My first one will be my last one, this one is upgrade proof.
Positive Product Points
*The machine is a beauty and has the intestinal fortitude to make great espresso. *It's an HX machine which allows steaming and brewing right after another. *Large drip tray allows serveral drinks, backflushes, and cooling flushes before having to be emptied *Two PF, a single, double and backflush baskets *Well written startup instructions *Tiltable steam and water arms *E61 grouphead with 58mm PF
Negative Product Points
None that I can complain about
Background: When I started my journey to finding an espresso machine to replace the Capresso Mini S (aka steam toy by Coffegeeks ;) ) I came across the Queen of the hill Ms Silvia from Rancillio. The more I read about it though I knew I would want to make the PID modifications to reduce the learning curve I was already approaching. On alt.coffee on guy told me to check with Chris Coffee as they has that model in stock (everyone else was backordered). That's when I saw Anita and her siblings. $1000+ I didn't give it a second thought and left. Then I read everything I could find both here Home Barista, alt.coffee, etc... The more I read, the more I knew I wanted an HX machine. I wanted stainless steel (not ABS) and I wanted a reasonable price. Anita fit those requirements.
Ordering: I placed my order with a very patient Mary at Chris Coffee. We ordered the Anita, Macap M4, SS tamper, knockbox, coffee tool, and frothing pitcher. It arrived the next week but we had to let them sit (of course we unboxed them to ogle at them) while I finished the espresso bar we were building for them.
First use: Anita had some water (not spots but droplets) when I pulled her out, but a sheet explained that they pressure test them at Chris Coffee so it's normal. I followed the enclosed instructions that Chris's provides and everything went smooth. It took my 2 hours to get the right grind (I'm was a total newbie) but the drinks after that have been very drinkable with only the occasional sink shot due to inconsistencies on my part. Plenty of creama covered tri-color espressos.
Daily use: Now my wife loves cappas so that is where the HX shines for me. Anita comes with a 2-hole tip (keep this in mind when reading any of the frothing how-to's) and more steam than you'll need for 2 drinks in a row (the max I've made thus far). I can produce microfoam now but alas latte art eludes me. We have not used the hot water dispenser (no Americanos) so no comment. I do let the machine warm up for 40 minutes before pulling any shots and do the HX flush + 3 seconds before dosing, tamping, and brewing. Read the HX love article on www.home-barista.com (http://www.home-barista.com/hx-love.html) and watch the video.
Cleaning: I use the single spout PF with the double basket. I leave the backflush disk in the other. I backflush after every pull including a PF wiggle. When I am done (actually have a drinkable drink) I use a coffee tool to swipe a cloth (soaked with some water from the grouphead) to clean the gasket and wipe the shower screen. I then used another cloth soaked with hot water to clean and purge the steam wand and tip. The finish on the machine doesn't show fingerprints that I’ve noticed but I wipe it down, empty the drip tray, then check and fill the tank. Takes about 2 minutes max.
1st month Update: I remain a loyal customer to Chris Coffee and bought my bottomless PF there. Also we have started to buy some of the recommended roasted coffee from the Web. We started with Vivace (http://www.espressovivace.com/) Vita and Decaf. After trying to use the local roasters blend (www.uglymug.com) the Vita is bulletproof. I'm not exaggerating. I have had zero sink shots with either the Vita or the Decaf. I was pulling at least 4 shots a day the week our coffee order arrived (2 days after I placed the it) and my wife finished both in a week (1lb total). If you are new, use Vivace first :D
On our second coffee order we bought 1/2lb each of Black Cat and Kid-O from (http://www.intelligentsiacoffee.com/) and 1/2lb each Dolce and Vita and 1lb of Decaf from Vivace . The Black Cat is not as foolproof, but creama practically over flows the cup when you get the grind and tamp right. Too strong for me, but my wife likes the variety. Now with the Dolce ... Wow, first shot there was so much creama that it looked like foam as it filled the PF spout. I've pulled one shot with Dolce that my wife can't stop talking about and now compares any shot I pull to it :/ so now I have a target to hit. She has had Americanos using Black Cat, Kid-O and Dolce (her favorite).
Oh, and bought a bottomless PF to check my tamping. It's too fun to watch the pull and tamp be damned, the only sink shot I've gotten was with some black cat that was ground too fine (I've found in my situation the Black Cat and Kid-O need a coarser grind than Vivace ... YMMV) ... I think the quality and consistency of Anita is mostly responsible for the quick learning curve and I have never regretted investing in it.
3rd month update (6/8/06) I have been making on average two cappas a day for my wife. When called upon the Anita will churn out two cappas one after the other no issues. The machine is now foolproof with the tamp/grind now being my only variables. I have done the Cafiza backflush cleaning twice now. The lever does squeak now, but it's not like you can hear it over the pump ;) This unit is the most used appliance in the house (even more than the microwave) and I can still highly recommend it to anyone. I have come to appreciate the large (12 cup) water tank and water tray ... I can pull 4 shots before having to attend either,
As for coffee, we have a new favorite FTO Schweiks blend from http://www.metropoliscoffee.net Jeff is awesome and sent several samples of his coffees for us to try. Redline was recommended and is good, but Schweiks is great! We will continue to taste the offerings of others, but like Vivace, we'll always keep some on hand. While I'm at it, after 3 weeks of rest the Luna Nova and Ambrosia from http://www.doubleff.com are awesome. They were a bit lacking at first. Now the sweet smells and thick creama compete with our other favorites.
One last thing, I have upped my ratings on this machine. It hasn't shown any issues and is as reliable as one could hope for.
After reading all the accolades for Chris Coffee I felt confident in doing business with them. Perhaps my expectations were set a bit high due to this but I didn't feel any special 1-on-1 treatment I read about. Mary was kind and patient but not overly enthusiastic. Get this, I was actually hesitant to call back because I didn’t know what to ask and felt like I was wasting her time (my impression). My experience with another other vendor is nil at this point so I have nothing to compare it to in this category, but I have received better sales service in other venues for less money spent. YMMV
Would I still recommend Chris Coffee, well yes, it’s the only place to get the Anita, and in all fairness it was a typical transaction, not excellent like I had expected but not horrible. I’d say better than average.
Three Month Followup
Just got the notice about my 3-month follow-up ... 6-months's later :)
The Anita is as solid as it ever was. I have not had a bad shot/pull/drink since I first started. The machine is consistent and predictable. I have cleaned it three times since and while it does squeak initially, after 4 or 5 pulls that goes away.
I have been improving my frothing and get micro foam at will. Still can't do latte art, but cappas are what I make so it's not a big deal.
Would I buy Anita again ... in a heartbeat, this thing is a tank. Would I recommend this machine to others ... of course. I was a total newbie, had never pulled a shot, and was up and running in less than a week. The heat exchanger means not having to wait to froth, and being able to pull multiple shots (including frothing) within a few seconds of each other.