Review and Buyer’s Guide for the Gaggia Anima Prestige (Saeco Incanto)
I’ve thoroughly tested the Gaggia Anima Prestige Super Automatic Espresso Machine and today I’ll share my experiences with this machine. Note: In the Europe this machine is marketed as the “Saeco Incanto” super automatic espresso machine, but in the United States it’s sold under the name “Gaggia Anima Prestige.” Despite the different name, the machines are basically identical. To learn more about all of the super automatic espresso machines I’ve tested, check out the reviews here.
Out of all the automatic espresso machines on the market, the Gaggia Anima Prestige is among the models with the best balance between price and performance. It’s well made and feels sturdy, yet it’s still small and elegant. You won’t find a lower-priced espresso machine with so much stainless steel.
On the whole, the machine seems very well designed. It’s nice and compact. Its milk system, which mounts the milk carafe directly onto the machine, makes it one of the most space-saving countertop espresso machines that I’ve reviewed.
Chic, tiny and shiny! You won’t find a lower-priced super automatic espresso machine with so much stainless steel.
The Gaggia Anima Prestige has a removable brewing unit, which is an advantage when it comes to cleaning or replacing the part.
The quality of the milk foam is good, and you can easily make a latte macchiato, an espresso macchiato, a caffe latte, or a cappuccino. Based on its overall performance, I believe that the Gaggia Anima Prestige is one of the best super automatic coffee machines in its price class.
Below you’ll find my complete review and report of my test of the Gaggia Anima Prestige. You can also check its current price on Amazon here.
Advantages of the Gaggia Anima Prestige
- Very nice stainless steel exterior.
- Narrow and space-saving, especially the milk system.
- Sturdy and high-quality build.
- Well-made hot water feature.
- Very easy to make an espresso.
- Very quiet.
Disadvantages of the Gaggia Anima Prestige
- It takes a bit of effort to clean the milk system.
Unfortunately, this video is only available in German.
Table of Contents
- Review and Buyer’s Guide AdvantagesDisadvantagesDifferent ModelsHD8914/01
- Technical Specifications
- Comparing Models Setting UpWhat’s In the Box
- Making an Espresso
- Which Coffee or Espresso to Use
- Hot Water Spout
- Compartment for Ground Coffee
- Espresso Spout Height
- Cleaning The Tube and the Frothing WandWater Filter and Decalcifying
- Removable Brewing Unit
- Summary of the Review
- Alternatives Melitta Caffeo CISiemens EQ 6 700
Different Models of the Gaggia Anima Prestige
(See note above regarding the different names for this machine.) The exact model used for this test and review was the Saeco Incanto HD8917/01. It’s the European equivalent of Gaggia Anima Prestige RI8762.
There’s also another model of this machine:
The Saeco Incanto HD8914/01
This is an almost identically-built automatic espresso machine; the only difference is in the milk frothing system. With this model, you feed the milk directly from any container into the cappuccinatore milk frothing system. The advantage of doing this is that you don’t need to clean a milk carafe. Still, it also comes with a disadvantage, namely that once your espresso is ready, you then need to move your cup from the espresso spout to put it under the milk foam wand. In other words, you need to stay by the machine while it’s making your drink.
I like both versions, so you’ll have to decide which one is best for you. You can check their prices here on Amazon. Since the two machines are otherwise identical, I won’t be doing a separate review of this model.
Technical Specifications – Gaggia Anima Prestige
|Name||Gaggia Anima Prestige / Saeco Incanto|
|Compartment for Ground Coffee||✓|
|Water Filter||AquaClean Filter|
|Brewing Unit||✓ Removable|
|Grinder Style||Ceramic conical grinder|
|Dimensions, W x D x H||Approx. 8.5 in x 16.9 in x 13 in (215 x 429 x 330 mm)|
|Weight||15.9 pounds (7.2 kg)|
|Water Tank||60 ounces (1.8 liters)|
|Max. Cup or Mug Height||6 inches (15.2 cm)|
|Size of Coffee Bean Compartment||Approx. ½ Pound (250 g)|
|Volume of Milk Container||Approx. 18 ounces (500 ml)|
|Maximum Pump Pressure||15 Bar|
Here’s a link to a downloadable pdf of the manual for the Gaggia Anima Prestige.
