great styling, 'retro' look, solid construction, low maintenance - but don't waste your money on the current model!
Positive Product Points
Mine is an older model machine, much more solidly constructed, and visually very appealing. With a new commercial pump it makes quality espresso, and is ready to use within a minute of turning the machine on! It also looks fantastic, and feels great.
Using freshly ground coffee each time I can produce a cofee which is definetly comparable to that of a commercial machine.
Why cant we have reasonably priced 'retro' styled, high-performance and solidly constructed domestic machines like this any more. Hello? is anybody listening out there?
The machine looks and feels like a 'proper' coffee machine. The older model is also quite heavy for its size, with excellent componentry inside and out. And the commercial portafilter not only looks good, but the weight of it feels good in your hand.
With regular cleanliness and maintenance the Baby Gaggia is a good little unit which keeps on going strong.
Negative Product Points
Steam pressure is not what it could be, and you have to backwash, flush the machine between each extraction, to keep things running smoothly
I love the styling of this machine (it resembles the one pictured at the top of the page), and the fact that it is pretty much ready to use straight away, and even though its not the most expensive domestic product on the market, it does, in the right hands, continue to make quality coffee time and time again.
I find that I have to run the steam for about 20sec befor foaming the milk, in order to get the pressure up. Once the 'hissing' sound stops, and it stops spitting water, i know that it is ready to go. Not much pressure in the steam wand though, so you wouldn't want to be making more than two coffees at a time. Plenty of extraction, though, especially since I installed a commercial pump.
Overall, its the styling, solid construction, and hands-on interaction with the machine that i love. It looks great, works great, and gets plenty of use.
At the end of the day, though, I would say that it is mostly sentimental attachment (as well as good coffee) which attracts me to the machine.
I would not purchase a current model, as they are too flimsy and 'tinny' looking. Spend you money instead on a Rancilio Ms Silvia, or a Gaggia Classic, which represent value for money and performance in this price range, otherwise, you'll need to spend a lot more to get a better performer, say a Bezzera single group, or, the icon machine: ECM Giotto
Follow up: Have recently purchased a Rancillio Rocky doserless grinder and am now making excellent espresso coffee at home, better than 9 out of 10 coffee shops (and I should know as I own one). I don’t bother with the single portafilter (or ‘group handle’ as they are known in Australia) at all, preferring instead to use only the double, and to cut my extractions short.
To get around the drip tray problem I place a sponge dishcloth over the drip tray when making coffee. This absorbs excess moisture and collects grind, when I flush the machine out between each extraction. It also makes the machine easier to clean, as you just rinse the cloth out, give the machine a quick wipe down, and rinse out the drip tray, which has far less grime in it as a result.
Also, not sure if it’s a feature of the older machines or not, but I find that turning on the hot water on for about half a second, prior to actually steaming the milk, gets the heat exchanger going nicely, and has significantly reduced my start-up time, as well as increasing my steam capacity.
I have no problems at all producing an excellent microfoam, although it takes a bit longer than on a more expensive machine.
Its all in the technique
I got my machine 2nd hand from a market place for next-to-nix from the guy who owned it previously, it was obviious that he was passionate about coffee by the care he'd taken in mainatining the machine, and, with minimal service and hands-on experience, it works great (limitation above not withstanding)
Three Month Followup
I have now sadly parted with this machine after many fine coffees and many years of ownership. But the news is not all bad, as I am now using my Bezzera BZ99 instead, and have given the Baby Gaggia to a mate of mine, who reliably informs me that, after the standard annual service, the machine continues to make great coffee!
Which is quite a good testimony, I feel, for an espresso machine which is now in the vicinity of 10 yrs old!
One Year Followup
Well... my mate is still using the machine and its still going great guns after 10yrs plus usage! And I recently gave him a Sunbeam EM480 grinder to pair with it - and he reports excellent results from the combination!
This is by no means a 'top of the range' machine, but I believe that it still represents value for money - and is an excellent introduction to the world of espresso.