HomeRoast Digest


Topic: Isomac Tea Refurb? (4 msgs / 142 lines)
1) From: Michael I
As I've posted from time to time, I'm trying to find a good deal on an  
espresso machine for a buddy of mine.  There is an Isomac Tea (not   
Tea II) for sale locally, which needs some work, and I'd like an  
opinion or two as to whether or not it's worth it.
What I know about it is this:
-It's a good 5 years old, used daily
-It supposedly works in the morning, but when turned on again at  
night, does not heat up
-I don't know whether this is repeatable behavior, or if it just does  
not heat up at all now (which I suspect)
-It was serviced about 6 months ago -- it sounds like the last time it  
had similar symptoms, and the problem was a "fusible link" (I'm  
guessing a thermal fuse)
-The boiler has been replaced, and is now the one that's in the Tea II
-It's $350
I don't mind replacing a few things for $100-200, but I don't want an  
endless mystery project.  So if anyone has any opinions, or  
suggestions on what questions to ask, I'd appreciate it.
Also, if anyone has a problem with Teas in general, I'd like to hear  
that.  Most of what I've read on it has been pretty positive.
-AdkMike
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2) From: Michael Dhabolt
Michael,
The Isomac machines in general are high quality pro-sumer machines.
Without spending a little time with the machine, identifying the
reason for the unusual heating problem are beyond my ability to
identify.  The heating circuit on the Tea is simple, it has an off-on
switch, a pressure-stat, a heater and the connecting wiring.  Removing
the body work and a little judicious checking with a multi meter while
it is working and when it isn't should quickly identify the problem.
The original pressure-stat was a weak point on the Tea but I'm having
a hard time thinking of it being the current problem and up-grading is
easily accomplished.  Could be an intermittent open in the heater
element.  Worst case is $50 to $60 for each of those pieces.  Both are
easily replaced by relatively non-skilled tinkerers. A serious Citric
Acid flush is a good maintenance move on any used machine - $10 worth
of Citric Acid at your local home brewers supply establishment.  Valve
rebuilds are pretty cheap, $15 or $20 worth of parts for both valves.
The venerable E61 group can be completely rebuilt without specialized
tools and a complete rebuild kit would be $30 or so.
I personally prefer machines with rotary pumps but their retail cost
is normally several hundreds of $ more than vibratory pump machines.
There is a wealth of experience and knowledge that will support the
belief that the quality of shots from a vibratory pump machine being
the same as a rotary machine. I think my preference is primarily
rooted in not wanting to listen to the vib pump when I am less than
together first thing in the AM. And for the truly geeky, an outboard
rotary conversion is easily accomplished.
In general, most all of the relatively current stainless steel boxes
(pro-sumer machines) are pretty similar (the E-61 is a nice touch on
any of them).  I would base a purchase pretty much on the price. Keep
in mind that there are several similar machines on the retail market
in the less than a thousand $ range.  The absolute top end of this
range of machines (Alex Duetto and its ilk) are in the $2K + range.
The next step (LM GS3) is triple that.
If the price were within budget and the machine meets the
requirements, I wouldn't hesitate jumping on an Isomac Tea.  But
remember, with me, it would come down to a pile of parts and be
completely re-assembled in quick order.
Mike (just plain)
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3) From: Michael I
Thanks, Mike.  I'd hoped you would respond to this.
I agree about the vibe pump.  I'm very happy with the rotary in my  
Vivaldi II.  But since it's for a not-yet-enthusiast friend, I thought  
this was a great type of machine to start on -- E61 group, reservoir,  
shiny & pretty, etc. -- and he can live with the pump.  And since his  
interest is mostly non-milk drinks, the single boiler isn't a problem.
The attractiveness of this machine is definitely the price.  If I  
could get this in good shape for a total of $500, it seems like a very  
good deal.  Based on your response, that should be possible even if a  
couple of components are kaput.
I think I'll take a multimeter out to the seller and see if I can  
isolate the problem component (I can handle just about that much), and  
base the decision on that.
-AdkMike
On Mar 4, 2009, at 12:15 PM, Michael Dhabolt wrote:
<Snip>
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4) From: Michael Dhabolt
Michael,
If you pick the machine up for $350 my bet is that you'll have it up
and running for less than the $500 target.
The main thing I always look for in a used small machine is integrity
of the boiler.  It is astounding how many times folks will move the
machine to a new location and leave it overnight in the car in
freezing weather.  Boilers don't deal well with being frozen when full
of water, and they are expensive ...... although the right machine at
the right price ..... boiler replacement is do-able.
Your friend will be set up quite well with the Tea.  I've always had a
soft spot for a company that understands its market enough to
adequately instrument a machine, IOW I like having steam and brew
pressure gauges.  It has a good sized boiler etc.
I think the best price you would find on a Tea (the Tea 2 isn't
substantially different) is in the $1700 range.  I would probably
order a different steam tip immediately, but for the novitiate
probably not needed - yet.
You're serving your friend quite well.
Mike (just plain)
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