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First Machine - Rancilio Silvia or Ascaso Steel Uno w/PID
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > First Machine -...  
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RVDave
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Joined: 10 Oct 2012
Posts: 16
Location: Chicago
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Wed Oct 10, 2012, 2:05pm
Subject: First Machine - Rancilio Silvia or Ascaso Steel Uno w/PID
 

Hi All,

Looking for my first espresso machine, something that will last a really long time.  Only want to spend $900-$1000 max on both machine and grinder.  Narrowed it down to the Rancilio Silvia and the Ascaso Steelo UNO w/PID.  In both options, I'll likely have a Baratza Preciso grinder.  I like the Rancilio for its reliability and construction.  Seems to be the standard.  However, the Ascaso seems to be pretty quality too, with the bonus of having a PID installed.  I think the Ascaso looks nice on a counter top too. I've been making great coffee with a french press and chemex for a while, and ready to get into the espresso world.  not afraid to learn and I have the patience to try and document processes.  Any help is appreciated.
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,416
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Wed Oct 10, 2012, 3:29pm
Subject: Re: First Machine - Rancilio Silvia or Ascaso Steel Uno w/PID
 

OK, let's take it from the top . . .

/\/\/\/\/\

Standard Questions:
1)  What kind of drinks do you like/want to make?  (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's capabilities.)
2)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself needing to make at ay one time? (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's ability to work continuously.)
3)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself making in any given week?  (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's durability.)
4)  Can you plumb a machine directly into the water supply, or do you want/need a pourover machine with its own reservoir?
5)  Do you have a 20-amp circuit available, or only a (standard) 15-amp circuit?
6)  What is your budget for a new machine?  Does that also include a grinder?  If not, what is your budget for a grinder?

/\/\/\/\/\

OK, budget including grinder is $900-$1,000; we've got the answer to #6.  I can presume, given your budget, that the answer to #5 is 15 amps; and given the
"pre-choice" of machines, I'm presuming you're looking for a pourover.  So, remaining questions:  a) what about #1-3?; b) what -- specifically -- was it about the Rancilio Silvia and the Ascaso UNO that made you eliminate all other machines but those?

Cheers,
Jason

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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RVDave
Senior Member


Joined: 10 Oct 2012
Posts: 16
Location: Chicago
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Wed Oct 10, 2012, 6:04pm
Subject: Re: First Machine - Rancilio Silvia or Ascaso Steel Uno w/PID
 

Thanks for the reply!

1.) mostly espresso shots, but macchiato, cappuccinos and mochas would be nice.

2.) Two every morning before work.  Perhaps 4-6 if we had people over, but that would be rare.

3.) 2 a day, so 14 a week on average

4.) I could plumb it from our Culligan water supply if absolutely needed, but that would require drilling through our tile backsplash, so not ideal.

5.) 20 amp is available, but 15 should be suitable.

6.) The Baratza Preciso is $300, so $600-$700 for an espresso machine

I picked those two machines because the Silvia seems like THE standard in that price range, and the Ascaso appears to have a few more options, namely the PID. My wife saw the Ascaso Dream, and that is now in the mix too.  She likes the style and color, but I like like the simplicity. I'm open to anything, just want to make sure I'm getting the best bang for my buck. I like to keep appliances for a long time and not have to replace or upgrade.
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,416
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Wed Oct 10, 2012, 8:54pm
Subject: Re: First Machine - Rancilio Silvia or Ascaso Steel Uno w/PID
 

The problem is that this is your first espresso machine.  If you are like most people here, it probably will not be your last . . . bear with me for a second.

First, if you haven't already taken a look at this post on Types of Espresso Machines.  Then, you need to realize that both the machines you're looking at are SBDUs.  They're fine for straight espresso, but for any milk drinks, they tend -- once the initial excitement is over -- to be a PITA!  Over the long haul, most people here who started with an SBDU upgrade to an HX or DB.

So just realize -- eyes wide open -- that your desire to

RVDave Said:

keep appliances for a long time and not have to replace or upgrade

Posted October 10, 2012 link

may not be very realistic.

