Good basic instructions. Well packaged. Solid, practical accessories included. Good customer support. Well built, pretty machine. Good drip tray and steam nozzle design.
Negative Product Points
Too complex for the complete beginner. Ugly ON/OFF decal. No real fine tuning hints in the instructions for making espresso. Strange routing of hoses under expansion valve, requiring some fiddling with to avoid twists when adjusting. Has to be a better way to get water in a pour over machine.
I received Anita on 7/14/05 so as of this writing Iíve had her about 3 weeks. As Iíve talked to other new Anita users on the Coffeegeek and Home-Barista websites, Iíve determined the best way to get the results you want is to read and study prior to using her. Understand how an HX machine works, how a grinder works and how to adjust your machine. The documentation is good but fine tuning hints are very personal to your grind, your coffee and your tastes. If you are prepared your results are going to be good. If not, you are going to be frustrated. Having a bottomless portafilter is a great way to learn how to use Anita. Having Anita on a timer works well with my lifestyle as she takes about 40 minutes to heat up.
Couldn't be better if Chris had come to my home and set it up! Seriously, very fair price, good packaging, great communications. I did my order online and was able to track Anita's every move from NY to me and I was waitin' on the UPS truck when she came. When I called to ask about what gasket I needed to keep around, Mary was helpful.
Three Month Followup
It's been a little longer than 3 months (more like 5) but I'm as pleased with Anita as I was when I received her. I've really enjoyed learning how to manipulate all the variables that go into making a great espresso. I've pretty much made triples exclusively since I started with Anita and I've had a lot of fun balancing shot timing, grind and tamping to get that great pull. Not every coffee I make is perfect - even 5 months into this I still make shots that aren't perfect BUT still significantly better than what I used to think was good from local cafes.
The only downside of Anita is that I found Rocky not quite finitely adjustable enough and upgraded grinders pretty quickly after getting Anita. I've got a commercial SM grinder and while I'm not in love with the doser, I am able to vary grind based on the age and type of coffee and get imediate feedback from Anita and the bottomless portafilter when I pull a shot if I got it right.
Anita has also caused me to become really picky about the coffee I buy! I've learned to enjoy the subtle flavors of lighter roasts and have had fun making interesting blends. I've been getting weekly roasts of monsooned malabar and an ethopian yirgacheffe - and making about 70/30 blends, that are just ambrosia.
Milk is certainly a trick. I'm using mostly non fat with a splash of whole milk which makes for a softer foam than straight non fat. So far I've had good luck stretching to about 75 degrees, then plunging to 140 degrees with the steam wand full open. Smaller amounts seem to texture a little better, but as long as I watch the thermometer my milk is pretty consistent.
I do a HX flush when the milk hits 120 degrees and pull my first triple while I wipe the steam wand. I've got 2 triple baskets, so my shots are weighed, dosed and prepped for the portafilter - all I do is pop the basket into the portafilter, tap and tamp, which means that my temp is hopefully optimal.
Maintenance is easy. I'm probably not good enough about this, but I backflush once a week, and do a detergent backflush about every 3 weeks. I do a portafilter wiggle and wipe the gasket as the last thing I do when I make my morning shots. The drip tray, which seems pretty big to me, (I've never overflowed it) comes out easily and goes into the sink for a scrubbing every couple of days. I don't use the hot water wand at all, so I try to periodically remember to flush the boiler. I am using filtered water and our water is pretty soft, so I'm not too worried about deposits. Cosmetically, one can splash espresso around pretty well. I usually wipe off the coffee and windex the case when Anita is cool
So far, I've messed with the expansion valve once. Just once. I've not had to make any adjustments since my inital adjustment, when I dropped the pressure. I've had no need to change it since.
I also put some white plastic furniture feet over the rubber feet the day I unpacked Anita. This allows me to slide her easily out from under the cabinet for her nightly filling and move her around on the formica counter for easy cleaning.
Anita lives on a timer and gets used every morning. Days that I'm home, sometimes I'll override the timer and leave her on all day. Since I fill her every night (empty and clean the water resevior a couple of times a week) I've never run her dry and only have added water during the day when I made a number of coffees for friends when we've had guests.
Anita has made my boyfriend an espresso convert and taken him from drinking stale folgers, to waiting for his morning coffee, asking for more, and commenting when I get a different coffee!
I'd say Anita was worth every penny. Ocassionally I have machine envy for something with dual boilers for times I have guests and am steaming and brewing a lot, (I'd like more exacting info about brew temp too) but I don't encounter nearly the frustration level I did with my Saeco when it comes to capacity or ability.
Since I went from a little boiler machine to a HX machine without having anything in between, I honestly cannot compare to something like a Silvia or an Expobar. What I do know is that I'm very happy with my machine's performance and reliability and feel that Anita was a good value!