Comparing Models: Saeco Minuto and Gaggia Anima Prestige
There’s another Saeco super automatic espresso machine with an integrated milk carafe, namely the Saeco HD8763 Minuto. In terms of functionality, it’s very similar to the Gaggia Anima Prestige. However, I think it looks noticeably cheaper. I’d think twice before buying the Saeco Minuto if the difference in price between the two models is more than about $250. You can find the current price for this model here on Amazon.
The Saeco Minuto is also available in a “Pure” model, but that one doesn’t work at all with milk, so it therefore can’t make any milk foam. There’s even an in-between model, and with that machine you need to manually froth the milk.
Setting Up the Gaggia Anima Prestige
The Anima Prestige has a nice, large display, which makes using it simple. You can use the display to easily set the amount of coffee you want to use and make, and it will even let you know if the brewing unit or the drip trays aren’t correctly installed.
The first thing you should do is to thoroughly wash out the water tank. Same goes for the milk carafe. After you’ve screwed in the water filter, the machine will first need to run some water through the filter. We’ll talk more about that later.
You also have to program the hardness of your water into the machine. Later on we’ll also see how to determine the hardness of your water.
On the whole, the Gaggia Anima Prestige is very easy to use.
What’s In the Box
- The Gaggia Anima Prestige.
- The milk carafe.
- The hot water spout.
- The panel to cover the side of the machine, for when the water spout or milk carafe aren’t attached.
- A Saeco Aqua Clean water filter.
- Lubricating oil for the brewing unit.
- A cleaning brush.
Making Milk Foam with the Gaggia Anima Prestige
This super automatic latte machine uses a milk carafe. It saves space by attaching directly to the front of the machine, and when you’re done you can easily take it off again to store it in the refrigerator.
In this first picture you can see I’ve just filled up the milk container.
Now, I simply attach the carafe to the left side of the espresso machine.
A click will let you know it’s properly in place. Next, we need to slide the milk spout to the right. That way, the milk will pour directly into the cup below. That’s very useful because it means that you can simply leave your cup in one place for a cappuccino or a latte macchiato, and you don’t have to move it to a different spout.
Our trusty LEGO barista, Larry, supervises the milk foam production. For the first second or so, just a few drops of water come out, but then good milk foam will start to flow out. It comes out at a good temperature, which is important because the temperature of your drink will always strongly depend on the temperature of the milk foam.
The thing that I especially like about this milk frothing concept is that it’s very space-saving. The machine is already narrow by itself, but adding the milk container doesn’t take up any extra space. With many automatic espresso machines, you need to place the milk container next to the machine, which obviously takes up extra space. If you want an example of what I’m talking about, check out my review of the Melitta Caffeeo CI. It’s also a great machine, but it takes up more space than this one.
The foam quality is solid. There are usually a few larger bubbles on the top, but otherwise it’s fine and creamy.
Making an Espresso with the Gaggia Anima Prestige
When making an espresso, I set the coffee strength to the maximum level. In this case, that means that I selected the “5 coffee beans” level on the machine. Larry approved, as you can see.
I also put the grinder on its finest setting.
With the Anima Prestige, you can use the machine’s memory to program the amount of espresso you want. To do this, hold down on the button with the espresso cup on it. That will put you in the “MEMO,” or memory, setting. The machine will now begin brewing and pouring the espresso. Once the desired amount of espresso has come out, press the “OK” button to store the amount in the machine’s memory. You can either use a shot glass to measure a bit less than 1 ounce (between 20 and 25 ml), or you could also weigh it on a kitchen scale to check the amount.
The espresso has a nice, uniform crema, and even had some shiny dark spots. That’s not always the case with all automatic espresso machines. The espresso had a strong flavor. When comparing different super automatic espresso machines that I’ve reviewed, the espresso I got from the Gaggia Anima Prestige was above average.