So, with that in mind, I'd actually recommend a Gaggia Classic, and save the difference for your eventual upgrade.  But that's me.  Either the Rancilio or the Ascaso will serve you well.

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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Frost
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Frost
Joined: 26 Jul 2007
Posts: 2,099
Location: Sierra
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Isomac Venus
Grinder: Lelit PL53
Roaster: Poppery I w/variac, MET, BT
Posted Wed Oct 10, 2012, 9:22pm
Subject: Re: First Machine - Rancilio Silvia or Ascaso Steel Uno w/PID
 

I think your grinder choice is the weakest link.
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 662
Location: Calgary, AB
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3
Grinder: Mazzer Mini Elect. Type A
Vac Pot: Looking to buy
Drip: Manual
Roaster: Considering?
Posted Thu Oct 11, 2012, 2:53am
Subject: Re: First Machine - Rancilio Silvia or Ascaso Steel Uno w/PID
 

RVDave Said:

Looking for my first espresso machine, something that will last a really long time.

Posted October 10, 2012 link

First of all, I'm going to apologize for this long winded post, but I have a lot of information to disseminate.

There are a few people on this forum who have had their Rancilio Silvia for 10-20 years and they continue to operate with a lifespan far beyond that of normal small appliances.
I think one of the reasons behind this is that this machine contains absolutely no electronics whatsoever, it's a completely electromechanical device.

Like anything though, any espresso machine requires regular maintenance, like a car, like regular backflushing and de-scaling. The latter of which, if not done can kill any espresso
machine in an environment where the water has a high mineral content. There are lots of articles and youtube videos on how to do both.

I can't say that I'm qualified to mention anything about the Acaso Steel Uno PID. However, what I can do is talk about my Silvia.

From the looks of things, the Acaso looks like it is very comparable in featureset to the Silvia and offers better value than the Silvia. The PID is the game changer because what it
does is get rid of the wide temperature band, which is problematic of the Silvia and it will give you a much more consistent shot. While it's not really a big deal to have it if you drink
primarily milk drinks, it is a must have if you drink Americanos (Short or tall) or straight shots.

Some people retrofit their Silvia with a PID, but the kit costs around $250 and by then, you are already in entry level HX territory anyway. Modifying a machine under warranty
probably isn't the most ideal thing to do. It is just better to buy a SBDU machine that has a PID built-in from the factory.

The only thing I can't say that I'm big on with the Acaso machines is that they use a thermometer instead of a pressure gauge, which IMHO is only useful to let you know the machine
has warmed up. I'm not sure why they made that design decision. I don't think it is useful when you are actually in the process of making coffee.

Is my Silvia easy to use? Absolutely. Was it built to last? Absolutely. It shares a few parts with the Rancilio Epoca, which is a light commercial machine. The brew group looks
completely identical and I really love those commercial-grade switches on the front. Both are compact pour-over machines which are perfect for the kitchen.

However, I do find that my Silvia has one huge drawback outside of the wide temperature band issue, Is that, despite it being a SBDU machine, It also lacks an auto-fill, like most SBDU machines,
so the boiler must be filled manually. I can't leave it on all day as a result. After steaming, I have to ensure that the boiler is full of water by flushing it with cool water from the reservoir.
On other types of machines, this is automatic. The Silvia has one very annoying shortcoming that bothers me. Even though the drip tray is completely metal, it also is quite shallow.
Unless I use a tupperware container, it has to be emptied after every drink. Unfortunately, this is a problem in a lot of consumer grade machines have in order to keep their profile small.

The biggest problem with SBDU's is the fact that you using one single boiler for everything. Which means that you have to wait for the machine to go from brewing temperature
to steaming temperature. If you want to go back to brewing temperature, you have to flush the boiler. So, if you are making a small number of milk based drinks, you can do all of
your brewing first, then your steaming second and bang off all your drinks off in short order. However, both the Acaso and Silvia will have you ripping your hair out if you want to serve
a large volume of drinks during a party. You'll spend more time making drinks than enjoying them.

