Consistently great espresso, quick heatup times. Simple to prepare a good shot, and froth milk for a good latte.
Negative Product Points
ugly! cheap plastic casing. steam could be better, but that would conflict with the quick heatup times, and i rarely use it so thats okay.
This is, in my opinion, the best machine for the money. What you suffer to cut costs (cheap plastic casing) you make up for more than double by the great espresso, heat up times, high quality build, ease of use, ease of cleaning, etc. I really see no need to spend any money on a 3 way solenoid machine because pressure is relieved very quickly with this machine. My routine is to brew the shot, pour it into hot water for an americano, clean up the grinds left by my grinder, and take the portafilter and knock it out. no pressure, no sneeze.
i got this machine used on ebay in "excellent condition" fortunately, thanks to the coffeegeek forums, i knew to check that and unscrewed the showerhead. there was gunk built up a mile high. the turbofrother wand was NEVER removed to be cleaned, so there was about 2 years buildup of burnt milk on the wand, that was easily cleaned with a paper towel.
How to make a latte with the gaggia:
Let machine heat up for 20-30 minutes, making sure to activate the pump for a few seconds every ten or so minutes to refill boiler.
Remove portafilter, grind, tamp.
Before you put the PF back in, activate the pump shortly to refill the boiler.
Pull the shot. When shot is done, turn on the steam switch.
wait 20-30 seconds, purge steam wand, and start steaming. Froth from about 40 degrees F to about 65 degrees F if you want arty foam, up to about 80 if you want thick foam. steam to about 150 degrees.
Turn off machine, clean steam wand, drink latte, then remove puck.
uneventful ebay purchase
Three Month Followup
I'm now using this machine with an Innova grinder. This machine can consistently knock out some of the best espresso I've had. The temperature once you start brewing is stable, as I can tell by red crema and flecking.
I also have a method to get high quality steam that heats up the milk quickly. The machine's grown on me, and I recommend it to anyone that wants a good machine cheap.
One Year Followup - The machine died just before our one year anniversary. I'm replacing it with an Expobar Pulser.