The Gaggia Carezza is a modern, fluid design that looks good in my Kitchen. The function buttons are easy to understand, and very simple to use. When one arises at 0400 with half closed eyes, this is important. The design traits include a good looking, easy to fill water tank; I never run low on the water supply as I can always see the level and keep it filled. Soft contours allow for an easy cleaning with a sponge.
I have 2 Grouphead gaskets sitting in the cabinet, yet to be used as replacements. Thus far I have had no leaks to report on the first unit, or any problems for that matter.
The Porta Filter is good, strong ( I've dropped it more than a few times in the AM dark ) and comes with 2 sizes one of which allows coffee pods. I've tried quite a few over the years and just don't have any luck with them, so this piece isn't used.
I now have two units ( one in 220-240v ) for vacation property in Fortaleza, Brazil, so it is obvious that I like the results from the first unit I purchased when the Carezza's were first introduced. The quality and the performance is consistently good with both units.
Negative Product Points
Somewhat noisy, to the point of vibrating on the countertop. This lasts for 25 seconds when pulling a shot, which is acceptable.
The perfect Crema insert, which came with the original unit isn't really necessary. I have a few freinds who like the results from this device, so I keep it around with the other accessories in a cabinet. The new model from Italy did not include the device: Apparently Gaggia got the message from previous review forums such as Coffee Geek.
The enclosed tools that come with the boxed unit are starters only: It's best to buy a better tamper
I use the Carezza 2-3 times per day as I like Espresso in single shots. The use is pretty much for myself and other freinds who like Espresso: My wife has a Capresso Coffee Team ( grinder-coffee maker ) for 8 years now, which also serves as her morning alarm clock.
Previosly, we have had Krups, and Jura machines we purchased in Europe.
There is a good manual that came with the US model (110V ) including a CD. I prefer the CD; Clear, Concise, visual instructions.
We are not into a lot of milk drinks, and use the Carezza foam wand only when entertaining. I grind my own mixes using a steady supply of quality beans from Brazil ( Santa Clara Expresso-that's the correct spelling in Brasil ). Using a Gaggia MM grinder on fine, to semi-fine, I can get excellent quality espresso with the Carezza, consistently, with straight 100 % bean grinds, or mixes.
I would suggest that the unit be turned on for 10 minutes, primed running the hot water into a full-sized cup, and then loaded with your coffee in the portafilter. 25 seconds delivers a good shot to enjoy.
I would then remove the portafilter, clean it, and run the hot water again into a cup (Second prime ) to clean and rinse out the Grouphead. This keeps it clear of espresso grounds, and keeps it clean for your next shots in the future.
Everyone who had tried my coffee from the Carezza ( my wife as the exception ) likes the taste and the experience. So much so that 4 times a year now, I make large batches of mix ( 10 % Mokka + 90 % Santa Clara ) for them. 3 others have also purchased Gaggia Carezza machines, so the experience is quite positive. All 3 I'm told, used Amazon.com to purchase Carezza's in the US.
A remarkable machine for the small cost.
I work in the US and Europe, and purchase some devices there that we enjoy. Walter Schramm at Best of Italy.com knows his products, and has been very helpful to us in avoiding problems with shipping. I purchased another item from him one time and rather than lug it back as baggage, he shipped it to us. It arrived intact 5 days after we had returned home. He links with UPS so we could track each day, including through US Customs.
You don't have to do this, as most of the Gaggia distributors and stores carry this model in the US.
Three Month Followup
All three Gaggia Carezzas are working fine. The original two 110v units US models ( one at home, one at work ) are used daily, pulling 6-8 shots per day. We have experienced no problems with either, maintaining the daily regime of keeping them clean and rinsed after each shot.
The 220 v MM Grinder worked very well in Brasil to the point where neighbors started coming over to use it and asked where I was buying the expresso beans ( the local supermarket giant EXTRA ).
Returning to North America in November, I bought a 110v MM grinder, and base platform unit to set both on. For those interested, the Gaggia Carezza and MM grinder both fit on top of the Gaggia base.
The 220-240v unit taken to Brasil arrived intact inside a large suitcase ( Italy-Miami-Manaus-Fortaleza ). The unit was taken out of the original box, and wrapped in bubble wrap 2x to fit in the suitcase. Considering the air miles, and baggage handling, it would appear pretty robust. It did raise an eyebrow going through the X-Ray machine at Brasilian Customs. No charge, since it was considered a household item, which it is.
It was used the first night ( 17 shots ) for neighbors and freinds, including some from Italy working in Fortaleza. Daily use there was AM ( 2x shots ) and PM with freinds over ( 4 - 6x ).
I have extra gaskets, portafilters, and other spares STILL SITTING UNUSED in my cabinets. No leaks, clogging, or anything else in the way of problems yet to be experienced.
For those considering the purchase of such a machine in it's class, our experience with the Gaggia Carezza and MM grinder continues to be very good for 4 + years and going !
One Year Followup
There are now three Gaggia Carezza units going: Two in the North America (Office+Home) and one in a rental beach condo in Brasil. All continue to function perfectly, 2x or more per day.
As mentioned before, the key is to keep the units clean, and rinse out the grouphead after each cup of espresso is made. Same with the Panarello, although we don't use it very much. We let the machines warm up for 10 minutes or more, as the instructions state, and the office unit has been known to run for 6 hours or more per day.
I have purchased extra gaskets, and other small parts from Espressotech. com as a precaution, but with no leaks or seating problems thus far, the parts sit in a small box in the pantry.
The Carezza at the beach condo was purchased when I decided to upgrade from a Bialletti stainless stove espresso pot for our guests. It had to be 230v, so it was ordered directly from Italy, and taken down in a suitcase as a household item, well padded. No problems with Customs ( other than a somewhat puzzled smile ) and no problem in the baggage either. My guests love it: One even called us in North America to ask how he could buy one. We show it on our website, and the word spread around, as one prospective renter saw it and asked if we also had a grinder to use there as well ( We do, and it too is a Gaggia 230v ). He enjoyed his stay obviously, as he ended up staying 26 days.
I note that this isn't the most expensive of units, nor is it a SuperAuto. It does perform at described, is inexpensive, and that is fine with us and our guests.
We plan to purchase another Carezza unit ( Nr. 4 ) as a wedding gift next month, for a couple that have enjoyed our espresso served at the house.