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Gaggia Baby - All - Jeremy N's Review
Posted: July 24, 2008, 12:54pm
review rating: 0.0
feedback: (1) comments | read | write
Gaggia Baby Espresso Models
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Arrow The Gaggia Baby - All has 27 Reviews
Arrow The Gaggia Baby - All has been rated 7.17 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Gaggia Baby - All reviews have been viewed 187,234 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Nadav Caine 9.33
Patrick Sloane 9.20
Andrew King 8.50
Brad Franks 8.00
Jesse Robinson 7.11

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.8
Product Reviewed: Baby Class (Stainless)
Manufacturer: Gaggia Quality: 8
Average Price: Varies Usability: 9
Price Paid: $500.00 Cost vs. Value 8
Where Bought: Creativecookware.com Aesthetics 10
Owned for: 1 week Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: Just starting Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned:
Bottom Line: Produced consistently very good shots with just a little practice, right method & good grind -- maybe not the machine for those on a quest for a godshot, but for those who value consistent quality, ease-of-use and quick cleanup this is for you.
Positive Product Points

- Easy to dial-in (with a good grinder); once dialed-in, hard to screw up
- Looks great, sturdy stainless steel construction
- Large, easy-to-clean drip tray
- Very fast heat up & reheating after pulling a shot
- Good steam power for 1 or 2 drinks, well-positioned knob
- Very easy to fill, reservoir large, but not so large water goes stale
- Heavy, 58mm PF and 3-way valve

Negative Product Points

- Steam wand attachment makes overly thick, hard bubbles
- Espresso is smooth and pleasant, but not god shot quality (at least not yet)
- Requires filtered water and de-scaling
- Top is not hot enough to warm cups

Detailed Commentary

So heres the thing: Im a Mac guy Ill pay more for something that will not frustrate me and looks good, even if it means trading off a bit of power/customizability at a similar price point. So its not surprising that after seriously looking at things like the Solis SL 70 / 90, the Saeco Aroma and yes, even the Silvia, I decided to go for Gaggia. That I happened to luck into a great deal on an espresso & grinder (Isomac Pro) combo made the decision easier.

First a bit about that decision (skip to the next paragraph if you just want to know about the machine): In the process of buying my first machine, I realized that everything under $1000 (probably even $2K, lol) is going to involve trade-offs, so the key was knowing what I wanted out of it, allowing me to decide which trade-offs to make. For me, it came down to ease of use & consistency (sorry Silvia), looks (sorry Solis) and commercial-sized PF that was at least capable of making more flavourful espresso (sorry Saeco) I like lattes, for sure, but also like a straight shot. I realize a lot of people at this price point would buy a Silvia, but heres the thing: I want to make my espresso & lattes as quickly as possible in the morning no elaborate temperature surfing or watching a PID (especially before Ive had my coffee!), no sink shots especially since Im making for both myself and my spouse (who wants to learn to use the machine). Also, our kitchen isnt huge. And, Im messy enough so the supposed dribbling problems with lower machines ruled those out too.

So on to the machine itself: Out of the box, it consistently made Starbucks shots they required sugar, but they were drinkable, especially when you overtamped. But they were 15ish second shots (with my grinder at the lowest setting). So it was off to the internet, where I learned from a few Gaggia users that the machines are really grind sensitive, requiring a finer grind than a lot of entry-level machines (not surprising really, if you consider the trend in Italy cafes, as I understand it, is a finer grind with a lighter tamp). So, after modifying my Isomac grinder (how-to in my grinder review), and dialing it down 12 stops below the factory preset, I was up to the 25 second shot, and into the land of espresso that could be sipped sans sugar not as flavourful as the best I had in Italy, but certainly surpassing most places in town (I eventually went down 14 stops on the grinder with a lighter tamp its not quite flour but a little finer than castor sugar. NOTE: If you are modifying grinder, make sure to ensure blades dont touch and run a short burst (away from your face, without beans, to extra sure)). So far, what's worked best here is filling the portafilter from doserless while stirring with shishkabob stick (I don't bother with the yogurt funnel), then leveling, and then a 20-30 lb NSEW (and centre) tamp.

