First espresso machine - used Ascaso Steel Uno - is it worth it?

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
Andreasstr

#1: Post by Andreasstr »

Oy! Im just about to buy my first espresso machine and I could really use some guidance. So ive stumbled across this Ascaso Steel Uno 2017 model (used) and wanted to get some input on what to look for when buying used machines. Price is set to 500$ and that also includes Ascaso I-steel grinder, tampers and some other minor barista tools. Ive tried to find some price comparison online but without any luck. So my final question is, do you guys think its worth it or should i go for a box fresh one?

baldheadracing
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#2: Post by baldheadracing »

There are multiple versions of the Ascaso Steel - it depends on which one.

IIRC, in 2017 there was a base model with 250ml boiler that took 57mm portafilter baskets - I wouldn't pay $500 for that one. There was also a "Pro" version with a 350ml boiler and took 58mm portafilter baskets. The 58mm version was available with and without PID. The "Pro with PID" is the one to get.

... or I could be wrong and they had switched to thermoblocks by then. I wouldn't consider those.

(Some?) Current models use a new system with a thermoblock, an electric group heater, a PID, and take 58mm baskets. These are supposed to be good too, but I have no experience.

The grinder comes in two versions that look identical. One has 38mm conical burrs but a plastic grind system that isn't that durable. The other version has 50mm flat burrs and a metal grind system that people say is more durable but isn't as good-tasting as the conical. I only have experience with the conical and I wouldn't recommend buying a used conical due to potential wear of the plastic mechanism.

Note Ascaso's of that vintage are loud. Lots of vibrating metal compared to their competitors like the Silvia.

Good luck!

K7

#3: Post by K7 »

baldheadracing wrote:There are multiple versions of the Ascaso Steel - it depends on which one.

IIRC, in 2017 there was a base model with 250ml boiler that took 57mm portafilter baskets - I wouldn't pay $500 for that one. There was also a "Pro" version with a 350ml boiler and took 58mm portafilter baskets. The 58mm version was available with and without PID. The "Pro with PID" is the one to get.

... or I could be wrong and they had switched to thermoblocks by then. I wouldn't consider those.

(Some?) Current models use a new system with a thermoblock, an electric group heater, a PID, and take 58mm baskets. These are supposed to be good too, but I have no experience.

The grinder comes in two versions that look identical. One has 38mm conical burrs but a plastic grind system that isn't that durable. The other version has 50mm flat burrs and a metal grind system that people say is more durable but isn't as good-tasting as the conical. I only have experience with the conical and I wouldn't recommend buying a used conical due to potential wear of the plastic mechanism.

Note Ascaso's of that vintage are loud. Lots of vibrating metal compared to their competitors like the Silvia.

Good luck!
Do you know which model has a group heater? I could not locate one when I did a quick search.

Interesting that they have PID'ed thermoblock system. I've never seen it anywhere else. I thought the tech is simply not accurate enough, but maybe they have some new thermoblock innovation? That would be cool.

I noticed they made the OPV exposed to the front. Maybe one can turn it on the fly for pressure profiling? :mrgreen:
Seriously though, it seems to me like a simple way to add pressure profiling if the valve can last.

User avatar
Jeff
Team HB

#4: Post by Jeff »

PID control of the thermoblock temperature makes a bit of sense past pure marketing. It should lead to better shot-to-shot repeatability. PID control of the brew temperature in a thermoblock machine in that price class is likely nothing more than marketing, as the heat transfer will be related to flow rate. The time constant of the block makes feedback control of the output temperature a challenge with the amount of flow variation in a 20-30 second shot.

(OPV valves aren't designed for more than occasional adjustment)

To the OP's question, if you're set on this machine, if the used one works, why not? Less money lost when you either decide home espresso isn't for you, or is and you want something more repeatable and/or adjustable.

Have you considered something like a Cafelat Robot for a bit under $500?

baldheadracing
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#5: Post by baldheadracing »

K7 wrote:Do you know which model has a group heater? I could not locate one when I did a quick search...
I believe that all the current models with PID have it - and the ones without PID do not. To be honest, Ascaso's marketing is so confusing - and they'll build different versions for different markets - that I am starting to think that I have no idea what is going on. It could be just a new way of connecting the thermoblock to the grouphead :oops:.

