Ambivalent; good machine for price, but unsure after 30 days if I made the right decision, and Chris' Coffee doesn't guarantee satisfaction.
Positive Product Points
The Isomac Millenium a nice piece of eye candy for under a grand. It has professional-grade components, is one of the most reasonably priced dual heat exchange machines, and has a hot water spout for tea-making and cup-warming. If you want an impressive shiny stainless steel box with toggle switches and stop lights brightening your counter, this fits the bill.
Negative Product Points
It looks better in pictures than in real life. It doesn't seem to have the kind of precision that I had hoped for. The pump is loud and not pleasing to the ear in my opinion. I wasn't able to generate crema for about a month until I spent half an hour on the phone with the dealer walking me through the grind, temperature, etc. To be fair, this is the first machine in this category that I've owned, and I am not an expert barista. And I appreciate the personal support and coaching. But I was able to generate crema without any hassles or tutoring with machines bought at Williams Sonoma for about half the price, like Pavoni and Francis Francis. Also, it takes 45 minutes to warm up the group head. I hear this is standard for machines of this class, which is something they don't tell you when you purchase the machine.
I figure when you buy a machine of this class, you should pretty much fall in love with it, but so far, I am only lukewarm. I have called the dealer twice to try and return it, but he spends his time coaching me on my espresso technique and having me do tests. He is incredibly knowledgeable and willing to provide post-purchase support. This kind of personal service is admirable, though what I would really rather do is try another machine. I don't mind spending more to get the machine I want. I suspect I would be happier with an ECM Giotto or a Swiss-made hand-operated piston machine like the Olympia Cremina. From the descriptions I have read, these sound like better integrated, more precisely constructed machines, rather than just parts in a box. Chris tells me that all the heat exchange/vibrating pump machines are all the same. "All [the manufacturers] do is buy the components, assemble the machines and slap a nameplate on them," he says. I am not an expert and don't know enough to sort this all out, especially when confronted by a persuasive advocate for the machine. Does anyone have any comparative intelligence between the Millenium and these other two machines? I am trying to decide whether to keep the machine and would appreciate some guidance.
The owner of Chris' Coffee takes phone calls himself, both before and after the sale, and is a veritable resource of information for the novice coffee enthusiast. Regrettably, Chris' Coffee does not offer a 30-day return like its competitors. EspressoPeople offers a "30-day home trial money back guarantee." 1st-line Equipment offers a "Limited 30 Day Moneyback Guarantee ... if you are dissatisfied for any reason," less shipping costs and possible 20% restocking. Although it doesn't come up in phone orders or on the product pages, if you click to Chris' Coffee's "Internet Policy" page, you'll see that he states: "We do not, however, allow returns simply because you changed your mind. We have no buyers remorse policy." It would have been nice to know this before I bought. I did not have time to read his entire web site before I gave my credit card number over the phone. I would not have bought from this company if I knew there was no satisfaction guarantee. Internet vendors should offer a 30-day money back guarantees for purchases such as these, since the consumer cannot demo the machine in a store before they buy one. Many do. Chris does not. This should be explicit before a purchase is made, and Chris should not rely on consumers to scroll down to the last two paragraphs of his "policy" page ( http://www.chriscoffee.com/policy ) to learn that. He should tell buyers in the phone conversation: "Are you sure this is the machine you want?" and have the consumer acknowledge the no-returns policy before confirming the sale. Unless advised to the contrary, this is the default expecation of an American consumer. Even stores that demo machines, like Williams Sonoma, will take exchange a machine that the customer is unhappy with. Look, with his support, I am sure I can get it to deliver a technically optimized cup of coffee. However, I am not sure that this is the machine I want, even if for subjective personal preference reasons that strike a vendor as irrational. And a vendor should make sure that he has a happy customer -- even if he's right and I'm wrong. He says it's my lack of knowledge; I don't like the machine. If you are making money on the Internet, you should be prepared to stand behind your products unconditionally. Otherwise you should not expect buyers to buy goods sight unseen. Luckily buyers can post their experiences to useful sites like Coffee Geek. By the way, I advised Chris that I would be posting my experience here to give him every opportunity to make me a happy camper. I will continue to Chris' tests and calculations to make sure that my pump it working properly, etc. etc., and seek out a knowledgeable friend, as he suggested, to help me improve my technique. And I will post my follow up experiences. I had just hoped at the one-month marker, I would have experienced some of the joy of owning a great coffee machine that dropping a grand should entitle me to. Instead I have a piece of heavy machinery sitting on my marble counter about which I am, well, ambivalent.