211 of 213 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2004
This machine is nothing short of a steal for someone on a budget interested in a true espresso machine. The innards of this Gaggia are identical to every one of their models from this one up until the Gaggia Baby (which adds a solenoid pressure relief valve) which retails for around $450. The portafilter is the same commercial grade 58mm hunk of brass, the aluminum boiler is the same as the Gaggia boiler found in their far more expensive machines. There is simply no comparison between this model and any non-Italian made competitor, such as Krups.
That said, one ought to realize that they cannot produce true crema-laden espresso without a grinder capable of producing an even, fine espresso grind, coupled with freshly roasted beans. This machine ought to be paired with the Gaggia MDF grinder, a Rancilio Rocky, or a Mazzer Mini. For those on a budget, you might be able to get away with a Solis Maestro Plus or Capresso Infinity or Vaneli's Maximo, but even these are barely up to the challenge. The Maestro and Infinity will be like driving a car in first gear: you'll get espresso, but not much flexibility in improving your shots. The Maximo is better. Avoid other budget grinders (anything lower than a Gaggia MDF). Gagggia's budget burr grinder (not the MDF), for example, is not up to the task.
Be aware that the price seems to fluctuate on Amazon, but it can typically be bought for just under $200 at the more famous espresso on-line places, and sometimes here at Amazon.
86 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2005
For yourself or for a good friend, this machine is the perfect purchase! A little more complicated than the machine I once had (the Krups Espresso Bravo), as well as being much better made, this Espresso machine makes espresso and lattes SO good, it's worth the brief confusion. Using the Perfect Crema device was a little difficult at first. I guess the pinhole wasn't fully punched through, but I used a small sewing needle to create a new hole, and now I have wonderful espresso! As a fellow coffee addict warned, this rubber disc should not have a large hole, as it needs to force the espresso through a much smaller opening, to create the perfect crema. And it does!
It gets a little hot, so don't make more than 3 lattes in a row. Let it cool and then start the next one. Also, the clearance of the steaming wand is very short, so make sure you have a proper steaming pitcher and that it is filled only 1/2 full with milk/soymilk, otherwise it spills.
Don't let the water run through the filter without a cup underneath when priming the unit - the drip tray is just for that: drips only!
And, the tamper is a bit flimsy, so tamp gently, or just go buy a nice one.
With these tips in mind, you will have a great time making espresso based drinks. Just be sure to use GOOD espresso and don't skimp - Illy and Lavazza are the best and most recommended coffees for a quality espresso machine like this one.
I'm thoroughly addicted to the Gaggia Carezza. I haven't gone one day without using it since I bought it. Plus, the price is excellent for this machine. Well, well invested in!!
47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2007
I had read the early reviews on several espresso aficionado sites. Thos early reviews are good, but several of the reviewrs have updated their opinions and downgraded their ratings after owning the machine for 6 months or more. I feel the same way.
The internal build of the machine has some good specifications at this price range. When you start using it you can make very decent espresso.
But the problems start after a while. Most are related to design flaws which are still present even thought the internals have been around for three years. The flaws and problems are:
1) incredible amount of leaking. After four months or so my machine started leaking...it got worse and worse. I thought it was my machine only, but checking the forums I saw this was common. I broke down the machine, replaced several (expensive) gaskets and the problem came back in a month. You need a 2' by 1.5' tray under this machine on your counter.
2) height of steam wand and porta-filter. This is an insane design flaw. They are so low as to insure that it is impossible to use the foam wand without tilting back the machine. No standard milk foaming pitcher, or even the smallest ones, fit. The height of the brewing head is also so low that no standard cup fits. I am not talking about mugs, cups won't fit. You have to use a small espresso demitasse, and then transfer. result: cold espresso and more spills.
3) broken portafilter handles. My portafilter handle broke after six months. I was suprised and blamed myself unitl I realized this is extremely common. One sees it on the fourms all the time, and in fact the sole parts distributer in the US lists the handle alone because of this known flaw. (the head is NOT all brass as claimed as the bolt connecting the head to the handle is cheap metal, corrodes, expands and breaks the plastic around it!)
