An Expert Guide to the Ascaso Steel Uno PID Espresso MachinePublished on 06/26/2023 · 10 min readDiscover espresso perfection with the Ascaso Steel Uno PID Espresso Machine. Our Expert guide explores its features and brewing excellence! Learn more below!
Photo by Narong Khueankaew
TL;DR: The Ascaso Steel UNO PID Espresso Machine combines modern aesthetics with professional features like PID temperature control, a super fast heat-up time, and a powerful steam wand. It's compact, user-friendly, and built with quality materials for durability. It is ideal for espresso enthusiasts looking to spend under $1,500 without sacrificing features or durability. Still, it may not be the best choice for those making several back-to-back drinks or who want to steam and pull shots simultaneously. It's a worthwhile investment for those seeking precision and consistency in their home espresso.
As a Coffee and Espresso Expert at Curated and a long-time espresso lover, I've advised hundreds of customers on finding the best espresso machines for them. Working as a barista for six years and co-managing a coffee shop for two years exposed me to all types of coffee and coffee drinkers—and taught me that there is no one size fits all in terms of home espresso machines! I love helping people find the right machine for them and helping to explain some of the complex and sometimes jargon-y aspects of home espresso!
Ascaso is a Spanish brand founded in 1962 that specializes in high-quality espresso machines. Ascaso's lineup of home espresso machines, which include the Steel UNO PID, Dream Home PID, and Steel DUO PID, are recognized for their professional features and user-friendly interface, offering the ultimate home barista experience.
Who Should Buy the Ascaso Steel UNO PID Espresso Machine?
Coffee Enthusiasts Who Want to Invest in a Premium Machine
If you're ready to invest in optimizing your daily coffee, the Ascaso Steel UNO PID Espresso Machine, with its durable build and professional features for home use, is worth considering. The UNO is a great investment choice if you want to perfect each espresso shot.
Individuals Planning to Make Single or Multiple Drinks
As a single boiler machine, the UNO takes a bit of time to switch from steaming to pulling shots (and vice versa). This isn’t ideal for those planning to make many milk-based drinks back to back, but it can be perfect if you plan to make one or two drinks at a time or if you rarely drink milk-based drinks.
Individuals With Limited Counter Space
The UNO fits well into smaller spaces with its compact design. This is an excellent choice if you're struggling with limited counter space but don't want to sacrifice features on your espresso machine.
Users Seeking a Blend of Modern and Industrial Design
For those who prefer a kitchen appliance that blends modern and industrial aesthetics, this sleek machine makes a great addition to your kitchen while delivering high-quality espresso.
Key Features in the Ascaso Steel UNO PID Espresso Machine
1. Design and Build Quality
- Compact size: This machine has a relatively compact, streamlined design. Perfect for kitchens with limited counter space, the Steel UNO PID doesn't compromise on functionality despite its smaller footprint. It can also easily fit under standard cabinets, and the water tank is removable from the side of the machine for easy access.
- Aesthetic design: The Ascaso Steel UNO PID body blends modern aesthetics with a sleek industrial design. It has three color options (black, white, or Inox) of powder-coated carbon steel and polished stainless steel casing that ensures durability and gives it a sleek, minimalist appeal no matter what color you prefer. Sleek wood accents (on the professional portafilter handle and steam knob) complement the color options.
- Construction materials: Ascaso's espresso machines are known for their build quality. With the UNO's stainless steel body and commercial-grade components, you can expect durability and long-term reliability.
2. Brewing Capabilities
- Fast heat-up time: The Ascaso UNO’s aluminum and stainless steel thermoblock group allows the machine to heat up much faster than traditional espresso machines. It can be ready to go within 3.5 minutes of turning it on, making it a great choice for anyone who wants espresso as soon as they wake up or the ease of an unplanned afternoon pick-me-up without waiting.
- Precise temperature control: The UNO features a PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) controller, allowing for exact water temperature stability. This both maintains the internal temperature to the degree and allows you to change the brewing temperature up or down based on preference and the type/roast of the coffee bean used. This feature ensures consistent espresso extraction, which is ideal for those who appreciate precision and consistency in their coffee.
- Versatile brewing options: The machine is compatible with both ground coffee and ESE pods and comes with single and double professional baskets in both single walled and double walled options to fit the professional 58mm portafilter (and an included blank basket for cleaning and backflushing). This versatility lets users switch between different brewing styles by swapping filter baskets. It allows users to use the machine with pre-ground espresso, a generic coffee grinder, or a high-quality espresso-specific burr grinder (for best results).
- Pre-infusion feature: The Steel UNO has pre-infusion, which gently saturates the coffee grounds before brewing the espresso with full pressure. This process ensures an even extraction for optimal results each time.
- Pressure profiling: The machine's pump can generate up to 16 bars of pressure. The adjustable over-pressure valve allows users to set an upper limit to the brewing pressure, preventing over-extraction and ensuring consistent brews. The built-in pressure gauge gives users real-time feedback on the pressure they are brewing to optimize the extraction around nine bars of brew pressure. This feature gives users control over the extraction process, allowing them to tailor the flavor profile of their espresso, and provides helpful feedback when troubleshooting any imperfect shots.