Which Coffee or Espresso to Use with the Gaggia Anima Prestige
Of course, an espresso machine can only make good espresso if you use the right beans. I recommend using freshly-roasted coffee beans from a roaster that places value on the coffee’s origin, as well as on all the people in the production chain.
However, the most important aspect to consider is still taste. You can find many reviews and reports of coffee beans that I recommend on my Espresso Review Page. And if you just want me to give you the name of an espresso bean, I’d recommend the “Espresso Sidamo” beans from Coffee Circle to use with the Gaggia Anima Prestige. It’s a full-bodied espresso with good crema and an appealing aroma.
Once again, I must emphasize the importance of buying good coffee. Unfortunately, you’ll not find good coffee in any supermarkets. There are a few problems with coffee you’ll get in a supermarket. First of all, freshness: by the time it’s in the store, the coffee is already old, and was roasted several months before. Another problem is that the larger industrial roasters mostly use lower-quality coffee beans.
Customizing the Pre-Programmed Drinks on the Gaggia Anima Prestige
The Gaggia Anima Prestige lets you change the amount of ground coffee to use in an espresso. In this case, it’s called “Aroma Intensity.” This whole concept is illustrated, as usual, with a range of 1 to 5 coffee beans.
- Extra mild aroma = 1 coffee bean
- Mild aroma = 2 coffee beans
- Medium aroma = 3 coffee beans
- Strong aroma = 4 coffee beans
- Extra strong aroma = 5 coffee beans
As I’ve already mentioned, I made the espresso using the finest setting on the grinder, while using the “Extra strong aroma” setting.
You can also select the amount of finished espresso you want. There are no levels or numbers, but it’s still really simple. First, hold down the button with the espresso cup until the word “MEMO” appears. Now the machine will begin to brew and pour the espresso. Once the desired amount has come out, press the “OK” button to stop the brewing. In my case, I wanted 25 ml, around 1 ounce. After using this setting, the machine stored this amount in its memory as the new default.
You can also set the brewing temperature to three different levels. I just kept it on the default setting, though.
When I’m at home, I make regular black coffee by using either a pour-over filter or a French press. If you want “coffee”—as opposed to espresso—from the Gaggia Anima Prestige, I’d recommend you make a café americano. To do so, simply brew 2-4 espressos, then fill the rest of the cup or glass with hot water. You can get the hot water by using the hot water spout on the Anima Prestige, or you can also use an electric water kettle.
I suggest making an americano because I think that it tastes much better than the “coffee” settings that you’ll find on automatic espresso machines. And that has absolutely nothing to do with the Anima Prestige—it’s just a general recommendation that I make for all super automatic espresso machines.
Using the Hot Water Spout on the Gaggia Anima Prestige
If you want to make a cup of tea, you can easily get hot water from the Gaggia Anima Prestige. To do so, you just need to swap out the milk container and plug in the hot water spout in its place.
It slides in easily, and you can take it back out again by pressing the button on the side.
That’s all you need to do to get hot water. Personally, I don’t use this feature very often because I have a hot water kettle that I like, but many people—including LEGO Barista Larry–will surely find this feature handy.
The whole thing is really quick and practical. What’s more, the hot water spout never comes into contact with the milk system, so you’ll always get just clear water—you don’t have to worry about any milk clouding it up. If you do want hot water, you’ll need to select it in the menu, which lets you choose between milk and hot water.
Using the Grinder and the Bean Compartment, and Setting the Grinder
This machine has a nice, quiet ceramic grinder. You can only set the coarseness of the grind while the machine is on. You need to turn a dial in the bean compartment to adjust the coarseness, but you can only do it with a small wrench that comes with the machine (you’ll find it on the bottom of the coffee scoop). So adjusting the coarseness on the grinder isn’t as easy as it is with most other automatic espresso machines, and it’s actually a little impractical.
With a bit of patience, though, it’s not too hard to set it. It’s also important to remember to change it little by little: only change it by one level at a time. Remember that you won’t notice the new setting right away the next time you make an espresso. It will take 1-3 espressos before everything moves through the system and the espresso starts to reflect the new grinder setting.
I’ve also got to mention one more thing about these beans: I know they look bad. And they are bad, in fact. They’re the beans that I used when I was setting up the grinder, so I didn’t really care about the quality. The beans that I recommended above look much better, of course.
