Oscar is Nice Stuff. Ive had mine a year now and Ive been delighted. No problems, easy to maintain, clean and use. Ive marveled at fabulous consistant coffee quality and forgiving nature when you dont quite get it right. The only thing Ive replaced is the gasket above the portafilter when the first one dried out and began to leak. My instinct was to buy something locally if possible, get it used, use the heck out of it and see how it performed and for how long. The Oscar passed my tests with flying colors. I found a used Rancilio Rocky in the local Classifieds and currently grinding my way thru Costco bought SF Bay French Roast and roast my own locally purchased espresso blend from a kiosk in town.
Negative Product Points
If I could think of one I'd put it here. But I cannot. I have a food service background and have worked with many fine brands of commercial kitchen equipment. In my home I have a few of those pieces although Im the only one benefitting from their use. Its kind of ecclectic, I know, but Ive been happy with my choices over the years.
I chose this brand and model because it was simple. There's an NS distributor 10 miles up the freeway from here. Its THE NS distributor in North America and I was not shy about calling them and asking to buy a demo unit knowing there had been an espresso convention the previous weekend in Seattle, and the likelihood of an available unit was pretty good. I did not attend the convention. I picked my Oscar up, asked all the pertinent questions and brought it home. It sits on a slab of granite atop my butcher block next to my Wolf range and 20qt. Hobart mixer, a floor model. So when I make biscotti... I found and fixed up a used Saeco Vapore the previous year and got my feet wet, not literally, with homemade espresso, something I knew little about. I joined this august forum and read it until the I got a feel for the details of making good espresso and went around town and sampled various product, speaking with knowledgeable folks like Alex at the Black Drop Cafe. I leave the Oscar on 24/7, it gets backflushed every couple weeks with cleaning chemical, and find that my 2-4 doubles a day are now routine enjoyment. All the components are commercial quality in appearance, feel and performance The espresso experience evolves over time. Its a hands on thing as are any of the culinary arts. Time and patience is necessary to solve many of the riddles good food and beverage present. The Oscar has held up its end by being consistant and foregiving. Ive learned that I can heat up tea water, squash soup, creme sauces, help rehydrate dehydrated produce and add moisture to the air during a cold snap. How did I live without it? Its so easy to make an espresso drink now that I rarely use my other brewing equipment anymore. The pump and steampipe make some noise when being used. I do not find the volumes either unusually loud or objectionable. The only other noise it make is 'click' when the water heater cycles. I always wear my hard hat, goggles, ear protection and hazmat apron in the kitchen, ymmv. ;-)
It was an adventure going up to the door of the NS distributor in N.A. and picking up my Oscar. It was a smooth and friendly transaction. I felt as though I had been transported to an exotic euopean villa. Its an espresso friendly zone in an unlikely setting. You can buy a factory fresh kayak just up the street from there.