Gaggia Brera Review
Our Senior Coffee Writer Rob Garner takes a look at this professional machine in our Gaggia Brera review… find out if it’s a step too far for your kitchen right here…
If there is one thing that we could be accused of banging on about a bit too much on this site, it is probably stating the importance of fresh coffee.
I would understand if you were to think that, but I think you are missing the point – fresh coffee is that important and that should be emphasised at every opportunity!
With this in mind, a bean to cup coffee machine is one of our favourite type of coffee machine. The ability to grind your fresh coffee beans directly before the coffee-making process begins guarantees that you always have the freshest possible coffee in your drink, and you really can taste the difference.
There is always a buzz around the place when we get to review a new machine with an integrated grinder, and that was certainly the case when we got to try the Gaggia Brera.
Based in Italy, the company Gaggia was formed in 1947 and was responsible for some of the earliest domestic coffee machines. Today the company is owned by Dutch giant Philips, but the brand lives on and continues to be at the forefront of innovation and creativity in the coffee industry, without forgetting its illustrious history.
Today we are going to be looking at their bean-to-cup machine, the Gaggia Brera. We will first delve into its features and specifications before putting it through its paces, and also look at who it would best suit, then finally deliver our verdict.
Let’s get straight into it!
Gaggia Brera Specs & Features
Let’s take a quick look at what the Gaggia Brera looks like before we explore into what it can do. I think it is a charmingly unique looking machine. Most coffee makers try to conform to the same sort of look, but the Brera really stands out.
Critics would say that it just looks like a big silver box, but I think that would be harsh. There is a subtle sophistication to it – the curved edges, the subtle detail of the logo and the understated brushed silver finish. The chrome of the milk wand, the dispenser, and the control dial really stand out against that backdrop.
In terms of size, it measures 45 x 26 x 32 cm, which is pretty standard for a machine with this level of functionality, which we will get onto in a second. It weighs 8.5kg, a reassuring amount of heft, which you would have probably expected from its appearance.
Now on to the really fun bits – what it can do. We’ll start with the grinder. They have used a ceramic grinder in the making of this machine – the theory being that a metal one has the chance of getting too hot and then burning the coffee beans as it works. With a ceramic one, the coffee tastes exactly how it should.
You can adjust the size of the grind as well, from coarse to fine, which is great as different beans and different drinks may require different sized coffee grounds.
There are 15 bars of pressure, which is more than enough to brew the coffee perfectly. This ensures that you always get great tasting coffee, and the flavour from the grounds is extracted perfectly.
There are just four buttons on the control panel: the one on the top left is for espresso, whereas the one below is for a long coffee – press these buttons once for one cup, and twice for two cups.
There is an on/off button on the top right and the button below that controls the strength and the size of the grind.
The steam wand is controlled with the dial at the centre of the machine – turn towards the water for hot water, and towards the steam for steam. You can use the water to top up your espressos to make an americano, or just as water for tea (thus the teacup icon).
One little handy tip is that you can slide off the cover of the wand to use it as a more traditional steam wand – we will go over this in more detail later, but basically, it is probably more difficult to use without the cover, but it gives you greater scope if you practice enough. It is worth considering if you want to make latte art.
When it comes to cleaning, there is an automatic cleaning function which will take care of the day-to-day cleaning, and you can remove the brewing unit from inside the machine if you want to give it a thorough clean from time to time.
Finally, they do emphasise the energy-efficient nature of this machine. There is an automatic switch off if the machine hasn’t been used in an hour, and in the energy-efficient mode, it will use less than 1kW an hour, which is excellent compared to most of the competition.
All of this is good and well, but how does it perform? Let’s take a look.
What It’s Like To Use The Gaggia Brera
There is one word that jumps out at me when I think about what it is like to use the Gaggia Brera – smooth.
In order to articulate what I mean, it is probably best to walk you through the process of making a drink – let’s go for a cappuccino. That way you can get a sense of what you can expect from your day-to-day use of this machine, should you decide to purchase it.