The Compartment for Ground Coffee
The Gaggia Anima Prestige also has a compartment for pre-ground coffee. In general I’m not a big fan of these compartments, and that’s true regardless of the manufacturer. All of these compartments have the same problems. First of all, the ground coffee often sticks to the side of the container because of the humidity in the machine. You can easily see the water condensation in this picture. Plus, many brewing units can’t handle every kind of ground coffee. For example, some don’t work well with very finely ground coffee.
You can use this compartment in case of emergency, of course. I just don’t care for it. But that’s my general opinion and has nothing to do with the Anima Prestige in particular. After all, the biggest advantage of super automatic espresso machines is that they grind the beans fresh every time you make coffee. But that goes out the window when you use pre-ground coffee.
By the way, if you’re interested in a machine that can hold two different kinds of beans at once, check out my review of the Melitta Caffeo Barista, which lets you do exactly that.
The Espresso Spout Height
The spout goes up to about 6 inches (15.2 cm), and can be lowered to around 3 inches (8 cm). I didn’t have any problems fitting my mugs or glasses underneath.
Cleaning the Gaggia Anima Prestige
Cleaning is an especially important part of owning any automatic espresso machine. On the whole, the Anima Prestige is very easy to clean. Its one drawback is that it takes a bit more effort to clean the milk system. Otherwise, it’s like cleaning any other automatic espresso machine, and it has a normal cleaning program. The brewing unit is also removable, which is a definite advantage.
The Tube and the Frothing Wand
These are the usual suspects when it comes to cleaning an automatic espresso machine. The advantage of this particular milk system is that it hardly takes up any space, but it’s also a bit more complicated to clean because of that. As you can see, you can take apart the milk container. All the parts can be washed out using running water.
There’s also an extra cleaning program for the milk carafe, which uses “Saeco Milk Circuit Cleaner.” According to the manufacturer, you should run the cycle once a month.
My advice is to be very sure to frequently clean everything well by hand. I’d also suggest filling up the milk carafe, and to then cleaning it thoroughly every time it’s empty, as opposed to continually topping it off with fresh milk. Cleaning it well only takes about 5 minutes and you’ll have the peace of mind that there’s no old milk gunk in the system.
The Water Tank, the Water Filter and Decalcifying
The water tank is about 60 ounces, or 1.9 quarts (1.8 liters). That’s fairly standard, but a bit smaller than you’ll find on some other espresso machines. On the other hand, the small size makes this tank easy to handle. In fact, it literally has a handle that you can use to remove or carry it.
As you can see here, the tank is wider and less elongated than you might expect.
In this picture you can see where you can install a Saeco Aqua Clean water filter. Even the water filter on this model is more compact than the ones on the competition, which often are shaped like big cigars. When thinking about costs, be sure to include the filters as a recurring cost.
You’ll also need to determine the hardness of your water. That will tell you how much calcium is in your water. The more calcium, the harder your water, and the more important it is to use a water filter. You can measure the calcium with a testing strip that comes included with the machine, or you can also check with your water provider.
There are two main advantages to using a water filter:
- Your coffee will taste better with filtered water.
- You won’t need to decalcify the machine as frequently if you use filtered water.
The following table shows normal levels of water hardness, as measured in Germany. We happen to have very hard water here in Berlin.
|Level||Degree of Hardness||Millimoles of Calcium Carbonate per Liter||German Hardness (dH) Degrees||How Often Should I Decalcify?|
|1||Soft||Fewer than 1.5||Fewer than 8.4 °dH||Rarely|
|2||Medium||1.5 to 2.5||8.4 to 14 °dH||Occasionally|
|3||Hard||More than 2.5||More than 14 °dH||Often|
Removable Brewing Unit
It’s easy to take out the brewing unit, especially with a bit of practice, but it’s not quite as easy as with other manufacturers. When you’ve removed the brewing unit, you can easily clean it out with running water.
Here’s what the brewing unit looks like when it’s inside the Gaggia Anima Prestige.
