Near perfect machine for anyone wanting an E61 group head wih excellent steaming.
Positive Product Points
E61 group head makes it easy to make great espresso. The streaming is near perfect. Fairly quiet operation. Great styling.
Negative Product Points
The steam and hot water knobs need to be approx. 1/4 inch larger in diameter and kurled or textured. The current knobs do not allow the rolling of the valve on/off with the palm of the hand. With the current knobs, the smooth surface is too slick to roll with the palm of the hand, and a bit too small to provide the leverage needed.
I upgraded from an Isomac Millenium, which I used for about 20 months. I was interested in the Andreja because of the E61 head and improved internals. Installing was very easy as I had Chris's Coffee install a Direct Connect Kit, thus a quick disconnect of the water line on the Millenium, drain, and move out of the way, attach the pressure regulator with a wrench, cut a new water line and plug into both quick connects. Then replace the group head gasket for the LaMarzocco portafilter with a triple basket.
Upon plugging in the machine, I was very pleased with how quiet it is compared to the Millenium. The pump makes significantly less noise. And the steam wand - how nice to swivel it where it's easy to use, plus the no-burn feature makes steaming a joy - no worrying where my fingers touch the wand.
Steaming is great. While I generally prefer lattes in the morning, I use espressos to adjust the grind. In the afternoon, I'll make Americanos. I find no real difference in brewing between the Andreja and the Millenium. But the steaming is so much better - not as overpowering as commerical machines - such as the Caramalis or LaPavonis at work, nor as weak as the Millenium (with the small tip). It's just right.
The drip tray is really nice as well - it can be removed, dumped, and re-installed without the top screen having to be removed with it. Very convienent.
I also like the styling - it's more subtle than the Millenium. While it's the same physical size, it doesn't look as large on the counter as the Isomac does.
For those concerned with having to "surf" the group head to get the temperature correct, consider that any espresso machine - including the commerical ones, need a shot of water pulled to remove the stale water from the group head and to clean the group head screen. I simply put my cup under the portafilter spout and run the 6 oz to 8 oz needed to cool the head down into the cup - to pre-heat the cup Then pull the portafilter, turn on the grinder, dry the portafilter, turn off the grinder, fill and tamp the portafilter, lock in place, dump the water out of the cup, place under the portafilter and pull the shot. That's all the temperature surfing that's needed.
This is the second machine I've purchased from Chris' and while the other, small items I've purchased from him came quickly, like my first, this one also had a part waiting for arrival from Itay. The first, with the Millenium, was the Mazzer Mini. This time, I had to wait for the direct connect kit. This is my karma, not an issue with Chris. The times I've called on my Isomac - I talked to Chris directly and had my questions answered.
With the Andreja, Mary handled the call and made sure I still wanted the Andreja when the direct connect kit arrived. Chris' Coffee has always been great to deal with.
Three Month Followup
Nothing to add to the initial review. The machine preforms well.
One Year Followup
It's been over a year now and the machine is still functining well, even after a house move. Though, now, it's further from the kitchen. It's on a cart in the dining room, still plumbed in - the water line.
I've descaled the machine and found no scale build up. But do have a few comments on the build of the machine.
- The vapor lock valve sits inside a cup on top of the boiler. There are times when this valve will overflow. Not often, just on an occasion during warm up after powering on. There was evidence of this on the interioor sheetmetal base of the machine. A drain pipe connected to the drain system would resolve this, at some additional expense.
- One of the rear cover screws had backed out over time. This caused additional noise. But was resolved during the descaling.
- I still would like to see larger diameter knobs for the steam and hot water. The valves on both have shown limited signs of wear, but can't be easily rolled on/off with the palm of the hand.
- I purchased a portafilter with a pressure gauge on it and found the one on the Andreja reads 0.2 bars higher than it does. Perhaps it's because it's closer to the boiler. Regardless, I adjusted the pressure down to approx. 1.1 bars from the 1.3 it was sitting at. The reading on the internal pressure gauge still shows 1.3 bars. Given that neither pressure gauge claims to be calibrated, I went with the newer one as the more acurate. Given that mine has the older capillary tubes, I may replace them at some point. (Chris sells replacement tubes and gauges.)
- I find that the drip tray is about 1" too short when doing a portafilter wiggle. But I suspect the same could be said for any of the prosumer machines. It's a design element that no one has considered. This is using a portafilter with a blind basket in it.
As to brewing espresso, I've switched to a bottomless portafilter, completely lost the technique of tamping and have slowly regained it. Currently, I'm using a LaMarzocco bottomless portafilter with a ridgeless double basket. And, other than my technique, it's rather easy to make decent shots of espresso, still.
For cappa's using a small picture for frothing, the steaming is almost overpowering for 5 oz. of 2% milk. But it does make an extremely smooth froth when done right. Even allows some art to be done in the cappa cup.
I had some friends over to do espresso tasting and we went though about 2 lbs of various espressos in one afternoon. The Andreja kept up with us. After pulling the last of 10 successive shots, I gave up. With about a minute between shots, there was no indication of any variation in the the way the Andreja functioned.
Another thing I truly enjoy is the hot water tap. I've made lots of tea with this during tmes espresso didn't apeal to me. Though I have managed to cause the machine to vapor lock every so often when pulling 10 oz. to 12 oz. of water out of the hot water tap. Not often. And recovery is easy, power off the machine, bleed some steam, wait a few mintues and power back on. It's just an occasional annoyance.
Would I buy another one? If I was in the market for an E61 HX machine or even a a machine in the $900 to $2,000 range, yes. Or perhaps the Vetrano Rotary. More important to me now would be the ability to plumb the drain in. It wasn't high on my list when the Andreja sat close to the sink, but now I see the need.
What would I consider as an alternative or perhaps adjunct to the Andreja? Well upgrade fever seems to be focusing on an Olympia Cremina. Being more in control of the process of making espresso has a certain appeal to me. But take this with a grain or two of salt. I still haven't atained enough finease to acurately surf the temperature on the Andreja more than about+/-3 degrees.