nuova Simonelli Oscar is a blend between the original and the higher-end Musica model. It uses timed dosing, which you can program using the two buttons on the group. You set the total time, which includes pre-infusion, wait time, and brewing (2). Unfortunately, you cannot tweak these variables individually.
It doesn’t come with a manual mode, and this will frustrate some home baristas. Yet, there’s an easy work-around. Just program one of the buttons to run for 60 seconds, and you can stop it manually at any time.
Users’ biggest complaint is that this espresso machine doesn’t come with an over-pressure valve (OPV). OPV is really useful when pulling non-standard drink sizes, like a ristretto. Many dealers will now install an after-market OPV without voiding the warranty, and this is a popular option. It also lacks a pressure gauge for monitoring boiler pressure, which would be an excellent addition for anyone who makes many drinks back to back.
User-friendliness – 3.5/5
If you’re upgrading from a single boiler or thermoblock espresso machine, the Oscar II will take a little getting used to. But as these machines go, it is very straightforward, with some nice user-friendly features.
Lights alert you when the boiler is heating or the water reservoir is low, and the machine automatically turns off after 90 seconds of brewing to avoid overheating.
The timed dosing means that once you’ve dialled in your grind, a quality espresso is just a button press away.
Though a downside to this system, compared with volumetric, is that if you’ve over-flushed the machine, your shot might start late and throw off the timing. This solution to this problem is practice.
You can get either a plumbed-in or reservoir model, but you can’t switch back and forth. So choose wisely when you buy. Most vibratory pump espresso machines aren’t compatible with direct plumbing, so it’s nice that Nuova Simonelli provides the option.
Milk Frothing – 4.5/5
Italian brand Nuova Simonelli carries a reputation for powerful steam wands with dry steam. These are perfect for latte art, and it’s nice to see that maintained in the steam wand of this entry-level model. The 2-litre boiler paired with a four-hole steam wand tip means you’re getting tons of steam pressure, so much so that it might take some getting used to!
Compared with the Oscar, the newer model has a longer steam wand with better articulation, and the redesigned steam lever is fantastic. It’s on top of the machine, which is unusual, but I love that it has the option of on/off or just a short burst.
The only complaint regarding the milk system is that there’s no option for hot water. This helps keep the cost low, but it isn’t very reassuring for Americano fans.
Build Quality – 3.5/5
Though still plastic on the back and top, the Oscar II build quality is one of the biggest improvements in this model. The front and sides are now stainless steel, with a stainless steel grate on the drip tray. It feels bombproof compared to the plastic original.
Of course, Oscar II’s aesthetics bear mentioning, even if they are a primarily personal choice. It has a unique look — part art deco, part alien spaceship — sure to be divisive.
Couple this with its NSF rating and this espresso machine could be perfect for light-duty commercial use.
It’s sold with a useless plastic tamper, which is not a surprise at this price but always a little disappointing. If you don’t already have one, make sure you budget for a metal tamper.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4/5
Keeping the Oscar II running is easy, especially with the plumbed version. The pour-over option has a good-sized 77-ounce water tank with a larger hole at the top than the Oscar I, so it’s easier to clean. In either case, always use filtered water with your espresso machine to avoid build-up inside the plumbing. An ounce of prevention goes a long way.
The removable drip tray is well-sized, but you need to tilt it a little to get it out of the machine. So keep that in mind before you fill it to the brim.
As mentioned before, the unusual brew head may make it a bit harder to find experienced technicians for service. That said, if you have the chops to do it yourself, the internal layout of this model is accessible and well-laid-out.
Don’t Buy the Nuova Simonelli Oscar 2 If…
- You want a machine that does it all: If you want a machine that’s basically a home barista, you need a super-automatic model. Check out our Gaggia Brera review for a great option, which includes a built-in espresso grinder.
- You’re not into its space-age style: If you’re worried Oscar’s unique look will clash with your kitchen, try another entry-level HX machine like the Lelit Mara or the Rocket Appartamento.
- You want something for a cafe: The Oscar II is commercially rated, but it’s only practical in low-volume professional settings, like an espresso cart or catering business. If you’re opening a small or mid-sized cafe, check out the Nuova Simonelli Appia line instead (3).
If you want to be able to steam milk and pull espresso at the same time, without breaking the bank, the entry-level Nuova Simonelli Oscar II is just what you need. Provided you’re a fan of its unique aesthetic, its low price point and simple operation make it an obvious and un-intimidating first step into prosumer machines.
- Soque, N. (2021, March 1). Six years on: An updated guide to buying home espresso machines. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2021/03/six-years-on-an-updated-guide-to-buying-home-espresso-machines/
- Lee, J. (2017, April 28). Espresso-Making Skills: What’s Pre-Infusion? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2017/04/espresso-making-skills-whats-pre-infusion/
- Bar Magazine. (2019, October 28). UCC Coffee and Nuova Simonelli Launch New Generation Appia. Retrieved from https://barmagazine.co.uk/ucc-coffee-and-nuova-simonelli-launch-new-generation-appia/