I thought the Andreja Premium wasn't available to Europe, but it is and I now have one! It's a great machine and definitely worth the investment!
Positive Product Points
- all the features you could wish for - quality components - looks great - large and easy to use drip tray
Negative Product Points
- some minor issues with the finish (see text) - noisy pump - water reservoir difficult to fill
CHOOSING THE MACHINE
I did not have any previous experience and the Andreja is my first espresso machine. I initially started with an idea of going for the Rancilio Silvia but after a long deliberation and extensive research, my shortlist came down to the ECM Giotto Premium and the Isomac Tea. I was not too convinced by the Tea's build quality (there have been quite a few reports of technical problems) and almost went with the Giotto Premium. Quite literally at the last minute (I had already found a very good deal on the Giotto) I learned that the Andreja Premium from Chris' Coffee in the US was also available to Europe with all the improvements included and in 220V!
Even though I had seen the "regular" Andreja, I had no opportunity to see the improved Andreja "in the metal" prior to purchase. I honestly thought that the Giotto looked slightly better, especially with the half-moon boiler pressure gauge and the curved side panels. It looked a bit sexier to my eyes. An espresso machine is a she, isn't it? And who doesn't like some curves on a lady? But in the end I could not resist the additional technical improvements on the Andreja Premium. The most important ones for me (over the Giotto) were:
• a brew pressure gauge to monitor my grind/tamp/dose/shot quality and that the pump is healthy • a more easily adjustable (and possibly higher quality) over pressure valve • insulated boiler means lower temperatures inside the machine and therefore the electronic components are subject to less heat - this translates to added durability of the machine • large and easy to use drip tray - the cover stays in place when you pull out the drip tray, i.e. you can empty it even when you are pulling a shot. I tried out the Giotto and it's drip tray was tiny compared to this and it was also a lot harder to remove without spilling (you have to tilt it to remove it in the Giotto).
OUT OF THE BOX
The Andreja was delivered on a sturdy pallet. There was no double boxing, but it was carefully packaged and it arrived in perfect condition. I really felt sorry for the guy from the shipping company. He looked a bit strained having carried the machine up the stairs. I live on the 5th floor and there is no elevator...
My Andreja came with the new style drip tray and drip tray cover - they look a lot better than the older version (I saw these when I was fiddling with a "regular" Andreja at a local shop). Also included were two portafilter handles (single and double spout) and baskets (single and double), a blind filter for backflushing as well as a plastic coffee scoop. The scoop also has the obligatory cheapo tamper at the other end. I had purchased an Impod esclamativo 58mm tamper previously and stuck with using that.
The Andreja is a heavy and solid piece of machinery. The looks are purposeful and handsome to my eyes, so I have no regrets of choosing this over the Giotto. However, I have noted that finish on the Andreja is not as good as that on a Giotto. There are no sharp edges as one can see that they been filed down. But that is the point - you can see them. Also, the fit of the panels is not consistent, i.e. the size of the panel gaps varies slightly. I did actually pop into a shop who retail the Giotto just to check if I was imagining things, but yes, the finish of the Giotto is slightly more refined. This is nitpicking and you can only see these items if you carefully look for them. Not a problem then, just an observation that goes well with the general aura of these two machines: The Andreja has a more businesslike, heavy-duty air about it whereas the Giotto is more elegant. Still, considering the price, the finish on the Andreja could be better. Hence the rating of 7 for aesthetics.
Before firing up the machine, I wanted to read through the manual. There was none from the manufacturer but Chris had sent me his instructions via email. They were clear and simple. After washing the reservoir, I filled it with (bottled) water and fired the Andreja up for the first time. I was initially surprised by the loudness of the pump - this is my first machine and I was not 100% sure of what to expect. I quickly got used to it, though.
SETTING UP THE ANDREJA
The boiler pressure was set to a 1.2 bar maximum by the manufacturer. The deadband was extremely tight and there was no visible movement of the boiler pressure gauge at all (the heating cycle was running several times a minute). The shots I was getting were slightly bitter so I wanted to bring this down to about 1.1 bar maximum. The adjustment can be done without removing the machine covers / shell via the access hole on top of the machine (you have to remove the cup warming tray). Since I also wanted to tweak the brew pressure setting, I proceeded in taking them off. It is a pretty straight forward job on the Andreja, involves the removal of 8 screws and takes only a couple of minutes. Chris provides clear instructions for this (as well as for the pstat and opv adjustments) in the FAQ section of his website: www.chriscoffee.com/faq
I adjusted the boiler pressure down to a 1.1 bar maximum. The deadband is now visible but still tight with the boiler pressure varying between 0.95 bar at the low end and the 1.1 bar maximum. This adjustment took out the bitterness in my shots (i.e. the brew temperature was previously too high).
