Great machine, I love the way it looks and works and would buy one again
Positive Product Points
Great looking, heats up fast, consistent dosage, makes foam fast Plumbed in version makes life easy Cup warmer actually makes the cups "hot" Quiet Great marbled paint job
Negative Product Points
Pressurestat makes loud click as it turns on and off Steam wand can be so fast you may get coarse foam if you are not careful
I bought a used Isomac Tea a year ago from an espresso repair shop. Fortunately the unit was under warrenty as I experienced a few problems with it. The repair shop was not really knoweledged on the E-61 brewhead and after some frustrating attempts at getting it fixed I delved into the brewhead and got the machine back on track. While the Tea was capable of making great espresso it was a little more work than I wanted to spend. I began looking on Ebay for a suitable replacement and narrowed my search down to single head commercial machines. I wanted a rotary pump, a good pressurestat, a little larger boiler and dual gauge which the commerical machines provided. After about six months searching I started to see some Astorias for sale and researched their capabilities and decided they would be a good machine for me. I was actually looking for the semi-auto version but this one came along and I got it with a water filter and an Anfim Best grinder for a great price.
The machine is a plumbed in version for which I was fortunate enough to have the space for. Plumbing it in was pretty darn easy, just go down to Home Depot and get enought brass fittings to hook everything into the existing water line and replace the sink drain pipe with one made for a dishwasher connection and it was in. I really like not having to "pour over" water a few times a day and watching the drip pan to make sure it doesn't overflow.
It took me a day to dial in the Anfim grinder for this machine, but now that it is set I get great coffee everytime. I still follow the basics of filling the portafilter full and using the edge of the measuring spoon to get out the lumps and level the fill before tamping. Giving a good firm tamp pushes the puck low enough to fit the brew head and give great crema. Surprisingly, even decaf gives pretty good crema with this machine which it didn't do with the Tea.
The steam wand took a little getting used to. This machine will steam up a batch of milk in no time at all. With the Tea I was used to spending quite a bit of time keeping the tip just touching the top of the milk and slowly (ever so slowly) bringing the milk up to temp and making the foam. I will say the Tea made great microfoam, but it took forever. With this machine I dump the wand into the milk and open up the steam valve and lit it rip. The milk foams just fine, maybe not quite as "micro" as the Tea but more than acceptable for latte art. I do find that it works best to make the espresso first and foam afterward and then the milk and foam pour out nicely.
I was worried that the machine would take forever to heat up as it has a six quart boiler and runs on 110V, but it is up to pressure and hot in 30 minutes.
Great experience with Ebay. Seller shipped on schedule and item arrived well palletized. Sellers claim of "refurbished" was maybe a little overboard, but there was nothing wrong with the machine except it needed new steam valve seats and a new vacuum breaker.
Three Month Followup
I have been using this machine daily to make 8-10 doubles a day, about half of those latte's. The machine works great and I love having it. I would say it is probably more machine than I really need, but it works like a champ and has given me zero problems. Since I only make doubles, I programmed one of the auto buttons to give me a 10 second HX cool cycle and another to get the double. Using them makes it easy as pie to make espresso and while pulling the handle on the Isomac Tea was fun, it also go a little old after a bit so I appreciate the easy way.
While I originally found the pressurestat to make a loud clicking noise, I have to say I don't notice it anymore.
If I needed another machine I would definitely put this machine at the top of my list.