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Hands-on Gear Review
Gaggia Brera Review
Price: $450 List | $449.00 at Amazon
Pros: Convenient, good espresso, low lifetime cost
Cons: Laborious descaling process
Bottom line: A great choice for those looking for a good long term value
The Gaggia Brera provides good taste quality and all of the convenience of a super-automatic machine at a list price of only $450. This great value earned it our Best Buy Award. It beat out more inexpensive capsule style machines for this award because it allows you to use any coffee beans you choose, which is inevitably cheaper that buying those aluminum capsules. The Brera also provides a steam wand that is able to make a nice, frothy cappuccino. If you don't mind espresso that is good rather than great, want something that can make a quick and convenient cappuccino, and don't want to break the bank, the Brera is a great choice. While it is more expensive and just a tad less convenient than Nespresso capsule models like the Evoluo and the Inissia, it will save you money in the long run.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
In our taste testing the Brera earned a score of 7 out of 10, making it above average in a metric with score from 3 to 9. It consistently produced espresso with nice taste, but was just a bit more watery and less full bodied than what we would call a perfect shot. Our testers were impressed but not surprised that the Brera's espresso came from a home machine. The included steam wand also let us make a nice cappuccino, but couldn't get the microfoam to make a perfect latte. If you're not super fussy about the taste of your espresso this level of quality will be more than satisfying. It will give the warm sips of caffeine you need to kickstart your morning, and hold the cold at bay on a chilly commute. In our experience the Brera's taste quality is the best you're going to get from a machine that does all the hard work for you. If you really want a cafe quality drink at home you're going to have to graduate to a semi-automatic machine, like the Breville Barista Express, and learn to grind, tamp, and steam yourself.
Ease of Use
The Brera fared reasonably well in our ease of use testing, picking up a 7 in a metric that had scored from 4 to 9.
Out of the box setup was quite easy as the included instructions were clear and had the right balance of graphics and text to make everything feel intuitive. With the help of its clear quick start guide it only took us only 15 pain free minutes to get the machine up and running.
Convenient Espresso, Somewhat Convenient Cappuccino
In terms of making a shot of espresso it could hardly be easier. Just make sure there are coffee beans in the hopper, push a couple buttons, and within a few minutes you have some nice espresso. Initial setup was also easy. The 40oz water tank was likewise easy to fill. Additionally, frothing milk with its steam wand meant it took us just over 4 minutes to make a cappuccino. This isn't a huge deal, but it just can't match the convenience of machines like the Gaggia Anima Prestige and the De'Longhi Nespresso Lattissima Pro that have built-in automatic milk frothers.
The Brera lost some points because all of its buttons are labeled with small pictures, so it takes a minute to learn what each one actually does. However, once you're used to teh machine this isn't an issue at all.
Ease of Cleaning
Here again the Brera earned the respectable score of 7 out of 10 in a metric that saw scores ranging from 4 to 9.
Short Term Cleaning
Daily cleaning of the Brera is a breeze. The spent coffee pucks tend to be quite dry and solidified, so you can just dump them in the trash and generally don't even have to wipe off the bin they are deposited in. The steam wand needs a simple wipe with a rag after each use. The only slightly laborious task is a more thorough cleaning of the steam wand, which you'll probably want to do once or twice a week if you're using it everyday. The wand dismantles into a few pieces so you can clean out every bit, but this must be done by hand, as none of the pieces are dishwasher safe.
The descaling process is what really kept the Brera from earning a top score in this metric. First off descaling requires a solution that does not come included with the machine. Secondly it is a fairly hands on process that requires complete attention for a full 40 minutes. Sure, you'll only have to do this every few months, but it's a chore you'll probably dread.
The Brera earned a 6 out of 10 for its milk prepping capabilities. This was the lowest score received by models that include a built in milk prepping device. However, it is not a poor score as all models with built in frothers scored a 6 or 7 in this metric apart from the Breville Barista Express whose cafe quality milk prepping abilities earned it a 9. The Brera's steam wand can't quite get the creamy texture we'd want in steamed milk, but the resulting lattes are still fairly good. When frothing the foam produced is a bit airy for our liking, but we still wouldn't refuse the resulting cappuccino. If you really want a Starbucks quality latte you'll have to upgrade to the Breville, but the Brera does a respectable job.
With a list Price of $450 The Gaggia Brera is significantly more expensive than some of the cheaper capsule machines. However, it makes a shot of espresso for just about $0.38 as opposed to $0.70+ for the capsule machines, making it less expensive in the long run. This, combined with the Brera's solid performance in our taste and ease of use testing make it a great value.
The Brera is a quality, super-automatic machine that provides a great lifetime value and good tasting espresso. If you want something convenient that won't break the bank, the Brera is a great choice.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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