It seems like a good value relative to what else is on the market, but there is certainly room for improvement.
Positive Product Points
-Beautiful exterior -Small footprint, not too tall -Grinds very well
Negative Product Points
-Retains lots of grounds -Cannot use machine for both drip and espresso -Hopper seems flimsy
The i-Mini is at first glance a beautiful grinder. Its polished metal exterior compliments my La Pavoni Professional very nicely. The quality of the grind seems excellent. It will grind fine enough to 'choke' my Pavoni. I chose this model because it is doserless, stepless, and small. I drink 2-3 espressos per day and I think that a doser does not make sense for this level of consumption. The stepless adjustment is great, although it means that you can't really use the machine to grind both drip and espresso. It takes at least 25 turns of the adjustment knob to move back to the espresso range from drip or french press range.
The machine retains a lot of grounds. How much? About enough to make a single shot of espresso. This is really a lot of stuck grounds. I've read that this machine has the same grinding mechanism as one of the Le'lit models, and I would be interested to see if the Le'lit suffers from this problem. Stuck grounds are wasteful and also annoying because they need to be cleaned out in order to avoid stale-tasting coffee. I use an old toothbrush to clear them out each morning. Cleaning them out inevitably results in a bunch of ground coffee all over the counter, which has to get swept up. My significant other doesn't care about this, but yours might. I think that the grounds retention problem is really shameful and inexcusable for a product costing over $200. The engineers at Ascaso ought to figure out a way to make the grounds exit the grinder more vertically or to apply a surface coating to the chute to make it less sticky. There is also a bit of clumping, but no more than you would encounter in a can of pre-ground Illy.
I bought this from 1st-line. It was a demo unit so I saved a few bucks. They shipped promptly and the machine arrived well packaged and undamaged.
Three Month Followup
Please see 1-year followup
One Year Followup
After a year of i-Mini ownership, I still have four serious complaints
Significant amounts of ground coffee are retained in the grinder mechanism and chute.
The plastic hopper feels chinsy. It has not cracked yet, but if you do not seat it very carefully and periodically re-seat it, it will surprise you by flying off. In an early morning, pre-coffee state this is not a fun occurrence. Beans go everywhere and some cursewords are often uttered.
Clumping is somewhat of a problem with this grinder. The problem is much more pronounced with oily beans such as Blue Bottle's Hayes Valley Espresso. Using less oily beans (Four Barrel Espresso, misc Ritual beans, Blue Bottle retrofit, Vivace beans) this is less of a problem. If you like to use oily beans, this might not be a good grinder for you (also, you might want to look at grinders with a doser since the doser helps to break up clumps).
The chute position (distance from grinder body) was perfect for la pavoni baskets (49 mm), but I have switched to a machine with 58mm portafilter baskets, and I have to spin the basket while grinding in order to get a lump of ground coffee centered in the basket.
Final thoughts: Would I buy this grinder again? Maybe. The price was right and it has proved to be reliable. There are a couple of new grinders available that use the same burrs as the i-Mini now that appear to have better designed (more vertical) chutes, so I would look around for those. I have seriously considered a Baratza Vario in order to have the flexibility to grind for french press and espresso. That said, it is probably a fine choice for an entry-level grinder.