- Short steaming wand which cannot be replaced - Takes a longtime to cool down after steaming - Slanted top makes cups slide down.
I was originally eying the Steel DUO but since my need for hot water isn't very high the owners of Morala recommended the UNO instead which is cheaper.
It took me about 1 pound of coffee to get my shots right. They're not perfect yet but certainly much improved. I started out with a Starbucks Barrista and was pleased with it until I traveled to Italy last year and experienced real espresso. Prior to this I strictly drank coffee with milk in some form or another. Since then, I have been searching for comparable espresso in my travels. Unfortunately, Africa has been my major stomping ground and although they grow amazing coffee, they haven't yet refined the art of extraction. I'm almost positive that in many hotels I was served instant coffee with hot milk instead of a cappuccino, but I digress.
Back to the Ascaso. I had researched machines for some time and narrowed it down to the Rancillio Silvia and Ascaso Steel. What ultimately made me choose the Ascaso was that many Rancilio users remarked that the Silvia could take some time to master and although I love a challenge, I also have limited patience and most reviews, both on CoffeeGeek and elsewhere, were almost unanimous in saying that the Ascaso required a little less finesse with comparable results.
So far I haven't been disappointed. My major stumbling block was the grind. I held off buying a grinder until yesterday and would rely on Morala and others to grind the coffee. This yielded mixed results. I was unable to get the thick crema that I was seeing from others. YouTube is great for observing others in action.
After purchasing an Ascaso grinder yesterday, I appear to have achieved success in my shots. I'm not sure they are Italian quality just yet, but certainly a tenfold improvement over previous attempts.
As for the machine itself. I love the style but the slanted top does annoy me a bit as cups slide to the back all the time and you must remove them when filling the reservoir. Nonetheless, these and other minor issues have not tainted my high opinion of this machine.
The only real frustration is with the short steaming wand. Those familiar with Ascaso will know that the Steel DUO has a longer wand great for steaming with or without the froth aider. I've perfected my frothing technique but this machine won't allow me to froth small amounts of milk in an average sized container. I tried to substitute the wand on the DUO with mine but the part that attaches to the machines are not the same length and could have resulted in the steam wand detaching during the steaming process. Not an interesting prospect. Luckily the people at Morala were nice enough to test it out before I order the part. I guess I'll have to either purchase a smaller container or continue to use the froth aider and always steam a little more milk than I need.
All in all, I am so far extremely happy with the machine and the results. I'd buy it again in a heartbeat.
Morala was great. I have the benefit of living in Ottawa so when the first machine I got had a tight steaming nob, they replaced it without hesitation. For the price I paid, CND$800, I expect perfection. And when the second machine developed a bit of a leak, it was repaired in the same day. I bought my grinder from them also. No attempts at selling anything extra besides coffee of course.
Three Month Followup
It's been almost a year since I've had my Steel UNO Prof and I'm as happy with it as ever. As with any machine coffee quality has been the biggest issue. Also my shot preparation needs work and in most cases any missed shots are user related.
The acquisition of the Ascaso grinder has significantly improved my results and the overall quality of the shot.