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117 of 123 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get Your Expresso Fix at Home
I had a Breville Cafe Roma, a good machine, but one that I would regard as entry level. Although the Breville had no trouble making espressos with a nice layer of crema, the (recently upgraded) steaming wand was still a weak spot. Also, there's no hot water dispenser on that model.

After extensive research, I decided to purchase the Gaggia Espresso Color...
Published on November 10, 2008 by morjoie

versus
59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Engineering failure, but works fine with a cheap fix
We own this machine for 2 years now, and, just like other reviewers noted, it was fast to develop a leak. Gaggia customer support convinced me that it is not their fault, as the gaskets wear out over time. They made me pay excessive fees for the gasket and shipping, and, to my surprise, it did not even fix the problem. However, here is a cheap 25 cent fix... The problem,...
Published on October 15, 2010 by Someone


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117 of 123 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get Your Expresso Fix at Home, November 10, 2008
By 
morjoie (Annapolis, MD USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gaggia 102534 Espresso-Color Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine, Red (Kitchen)
I had a Breville Cafe Roma, a good machine, but one that I would regard as entry level. Although the Breville had no trouble making espressos with a nice layer of crema, the (recently upgraded) steaming wand was still a weak spot. Also, there's no hot water dispenser on that model.

After extensive research, I decided to purchase the Gaggia Espresso Color. Although no reviews of this model were available, I really liked the price, the color, the overall design, and the favorable reviews I had seen for other machines in the Gaggia line. This machine is compact, stylish, and includes elements found on higher end machines like a commercial portafilter, a stainless steel boiler, and a Pannarello attachment for the steaming wand. Also, I kept coming across the same brand names over and over again with a sterling reputation in the espresso world, and Gaggia is one of those names.

I am very happy with my Gaggia. I really feel that it is a cut above my old Breville. The insides of the machine (the boiler, the heating elements, the valves) are top notch. It is a very efficient machine which does a great job and is worth every penny.

There is a learning curve with this machine because the commercial portafilter does not contain a pressure mechanism like the filters in thermablock systems. The requisite pressure for properly extracted espresso is very dependent on the fineness and consistency of the grind and the pressure used to tamp the coffee. This machine is all about the ritual of making espresso, meaning you need to pay attention to details like prepping and preheating the machine, and minding the coffee grind and the tamp. The reward, however, is an excellent espresso that trumps what is sold at the typical coffee shop. The Pannarello attachment to the steaming wand removes a lot of the guesswork for making steamed milk and foam. The foam I have had from this machine is dense and luscious and makes my latte feel like a mini-vacation;-). The espressos and lattes I have had from this machine far exceed what I had from the Breville. They're also a lot better than what I (used to) get from Starbucks. Thanks to my Gaggia, I can now get my espresso fix at home (and save beaucoup bucks at the same time)!
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59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Engineering failure, but works fine with a cheap fix, October 15, 2010
This review is from: Gaggia 102534 Espresso-Color Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine, Red (Kitchen)
We own this machine for 2 years now, and, just like other reviewers noted, it was fast to develop a leak. Gaggia customer support convinced me that it is not their fault, as the gaskets wear out over time. They made me pay excessive fees for the gasket and shipping, and, to my surprise, it did not even fix the problem. However, here is a cheap 25 cent fix... The problem, actually, is in the way they design their product - it has cheap plastic parts that support the portafilter on the group head, and they fail pretty fast. At the point of the failure it is not worth fixing it. However, you can take the basket (the metal part that you put your coffee beans into) out, and put a rubber band on it, so that it goes between the edge of the portafilter and the top of the basket. You might have to be careful when choosing the size of the rubber band, and make sure you choose something that is meant to withstand the heat and won't release any harmful materials into your drink (it has no contact with coffee, so it should not.... but still...) You could also look for some rubber ring. The rubber ring should go into the narrow groove on top of the basket as if it belongs there... This will lift the basket a little bit, and make it seal with the gasket. And here it goes - great espresso, with lots of crema. Of course, seeing the failures of the engineers to properly test the device before putting it on sale, I would not recommend anyone this product. However, if you have it already, this might extend the life of the useless coffee maker and remind you of the potential that this machine has...
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful machine for first-timers, May 26, 2010
By 
This review is from: Gaggia 102534 Espresso-Color Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine, Red (Kitchen)
I live in seattle, Wa, and I live for coffee. I received this Gaggia Espresso Color for christmas this last year (2009) and there is definitely a learning curve... especially going from your regular drip coffee to espresso :-) After reading reviews and tutorials on ''how to pull a perfect shot'' I went to the store, bought a few bags of coffee and got to work. Lets back up a few steps though.

