There's so much to like about the Zaffiro. It's got the biggest brewing boiler this side of the La Marzocco (or the Conti Twin Star); it's got that gorgeous, functional, eminently illustrious E61 group up front; it's got a tunable thermostat; and when it works, it brews shots with such an ease and level of perfection that you don't see in this class of machine.
But notice I said when it works. The number of failing thermostats in the Zaffiro is unreasonably high in my opinion. I know one fellow who has already been through two in three months of use, at at least four other owners who have had to replace it once. I had to replace mine. If you buy one, chances are you may have to eventually replace yours.
Another minor issue that cropped up in my testing is a fill problem with the machine. Sometimes, when it is left on for 24 hours or more without a shot being pulled, activating the pump doesn't seem to direct water to the brewing group. The fix is easy - run the hot water switch to get water flowing through the steam wand. Once it flows, your brew group is ready to go. I can't figure out why the machine does this, but it's a minor problem for me.
Buying the Zaffiro from a reputable dealer is very crucial. Chris' Coffee has been patiently replacing the thermostats for every defective one out there in the wild, and will no doubt continue to do so, but the question remains, why should this be happening in the first place?
It boils down to a serious QC problem in Italy with thermostats. It's not just the Zaffiro that's been tanking lately - it is a wide range of machines. I haven't been able to get any concrete answers on this, but most of the thermostats in today's consumer espresso machines stem from one or two companies, and they seem to be releasing products into the "wild" with a very short lifespan, and defects galore.
I do highly recommend the Zaffiro if you are someone who is and espresso purist, and give this machine a 9 out of 10 as an espresso machine. Just bear in mind you may have to replace the thermostat once or more, at least until the Italians figure out this thermostat issue.
For an all around machine, I give it a "good" rating, or a 6.5 out of 10.The ramp up time for steaming milk is quite long on the N. American version of the machine with it's 60hz, 110v powered boiler. I'm guessing the Euro version is much quicker, but another common issue these days with Euro espresso machines is that the 110 problem seems at best an afterthought, and compromises are made instead of simly designing a 110v machine from the ground up.
The Isomac Zaffiro is imported and sold by Chris' Coffee Service, where it retails for $795, though that may change. Package deals with various professional and professional-grade grinders are available, if you call. If you want a quality tamper or Illy Logo cups with the machine, they may also offer a complete price deal, so it pays to call in your order.
CoffeeGeek would like to thank Chris' Coffee Service for supplying us this machine, and being patient with the very long Detailed Review process.