I think I've gotten the whole process down though. To make my morning cappuccino, From the time I start my shot to the time I've finished cleaning everything up, it takes me about
10 minutes to make my drink from start to finish. It isn't like spending the few seconds to pop in a K-Cup in the morning, but the payoff is certainly worth it!

RVDave Said:

Only want to spend $900-$1000 max on both machine and grinder.

Posted October 10, 2012 link

I don't think this is a bad or unreasonable budget. I agree with Frost that you have to ensure that you have a grinder which is capable of a precision espresso grind. In a lot of
setups, the grinder is always usually the weak point. If you are considering a decent SBDU, you should pair it with something like a Baratza Vario or a Compak K3 Touch. The reason
behind this, is that without a decent espresso capable grinder, the quality of your drinks will suffer. Even the best machines make a poor drink with a poor grinder.

Of course, this will put you around $200 over budget for what you were originally looking for, but the difference will be considerable and noticeable. The other thing is that the
grinder will be quieter, more durable and will produce much more consistent results in the cup, which is pretty much what you are looking for.

Also keep in mind that you will have to spend money on accessories which are outside of the cost of your espresso machine and grinder. These things include espresso detergent,
a brew head cleaning brush, a 12 oz and a 20 oz steaming pitcher, a knockbox, a decent metal tamper, a few microfibre cleaning cloths, espresso cups, cappuccino cups, saucers,
a small postal scale to measure your coffee doses with, a brush to sweep grounds away, a small tupperware container for flushing and cleaning, a milk steaming thermometer,
two 1 fl.oz shotglasses for measuring your espresso shots. Optionally, a bottomless portafilter and a triple basket for making ristrettos. I would budget approximately an extra
$100-$150 for all of these items above.

If you are in a pinch, a toothbrush works well as a ghetto group head brush. A stainless steel tea creamer can do in a pinch as a substitute for a steaming pitcher, don't use a
porcelain one. A knockbox is nothing more than a container with a rubber or wood bar across the top. You could probably make one yourself with a dowel, a drill and a tupperware
container, but its just easier to buy one. The plastic tamper which comes with the machine is bordering on garbage, but it will do in a pinch. A scale is mandatory until you learn
what a good 14-16g dose looks like. I made this mistake and wondered why sometimes I couldn't get my portafilter to lock in, even after tamping.  

RVDave Said:

I've been making great coffee with a french press and chemex for a while,

Posted October 10, 2012 link

Without having this placed into the grinders forum, If you want a good "Do it all" grinder, I would say that the Baratza Vario is a better choice over the Compak, only because you
may want to grind for drip coffee one day and espresso the next. Simply memorize your step, set it and forget it, then set it back again when you are done and dial in. The Compak
is better left for just grinding espresso only, even though you can grind drip with it. The Compak is problematic in that it doesn't have much in the way of consistency of its setting,
so you can mess with it but you're going to have to use some trial and error to get it back to where you had it before.

RVDave Said:

I have the patience to try and document processes.

Posted October 10, 2012 link

Just remember that espresso is not full of hard and fast rules which must be followed or else you will be drinking the worst coffee you ever had in your life. Coffee is a bit of an art
form so while you are given a canvas and a brush and some paint, nobody said you have to stick to painting with just primary colours only. What matters more is what you get in the cup.

Ideally, start out with a baseline of 2 fluid ounces in 25 seconds using a dose between 14-16 grams in a double basket. Anything between 18-30 seconds is reasonable, but will
affect how the coffee tastes. If you are making a milk drink, it isn't as crucial as if you are making a straight shot or Americano. Coarsen your grind if you are using a larger dose,
Make your grind finer if you are using a lower dose. Dose and grind affect how your coffee will taste.

The only other thing I should mention is that if you become passionate about this, you will get hit with upgradeitis soon by using a SBDU. It may take just a few weeks, it could
take months, heck it could take years, but it will happen. It's happening to me already and I've had my Silvia for only three months.

