Ascaso Steel Uno Review
Ascaso has been a favorite of home espresso drinkers for a long time. This is largely due to their unique, inviting case design. The Dream line has long offered solid performance in a stylish case with a wide range of color options. Now, Ascaso has entered the over $1,000 market with their prosumer Steel Uno. Does it live up to its promise?
The Steel Uno's case design stands in stark contrast to the rounded lines of the Dream. Instead, this machine is boxy and stocky, but it isn't without style. Smart pressure guage placement, three color options, and aggressive lines give it a look that will still stand out as modern and sleek.
It's also solidly constructed, with stainless steel casing and true walnut accents, this machine is more than just nice to look at, it feels nice to use. It's weighty where you want it and has that tactile feel of a higher end machine. While the brew unit is still controller with buttons, it all just feels "chunkier" than lower price machines. We see plenty of stainless steel machines when getting up into this pricepoint, and we can't necessarily say the Uno is designed better than comparable options, but it's absolutely on par with other machines in its price range.
The Uno also features a full size 58mm portafilter, getting you closer to that cafe experience. With a larger workspace in general, the Steel Uno also feels less cramped than previous machines in the Ascaso lineup. The Uno is also compatible with ESE pods, in case you want something different than what your grinder has in its hopper, or if you just want an easy shot. It's nice to see this kind of flexability in a machine like this.
With a warmup time of just a few minutes, the Uno's thermoblock is ready when you are. Ascaso's thermoblock boiler makes a great showing here, offering that fast heatup and solid, consistent temperatures through the brew. When it comes to shot performance, this machine is a contender in its price bracket for some really great espresso. PID Controlled temps help to provide that temperature stability, and the controls for temps are right on the face of the machine, giving you a real sense of control.
Because this is a single boiler machine, you do have to manage your temps for steaming. While steam performance is good, for some bringing the temps up for steaming, then back down for brewing, could be a point of frustration. If this sounds like a problem for you then you might want to bump up in price a bit and go for a heat exchanger or dual boiler machine. With that in mind, the steam performance here is quite good.
Overall, while this machine doesn't necessarily punch up into the $2,000 price point, it really doesn't need to. Given that its more affordable the tradeoffs in performance are understandable and easy to work with if you are willing to take a little extra time on your latte. This is also an exceptional option for the espresso drinker who doesn't necessarily need steamed milk with every shot.
We've already mentioned the programmable temps with the PID controller, but that's not where the Uno's programming ends. We're really impressed by the range of control options on this machine. You'll be able to program the power saving modes, pre-infusion times, dwell time, and shot length using a relatively intuitive interface. This kind of programming really can make the difference in the usability of the machine, because once you get it dialed in you can recreate your shots with ease.
Another suprising feature of this machine is its adjustable OPV. You can actually adjust the pump pressure using a screw found on the outside of the machine. This adjustment gives budding espresso hobbyists a new parameter to adjust on their machines.
When we say hobbyist, we're referring to the kind of espresso drinker who enjoys experimenting with their brewing to get adventurous. Some coffees can be very difficult dial-in for espresso, the Steel Uno doesn't make this process easier, but its features give you the ability to tweak your espresso to a high degree. That means with practice you can get delicious shots from trickier coffees.
So how does the Steel Uno compare to the Ascaso Dream? If you have a Dream and are happy with its performance, you might not necessarily need to upgrade. This is in no way a knock against the Steel Uno, and has more to do with your preferences. If you have a machine you already love than it may make sense to wait. With that said, if you're considering your first jump into the $1,000+ espresso market and want a machine that provides some of that prosumer feel and performance, the Steel Uno is quite compelling.
Overall we find the Steel Uno to be a great return to form for Ascaso. With interesting control options, outsized performance, and a sleek design, this is definitely a machine to consider in the $1,000-$1,500 range.