6 Best Isomac Espresso Machines (2021 Reviews)
If you’re looking for a quality, classically styled Italian espresso machine, you may be curious about Isomac. The brand makes a wide range of models, all built in the Italian tradition.
If you find the sheer number of different models confusing, then we’ve got your back. In this review, we pick six favorites, each best suited for a different style of coffee lover, and offer a guide to which is right for you.
At A Glance:
The 6 Best Isomac Espresso Machines in 2021
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|Isomac Professional 2 Boiler PID||
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|Isomac Venus II||
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Isomac may not be as well known as some other top Italian brands, like La Spaziale, but they should be. Established over 40 years ago, the company has a long history of making high-end prosumer-grade espresso machines.
Because their line-up of models is overwhelmingly large, we decided to do you a favor and narrow it down to our top picks in a few categories. Whether you’re looking for a professional-caliber dual boiler or a simple entry-level model, there’s an Isomac for you.
Isomac makes several high-end heat exchanger espresso machines, including the Pro 6.1 discussed below, but the Mondiale PID is our top pick this year for several reasons.
The large 2-liter boiler is stainless steel with an insulating wrap that aids in energy efficiency and temperature stability. With a boiler of this size, you can make a lot of back-to-back drinks without waiting for a refill, making this a great choice if you regularly serve a crowd.
The prominent standout feature of this machine is its gorgeous design.
With boxy espresso machines being the norm, the rounded shape and smooth curves of the Mondiale make an impression. However, be warned that the trade-off is less cup warming surface on top.
The front of the machine keeps the classic Italian style (1). Separate no-burn wands flank the lever-operated E61 group for steam and hot water. Moreover, a dual manometer reports both the boiler and pump pressure.
The Mondiale is offered both with and without PID, with the former being slightly pricer. Both are fine machines, but we think the PID is worth the splurge, even for an HX machine. You’ll get improved temperature stability and a longer-lasting device.
Most Isomac espresso machines are heat exchangers or single boilers, but their lone double boiler is clearly not an afterthought. If you’re a specialty coffee lover who demands precise and accurate temperature control, this is the machine for you.
Both the copper boilers, measuring 0.6 liters and 1.8 liters, are independently controlled by PID. Explains industry pro and World Barista Champion James Hoffmann, which means you can adjust one without impacting the other, an impossibility for HX boilers.
You can control the temperature of your brew water independent of your steam pressure with a dual boiler. So if you want a hotter brew temperature, you don’t have to increase your steam pressure or vice versa.
It also gives you the energy-saving option of powering down the steam boiler when not in use.
The Professional has separate gauges for brew and steam pressure, with the brew pressure gauge cleverly mounted atop the E61 group. This unusual but practical choice makes it easy to monitor exactly what’s happening as you pull a shot — and to adjust parameters like grind size and pre-infusion time accordingly.
The Professional 2 Boiler has a rotary pump, which means you can direct-plumb it into a water line. Or just use the plenty large 2.9-liter removable water tank.
Want another dual boiler option? The Izzo Alex Duetto IV is another fine Italian-made machine with very similar specs.
The Pro 6.1 PID is another top-of-the-line heat exchanger espresso maker in the same vein as the Mondiale. It distinguishes itself with a few key internal differences and a more traditional square design.
The biggest difference is the boiler. The Pro 6.1 has a 1.8 liter insulated copper boiler with brass end plates. Compared with Mondiale’s stainless steel boiler, copper is less durable but has better thermal properties. It heats up and reaches a stable temperature more quickly. The Pro 6.1 boiler is marginally smaller than the Mondiale, but it’s a rare user who would notice the difference.
The Pro 6.1 uses a rotary pump, so it’s the better choice if you’d like to direct-plumb your machine rather than use the built-in 2.9-liter water reservoir. It’s also a tad quieter, though not so much that it should be a buying criterion.
Like all upper-end Isomac machines, the Pro 6.1 has an E61 grouphead, which in this case also has a group-mounted pressure gauge. On either side, it has separate no-burn wands for steam and hot water, both operated by joysticks.
