I think this is the best machine in it's price range, looks good, works great, and is a nice, solid, espresso machine - with a PID!
Positive Product Points
This is a beautiful machine, and looks great. It produces great shots, maintains a steady temperature, and I love it!
Negative Product Points
Not many! The machine retains heat very well, which means that you have to wait a bit longer when you go from steaming to brewing. The top slopes to the rear, which means that your cups, tamper etc will slide back. Unfortunately the neglected to put a rail across the back to keep stuff from sliding off. The water supply seems to be smaller that I'm used to.
Having lost my Alexia to my ex wife, I finally decided to get a replacement machine. After lots of online shopping, reading reviews and a bunch of research I decided on the Ascaso Steel Uno Pro with PID. At a retail price of $799, it just seems to have the most bang for the buck. I think it compares very favorably to the Silvia, with 3 way solenoid, brass boiler, full size portafilter and several other things that I wanted in a new espresso machine. Actually I looked rather hard at the Silvia, and the only reason I passed it up was that I occasionally use ESE pods (not very often), and the Silvia requires a kit which is installed with a screwdriver. The Ascaso, on the other hand, comes with a pod basket, which is just swapped out with the single or double shot baskets. Easy!
It worked like a dream right out of the (extremely well packed) box. It comes with an additional 3 hole steam tip, 3 baskets, 1 double portafilter (58mm), your generic plastic measuring spoon and a REAL aluminum tamper. The tamper is great, with a 53 mm on one end and 58 mm on the other. I really like the tamper!
Anyway, I filled up the 68 oz water tank and turned it on. It responded with those nice blue led lights, and the PID lights up and displays the temperature as it rises. While it reaches temperature rather quckly, it works best when it is allowed to heat for 30 minutes or more. After that there is minimum fluctuation of the temperature. My PID came set to 200 degrees, but it can be adjusted up or down as desired.
Once I got the hang of what type grind it liked, it pulls beautiful shots. Heating up for steaming (it is a single boiler unit) takes just a few minutes, and again you see the temperature displayed on the PID. It has plenty of power for steaming/foaming/texturing, and I have had no problems in that area. When you switch off the steam, the manual says to wait 5 minutes to cool back down. This can be shortened quite a bit by running some water out of the steam arm while you're waiting (it has a seperate button for water). I don't know if it really takes a long time to cool, or I'm just not used to seeing the actual temperature displayed on the PID (as I watch the temperature drop). Rather than looking at this as a negative, I just assume that it has a very nice, solid brass boiler, which also means a stable temperature.
The only really negative that I have found concerns the top railiing. The top slopes to the rear, which is great because it keeps all your cups etc from sliding forward. There are nice railings on the sides, but for some unknown reason they did not put one across the back. There is a very small lip there, but not trusting that I took a coathanger wire and made my own rail in about 3 minutes.
The top stays nice and toasty (moreso than my Alexia), and I like that. The water supply (and steam wand) are on the right side, and the machine is filled by sliding the water container out to the right. You need enough space on the right side to accomodate this, but you don't have to take all your stuff off the top as with several other machines. I don't know if the water supply is smaller than I'm used to or not. Maybe I'm just making more espresso than I used to!
I am very pleased with this machine. I've been pulling better shots than ever before, it looks just great, and has everything I could ask for in it's price range.
I made my purchase from JL Hufford, mostly becaused they offered more "freebies" than the other vendors I looked at. The buying experience was great, they were very helpful, and everything was shipped on the same day I ordered.