Articles From Whole Latte Love

Isomac: A Family Portrait

Posted: 01/24/05

by Carol Fingar

’Tis the season of frenetic entertaining and voluminous coffee drinking. With this in mind, we decided to expand a line of well-known workhorses built to handle the pressure of the holidays - the Isomac family of semi-automatic espresso machines. Every Isomac is built in the fine Italian tradition of espresso machines where quality and craftsmanship take center stage.

Isomac was started in 1977 Macherio, Italy - which is just outside Milan - by Giovanni Fontana. Fontana received his extensive training and attention to detail in Italy’s most famous coffee-machine factories. He took his craft and coupled it with his vision to begin producing a line of durable espresso machines that have a uniquely masculine design and unwavering performance.

A Handsome Clan

Let’s start with aesthetics. This is one good-looking family that would be a beautiful addition to any kitchen. Unlike many machines, every Isomac - from their smaller Supergiada to their top-of-the-line prosumer machine Millennium - houses its streamlined, uncomplicated lines in polished solid stainless steel - right down to its removable drip tray and accents - to create a great blend of traditional looks and modern appeal. Another unique feature that every Isomac has the equivalent of a "chair rail" that runs around the edge of three sides of the machine encircling the stainless steel passive cup warmer.

The front of each machine is as uncomplicated as its design, featuring unfussy, clean controls, one or two pressure gauges (depending on the machine) and a series of simple red and green indicator lights - all of which compliment and are set off by the stainless steel housing they sit in.

It’s What’s on the Inside that Counts

As good-looking as they are, a peek inside really shows their mettle. Isomac’s motto is "quality without compromise" and this is evident in the heavy-duty construction of even their least expensive model. Each machine enlists only the finest quality materials to ensure not only peek performance even under the most stringent of conditions, but also a long, productive life span. No matter which Isomac you choose, you will find commercial style brewing components, boilers made of either brass or copper, a heavy-duty vibration pump, copper piping, and state-of-the-art electronics. Of course, all this heavy metal means these machines are little porkers, the lightest weighing in at nearly 20 pounds. But it’s the equivalent of technological muscle, not excess fat. And you’ll see that every time you use your Isomac. But enough with the generalities, let’s get to know the new additions up close and personal.

Meet the Family

We are adding five members of the Isomac family to Whole Latte Love. Isomac has a range of machines that will work nicely in the home all the way up to small commercial settings like a small office or salon. Simply figure out what your needs are and choose the machine that best meets them.

The Millennium: Isomac’s Big Daddy

The Millennium is the prosumer machine that helped put Isomac on the map in the US and has a lot to do with Isomac’s reputation for excellence in the industry. Don’t let the lack of buttons and switches fool you. This machine is a tiger. Its only electric switch is the on/off button. The pressure brewing process is controlled by a three-way lever that you controls the flow and pressure of the water from the boiler through the grinds and into your cup. The brew group is the famed E61 brew group that is world-renowned for its ability to keep the water temperature stable and consistent from the moment the water leaves the boiler to the moment it leaves the machine in the form of espresso. It, along with the standard commercial sized 58mm portafilter it hosts, is made of solid chrome plated brass to guarantee temperature stability, and is controlled by a manual 3-way level and can be switched up for brewing when the indicator light is illuminated, signaling that the water is at the proper brewing temperature. Push the lever down, and the machine depressurizes, eliminating wait time between shots, and pulling the excess water out of the used grounds, making the portafilter easier and neater to empty.

The Millennium can handle volume thanks to its large, 3-liter removable reservoir and 1.4-liter commercial caliber copper boiler. And what’s more, it’s a heat exchange boiler, which makes it possible to brew and steam at the same time. A great feature if you’re planning on giving this machine a work out.

To the left of the brew group is a two-holed, stainless steel steam wand that rotates freely for full range of motion. The pressure gauge is located right below the steam wand so you can see when you’ve reached optimum pressure to begin steaming or frothing. To the right of the brew group is a separate hot water nozzle for simultaneous dispensing of hot water for tea, cocoa and even instant oatmeal. And both steam and hot water are dispensed by turning their respective black knobs. This gives you the reins in controlling how slow or fast you want the water or steam to come out.

The Zaffiro: Built to Deliver Time After Time After Time

Next is the Isomac Zaffiro prosumer, which is also powerful enough to work in a small commercial setting as well as at home. In a nutshell, the Zaffiro is on par with the Millennium in the sense that it also has the lever-operated solid chrome plated E61 brew group and 58mm portafilter with thermal siphoning system, which circulates the hot water through the entire brew group keeping it at constant brewing temperature from the moment it leaves the boiler. The Zaffiro has a large 27-ounce nickel plated copper boiler which lowers recovery times between drinks, and ensures better temperature stability. It also has a removable reservoir that’s a whopping 3 liters, and a low water sensor that turns the machine off should the water level get too low, thus preventing you from burning out your heating unit.

Up front, The Zaffiro has a pressure gauge for you to monitor brewing and steaming pressure. The freewheeling stainless steel steaming wand also doubles as a hot water dispensing wand and can be activated by simply pressing either the steaming function or hot water switch at the top of the machine, and then turn the knob to control the flow.

