|Straight espresso performance sets the bar for prosumer machines -- don't write it off as an "espresso purist's" choice!
|Dan Kehn, Jan 15, 2004
More of Dan Kehn's Review:
David Badenchini at Rock Mountain Coffee (formally EspressoDeals) is a local vendor of Isomac machines. Last month he organized a coffee club to exchange ideas and let us try out some of his product offerings. During the meeting I...
|beautiful, well made and a dream to own.
|Marc Lewis, May 6, 2009
More of Marc Lewis's Review:
Even though i have only owned this machine for two weeks so far i have been very impressed with its performance. It produces great coffee, has excellent temperature stability despite its small size and can produce alot of coffee without any troubles....
|10 Reviews have been written for the Isomac Zaffiro so far by our members.
The Isomac Zaffiro sets a few notables: while there may be more expensive single boiler machines available today or in the past, I know of none that are in the regular supply chain, nor a more "viable" machine for the price.
Another notable is that this is a machine with a boiler holding 800 mls of water. That 800 mls is used for espresso brewing exclusively under normal operation, and again, I am not aware of any single boiler, consumer machine on the market that has a larger boiler for espresso brewing. You'd have to move up to a La Marzocco Linea with its 1.9 litre brewing boiler (in the single group machine) or a Conti Twin Star to see something bigger. Why is this important? You'll find out more about it in our next sections, but in a word (two words, actually): Temperature Stability.
Third is the marriage of a large brewing boiler with an authentic E61 grouphead. I'll talk about the E61 more in my history section below, but as far as I know, this is the largest consumer boiler ever married with an E61 grouphead design - the result is an increase in that all important thing mentioned in the last paragraph: Temperature Stability.
Let's take a look at the history of Isomac, and the history of some of the parts that make up this machine.
History of Isomac and the Machine Components
I admit it was very hard to get any solid history from the folks at Isomac on their machines and companies. Several emails to the company were not responded to, but this may be due to a language issue. Most of what I've been able to learn has been from Isomac's Italian website, as well as discussion with some of Isomac's customers.
The company was founded in 1977, but has not really been seen in the North American market until recently, when Gianni Casaliggi, the company's main US sales agent, started attending trade shows and finding new markets.
The company's founder, Giovanni Fontana, had extensive experience working in a few of Italy's famous espresso machine companies before going on his own, starting up Isomac in Macherio (they are now located in Milan).
For a long time, Isomac was a very minor player in the world of consumer and "prosumer" espresso, but with Casaliggi's efforts, they are now making a presence in the North American coffee scene.
They have a wide range of products, including 10 espresso machines and 3 grinders, ranging from the super cheap (the Cappuccine) up to the ultra expensive (for a prosumer machine) two group A02, which is more of a commercial machine than anything for the home. Quality is also varied through their line - while all machines have stainless steel as their trademark, at the low end, the quality is quite suspect. Once you move up the line, the quality of build, materials, and performance improve substantially, and by the time you get up to the Zaffiro and beyond, you're running on all cylinders and getting a top notch espresso machine.
The company has almost always had a love affair with stainless steel and the venerable E61 grouphead.
Why is so much emphasis put on the E61 grouphead, and what it offers? Perhaps we should look at the history and development of this crucial part, and why it is so important to the delivery of quality espresso.
The "E61" got its name from the Faema E61, a groundbreaking espresso machine introduced in, you guessed it, 1961. This machine is the standard bearer for what all modern espresso machines are: it's the first production machine to feature a heat exchanger; it's the first espresso machine to feature a rotary pump; and it's the first espresso machine to have a specifically designed grouphead that not only offers natural, passive preinfusion, but a designed active heating system that used boiler water to keep the grouphead at temperatures around 200F(93.3C) or higher.
Almost every commercial espresso machine today features the innovations first seen on the Faema E61: the rotary pump and the heat exchanger system, which gives you flash-heated, fresh brew water and on-demand steam. But relatively few feature the innovative grouphead design. It is now possible for companies in Italy to "buy" this technology to add to their machines, and Isomac is a big proponent of the design (as is ECM, Expobar, and some other "prosumer" grade espresso machine makers).
What it does for the home user is this: first, it gives you a machine that is unlike any other machine in terms of looks; second, it gives exceptional heat stability and retention (in some cases, too much so, but more on that in our Performance section); and third, it gives you a completely professional grade passive preinfusion system and 3 way solenoid pressure relief system. With the E61, there's no concerns at all about backflushing the machine. Lesser priced machines equipped with a 3 way solenoid can't lay this same claim.
I do apologize for the weak History section. Perhaps I will have more for the next Isomac product review I do. Now let's have a look at my initial experiences with the Zaffiro.