After owning 3 steam espresso makers, I finally get to taste real espresso in my own home. We learned all about crema and espresso while researching our Gaggia purchase.
This is my first pump driven espresso maker so comparing it to others won’t be part of this commentary. Instead, this detailed commentary focuses on the end result of research about drinking espresso, and why the Gaggia Coffee Espresso Maker works so well for our purposes.
I was glad to find out that the portafilter was the size I wanted, 58 mm. That little detail hadn’t been researched at all, we just got lucky. We’re still shopping for a great tamper.
Since we sell coffee, including espresso roast, our commercial grinder can easily choke the Gaggia if set too fine. We have choked out the pull, on more than one occasion, using too fine a grind. The result is a shot that takes way too long, drips pathetically, crema that’s weak and an angry Gaggia. We won’t make a habit of that.
This commentary isn’t about grinders so, assuming you can grind your espresso with a decent burr grinder, or have it done for you, you’ll be ready to start drinking espresso that’s better than what you’re used to in any coffee shop. With the Gaggia Coffee you can finally expect to enjoy a very high quality, consistently brewed, tasty and satisfying cup of espresso. I’m sure you won’t turn back to drip beverages, or steam machines.
Once you’re past the grind phase of espresso brewing you’ll find the functions of the Gaggia Coffee espresso maker to be useful, fairly simple to grasp and learn, and fully functional.
After making shot after shot, it’s easy to see how a person can easily get used to this espresso maker, making a brew strength they like, and producing consistent results for guests and others who may “order” one of “your famous espresso drinks”.
Use a measuring spoon for your grounds, that way you can gauge your shots and be more consistent. Start with a little less grounds and work your way up.
The Gaggia Coffee’s buttons and steam valve may be a little rudimentary or commonplace for a few more sophisticated owners; however the end result is a high quality espresso drink with rich macchiato style crema.
Watching that coffee pour into the cup out of the portafilter in the early morning light with my head propped in my hands on the counter, I have a big smile on my face as the crema pours, builds and layers subtly into my demitasse cup, and it does that consistently.
Using a few different styles of cups seems to produce slightly different results when drinking espresso, especially when stirring in a little sugar. Using a demitasse cup, with a handle or not, allowed me to appreciate the crema that layered on top of the brew.
A white bowl shaped cup produced a really professional looking cup of espresso with crema that has staying power right to the last luscious sip. Shot glasses were a slightly more “to the point” style of drink, putting sugar in a shot glass seemed less likely, and it’s not the same stirring a shot glass with sugar in it.
If you like sugar with your espresso, maybe just enough to take the edge off, stirring isn’t optional. There was initially a concern that stirring a cup of espresso would make the crema go away, but not with this espresso maker.
Stir to your heart’s content, the crema still clings to the side of the cup as you drink the cup to the bottom. Crema coats the inside of the cup, and you may feel sad to see the inside bottom of your cup, but take solace in the fact that the next espresso will be as enjoyable as the last.
A little about cappuccino and latte drinks with the Gaggia Coffee espresso maker;
There’s something about organizing, brewing, assembling, presenting and drinking a cappuccino or latte that’s satisfying on so many levels, isn’t there?
Coffee aficionados like us revel in the process, taking each step with aplomb. So much so that those onlookers and innocent by-standers, will smile and comment about the work at hand, anticipating the coffee drink they’re about to experience from your genius. The Gaggia has produced this affect, and makes them say “please!”
It’s been said that the Gaggia can take anything you toss at it.
Whole milk, low-fat, warm, cold all produce results that still bring a smile to the lips of coffee drinkers who know.
Espresso roast, Vienna roast, Sumatra and more all produce a very nice latte or cappuccino time after time. Make sure to grind fine, and test the beans, you’ll be glad you did. Tamp consistently, take enough time, smell the coffee.
If you have grinder issues, have it ground by the folks you buy it from. Tell them what kind of espresso maker you have; they know how to grind it right. Blade grinders won’t produce the cut beans that are essential to well pulled shots, like the Gaggia Coffee is capable of producing. It’s worth it to pay attention to the grind when using a machine like this.
Foaming with the Gaggia Coffee’s steam valve and wand does pretty well. Similar results can be had with both the plastic tip and without, exercising a little wrist control, and using a digital thermometer. Dial thermometers will do just as well, we just happen to like digital.
Foaming and drinks made with this Gaggia are way thick enough to support large curls of chocolate on top that won’t sink to the bottom. Sweet foam will be the result of testing and fresh ingredients, with and without the plastic tip. Remember to thoroughly clean the metal wand with hot towels, steam it clean. Watch out; remember the steam wand is dry and HOT!