The monopoly on parts replacement means this is a WHOPPER cost to repair. Indeed I ordered the plastic replacement for the handle (nearly $30 with shipping) and waited two months to find out it was back ordered due to demand! They told me my only choice was to replace the entire entire brewyead set (handle and portafilter) for over $55 shipped -- all because of a commonly breaking piece of plastic that would cost about $1 to make! Gaggi is taking its customers for a ride on this. I don't expect them to admit a clearly known flaw but the least they could do is not gouge price the needed part! (they are charging double the price for bread head set and even though the brew head measures a standard width you have to use theirs due to non standard twist lock.)
I replaced the whole brew head and the same part broke again after 8 months. It is made even cheaper than the original. I spent $55 shippled for the part and the flaw is still there! On top of that the plastic part alone, clearly listed because of the common breakage, is still "backordered."
Conclusion: This machine seems like a great deal due to the fact that it uses similar internals as good Gaggia machines in the $300 to $400 range. But the savings is quite short lived in that the leaking is copious and you will need to replace parts at non standard prices (I checked similar gasket and other parts prices for other makers and they are way lower). You will spend a lot of money and time dealing with the flaws.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2005
First off let me start by saying they don't call me Mr. Research for nothing. I check re-check and then double check everything I do over and over and over till I know that I have found the best of the best that I can get for the money. So when I bought this machine I was sure that I was going to get what I was looking for. A good quality machine that made high quality espresso, with crema like every one tells me I should have...
From first view I was very happy with the unit, I purchased the "dark gray" model which is exactly what I thought it would be, BLACK. I have no idea whose idea of dark gray this is, but in any case.... Sure the machine was plastic on the outside, what isn't now days? I'm no coffee snob, so I don't expect my Mr. Coffee machine to be stainless steal, why should I expect that of my espresso machine? The most important thing to me is that the unit looks and feels like it will last. This machine has some weight behind it, and the Portafilter is a nice heavy brass unit like I see when I go to the restaurants for a good Cappuccino. The only thing that bothered me about the Portafilter was that they made this nice heavy brass thing with a little plastic piece snapped into the bottom. I haven't had any trouble with it yet, and I don't know if it's replaceable if I do in the future, but when I "tamp" the coffee into the Portafilter I often wonder if I may brake it off pushing it against the counter. Gaggia says you should get about 30lbs of tamping on the unit. (I used a bathroom scale to test my tamping pressure before doing any real tamping..Like I said, I'm Mr. Research). I would have liked it better if the dispensing holes were made from the same molded brass as the rest of the Portafilter is. I would recommend that you spend the extra 30 bucks and purchase a nice conical shaped metal tamper that fits perfectly (58mm) to do your tamping. You'll get a much better, even and accurate pressure then when using the cheap plastic one they give you with the machine.
I have read another review that talked about the handle being an odd size and shape, he said he had a big hand and that may be why, well I think that maybe he was right. I have a smaller (normal size) hand and the handle to this machine felt just fine in it when connecting it to the machine and using it to knock out the coffee from the filter basket. I suppose if I were going to spend more time with it, I would want something I could hold onto for hours, but since the above is all you do with the thing, why would this even be a concern for anyone???
I have read other reviews where people talk about how loud the pump is, well to them I say, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? First off, the pump is only on for about 20 or 30 seconds when you are actually extracting (cool word for dispensing) the espresso into your cup. My machine isn't that loud at all. You want to hear a loud pump, get a "food saver" vacuum sealer, you'll never complain about a loud espresso machine pump again. So for that one I say, GET OVER IT.
It took me about 3 cups of espresso before I got the idea on how to make a good drink. You know, like the ones you see in all the restaurants and instructional videos (if you can find those like I did). Speaking of which, Gaggia has a CD that comes with the machine you can play in your computer. It didn't play on the DVD player so don't bother with that... This disk was a VERY GOOD source of information on what everything is, how it works, what a good cup of espresso should look like, what to do if it doesn't and how to clean up your mess when you're all done. You almost don't have to read the direction book that comes with it if you just watch this video. I wish everything had video instructions like this thing did. My mom would finally be able to set the clock on the VCR.
