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Gaggia Carezza - Skip Thomsen's Review
Posted: November 26, 2004, 10:13pm
review rating: 4.5
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Gaggia Carezza Espresso Machine
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More About This Product
Arrow The Gaggia Carezza has 27 Reviews
Arrow The Gaggia Carezza has been rated 7.51 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 2, 2003.
Arrow Gaggia Carezza reviews have been viewed 170,366 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Dr. Robert Case 8.89
Greg Kaan 8.17
Brent L 8.00
Matthew Hall 8.00
Robert Seidlitz 8.00

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 7.8
Manufacturer: Gaggia Quality: 8
Average Price: $229.00 Usability: 8
Price Paid: $210.00 Cost vs. Value 10
Where Bought: Aabree Aesthetics 5
Owned for: 6 months Overall 8
Writer's Expertise: I live coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned:
Bottom Line: Bottom line:  The Carezza is one heck of a bargain.
Positive Product Points

Performance and price!  Compared to anything else I’ve been able to find on the market, the Carezza is a steal.  It makes consistent wonderful espressos and seems to get better the more I use it.

Negative Product Points

Looks kinda cheapo, what with all that plastic, but since I know what’s inside and the price didn’t make my bride (who hates coffee) go ballistic, it’s fine. This unit is really noisy.  The noise is mostly all the plastic parts vibrating against each other.  Placing one hand on the top of the machine dampens much of the noise, but most of the time I just ignore it.  The only other negative for me is the same one everyone else has commented on: the drip tray.  One of these days I’m going to take it out into my shop and install a well in the bottom of it.  There’s plenty of room in the base; too bad Gaggia didn’t take care of that in the design.  After all the bad press about it, if they produce a second-generation edition, they’ll no doubt take care of it. One other tiny detail: the “tamper” that comes with the machine is a joke. More on that below.

Detailed Commentary

I don’t know if espresso machines require a break-in time, but this one sure made it seem so. The machine required some experimentation to get the balance of grind and brew-time just right, but that is pretty much normal for any espresso machine.  I kept going for a “10” at 25 seconds, and now I’ve got my grinder (Solis Maestro Plus) set at one notch finer than “ESP,” and a 25-second pull comes out nearly perfect every time. Or is it perfect nearly every time . . .

I had trouble at first with the brew coming through too fast (read: weak) no matter how fine the grind or firm the tamp.  Then I finally figured out that it was impossible to get a good tamp with the cheesy little plastic “tamper” supplied with the machine, and I was getting some channeling.  I finally did figure out how to do it, by firmly pressing all the way around the edges to minimize channeling, but it was difficult to get a consistent tamp. Then when I got a real tamper, that was suddenly no longer an issue and the pulls also got even more consistent with each shot.  The real tamper fits the basket perfectly and puts even pressure all around, including the edges. The tamper is one of those nice, heavy stainless ones with the rosewood handle.

When the machine was about six months old, one of the plastic brackets that hold the pump in place broke off, raising the noise level of the machine from really loud to frightening.  That was an easy fix, but it does point out one reason to avoid so much plastic.  

I’ve read much about the peculiar placement of the steam knob, but for me, it falls nicely to hand once you get used to it.  The only reason I could complain about it is if I needed to have the machine under a kitchen top-cabinet, in which case the knob would be inaccessible.  Actually, the machine won’t even fit under most standard-height upper cabinets because of the placement of the knob.

The frothing attachment is another common area of discontent with other reviewers, and I almost like it. Maybe it is because of my usage of the machine, which is no doubt somewhat unique.  My morning ritual is to prepare a cap for myself and a chai latte for my Lovely Bride.  So after I pull my double-shot, I steam enough milk for both drinks.  I use the frothing attachment in a 500 ml stainless pitcher and in about 90 seconds I have a beautiful milk/froth for both drinks.  I pour the pitcher about one-quarter full and when the milk gets to 170 degrees, the rich, thick froth is up to the rim of the pitcher. The froth is very fine and works well for both the cap and the latte. Of course, most of the milk goes into the latte.

When I make just the cap for myself, I still use the same pitcher but with only a tiny bit of milk.  It works great every time.  After every frothing operation, I pull off the extension tube (or whatever its proper name might be), rinse it under the faucet, and discharge a bit of steam through the remaining frothing attachment into a glass of water.  I’ve never had a problem with it.

While on the subject of morning ritual, this actually begins with a trip (stumble?) to the kitchen to turn on the machine before attending to the other necessities of the morning, like feeding the cats and getting the paper.  That gives the machine its necessary 6 minutes to heat up to best performance temp. Then I grind my beans while pulling a blank shot and I’m ready to make espresso.

I have used the machine to make half a dozen caps and/or lattes in a row and once you get the routine down it works fine.  I have never noticed any big deal about not having a three-way valve.  Yes, there’s a little “poof,” but with a bit of finesse, one can remove the pf without decorating the kitchen.  One trick I use for quick turnaround is this: when I start my pull, I press both the “espresso” and the “steam” buttons at the same time.  This does not seem to affect the temp of the finished espresso, but it definitely gets the steam light on more quickly after making the pull. Of course, when I’m making two or three drinks at once, I do the shots first and then froth the milk for all of them afterwards.

Buying Experience

Aabree was great.  I live in Hawaii, so anything that gets here on time and in one piece is a winner.

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Posted: November 26, 2004, 10:13pm
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