|If you want a dedicated espresso grinder, but Rocky & Mazzer are too much, this is a really good bet, once you make the simple modifications.
|Jeremy N, Jul 23, 2008
More of Jeremy N's Review:
This was on special as part of a package with a Gaggia Baby Class. I was attracted to it because I had heard of problems with getting fine enough grind on Virtuoso and Gaggia MDF (to say nothing of how bad the MDF doser seems to work from vids I've...
|Uniquely well-suited for low volume home use by those who want the best.
|Mark R. Williams, Sep 6, 2001
More of Mark R. Williams's Review:
For anyone who has only one or two cups of espresso a day, a doser on a grinder is an annoyance at worse, and superfluous at best. And yet there are few high quality grinders without dosers. Isomac is one of the few.
A few other plusses. This...
|14 Reviews have been written for the Ascaso Grinder so far by our members.
The Ascaso grinders are the first products of several coming out under the new Innova brand name (since debranded in 2005). Other products will include espresso machines and possibly other grinders, but for now, the Innova lineup is made of four different grinder variants - two in flat burr models, and two in conical burr models. These grinders are available in black, red, or brushed aluminum, and are made by Ascaso, a Spanish company specializing in high quality components for a wide variety of restaurant and consumer appliances.
You may see the Innova under different brand names in N. America. This is because Ascaso's strategy is to allow rebranding for their consumer and commercial products. Salvatore, the quality maker of espresso machines from California (website), is selling one of these rebranded grinders.
The grinder is very new to market, and there's a good chance that over the next few years there will be refinements in the design, materials, and parts that make up this grinder. CoffeeGeek is evaluating some of the earliest shipping models, and as such may not completely reflect some of the current models available today.
Out of the box the Innovas are almost ready to use. I had small concerns about the packing. The boxes are very attractive with spot coloring, but inside I felt it could have been packed slightly better, and in fact, they should have been - one of the test models had a broken grind selector knob. The product supplier did ship the replacement part within a day. I did bring up with them that packaging is a concern, and was told that Ascaso would be looking into more secure packing. It's possible this has already been looked into. Our second test model arrived in perfect condition, using the same packing methods as the first model.
There's a good product manual included with the grinder that shows basic operation and maintenance for the machines. The manual is designed for all grinders in the Innova lineup, so some information may not be necessary depending on which model you buy. I like it when a company includes a well thought out manual (surprisingly few espresso machine companies do this), and the Innova manual ranks high.
I was pleasantly surprised by the bulk and heft of the flat burr model - it seemed heavier than its 10 pound claimed weight; solid was a characteristic that immediately came to mind. The conical burr model is a bit lighter, due partially to the different motor and the resin mounts used for the burrs (the flat burr model uses brass and metal).
At first glance, the doser assemblies did not impress me. "Cheap plastic" was the first thing I thought. First glances can be deceiving. Yes, the doser assembly is primarily plastic, and yes, it has some problems (detailed on the next page). But in many ways, it works better than the Rancilio Rocky's doser.
I found the activation button very small; Ascaso said this was a design aesthetic decision. I also thought that the hopper, while looking very well matched to the grinder, seemed excessively fragile. While I have not broken it (or scratched it, because I've taken extreme care not to), the plastic is very reminiscent of that thin, brittle type prone to easy cracking. I could be wrong on this preliminary evaluation, but I don't want to test the theory.
The flat burr model has a lot of metal inside around the burr group. The conical burr model does not feature the same volume of metal, and I'm not entirely sure why Ascaso decided to go this route. I imagine it was a decision to use an existing conical burr mount, but metal means longevity and quality and durability for most consumers; already online there's been a slightly negative buzz about the resin used to mount the conical burrs in the Innova.
Set up and First Use
Given the nature of the worm drive (more on this technology on our Operation and Performance pages), setting up of the grinder can take some time. Consider this the price you pay for a grinder that allows such a fine control over the grind. In my case, it took about a dozen attempts on the flat burr model to get a reasonable grind suited for my test machine, a Pasquini Livia 90. I did quickly learn that a few revolutions on the grind selector dial hardly affects the grind fineness, which trust me, is a perk. But dialing it in is a chore, no doubt about it. It took only a few shots less with the conical burr version.
Trust me on this, all of this effort is a good thing. Right off the bat I appreciated how I could super fine tune my grind. One full revolution of the grind selector dial was the equivalent of as little as 1/7th of a click on a Rocky. Pretty sweet. More detailed information about grind selection will be in our Variations on a Theme and Performance pages.
One thing that did disappoint me pretty much from the beginning was the motor speeds and the clogging issue both these Innova grinders have. The conical and flat burr models tend to leave as much as 6 grams (almost a full dose) of grinds in the chute between the burrs and the doser. I've had feedback from doserless owners who complain that it is possibly worse with the those models. Ascaso needs to address this issue: these grinders are meant for upscale espresso aficionados in the home, and this kind of plugging, clogging action is a severe hindrance to freshness, usability, and even crema production if the operator doesn't clear out the chute after every single use.
From the bad to the good - I was very impressed with the evenness of the grinds and the shots that even this untuned Innova grinder was producing after the first lb of beans went through it. In fact, almost from the first day, I was rating the production higher than my Rossi RR45 grinder, a commercial grinder that can retail for as much as $500 or more.
My first use of the conical model showed me how much that grinder varies its speed under load. Right away it created concerns about possible motor longevity, but I didn't draw any immediate conclusions. I did speak to several engineers about the issue, including those with a special interest in coffee brewing equipment, and I'll have those notes later on.