Krups Novo, Various Jura Superautos, Cimbali M30 Bistro, Quickmill 5000A
No frills cappuccino workhorse for the home. Get it if you need a high quality cappuccino machine for a reasonable price.
Positive Product Points
No hassles operation, good steamer that can brew and steam simultaneously without effort, has a reasonable warmup time, professional quality on the inside and all of that for a very reasonable price. Modern thermosiphon pre-infusion head design for home use. Low energy consumption thanks to insulated boiler. Large 1l drip tray. No need to remove cups to fill the water tank.
Negative Product Points
Just nit-picks: Single basket requires different grind than double. No vacuum breaker, requiring a steam flush at startup. Steam knob gets a bit too hot for my taste.
Bought the machine in a rush off the shipping pallet after my old Krups broke down, so it was not tuned by the dealer. This lead to a second trip to the dealer where the temperature was properly adjusted, as it was shipped from the factory with a brew temperature of 76C. Apart from that, the operation was hassle free. During my first five minutes with the machine I realized that I need a new grinder, so I ended up with the doserless flat burr Innova, which fits the machine nicely (I did not want the step operation of the Nuova Simonelli Grinta).
Why the Oscar? It was the only HX in this price range (the price was 625.-EURO including tax) and had very good recommendations here and on the German Kaffee-Board. Everything else would have been at least 200-300 EURO more and those machines did not seem to have any real advantage over the Oscar for my purposes. I bought the pour-over version as I could not plumb in the machine in the current kitchen.
Pulling Shots: Easy. It only needs about one full espresso cup to flush the machine after a long standby (and mine is turned up high). Shots are consistent and hassle free. No temp surfing required. The only thing I don't like is the need to grind differently for the single and the double basket. I have retired the original single and use some third party small double for intense ristrettos now without having to change the grinder settings from the double.
Steaming: I had to adjust my steaming habits quite a bit. The full blast rules for steaming don't apply in small quantities (0.15-0.2l) here. It is better to only open up the steam valve for stretching only to the point where a small circle of turbulence forms until the the milk becomes warm, then go full blast for three seconds to mix it all in. The result is fine velvety foam. I also played with a two hole ECM tip, which seems to be easier to handle then the 4 hole tip that comes with the Oscar, but went back to the original tip. I typically steam while brewing, the steaming for a large cup takes less time than pulling a double.
Timer operation: When operating the machine on a timer, it needs to bleed off false steam before it can go to full temperature. This means the timer turns it on at least half an hour before I enter the kitchen, I bleed off the false steam and have four more minutes to prepare other breakfast things before the machine is fully ready in the morning. As I don't like to be woken by the vibe pump filling the boiler in the morning, I switch on the cold machine in the evening for a few seconds until the boiler auto-fill has finished.
Supplied parts: In Germany the machine is shipped with only one PF handle, so I ordered a second one (<30EURO). Also the currently shipping US model has a much more heavy duty pstat than the one shipped in Europe. It depends on your dealer whether a blind filter for back-flushing is supplied (mine came with it).
Tuning: The PF spout tends to spew hot water sideways when the machine is being flushed after a longer idle period. I replaced it with a covered spout from a pro machine. When you feel like adjusting the pstat for a different temperature, make sure you close the machine cover before temperature testing. The machine seems to be designed to be run with the cover closed, at least that was my feeling when playing with the settings. Use a kitchen towel over the cups in the cup warmer and they will be so hot that you can barely touch them even though the boiler underneath is insulated. Of course the standard tamper is the useless plastic thing that they all ship, so I bought a more reasonable one (Lusso from Concept Art)
Ease of use: My partner who is absolutely not a coffee geek type digs the machine and makes her cappuccinos with it (and complains loudly if I put different roasts apart from her favorite in the grinder).
Cleaning: The drip tray is easily removable, the shower screen in the brew head can be easily removed for cleaning. As I have the black version, tiny coffee and water spots or finger prints are basically invisible, no need to wipe the machine clean after every use like with the chrome monsters.
Biggest changes over the old Krups thermo-block machine: More intense flavors. The chocolate aroma of my regular house coffee (Bonomi Blu from Spina in Munich) comes out really nicely in cappuccinos. I went from 1kg beans per month to 2.5kg per month while at the same time the drink mix shifted from 3/4 cappuccinos, 1/4 espresso to 2/3 espresso, 1/3 cappuccinos. I experiment more with other roasts.
Bought at the local (Munich) Nuova Simonelli service point, Koob Logistik. Not the typical consumer espresso machine store, but a serious vending machine company with a focus on service. Great customer service, including e-mail replies on Sunday (and this in Germany where everything is closed on Sunday!)
Three Month Followup
Still working on my microfoam ;-)
One Year Followup
After just a bit more than half a year, the Oscar had to leave to make room for a 1992 WMF Espresso (a rebadged Cimabli M30 Bistro). The espresso from the Cimbali is not noticeable better, there where mostly non-rational reasons for the switch. I would buy the Oscar again in the same situation (needing a tank HX machine for a reasonable price). The dealer I bought it from (Koob Logistik in Munich), is very service-minded, I definitely would buy from them again.