Now for the milk frothing. The only real complaint that I have with this machine is; the steam stem is a little bit too low on the machine. Unless you use a "smaller" frothing pitcher (like 10 or 15oz type) then you may have a little trouble getting the pitcher out from under the "wand". It's kind of funny actually, they show you in the instructional how to froth the milk, then at the end of the video when the guys done he never shows you how he gets that full pitcher out... Obviously if you don't try to froth enough milk for more then about 2 lattes at a time you should have no trouble getting the pitcher out from underneath the wand. Another problem with the low wand is that when you push the wand back over the drip tray it doesn't go completely over the tray... It tends to hit the drip tray before stowing away into the underneath side next to the "group head" (thing the Portafilter connects to).
The positive side of all this is, this machine has PLENTY of heat and steam to make the milk both HOT and frothy. I've read a lot of people complain about how their machines don't heat up very well and the espresso or milk is too cold. This is NOT going to be a problem with this machine from what I have seen. If you're not careful you may even get that milk too hot for the taste. I don't know about you, but I don't need my espresso to boil as it pours into the glass, a nice steam is all I need to see. Learning to froth is quite easy, and this machine makes it as simple as it can get. Just do what the instructional video shows you to, and in no time you'll be a regular Barista.
Some people have complained about the extra dripping from steam wands and Portafilter assemblies after brewing and steaming are done. For this issue I say, If you don't expect that when using something that has water passing through coffee grinds is going to drip after it sits for a second, or after steaming milk, there wont be a little bit of milk left in the wand to drip out, then you're dreaming. Everything drips a little. For the most part this machine is very good at cutting off any excess dripping when you turn pumps, switches and knobs off that you need to during the espresso making process.
There is no cup warmer on this unit. This hasn't been a problem for me yet. I have found that if I really require my cup to be warmed first then I dispense some hot water into the cup, let it sit for 10 seconds, then pour it out before extracting my espresso.
Finally, all in all I was very happy with the product that I purchased and I feel as if my research paid off. The last single shot of espresso that I made came out like heaven and the milk frothing was perfect with almost zero practice. If you're like me, and just want to get a good machine with a nice professional fell that makes a good cup of espresso for a sweet price.. then this machine is hands down the best for the price.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2004
I have received two of these already, and both have had the same piece broken. If you hear plastic rattling around inside your machine, inspect it closely!
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2004
I love latte's, cafe con leche, cafe au lait, cappuciono, you name it, but it all starts with that perfect 'pull' of espresso. I read previous reviews of this machine and decided to give it a try after one person seemed about as picky with their coffee drinks as I am. I am very, very glad I did.
At first, it was a learning curve to get used to the machine for espresso and for steamed milk. Different switches control the heater elements for each. In addition, good espresso is really a combination of things: the coffee, its particular grind, the temperature of the machine, the length of time for the espresso process, and the cleanliness of the equipment. There's a yardstick called 'the crema', which is the caramel colored foam that rings the espresso cup when it's made, plus a bit left on top. It's the sign of truly well-made espresso and, my friends, this machine can make as good an espresso as I have had at commerical coffee bars if you only make sure you pay attention to your ingredients and technique also. To summarize, always make sure you have quality coffee roasted espresso/italian/french style, and ground to the espresso-grind specification. Starbucks does this for me and the coffee is perfect! Then, practice packing the coffee into the portafilter until the espresso you make has the 'crema', since packing too tightly or too loosely will effect this. Finally, practice with the steam nozzle to get the right amount of steamed milk and foam, and you're ready. My only complaint is that there is no automatic shutoff for the espresso while it's brewing: you have to watch it and turn the switch off at the appropriate moment. Otherwise, I am very satisfied with this machine.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Last December, I bought this Gaggia 35008 Carezza Espresso Machine after reading a bit about various home espresso makers and realizing I could never afford one of the sleek all metal models rugged enough to withstand the rigors of deep space travel.
