My Casadio Instantaneo has finally arrived (after some troubles with the local delivery company). Anyway, this grinder is not very well known internationally, Germany being the notable exception where it is considered superior to the Mahlkönig K30 (for half the price). So what's up with this? Here are my first thoughts on the Casadio...
First off, I have to say that the Casadio is ugly as hell. I initially did not even consider purchasing this grinder because of the looks, but good looks do not good coffee make, right? So I decided to go ahead with getting one of these to see what all the hubbub is about.
The Casadio is slightly beefier than a Mazzer Mini-E. The body of the grinder is almost exactly the same height as that of the Mini-E but a tad wider and deeper. However, depth is not so much an issue as an espresso machine usually requires more space in this dimension. In terms of the width, the Casadio does actually not require more space here, either because its power cord exits from the back instead of the side as in the Mazzer.
The standard hopper of the Casadio is fairly tall, though (making it around 4 inches taller than a Mini with a short hopper). However, I have a shorter hopper that is fairly easy to cut down further if need be. This hopper does not look particularly good, though and I am looking to receive an alternative that is a tad wider and look better when chopped down to the appropriate height.
The fit, finish and quality of materials on the Casadio are really bad. When I mean bad is that especially after the beautifully built Mazzer the build quality of the Casadio is bordering on unacceptable to me. It really is that bad with the cheap, thin and bendy plastic, poorly fitting components etc. Perhaps I will learn to live with this.
Ok. Now that I have vented most of the bad stuff about this grinder, let’s get into the good stuff.
The Casadio is significantly quieter than the Mazzer when grinding. One of the special features is the floating design of the motor and the burr assembly. They sit on rubber bushings that separate them from the grinder body. However, as with all quality grinders, the burrs are rigidly mounted on metal carriers to ensure even grind quality. There is a side effect to this floating design, though. The motor is rated at 450W versus the 250W of the Mazzer Mini-E and when one starts it up, the torque of motor actually rocks the whole grinder making it step slightly to the right unless held in place. This reminds me of an old American muscle car - you know, a huge powerful V8 in a small body and not much in the way of proper suspension. Perhaps the rubber bushings are a tad too soft?
The burrs on the Casadio are 48mm conical. Pretty small, huh? They turn at a pretty high rpm (1350), though and this gives a very fast grind - it is almost as fast as a Mahlkönig K30 and more than twice the speed of the Mini-E. Nice. Considering that the mass of the burrs is small compared to the amount of coffee that goes through them, it is not surprising that after grinding a few shots you notice some heat issues. This means that the Casadio will not be able to cope in a busy cafe but grinding four consecutive doubles in a home environment is not an issue.
One outstanding quality of the Casadio is that when grinding there is no horizontal path from burrs to the filter basket. The chute from the burrs is at a 45 degree angle and there is zero coffee retained in the chute after grinding! Now I have tried quite a few grinders and I have never seen anything this good. Having said this, as with all grinders, you will have some partly ground beans in the burr chamber after a session and at the start of the next session you will still want to throw away the first few grams of coffee out of the chute to ensure that you are using fresh coffee only. Regardless, this is one of the impressive qualities of the Casadio.
There is no portafilter fork or a tray to catch stray grinds. Sounds bad, right? Not a huge problem to be honest as the grind is so fast it doesn't pain me to stand next to the grinder for the 5 seconds it takes to grind the 17 grams for my double. There is also even less static and stray grinds than with the Mazzer and the Casadio actually makes even less of a mess than a Mini-E if used right.
Compared to the Mini-E (or the Mahlkönig K30), there is less clumping and less static. This is pretty impressive for a doserless grinder considering that the Mini-E is pretty good in this aspect compared to other doserless grinders (again including the Mahlkönig). Another problem of the Mini-E, the uneven distribution of the different sized ground coffee particles appears to be completely absent in the Casadio.
The Mini-E's issues combined require the use of techniques to overcome the grinder's shortcomings and you will still pretty easily end up with an extraction that favours one side of the coffee puck (the one closer to the machine's body - and I have experienced this with two machines that were both level). The first picture of the ground coffee above is from the Mini-E. Not bad, but if you look at the Casadio (below), it is visibly better.
The grind from the Casadio (the second pic) is also fluffier - the same amount of coffee measured by weight takes up a larger volume than the equivalent dose from the Mazzer (both pictures are a double of around 17 grams that yielded a 27 sec shot of the same volume at the same machine settings). It is a lot easier to achieve even extraction with the grind from the Casadio and the shots appear to turn blond later into the shot. Again good news!
The grind is activated by pressing the buttons on the panel. There is a button for a single dose and another for a double. Press both for continuous grind. There is no portafilter activation for grinding nor is there a separate button for continuous grind. This is an inconvenience as it is pretty tricky to press the two buttons simultaneously while holding the portafilter. The dose adjustments are not that intuitive, but they are accurate (much more so than in the Mini-E). You can adjust the grind time to 1/100th of a second and if you max out the setting, you can access a sub-menu where you can add full tenths (and still retain the possibility to fine-tune to the 1/100th). No upper limit as there is in the Mini-E (although I have not tried a triple). This is great. When idle, the display shows the number of shots ground with the grinder - already a fairly large number on mine since it took a good while to dial things in (my grinder was way off from an espresso grind setting). Now this brings me conveniently to the grind adjustment. It is by the way of a worm drive that allows for extremely fine adjustments. This is clearly an espresso only grinder as it is just too much trouble to move from espresso to French press and back (the adjustment scale is also very poor indeed, although there is one).
All in all, the important things with the Casadio appear to be in very fine form. The clearly is room for improvement in the choice of materials as well as the fit and finish. The manufacturer could also consider adding another button for continuous grinding or even a micro switch for portafilter activation of the grind. This would make the grinder so much more convenient to use - I just love the Mahlkönig K30 in this respect (also for its perfect build quality), but then again it is in a different price class and the actual grind quality might be inferior. In other words, although there are clear weaknesses in the Casadio, it is great value for money - it costs roughly the same as a Mini-E but offers superior grind speed, better extractions, more accurate dose setting, easier fine-tuning of the grind and less mess on the counter.
One and obviously the most important measure of a grinder is the quality of the coffee in the cup. How does the Casadio fare in this respect? Well, it is too early to draw conclusions. The better extractions are naturally a clear plus. I also note more bright notes in the shots, but also more bitter flavours. Could this be due to the high rpm generating more fines/dust than is desirable and this bring an unwanted dimension to the coffee? As I said, it is too early to draw conclusions but will revert after further experimenting....