When I looked for an upgrade, I looked at all the favorites. Anita, Tea, Bricoletta and Brewtus among them. I wasn't particularly interested in plumbing in at that time. But as I got to looking, reading specifications and getting advice from various forums, plumb in started sounding pretty good. But still, I wasn't convinced.
Enter the Izzo Alex. Here was a machine with all the bells and whistles. Rotary pump, pourover or plumb-in quickly and easily, E61 Grouphead, HX water system. And the fact that it was imported by Chris Coffee was just the icing on the cake. Here is an excellent machine, from a reputable dealer both in the sales process, but later in the all important service and support. How could I not seriously consider this machine.
I received the machine and set it up as a pourover. I then let it heat up for about an hour. Realistically it is ready at about 30 minutes, but I like my machines nice and hot all over. The boiler pressure on mine was set to 1.4 bar. At that pressure, HX flushing takes a fair amount of time and quite a bit of water.
I was able to pull a superb shot on the second try. Flushing took about 40 seconds and then a pull of 25 seconds produced the very finest espresso shot I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. But I noticed that even though the drip tray was big and the reservoir was too, I was going through water and draining the drip tray quite often that first day.
The 2nd day, I converted to plumb-in for water and a bucket to catch the drain. Total time to convert and run the line was about 20 minutes, thanks to the nifty hardware I bought from Chris Coffee. The only time I used a tool was to attach the water line to the Alex (included), attach the drip tray drain box and hose. The rest was push-in simple thanks to John Guest fittings.
I also cranked the boiler pressure down to 1.1 bar from a recommendation on one of the forums. This resulted in a much quicker flush, about half the time and water. I will most likely reduce it down to .9 bar to test that to see if it shortens it some more. Pours are still rock solid and the brew pressure gauge is a very nice tool to ensure that.
Speaking of indicators and adjustments, this is one dead simple machine to get into. Take off drip tray, remove 4 screws, take off plate screws held down. Sides and back are all one-piece and held with hook-over clips. Sides and back is also designed so that they stay cool. Adjustment of the PressureStat for boiler pressure is simple. Remove drip tray, look at the left front of the top and you will see a slot big enough for a screwdriver to go in. Through that slot is the PressureStat adjustment. OPV and Pump adjustments require removing the outer shell, but otherwise they are easy to get to.
The PressureStat is a Ma-Ter and has a very tight deadband. You will notice the click of the relay that controls the heater quite often. I don't find it a problem, and I love that tight temperature/pressure control, but at least one person found it irritating enough to return the Alex for a different machine. Another thing that helps with temperature stability is the very large (2 Liter) boiler.
Steaming is very powerful on the Alex. With the included 2-hole steam tip, I found it difficult to steam the milk in my rather small pitcher. So I got an Expobar single-hole tip and it fits fine and makes steaming better for me. I suspect that the designers figured that people using the Alex would be making more caps and lattes than the 1 or 2 that I do at a time. As a test, I opened the steam up for 5 minutes and it was still producing steam and the boiler pressure was dead on at the end of that time. One thing to note is that the steam wand is not 'no burn', but I didn't find that to be a problem for me.
The only way I can get the boiler temp/pressure to drop off more than just a very small amount is by using too much hot water through the hot water wand. When I had some friends over and made 6 Americanos, I noticed that.
Included with the Alex are 2 portafilters. One with single spout, one with double spout; 2 filter baskets and a blind filter gasket for backflushing. Also included is the requisite plastic tamper that all the makers seem so fond of sending with their machines.
Daily cleaning and maintenance is simple and easy. After each session, you should flush and then backflush the grouphead. Once a week I backflush with cleaner. This is important as the screen is not easily removed and this is the only way to clean it well.
One big plus with the design of the Alex is the ease with which you can change from pourover to plumb-in. Literally it is a 5 minute job. And if you are taking her to an outing where you will be making lots of drinks, then bumping the pressurestat back up to 1.4-1.5 is quick and easy. At that higher pressure, you can make many more back to back drinks, even the milk ones.
I had only two problems with my Alex. The first was when I started using her. The drip tray plug was loose, either from shipping or just never tightened, and I ended up with a bunch of water all over the place when I first used her. You need to note this.
The second problem didn't show up until after I plumbed in. Alex has a safety feature of shutting down and sounding an alarm when the reservoir runs out of water. This works even when plumbed in. So you either have to keep some water in it or weigh it down some way. I had filled mine with water and after a few days noticed that I had a drip at the back underside of the machine. It was overflow from the reservoir caused by my OverPressure Valve being slightly misadjusted. I noted that in another forum and later that day Chris responded in the forum and one of his technicians sent me instructions and a picture showing how to adjust it.