I was able to buy an Isomac Mondiale (not Modiale, whoever edits this review board apparently can't spell and has also demonstrated that they can't be bothered to fix it) that had suffered a bit of freight damage at a bargain price, so I upgraded to it from my old Millennium. My review will partly reflect the changes visible from my older Millenium imported in 2001 to the newer Mondiale, built in 2006.
The Mondiale is Isomacs top of the line machine, made in both a rotary (commercial) and vibe pump (home) version, although the rotary pump machine appears to have been imported for only a short time. I have the vibe pump version.
The Isomac line saw an upsurge of production and visibility from 2001-to-2005ish as several American importers and distributors jumped on the higher end Italian espresso machine bandwagon. This class of machine had been popular mainly in Europe for more than 20 years. Isomac was an understandable choice for those who sought to exploit the newly awakening market here, since they arguably had the most stylishly designed broad line of machines available from one company. Unfortunately, a sudden need to ramp up production, ship them across the ocean, and bounce them around the vast landscape of North America in UPS trucks exposed a number of minor but pesky design and build weaknesses that made distribution of the machines less profitable than desired.
The response to these troubles involved a series of component and assembly upgrades to most of the Isomac prosumer machines in a “Version Two” series. The Mondiale is a newer design in the lineup, introduced around 2004, and thus benefits from the learning curve that produced the general line upgrades.
Looks and build quality
The most obvious feature of the Mondiale is its striking looks. Big, round, hand-made side plates, a curved rear plate, and a beveled front panel in three planes sit on adjustable feet. Love it or hate it, it looks like no other. Imposing in size, it stands 16.75 “ high, about 14” wide, and 20 “ deep to the tip of the drip tray.
The outer case, the L shaped frame, the feet, the drip tray, the whole thing aside from the grouphead basically, are all stainless steel. No painted sections to rust, no plastic panels, no chrome to flake off.
Assembly and build quality have improved. The high temperature wiring is more neatly routed and laid out than before, and nicely tied off in a number of places. The micro switches are now mounted on metal reinforced brackets. The vacuum breaker valve is more robust than before. The uninsulated SS 2.2 L boiler replaces the nickeled-copper boilers seen on Isomacs older machines. This one is larger than most, and looks heavily built enough to achieve a useful life of approximately 500 years. Some competitive machines, and even some Isomacs use a resettable fuse, but the Mondiale still has the less desirable one-use fuse. Although these were missing on mine, the original portafilter handles are solid stainless steel, which contribute to the appearance of the machine and make the purchase of dumb-bells for arm curls unnecessary.
In use, the machine distinguishes itself with great ergonomics. The large size of the machine and the beveled front spreads out the steam and water arms, making for a spacious work area. I didn’t think I’d care about the arms being mounted on ball swivels, but I find them more convenient and pleasant to use than expected. It’s easy to accommodate most any size container at most any angle. The steam and water valves are joystick levers. One quick motion and the steam is locked on full blast. A flick of the finger and it’s off. Tweak the lever for anything in between. The drain pan is designed to be plumbed in, and works great this way, a very nice convenience. If you want to use it as a removable, be aware that it’s small, and if your machine is like mine, the side panels grip the tray tightly making removal for draining inconvenient. The water tank is accessed by a hinged lid behind the warming tray - no need to remove anything to add water.
The larger boiler makes for better thermal stability and steaming power. The machine cycles less often than the Millennium, and steaming speed is probably in the upper half of all $1000+ machines with the stock two hole tip, it is not much faster than the Millennium and forgiving for beginners.
Ease of maintenance
Maintenance on the Millennium, like on many other machines, was either easy or a pain depending on what you needed to get at. Removing two screws and a divider plate gave you access to the top of the boiler - that's easy. Access to the rest of the innards involves a PITA procedure to turn the machine on its side, and the removal of many screws, some of which are hard to access. On the Mondiale, if you raise up the front a half inch and prop it up, unscrew the front feet, remove a mere six easy-to-access screws and the entire case can be lifted away, providing complete access to everything. A great combination of striking appearance and good functionality not often seen.
You can buy a computer from Dell or Compaq and get a brand name, and sometimes some proprietary technology, or you can buy a clone made of selected generic parts and assembled in a generic case.
Similarly, Isomac is the poster child for the generic espresso machine - good quality generic parts inside a case. The analogy stops with the case however. The one thing Isomac certainly does make themselves are their cases, which are quite beautiful - certainly not generic and also not cheap. If you like the looks of the Mondiale, you will pay for it. There are machines that offer some upgraded components such as a resettable fuse, insulated boiler, have some helpful proprietary features, AND cost less. But they don’t look like the Mondiale.