Before you begin, you need to make sure there is enough water in the tank. This is located on the back of the machine. It has a 1.2-litre capacity, which is enough water for around 30 espressos, so you won’t need to refill it very often, but we would recommend against using water that has been sat there for too long – fresh is best!
We should point out here that you can fit a water filter into the tank, which is a good idea if you live in a hard water area. The water can calcify in the machine, which can affect the taste.
Next, you will need to check to see if there are enough coffee beans in the grinder compartment – just lift the lid off the top of the machine and pour more in if you are running low. You can easily see through the lid to check. You can adjust the grind size at this stage to make the resulting coffee grounds more coarse or finer – you will generally want a more fine grind for an espresso and a more coarse grind for a longer coffee, but it is fun to experiment and see if you can taste the difference.
Then you need to set the strength of your coffee by pressing the bottom right button until you have the required setting. There are three beans that can be illuminated – light up one bean for 7g of coffee, 2 beans for 9g and 3 beans for 11g – the strongest dose this machine offers.
A quick note here – if you press the button a fourth time, you will see a little spoon icon light up – this is to indicate that you can bypass the grinder stage and add your own ground coffee directly into the chamber, which is actually quite handy if you’re making one decaf coffee, and you don’t want to empty the grinder of all the beans.
From there you just need to press the single-shot button or the double-shot button and the machine will kick into life. If you select double shot, the machine will double your selected dose, so you will get 14g, 18g or 22g of coffee.
While your coffee is being prepared, you can make a start on preparing your milk. Pour milk into a jug and turn the wand out at an angle. You can then turn the dial in the middle of the machine to the steam setting, and you’ll see, hear and feel the steam rushing out.
The wand provided is a Panarello steam wand, which is brilliant for novices. You will get a great, thick foam which is perfect if you are making a cappuccino – you can then add that to your coffee and you have a brilliant drink.
If, though, you are after a latte or another drink that requires a more silky foam, then you may find it better to take the Panarello cover off the wand, revealing just the rubber nozzle. This will give you a bit more control over your milk in terms of density and temperature. It takes more skill, of course, but with a little bit of practice, you can get your milk exactly how you like it.
That’s all there is to making a coffee with this machine – the controls are incredibly simple to use and intuitive, and the milk can be incredibly straightforward as well.
In terms of cleaning, the removable brewing unit makes everything so simple – just take out the whole unit and give it a rinse under the tap. The drip tray slides out easily as well, so you can keep that nice and clean.
Why Should I Buy The Gaggia Brera?
While the Gaggia Brera is not the most expensive bean-to-cup coffee machine on the market, it still would be a significant investment, so it is important to consider whether this is the right machine for you. This Gaggia Brera review seeks to answer that question…
The thing that I think makes it most appealing is the fact that it is so easy to use. Load the water, load the coffee and press a button. Even the milk is pretty simple to prepare, and then hey-presto – you’ve got yourself a great tasting coffee.
That is hugely important too, of course. This machine does produce wonderful drinks; using fresh coffee and fresh milk will always help in that regard.
I think the flexibility that it gives you is a major selling point too. You can make stronger drinks, you can play around with the size of the grains and you can experiment with your milk frothing techniques – all at a touch of a button.
If you don’t fancy doing this though, you can just use the default settings and have a great coffee. Nothing complicated, just a great drink made quickly and simply.
The Gaggia Brera is a wonderful machine. We are always predisposed to like a bean-to-cup machine, but this one does the job really well.
The thing we love is how smooth it is to operate – it is as easy as you want it to be, but with the flexibility to take more control over the taste of your drink. So many machines are one thing or the other – it’s great to have both here.
This is perfect for households where different people are going to be making coffee – some people will just want to press a button and have their drink, while others will want to take their time and create some fantastic latte art – everyone will be satisfied with the Gaggia Brera.