Great espresso, great microfoam, and a machine built from the user's perspective. A worthy upgrade from Silvia.
Positive Product Points
Anita is consistent, user-friendly, forgiving, and beautiful. Great temperature stability, good steaming power, user-friendly layout. Easy adjustments possible for non-engineers.
Negative Product Points
Three tiny ones: reservoir is a bit tricky to fill by hand. Not much room for cups under my traditional height cabinets. Little gasket on the steam wand deformed quickly (I just removed it). But really, on a machine this amazing, who cares?
I upgraded to Anita after three years with Silvia/Rocky. I loved the Silvia, and learned about espresso from working with her. People say Silvia is finicky; I'd say she's responsive. Little changes in tamp, grind, dosing, etc produce significantly different shots. And that taught me a lot. I learned the difference between bitter and sour, between under- and over-extraction, and so on. Anita not only makes espresso that's consistently as good as the best shots I could pull on Silvia, she also makes the whole experience of espresso a pleasure.
Many others have written better than I could about the technical abilities of Anita. So I'll focus my review on something many people are doing or considering: making the switch from Silvia to Anita.
I will say this to Silvia users: Anita is a worthy upgrade. The whole ritual of espresso changes for the better.
1) Anita was simple and intuitive to set up and use, and I was pulling great shots within 15 minutes (after the warmup, of course). Chris' Coffee sent simple instructions, and that's all you need. The cooling flush needed to get to temperature is simple if you're used to temp-surfing on Silvia.
2) Anita is forgiving. Small changes in tamp and dose don't result in sink shots. That is a big change from Silvia.
3) Machine design. One of the most striking (and least discussed) features is the physical experience of using Anita. Silvia is a scaled-down machine which gets the most out of a small footprint and good-enough parts. Anita is designed and equipped to make the physical experience of making espresso feel solid, easy, and spacious. The E61 makes the whole process easy to execute and easy to see. The moving parts are satisfying to handle and give great feedback. The drip tray is deep and simple to empty without spilling. Silvia is, by comparison, rather cramped and bare-bones. I understand Anita was designed and built with the coffeegeek in mind, and it shows. Like using an Apple computer, making espresso on Anita feels simple and intuitive, a testament to the work that went into creating it.
4) E61 grouphead. You're not just working with an incredibly temperature stable grouphead, you've got a piece of espresso history on your counter.
5) Microfoam. With a bit of practice, this comes much easier on Anita. I'm still trying to get my frothing time down (might do a pstat adjustment), but my improved milk texturing is what other people notice most about my upgrade. I even make my wife great microfoam with soymilk.
6) Timer-ready. You can put Anita on a timer and have it warm when you get up. I get up damn early with my two little kids, and having the machine waiting for me makes the morning much better. In retrospect, the warmup time on Silvia really was a drag.
7) Beautiful to look at.
8) They did the science; we get the art. Anita gives simple and stable feedback for the hands-on user. So making espresso is a gorgeous ritual, not the science class experiment Silvia sometimes became. Say goodbye to all those timers and thermometers. Once you get the hang of Anita, you can stop timing your shots and taking the temperature of your milk. Cut off the shot when you see blonding (hard to do on Silvia because of the sight lines). Stop steaming when the pitcher is too hot to hold.
Anita makes espresso a pleasure from start to finish. My morning ritual used to begin when my cappuccino was ready. Now it begins while I'm making it.
Bought a buyer's remorse machine from Chris' Coffee. I thought I was calling to get on a list, but they had one in stock, so I got out my credit card. Shipping was extremely fast. Machine was perfect and well-packaged; you would swear it had never been opened. The person I spoke to on the phone was extremely knowledgeable about espresso and gave me more info in a 4-minute phone call than I could get from four hours of reading online. Haven't needed to do much followup with them, but it's nice to know that I could.
Three Month Followup
After three months, I'm still utterly satisfied. Every day. This machine is tremendous.
My milk texturing has come a long way. Getting rid of the thermometer helped a lot. I now look for a certain amount of stretch in the milk, a certain feel, before plunging down. I have also found, as others have noted, that different brands of milk act differently; some are easier to get microfoam than others. (Definitely something to try if you're getting frustrated.)
Getting rid of the timer is great too. Cut the shot off when it's done.
The espresso is great as ever. Lots of crema, great color, real body. Haven't even bothered to upgrade my Rocky grinder. The stepless mod gives me plenty of precision and no drift, the latter being, IMHO, a surprisingly big issue for home espresso.