I am taking the time to write this review for three reasons:
- I hope to help others who are in the painful research phase of purchasing a commercial grade "prosumer" machine for the home - a decision most of us will do only once or twice in a lifetime.
- Repay an indebtedness to CoffeeGeek.com for all the valuable information I got from them in my research.
- Share the pleasure I've experienced with my purchase of the Andreja Premium.
There is so much good information available describing the mechanical and aesthetic considerations one must make in the espresso machine purchasing decision that I don't think I can add much of value to that data pool. However, because I found consumer reports on the factors affecting their buying decision very helpful, I will confine my comments to the conclusions and decisions I made after digesting some of the abundant information available.
My "journey" commenced after deciding my 14 year old Gaggia Espresso was on its last legs. I wanted a replacement that would constitute an upgrade. I began by reacquainting myself with the basic principles for making great espresso (i.e., machine temperature stability, fresh beans properly ground and tamped, proper water infusion, and if you're making cappuccinos or lattes, adequate supply of powerful dry steam) and learned a few tips that actually improved the lattes I was making with the Gaggia, but not sufficiently better. Further research led to the determination that a commercial grade machine was a must (i.e., a Rancilio Silvia wasn't a sufficient improvement). That decision thankfully narrowed down the suitable selections, but also upped the price range.
After much reading on Whole Latte Love, CoffeeGeek and other web sites, I got down to weighing the respective merits of the Rancilio S24, La Valentina, La Pasquinni Livia 90, and the Wega Lyra, with a bias toward HX machines. I eventually eliminated the Rancilio because it was too big and ugly for the home; the La Valentina because of reported construction, noise and rattling concerns; and the Livia 90 because of many different reported concerns.
I was on the verge of purchasing the Wega Lyra because it is a HX machine, has the revered Faema E61 brew group and ISO 9002 certification along with rave reviews about its solid construction. My Lyra purchase was halted by a Euro currency adjustment that had taken my purchase price expectation from just under $1K (based upon May 2004 reviews I saw on the Lyra) to $1,500 in Sept. 2004 when I was ready to purchase. I froze. I am very sentimentally attached to my hard-earned cash.
Fortunately for me, my cheapness paid off. A few days later, as I was surfing the web looking for an acceptable alternative to the Wega Lyra (a machine whose only objectionable quality was its recently raised price), I stumbled on to the special Andreja Premium price offering on Chris' Coffee web site. It had all the features I was seeking in the Lyra (HX with respectably sized boiler, E61 brew group, commercial grade components) but had the brew group mechanical lever instead a switch operated pump - a feature about which I was uncertain.
I called Chris' and spoke with Mary at length, got comfortable with the reseller and the manufacturer, and two days later made the plunge with a purchase. Truly an act of faith. And it's been a very gratifying choice. I can now make delicious espresso shots that are nearly as good as the best I've had in Italy. And the brew group mechanical lever? I now consider it a desirable feature.
Even though I can afford it, to me, spending over a grand on an espresso machine is not a trivial act that you want to end up regretting because you didn't fully understand what you want or need. There's no getting around having to do the research and determining what features, functions and aesthetics are important to you. Producing excellent espresso that is drinkable by itself, much less great for cappuccinos, was my most important demand. If that, plus good looks, quality construction and price value are also on your list of criteria, I can't imagine anything but your total satisfaction with purchase of the Andreja Premium by Quick Mill.