The machine: the machine is beautiful. Its heavy and sturdy, its made with quality parts-- the portafilter is heavy like it should be-- definitely not a chincy machine. The only quaff I have is the red outer shell is plastic. I would have preferred a metal casing, but thats my only issue. The drip tray is removable and easy to clean. The steaming wand does a wonderful job with heating things relatively quickly-- not starbucks fast, but it does the job! The on/off button is in the back of the machine. A little weird, but not difficult to find. This machine is pretty quiet except for the actual brewing part-- luckily that takes less than a minute. you get multiple baskets for the portafilter-- double, single, and "pod". The seal does NOT leak-- the only time it ever has, was when I filled the portafilter with entirely too much coffee and screwed it on too tight. That was operator error, not a faulty machine. You also get a plastic scoop and a plastic tamp-- both work well for being plastic. I've never had issues! You will have to buy your own shot glasses, frothing pitcher, and frothing thermometer though.

Review: I noticed that the grind of the coffee needs to be pretty fine to make it pull a good shot-- I actually have a cheap Black and Decker blade grinder and it works just fine. You just have to really grind it fine! I also noticed that the roast needs to be Medium-- more Brown than Black. I was using a DARK roast and all my shots came out like Tea or Tar. When using Tulley's Medium Breakfast roast, I get a perfect shot-- lots of crema and all! tamping isnt too difficult. fill up the portafilter almost all the way with coffee, tamp it down till its packed pretty firmly (not using like ALL your weight, but make sure its solid.). This is an easy machine to use after you practice a while... i'm so so happy with it!

step by step:
1. make sure there is water in the machine.
2. turn on the machine with empty portafilter in place.
3. start grinding your coffee
4. wait for both green lights to be lit
5. place 2 shot glasses under portafilter, and push BREW button to fill with clean, hot water.
6. take portafilter out, and fill with coffee fine coffee grinds. Tamp. Replace portafilter onto machine to keep warm.
7. steam your milk-- fill the frothing pitcher halfway with milk, make sure the brew button is OFF! (it its on when you twist the brewing knob, hot water will come out instead of steam!) twist the steam knob with the wand IN the milk. Heat. when finished, put a towel over the end of the wand, twist the knob once more to get a short blast of steam to clear the lines.
8. get your cup or mug and put some flavorings in there if you want.
9. dump the hot water out of the shot glasses from earlier. replace them under the machine, and push "Brew" (make sure the steam knob is OFF!).
10. after shot is done brewing, dump it into mug with flavorings and mix! add your milk, and wahhlahh! Coffee!

make sure you clean your portafilter completely and turn off the machine :-)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Would Be Lost Without It, May 14, 2010
By 
jnet (Redmond, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gaggia 102534 Espresso-Color Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine, Red (Kitchen)
I live in Seattle, the home of Starbucks and home to the best espresso shops in the country. I don't drink Starbucks. I did for a while until I had a heavenly espresso at one of Seattle's best indie espresso shops. Now I know what real espresso tastes like (hint - it's not at Starbucks) and with this machine I have access to it everyday. The 1st one I bought was defective and I returned it. The 2nd one works like a charm and it never fails to churn out beautiful golden shots with a nice layer of dreamy crema. Even when I fail (wrong grind, lazy tamping) it still pulls a beautiful shot. A few tips:

#1 - Read the instructions and make sure you follow each step; this includes allowing the pump to fill with water and letting it reach the right temperature. After you do it a couple of times it'll be easy-peezy. If you skip steps you may get some less than desirable results

#2 - Good beans are a must! Fresh, oily beans are best and I prefer a dark roast. Store them in a dark dry pantry in something airtight. Not the freezer or the fridge! By the way, I tried a drier bean and this machine seems to work best with an oily bean.

#3 - Play around with the tamping and how full your basket should be. Tamping too firmly or filling the basket too much will not give you a good shot

#4 - Get a good grinder. Mine has 14 settings and was pretty cheap but depending on the bean you buy you may have to play around with the grind

With all of the amazing espresso bars here in Seattle, my boyfriend now prefers my espresso. I also can't stand to go places where I can't get a good shot with lovely crema.

