Excellent grind, stylish, can't argue with the price
Positive Product Points
- Size - Looks - Doesn't spray or clump the coffee - Consistent grind
Negative Product Points
- Can be noisy
To be honest, the Rockys and Mazzers had great reviews but (a) cost more than I wanted to spend, and (b) were huge and hulking and unlikely to score highly with the aesthetic half of the household. The Gran Macinino also cost more than I wanted to spend, but then so does most coffee gear, and there's nothing like looking at the more expensive stuff to make it look affordable by comparison .
Sitting on the counter it looks quite stylish. Unlike my Expobar, not industrial enough to mimic a robust cafe setup, but it is suitably heavy and - lid/hopper interface aside - solidly made.
First impressions in action were of a noisy and rattly machine. Much of the noise seemed to be generated by the aluminium lid rattling against the plastic hopper. An elastic band around the top of the hopper calmed this right down. Note to Isomac: a rubber or foam insert in the lid would sort this out a lot more neatly.
The grinder has been paired with an Expobar Leva for most of its life and has pretty much made exclusively espressos and espresso based coffees. The quality of the grind has been great for this. I've not used a more expensive machine, so it's difficult to say just how good it is, but with good quality fresh beans I get a classic pour with the first few drops ballooning out for a 30 second pour with heaps of dark crema. No bitterness unless I've stuffed something up, and espressos that compare favourably with anything else I've tasted. It easily achieves the grind required, with several notches still available at a fineness of grind that bogs the machine.
The grind settings are stepped, and I've read plenty say that stepless is much preferred for espresso. However, I've not found that, and the step is just about perfect for my level of skill. One notch is about right to adjust for changes in temperature/humidity, or the gradual ageing of the beans over a couple of days. A marginal change in the fullness of the basket has a more profound effect. Now that I'm familiar with it, sink shots due to an incorrect grind setting are rare and usually limited to the new beans going in. If you wanted to use the grinder for plunger or filter as well as espresso, then it's easy to quickly turn the grind to a courser setting. I do have a bit of tape as a reference point, as there is no numbering of settings.
There is no clumping, electrostatic problems or spraying of grinds over the counter. I didn't appreciate quite how good it was until I loaned a Sunbeam EM0480, and that just sprays coffee all over the place. With a group handle under the dispenser it fills uniformly and without spilling anything at all. The side panels are perfect for knocking the group handle against to level the grinds as the basket fills. It's fast enough for home use, and doesn't noticeably heat the coffee.
After a grind it does leave coffee in the chute. This needs a tip and a knock to remove, which is fine mess-wise in my setup as it sits on a drawer knock box, but is marginally annoying. There is a little shelf below the chute which doesn't get in the way, but does collect grinds. Again, marginally annoying.
At some stage I'd be keen to compare quality in the cup against a higher end machine, however at the moment it does me just fine. And three years later averaging 2 or 3 coffees a day and it's still going strong on the same burrs without any noticeable decline in quality.
Rio in Stepney, Adelaide, is noted for its beans. Gear can be a little expensive, and it's possible I could have gotten a marginally better deal if I'd have shopped around more. However, service there is on the ball and friendly, there's a reasonable selection from Sunbeam to Mazzer, and it's a nice place to shop. I've had no quality issues with the grinder to test out their after market service, but they do have an on-site service centre. Edit: just remembered as a result of another conversation that service is not always on the ball and friendly. In fact 'off the ball' and unfriendly would be a better description at times, in particular when I was looking at machines and querying roast dates. But when I bought the grinder it all went well.