Excellent review Allen, top stuff....... 8-)
Just thought Id mention it. About 2 years ago I decided that I must upgrade from my second Baby Gaggia. After much research on the net, (thats how I came across Coffeesnobs) and months of indecision, I decided to purchase a Simonelli Oscar. The reason? (a) I wanted something under $1,500, (b) there was evidence on the web that it could make very good coffee, (c) it didnt look aggressive in my kitchen nor look like some medieval implement of torture as some do, (d) I rather liked the smooth lines of its plastic casing and (e) it had a heat exchanger and a reputation for producing copious quantities of steam if needed. The negatives seemed few: the pump was rather noisy (it is) and it had no provision for providing hot water should someone ask for "an Americano". Oh, and it was not stainless steel.
I ordered a silver one from agents in Adelaide and it duly arrived in mid 2006. I used it for 8 months before leaving for a 12 months holiday overseas. I resumed my friendship with it 2 months ago.
My initial impression was that it made coffee that tasted exactly like the coffee made by the Baby Gaggia --- nothing like the coffee I consumed in the better coffee places. Then I read an article in a West Australian magazine (Spice) about the West Australian Barista Academy. So I enrolled in an introductory course and discovered (of course) that the problem was not the machine but ME!
I had always used pre-packaged and ground coffee. The difference in using coffee freshly roasted and freshly ground to suit the machine was a revelation. Ben Bicknell at the Academy pointed out that there was a Sunbeam grinder that was on the market for about $200, and this I purchased. I was also fortunate in discovering Fiori Coffee in Douglas St West Perth, where Kameran is passionate about the way his coffee is sourced and how he roasts it. The current Honduran and Guatamalan roasts are absolutley delicious. But I digress.
So equipped with the Oscar, a Sunbeam grinder and Fiori coffee, I am now capable of producing coffee which is light years ahead of anything I produced in my flirtation with a range of espresso machines over 20 years. How could I have remained so dumb for so long?
For me, the Plus points for the Oscar are:
1. The quality of the coffee it produces once the grind is right,.
2. The ease with which the machine can be kept clean. No finger marks or stains. Its smooth plastic surfaces just need an occasional quick wipe down.
3. The ease with which milk can be frothed (but see below)
4. The large capacity drip tray which is so easy to empty (and which can be adjusted to accommodate tall mugs if you have a REALLY difficult visitor)
The negative points (such as they are) are:
1. Noisy pump. (Dont know why it has to be so noisy but this fact is well established)
2. Difficult to know how much water to put in the tank. Its concealed in the back of the unit and if youre not careful you can overfill it. I dont think it is alone in this regard.
3. The silver models (they also come in black and white) appear to have had matt silver paint sprayed over the plastic base. I knew from previous web-site comments that this could easily become scratched, and it does. While I think the silver looks much better than the other models, it is rather dull. However I fixed this quite simply by masking the buttons and bezel with tape, and giving the whole unit several spray coats of clear Duco. It only took a few minutes to do. It now glistens, looks a million dollars and seems impervious to abrasion, and is even easier to wipe clean. Dont know why Simonelli dont do that in the first place.
4. Like others who posted reports on the net, I found that rubber gasket under the portafilter seemed to expand after a few weeks of use, making it very difficult if not impossible to lack the portafilter in place. I resorted to some careful filing of the locking lugs on the portafilter, and have had no further problems.
5. The lack of a hot water outlet is of little concern. If anyone wants an Americano/long black (as my wife often does), I simply boil a kettle while I grind the coffee. In some ways, I suspect its a better solution.
6. The Oscar comes with a 4 hole jet on the steaming wand. Fine if you want to froth a half litre of milk or more, but hopeless if you want to make just enough for one cup. Youre likely to coat the ceiling. Again forewarned by the experience of others, I purchased a 2 hole jet which allows an excellent microfoam to be made from small milk quantities.
I am now very happy with my Oscar. Its simple to use, makes great coffee, and is fuss free. The Sunbeam grinder also works extremely well, although I suppose it may have a shorter life-span than grinders costing twice the price. Oh! and I also have a Greg Pullman tamper, which I love. Which reminds me that it only fits the 2 cup filter, the single cup filter Simonelli provide is about 1 mm smaller. You would think theyd make both filters the same, wouldnt you.
Hope this might be of some interest to other coffee lovers. Happy Brewing.
Excellent review Allen, top stuff....... 8-)
Im glad you found brilliant fresh coffee from Kam, theyre a great crew there always full of good advice and roasting hints, Im a big fan of their Honduran beans.
i had a nightmare with the Oscar. sad
i bought it used 2yrs old silver one..the pictures looked nice but when it arrived it was all scratched up.
I would have painted as well but it didnt even work properly. Turns out (after tons of back and forth emails
and taking apart the machine ) it had the good old issue with the pressure stat. A sirai was required.
It was extremely frustrating since this was my first foray into heat exchanger machines.
I still had my modified gaggia espresso w/pressure 9bar and digital temp monitor and naked porta which
produced better shots then the Oscar simply due to bad pressure regulator.
In the end i sold the unit. I could not deal with having to get another part and go through the
hassle of getting the machine to work right. I think my decision was based on the fact that i made
the move to the heat exchanger with reservations. I was telling myself there is no way there could be a
noticeably huge difference.
ANyway...you seem pretty on about the machine pros and cons.
The thing is definitely a GIANT!...
Im currently satisfied with my Gaggia Classic with all mods possible done with exception of one mod ive
seen done by a guy in "Denmark...something like that"...He put a custom made heat exchanger of types
mounted directly in front of the gaggia boiler...It acted like a pre-heat mechanism before water entered
the real boiler which helped with maintaining even temperatures during extractions (ie. 1degree fluc.)
Thats all folks!
Sorry to hear that prav....There lies the danger of dodgybay. Far too frequently, you get a whole heap less than what you paid for...
Hope machine #2 is a better experience. Buy from a CS sponsor who will support you.
I got a new Oscar about 3 years ago for much the same reasons. *It seemed very good value as an HX machine and got good reviews wherever I looked. *
It is such a breeze to operate and pairs well with the Tranquillo grinder. *I have no probs making milk in a 600ml jug with the 4 hole wand. *It works well for milk for a large cappucino / latte, with milk thats ideal for latte art (not that Im good at that side of things).
Only two problems. *The plastic water container sprang a leak and was replaced under warranty very promptly. *And after about 18 months, I had to get it repaired as it started blowing steam. *Got it fully serviced at the same time. *No problems since then.
Would recommend it to anyone as great value for money, no fuss, easy to use and makes excellent coffee.
Edit: No probs with the gasket in my case, maybe because I got the older model machine? Anyway, the gasket for the portafilter is fine on my setup :)