Isomac
Tea
A Closer Look
Isomac Tea closer look v5.doc
Overview
The Tea arrives well packed. Is very well built with high quality (industry standard)
components and it is clear that a lot of care has been taken with assembly. Constructed using
heavy gauge mirror finish stainless steel the Tea makes a considerable statement.
This type of machine internally, is slightly more complex than the cheaper single boiler non
Heat Exchanger (HX) machines, but actually much simpler to operate in daily use. There are
fewer controls and no need to do anything special (apart from filling the water tank
occasionally) to draw steam, hot water or espresso at any time. The Tea automatically
maintains the water level in the boiler as required and if run low on water in the tank the Tea
switches itself off as a safety precaution.
The Tea is quiet in operation, mainly because of the good design and avoidance of metal
parts touching that may cause vibration. The warmer tray is large and the machine is on the
tall side, but there is still reasonable access under normal kitchen wall cupboards.
The Barista kit that is supplied free with the machine is good quality with all the essential
items required to make great coffee. This kit represents excellent value and is usually an
extra expense when buying an espresso machine.
The Tea is one of the flagship machines in the Isomac range and has been for some time.
Choosing a machine at the top of the range is often a choice based on aesthetics and brand.
These machines do everything you would expect and do it reasonably well
In summary; The Tea is an excellent machine both for the customer to use and the reseller to
support. It will provide years of reliable service with the minimum of maintenance
Bella Barista
Nene Court, The Embankment,Wellingborough, Northants, NN8 1LD
Tel: 01933 273275
e-mail: clareo@towability.com
© Bella Barista
Page 2 of 7
How it arrived and unpacking
Very sturdy box, room on the inside to pack the basic free barista kit that will come with the
machine, but not much more. It is not difficult to get the machine out of the box as there is a
reasonable amount of room at the sides to reach down and get a good grip, but at 21 Kilos
help is advisable.
The Tea comes with a manufacturer’s manual that is of the usual poor standard common with
these machines. It only covers the basics of machine operation and a very brief description of
how to make coffee. The UK Bella Barista guide will prove to be of significant help to the
novice user.
The corner positioning of Tea is ideal, especially when located near a sink. Once in position
on the counter the machine looks nice and does not dominate on standard sized work
surface, although it is a large machine. It is a tall but gives enough room under standard
height kitchen cupboards for cups etc. Refilling the water tank can be done with a standard
plastic cook’s jug, without having to pull the machine from under the cupboards.
Bella Barista
Nene Court, The Embankment,Wellingborough, Northants, NN8 1LD
Tel: 01933 273275
e-mail: clareo@towability.com
© Bella Barista
Page 3 of 7
Inside the Tea
Internal build quality is good with very high quality components. Components are well
positioned, neatly assembled. The water sensitive control board has been shrouded in a clear
plastic protective housing well located to minimise chance of damage during filling the tank
(as most people will not bother removing the tank for filling), or in the event of high pressure
venting or a leak in the system.
In the event of any high pressure venting the Tea does have a nice feature where the high
pressure vent is surrounded by a protective channel or gutter that routes the water down into
the drip tray via a pipe.
Servicing this machine will be very easy; strip down is fast and simple with little potential for
error. Component quality is (as you would expect very high), and the design excellent with
easy access to internal components. The case is difficult to remove for the inexperienced
home user and I would not recommend attempting this, as damage to the machine could
result.
Key features
Item/Description
Picture
Machine runs hot, as do all HX machines,
so you need a cooling flush.
At least 3-4 oz. The Tea being a moderate steamer, 1400W
element and a boiler of 1.2 litre l there isn’t much latitude for
pressure adjustment
Boiler is 1.2 litres compared to the Vivi's
1.5l.
The boiler is as small as you would want to go on an HX
machine. This means the Isomac would not be suited to light
commercial use.
It does take longer to recover and does
not have the sheer capacity, stability of
the Vivi
Isomac would do well to source a larger boiler if ever they
revise the design internally (but not at the expense of boiler
quality).
The review Tea was running at average
of 1.3 bar and had reasonably good
pressure (and hence temperature)
stability, you don’t need to “surf the
boiler” on these machines
Moderate steamer compared to Vivi and
Zaffiro.
Comments
User guide doesn’t state what
the correct pressure should
be, no green ready zone
markings on the gauge. I
think 1.3 bar average
pressure is fine &
recommend that any Isomac
checked should be adjusted if
below 1.2 bar
Fine for domestic use, not really suitable for commercial use
Plastic Y connector inside
I don’t know why these are
always fitted by
manufacturers. Brass would
be far better.
We will be asking them to
change this
Plastic clips on steam and hot water
wands.
I thought I would like them, I
didn’t. They slide about look
cheap and feel bad. The
normal rubber type grips
found on other coffee
machines feel better than
these
Bella Barista
Nene Court, The Embankment,Wellingborough, Northants, NN8 1LD
Tel: 01933 273275
e-mail: clareo@towability.com
© Bella Barista
Page 4 of 7
The water feed tubes are quite long and
have square cut ends. While the in-line
water filter is on, there is not a problem.
When it was removed (as it will be when
exhausted or 1 month old) The tube risks
being “sucked” onto the bottom of the
tank, obstructing the flow of water to the
pump. There is a recommendation in the
UK user guide to cut the tubes as shown.
When low on water machine just switches
off.
Isomac should modify these
tubes at the factory. They do
make a small standoff
strainer to fit on the bottom of
the feed tube if your machine
comes with this accessory ,
cutting the tube is not
necessary
Isomac should fit a warning bleeper like the Vivi which starts
beeping even though the machine switches off.
