I love this machine! It is so easy to use and the espresso tastes great! I consider it a piece of art. When friends stop by to see our newly remodeled home, we almost always end up in the kitchen admiring the Isomac.
Negative Product Points
It is not difficult to add water, nor have I experienced the machine running dry; however, a water level indicator would be a helpful addition. The group head gets very hot. I am sure most people experience at least one good burn.
I am absolutely a "beginner". The only other product I have used is a "Mr. Coffee." In fact, I have always been intimidated by the seemingly simple task of making coffee. Rather than brew a cup, I would drive to the local Cafino and get a morning latte.
I mentioned to my husband that I was considering purchasing an espresso maker. (I was thinking in the range of approximately $200 or less.) My husband, who has never had a cup of coffee, surprised me by becoming very interested in helping me find a good espresso machine. Having worked side by side with fellow engineers who love their espresso machines, he went on the hunt for the latest and the greatest. We drove to coffee shops in San Francisco, checked out co-workers' espresso machines, and spent several weeks reading consumer reviews at Coffeegeek.com.
My husband was sold on the beauty of the Isomac as well as on its mechanical qualities. I knew nothing, nor frankly did I care, about the group head, boiler, pressure gauge, or the mechanics of this machine. My major concern was whether the Isomac would be easy to use and if it would fit on the counter. After making a cardboard box to replicate the size of the Isomac and leaving it on the counter for a week, I made the decision to call Chris' Coffee Service.
On my initial call, I made the mistake of stating to the receptionist that I was interested in purchasing a coffee maker. After a noticeable hesitation, she clarified that Chris' Coffee Service sold espresso makers and that she would have Chris return my call later that afternoon. I was a little concerned that I was out of my league. When Chris returned my call, I immediately informed him of my lack of knowledge and experience -- and we went from there. He welcomed my questions, as basic as they were, and made it easy for me to understand. It was a true pleasure working with Chris.
Back to the Isomac: The machine is a breeze to use. (It should be noted that my learning curve went from two scopes of Folger's coffee to grinding beans and steaming milk!) I had never steamed milk before, but it only took two attempts before I had it conquered. The group head does get hot and I did manage the mandatory "first burn." I started off with the Illy pucks but quickly learned that grinding roasted beans was not difficult and the difference in taste was well worth the effort. And when it comes to cleaning, well -- I think cleaning the Isomac is easier than cleaning the old "Mr. Coffee."
Although the Isomac is expensive, it is well worth the money. Friends stop over regularly to get their morning latte or mocha. Last week we suffered a windstorm and lost our electrical power for 25 hours. The biggest disappointment -- for me -- was not being able to make espressos. I have become so accustomed to the quality of the Isomac, I didn't even consider driving to the "Cafino."
I have pulled many a shot with only a five minute warm up and have not received a single complaint; however, I personally prefer my espresso when the machine has had the opportunity to warm up for at least 15-20 minutes.
Due to the fact that I have practically zero experience with other products and cannot provide a comparative evaluation, I have rated this machine at 9. Personally, it is everything I wanted and more.
Chris was eager to share information with me. He walked me through each step of the process: unpacking the machine; initial start up; water quality, and overall maintenance. I highly recommend using his service.