After drooling over this machine in the shop, and after a few months of background research on it, I finally decided to purchase the Coffee Gaggia. The first thing I noticed is that the machine is heavy. In fact, it is so heavy, whilst carrying it home, the handle on the box broke off, and I was forced to carry it with 2 hands underneath, which was rather awkward.
Once home, and the machine was out of the box and filled with water, I switched it on and waited for it to warm up. This did not take long, around 10 minutes at a guess, but I did not make a shot of espresso just yet. I decided to give it around 25 minutes to get the brass pipes warm enough to operate adequately. In the meantime, I discarded the silly rubber crema enhancer and began grinding the previous day's roasted beans in the Gaggia MDF, which complements the machine perfectly.
After the machine had been given enough time to heat up, I primed it as suggested by the manual's instructions. My new machine was now ready to use!
So, filling the filter basket with a suitable amount of freshly roasted and ground coffee, I tamped it down with the cheap plastic tamper which you get with it. It is marginally too small for the filter baskets (you get 2 included), and this caused coffee grinds to spill over the sides of the filter holder as I withdrew the tamper. Not too much of a problem, as I simply wiped the grinds away carefully, but I felt let down by this below par piece of equipment. which is more important than many people think.
Machine loaded, I turned on the pump, and within a few seconds, creamy golden liquid began to ooze out of the filter holder and into my shot glass. It was indeed a wonderful sight to see the whole recepticle turn a golden brown and then slowly fade to black. My first shot from this machine produced an above average layer of crema, which did not start to fade away until I began drinking the contents.
Since then, I have had nothing but success with the machine. Along with my Hearthware Precision roaster and the Gaggia MDF grinder, I can consistantly produce quality shots of espresso, and this is without any added gimicks, such as the crema enhancer. I wanted to develop my technique properly - pure and from the ground up, and I believe I am half-way there.
One other piece of kit that is worth spending money on is the Gaggia universal base unit. It comes with a built-in knock box for the quick removal of the pucks from the filter basket, and being in the format of a drawer, it slides conveniently out of sight, and the whole unit makes the set up look a little more professional and a whole lot neater.
The only real complaint I do have with the Coffee Gaggia is the fact that the steaming wand dribbles - a lot. Granted, by moving it over the drip tray, the spurts of water cause no problems, but often I forget to do this, and end up with puddles on my worktop. This is very annoying sometimes, and I feel somewhat let down by Gaggia for not properly testing the equipment before shipping, however, I will soon get used to it I suppose, and the excellent frothy milk that it produces more than makes up for this minor upset.
One final thing worth mentioning, is the fact that extra tools are needed in order to remove the shower head for cleaning. A 5mm allen key and a cross-head screwdriver are necessary for this task, and these are not included with the package.
Overall, though, the Coffee Gaggia is an outstanding piece of equipment, and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a first time purchase or upgrade from a steam toy. The results will put a big frothy smile on your face.