Okay, you've been warned! This machine will spoil you!
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ugly Plastic Frustration Machine that Needs $300 Grinder, April 16, 2009
By 
Gaggia has a reputation for building relatively solid though finicky espresso makers. This machine is one of the new generation of Gaggias, which evidently are attempting to retreat from the reputation of solidity. This machine - the Espresso - has three iterations: the Pure (the simple black plastic cheap one), the Color (one color, red, costs more than the Pure evidently because of the color), and the Dose (which can be calibrated to deliver a fixed amount of liquid per button press, which costs even more. The units all have the same mechanicals - stainless steel boiler, roughly 3.5 ounces in size, a brass coated brewing group, and (note well) a non-pressurized 58mm "commercial" portafilter.

Right out of the box, the Espresso feels cheap and flimsy. No metal in sight, and the machine (in my case the Dose) looks like a big ugly hunk of plastic. The steam control knob feels like a child's toy and is so poorly mounted on its stem that it feels like you could twist it off. The water reservoir is a skimpy 42 ounces, and the alleged warming plate is ugly white plastic and produces markedly little warmth. This by far is the ugliest appliance in my kitchen and is also among the most expensive. Most importantly, the machine weighs only 10 pounds, which makes tightening the portafilter a chore as you have to pin the machine down to keep it from tipping over or just being shoved around the counter.

The mechanicals inside appear to be solid, and the portafilter is sturdy and serviceable. The boiler appears willing enough, though it is really tiny, and the steaming wand is excellent. The dosing function on my Dose model appears mainly useless, as my brewing results worked better with manual operation, and this pointless features adds about $50 to the price of the base model. Eyeball your cup's fluid level and save $50. No three way valve, but the filter puck is reasonably dry and easily emptied.

Now the real problem - if you plan to use your own beans for this, you need a $300 grinder from Gaggia. That's it, end of story. My $90 Capresso Infinity after much experimentation with tamping and grind proved incapable of making anything other than sludge due to the non-pressurized portafilter. I called the vendor up and their service staff informed me (in a sympathetic and polite manner) that the Infinity simply couldn't produce a consistent fine grind. Even the popular Baratzas (in the $100-$200 range) can't produce a "Gaggia grind" without being disassembled and modified by the user. (This is true - check the Baratza website FAQs). Upshot: nothing less than a $300 grinder can produce home ground coffee for this machine.

The vendor told me to try pre-ground espresso, and sure enough the commercially ground coffee I tried was much much better, but this means dealing with a short lifespan and keeping the coffee in an airtight container in the freezer. Even after trying that, I found that the pre-ground produced nice crema only when very fresh, like 1-2 days, and generally not after it came out of the freezer. If you don't mind running off to a local store for a small dose of commercially ground coffee every day, this is your machine. Or you can buy a grinder that costs as much or more than your Gaggia machine does.

Anyway, the disappointment for me here was not necessarily that the machine has such extensive "special needs". If it was elegant and solidly made, I would still give it a pass, though maybe not for me personally as buying $600 worth of home espresso equipment is beyond my budget. However, even if we factor out the demanding grind requirement, the flimsiness of this machine and its ugly plastic frame simply is unacceptable at the $250-$300 price point. A Saeco Aroma in the same price range is made of metal, has a bigger steel boiler, weighs 30% more, and uses a pressurized portafilter that works nicely with less finely ground coffee.

The Gaggia has a better reputation for durability, but the new Gaggia Espressos look like they are made on the same assembly lines as Saeco's (the companies are commonly held) with the main difference being the portafilters, so I have little reason to assume that this cheap plastic eyesore will prove any more durable than a comparable Saeco. The Aroma is much easier to use, does not need a grinder that costs as much as it does, IMO is more attractive, and is at the same price point. I don't know why anyone would buy one of these Gaggias. Maybe if you have an expensive grinder, and your old espresso machine died, and you need a cheap replacement? Whatever. I am underwhelmed.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars LEAKS, LEAKS AND MORE LEAKS, August 8, 2011
This review is from: Gaggia 102534 Espresso-Color Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine, Red (Kitchen)
The first six months were heaven...no more expensive latte's at Starbucks. Then the filter gasket began leaking. I had been cleaning the area after every use. Finally, I ordered another gasket. It was a difficult installation. It worked but the leaks began after one month. They suggest that you clean excess coffee grounds from the filter gasket and I did so religously. I have given up. Do not purchase this machine unless you want a leaker. The water cascades into your latte container along with the brewed coffee, diluting the product to the point you must discard.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A super espresso machine if you follow, January 10, 2010
By 
Loufd (Antananarivo, Madagascar) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gaggia 102534 Espresso-Color Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine, Red (Kitchen)
I'd agree with Kaden22 - This is a great machine but you have must preheat it according to the instructions, use a quality bean grinder, and get a correct tamp.

