Having had my eyes on the Gaggia Classic for a while, by the time I had the chance and budget, the Classic is no longer available. Having only two models of Consumer Gaggia available in Thailand means my choices is limited to either the baby dose or the twin, though I didn't regret the choice to go with the expensive models, I still wished that there's a metal bodied model without the electronic dosing and steam boiler, like the old Classic or new Baby Class, which is not available at my dealer.
My experiences with Italian engineering and craftsmanship from classic cars had me concerned with the electronic touch panels which turns out to be trouble free. The build of the machine is solid, however... one problem that did crop up is the removable water tank which doesn't quite sits flush on the machine, wobbling from side to side while failing to engage the valve that is there to stop the water flowing when the tank is removed from the machine.
Despite my many efforts in disassembling and twiddling, I failed to make the valve works, and since I have no need to remove the tank to fill it, I use it without the valve in place. While itself not a big deal, I would expect better from a flagship consumer product of the company, it also ruins the buying experience totally with me figuring out for the good part of first two days of ownership why the water wouldn't flow while the pump is running and nearly burnt the boiler in the process. If this had been made in China or elsewhere, I would have returned it right away but being Italian, I chalked it down to 'character' and four months on, it's not bothering me as much as I thought it would.
I really don't need the 'twin' boiler for the steam, or the programable doser, but I was forced to get these two bundled in since I wanted a metal body, which is a good investment, having thrown/given away many kitchen appliances in the past, the metals really adds to the sturdyness and percieved value of the machine, it feels like it would last forever.
The doser is nice to have, but I don't use it that much, since I always experiment with new grinds/beans, programming is straightforward and logical, having two extra buttons didn't really detract, or get in the way too much as I first feared, in fact it the programmable dose would be perfect for the other member in the family.
The manual is really confusing on the subject of the programming the dose, clearly there's issue in the translation, mixing up pressing button number one and two with once and twice. leading me to believe that there are four set levels of dose programming being button 1 and 2 single press or double click for twice the amount of water, which is not the case. There is only two dose level, single or double, each on a separate button.
In use, there are four buttons on the front panels, the two on the left is the single and double shot dose, to be use with the single and double filter baskets respectively. There's a preinfusion cycle on the single shot dose, soaking up the grinds before extraction.
On the rightmost, there's the manual dose button which after a press, runs the pumps until the button is pressed again. Next to that is the hot water button, which when pressed, pumps water through the steam wand when the knob on top of the machine is turned to open.
To enter programming mode, press and hold the manual button until the light on the buttons flashes, then after loading the filterbasket as normal, press either the single or double shot button to program the respective dose, water then runs out, press the button again to stop the water at the desired amount of water and the water level is memorised for that button, the preinfusion function for single shot dose can be switched on or off by pressing the hot water button in the programming mode, the status is indicated by the light at the hot water button while in programming mode.
While there is no preinfusion cycle on the double shot dose button, there's nothing stopping you from programming double shot amount of water through the single dose button, but I suspects that the amount of preinfusion water might not reach all of the grinds in the double shot basket. Also, in preinfusion mode, the water only flows for the first second but while pausing, the pumps runs continually the whole time until extraction; I suspect that the pressure might be higher in this mode and in my experience trying to replicate the infusion cycle by pressing the manual button for a second before pausing and running the shot through, the crema produced by the automatic mode is a lot thicker and is more forgiving for bad tamp/coffee than normal, even pods in this mode is quite drinkable.
The automatic dose really does work on the volume of water, not on a timer so once programmed for the beans/grind the only variable left is the tamp and the resulting extraction time, which is nice for practicing my tamping, it is a nice convenience but sometimes it can hinder, when I over tamped and the shot turns out to be ristretto the automatic dose would cut off too soon, so I turn out to use manual mode more when experimenting with new beans, so unless you have your beans/grinds down to routine, the automatic dose might not be as useful.
On the headline feature of the 'twin' boiler, which I didn't really want, but since it's there, I should try to use it, making lattes for visitors and such, but it is really let down by the steam wand, which though I understand the need to standardise parts across the line and cut costs, people who have this much money to spend on an espresso machine must know or have the time to learn how to froth milk properly, I can accept that the turbo frother thing comes with the lower ended machine in the range, but if Gaggia manages to take the trouble of making the frother chrome instead of bare plastic like on the lower models, surely they can make proper wand instead. Although the machine is capable of producing decent froth using the upper half of the frother, issues like this just stops the machine from being 'perfect'. Oh, and the steam does smells of plastic sometimes, which is quite off-putting, I'll see if the smells dissipates after more use or service.
I had originally prefer the functional design of the Coffee/ Classic to the very 70's ish baby, the design does grows on me and it is a lot sturdier and solid than the last generation's design. except for the water tank, there are no wobbly bits or sharp edges everywhere, it is really solid, every fitting flush, no squeaks nor rattles. I had originally prefer the Coffee / Classic's design thinking that it would be more in tune with the modern kitchen and ages more gracefully, but Gaggia had taken the Baby's kitch 70's retro and made it timeless. It also looks feminine enough for my other half not to complain that I bought a chunk of square metal gadget thing that takes space in the kitchen.
On the whole, it could have been perfect, but I'm not left wanting more.