Category Archives: Ascaso

Ask the Experts: Which Machines Need to be Backflushed?

Cleaning and maintenance is a hot topic in this neck o’ the woods, but some folks aren’t clear on which specific maintenance routines apply to the type of machine they own. This comes up specifically in regard to backflushing — do you or don’t you?

You do backflush if you own a machine with a valve system referred to as a three-way solenoid, brew pressure release, three-way valve, solenoid valve or any other combination of these phrases. Not sure if your machine has this? If your machine has an E61 brew group (such as those on Rockets, Quick Mills, Izzos or Grimacs), it has this valve system. Other models that feature this without the E61 are those made by La Spaziale, Pasquini, the Rancilio Silvia and Ascaso’s Uno Pro and Duo series. This valve system relieves pressure post-brew, which results in a drier puck, but it sucks a little bit of coffee and water into the system each time which can build up in there and adversely impact the machine’s performance. Backflushing forces detergent and water through the valve system, thoroughly cleaning it and maintaining the system. It also has the added benefit of cleaning up behind the brew head’s screen without taking it apart.

You don’t backflush if your machine doesn’t have this system — because you don’t have the valves to clean! Some machines that don’t need backflushing include the Saeco Aroma, Via Venezia, Sirena, models made by Breville, those from Francis Francis/illy and Delonghi and Capresso semi-automatics. But since you’re not forcing detergent through the brew head, you will need to take it apart semi-regularly to clean up behind the brew screen.

The best way to determine if you need to backflush your machine is to read the manufacturer’s manual and the machine’s technical specifications to see if it has the valve system. If it doesn’t, you’re good to go; if it does, you should backflush once every 1 – 2 weeks, depending on how often you use the machine.

Not sure how to do it? Watch us backflush the Rocket Giotto E61 or the Rancilio Silvia.

Talking about Water Filters & Softeners

Mineral content in your water will play a part in the coffee that you make and your machine’s longevity. In this video, Gail talks to us about a few different filters and softeners available for espresso machines, as well as explaining how a filter and softener differ.

Ask the Experts: What’s a Panarello?

Creating a silky microfoam can be a challenging enterprise: Even with the higher end prosumer machines we sell, it is arguably the most difficult skill to learn and sometimes takes more practice (and patience!) than folks expect from the outset.

The technique involves infusing the right amount of air and steam at the right pace to ‘stretch’ the milk, ultimately resulting in that wet paint texture that can be used in latte art, if you’ve got the skillz. You rest the tip of the steam wand on the surface of the milk and ‘ride’ it as the milk is slowly expanding with tiny air bubbles and coming up to temperature via the machine’s steam. You’ve got to keep a steady roll going, the bubbles to a minimum and eventually you’ll submerge the wand completely once you’ve achieved the amount of foam you want and need to simply bring it up to temperature.

Continue reading Ask the Experts: What’s a Panarello?

Manualicious

If you’re anything like us, you probably used your gear’s user manual for one of three things:

  1. To ineffectively swat at flies, yet one day you accidentally killed one and couldn’t bear to keep the gut-stained book around.
  2. To prop up the uneven handmade bookshelf lovingly made by a friend/parent/spouse/sibling/child that never sits right on the wood floor.
  3. To start a fire in the fireplace to enjoy while sipping on a delicious glass of chai spiced wine. (Guilty!)

Or, maybe you just recycled it by accident. Whatever the case, the fact of the matter is that now you have no wisdom to guide you. We created our manufacturer manual repository over at Brown Bean to connect you with the source code. We have manuals for a lot of models both current and historical, so if you’re looking for tips on how to perform maintenance or need to find out what that error code means, check ‘em out.

Don’t see your model there? Leave a comment here and we’ll see if we can’t track it down and add it to the repository.

The Grind: February 2010

Seattle Coffee Gear’s monthly newsletter, The Grind, landed in an email box near you today — and if it wasn’t near enough for you to actually read it, you can do so here on the site or make sure you get up close and personal next month by signing up for future editions.

This month, we talk about the different functional types of espresso machines, include a recipe for Indochine Lemon, point you to our manufacturer manual resource on Brown Bean and introduce you to a few new products we have in the store. What you won’t see, however, is The Grind Special, which is for subscriber-eyes-only. Sign up to get that little bit o’ goodness every month.

Crew Review: Ascaso Uno Pro with PID – Round Two

We took a first look at the new Uno Pro with PID by Ascaso in December, and now that we’ve had a little bit of time to play around with it, we’re taking a second look. In this new video, Gail talks to us about programming the PID, pulls some shots, steams up some milk using the other steam wand attachment and shows us the included accessories. The jury is still out on the longevity/build quality/reliability of this machine — since it’s new on the market — but so far so good, functionality-wise.

Ask the Experts: Which Type of Machine is Right for Me?

Navigating the available options in the world of home espresso machines can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Functionally speaking, there are a few different basic variations:

  • Manual/Lever: With these machines, you are the pump. You grind, tamp and control the pressure during the extraction. You also manage the whole steaming process.
  • Semi-Automatic: Semi-automatics have 15 – 17 BAR pumps involved, which will settle down to about 9 BARs of pressure if your grind/tamp is accurate. You will grind & tamp, then initiate the shot on and off. Steaming is also up to you.
  • Automatic: Still grinding, tamping and steaming on your own, but you can program these machines to dose out a specific amount of water, so it will automatically end the shot.
  • Pressurized Portafilters: Automatic and semi-automatic machines can have a variation that includes a pressurized porftafilter. This makes the machine a little bit easier to use because you don’t have to be super particular about your grind and tamp.
  • Pod-Friendly: Another variation of semi-automatic and automatic machines are those that allow you to use what is basically a ground coffee version of a tea bag. These single serving pods make for easy, mess-free brewing.
  • Superautomatic: These machines manage the whole grind and tamp process for you, but on most of them you will still be required to steam your milk. Some of them (usually called ‘One Touch’) provide automated frothing and shot extraction into your cup at the touch of the button; others have an automated frothing system that will froth the milk separately and you can pour it into the cup after it’s automatically extracted.
  • Capsule: Probably the most simple machine in terms of materials and labor, these guys use a proprietary capsule filled with pre-ground coffee and extract it at the touch of a button — no grinding and tamping. Some of them have automatic frothing options.

We asked Gail to talk to us about these different machines, why someone would want to buy a specific type and why perhaps they wouldn’t want to buy it. Hopefully, this video will function as a good primer for learning the basic functional differences and help you as you research which machine best suits your needs.

Crew Review: Ascaso i-Steel Grinder

If you’re looking for a stepless burr grinder with a small footprint and all metallic casing, Ascaso’s I-Steel is a great option. It’s simple, easy to use and allows you infinite adjustment to truly dial in your grind. Additionally, even its chute is metal — unlike the plastics often found on other machines — and some people really dig that. This comes with either flat burrs (i-Steel I-1) or conical burrs (i-Steel I-2).

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Crew Review: Ascaso Uno Professional with PID

Ascaso has just introduced a new version of their Uno Professional machines, this one comes standard with a PID interface. The PID gives you temperature control over the single boiler, so you can dial it in and manage it better for making excellent shots. The new version also features a side-access water tank (no reaching over the top) but lacks one of our favorite Ascaso features, the low water reservoir sensor.

Watch Gail as she walks us through the features, pulls a shot and steams up some milk on the new Ascaso Uno Professional with PID.

Crew Review: Ascaso Uno & Duo Series Comparison

Ascaso has released new iterations of their Uno and Duo series, adding an automatic Duo, as well, called the Tronic. In this video, Gail talks to us about the machines upgrades, how they differ from each other and their pros & cons.