I figured if this machine lasted for nine months, then I would report back, and so far the news remains positive. (I had a bad experience with a cheaper brand that rhymes with hack and drecker.) With a minimum of fuss and effort, we managed to make decent espresso pretty quickly. But as our skills improved, we have been able to finesse very good espresso from this machine: espresso that packs plenty of caffeine and causes people from all parts of the house to levitate into the kitchen.
The various parts and accessories that come with this machine requires that one invest into some sort of enclosure for corralling these lest you not be able to power up the cool sounding "turbo frother" (wouldn't that be a good name for a band) of smack down the finely ground bean with the tamper (proof that an inverted spoon is not cool-sounding enough for this job).
I must confess that the first Gaggia I purchased was DOA, but Amazon had a new one in my hands within a couple of days and this one has not failed.
I must also confess that the so called "soft lines and casing in ABS plastic" are neither distinguishing features nor attractive features. "Soft lines," well, I don't think so. It looks like a cross between a seashell and one of Professor Tolkien's ominous two towers. Why silver? Nothing else in our kitchen is cursed with this particularly ugly fake silvery color, so the Gaggia does not exactly blend in on the counter.
But we like it regardless and as the cold weather approaches will summon the Gaggia to froth and steam regularly.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2005
This is a great machine and very easy to use once you get use to it...the cd provided was very helpful. I am a hardcore cappuccino drinker (appreciate the foam as much as the crema) and this machine does both very well.
A few tips I have learned since acquiring the machine include:
*Illy Fine Grind Caffe Macinato Expresso works very well with this machine if you do not have a grinder (found mine at William Sonoma.)
*I set my timer for 20 seconds and turn off the brewer after that amount of time; works good for two shots.
*Since I drink cappuccinos I did not have an expresso cup and did not know when to turn off machine before I discovered the timer trick. I went to Starbucks and they sell shot glasses that are perfect and look really good with the machine.
*I could not get my "perfect crema device" to fit so I called importika.com (the support group for Gaggia) and they said not to use the device. In fact, they said Gaggia is no longer going to provide with this machine.
*I was very impressed with Importika....talked to a real person right away who was very knowledgable.
I have had the machine for about 3 weeks and today I made the ultimate cappuccino....perfect expresso and froth. I feel like the "froth queen" and obviously very proud.....but I don't think I will quit my day job just yet.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2004
Wow -- ordered this baby when my Krups Gusto bailed on me and a coworker recommended the brand and distributor (I did not order direct from Amazon, but rather from a company based in Oregon that offered free shipping and no sales tax...). I have NOT looked back since -- except to bemoan my lack of measuring forethought; the Carezza was too tall to fit under my 1936-era kitchen cabinets. Its size, especially compared to the aforementioned Krups, has been the only hurdle. Other than that, I am completely impressed and satisfied with the sturdy construction (marine brass innards, people!), power (more bars of pressure than machines over twice the price!), and overall quality (rich, crema-topped heaven) of this Italian Stallion. It even made the move overseas in style -- pulled it out of the crate, started it up, and after 2 months in transit/storage, it performed like a dream. I am a Gaggia convert.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2005
I ordered my gaggia in dec of 2004, but only just received it three weeks ago. Bar none, it makes THE best espresso I have tasted in my life (far, far, far beyond the muddy tasting stuff that comes out of a $500 starbucks machine!). I highly recommend using Illy Espresso (a sweeter, well-rounded espresso, with a slightly bittersweet chocolate flavor). I have definitely forgone the coffee house trips. Combined with Ghiradelli white chocolate, I have the perfect white mocha every morning, followed by a single shot espresso for a pick-me-up in the early afternoon. An outstanding value. It takes a couple of tries to get great crema, but after my third try, I had a better cup of espresso than most $1,000 machines I have tried at Williams Sonoma. Get a Gaggia, you won't be sorry.