The Andreja premium works great, looks terrific and is backed up by excellent service. I got more value than I expected.
Positive Product Points
My Andreja routinely delivers great espresso shots and wonderful cappuccinos. The heat exchange system provides for continuous production without any delays or need to heat up for steam.
The retro design and mirror finish are a knock-out in my kitchen. The mirror finish of the stainless steel and chromed E61 group make it a snap to clean up with a damp cloth or sponge.
The internal lines for hot water and steam are metal instead of plastic. The components are cast or turned metal rather than stamped. I expect my Andreja to last 10 to 20 years.
Support from Chris' Coffee Service has been responsive and professional.
Negative Product Points
The drip tray screen allows water to run off onto my counter too easily. This is only a problem with the screen. The drip tray itself is huge and easy to remove for emptying.
It is difficult to tell if the tank is full when filling it through the port hole.
Chris mentioned that he has modifications to fix both problems comming up from Quick Mill and that they can be applied to Adrejas which have already been delivered.
The Andreja is a professional product. A higher priced machine might be more efficient in a café setting. I'm using mine at home for my own espressos and cappuccinos. I believe that this is the best I can get for under $1700. At that price point, I think I would only be getting incremental improvements, not the quantum leap in quality and functionality that would have been worth the extra money.
The bottom line is that with the right grind, dosing and tamp, I get a great shot of espresso with rich, tiger-striped crema.
I'd like to share some tips in my comments, but with this warning: I like to create my own solutions to problems. Some of the things I'm going to describe may be misinterpreted or otherwise harmful to your equipment.
The lever control on the E61 allows me to finesse control in ways that I don't know are available with a solenoid machine. After raising the lever all the way up and running the pump, the lever can be lowered just enough to stop the pump without lowering it further to flush and release pressure. The group head pressure gauge on this machine will show when the pressure comes up. I can hold the pressure for a few seconds without running the pump to increase the effectiveness of back-flushing against a blank porta-filter. For a minimal quick flush, I can stop the cycle and release the pressure as soon as the gauge shows the pressure is up.
The E61 provides for pre-infusion on pulling a shot. It pumps water over the grounds for several seconds before the pressure comes up, allowing the coffee grounds to soak and expand before the espresso flows out of the porta-filter. I've experimented with halting the pump for just a second or two before the shot flows without putting the lever far enough down to flush and release pressure. This yielded less crema and body, but produced a sweeter shot with more intense flavor. Lingering too long or stopping and restarting the flow over-extracted the shot for a thin, bitter drink. The manual lever gives me more control over the process if I want it.
As Chris is fond of mentioning, a solenoid equipped machine will eventually fail, and the solenoid will need to be replaced. The lever operated E61 in the Andreja won't, because it is a completely mechanical. The E61's only drawback is that if it is back-flushed with espresso cleaner too often, it will lose internal lubrication and start sticking. Coffee oils in the system actually lubricate the mechanism. The group still has to flushed, at least with hot water, so that the coffee oils don't thicken or get rancid and spoil the flavor of the espresso.
I tend to back-flush the group head too much and sometimes I've had the lever start feeling sticky. I found that I can lubricate with a tiny droplet of mineral oil. I dip the handle of a demitasse spoon into the oil and let it stop dripping, tap it against the side of my sink to get more excess oil off, and then just touch the end of the spoon to the inside of the blank porta-filter basket. I back-flush with this to get the lever operating smoothly. (As far as I know, this is NOT a Chris approved procedure).
The steaming on the Andreja is as good as I could want. The steam is so strong and hot that I can boil a container of water by steaming it. I tried doing this with a one liter container. It worked, but it took 4 or 5 minutes or so to do it. The steam kept going strong for all that length of time! For a cup or so, it works much quicker. My milk steams for cappuccino in 20 seconds or less.
After learning the right moves with a steaming pitcher, I get steamed, thickened milk which gives my cappuccinos a naturally sweet flavor and smooth texture. With the two hole steam tip I can tilt the wand so that one stream of steam flows somewhat more sideways to make the milk flow and froth, while the other flows downward to texturize the steamed milk.
I can make terrific hot chocolate by putting shaved bitter chocolate and sugar in the bottom of a steaming pitcher, pouring the cold milk over it and steaming the milk over the chocolate. The chocolate heats and dissolves. The steaming action blends it into the hot milk and produces a cappuccino like texture that I don't get with conventional hot chocolate. Cleaning up the steam wand takes a little more effort than with steamed milk by itself.
The hot water dispenser is a great convenience for tea or what not. The Andreja doubles for a hot water and steam dispenser in my kitchen. Warm up will supply hot steam and water far sooner than espresso, in perhaps 10 or 15 minutes. Espresso requires 30 minutes or so for the brew head and water lines to heat up properly. I use a 24 hour timer to pre-heat the machine for mornings.
Great service from Chris's staff. Delivery of the Andreja was on time as it should be. I had the following experience with the great support service. I tried adjusting the pressure-stat through the port hole without turning the machine off as I should have. There was a click and the machine went dead. I had obviously touched one of the electrical connectors to the pressure-stat and shorted it against the case. This was after midnight on a Saturday night. With a sinking feeling, I left a message requesting a call back at 9:00 AM on Sunday morning. I wondered if I would get called back at a time like that. They called back just after 9:00 AM! After a few moments of discussion, the fellow at the other end of the line suggested that I check the circuit breaker in my kitchen, which turned out to be flipped off. I reset it and the Andreja has continued to work without a hitch ever since. The fellow I talked to has a 100% good attitude. His practical knowledge and approach saved me the trouble of shipping my espresso machine back for a useless exercise. That's the benefit of dealing with a professional coffee service, rather than a good retailer. You get great support if you really need it. I wouldn't request this kind of service for ordinary questions, but in a catestrophe mode, it's there.