The Isomac Tea is one of the brand’s best-selling heat exchanger models because it walks a nice line between function and price. It’s significantly cheaper than the Pro 6.1 or the Mondiale while still having the quality to deliver fantastic espresso. Plus, it’s also notably smaller than those two options, a worthwhile consideration if you have a small kitchen.
The design is basic but classic and well-suited to nearly any space. The back and sides are beautiful mirror-finish stainless steel, while the front of this compact machine is dominated by the E61 grouphead (2). The fact that this model uses the same group as the far more expensive options makes it such great value.
Inside, you’ll find a smaller 1.2-liter stainless steel boiler so that you won’t have quite the capacity or steam power of the larger models. But the Tea has more than enough juice to make a couple of large lattes in a row before it needs a few minutes to recover.
You get the same professional-grade no-burn steam and hot water wands for steaming but operated by knobs rather than joysticks. Many users prefer the knobs as they allow more precise control of steam flow, so this is by no means a downgrade.
You also get two manometers to measure pump and brew pressure. This is a welcome surprise as pressure gauges are often one of the first things to go when manufacturers make cheaper models.
If you’re new to espresso and looking to make a first foray into prosumer grade machines, the Isomac Venus II is an excellent entry-level model at an excellent price. It’s easy to use, attractively designed, and a serious upgrade from a typical plastic appliance espresso maker.
The Venus II has a single boiler, so you won’t be able to brew coffee and steam milk at the same time. The brass boiler measures 0.32 liters, which is relatively large among machines in this class. Brass is the least expensive boiler material. It can’t match the thermal properties of copper or steel, but it’s still a big step up from cheaper thermoblocks.
This is especially true when it comes to steaming milk. Compared with a thermoblock, a boiler produces higher steam power and drier steam — perfect for creating the silky microfoam you need for latte art. Controlled by a knob on the side of the machine, the articulated steam wand doubles as a hot water wand.
The rest of the controls are on the front, a simple series of switches and LED indicator lights that makes it reliable and easy to use. There is also a pump pressure gauge on the front, which is nice to see at this price point.
If you want the very best espresso but rarely drink milky drinks, then a high-end single-boiler like the Zaffiro is perfect for you. You can get fantastic espresso on par with machines more than twice as expensive; you just can’t steam milk simultaneously.
The Isomac Zaffiro has the same commercial-grade E61 group as the pricier options paired with a 0.8-liter stainless steel boiler.
And just because you can’t brew and steam simultaneously doesn’t mean you can’t make a fine latte with this machine.
It is equipped with a fully articulated no-burn steam wand that doubles as a hot water wand. Though with a smaller boiler, don’t expect it to match the steam power of the larger models.
Another perk of the single boiler machine is its compact size. The Zaffiro measures just 9 inches wide and sports a gorgeous polished stainless steel exterior, making it suitable for any size and style of kitchen.
How to Choose the Right Isomac Espresso Machine
While at first glance, most Isomac espresso machines look the same, each of our picks has some key characteristics that make it perfect for a particular type of coffee drinker — and all wrong for someone else.
This buyer’s guide covers what you need to consider when making a significant investment like a prosumer espresso machine, so you’re sure to find that ideal model.
What’s your drink of choice?
This is probably the most critical question to ask yourself when buying an espresso coffee machine. Do you prefer straight espresso? Americanos? Lattes and cappuccinos? Do you like light or dark roasts? Single origins or blends? Do you drink the same thing every day, or do you like to experiment?
These considerations matter when it comes to choosing a boiler design. Prosumer espresso machines have three boiler types: double boiler, heat exchanger, or single boiler.
- Heat exchangers also allow you to brew and steam simultaneously, and they are smaller and less expensive than a double boiler. However, with this design, you don’t control the brew temperature directly, so they lack the temperature accuracy of a double boiler.
- A heat exchanger is the right choice if you enjoy milky drinks and don’t experiment with too many specialty coffees, perhaps enjoying the same espresso blend daily.
- Single boiler espresso machines vary widely from entry-level to high-end, but the common feature of all is that you can’t pull espresso and steam milk simultaneously. Of course, this makes them significantly less expensive.
- A single boiler is a machine for you if you rarely drink milky drinks, instead preferring espressos and Americanos.