After the grinder mods, the shots were still not 100 percent consistent some were great, some bitter and I suspected the culprit was temperature. Sure enough, I got consistent results once I did a cooling flush of about 4 seconds before brewing (length varies machine to machine, Ive read, and truthfully, Im still experimenting, but 4-6 seconds had given me consistently smooth shots). Lately, I've been doing a flush, then waiting a bit, then pouring -- the results have been the best yet...maybe it has something to do with allowing the parts to cool just a tiny bit after they've been flushed with slightly overtemp water? Who knows...it's working, again and again, and I'll just experiment with length of flush / wait times till I get the most flavour (it's nice being only a week in and already worrying about fine-tuning flavour, not quality of crema or bitterness). BTW, to dial it in, I just followed the really helpful general guidelines on home-barista -- must read for any noobs.

To be clear, Im no where near godshots, but far beyond Starbucks (I know, that should be a given) and equal to the milk drinks Ive tasted most anywhere, and getting closer to the extra caramelly espresso of the best Italian cafes in Toronto (not Italy!) Oh, and I should mention, this has all been done with the cat toy tamper (Ive yet to buy a proper tamper b/c I cant decide between a flat and curved one).

The last of the positives: this machine definitely got spousal approval sitting on the counter it was not too guy (i.e. industrial); I love how easy it is to fill reservoir, and dont mind the smaller (1.5 L) size because it keeps the water fresh; I was worried about the drip tray, but find its fantastic (you can either lift the grate and wipe, or pull the whole thing out to dump in the sink; with only two buttons (plus on/off) it is super easy to use; steam power is more than sufficient for my needs and knob is well positioned; no prob heating it up quick (or even cheating it by running through the wand/Pf if Im in a real rush).

The Negatives:
Im only a week in, but Im worried if Ill ever get close to god shot territory but I supposed that will take practice, experimentation with beans and a bit of old-fashioned luck (will let you know in the 3-month followup).

What youve read about the steam wand is true its really not that great. Although I need to practice steaming more, the bubbles are a currently a bit hard and big. The short-term solution has been using a small steamer jug and just dispatching with that stupid nozzle altogether. Long-term, probably a new wand is in order. No problem warming the milk (hit the steam button, wait 30 seconds, and youre good), but just not the microfoam of my dreams.

The other negative, at least for those with lesser grinders, is that this machine most definitely requires a fine grind. But, as is often repeated here, buy a good grinder first and put the remainder to the machine (I really see the wisdom of that nowif I cheaped out on the grinder, Id have made a great machine all but useless).

For some, the position of the on-off switch at the back is a negativeIm not as worried about that: Id rather have the on-off switch right near the place where the power actually comes in, rather than wired up to the front one less thing that can go wrong.

The boiler seems to run a little bit hot, but its consistently hot and easily remedied by a cooling shot first (which has the added benefit of ensuring the internals are nice and hot).

I'm quite happy with the machine, and glad I spent the bit extra on Stainless steel -- it may not make it last any longer (then again it may), but it will certainly allow me to look at it every morning and not be fed up with "cheap" plastic. Also, I think the switches on the Class seem more sturdy than lower models of the Baby.

Buying Experience

Creativecookware.com -- Ordered at 3 pm, at the house before 10 am the next day -- and that's shipping over 500 km! Free cups & Jug thrown in, which is a nice touch. I was a bit skeptical at first because their website is pretty basic, and it went straight to voicemail when I called (high volume of calls the AM said). But when I emailed with my questions about the warranty (which everyone should ask when they buy online -- don't want to be stuck with the shipping if something goes wrong) Joe from CC emailed back in minutes. Good deal on the package with the grinder too!

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Posted: July 24, 2008, 12:54pm
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