An Expert Guide to Nuova Simonelli Espresso Machines

Published on 07/14/2022 · 7 min readNuova Simonelli is one of the best espresso machine brands on the market. Check out this guide to learn more about the company and a few of its top machines.
Jeff Sutton, Coffee Expert
By Coffee Expert Jeff Sutton

When thinking about espresso, most people’s minds will immediately be transported to a café somewhere in Italy. It was in Cessapalombo, a small town in central Italy, in 1936 when Orlando Simonelli created his first espresso machine and started to bolster the Italian coffee culture that we think of today. This machine was named simply for the year in which it was created, “1936”. This was a very innovative machine for the time but not a true espresso machine as we know it today.

It wasn’t until Simonelli created the Selene in 1950 that the company truly began making espresso machines capable of pushing water through a tamped coffee puck at 9 bars of pressure which created the beverage known as espresso. Nine years after the Selene, Simonelli added innovations to his machines, such as having two boilers along with a heat-exchange system to allow for simultaneous steaming and extraction and called it the Eureka. These systems that the Eureka pioneered are still found in many commercial and high-end espresso machines to this day.

In 1969, a management buyout created the company Nuova Simonelli which is one of today's most recognizable names in espresso. Innovation has continued to be a signature that the company has expanded on over the years, after first jumping into the home market with the Elli in 1971, all the way through today with the E1 Prima, which has revolutionized the way water is used and heated with espresso machines.

The 1936 was the first machine created by Orlando Simonelli and was not exactly a small piece of equipment

If you are part of a home or business that wants to make zero compromises with your coffee drinks, the high-quality espresso machines from Nuova Simonelli and their subsidiary Victoria Arduino make a product that should fit the bill. Nuova Simonelli’s umbrella of companies are heavily involved in both the commercial and prosumer markets of espresso machines. Prosumer machines take all of the aspects of professional-quality espresso commercial units and shrink them down without compromising the caliber of boilers, group heads and all other essential parts.

Today I will walk you through three top-of-the-line espresso machines and explain the differences so you can decide if one will be right for you when pulling the morning shot of espresso or creating your afternoon latte.

Best ‘Starter’ Espresso Machine: The Oscar II

The Oscar II is a simple yet powerful machine in the classic Nuova Simonelli style

The Oscar II is the starting point for Nuova Simonelli’s consumer line but by no means is a basic or a lower-level machine. It is built with a new stainless steel and ABS body (ABS is the highest quality food grade plastic available), which is an upgrade from its predecessor, the Oscar I. The Oscar II comes standard with a heat-exchange 2L copper boiler that allows for simultaneous use of the steaming wand while extracting your espresso, along with a professional-sized group head that ensures a consistent temperature for its espresso extractions. It has a very simple user interface consisting of four front-facing buttons and an ergonomic lever that controls the steam wand, which is an upgrade from the Oscar I that first appeared on the market in 1999.

Another nice feature unique to Nuova Simonelli machines is their soft infusion system. This system reduces the importance of proper tamping technique and variables that human error can create, resulting in a more consistent shot of espresso pull after pull. The Oscar II is a semi-automatic machine, which means that the control of the extraction is in the hands of you, the barista. The unit achieves this with the use of a single button to start and stop the extraction and can also be programmed to run water through the portafilter for a set amount of time.

The Oscar II also comes as both a direct-connect model that’s plumbed into a water supply from your kitchen or a pour-over model, where you have to fill a reservoir tank located in back of the machine.

Best Compact Unit: The Musica

The Musica Espresso Machine shown with the optional LED lights along its sides

The Musica is one of the top art-deco-designed machines on the market and ideal for a home, office, or small cafe. This unit may look like it is straight from the 1950s, but with all of its features encompassed in a single unit, it operates like it’s from the future. The Musica is a compact unit measuring 13in deep by 17in high and only 16in wide. Its unique design is accentuated by the option of LED neon-style lights on the outside edge of the unit.

The Musica is a compact, volumetric, semi-automatic machine capable of pulling consistently high-quality espresso shots. A volumetric machine allows you to program up to three dosages for your extractions. Once programmed into the machine, the options can easily be accessed by the user-friendly, back-lit soft touch buttons on the front of the machine, which can be dimmed or brightened to fit into an office or home environment.

The Musica is equipped with a boiler pressure gauge so you can constantly see what is going on internally. This helps with keeping you assured that everything is working properly. Its backplate includes a reverse mirror to let you observe every angle of the shot you are pulling.

This unit can be initially purchased as either a direct-connect system or come set up with a water reservoir as a pour-over system that needs to be filled. These options, along with the push-pull steam wand that eliminates the need to turn the steam wand before use, make the Musica an ideal espresso machine for the connoisseur who wants the best in a compact unit with both unrivaled reliability and exceptional aesthetics.

Best Tech: The E1 Prima

The new heating system on the E1 Prima replaces large energy-wasting boilers

The world of espresso machines has been redefined with the creation of the E1 Prima by Victoria Arduino. The entire process of heating water into the group head and steam wand has been reimagined in a machine that saves both energy and time for the home, office, or even a barista operating out of a cart. It comes with a NEO (New Engine Optimization) system that uses an instant heating system along with a unique insulation mechanism that reduces both the energy consumption of the machine and its overall heat dispersion. This allows the machine to work almost instantly as it only heats the amount of water necessary for the coffee extraction. The new way to heat water creates a system that greatly reduces both energy consumption and the cost of operation.

The idea of having a fully commercial-capable machine that could be used on a portable cart or easily moved from one place to another used to be unthinkable. The E1 Prima is also fully digital and able to be completely controlled remotely. With Bluetooth technology-enabled, all aspects of the machine can be controlled through the user's phone. This includes simple things, like programming start and shut-off functions but delves into so much more than that. The digital feature allows for control and monitoring of the water’s temperature stability for both extraction and steaming, along with the overall time of the extraction. This takes the idea of a PID (proportional-integral-derivative) temperature control system, which is much more efficient than traditional thermometer controls, to the next level. Instead of having to crack open your machine or scroll through menus on the front of the unit, you can make simple adjustments from your phone on the fly.

Some of the other features that are controllable through the app are pre-infusion, extraction time, and the pressure of the water over your espresso puck at any point in the process. This information can then be easily stored in your own personal cloud space and referenced any time you are going to make a shot with the same beans. There is also a space to share your recipes, connect with a virtual group of baristas, and access a plethora of ideas that can be tweaked or adapted for your own use. This machine has been endorsed by some of the biggest names in the coffee industry, including James Hoffman and Dale Harris.

Photo courtesy of Nuova Simonelli

Nuova Simonelli and Victoria Arduino have always been standouts in the world of espresso and have a history of creating reliable, quality products, with the customer service to back them up. These companies have created a following ranging from casual coffee enthusiasts to professional baristas across the globe that will swear they’ve created the right machine for any espresso lover looking for high performance and style. Be forewarned that all of these machines will come with a substantial price tag, but this will be well worth it once the first sip of a perfectly extracted shot rolls down your tongue. To find one of these machines for yourself, talk with a Coffee & Espresso Expert

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