You can see the table through the space below where the brewing unit goes. Another drip tray actually goes there. The removable brewing unit makes it really easy to clean the machine from the inside.
Here you can see the water and coffee that has dripped down and gathered in the little tray.
Here’s how you slide the tray back into place. It’s important to put it in correctly, otherwise the brewing unit can get jammed.
It’s also important that the brewing unit be put in place in the correct position. Here you can see a small yellow arrow and a larger black one. These must be pointing to each other, otherwise the brewing unit will get stuck, making it impossible to remove it or put it in again. If the brewing unit on the Gaggia Anima Prestige gets jammed, this is the most common cause of the jam.
Here you can see the Gaggia Anima Prestige brewing unit (left) next to the type of brewing unit you’ll find on a Melitta, Miele, Siemens or Bosch machine (right). Both units are very similar in terms of weight and sturdiness, but the design of the Anima Prestige is somewhat more compact.
Of course, you can also order a replacement part for the brewing unit. That’s another advantage of this system: if something breaks, you can switch it out for a new part, without even having to loosen a single screw.
The Coffee Grounds Tray and the Drip Tray
You can easily pull out the whole front of the Gaggia Anima Prestige. You’ll notice the brewing unit on the right side in the back. In the tray below there’s a red bobber that indicates the water level in the trip dray.
Here’s what it looks like when it’s taken apart. The grounds tray sits inside the drip tray.
You can then take out the grounds tray.
I’d simply rinse out the drip tray and the grounds tray with running water. That’s probably good enough. If something seems to be stuck on, you can also use a sponge with a bit of soap. You don’t actually need to put the parts into the dishwasher, though, and doing so will also wear down the materials.
Summary of the Review of the Gaggia Anima Prestige
On the whole, the Gaggia Anima Prestige will give you extraordinary bang for your buck. It performs very well, especially considering its price. What’s more, you’ll not find another automatic espresso machine with so much stainless steel in this price range.
When compared to its bulky competitors, the Anima Prestige looks really great. Even when I was taking it out of the box, everyone in the room started nodding in approval. The drink settings worked excellently. I was also very pleased with the espressos it made, and how the amount of espresso was variable. The minimum amount with other machines is usually 30 ml (a bit more than an ounce), but here I could dial that down to 25 ml.
Chic, tiny and shiny! You won’t find a lower-priced super automatic espresso machine with so much stainless steel.
The grinder settings worked well, although changing the coarseness took a bit more effort than with other super automatic espresso machines. But to make up for it, the Gaggia Anima Prestige is nice and quiet!
The milk foam system is very space-saving, but it does take a bit more work to clean it. You can easily remove the milk carafe and store it in the fridge. The milk foam is good but not outstanding.
The Gaggia Anima Prestige is easy to use. Adjusting the amount of finished espresso was the only thing that called for a quick glance at the manual.
Even though it had a few small shortcomings, the Gaggia Anima Prestige won me over. I can definitely recommend it. The balance between price and performance, as well as the design and functionality, are all exceptionally good. You can check the current price on Amazon.
Alternatives to the Gaggia Anima Prestige
If this machine doesn’t seem like the right one for you, I’ve also tested many other super automatic espresso machines. You can find all of my reviews here, but here are a couple other recommendations that you may want to consider.
Melitta Caffeo CI
The Melitta Caffeo CI is the first alternative. This super automatic espresso machine is also in the same price range. However, if you’re looking for stainless steel components, this one falls short of the Gaggia Anima Prestige. It also takes up a bit more space. On the other hand, the milk system is easier to clean, the milk container can go in the dishwasher, and it has two separate compartments for coffee beans.
You can check the current price on Amazon, and my complete review of the Melitta Caffeo CI is here.
Siemens EQ 6 700
The Siemens EQ 6 is another super automatic espresso machine that can hold its own against the Gaggia Anima Prestige, at least in terms of design. It is more expensive, though. Still, out of all the automatic espresso machines I’ve tested so far, this is the only one that’s quieter than the Gaggia Anima Prestige. The Siemens EQ 6 700 is also a larger machine.
You can check the current price for the Siemens EQ 6 700 on Amazon.