Their thermoblock design came out a few years ago. I have one somewhere that I bought for a project. The root issue with "conventional" thermoblocks is having enough computer power to control them when flow varies. The major remaining issue is steaming power. Ascaso's better and commercial machines use a boiler for steam, and thermoblocks for each group.

I don't think that a traditional OPV can be used for pressure profiling.

K7

#6: Post by K7 »

I am aware of the conventional wisdom on thermoblock shortcomings. I was hoping for more info on Ascaso's particular implementation if there's anything unique. After all, they added PID, which is very unusual, and price is quite high for a thermoblock machine (more than 2x of Breville Infuser). You both seem to think there's nothing new. Okay...

Regarding the OPV, even the heavy duty metal ones like in ECM and Ascaso machines don't last? If so, looks like a good opportunity for someone to come in and innovate.

Andreasstr (original poster)

#7: Post by Andreasstr (original poster) »

Its not the pro edition with the temperature control (PID). Regarding the portafilter measurements the owner had now clue of course :roll: . Maybe I'll just go back to my initial plan and get a box fresh Gaggia Classic Pro for about the same price (with grinder included). I've read some good reviews on that one. Any thoughts about this? Thanks for replying by the way! :)

Andreasstr (original poster)

#8: Post by Andreasstr (original poster) »

baldheadracing wrote:There are multiple versions of the Ascaso Steel - it depends on which one.

IIRC, in 2017 there was a base model with 250ml boiler that took 57mm portafilter baskets - I wouldn't pay $500 for that one. There was also a "Pro" version with a 350ml boiler and took 58mm portafilter baskets. The 58mm version was available with and without PID. The "Pro with PID" is the one to get.

... or I could be wrong and they had switched to thermoblocks by then. I wouldn't consider those.

(Some?) Current models use a new system with a thermoblock, an electric group heater, a PID, and take 58mm baskets. These are supposed to be good too, but I have no experience.

The grinder comes in two versions that look identical. One has 38mm conical burrs but a plastic grind system that isn't that durable. The other version has 50mm flat burrs and a metal grind system that people say is more durable but isn't as good-tasting as the conical. I only have experience with the conical and I wouldn't recommend buying a used conical due to potential wear of the plastic mechanism.

Note Ascaso's of that vintage are loud. Lots of vibrating metal compared to their competitors like the Silvia.

Good luck!

Its not the pro edition with the temperature control (PID). Regarding the portafilter measurements the owner had now clue of course :roll: . Maybe I'll just go back to my initial plan and get a box fresh Gaggia Classic Pro for about the same price (with grinder included). I've read some good reviews on that one. Any thoughts about this? Thanks for replying by the way! :)

Andreasstr (original poster)

#9: Post by Andreasstr (original poster) »

Jeff wrote:PID control of the thermoblock temperature makes a bit of sense past pure marketing. It should lead to better shot-to-shot repeatability. PID control of the brew temperature in a thermoblock machine in that price class is likely nothing more than marketing, as the heat transfer will be related to flow rate. The time constant of the block makes feedback control of the output temperature a challenge with the amount of flow variation in a 20-30 second shot.

(OPV valves aren't designed for more than occasional adjustment)

To the OP's question, if you're set on this machine, if the used one works, why not? Less money lost when you either decide home espresso isn't for you, or is and you want something more repeatable and/or adjustable.

Have you considered something like a Cafelat Robot for a bit under $500?
Im not set at all on this machine. I just thought it was a bargain, hehe. My initial plan was to get a brand new Gaggia Classic Pro at the same price with warranty (grinder included). Read some great reviews on that one and it fits my current budget.

I've seen some videos of the Cafelat Robot, looks super cool. I want to have something more automatic with the possibility of making americanos, lattes etc. Basically a steamer attached. Thanks for replying :)

coffeeOnTheBrain

#10: Post by coffeeOnTheBrain »

I am not affiliated with Ascaso nor this Austrian shop, but the shop surly is affiliated with Ascaso, as they sell Ascaso's machines. For what it is worth I believe in the integrity of their tests.
What am I trying to say, seems like the Ascaso thermoblock with PID is more temperature stable then any e61 and better then some saturated groups.
At least the tests in the video state that: