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Espresso temp & microfoam on Ascaso Steel Uno Prof
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SuburbanLatte
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SuburbanLatte
Joined: 18 Sep 2007
Posts: 34
Location: Vancouver
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Ascaso Steel Uno PM Prof
Grinder: Vario
Vac Pot: Hario TCA-2 & Yama SY-5
Drip: Chemex, Hario V60  & AP
Roaster: iRoast2
Posted Sun Nov 16, 2008, 10:56pm
Subject: Espresso temp & microfoam on Ascaso Steel Uno Prof
 

Hello readers,

Hopefully a few Uno Prof owners among you, as the boiler and steam wand set up varies considerably among the various Steel line machines.

I've had mine a week.  Fairly happy, but am finding that espresso temperature is low-ish (possibly heat loss due to significant time b/t shot pull, wait for steam to be ready, steam milk then pour together) and I am so far unable to get latte-art capable microfoam.  The foam is thick, with small to no bubbles, but comes out too thick at the end of the pitcher, a white blob.  Can this be corrected by more swirling?  Banging on counter?  I do both, but maybe not long enough.

Could be I am not warming the machine up long enough.  I wait roughly 5 to 15 minutes, run water through group, grind &  tamp, then pull the shot.  Then hit the steam button, wait the 2 or so minutes for that lamp to go off, bleed the water and steam the milk.  I took the adler (metal attachment over wand end) off after the first few unsuccessful tries surfing the side hole - now better foam, but not micro.


Side question:  The translation from Spanish in the manual can be confusing, at times.  To me, it reads that after steaming (and blowing steam 5 seconds to prevent clogs), we're meant to turn off the steam button (allowing temp to start falling) and run a 1/2 cup or so water through the wand.  Anyone else get that?  
The manual says to push the coffee button (rather than steam button), but that's wrong - it comes out the group.  I found you can run water out the wand by opening the valve (wheel on side - there isn't one on the Duo), with the steam button NOT in use, just fine.  But, how far to open it up?  There is a point where the pump engages - I am guessing we do not want that, except if you are trying to drive the temp down to pull another shot.  For 'shutting down' procedure, I assume we run water at the point below where the pump turns on; then wait 5 minutes before shutting off machine (as per the manual).  Have I got that wrong?

I appreciate any advice or shared experiences.

Cheers,
Sean
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wenus2
Senior Member


Joined: 2 Oct 2008
Posts: 621
Location: Reno, NV
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Astoria, Oscar, GB5
Grinder: Mazzers
Vac Pot: TCA-5
Drip: Drop...clever
Roaster: Behmor
Posted Mon Nov 17, 2008, 3:24am
Subject: Re: Espresso temp & microfoam on Ascaso Steel Uno Prof
 

SuburbanLatte Said:

Hello readers,

Hopefully a few Uno Prof owners among you, as the boiler and steam wand set up varies considerably among the various Steel line machines.

Posted November 16, 2008 link

I don't have an Ascaso, but I think I have some ideas....

SuburbanLatte Said:

The foam is thick, with small to no bubbles, but comes out too thick at the end of the pitcher, a white blob.  Can this be corrected by more swirling?  

Posted November 16, 2008 link

Yes, I would think so. You describe as it actually is microfoam, just not incorporated. Be sure you're not letting it sit, after steamed give it a good few taps and swirl until shiny (I've never timed it, maybe 20sec?) then pour right away.

SuburbanLatte Said:

Could be I am not warming the machine up long enough.  I wait roughly 5 to 15 minutes, run water through group, grind &  tamp, then pull the shot

Posted November 16, 2008 link

Yes, that is likely it. Personally I would let it warm up an hour, 30min if I was really in a rush. Maybe see about putting it on a timer for the morning if need be.

SuburbanLatte Said:

Side question:  The translation from Spanish in the manual can be confusing, at times.  To me, it reads that after steaming (and blowing steam 5 seconds to prevent clogs), we're meant to turn off the steam button (allowing temp to start falling) and run a 1/2 cup or so water through the wand.  Anyone else get that?

Posted November 16, 2008 link

I get the feeling the idea is to run water through the steam wand to flush the residual milk, not to release pressure for some kind of shutting down ritual. That's something we all learn eventually, flush some water to keep it from getting gunky. I've never seen it included in a manual though, that's pretty thorough of them. That's proof right there it's not Italian! :-)

SuburbanLatte Said:

wait 5 minutes before shutting off machine (as per the manual).

Posted November 16, 2008 link

That's a new one on me. Maybe there's a reason for this, but I don't see it. It's not as though the machine is cooling off sitting there with the boiler kicking in and out.
I'd simply flush the steam wand, run some water water through the group and scrub it, then shut 'er down.

 
enjoy the journey
-jw
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Joel_B
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Joel_B
Joined: 9 Oct 2007
Posts: 1,826
Location: Pacific NW
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Astra Mega II
Grinder: Mazzer SJ, Virtuoso
Vac Pot: Yama 5 cup
Drip: nope, french press
Roaster: Behmor, WP, BBQ drum
Posted Mon Nov 17, 2008, 4:44am
Subject: Re: Espresso temp & microfoam on Ascaso Steel Uno Prof
 

Hey, Sean, I didn't own a Duo, but I owned a Dream.  One thing I found is the temp was too low (and it seemed others experienced the same).  One thing to make sure is that you are pullng the shot at the top of the boiler cycle.  The boiler is set to operate between a set of low/high temperature parameters.  When it gets to the low temp (Whatever your machine is calibrated to), the heater kicks on until the boiler reaches the high temperature.  When you hear the boiler kick on and as soon as it kicks off, the boiler is as hot as it's going to get on it's own; that is the top of the boiler cycle.  If that's not hot enough, after the machine gets to the top of the boiler cycle, hit the steam switch for X amount of sec to "superheat" the boiler; you'll need to determine how long you need to have the steam switch on.  If the top of the boiler cycle is too hot, run water through the group for X amount of sec to cool the boiler water down.  BTW, the guage on the front is pretty useless.  You may also not be letting the machine heat up enough.  15min isn't very long; it's not just the water in the boiler to heat up, but the group needs time to heat up as well.  I'd suggest waiting closer to 30min.

I was able to get microfoam with the steam wand froth aid and could do latte art; I never took mine off because the steam wand was reduced to just a nub.  If you're getting blob of foam on top of the milk, it's probably that you are over stretching the milk.  You shouldn't have to swirl it too much and the tapping on the counter is only to release any large bubbles that may have happened.  If you're using a thermometer, only stretch the milk to 80-90deg F and make sure your thermometer is calibrated and know how much lag it has.  If you are going by feel, stop stretching as soon as the pitcher doesn't feel cold or just slightly warm, but no further.  The type of milk matters too; skim or 2% milk can be a little tough as it wants to seperate; whole milk is much easier to work with.  Like wenus said, don't let the milk sit too long or it will seperate.

Don't know what to tell you on your side question.
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cellobrian
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cellobrian
Joined: 27 Jul 2008
Posts: 27
Location: Greensboro, NC
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Grimac Espressione Grace
Grinder: Capresso Infinity
Drip: Cuisinart DCC-1200
Posted Mon Nov 17, 2008, 5:24am
Subject: Re: Espresso temp & microfoam on Ascaso Steel Uno Prof
 

the reason for running water through the steam wand is to re-fill the boiler. I'm guessing that the Ascaso does not have an auto-fill function, so after steaming, you have to do it manually.

Here is how this works on my machine:
After steaming, I disengage the steam mode.
Open the steam valve, and then hit the brew button/switch.
After a few moments, water should come out of the steam wand.

As for foaming, you will need to learn how to "trick" your heating element to stay active the entire time that you are steaming.
Here's how:
After pulling your shot(s), turn on the steam switch/button.
Once the steam temp. has been reached, open 'er up full blast until the steam dissipates, and the heating element turns back on (I usually do this into a pitcher or other vessel).
Wait a few seconds (it's about a 10 count on my machine), and then start steaming your milk.
If you've timed it correctly, the light should remain on (or off, depending on your machine) the entire time that you are steaming.

I hope that all helps.

-Brian
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wenus2
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Joined: 2 Oct 2008
Posts: 621
Location: Reno, NV
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Astoria, Oscar, GB5
Grinder: Mazzers
Vac Pot: TCA-5
Drip: Drop...clever
Roaster: Behmor
Posted Mon Nov 17, 2008, 5:48pm
Subject: Re: Espresso temp & microfoam on Ascaso Steel Uno Prof
 

cellobrian Said:

the reason for running water through the steam wand is to re-fill the boiler. I'm guessing that the Ascaso does not have an auto-fill function, so after steaming, you have to do it manually.