Low water switch off level set conservatively (although
personally I don’t mind this I know customers find this
irritating)
Group/Brew pressure gauge as well as a
boiler pressure gauge is a nice touch
Many machines use the cheaper option of a dual gauge, I
liked the 2 separate gauges on the tea
Nice quality steel case, definitely looked
higher quality steel than Vivi and thicker
gauge. Steel frame substantial and high
quality
Wiring all braided and high quality, just
not routed neatly.
Liked the way the control board was
protected with a plastic sleeve
Liked the drainage system around the
pressure vent valve, a thoughtful touch,
and will certainly reduce the chance of
water damage
All components very accessible. This
makes servicing quick and easy (once
the case is off)
Very nicely made stainless steel boiler
Steel braided high pressure pipe
Pump replacement should be a
straightforward job
Experienced technician approx 45m
Portafilters coming ready assembled and
spouts in the right place
How do they always get the spouts in the right place?
The free water filter supplied with each
machine
Nice touch (personally I think they may restrict flow)
Lack of vibrating panels, makes the Tea
a nice quiet machine to operate
My Isomac Zaffiro rattles when the pump is on, especially cup
warming tray.
Nice large cup warming tray
A piece of perforated non-slip
matting works perfectly to
stop the tray getting
scratched. I would like to see
the manufacturers supply
something made for the
machine
Bella Barista
Nene Court, The Embankment,Wellingborough, Northants, NN8 1LD
Tel: 01933 273275
e-mail: clareo@towability.com
© Bella Barista
Page 5 of 7
Pressurestat Adjustment
The Tea was running hot. This is usual with HX machines, which are a tight compromise
between continuously available steam, and production of brew water for espresso. The boiler
runs at some 125c, so the group gets much hotter than on a single boiler machine running at
around 98-102c (as much as 102 because there is some pressure in the boilers of these
machines).
Most manufacturers feed the Faema E61 thermosyphon from the heat exchanger and take no
special measures to ensure that the group does not get too hot. This means a cooling flush is
required, prior to drawing espresso. The E61 group is actually quite well suited to single boiler
non HX systems in comparison and hence it’s wide use on these non HX machines as well.
This actually works in 2 ways.
1. The water flashing off to steam from the group removes some heat from the group
(evaporation).
2. The main benefit is to remove the water that has been sitting in the heat exchanger
(as it will be at around 125c)
The fresh water that would come through the HX after the cooling flush is heated by the HX in
the boiler and probably further heated by the group.
The Tea required a normal 3-4oz cooling flush when running at 1.3bar (internal water temp
of approx 125c).
Final views on Pressure settings
As always a compromise, but the 1.3 bar pressure is probably optimum for the machine, any
higher and brew water temperature will be too high. I measured it at 94-95 after a cooling
flush, which is on the upper limit, but again this is common with the majority of HX machines.
Steam performance is moderate, but is more than sufficient for domestic use.
Raising the pressure will result in brew water temperature problems, larger cooling flushes
and I suspect, won’t make much difference to steam performance.
Lowering the temp may reduce brew water temperature, but with the moderate steaming
performance I wouldn’t recommend it.
Please note that your machine will be thoroughly inspected by Bella Barista prior to
delivery and they will already have ensured that the machine is operating correctly and
boiler pressure adjusted if necessary.
Pressure adjustment can be done by the home user on some machines, but we recommend
not attempting this on a Tea. Please give us a call first as it may be unnecessary.
Damage as result of incorrect adjustment will not be covered under warranty (please note
correct temperature measurement of brew water is a skilled task, requiring experience and
the correct equipment)
Bella Barista
Nene Court, The Embankment,Wellingborough, Northants, NN8 1LD
Tel: 01933 273275
e-mail: clareo@towability.com
© Bella Barista
Page 6 of 7
Final Thoughts
It is one of Isomac’s “flagship” machines and as such carries a unique pedigree. The Tea is a
great machine, no doubt about it. It’s not a cheap machine and at this level the look of the
machine and “brand” name is as important as the quality.
My closer look picked up things I would like to see improved, but be assured this is an
excellent quality machine that will provide years of reliable service and last a lifetime (if well
maintained and carefully used). The quality of the internal components and the steel is top
class and it has the name and looks together with the excellent Faema E61 group.
Espresso
As long as a cooling flush is performed, the Tea makes consistently good espressos and
easily maintains the temperature during the pour. Domestic volumes of espresso one after
another will be absolutely no problem with this machine.
Steam Production
The Tea is a moderate steamer. The steam wand is well designed and the 2 holes are not too
large. The milk swirls easily and the moderate steam performance actually helps with getting
good quantities of microfoam before the milk overheats. You will have no problems producing
copious amounts of microfoam at your first attempt.
Please note that although it is moderate strength steamer, it will produce almost
limitless amounts of steam and wont “run out of puff”
Hot Water
It’s nice to have plenty of really hot water on tap. The internal boiler has plenty of water
available. Recovery time after drawing water is good. Drawing water for an Americano, the
system recovers within 60 seconds.
The E61 group head is an industry standard (as are many of the components in the machine),
so parts such as, pumps, gaskets, shower screens, filter holders, filter holder handles etc. are
all a standard size and readily available from multiple suppliers. This also means that the
pricing of these spares is highly competitive.
I had a different make of coffee maker many years ago, the gasket and shower screen
for that much cheaper machine was more than 3 times the cost of the same
components for the Tea!
Bella Barista
Nene Court, The Embankment,Wellingborough, Northants, NN8 1LD
Tel: 01933 273275
e-mail: clareo@towability.com
© Bella Barista
Page 7 of 7