My advice? Either machine you have suggested is a good "starter" machine and will get you into the world of espresso quite nicely. Stick with it for at least 6 months to a year and
decide if you want to keep at it. If you don't, sell your equipment off and consider it a learning experience. If you bought quality, you can get at least 50-75 percent of your money back.

A lot of people who have owned Silvia's before in the past went to upgrade straight into a prosumer HX or Double Boiler machine once they felt they had become much more familiar
with making espresso at home. That's up to you, but I think that what you are talking about is a good starting point.

Good luck!

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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RVDave
Senior Member


Joined: 10 Oct 2012
Posts: 16
Location: Chicago
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Oct 11, 2012, 5:27am
Subject: Re: First Machine - Rancilio Silvia or Ascaso Steel Uno w/PID
 

Well thats more information than I could possibly of asked for, thanks!  I do think I need to stick within the $1,000 budget.  Originally I was going to get a Saco Via Venenzia but decided to just spend a little more and get something better.  If I keep doing that, I could afford daily espresso shots at Intelligentsia for years and not have to buy my own :).  I'll keep looking around, but I think it would be great to see them in person, so I might try and track some units down in the Chicago area to see if its possible to try them out.

Thanks!

Dave
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,416
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Thu Oct 11, 2012, 7:27am
Subject: Re: First Machine - Rancilio Silvia or Ascaso Steel Uno w/PID
 

Dave, first of all, relax.  Nothing is overwhelming about buying the equipment. What CAN be a little overwhelming at times is the decision-making behind buying the equipment.  I used a Coffee Gaggia -- the same as a Gaggia Classic, but w/o the 3-way solenoid -- for 25 years*.  That's the origin of my recommendation that you look at the Gaggia.  It's also only $399 ($349 on sale), which is significantly less than either the Rancilio Silvia or the Ascaso UNO.  The Silvia and the UNO are both good machines, but I'd give the nod to the Silvia.  However . . . once upon a time . . . the Gaggia Classic and the Rancilio Silvia were the same price!  Thus, the Silvia is no longer the good value that it once was, and that's another reason for the suggestion to at least look at the Gaggia.

With regard to the PID . . . I've owned home espresso machines since 1976.  Obviously that was long before PIDs ever existed.  Thus, I'm used to using an SBDU without one, and so I'm not concerned with whether or not an SBDU of mine would have one or not.  Again, understand where I am coming from.  PIDs are a good thing to have on a "serious" SBDU or on a DB.  They are of no value on an HX machine, and I have three of those now.  So I'm less concerned about the PID than perhaps some others might be.  Between your two choices -- and ignoring other possibilities -- I'd grab the Silvia, based on durability and build quality.  

The Baratza Preciso is a fine grinder; no worries there -- based upon the feedback the grinder has gotten here.  I own a Baratza Vario and am quite happy with it.

Stay within your budget.  Go forth and enjoy, Dave . . . and let us know what you eventually get!

Cheers,
Jason

* Well, OK -- I had two Coffee Gaggia machines over than 25 year span; the first died after about 13-15 years (I forget exactly) and it was such a good machine, I got another one.

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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RVDave
Senior Member


Joined: 10 Oct 2012
Posts: 16
Location: Chicago
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Oct 11, 2012, 8:46am
Subject: Re: First Machine - Rancilio Silvia or Ascaso Steel Uno w/PID
 

Thanks for the replies.  I wouldn't say I am over whelmed, at the end of the day I am getting a fantastic machine that is miles above the moka pot I am currently using.  I am hoping to view them in person though, get a feel for them and see how they look.
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RVDave
Senior Member


Joined: 10 Oct 2012
Posts: 16
Location: Chicago
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Oct 11, 2012, 9:02am
Subject: Re: First Machine - Rancilio Silvia or Ascaso Steel Uno w/PID
 

Another quick question around the Grinder.  I wanted to stick around $300, but found a rancilio rocky refurb for cheaper.  Would this be a better option?  I need one that can still grind for my chemex and occasional french press.
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