3. Milk Frothing System
- Professional steam wand: A professional steam wand makes it easy to froth any type of milk to your desired texture. The rotating arm provides more flexibility, better control, and ease of use, whether steaming for a dry cappuccino or a flat white. The powerful unlimited steam allows for fast milk frothing at constant pressure to achieve perfect microfoam and temperature in no time.
- Quick Recovery: Because the UNO is a single boiler machine, you cannot steam milk while simultaneously pulling a shot of espresso. Rather, you must wait between these two functions for the single boiler to adjust its temperature between steam mode and pulling shots. Despite waiting, the UNO ensures quick recovery between brewing and steaming to minimize waiting time.
4. User Interface and Customization
- Simple user interface: The UNO features a simple yet intuitive interface, making the brewing process easy to navigate for both novices and experienced users. It also features a programmable auto-standby to ensure minimal energy consumption in power-saving modes.
- Programmable volumetric single and double shots: With enhanced volumetric controls, easily set volumetric single shot and double shot programming to achieve consistently good quality espresso each time. Or, manually brew with the help of the built-in shot timer.
- PID: Easily adjust the temperature down to the degree (in Fahrenheit or Celsius) using the PID controller to optimize the temperature for your shots.
- Pressure gauge: The machine's front-facing pressure gauge allows you to monitor the extraction pressure, giving you real-time feedback and more control over the brewing process. The machine also has an adjustable OPV (over-pressure valve), offering more control over brewing pressure limits.
- Programmable pre-infusion: A programmable pre-infusion feature allows users to adjust the pre-infusion time to their taste.
5. Maintenance and Cleaning
- Removable water tank and accessible components: The Steel UNO PID comes with a removable 48oz water reservoir (easily removable from the right side of the machine to refill with fresh water), making it easy to refill and clean. Most machine parts (including the drip tray) are easily accessible for easy cleaning and maintenance.
Is the Ascaso Steel UNO PID a Good Fit for You?
If you’re unsure if the Ascasco Steel UNO PID is right for you, consider the following:
- Fast heat-up time: It’s ready to go in less than five minutes, much faster than most other professional quality espresso machines.
- Professional grade machine: Advanced features like PID temperature control in 1° increments, volumetric programmable settings, 58mm group head, real walnut wood handle portafilter, and adjustable pressure settings offer a professional brewing experience, making it an ideal and longer-lasting machine for espresso enthusiasts.
- High-quality materials: With its high-quality components, like the steel body, brass boiler, and wood accents, the machine offers excellent durability and longevity.
- Great aesthetics: The sleek, compact design of the machine enhances your home kitchen's aesthetics, making it a functional device and stylish addition.
Keep in Mind
- Single boiler limitations: A single boiler system is efficient but does not allow simultaneous brewing and steaming. It could be inconvenient for those who often make milk-based espresso or plan to make several back-to-back drinks. If quick brew time or minimum time-to-latte is important to you, it may be worth investing in a double boiler machine. The machine also doesn’t have a separate clean hot water spout, which may be a limitation if Americanos are your go-to drink.
- Learning curve: As a semi-automatic machine with professional features, beginners may have a learning curve to fully understand and optimize the machine's capabilities. It can take quite a bit of knowledge and trial and error to dial in the exact temperature and pre-infusion time you prefer, for example.
- Pair with an espresso-specific burr grinder: Pair this machine with an espresso-specific burr grinder for best results. Budgeting and planning for both the espresso machine and the grinder are important when considering your home espresso setup.
Alternatives to the Ascaso Steel UNO PID Espresso Machine
If you aren’t sure if the Ascaso Steel UNO PID is the right machine for you, or want to explore some other options, consider the following machines:
- Ascaso Dream PID: The Dream PID is essentially the same machine as the Steel UNO PID but has a retro aesthetic and a slightly smaller size. If you love the features of the UNO but prefer a more vintage look, consider the Dream PID.
- Ascaso Steel DUO PID: The Steel DUO PID is the double boiler upgrade to the UNO. The double boiler system allows you to steam milk and pull shots simultaneously, a wonderful feature if you frequently make milk-based drinks and want the convenience of simultaneous brewing and steaming.
- Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine: This machine also has a single boiler, great build quality, and a slightly more affordable price, but it lacks PID temperature control and has a longer heat-up time (20-30 minutes).
- Breville Barista Express: The Barista Express includes a built-in grinder. If you're short on counter space or don't have the budget to purchase a separate grinder, this could be an excellent alternative.
Chat With the Experts
The Ascaso Steel UNO PID is a great home espresso machine for those who want to control every step of the espresso-making process in an easy and fast machine with professional quality features. It is perfect for someone looking for a sleek and well-designed machine to last them years but doesn’t need the ability to steam milk and pull shots at once. If you’re unsure if the Steel UNO is the best fit for you, reach out to me or another Coffee and Espresso Expert at Curated to get personalized recommendations.