Steam on demand. Easy to use. I review the automatic version of this machine which have preprogrammed buttons for different cup sizes. E61 group(according to vendor) E61 group hidden behind cover making burning yourself less likely. Heavy portafiler which keep the temp stable.
Negative Product Points
The water reservoir is hard to access as you need to remove the cover. The aestetics of this machine is not as good as one showing the splendor of the E61.
I have been looking for an espresso machine for a long time. My friend bought a silvia and from then on I had been searching. The silvia seemed OK but I didn't fancy the single boiler approach as both me and my wife enjoy lattes and cappas. After the silvia my eyes turned to the microcasa a leva which had good steaming ability and seemed to be able to produce fine espresso but alas it had an overheating issue. I started to look for more expensive HX machines and for a while I got carried away and even considered the Reneka Techno for a while. A marvellous machine but probably not something to buy for a newbie. I came to the conclusion that I wanted something that allowed me easy frothing and the ability the let my espresso hobby grow i.e. potential to make great espresso. I settles for a HX machine with good temperature stability. In this category there are alot of machines, many with shining E61 groups that just blow you away with their looks and some that just do the work, no nonsense. The Isomac Relax is such a machine. It's internals equals all the top level Isomacs. It even has the E61 group under it's hood. To me that is just cool. The Relax I bought was the new one with a control pad of five buttons. One for a ristretto shot, one for a normal espresso, one for a two cup ristretto, one for two normal cups and one button for continuos flow. After using the machine I really like how easy those buttons make the process of "pulling" an espresso. Although I never have owned an espresso machine before and so have nothing to compare it against I sincerely can't imagine it to be easier. The machine arrived in excellent condition double packed with two portafilters, one double and one single. A dosing spoon and a plastic tamper(which was too small for the PF) also came in the box. The manual was a bit short but not as bad as I thought after reading other reviews about Italian machines. The starting up sequence could be more informational, especially since that is what a first time user would read first. After packing the machine up I followed Mark Princes advise and read the manual and tried to follow it step by step. This machine has a removable water tank and so I took it out and cleaned it, filled it up and inserted it into the machine. Powered the machine and right away the pump started(filling up the boiler I suspect). After letting the machine heat up I tried the water tap and out came some steaming water indicating the boiler was full with steam. I tried all the other buttons and turned the steam knob and everything was good to go. Ran some water though the PF to warm it up. Filled up the double basket tamped it with the little plastic tamper which was quite hard as it was to small. The espresso that came out had some crema but not much, I blamed the tamper. I realized that my Macap grinder had come with a sturdy tamper, although this was meant for hooking up on the grinder it made the tamp much better(fitted the basket perfectly). The espresso that came out of the machine this time had a very nice crema (maybe a bit too pale) to my knowledge. I drank it and was quite happy with the result as it tasted much like the espressos I get from my local espresso bar. I had a go at frothing milk and it was a breeze. Just in a few seconds the milk was hot and had that nice thick feeling, and this was my first try ever. Maybe a true aficionado would have laughed at the attempt but the latte I used it for was great to my taste. On my to buy list I added this after my first try: A good tamper A glass demitasse to help me recognize the visual result of the espresso.
I am not sure about the manometer on the machine. It says “coffee/pump pressure gauge” in the manual but the grading goes from zero to 2.5 bars. While using the machine the arrow swings from 1.25bars to 1.35 bars. This leads me to believe that the pressure gauge actually shows the pressure inside the boiler. Also pulling an espresso i.e. pressing one of the buttons on the control pad makes the pump turn on(which is quite loud) and this have no effect on the pressure gauge. The heat up time for the machine is very fast to my understanding. The green light on the machine showing when the heating element is disengaged lights up after about 10min. This green light goes on and off at regular time inervals(about 30s) indicating that the machine tries to hold a fairly constant pressure. The pressure gauge on my machine goes up 1.3 bar and then the green light comes on. The gauge continous up to 1.35bar and then drops to 1.25bar and then the green light comes off indicating that the heating element is engaged again and this starts a new heating sequence. I think the green light means that the machine is ready to brew but the manual says nothing about this, the green ligh is just labeled "heating element light". After leaving the machine on for a while the gauge settle at 1.4 bar with the green light glowing all the time. Trying to pull a shot now will result in some sputtering from the PF indicating that the water probably is too hot. Its easy to get it down in temp just by pulling a few blank shots through the PF.
Espresso coffee shop has been a pleasure to order from. Even though it took some time for the order to go through I got continuos feedback from the salesperson. He even called me from Italy several times to update me on the order status. I think the time delay was caused by Isomac taking the original Relax model out of production replacing it with the semi automatic model I finally received. I truly recommend buying from this firm. Although I have bot had any trouble yet and can't say anything about how they handles service after the sale.