I too thought the machine had bad seals as water came pouring out every time I used it. It was very frustrating the first few times I tried it. Yet, I learned other espresso experts that you need a good conical burr grinder. So don't waste your time unless have a decent grinder. Equally important, you need to get the right temperature prior making a shot. If you follow the manufacturers lead, you will you let some water through the pump and then let it preheat for about 8-10 minutes. One more step is to run a tad more H2o to preheat through the filter- then you are ready to tamp your coffee into the filter. Now run the machine et voila- you have a great cup of espresso.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I loved my previous Gaggia Color, but the one i just bought to replace it was junk, April 27, 2013
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This review is from: Gaggia 102534 Espresso-Color Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine, Red (Kitchen)
I've had my Gaggia Color for about three years now. It finally died today, probably because I accidentally left it on all day long one too many times. Still, it's been a workhorse, cranking out at least two lattes every single day. At $4 per latte at the coffee shop, this baby pays for itself in a month!

Whatever small complaints I've had are things I have learned to compensate for, and still make a top-notch cuppa. One piece of advice: don't grind your coffee TOO fine. It can clog the filter, and the only way for all that pressure to release is for the basket to pop itself off and make an annoying mess.

I'm replacing mine with the identical model. I'm pretty happy that the price has come down $100 since I first bought mine.

EDIT: I got the replacement, and it didn't produce steam. The buttons on top were cheap and flimsy and apparently didn't work. The quality on this product was crap. Frankly, I was surprised, because my old one was so solid. I sent this back the next day.

After some more research I bought a Saeco Aroma. seattlecoffeegear.com had a refurbished model for $129. Honestly, this is twice as good as the Gaggia. While I could get a decent crema about 75% of the time with the Gaggia, the Saeco makes a PERFECT crema every time. Bigger reservoir, smaller footprint,faster heating, and cheaper if you look hard enough!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not happy at all!!!!!, November 6, 2011
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This review is from: Gaggia 102534 Espresso-Color Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine, Red (Kitchen)
The Gaggia 102534 Espresso-Color Semi Automatic Machine Red was purchased for my wifes Birthday/Christmas present. The 1st couple of months it worked ok. Then it
started acting up, we thought maybe we were doing something wrong. We were not!!!!!! Steam was coming out from under the basket, coffee keeps dripping after the expresso was finished. We called several times to speak with the repair dept. They did trouble shooting to no avail. Finally I got a RMA to send it in for repairs. The cost was $60.00 to ship it to the Gaggia service center, plus $29.00 to return it to us. It worked fine for a couple of months, same problem again. Again I called (3 or 4) times, they sent me a replacement thermostat for us to install (we really didn't have the proper tools to replace it), we only had to pay the $5.95 for shipping We followed all the instructions to make sure we were doing the right things and it still dosen't work properly!! The last time we called we were told we had purchased the bottom of the line!! Little did we know!! Guess we will not be making another Gaggia purchase, By the way it is still under WARRANTY, if we ship it back again, the shipping will have cost us almost as much as the machine if not more!!!! I requested a replacement and we told no, the is a new expresso machine not a used or refurbished one. Or so we were told. We would NOT reccommend the product to anyone.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great at first... then it sucked!, August 28, 2011
By 
C. Crowell "Jeep Mommy" (Japan (military family)) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Gaggia 102534 Espresso-Color Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine, Red (Kitchen)
My husband got me this machine as a gift. I was so excited. I love espresso, I love lattes and cappuccinos as well. However, about 2 months after using this machine on a daily basis, the machine started to leak. Then, just this morning, my gorgeous red machine decided it no longer wanted to steam milk. I left the machine to warm up a few minutes longer than normal and tried the steam wand again. No luck. I was told by customer service that I have to pay out of pocket to have it shipped to and from the manufacturer to be fixed. Since I am currently residing in Japan, the shipping costs are actually more than what this piece of crap machine is worth. Spend the extra few dollars and get a 5 star rated machine.
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