The Relax: Powerful Enough for Work or Home

If you’re looking for a prosumer semi-automatic that can keep either your home or small office caffeinated, but at a price that isn’t off the charts, The Isomac Relax is a great choice. For a lot less than you’d pay for a commercial machine, you get all the performance and functionality packed into a scale-tipping 48 pounds of pure power.

Contributing to its heft is its professional caliber internal components like its large, 1.4 liter nickel-plated copper heat-exchange boiler which makes it possible for The Relax to brew and steam at the same time. You’ll also find heavy-duty brass plumbing and fittings, a high-performance vibration pump and state-of-the-art electronics - including the 3-way solenoid valve as opposed to the manual lever of The Millennium and The Zaffiro.

Something you’ll find on The Relax that you won’t find on other machines in this price range is its two pressure gauges - one for measuring boiler pressure and one for monitoring brewing pressure while you are pulling your espresso shot. Continuing its laundry list of professional-caliber features, is the Relax’s commercial grade brew group - essential for maintaining the ideal water temperature you absolutely have to have in order to brew a perfect shot of espresso - and includes the E61 group head.

Rounding out The Relax is its commercial caliber brew group with standard 58mm portafilter, a huge, 3-liter removable water tank, rechargeable water filter, free-swinging steam wand, separate hot water dispenser, and a convenient control center on the front of the machine consisting of black knobs, stainless steel buttons and red and green indicator lights.

The Venus: A Home Brewing Goddess

Similar in looks to the Zaffiro, The Venus is ideal for any kitchen. While The Venus is a stay at home kind of girl - not really designed to take to work - she’s powerful enough to take care of a houseful of coffee drinkers with ease on a daily basis. In fact, The Venus did very well in performance tests, both in steaming capacity and its ability to pull excellent espresso shots.

Attributing to her resilience is a commercial caliber brew group of solid chrome-plated brass with a hefty, commercial-sized 58mm, chrome-plated brass portafilter. This keeps the water at the perfect brewing temperature of 195 degrees, from boiler to spout.

Heading deeper into the machine, you’ll find a large, 10-ounce brass boiler, solid brass fittings, stainless steel mesh protecting the brass water tubing, well thought out wiring and top-of-the-line electrical fittings.

To deliver espresso cup after cup, The Venus has a removable reservoir of 3 liters. Water is pulled from the reservoir, through the boiler, and ultimately across the grinds by a powerful, 52-watt vibration pump. And pressure is monitored on the front of the Venus by a classic pressure gauge.

Also on the front of the Venus you’ll find the controls all done up in stainless steel to blend into the look of the machine. To the left, you’ll see a row of three toggle switches with corresponding red indicator lights. These are for brewing, hot water and steaming. To the right you’ll find the pressure gauge, with indicator light, and the on/off toggle switch. So very uncomplicated. So very straightforward. So very simple.

The Venus has a swinging stainless steel steam wand that also doubles as a hot water dispenser. Thanks to her large boiler and strong pump, she is able to deliver enough steam to get 7 full ounces of cold milk toasty warm in under 35 seconds. So, just because she’s smaller in comparison to her big brothers, that’s not to say she’s a slacker by any stretch of the imagination.

The Supergiada: The Baby that Brews

The smallest member of the family is the Supergiada. This is the second member of the Isomac clan that could conceivably deceive you by its small size and uncomplicated looks. But do not be fooled for a second, because this bantam weight has knocked out a lot of its competition in its price class.

Compact, but powerful, the Supergiada still has what it takes to get the job done in any home including solid brass plumbing and fittings, a 5-ounce brass boiler powered by a muscular self-priming vibration pump, 3 liter removable reservoir . The brass brew group is manned by a 3-way solenoid switch and topped off by the most solid portafilter in its class. Made of chrome-plated marine grade brass, this 53mm portafilter is a heavy weight, built to ensure temperature stability to the very last moment of the brewing process. And don’t let it’s odd size alarm you, because Isomac has even taken care of that by adding a built in tamper on the front of the Supergiada that’s custom sized to fit perfectly into the portafilter.

Pressure is monitored by the Isomac’s signature pressure gauge so you know when you are at the right pressure for brewing or steaming. The steam wand is a two-hole stainless steel jobber that sings side to side, and doubles as a hot water dispenser to boot. Above the steam wand is a toggle switch that operates the steam wand. When the gauge shows you are at proper steaming pressure, just flick it on and steam. Or if you want hot water, simply flip that switch on when you’re at brewing pressure and hot water will come out of the wand instead of steam.

Completing the front of the Supergiada are two other stainless steel toggle switches with corresponding indicator lights. Switch the toggle to the farthest left on, and you’ve got power as shown by its red indicator light. Next door, the toggle switch you’ll see is for brewing. When the green light below it is illuminated, you are at brewing temperature and can flip that switch on to start pulling your shot. When you’ve got the desired amount of java, just flip it off and go enjoy your drink.

Choices, Choices

With an entire range of machines to meet your needs, you can’t go wrong with a member of the Isomac clan. And any one of these handsome little devils will look great and perform above and beyond expectations. So just choose based on what you’re looking for. And for more details, go to the product descriptions on our site.