I don't think there is a better machine with HX & E61 for under $1000.
Positive Product Points
Outstanding value price point for HX and E61 machine It handles volume with ease. The PF and brew group are solid/commercial quality and it has a huge drip tray.
Negative Product Points
I would love a bigger water reservoir. It is annoying to remove cup tray base to fill reservoir It looks a bit big and bulky for a home/kitchen at first – but it has grown on me. The manual is brief - a handful of pages stapled together.
After 6 months using my Anita + Macap M4 Grinder from Chris's Coffee , I continue to be very happy and can pull near perfect shots. The Anita comes with both a single and double PF that are solid commercial grade. They also included a bottomless PF that I use to hold the backflush basket. The machine was not too tall to fit on the kitchen counter under raised cabinets - about 3 inches to spare for my cabinets. The Macap has less than an inch. Measure before you buy.
This is a great machine, but it won't make great espresso without a great burr grinder. I'm a psycho about fresh grinding - anything that sits in the dosing hoper for more than a few hours starts to mix with moisture in the air (any ground espresso left in the hoper overnight is ruined in my opinion). To make perfect creamy shots, I scrub the Anita brew group & PF EVERY morning plus I empty the Macap doser hoper EVERY morning. Also, can't make great shots without great beans. I have to recommend my favorites: IntelligentsiA Black Cat and Terrior North Italian Roast Style Espresso.
Other than removing the cup tray bottom/base to fill with water, I really enjoy this machine. You *can* start making drinks after 20 mins but it really needs 30+ minutes to warm up properly just like any other pro/semi-pro E61 machines. I usually have mine hooked up to a GE digital timer I found for about $10 at Target to turn on/off several times during the day starting at 5am.
When I have guests, I can make drinks as fast as I can reload the PF - there is always plenty of hot water and steam pressure. Like other similar machines, Anita has a manual lever to activate the water versus automatic machines with buttons that dispense a measured amount of water for either 1 or 2 shots. When you're making several drinks in a row, you can't just push a button and then switch over to steaming milk or walk away. But I still prefer a lever because I pull a ristretto shot fairly often plus it just feels more like you're *pulling* a shot like the original lever machines.
The standard steam tip works fine for making decent microfoam. My latte art is almost there but still needs work. The steam wand arm is deep enough to accomodate almost any size pitcher.
This was a gift from my wife who described the folks at Chris' Coffee as very helpful. Arrived quickly, well packaged.
Three Month Followup
never got around to a 3 month followup - see 1 year.
One Year Followup
I still love the machine although Chris's Coffee has some new models that might be even better. Before I understood the value of real espresso machines, I used to buy a new "toy" espresso machine every 6 months or so. In comparison, my Anita seems "built to last" and performs well every day with a reasonable amount of cleaning.
I'll add one thing I've learned after using this machine over time: There is a float in the water reservoir that triggers an out of water condition to stop the Anita from burning itself up when water runs out (good feature). The float is magnetic and even though the water was filled, the Anita wouldn't heat. A quick call to Chris' Coffee and they explained the reservoir can sometimes sit funny and you just need to shake it forward towards the compartment where the boiler is, and the sensor starts working properly immediately. This has happened 1-2 times in a 1.5 years and takes 5 seconds to fix - no big deal, just an FYI in case it ever happens to you.