Excellent build quality. Designed for tinkerers. Very forgiving when pulling shots.
Positive Product Points
Great build quality. Easy to adjust. Not finicky at all.
Negative Product Points
Smallish reservoir. Gave off an unpleasant smell when heated the first few weeks (possible insulation burning off in interior) which is gone now.
Itís always helpful when judging a review to know whoís writing it, so hereís some background. Iíve been seriously into espresso for about a half year. Iíve loved coffee for decades and am quite fussy about the quality. My espresso habit got started when I went on a cruise (my first) in March and was unable to find any drinkable coffee at breakfast. I finally discovered a bar several decks below with a nice espresso machine and had a double Americano every morning. It was very nice, lots of body, etc. and I thought this could be a dangerous habit. When I got home, I started investigating equipment. I had an Expobar Control (two actually) for 4 months before I bought the Anita. Also ended up with a Mazzer Mini. I was having a difficult time with the Expobar. After months of exasperation trying to adjust the pressures, I finally realized that my home-made pressure guage was way off. I readjusted and my Expobar suddenly made great shots. However, my Anita had already arrived. I also do some French press, vac pot, and I used to do drip. I drink mostly Americanos and cappuccinos. I've tried many kinds of coffees including Black Cat, Ambrosia, Barefoot Roasters, and Paradise Roasters.
I did lots of reading and finally called Chrisí Coffee to check out the Anita which was still in transit from Italy. After a long discussion with Chris, he convinced me the Anita was just what I had in mind and I ordered one. His description was accurate and the Anita held no negative surprises when it arrived. The packing/container was excellent so it arrived in good shape. I was immediately impressed by the thick guage of the steel and how nicely everything fit together (Chris says itís all cut out with robotic lasers). If my car had the same guage stainless, it would weigh 4 tons. I quickly took the case off and all the vitals are very nicely laid out with good access for adjustments and repairs. The over pressure valve is commercial quality and all the fittings seem to be metal and good quality. One thing that sold me on the Anita is Chrisí philosophy of building the machine. He provides the warranty himself on these machines, so he overbuilds them as much as possible so they hold up and donít cause him or the customers any problems. He insists on two gauges (usually not seen on many machines in this class) so itís easy to diagnose problems over the phone. If my Expobar had had a few gauges, I would have saved myself 2 months of futzing around and god knows how many pounds of coffee.
The features of the machine have been amply described before, but I would mention that the drip tray is first-rate: very heavy duty, very large capacity, well-designed and well-fitting. One can empty the tray and still leave the grate in place. The stainless is very high quality and easily rinses out with no stains. The steam/water wands are hot (unlike the Andreja) and Iíve burned myself a number of times. They only rotate on one axis (clockwise/counter clockwise) but I havenít had difficulty in using them like this. The knobs are fine. The E61 head is typically massive and stainless (and exposed and hot). Two commercial weight portafilters come with the machine, a double spout and single spout. The single spouted one is much easier to see the waterdance/steam on to adjust the flush before pulling the shot, but itís a pain to tamp. I will probably have to make a little cradle or stand for it. The reservoir is quite thick and sturdy and has a metal carrying bar across the top which is nice if youíre removing it. One has to remove the top cover to remove the reservoir. I donít use the cup warmer, which is good, because you canít use it and still get at the reservoir.
Looks are subjective, but I think the Anita looks nice on the counter although itís a fairly subdued and unobtrusive look compared to some other similar machines. It doesnít really make a fashion statement, just looks like itís ready to brew some serious coffee. The toggle switch is metal and looks a little out of place (unrefined?) and the painted On/Off label is pretty pathetic. A minor point, I know, but the lettering is quite large and obvious and looks to be an afterthought.
I am the sort of person that enjoys well-made machinery and I have been fiddling around with all the adjustments. I am using a brew pressure of 9.5 bars and a boiler (pstat) setting of 1.1 bars for the last few weeks, probably not my last setting, although pretty close. I am still working on my consistency of shots, trying to figure out the best routine for the E61 head and its cooling flushes, so I wonít tell you that Iím guzzling God shots every morning. Iím still waiting to make coffee that tastes as good as Schomerís descriptions of his own coffee. I suspect Iím not the only one still waiting for this. However, I find I make exceptionally good coffee on a regular basis. I canít bear to go to the Caribou and Starbucks cafes anymore because what I make is much better. The Anita, probably because of the E61, seems to be quite forgiving for my technique. Certainly some of my shots are much better than others, but even when Iím pretty far off on my grind, I rarely have to toss a shot out. Steam pressure seems quite decent. Iím getting fairly consistent microfoam with the standard 2-hole tip that Chris ships. I admit it helped a lot by moving to the smaller size pitcher and filling it higher. Iím the only coffee-drinker and the medium size pitcher was too big for 3 oz of milk. Iíve opened up the steam wand full tilt and after a couple of minutes, there was no drop in boiler pressure at all, so I think you could steam indefinitely. The instruction manual was written by Chris - basic, fairly helpful, but could have been more complete.
