Updated: March 13th, 2021
It is obvious that Gaggia takes serious pride in manufacturing quality domestic coffee machines that deliver delicious espresso. For me, the Brera was a no-brainer. I had actually had my eye on one of these for about a year and a half before I went out and made the grab. Even at the high price tag, I haven’t looked back (9 months going strong now).
You are looking at the right place if the brew quality is what you are after
First and always foremost, what is the brew quality like? Simpler machines do not compare to high quality bean to cup devices in terms of espresso taste and aroma. The Brera grinds your beans and immediately drops and tamps them into the brew group, runs a unique ‘pre-infusion’ of hot water just to get the puck evenly soaked, then finishes the brew separately. If you go for a double serving, it actually processes the first puck, then regrinds and brews from a second puck instead of pushing water through the same grounds twice. Wonderfully, the thermoblock boiler only takes about a minute to reach brewing temperature then only another minute to dispense crema topped espresso. If you want to make a milky drink out of it, the unit only takes another 15 seconds or so to reach steam temperature.
This machine features a ‘Pannarello’ steam wand that is quite easy to use. Some complain that you cannot get the best microfoam from these sorts of wands but I would argue that it is all about how you use it. Not to say an upgrade would be the worst thing but this kind of frother is designed to be very easy to us which is my preference, though I am rather experienced; I don’t always have time to quibble over the little details anyway. More important to me, is the ability to make a top-notch espresso for my drink. The Brera is very adjustable and has a very high quality grinder.
The simple knobs let you program both your coffee strength (basically just how much coffee is used) and size. The factory settings allow you to use between 7 to 10.5 grams of ground beans but you can adjust that if study the manual (as you always should!). The display system and adjustment mechanisms are very simple and straightforward to use and you can even adjust the height of the dispenser to suit authentic Brera follows that pattern. Gaggia decided to design this model with a ceramic grinder as opposed to a metal one and it really helps to preserve the true character of your beans. You can adjust the coarseness of the grind with a knob built into the grinder and they provided 5 different settings. The only aspect of the brewing process you forfeit control over with this type of machine is how the ground beans are tamped but I am quite satisfied with the range of options already provided for adjusting your cup. I am convinced that the internals of this machine contribute significantly to its brew quality and so make sure to take great care to keep everything clean, inside and out.
The Gaggia can self-clean itself
Luckily for me, Gaggia designs their machines to diagnose themselves and make maintenance easier. For the Brera, they made the brew group removable so that it could easily be rinsed via the tap and the inside of the machine wiped out quickly. They also provided instructions for keeping it oiled. The machine has different indicators on the display for when it needs to run the self clean or a full descaling. It also rinses itself upon startup and shutdown which causes more drip tray emptying but protects your investment’s lifespan. There are also several different water filters that will fit into the water tank further improving both coffee quality and the device’s longevity.
Speaking of the water tank, I am so glad they decided to place it on the front. This is so much more convenient and actually doesn’t even have to be removed all the way if you have a pitcher to fill it with. On the other side, there is a container to catch the used coffee pucks. Both are a little on the small side but that directly relates to the model’s compact design so I’m not complaining, simply noting.
Maybe thinking to redeem themselves for all the extra water use, Gaggia went with a main power switch as well as a standby mode that becomes active after an hour without use. Ones must appreciate the small things.
Is it worth the money?
Finally, my only real gripe: for the price, I would like a little more quality in the actual build of the appliance. Yes, the front is stainless steel but the rest of the casing is plastic and so does not have the robust feel I was expecting. Remaining with the tactile sense, the knobs and drawers do not have solid positive stops so I am not always sure whether they are correctly in position.
The only other thing I can find to complain about is that using the bypass doser is a pain. I hardly ever have any need for it but when I do, I find it a bit fiddly. The hole is small so it is easy to make a mess and then if you overfill the compartment by just a little bit, it might throw out the whole lot. I suppose this is a little frustrating but I really don’t see why anyone would get much use out of such a compartment on a bean to cup machine anyway.
Overall, the Gaggia does a great job
Gaggia sells based on their engineering designs as well as their machines’ ability to make fabulous coffee. This bean to cup model is no different and I recommend it to any and everyone based on the brew quality and ease of use. It is very compact for such an appliance and very quick. The Brera does a good job of limiting human error while also providing a substantial level of customization. It has a very high quality grinder as well as a unique ‘pre brewing’ cycle that both contribute to wonderful cup after wonderful cup. All around, it is a versatile and reliable machine.