To PID or not to PID, that is the question
Many Isomac models, including the Pro 6.1, the Mondiale, and the Tea are available with or without a PID. So is it worth spending more on a PID? That depends on your coffee preferences and budget. But most espresso experts will say yes (3).
With a PID, you get better temperature accuracy with fewer fluctuations, making it far easier to brew great espresso consistently. Brew temperature accuracy is critical if you like to experiment with different specialty coffees because tests have shown that brew temperature can have a marked effect on taste (4).
Higher brewing temps lead to higher extraction yields, increased sweetness, bitterness and body while slightly reducing acidity. Lower temps result in lower extraction yields; have less body, sweetness and bitterness and more pronounced acidity.
The case for adding a PID to a heat exchanger espresso machine is less clear, and experts remain divided. With a heat exchanger, you don’t control brew temperature directly. However, the PID does improve temperature stability.
A final bonus is that the PID is more durable than the older pressure stats. The pressure stat is a mechanical device that will eventually fail and need replacement, whereas the solid-state PID should last the lifetime of your machine. So factor this in when comparing upfront costs.
How much espresso do you plan to make?
Rotary pumps are usually advertised as superior to vibration pumps, but this shouldn’t be a huge concern. Unless you plan to direct plumb your espresso coffee machine, then you will need a rotary pump.
Rotary pumps are quieter than vibration pumps and maintain a more steady pressure, but in terms of espresso quality, you’ll never taste the difference. So if you plan to use the water reservoir and don’t mind a few extra decibels, don’t feel you need to spend more on a rotary pump.
How much does the pump really matter?
Rotary pumps are usually advertised as being superior to vibration pumps, but in actual fact, this shouldn’t be a huge concern. Unless you plan to direct plumb your espresso machine, then you will need a rotary pump.
Rotary pumps are a bit quieter than vibration pumps and maintain a more steady pressure, but in terms of espresso quality, you’ll never taste the difference. So if you plan to use the water reservoir and don’t mind a few extra decibels, don’t feel you need to spend more for a rotary pump.
Isomac is a longstanding brand that makes beautiful and functional espresso machines in the Italian tradition. Thanks to their large and diverse line-up of machines, there is a perfect model for every espresso lover.
Our top pick this year is the Isomac Mondiale PID. This heat exchanger espresso coffee machine features high-end components and a stunning design that makes it stand out from the crowd.
Isomac espresso machines are made in Milan, in northern Italy, where many of the world’s top espresso machine manufacturers are found. The company has been based there since its founding in 1977 (5).
The E61 group is the most popular grouphead for prosumer espresso machines. It was first designed in 1961; it uses a thermosiphon system for cycling water from the boiler to the grouphead and portafilter (6). This circulation, coupled with the mass of the chrome-plated brass grouphead acting as a heat sink, gives the E61 reliable temperature stability.
A manual lever espresso machine uses a lever-operated by the barista to apply the pressure needed to pull a shot instead of a pump. Elektra machines are fine examples of this. Confusingly, E61 groups also use a small lever to start and stop the shot and are sometimes called “lever” machines, but this small lever is not used to apply pressure.
- Greaves, E. (2016, April 19). A short history of the Italian espresso. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2016/04/the-history-of-italian-espresso-do-you-know-your-coffee-history/
- Morris, J. (2020, December 23). The Faema E61 Espresso Machine. Retrieved from https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/january-2021/the-faema-e61-espresso-machine
- La Marzocco USA. (2015, October 15). A Brief History of the PID. Retrieved from https://home.lamarzoccousa.com/history-of-the-pid/
- Easthope, A. (2015, April 8). Brew Temperature and its Effects on Espresso. Retrieved from https://www.fivesenses.com.au/blog/brew-temperature-and-its-effects-on-espresso/
- Bizzarri, C. (2017, May 29). The curious story of how transatlantic exchange shaped Italy’s illustrious coffee culture. Retrieved from https://qz.com/992879/the-curious-tale-of-how-italy-became-the-world-capital-of-coffee/
- Burton, G. (2011, January 11). The E61 Group Head: An Oldie but a Goodie. Retrieved from https://www.fivesenses.com.au/blog/the-e61-group-head-an-oldie-but-a-goodie/