Turning in my Fourth Gaggia Achille for repairs, I was told that it would be at least two months to fix the leaks after 10 days of use. (I have a review of that experience). So the next day I thought about something I could buy for the interim.
I should have just waited and driven to a good coffee shop in the morning.
I read some reviews unfortunately on WLL. In retrospect, this site and others seem only to publish 4 and 5 star reviews on the products that they sell. Anyway, I read great reviews on the Gaggai Baby Twin and bought one at the local mall, Central Chitlom here in Bangkok.
I did buy this just waiting for my other Gaggia, but I though I would be using it for a possible backup in the future. So, in a sense, I planned to throw some money away, but I thought I would get limited satisfaction from it.
The Wrapper. The stainless steal exterior does look nice, but it is simply a thin sheet of brushed stainless held in place buy plastic tabs surround a largely plastic frame. Not really that bad. It keeps the costs down and is easy to clean. Even though it is just a facade this might be one of the best features of this unit. I also keeps the weight down. This machine is fairly light. It usually requires holding the unit down while locking in the portafilter. One must be careful how you stabilize this machine when locking in the portafilter as at least I am inclined to touch one of the function buttons and it always seems to be the function that I don't want at the moment. Touching the button immediately again cancels the mode which is good. Another feature of the exterior is the cup warmer. It always great to warm up a few cups on top of your machine, or in my case just one or two. The Baby twin has a fair amount of heat at approximately 35°c (100°f) in an air conditioned kitchen measured after an hour. There is space for two cappuccino cups or 5 Macchiato cups. Really only shot cups or glasses should be placed on warmer. This suggests you are not going to used the "Steam" function. If you are going to steam, then you are going to be using the steam / water knob on top of the machine. If you are over 5 feet tall then your hands will large enough to knock cups off the warmer to use the steam knob. This knob really should have been located on the side of the machine.
The Steamer. I have been able to get a decent swirl going in a pitcher with about 190ml (6.47oz) of milk. The trouble is, it is not consistent. Sometime the steam is very weak, sometimes is only weak. It is hard to tell when. The only way to get a decent swirl going is to remove the "Turbo Frother" and froth with the single rubber tip of the "Turbo Frother" mount. Use a small pitcher to be able to reach the surface of the milk. This creates smaller bubbles (surfing the surface to 60°c) than the soap suds than the "Turbo Frother" wand that is similar to a Pannarello wand. But still with the lack of power use a small amount of cold milk to end up with something slightly more pleasing than the Green Mermaid provides. Speaking of the wand, it loosens up quite a bit after a weeks use. After that, the wand is held in place only by gravity or the lack of a stiff breeze. So as to say that it does not stay in one place. You have to learn to guide with the edge of the pitcher. I read about the installing better wands from other machines, but I don't I will waste much more effort learning how to make this machine do the job of a machine twice or four times the price. When you first turn on the "Steam" function, nothing but water comes out. If you do nothing, you will not get steam. If you let 20 to 40ml of water stream out then turn the knob off and back on, you will here the pump kick on and you will be in business as soon as it is through spitting out another 20ml of water. Actually it is hard to tell when that stops. It generally spits water all the time. Just sometimes more steam than others. It is hard to tell when you are going to start the milk "Turbo Frothing" (LOL) process, as sometime this thing is just spiting water and steam.
The Brew. The brew temperature on my serial number is low. 83°c at the start of a double shot and 78°c at the end. I measured this with my frothing thermometer stuck in the bottom of the portafilter flow divider and in the cup though the measurements in the cup did not show the drop in temperature as much... logically. Temperatures at this low temperature just make a bad shot of espresso. Weak, blonde and sour. IF the machine cannot make decent espresso, then the rest of the complaints really don't matter.
Super Crema Baskets. The pressurized baskets of course try to make crema out of old commercial beans, (I'm not a fan, buy fresh beans) The there is a little plastic insert goes between the bottom hole (one) of the basket and the portofilter flow divider. Maybe I'm not supposed to be surprised at this plastic in the flow of my sorta hot espresso, but I was. I didn't want to use it. What was the purpose? I found out when espresso comes flying out of the divider horizontally. If you were forced to keep this machine running, I would order one of those once in a while.
The Catch all. The drip tray is small, but it is really smaller than it looks. It holds about 400ml I think when the little red float thingy is supposed to be up (it doesn't work). There is a little portion of the drip tray that sticks out towards the rear and slides into the machine. I would imagine is catching discharge water from the three way solenoid or similar. So when you have more than about 300ml in the tray, and have to tilt the tray up slightly to remove it, chances are you will spill a little of that brown concoction back into the machine somewhere. I am always shoving a paper towel back in that hole to attempt to get the spillage.
The Sweet Tone. My MDF grinder is loud. And it took 40 seconds to grind 17oz. (and dam hard to clean) So I bought a Ceado E37. Grinders are mostly all loud. They are usually louder that your espresso machine. The Gaggia Baby Twin does a good job of keeping up with the noise of your favorite grinder. Especially if it is a grinder made of plastic. We you start a shot with the Baby Twin, the vibratory pump seems strong as it makes the thin metal drip tray cover start to shake rattle and role. Even a heavy cappuccino cup moves around and will move a little while pulling a shot.
Parting will be sweet!... Pardon some of the previous sarcasm, but I am growing not to like this machine very much. I would not give it to my girl friends parents or anyone that has a gun or a large club. I have now blown about $2000 US on Gaggia espresso equipment and it will be the last. If you don't have the money to buy a much better machine, save your pennies a little longer and go to the local espresso joint. I am finding that if you want a cup like you get from the local shop that has pro machine, you are not going to get close with a plastic steam toy like this one. I now have replaced or have on order all my Gaggia mistakes and spent twice as much as buying a E61 machine and good grinder. This is all commonly referred to as the upgrade dance. Take my advise, skip this step.