Umpteenth inexpensive grinder thread: Baratza Virtuoso or Ascaso I-Mini

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

#1: Post by gfilicetti »

Hey guys,

I've been lurking here (and other forums) for a while, trying to figure out what to get for my grinder. So I know the rigamaroll about "spend big $ once, avoid future upgrades", etc, etc...

Fact of the matter is, I've got both budget and space constraints that preclude me from going the Rocky, Macap or Mazzer route. And yes, this will be used for espresso almost exclusively (perhaps moka too). My espresso machine is a Saeco Aroma (soon to be outfitted with a non-pressurized PF). As you can tell from my machine choice, space is a premium in my kitchen.

Anyway, after a ton of reading and checking out prices, I've come to the decision that I'll be going with the either the Ascaso I-Mini or the Baratza Virtuoso (probably refurb). My gut feeling is that that I-Mini is a superior machine, based on what I've read... if that's the case, then why is it (slightly) cheaper than a new virtuoso? ($209 vs. $225)

Comparing what's been written about the two, my impression is that the I-Mini has better burrs and more accuracy due to the worm drive.

Also weighing on me is the fact that Baratza's customer service appears to have no rival... however, I truly never want to test any manufacturer's customer service if I can avoid it.

Any help would be appreciated.

G

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Beezer

#2: Post by Beezer »

I haven't used those grinders, but I hear that the Virtuoso isn't that great for espresso. It's supposed to have trouble getting a really consistent, fine grind, which is the key to great espresso.

The Ascaso I-Mini looks quite nice, but I haven't seen any reviews yet. I think it just came out, so nobody's tried it yet. Maybe you can get it and tell us what you think. If it sucks, you can always send it back under the 30 day replacement policy.

You might look at the Gaggia MDF, which is a solid grinder for $200. The only problem with it is the large gap between steps on the grind adjustment, but you can modify it to stepless and solve that problem. You can find them pretty easily on eBay too, if you need to save some money.
Lock and load!

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another_jim
Team HB

#3: Post by another_jim »

The Ascaso grinders use the Trespade burr set, same as the Lux, the Pavoni PG, and the old Innovas. This burr set produces a grind quality at least as good as small commercial grinders like the Mazzer Mini. The drawback is that it is very noisy.

I have not tried the new Baratza, which addresses many of the problems of the older Maestro models. Not having the "exactly" right grind setting is way overrated as a problem, IMO. A few seconds more or less, a few grams more or less, is not going to make the least bit of difference to the way the shot tastes, provided you stop it at the right color.

Grinders do vary dramatically in how easily they pack, and doserless models are usually not as good as doser ones, where the thwackety-thwack eliminates clumps. This is ultimately an issue of barista technique, not grinder design, but the easy life is always nice. I'm guessing the Virtuoso may have problems in this area, judging by the complaining newbies; the Trespade grinders are harder to pack than commercial doser models, but manageable.

Newbies invariably attribute their inability to pull two identical shots in a row to the lack of sufficient equipment settings they can change between shots. The fact is that the entry level equipment used by newbies is much more unforgiving than the commercial equipment people buy after they decide they'll pursue home espresso. This creates a double whammy, the people with technique good enough to use entry level equipment have moved beyond it; and the people buying it will have their weaknesses mercilessly exposed. The upshot is that entry level equipment gets a lot of unfair criticism; and that newbies get a very long hazing learning to cope with it.
Jim Schulman

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cafeIKE

#4: Post by cafeIKE »

another_jim wrote:The Ascaso grinders use the Trespade burr set, same as the Lux, the Pavoni PG, and the old Innovas. This burr set produces a grind quality at least as good as small commercial grinders like the Mazzer Mini. The drawback is that it is very noisy.
Agree. I have Gran Macinino, which I think is the same burr set. We call it the Gran Banshee. It does grind well for espresso, it's just not very adjustable.
another_jim wrote:I have not tried the new Baratza, which addresses many of the problems of the older Maestro models.
Tried two Baratza Virtuosi. Way too much static. The scale is far too large. Only about 5% is useful for espresso, which is not much use at all. Baratza is a great company with customer service second to none.
another_jim wrote:Not having the "exactly" right grind setting is way overrated as a problem, IMO. A few seconds more or less, a few grams more or less, is not going to make the least bit of difference to the way the shot tastes, provided you stop it at the right color.
If the exact right grind is not a must for good espresso, it's a luxury I'd never give up. It's a valuable tool to use in conjunction with dosing level and temperature when extracting the nth degree from a coffee.
another_jim wrote:Grinders do vary dramatically in how easily they pack, and doserless models are usually not as good as doser ones, where the thwackety-thwack eliminates clumps. This is ultimately an issue of barista technique, not grinder design, but the easy life is always nice. I'm guessing the Virtuoso may have problems in this area, judging by the complaining newbies; the Trespade grinders are harder to pack than commercial doser models, but manageable.
IMO, dosers are for barista wannabe's. Both my Macap and Gran Macinino clump far less than doser Mazzer Mini's I've used, with the same coffee. Marshall will say it's inelegant, but I use a cut down yogurt cup to load the PF, then give a gentle side to side shake to distribute. Grind fine and don't over dose.