Rest assured that many espresso maker manufacturers do produce higher quality machines than the Gaggia Coffee espresso maker, but for home aficionados like us, we thoroughly enjoy our coffee drinks and are happy with the results of the Gaggia Coffee, by far.
After brewing a shot, it’s time to clean up. While making espresso, clean up has its own regimen, after making latte and cappuccino drinks, cleanup has its own unique aspects.
Examining two methods of cleaning the Gaggia Coffee espresso machine;
Espresso is quick and consistent, clean up is too. Using a knock box is definitely the way to go, try to get one, it makes things easier.
After pulling a shot of espresso, double or single, clean up is pretty simple. Pull your shot like you normally would and move it aside. Allow a minute for the group head to drain just a bit because there will be some water in the filter basket after the shot is timed and finished.
Of course we all know that a 25 second shot should yield about 2-1/2 ounces of espresso. Remove your cup from under the portafilter or you’ll end up with more than that in your cup while you’re steaming or fussing with things.
Cleaning the portafilter and basket is simple when it’s still hot, but if you allow it to cool it’s more of a job. Allow the Gaggia to settle a minute after pulling your shot and slowly remove the portafilter.
You may notice that the portafilter has stopped dripping but don’t count on it being totally dry, use a towel under it in case some water remains in the basket. You’ll notice the head remains very hot for quite some time after pulling a shot, careful, although not dangerous it can be uncomfortable making contact with the hot portafilter.
Using a towel to escort the portafilter to the knock box, you’ll find it a simple task to knock out your puck, almost totally evacuating the spent grounds. Careful though, the filter basket will remain very hot.
Some Gaggia owners use a method of cleaning called the “Portafilter Dance”. With the empty portafilter in the machine, turn on your pump momentarily while moving the head lightly back and forth; this pushes grinds out of the upper area. You’ll likely want to acquire an angled coffee machine cleaning brush for the surfaces above the portafilter. Afterward, rinsing the head under warm water does well to clean it; you can now go for the next shot or complete the cleaning by turning your machine off.
In case you make cappuccino or latte drinks more often, you’ll find that the heat from steaming the drinks will cause milk to gather on the metal steam wand. That’s normal, although its way easier to clean right after you steam, than if you choose to wait to cleanup, because the milk will dry on the wand and tip. Because of the milk, and for cleanliness sake, perform the cleanup soon after you’re done steaming your drink, you’ll be glad you did. Soap isn’t recommended unless absolutely necessary, hot towels and steam should do just as well.
Cleaning the water reservoir;
How often you clean the reservoir depends upon how often you use your machine, more use means more maintenance. You’d likely do well to remove the reservoir weekly and rinse with lots of hot, clean running tap water and clean towel. Soap won’t be necessary and might change the taste of your espresso. Only use chemicals sparingly and if you do, remember to rinse at least 4 times.
You’ll need a de-liming chemical to periodically clean your machine. Follow directions for de-liming your machine, do it at regular intervals such as once a month, or more if you use the machine a lot. In case you want to sell your machine to your friend, they might appreciate a cleaning log you keep with notes about what you do and how often. That way everyone knows who did what. Remember; RINSE, RINSE, RINSE, RINSE, that’s 4 rinses.
A note about water;
Regular tap water isn’t going to improve your end result, but filtering that same water will. Always filter your tap water; bottled water isn’t necessary if you have a decent filter. If you have well water, that’s a whole different ball game and isn’t addressed here. You will need more filtration than those with “city water supply”. The least we can do is use the simplest of “pour-over” style filters and change the cartridge twice a month for best results. If that’s a problem, get yourself an in-line filter for just your coffee water and a separate supply valve. Clean filtered water means great tasting coffee.
Let me know if I’ve missed anything, who knows; I might add it here. Otherwise leave a comment or two and remember to be nice.
The reason this review goes into such detail is because the research I did trying to buy my first pump espresso maker had to come from many sources and took literally weeks of time.
Most of that research is included here, in one spot. I wish I had this review to read before I got my first espresso machine. Now you have it. Coffee anyone?
Each coffee drinker, their water supply, coffee grind and many other aspects may mean that some parts of this review don't necessarily apply to your situation. That's okay, let it be known that this is not advice nor should you consider this an instruction or the only way to make coffee.
It's your coffee, water and beans, let's all drink responsibly shall we?