Top positive review
28 people found this helpful
illy coffee fans, this is the single-serve machine for you!
on December 9, 2011
UPDATED MAY 31, 2012; LAST PARAGRAPH.
In the past six years I've owned two other brands of single-serve espresso makers. And I still love my Nespresso machine the best. I don't drink a lot of regular coffee, but I do enjoy my shots of espresso in the morning, and I particularly appreciate the ease and simplicity of these single-serve machines. So, when offered an opportunity to review this Gaggia machine*, I enthusiastically agreed, then waited impatiently for it to arrive. Neither of my other two machines have a milk frothier. This one does, so I was especially looking forward to that new experience, too.
There are a lot of espresso machines available. How do you choose? Consider how much convenience you need in a machine. If you decide on the convenience of a single-serve machine, then you better do a lot of research on the flavors of the espresso offered in the proprietary capsules/discs/pods of each brand. Consider the footprint/size, color and style of machine that will suit your kitchen. When you've got those questions answered, then it's time to compare prices.
Personally, at our house, the workers in the family wake up and are out the door one short hour later. We are away from home for the next twelve hours. So, our philosophy is this: Connoisseurs may debate that taking shortcuts by using a single-serve espresso maker cannot produce a "perfect" cup of espresso or, latte or cappuccino, but for the people in our family, these single-serve machines allow us a little luxury while expending a minimum amount of time. We're willing to sacrifice perfection for the opportunity of a few sips of wonderful coffee. What have we learned? We feel that flavor is NOT diminished by using a single-serve machine.
This is what I learned when we experimented with this Gaggia machine: We not only get beautiful espresso, but the milk frothier with this machine produces terrific foam--with tiny, tiny bubbles--very easily and in a minimum amount of time. We love the Pannarello Wand! I don't know how I've lived without a milk frothier all my life....We are having a great time and a lot of fun with this frothier--in the morning and after dinner, too. (We've been experimenting with steamed milk and froth and some of our chocolate, mocha, coffee and French vanilla liqueurs. Very nice!)
This machine only uses illy brand capsules--called iperEspresso capsules. I don't have any problem with a machine that only uses proprietary capsules; my other two machines are the same way. The problem I did have with the illy brand capsules is that I couldn't find them anywhere in the Houston, Texas area.* I contacted customer service at the company that distributes this machine in the US, and they were surprised to hear that I couldn't find capsules in my area. I was told that they are easy to find in many other areas of the country. So, if you do NOT want to take advantage of the company's mail order delivery service immediately (as in PRIOR to receiving your machine), check out capsule availability before you decide to buy this machine.
Another important point: Capsules are available in only four different types of espresso--two strengths, one lungo and one decaf. (One of my other machines has 16 different blends of beans.) If you are already an illy fan, you already know this: The flavor, aroma and crema is top notch: Not bitter, a little citrusy, robust-- all-around nice and consistent. The intensity of the dark roast is not as high as available in some other brands. And I found that I did not appreciate the medium roast when milk was added.
A few other observations: 1.) The water heats up quickly: Equal with the other machines I have. 2.) Clean-up is not difficult. 3.) Customer service is friendly and helpful, but not available on weekends or holidays--but hey, that's okay, since during the week you get to talk to a real person from the first hello! And, it sounds as if she's always smiling! 4.) This machine is black and blocky--no beautiful design here. There are other companies out there that produce white and other colors. And there are some beautifully designed machines, too. And some have smaller footprints if you're short on counter space. 5.) The platform for your cup is adjustable, but the height allowance is still limiting. There are machines that allow for a taller cup. (Sometimes I like to froth my milk in a cup, then add a shot of espresso to that same cup. I know, unconventional, but it works for me.)
Here is a short list of what you need to buy and/or have on hand before your machine arrives: Capsules--crazy as it sounds, not a single espresso capsule arrives with the machine; a frothing pitcher, preferably stainless steel and 20 ounce size is recommended; a variety of cup sizes--take a look at the Bodum double-walled cups, they are great.
*I was offered this machine through the Amazon Vine Program. Because I had such difficulty in locating capsules, the Vine Program removed the machine from my list of items to be reviewed. I was told I was not required to review this product, but they did not tell me I couldn't review it.
UPDATE: We still love our Nespresso machine the best. The frothier on the Gaggia machine has stopped producing the great foam that it used to create and now we get a lot more larger bubbles. I've faithfully cleaned the frothier per the instructions, but it's still not working right. I continue to look for the pods at the grocery stores, but--still--no one is stocking them. I do see they are available by mail from Amazon.