Anita is Shiny, Rock Solid, and Capable of pulling great shots...all for a great price.
Positive Product Points
Cost to quality ratio compared to what's out there in it's class Ease of use and adjustment(s)...tinkering is good! Gauges for both Brew and Boiler Pressure Cover removes easily for above mentioned tinkering Stainless is top quality Parts inside are upgraded from the usual stock machine Vendor is top notch, available and forthright Large drip tray and reservoir
Negative Product Points
Steam and hot water wands aren't burn proof ala Andreja Non plumb-able
Well...I figured, as this is really my first REAL espresso machine, I would take longer than the usual 1 month (or less...I owned Anita for nearly 2 years) to evaluate this truly grown-up piece of stainless coffee wizardry...so that I could provide the best possible insight, both positive and negative. And so I shall do so to the best of my ability.
A quick aside: Much has been already said by others as to the quality beverages Anita is capable of producing, assuming the home barista's chops are up to the task. Therefore (DISCLAIMER!!!!!), I recommend that anyone purchasing a machine of this quality take your time to practice on your machine, so as to learn the elusive art of producing excellent espresso, steaming milk, etc. And above all, be patient! My first month was a humbling experience, as all who read my woeful posts here will readily attest. Slowly but surely, the light went on, thanks to many at CG and HB.com who helped in so many ways...thanks to you all. (tears flowing, MUST STOP NOW!!) OK ...Movin' on....
Anita arrived from Chris Coffee beautifully double boxed, wiht everything well protected. Removing Anita took a bit of effort, as she weighs something around 50 pounds. Upon the corian counter, she looked quite at home with her new beau, Mr. Mazzer SJ. Included with Anita was a single spouted PF, a double spouted PF, single and double baskets, and a "blind" backflush disk. I purchased the "nekked" portafilter as well...a great learning tool. Instructions (RTFM!) were written by Chris, clear and to the point. He also explained how to adjust boiler and brew pressure. As Anita has guages for each of these functions, the "how to" was most welcome. My Anita was adjusted at Chris's to 10.0 Brew pressure, and 1.2 Boiler pressure. After a few weeks, I "geeked up" , removed the cover...6 screws, a snap, found the proper parts to adjust, and voila...9.2 and 1.1....works for me...YMMV. I will say that Anita has exceeded my expectations. My home roast never had it so good. This baby can pull shots all day with nary a complaint. The steaming power with the provided 2 hole tip works well, though I find I get the best results with a smaller, 16 oz pitcher. I believe the stock 2 hole tip is designed to help produce better microfoam, thus it is a bit slower than using a 3 or 4 hole tip. As mentioned above, both the steam wand and water wand (which works great, by the way) get VERY hot, so BE CAREFUL. As mentioned above, the drip tray is very large, and a snap to remove and empty. The water resevoir is large, and easy to fill, though I find it best to remove the top cup cover...no biggie for me as I don't have all those expensive Illy cups up there...in fact I don't have ANY Illy cups ANYWHERE...but that's another matter. TIME OUT... A few words here for 1st time (noobs) machine purchasers: we here at CG are fond of quoting our well worn mantra.....GET A HIGH QUALITY ESPRESSO GRINDER FIRST!!! I can't stress this too much. And use high quality FRESH beans. OK, done.
Y'all might notice I scored my lovely Anita an "8" in the aesthetics category...and BOY, is she PO'd. The truth is, while Anita is a stunning example of the E61 out front Star Trek (Mark Prince's words) look, I actually like the more retro look of the Silvia, La Spaziale, La Marzocco style...that is the brew head under neath some sort of overhang. But, as I said, Anita is a truly awesome coffee doll, and her looks have grown on me... IIRC, Anita's "style" is the usual configuration for a HX (heat exchanger) E61 group design. Which brings me to the heat of the matter...that is.....pulling shots with a HX machine.
NO, WAIT!!....That subject has been covered many times by folks WAY smarter and capable than me...Dan Kehn, our own Mark Prince, Chris Tacy, etc...so, I'm gonna assume that anyone reading this review has pretty much made up their mind to go HX. YES??
Suffice it to say, once you get the hang of the flush thang, consistent shots ARE not only possible with Anita, but EXPECTED around here, assuming I haven't messed up the tamp, distribution or dosage. I find my best shots are when pulling consecutive shots, with maybe a 1-2 minute break in between. Once again, I recommend reading up on the HX experience. My favorite thread can be found at click here
Would I purchase Anita again?....In a heartbeat. Understanding that our skills as home baristas, fresh beans and a wee bit of luck is key, there's also the machine...and Anita has been awesome.
Chris (and Mary )were as advertised....and a few questions I directed to service about adjustments and such were handled personally by their head service tech. All good. My lower price was due to the fact I took advantage of Chris' offer...$895.00 to the first 50 to order...woohoo!
Three Month Followup
Well folks...Anita is now a toddling 2 years old..and still cranking out wonderful shots. I always hate to wax on glowingly about the fact that not 1 thing has gone wrong...all parts original...'cause you KNOW the minute you say that...BOOM!!! But heck, I'll say it anyway...everything is as it was from the first day Anita came alive. Well, actually 1 thing HAS changed...my ability to get the most from her, as my skills have improved greatly...thank heaven! As always, Chris Coffee has been there to answer any questions I've had. Sure, I admit (shh, don't repeat this, Anita might hear)...but somwhere down the road I'd like to plumb in(Anita can't), maybe a double boiler...but... ANYONE afraid of an HX due to the water flush, etc...don't let that stop you from purchasing an Anita, or for that matter ANY well built HX machine.. Flushing becomes routine, and the rewards far outnumber the extra step. For me, the QuickMill Anita was worth every penny, and then some.
EDIT!!! 3-27-07 After nearly 3 rigorous years of service, Anita "informed" me (via a really SOUR shot, that I needed to replace my PStat (boiler pressure...for all the noobs...haha) Chris sent me a new one, only $34...a Ma-ter. Installation was a breeze, and after a slight adjustment, voila! Back in business! Also, for those contemplating a new Anita, Chris has now included new STEAM AND WATER WANDS THAT SWIVEL! Dern, wish I had those. I can honestly say there has not been a moment when I've been less than pleased with Anita. I can still whole-heartedly recommend the Anita, and Chris Coffee Service with no reservations!
One Year Followup
Another Wow...can it be I've now had my Anita for well over 3 years?....Yes. Ho-hum (yawn)....everything is still rockin' along with Anita...same old same old....and thats good! Again, time to replace the gasket, and screen, ad thoroughly clean the underside of the group. It's amazing how much gunk accumulates, even with diligent care...water back flushes, PF wiggles after every shot, and chemical back flushes every 200 shots...about 6 weeks for me. All is good. Though my Anita does not have the new swivel steam and hot water arms, I'm not in any hurry to purchase her updated "sister!" I still highly recommend both Anita and Chris Coffee Service.