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Isomac Relax - Dave Nolan's Review
Posted: March 4, 2004, 12:14pm
review rating: 7.1
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Isomac Relax
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Arrow The Isomac Relax has 9 Reviews
Arrow The Isomac Relax has been rated 8.89 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 4, 2003.
Arrow Isomac Relax reviews have been viewed 50,334 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Mark Griffith 7.87
William Mariani 7.29
Howard Long 7.22
Dave Nolan 7.12
William Maurey 7.00

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.0
Manufacturer: Isomac Quality: 8
Average Price: $995.00 Usability: 8
Price Paid: $850.00 Cost vs. Value 7
Where Bought: Chris' Coffee Aesthetics 9
Owned for: 6 months Overall 8
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned:
Bottom Line: A very good machine for both lattes and straight shots that can take a little while to get comfortable with.
Positive Product Points

Makes excellent espresso shots, powerful steaming capacity, deep and capacious drip tray, hot water spigot that can produce a lot of hot water in one shot.

Negative Product Points

Water can get behind/under drip tray and even though the reservoir is pretty large, it's not handy to re-fill and the way I use the machine, it needs refilling too often.
Also, some of the edges on the machine can be a bit sharp, esp. the ones on the drip tray when the top is off of the bottom part.
12 Month Addendum:
Taking the cover off this machine requires removing the feet from the machine, which makes it so that the machine can (and does) scratch up counter surfaces that are unprotected.   Had I known that the bottom was so sharp, I would have prepared by putting a thick towel down or something like that.  In any case, I think that having to remove the feet to get the cover off is a design flaw.

Detailed Commentary

I've had this machine for about five months now, and I am pretty happy with it.  After using it for a month or so, I decided I didn't want to have to deal with re-filling the water reservoir all the time (at least once a day for me), so I connected it to my water supply to avoid the hassle.  The reason I use so much water is that I usually run about a shot or a little more's worth into whatever cup I am using before I fill the portafilter, then I usually run about 10 -15 seconds after I've knocked it out while wiggling the PF around to help clean things out.  I also tend to do a quick 2 or 3 backflushes at the end of the day for general maintenance, so far this has kept things clean and running smoothly for me.  One thing I don't like is how, when I do the PF wiggle to clean after a shot, water will splash on the back edge of the drip tray and get behind it, sometimes underneath it, too.  I don't like pulling it out just to clean the little bit of water up, so it'll often be the end of the day before I get to it.
A note on my experience, I bought this machine to replace a Gaggia Coffee that I had had for a couple of years, that was replaced once under warranty because the thermostat failed.  The latest failure was the pump.  I liked the Gaggia, it made OK espresso for lattes and cappuccinos, though not great espresso for drinking straight.  That machine was a replacement for a Krups Novo.  So the Isomac is the first really high quality machine I have owned.  I decided it was time to start enjoying my shots straight up.   It took me a couple of weeks to get the machine down so that I was getting consistently good and often great shots out of it.  I mention this because I think if someone without a lot of experience on high end machines decides to go with an Isomac, or probably any other high end machine, it can take a while to get to where you're comfortable with everything.  On another note, while I really like the look of the machine, it does tend to show dirt pretty easily and can be hard to keep clean.  If you have a smallish kitchen, like I do, it will be sharing counter space with other functions in the kitchen, so things splash on it or under it, and you have to wipe it off a lot to keep it nice and shiny.
On a final note, I do make 2 or 3 lattes a day, and the ability of this machine to do a double and steam at the same time is a huge time saver over what I was used to before.

Buying Experience

I bought from Chris' Coffee, where I also got the hardware to connect the setup to my water supply, the experience over all was very positive.  I spoke to Chris and also to one or two of his techs with various questions and they were always both friendly and helpful.  When I first got the machine, the top part of the drip tray was defective (a part was not soldered on where it should have been) and Chris ordered me a new one and sent it to me when it came in without making me return the defective part.

Three Month Followup

I have, since my initial review, learned of a potential condition on this machine and perhaps on other Isomacs.  It happens if the machine is on a timer.  When the machine is first used after the timer has turned it on, open the steam valve and the pressure drops to zero.  It then takes a good 20 to 30 minutes to get fully back up to pressure and temp.  I was having this problem with my machine, but did not realize what the specific problem was until I was browsing throgh the Chris Coffee web site and saw that they had added a new pressure release valve to correct this condition, they call it "vapor lock".  The condition can be overcome by leaving the machine on all the time, as an alternative.  I have recently ordered the replacement  valve, but don't have it yet so I can't verify that it solves the problem (though I trust that Chris Coffee would not sell it unless it does).  This doesn't really affect my over-all view of the machine, though.  I still think it makes great espresso.
12 Month Addendum:
I have had the new valve installed for a few months now and it does indeed solve the problem of
vapor lock.

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review rating: 7.1
Posted: March 4, 2004, 12:14pm
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