Posted November 17, 2008 link

Although a valid possibility, that I completely blew over, I do find it hard to believe a newly designed model in this price range ($800) would be without auto-fill....


ok, I found a copy of the manual on 1st-line in several languages.... including English.
http://www.1st-line.com/manuals/Ascaso_Steel.pdf

Actually it appears that the section for using the hot water function immediately follows where it tells you to clear the steam wand, the steaming section.
The part about running water is not directly related in the manual, although I do still advise it.

 
enjoy the journey
-jw
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SuburbanLatte
Senior Member
SuburbanLatte
Joined: 18 Sep 2007
Posts: 34
Location: Vancouver
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Ascaso Steel Uno PM Prof
Grinder: Vario
Vac Pot: Hario TCA-2 & Yama SY-5
Drip: Chemex, Hario V60  & AP
Roaster: iRoast2
Posted Mon Nov 17, 2008, 8:30pm
Subject: Re: Espresso temp & microfoam on Ascaso Steel Uno Prof
 

Thanks wenus (and cellobrian and Joel_B).  I am reading that section as "After steaming, wait 5 minutes then prime (i.e. run ~ 1 cup water through steam wand).  Then wait 5 minutes and turn off."

I tried a longer warm up (~ 45 minutes) this afternoon and followed the directions about steaming at peak boiler temp (noticed quite a lag between lamps on this machine - roughly 30 seconds from blasting steam until lamp goes on to when it goes off again, indicating ready).  Also stuck the adler back on and steamed via side hole.  Results: a hotter double shot, hotter milk and better textured milk.  Not latte-art capable, but no white blob.  Must be getting closer.

Last 2 Qs for today:
  1. If the temperature gauge on the Ascasos are useless - and I am believing you - it is by lamp lights and 'feel' that we're meant to go by?  I guess I could take the espresso temp when it is in the cup, then cycle or superheat the boiler accordingly - would be SO much easier if the gauge was accurate.
  2. How to keep your shot reasonably hot while waiting for the steam lamp to go out (nearly 2 mins) and another 20 to 40 seconds to steam milk?  Should you keep in a 2 oz shot glass and cover to conserve heat?  I usually pour straight into a latte cup if I am making a milk drink, but I find it hard to preserve the temperature and crema for 2.5 to 3 mins.

Thanks, again, everyone.  Ah, the quest!
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Joel_B
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Joel_B
Joined: 9 Oct 2007
Posts: 1,826
Location: Pacific NW
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Astra Mega II
Grinder: Mazzer SJ, Virtuoso
Vac Pot: Yama 5 cup
Drip: nope, french press
Roaster: Behmor, WP, BBQ drum
Posted Tue Nov 18, 2008, 7:48am
Subject: Re: Espresso temp & microfoam on Ascaso Steel Uno Prof
 

If you get better results with out the frothing aid then by all means don't use it.  My only point was that micro foam/latte art was possible with it.  It seems to be a tendancy to overstretch the milk; it doesn't take much to pour latte art.  If it seems to thick or globby, sink the wand sooner.

The reason I found the gauge "useless" is that it is on too much of a macro scale and there is too much lag.  What you should go by for temperature is taste.  The reason to start at the top of the boiler cycle is that it's a constant, so if you need to heat or cool the boiler down from that point, it will be the same point you're starting from each time.  It may be that the top of the boiler cycle IS the right temp.  To get to the top of the boiler cycle, run water through the group until the boiler kicks on.  When the boiler heater shuts off (meaning it's at the top end of the deadband), you're there.  

Taking the temperature of the water in the cup isn't going to tell you much; there's too many factors to affect how much it cools down from the time it leaves the group.

pulling the shot into the cup you're using is a good idea.  I haven't found that a shot expires in a matter of seconds.  Sitting 2min won't make or break the shot IMO.  The crema will dissipate if left sitting, but would good fresh beans, there should be some there even after 2min.  The best thing you can do is to preheat you cups by running hot water from the group into them.
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