In sum, I couldnít be happier with the Anita. The guts of the machine are identical to the Andreja Premium which everyone seems pleased with. I was glad to get the same mechanics for less money and live with a simpler case and less elegant steam wands/valves. My wife is not a coffee drinker and has recently been asking me to make coffee for her on a regular basis because it tastes so nice. I recently served a friend a cup of cappuccino (my first drink for a guest) and she told me it was the best cup of coffee sheíd ever had in her life. I didnít tell her it was a 30 second double and a bit over-extracted.
I purchased from Chrisí Coffee whom I would highly recommend. Chris spent lots of time with me on the phone and, as a result, I plunked down $900 on a machine Iíd never seen before. It arrived as described. Iím always amazed when I call Chris that I can usually talk with him directly without much wait. Also, a live person always answers the phone rather than a machine. Chris spends seeming endless amounts of time answering my questions and treats me (and I presume others) as if I am a major account of his, not just a one-time buyer of an espresso machine. I enjoy his obvious enthusiasm for espresso and, especially, for his own machines (Anita and Andreja) which he takes great pride in. I like his philosophy of putting in the best quality components possible. I have bought several things from Chris and would recommend him to anyone. He stands behind his sales and I am sure if something came up, he would set it right in a timely fashion. I once emailed a question to him on Sunday and had a reply 30 minutes later. It turns out he had been working that weekend unboxing and personally testing each Anita (the shipment had just arrived) so they could be immediately shipped out Monday AM. I know he doesnít spend most weekends working, but I was impressed with his dedication nonetheless.
Three Month Followup
See 1 year followup.
One Year Followup
I'm finally getting around to my 1 year f/u, actually more than 1 1/2 years. Happily, they've been quite boring, i.e., the Anita still makes good coffee every day and hasn't missed a beat. Haven't had any repairs or problems. About 6 months ago, I decided to get Eric S's thermocouple adapter for the E61 head which set me back about $100 for everything. It really has helped me improve my espresso and, more important, improve the consistency of the cup. I like to tinker with the settings quite a bit, so half the time I have the cover off to get at the insides better. I've finally settled (for the moment anyway) on a brew pressure of 9 bars and a pstat setting of 1.2 bars. My normal routine is making two double cappucinos in the AM, so I am most interested in having a consistently great cup. Quality over quantity. I use the WDT which greatly helped channeling. I have a bottomless PF so I could tell if there was channeling. I usually use Eric's method for the temp, which is with the thermocouple. BTW, he now has a similar setup but adapted to a digital thermometer which is not only cheaper but much more esthetic since it doesn't have an ugly wire coming out the grouphead. In any event, I flush until the temp is 185 F then let the grouphead heat up to 198 which will give a temp in the cup of 201 and be very consistent temp wise throughout the pour. If you check Eric's posts on Home Barista, he's got all the graphs to prove it. But this method will give extremely stable grouphead temps and excellent pours. The downside is it takes more time, usually about 2 min after flushing until I can start the pour (I grind and tamp during that time) and it also uses more flushing water, probably 10 or more oz. For me and my two doubles each AM, this is no big deal. If I'm entertaining or in a rush, one can flush until the temp is 206 (about 6-8 oz) and then wait the 20 or so seconds before pulling the shot. Also quite consistent, but not as much so as the first method above. No sink shots with either method (except Terroir coffee which always came out sour no matter what I did -- I think it's the very light roast). I've used many different coffees and all turn out nicely --eg Black Cat, Rocket Roasters, Paradise, Ecco, Redline to name a few. The steaming is great. I usually do small amounts of milk, like 4 oz, since my wife doesn't drink much coffee. The standard 2-hole tip will yield very nice microfoam. It seems effortless now, but was more of a hassle during the first year of my ownership (my experience level). The build quality of the Anita is excellent. I am still amazed at the stainless steel case which looks pristine after wiping it down -- no tarnishing, staining, nothing! My only negative comment on the in innards would be the quality of the pressurestat. Mine still works fine, but I'm sure it will go at some point and I will replace it with an upgraded one from Chris. The few times I've called Chris' Coffee for tech advice, customer service, etc. they've been very helpful. BTW, I just tried his Black Pearl coffee which is very good. A few other minor points. My machine has the original steam wand which swivels only in a circle and this has not been a problem. I'm sure the ball jointed ones are nicer, but the one I have works fine. The steam valve doesn't turn off quickly, it sort of winds down over a few seconds which can cause the milk to overheat if you're not careful. I also have an Olympia which shuts off instantly, like most steam valves do or should. The rubber guard on the steam valve helps prevent burns, but still gets very hot. Basically, one needs to be careful around hot metal (a truism, surely). The steam tip has ridges in it which makes it easy to unscrew but very difficult to keep clean. I would have preferred a smooth one, but obviously haven't felt strongly enough to replace it. Soaking it in a little Caffiza once a week or so gets it clean in minutes. I never use the hot water tap at all. If one used it daily, it would probably taste OK, but if you use it every 3 mos. like I do, the water tastes bad. I use RO water in my machine exclusively, so haven't had any scale problems at all. I found that the thermocouple/thermometer helped me quite a bit with temp management. If I had not gotten this device, I would be seriously tempted by a double-boiler for that reason.
In summary, the Anita is a fairly typical E61 type HX machine with a strong set of features for the price, no glaring issues, very good build quality/materials. It also makes nice coffee. I would buy it again.