With many machines in this price range, it is difficult to parse the descriptions and reviews to find a machine that has the feature set that will suit your needs. I knew that I was looking to upgrade from my PID Silvia, but with so many choices for an upgrade I was left confused about what to choose. I knew I wanted an HX machine, and had settled on the fact that I cannot yet plumb a machine in. Beyond that, I was open. I was considering an Isomac machine, maybe a Relax or Tea. I decided I wanted a machine with that sexy looking E-61 brew group on the front, so I ruled out the Relax (which is a beautiful machine). Just when I was looking around for a machine and searching through the many reviews, Chris’ Coffee Service put up details about the Andreja Premium on their website. Another machine in the already crowded HX prosumer machine category! Does this machine really have anything to offer above the rest that have some amount of history with CG members? Soon there were several reports coming forth in the CG forums about the machine and it’s features. Wow, this machine really seemed to be competing (at least from what was being reported) with machines that were a bit out of my budget (ECM Giotto and Giotto Premium for example). This really grabbed my attention. Considering that I was open for advise, I figured I would give Chris’ Coffee Service a call, since they were still selling some of the Isomac machines and the Andreja Premium, and see what they recommended. Well, with that call I had ordered myself an Andreja Premium. This machine seemed to have all of the great features from its different competitors combined into a single machine, and all at one heck of a price.
If you have never seen one of these E-61 machines before, you are in for a shock when you end up putting it on your counter. They are beautiful. The Andreja Premium is clad in stainless and has that beautiful lever actuated chrome brew group on the front. It has the dual gauges and classic style knobs and those hefty portafilter handles! Wow, she is beautiful. I was really shocked at how she improved the look of my little apartment kitchen. Really, I feel it has a little class now! Not something really offered by my Silvia. Anyways, this is all aesthetics, and can be said for many of the machines in this class. So let me get down to details of the machine, which is where I think the Andreja Premium really seems to step ahead of equally (and greater) priced machines.
So, as I mentioned earlier, the Andreja Premium incorporates the features that us coffeegeeks have liked about several different machines but not found on a single machine. First, there are the features that do not directly affect operation. The boiler of the Andreja Premium is insulated. Living in South Florida, it is important to not have unnecessary heaters placed anywhere in the house. It is also important these days to keep the energy consumption as low as possible. The insulated boiler seems to cover both of the issues very well. With my Silvia, I used to leave her on for several hours a day. With the Andreja Premium, I leave her on for even longer because the boiler has an autofill sensor that ensures the water level stays at an appropriate level, and I like to pull shots throughout the day. My power bill has not gone up any noticeable amount; surprising for sure. Because the boiler is mounted vertically and the top and bottom are not insulated, my cups on top stay warm while my kitchen stays cool. Another major feature that goes overlooked is the vacuum breaker valve. When I was researching my machine purchase, I came across several stories of “vapor lock” with similar machines. From what I read, this is when the vacuum breaker valve does not open when cooling and fools the pressurestat when the machine is turned back on into thinking the boiler is up to pressure because there is a false pressure. Thus, your machine never actually turns on and heats up. The vacuum breaker on the Andreja Premium does not do this! It has the one that Chris and his staff replace the Isomac vacuum breakers with because of the vapor lock problem. Important when you are ready to pull your first shot in the morning and discover that your first shot will be delayed for another half hour. Another important upgrade from the Isomac machines is the steam and hot water valves. Search the forums for yourself to see what Isomac machine owners are experiencing after a year or so of use. The steam and hot water valves on many of the Isomac machines use some kind of compression-seated valve that starts leaking over time. The Andreja Premium uses a better quality valve that uses o-ring seals. There are other features that do not directly affect performance or use, but are notable. Chris’ Coffee has a good list of these on their site, so I will spare you! The Isomac machines have become very popular amongst US coffeegeeks, but do have their problems. The point is, that through Chris’ Coffee’s experience with selling and repairing the Isomac (and other) line of machines, they have become wise to the weaknesses of the machines. Isomac was unwilling to do anything to correct these problems, and Quickmill was. Thus, we have the Andreja Premium offering with all of the upgrades Chris’ Coffee could think of.
Now for use and performance of Andreja. Something I should point out is that I have tweaked the pressurestat and OPV settings to fit my current tastes. Tweaked? Yes, tweaked! This machine has a very nice OPV (Over Pressure Valve) that limits the maximum amount of pressure from the pump that the coffee puck actually sees during a shot. The Andreja Premium’s OPV is easily adjustable. And to aid in that adjusting, it has a brew pressure gauge. I was able to set mine to 9.5-10bar (my current preference) by removing the shell (which is very easy to do on this machine), turning the lower half of the OPV, and testing by doing a backflush and watching the brew pressure gauge. I have also lowered the boiler pressure from what it was shipped with. On this machine, this is done with a screwdriver through an access port under the cup-warming tray on top (no shell removal!). This is all to my current preference, and there seems to be several different opinions with some saying that nothing needs to be done at all. The point is, that being coffeegeeks, this machine allows us to tweak and tinker with ease! As for shot quality, the Andreja Premium is oh so forgiving when compared to Silvia. Even when I get very lazy with my tamping, I still manage to get great shots thanks (I think) to the E-61 brew group and it’s preinfussion. I have said it else where on this site, but the Andreja Premium has really taken my espresso to the next level. Once I got used to the HX cooling flush routine, I was able to get great shots with ease time after time. Andreja cuts lots of slack, and when I actually manage to get things right I get amazing shots.
Steam… Ah, the ample amounts of steam. The Andreja Premium has lots of steam, and is a big reason to upgrade from a dual-purpose single boiler machine like Silvia. Instant and ample steam is a major plus of an HX machine, and Andreja certainly has this quality. While talking about steam, it is very important to mention the no-burn steam and hot-water arms. Now, this is so important for someone like me. Reducing the likelihood of burning myself in the morning is very important, as I can be considered still sleeping when I first get up and start stumbling about in the AM hours. I have burned myself several times during and after steaming on my Silvia while trying to get my day kick started. I do not have this problem on Andreja. The one downside is that you are likely to seriously burn yourself when your friend buys a machine that does not have a no-burn steam wand and asks you over to show them how to steam. You must remember that other coffeegeeks are not so lucky as to have the no-burn steam arm on their machines, and thus you should not get into the habit grabbing the steam arm! This is sort of like Andreja’s way at getting back at you if you cheat on her! Also, I used to loathe making milk drinks when I only had Silvia. Non-coffeegeeks seem to love their lattes, with all of that steamed milk. So, when having people over, this is what I was typically requested to serve. After a half hour or so of making lattes on Silvia, you start to wonder if the extra $$ saved by not buying an HX machine was really worth it! I used to kick myself for offering coffee to people when they would come over. With Silvia, it was, “oh, latte, you know what, darnedest thing… uh… I am out of milk!”
So, I am very happy with my purchase. I have a machine that competes with more expensive machines and will be around for some time. It filled my needs, but more importantly I feel as though I got the best value for my money. I have learned alot using it and have really been able to take my espresso to the next level. If you are looking to jump into the this class of machine, the Andreja Premium is one heck of a value. It is a new machine in the US market, but is backed by a service guarantee from a trusted seller (a search of coffeegeek forums will confirm this!), who BTW has helped design the machine so as to avoid needing much of any service.