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  1. #1
    Member
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Abu Dhabi, UAE
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    30

    Gaggia Brera Review

    I will not attempt to re-write Gaggia's marketing stuff, but should weigh in on my experience with this machine. I brew about 9 double-shots a day to fill my .75 liter thermos in the morning. It runs quieter than most low-end SA's though not as quiet as some mid-level machines I have used; though taking off the bean hopper cover during grinding turns up the volume impressively. That rubbery cover earns its keep! I have had it in service for a year, and it is running nicely.

    The dose/quantity and grind fineness settings give me the ability to get that cocoa flavor I prefer from dark Sumatra beans. The water reservoir and dreg drawer are small, requiring attention two or three times during my brewing cycle, but their small size ensures I am not leaving dregs around to spoil or letting water get stale if I don't brew much on the weekend or even through a two-week vacation. The water and dreg drawers are simple to pull straight from the front panel of the machine, making the most of counter space. Pulling the side panel open to access the brew unit is simple and rarely happens spontaneously when cleaning the counter next to the machine. Cleaning the catch basin/tray and brew unit is simple and common to all other Gaggia/Saeco machines, usually just consisting of a good rinse in hot water from the tap. The catch basin requires a brush to get all the corners (are they all necessary) clean. The brew unit compartment has an awkward back corner that collects grounds and needs a bit of extra care and a good brush - I use a modified retired soft toothbrush, bent near the brush end over a flame to 90 degrees. I pull out the brew unit and rinse it and sweep the compartment with a brush to get the old powder out of there about monthly.

    I do not use the frother often - only for occasional cocoa drinks, so I will not elaborate on that except to say it performs and cleans up nicely as stated in the manual.

    Idiosyncrasy: I don't think this is common to all, but I use extra-dark Sumatra beans and Robustas from India that are shiny with oil. This means the grinder is worked extra hard for pulling down feedstock as well as clearing the output chute. I often have to push the beans in the shallow hopper to get them to flow into the grinder. On the other end, there is an anti-backflow flap across the horizontal output feed of the grinder, where it drops vertical into the brew unit, just below the external feed aperture for pre-ground coffee. This flap seems to be missing in action on my machine. It is not clear whether it was always missing or if it may have broken loose and I somehow missed it in cleaning, but it is not there though it is clearly pictured on the machine drawings from Gaggia. This would probably cause no issue if I used normal dry brown beans, but the oil in my beans can cause grounds to cake and stop up in the output chute, and will make the otherwise-robust grinder bind and stop. I mitigate this by every other day or so taking a bottle brush about five or six good strokes in the vertical chute through the pre-ground coffee aperture until I can get a replacement grinder body with the flap intact. Note that this process dusts my machine area with coffee grounds unless I use a dodger tube I created by cutting off both ends of a water bottle, the cap-end sized to fit the Brera's feed aperture. Pressing this tube in place, and applying the bottle brush through the bottle allows me to keep my grounds feeding back into the machine while I brush out the chute.

    My Brera performs very well in this capacity for a low/mid-range domestic super-automatic. I advocate it as an entry-level SA.
    Last edited by OldSalt; 03-10-2014 at 02:26 AM.

  2. #2
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    11
    As a super automatic espresso machine at a price of around $600, how do you like its inner grinder? Does it works as well as an extra grinder?

  3. #3
    Member
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Abu Dhabi, UAE
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    30
    I find the grinder within this and other Gaggia/Saeco branded machines more than up to the task of an acceptable grind. As far as I can tell, it is the same mechanism I had inside a small La Pavoni conical bur grinder I used to use with my Europiccola machine. That was a bargain at a couple hundred bucks... I would not buy a machine on which the fineness and quantity could not be adjusted to suit my taste - I like my dark-roasted oily beans ground relatively fine (black pepper coarseness) though not quite Turkish (think talcum powder), and a lot of coffee per shot for a rich, cocoa flavor. Because I like oily beans, a shallow pitch hopper is not optimal, and that is a drawback of this Brera though I still find it tolerable because it has a nifty vibratory agitator to keep the hopper flowing that usually works.

    Onboard grinders can be a bit noisier, especially in the lower-end Gaggias, than a standalone grinder, but that is usually a product of whether packing and vibration damping are incorporated into the machine and the physical structure of the machine - more big un-supported plastic panels equates to more noise.

    Being a working engineer raising eight kids on a single income, there is no way I would spend even second-market money for a reliable conical bur standalone grinder for home use - and I use fairly hard, so my bar is relatively high. I have not done the business case analysis for a coffee bar, but just on a maintenance engineering bang-for-the-buck viewpoint, while I admire the fast and quiet grinders, I save a lot of hard-earned scratch as well as counter space for my lovely and tolerant bride by using the built-in grinder.

 

 

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