I tried a few settings with the opv and currently run the Andreja with a maximum brew pressure of 10 bar (the factory setting was 12 bar). I started by turning the adjustment nut counter-clockwise as per Chris' instructions. This did not seem to work. Instead of coming down the brew pressure was increasing! So I tried turning the nut clockwise. This worked but it took quite a few complete turns of the nut to get the pressure down to 10 bar. I was a bit perplexed by this difference (the direction and number of turns required) to Chris' description but it worked. Could it be that the European spec opv is slightly different to US one?
I have paired my Andreja with a Rocky Doserless. It took me some time to find the correct setting but I run the Rocky at 9 notches above the zero point with fresh coffee (once the coffee is a few days old I need to grind a little finer).
With all the settings in place I was not pulling great shots with the Andreja. I've never had it this good before (at home or in a coffee shop!)...
My first attempts at frothing were pathetic. Initially I did not get any foam, just milk. After some practice I managed thick foam as a layer on the top of the hot milk in the pitcher. Now, after more practice I can produce microfoam for pouring latte art. So this was down to my poor technique and not a criticism of the machine.
I really like the no-burn steaming wand on the Andreja. It moves in all directions and does not get hot. It is also very easy to keep clean. The only downside of the no-burn steam wand is that you are stuck with the tip that comes with the machine. Again, this is not an issue as such now that I have learned to froth milk properly, but it might be nice to try different tips...
The lowering of the boiler pressure seemed to have a small impact on the steaming power, but the Andreja still has more than enough oomph for my needs.
E61 COOLING FLUSHES
I have no tools for measuring temperatures so that I could develop an accurate and repeatable routing for the flushes. Fortunately I am not the only one that has experienced this dilemma and Bob Yellin has kindly shared the routine he developed after extensive testing and measurements on his Andreja (he has also written a great review on the Andreja).
I now flush approximately 180 ml / 6 oz / 24 seconds if the machine has been standing idle, wait 30 seconds and flush 60 ml / 2 oz / 8 seconds. I use this water for pre-heating my cups. I then wait another 30 seconds after this to allow the Andreja to recover (this equates to two heating cycles), then lock in the portafilter and pull the shot. For the following shots I use just the smaller 8 sec flush. With this routine I should be consistent in the brew temperatures and they should be relatively close to the target temperature of 95 C (203 F).
Bob made his measurements with a US spec Andreja that has a 1400W heating element and runs on 110V whereas my Andreja has a 1500W element and is 220V. This may impact the recovery times, so if I want to be sure I hit the correct temperatures, I will need to buy a multimeter with a thermocouple.
Having adopted the new routine, I find that it makes a definite difference both in terms of the taste of my shots but especially the consistency in their quality. So thank you Bob (and I hope you do not mind me referring to your research)!
I hope that the Andreja will serve me well for many years to come. To help in achieving this I do my best to keep it clean. I have no possibility for plumbing it in and installing a water filtration system so I use bottled water with low mineral (especially calcium) content.
My usual routine for cleaning the Andreja is to flush the group after each shot to clear any coffee oils or grounds that may be left behind. After each session I rinse the portafilter that I used for the shots, do the "wiggle" with another PF that has the blind filter in (this helps clean the grouphead, especially the gasket), backflush with water and then clean the shower screen and the gasket groove with a moist towel. If I have steamed milk during the session, I will double check that the steaming tip is clean (I do wipe it with a moist towel immediately after each steaming and purge the wand to make sure no milk is left in).
I do quite a bit of steaming and this increases the mineral content of the water that remains in the boiler (minerals do not turn into steam), so I flush the boiler via the hot water tap: at the top of a heating cycle I turn the machine off and open the hot water tap to drain as much water from the boiler as possible. The autofill then refills the boiler with fresh water that has a lower mineral content (I won’t let the pump run for more than 30 sec at a time during the refill). I do this at 2 week intervals and wash the water reservoir while I am at it.
At 3 to 4 week intervals I do the backflushing with espresso machine cleaner. When doing this I also soak and scrub the PF handle and the baskets in water mixed with detergent (careful not to have the plastic of the handle soak in the detergent) and dismantle the PF spout for cleaning. I suspect that I should do the latter items more regularly…
I am yet to take the shower screen off but I do have a spare screen and gasket for a time I decide to do this.
I polish the Andreja regularly to keep it looking good.
