I have had my Isomac Tea for several months now and have been totally satisfied with the espresso and micro frothing abilities. That said, there have been little nagging issues that, almost to a person is echoed throught the reviews, alt.coffee and here.
The biggest irritant I have is the inability to see the water level in the reservoir. This has occasionally led to shots stopped in the middle, a retraining to pull the machine out each time I use it and check the water level. My Tea sits under a cabinet and I have had it on an acrylic cutting board to facilitate pulling the machine out. Then I have to lift off the cup warming tray and check to see if there is water in the tank. The first time one of my friends saw these antics popped out with the statement that the machine should have a water guage on tank.
I have wanted to plumb in the machine just to avoid the constant pulling out and checking/filling. Not a big deal, but as time went on, an irritant. I came up with a simple and low cost solution. From Wal-Mart, I got a plastic water dispenser. It is transparent water-bottle blue, 14"x9.5"x3" (roughly) and holds 1.25 gallons. Sitting horizontally on the 3" side, there is a fill cap in the top middle and a handle on one side along with a spiggot. It fits behind the Tea quite unobtrusively.
I bought flexable tubes that the Tea's hoses fit into with a tight fit that seals completely. I used two sliding window locks (the type that has a thumb screw so it can be slid up and down on an aluminium frame) on each back corner of the warming tray to lift it so the extended tubes can run over the back machine edge. I drilled a hole into the center of the bottle fill cap for the intake tube and the return tube hole was drilled close to one corner of the bottle. The uptake hose has the water softener device and I needed easy access to it, hence the placement of the hole in the fill cap. I use a Mason jar full of pennies where the Tea's original reservoir was to keep weight on the pressure switch so the machine stays on. This weight device might change to something else down the road.
To refill, I unscrew the bottle fill cap, move the cap over and add water. So easy! The extra tube length is probably no more than 10 - 12 inches per tube. (Yes, I checked for water and air leaks in the tubes and flow rates. All okay.) The water container sticks out on both sides of the Tea but one side is in a corner that is hidden by the Tea. The other side sticks out about 1 -2 inches and is easy to see and fill.
Total cost - less than $10.00!
Easy to see water level.
Easy to refill.
The water in the reservoir does not get hot and according to another_jim, the water softener that is included with the Tea works best if the water is not hot. (My water is not that hard and if the supplied softener is working as it is supposed to, then this is all I need - water that is room temp does this.)
I no longer need to slide the Tea over my counter and have removed the acrylic cutting board.
The cup warmer, while slightly slanted still keeps cups nice and warm.
No voiding of warranty by cutting or drilling on the machine.
The cup warmer does tilt, but not badly. Perhaps eventually a little trimming on the tray will solve that problem.
The pump is nosier because there is no container of water to muffle the sound.
If a person is not obsevant, the pump could be run dry; however, there are only two people who use the Tea in my house and both of us were involved in the mods. Both of us have agreed to NOT let the container ever get below half empty.
We have used this mod for a couple of days now and things are great!
If there are problems, I'll let you know. I hope this helps anyone out there who was at the same place with the Tea.
I see several detractors for plumbing in the Tea. Chris at Chriscoffee says that the current solution can be done but it is a real PITA, and that is just hooking it into the Tea.
Let's see, tap into water line, drill holes in counter, run tubing, attach in-line water softener. Forget about hauling the Tea to a party or moving it to a different spot if the need ever arose.
Current kit to plumb in to the Tea, I've heard isn't that expensive - around $20 - 25. Then you need a "T" fitting, tubing, ...you get the picture. Time involved would be, depending on your plumbing and carpentry skills start approaching hour to hours. In my case, I would have to pull out my dishwasher to run plumbing to where I want it.
The external water tank thing took, oh if I were pushing it, max 15 minutes. It took longer to go get the stuff and stand in line than it did to do the actual install.
It would be interesting to hear from someone who has plumbed a Tea in. When I spoke with Chris concerning this, he discouraged me by saying how difficult it would be.
If things hold up, I no longer have a need to plumb in the Tea, have an option to move it and the softener is now working to its maximum efficiency.
There is a hole a little smaller than an inch in diameter on the bottom of the machine to allow for a water line. Also, when I bought my machine from Chriscoffee, he said that you could plum the tea and was willing to install the plum-in kit if I wanted him to before he shipped it to me.
Perhaps Isomac recently started drilling holes in the base of their TEAs to allow for plum-in?
My model is obviously outdated, it doesn't have the holes. Chris sold off the stock of the previous importer; then had Isomac make a few good mods, the plumbing holes must be one (the other is the more accessible pressurestat, of which I'm very envious).
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