Recently I took a delivery of a used Nuova Simonelli Oscar from ebay;. Surprisingly the seller is a forum member and I normally had no problem trusting another fellow member. The caveat though, was that he was selling for his friend. But anyhow, the seller warranted that it would work perfectly and I take it eventually, for I have heard so much about HX and their cooling flush. I don’t want to miss out on the fun which was the main reason I am so interested in coffee, other than the good taste of course! Some HX hardcore fans defend the HX that they stand at the same level with Double Boiler machine and that moving from one to the other is just a lateral move than an ‘upgrade’. DB is definitely out of my reach so I thought this cheap HX would do for the learning experience.
So, after a week of waiting, the Oscar was finally here. I purposely went back to my apartment in between my 1-hour class break, knowing the Oscar would be there when i arrive home. You could see how excited I was! Haha. This particular Oscar was modified professionally by previous owner so that it could take water from external source(container, not plumbed). I think that’s a cool mod because one of the shortcoming of stock Oscar is that it’s really hard to peek into the water level of the reservoir in the machine and the water detection probe is prone to failure at some point.
Picture: Notice how it takes water from an external water source
Anyhow, the Oscar turned out to work okay. Not perfect. Why? The heater works, steam comes out after 10 minutes heating. Though, I can’t help but sense that there’s something wrong with the steam. It has this skunky odor to it. I thought I was imagining things so I dismissed it. I went ahead and brew a shot after it has warmed up. Using the grind from my Cremina, the first shot was a tad looser. The second shot was much better flow. However, the portafilter leaks during both brew albeit it’s a new gasket. This is problem 1. The brewhead and body, they looked pretty dirty. Apparently, not too much love was given from the owner.Then, I proceeded to steam a pitcher of milk. Wow, the steam was really strong at first, too strong in fact. But it diminishes too quickly
to a weak steam at the end of the steaming. A little disappointment but could be remedied with less holes. Here comes the biggest problem though. Not because of the failed microfoam attempt, but the steamed milk, literally smelled like drain water. This is a BIG problem. I don’t normally pour my drink into the sink however bad it is, but this is really bad.
Well, I guess, not a big deal anyway. So, it probably just needed a deep cleaning. I did a few boiler flushing using a few tips on the net. The first boiler flush I had, really got me caught off guard. What did the previous owner do?? How did he even drink the coffee made from this boiler? I am perplexed. The water, was from brown to green, literally. None the less, after 4 boiler full of flushes, the water finally became clearer and the smell was gone for the most part. Acceptable, definitely not ideal. I brew a few shots with the machine then. Though the extraction looks pretty decent, the taste wasn’t really on par with the incredible shots from my old-trusty Cremina. It was less nuanced and more watery. Obviously, the temperature was off too, due to my nonexistence skill on HX. I reckon I flushed too long and it was too cold.
Picture: I kid you not. This is the water that came out from the boiler!
However, the drama doesn't ends here. Soon after that day, the Oscar stopped heating up. Again, I spent quite a while to troubleshoot it and finally tracked it down to the burnt thermal fuse. I guess it's probably too old or something because I've heard they could fail after a long while. Thank God it wasn't an expensive part and easily replaceable for about $5 shipped thermal fuse. But from that troubleshooting, I did get to disassemble the whole Oscar. The internal is much more compact and complexed than the Gaggia and Cremina I've worked on before. But one thing worth noting is that each and every part of it are pretty rugged. No delicate wires or plastics.
Picture: I am actually impressed by myself that I could manage to take it apart and put it back!
So, now it's time to learn more on the machine to get better espresso. I suspect I'm the limiting factor here in getting good espresso. It was a good experience to learn your machine's innard before even using them. Though if given a chance I probably wouldn't choose to go that route. Haha! Another lesson is make sure you ask a lot of questions before throwing your trust on the ebay. I bet the seller didn't intend to hide anything but he probably haven't tested it for brewing, just turn on the heating and pump etc.