The hole for filling the reservoir is quite small and it difficult to see the water level when refilling it. On a more positive note, I like the fact that when the water level is too low the Andreja let’s you know when it is no longer heating up. The power light stays on but the others turn off (the Giotto does not indicate this).
I have noted that cup-warming tray on the Andreja does get warm but not exactly hot. Pre-heating the cups is definitely necessary.
I like the drip tray arrangement. You can remove the tray even when pulling a shot if you like. The drip tray cover stays on. The drip tray is also large in volume so that there no need to empty it mid session.
As I have noted, this is my first machine. The learning curve was less steep than I anticipated. As you may have gathered from above, I now find the machine easy to use. Reading up in advance and following the discussions on Coffeegeek helped a lot.
The Andreja was quite an investment for a first machine, but I have no regrets at all. In fact I am very happy with my choice and look forward to many years of (finally) good espresso at home. My significant other also seems to be able to produce good shots and cappas after some practice. I am sure both she and I will just getter better at this as time passes and the resulting coffee will probably also improve.
The way this works for European purchasers is that you contact Chris at Chris' Coffee (he is the man behind all the improvements and he therefore has the exclusive rights to the Premium version of the Andreja). He will put you in touch with the manufacturer, QuickMill, who will send you an invoice. Upon their receipt of the payment, they'll ship the machine directly to you. Chris provides the warranty support via phone and email in case something goes wrong (parts - if needed - would come directly from the manufacturer).
My experience with Chris was good. He personally responded to my queries (and very quickly I might add) and even suggested that I should not buy the Andreja unless I was prepared to work on it myself (if something would go wrong, that is). I was comfortable with the arrangement and appreciated Chris' honesty and openness. His reputation is well deserved.
Rosella at QuickMill was very kind and sent me the invoice without any delay. I paid it immediately, let Rosella know that the money transfer was on its way and asked her to confirm once they had received my payment and shipped my machine. I received no communication from QuickMill and had to follow up with phone calls to ascertain the status of the delivery. I was also disappointed by the fact that it took the manufacturer five business days from the receipt of my payment to ship a machine that they had in stock. I did receive a call from them on the same day that I received the machine, though.
Overall, dealing with Chris was a pleasant experience and I would be pleased to do more business with him (in fact I have already done that by ordering e.g. some bottomless PFs). QuickMill, although friendly and pleasant to deal with, could improve on their communication and timeliness.
Three Month Followup
Time flies and instead of a three month follow-up this is now a four month follow-up. Well, what can I say. Everything I wrote in my original review still applies. I have just a few point and observations to add:
Steaming small quantities of milk into nice microfoam is very difficult. With slightly larger quantities (a large latte or two cappas for example) I have no problems achieving microfoam on a regular basis.
As I noted in my original review, the access port for filling the reservoir is too small and it is difficult to see when it actually is full. I have managed to slightly overfill it once - fortunately no damage was done.
I did experience a problem with the brew pressure gauge, when the needle started "oscillating" or darting about wildly. It did not effect the shots but was annoying nonetheless. However, upon contacting Chris I received a replacement part (a new, slightly different coil), which I fitted myself and the problem was solved.
The vibration pump is still noisy. Over the past months I did realise that while the pump is the main source of noise, there were other sources as well. These were mainly wires that were a bit loose and therefore allowed the wire-to-wire connectors on them to make contact with the outer shell, the frame of internal divider of the machine. With some electrical tape and cable ties I managed to reduce the resonances and the Andreja is now slightly quieter (or should I say less noisy?). A bit on what I did to reduce the noise: Click Here (temesblog.blogspot.com)
I have stepped up my cleaning routines. E.g. I now rinse the reservoir on a weekly basis and do a detergent backflush every two weeks. I have also canged the grouphead gasket and shower screen twice so far - not necessary but I like to keep things clean...
I continue to be very happy with the Andreja and I have had no temptations for any upgrades (I will be getting a second machine, though - a lever machine for a different espresso experience). I did not change any of the scoring and I continue to recommend this as an excellent choice for a home machine.
One Year Followup
The Andreja served me very well for two years, but I have now sold it on as my La Marzocco GS3 has arrived. I think my choice of an upgrade indicates how good the Andreja actually is - I stepped up to a machine that costs as much as three Andreja Premiums (and then some) before I was convinced that I actually have something clearly superior. I would therefore still wholeheartedly recommend the Andreja Premium as a great choice in its price class.
By the way, the milk frothing is great with the Andreja once you get the hang of it. I tried quite a few different steam tips but always came back to the stock tip. It is the easiest to use and clean (and it also gives excellent results once you learn the technique).