The 2p : Ascaso iMini.

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Kaffee Bitte

#5: Post by Kaffee Bitte »

I have heard good things, for the most part about the Ascaso I-2, though the I-3 mini is pretty new and untested. Truly all of the ascaso grinders are pretty new to US shores so there isn't a lot of user data on them, yet. But just think YOU could be the first to create that user based feedback!

I personally have the Nemox Lux, which uses the same burrs. I am very satisfied with the grind it produces, though there are some clumping issues. I have also had several coffees that ground way too fine on the coarsest setting (factory setting, this has since been modded to allow larger grind range). This shouldn't be an issue with the Ascaso though, since their grinders are stepless, as opposed to the Lux which is stepped. Someday I may upgrade to a mazzer or macap, but for now the Lux does the job it is supposed to do, and does it well.

Clumping shouldn't be an issue you should worry about much, there are multiple techniques that have been posted on this and other boards that can be used to deal with these difficulties.
Lynn G.
LMWDP # 110
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gfilicetti (original poster)

#6: Post by gfilicetti (original poster) »

Hi guys,

So I got the Ascaso I-mini grinder about a week ago, but I've been so busy with work it hasn't seen much use.

I have a few comments I'd like to share and see if anyone has some suggestions.

1. The owner's manual is obviously weak on the English translation, that's to be expected; however, what I didn't expect is that the owner's manual would cover the I1 and I2 and not the I-mini! There is no mention of the I-mini in there AT ALL.

2. As others have stated, the worm drive is incredibly fine in adjusting, I still haven't gotten it down to a true espresso grind and I must've turned it 50 times clockwise. Since my coffee machine still has it's pressurized portafilter, this isn't as much of a deal breaker as it would have been otherwise (I know that's no excuse).

3. There is an INCREDIBLE amount of coffee left in the machine after grinding... almost half a dose after I tip the machine and smack it around to get all the coffee out. Does anyone have suggestions on how best to get the coffee out while I'm dosing and not after the fact when I'm forced to send it straight to the trash.

4. The unit needs to be unscrewed to get to the burrs and thus do a proper cleaning. I haven't opened it yet to look inside, but that screw is a terrible PITA. A wing nut or some other kind of easy release fastener would've been a better choice.

Anyway, i'm still far from being able to properly review this machine even if anyone would care about the opinions of a newbie's first grinder. But in terms of size, looks and general heft for a small unit, it is quite impressive.

G

gfilicetti (original poster)

#7: Post by gfilicetti (original poster) »

bump....

Anyone got suggestions for dealing with the above issues with my Ascaso?

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another_jim
Team HB

#8: Post by another_jim » replying to gfilicetti »

Not really, your issues are true of just about every grinder on the market.
Jim Schulman

shark15994

#9: Post by shark15994 »

RE:
gfilicetti wrote:3. There is an INCREDIBLE amount of coffee left in the machine after grinding... almost half a dose after I tip the machine and smack it around to get all the coffee out. Does anyone have suggestions on how best to get the coffee out while I'm dosing and not after the fact when I'm forced to send it straight to the trash.
I don't have an Ascaso, but I know you can take a flimsy plastic small dinner place or something like that and try to create somewhat of a seal by inserting it into the top of the bean holder. Then rapidly shove it up and down a few times. You can put a piece of tape or something on the bottom of the plate to hold it. This will flush out grinds which are sitting in the machine.

h/t to Popeye for this idea.

AUSTINrob

#10: Post by AUSTINrob »

I too am keeping an eye on reviews of the I-mini and hope that some others with experiance would be willing to chime in here.

I currently have the Macap M4 stepless which I love, but amy looking for something smaller to keep next to it for grinding decaf espresso beans. I have yet to experiment with decaf beans.

I love the small size and comestics (black) of the I-mini, but wonder if the quality will get me into the same "ball park" as my Macap...Since I am looking for a decaf grinder i don't want to cheap out too much, I have a feeling the decaf beans will need all the help they can get - but the small size of the i-mini seems just too good to be true...