Luca Senior Member Joined: 27 Jan 2004 Posts: 2,658 Location: Melbourne, Australia
Espresso: H: Maver W: FB-80 Grinder: H: Super Jolly W: Brasilia... Vac Pot: Hario TCA-2 Roaster: Sample Roaster at Work
Posted Sun Oct 29, 2006, 4:57am Subject: Re: Ascaso Steel Duo Espresso Machine
Very interesting to see these new sorts of machines being reviewed. If I read the first look correctly, this is basically a single-boiler machine (silvia/gaggia/isomac venus/ecm botticelli class) with a thermoblock added on for steaming. Given that a few of the coffeegeeks that I respect most have commented that they have noticed great improvements from going from a silvia to a HX machine, and that you lucky northern hemisphere guys seem to have great HX machines available in the same price range as this machine, this seems to be a brave offering at the price point. That said, there's no doubt in my mind that a lot of ascaso's products are of very good build quality.
As for the "dual boiler" "selling point" ... well, that might be true, but the question is how well they perform, and for that we will have to eagerly await the detailed review! If a decent steam wand can be found, it might be that this is the perfect machine for someone who just has to have a PIDed single-boiler machine but won't wait for steam.
Posted Sun Oct 29, 2006, 9:03am Subject: Re: Ascaso Steel Duo Espresso Machine
Thanks for the first look. It's interesting to see the design of other machines out there.
I'm curious to see what the espresso/frothing potential of the machine will be. The Steel's price puts it into the e61 HX range so I wonder if you'll be using similarly priced e61 HX's and single boilers in the comparisons like a PID'd Alexia or the Anita ;)
MarkPrince Moderator Joined: 19 Dec 2001 Posts: 5,610 Location: Vancouver, BC Expertise: Professional
Espresso: KvdW Speedster Grinder: Versalab M3 Grinder Vac Pot: A bit too many Drip: Bonavita Roaster: Hario Glass Retro Roaster
Posted Sun Oct 29, 2006, 11:19am Subject: Re: Ascaso Steel Duo Espresso Machine
I actually took out most references to the steaming ability of the machine from my draft of this article. But no reason why I can't write it here.
Power management is handled very well on this machine. I believe (not confirmed) that the steam system has its own feeding pump - makes sense because there's two separate feeding tubes from the reservoir, and two return tubes. I have not seen any noticable slowing down of the espresso shots while steaming (and you can hear the second pump kicking in for the steam thermoblock). Nor have I seen any slowdown if the boiler is cycling while pulling a shot (FF!! machines and others have this deficiency).
Steam performance - it's actually a tad faster than the Silvia in my initial head to head in terms of raw power to heat up milk. But I should note I have an older Silvia, and Rancilio has recently released a new model with new improvements. It's much, much faster than other low end "brew and steam at the same time" products out there, notably the Solis Palazzo super auto, or the KA Proline espresso machine.
Sparkman Senior Member Joined: 14 Jun 2005 Posts: 358 Location: Brisbane, Australia Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: La Pavoni Bar T2/Faema... Grinder: Cimbali Cadet/Gaggia MDF
Posted Sun Oct 29, 2006, 8:19pm Subject: Re: Ascaso Steel Duo Espresso Machine
An interesting machine.
These machines are available in Australia at a reasonable price. However, there are some confusing details. I checked the Ascaso web page a few months ago and they clearly pointed out a number of variants to this machine. One, which had the suffix "Prof", used a 1200 W 300 ml brass boiler with a 3-way valve. They described this group as being a 60 mm (as opposed to 58 mm). These details of the entire range (including the Prof variant) can be seen here . A picture of this larger boiler can also be seen here . The Steel Duo Prof can be had for AUD$ 1200 from certain vendors, which places it in competition with the entry level HX machines like the NS Oscar.
The interesting thing that I noted is that the Prof variant boiler and group look almost identical to the old Faema Family boiler/group. If this is the case, I can add that this variant accepts commercial 58 mm portafilters and parts (eg shower blocks and screens). Also the 300 ml boiler has very good temperature stability (a little below that of Silvia when operated in stock mode). You can compare to the old Faema Family boiler group by checking out my thread on the Faema Family at the Australian Coffeesnobs site . If you persist with the thread you'll see the potential of this brew boiler. Otherwise it's pretty clear that the aesthitics of the Ascaso Steel certainly improve upon those of the Faema Family.
The only caveat I had with this machine (and still do) is whether the steaming power is adequate and even more importantly how they handle the cleaning/descaling of the steam thermoblock, as evaporating water to steam will quickly cause any minerals contained in the water to deposit. Whether they are ejected in the steam jet, or left to build up as deposits is another story.
The very interesting thing with these machines is the use of a brass thermoblock, rather than the cheap Al thermoblocks that we all know and loath. Not that brass is a better thermal material than Al, as it's not, but it is not prone to the corrosion that plagues the Al variant.
One last thing. If you go to the Ascaso web page you can see the two boiler variants. The large boiler with the 3-way solenoid is the 300 ml 1200 W boiler/group with the 3-way solenoid and true 58mm pf. The smaller boiler looks as if it doesn't have a 3-way solenoid and has the smaller group.
If this Prof model is still available (and it seems to be here in Australia) then it is important to make this distinction as it could substantially impact on its performance and saleability. Although it looks as if the Prof model isn't being reviewed.
That group on the Prof also looks like that on the Brasilia Club/Lady. The boiler and thermostats setup looks just like the Ascaso parts diagram which shows a thermostat variant of the Club. Never heard of such a setup but it makes sense that Brasilia would make a cheaper version.
Since Ascaso is also a parts supplier, they would naturally use parts that are already in stock and parts that are easily obtainable from current suppliers.
rmarkob Senior Member Joined: 6 Feb 2006 Posts: 1 Location: Mechanicsburg, PA, USA Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Thu Nov 16, 2006, 9:20am Subject: Re: Ascaso Steel Duo Espresso Machine
Mark, I do know you're a professional photographer, but I'd still like to say how much your photographs add to your reviews and first looks. In addition to showing the kind of detail I crave in product reviews, the photos are works of art in and of themselves. Beautiful!
mailliw Senior Member Joined: 5 Jan 2007 Posts: 7 Location: Netherlands Expertise: Just starting
Posted Mon Jan 8, 2007, 1:39am Subject: Re: Ascaso Steel Duo Espresso Machine
Very interesting walkaround. There's not much review info about this machine on the net yet. I'm planning to buy my first espresso machine soon and this seems like a very good option. Especially because I also want to be able to make several cappu's when we have guests. It also looks quite good (shoot me, but i care).
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