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Gaggia Brera Review – The Best Espresso Machine

Updated 13-06-2021 – Dan Alvazrez

So you typed in “Gaggia Brera review” and now you are here, I’m glad you are because I have some information that is going to help you make a sound decision. Simply plopping a large amount of money on a bean-to-cup coffee machine is not feasible for a lot of people and if you’re anything like me, you want to do your own research before you commit to one. And that is the right way to go about, the Gaggia Brera is a good espresso machine but is it going to satisfy your needs? That is the question I am trying to answer here.

If you’re new to this website, I’d like to tell you that we test out each machine ourselves before writing the review. Sometimes I get to take the machine home to test it out a bit thoroughly otherwise, the machine is readily available in the office kitchen to try out. This time around, I got to take the Gaggia Brera for 6 days to my place and this is because of the whole work from home situation. This enables me to get in another cup of coffee in the morning as well as after lunch. So this review is coming from the experience that I had with the machine and will feature not only the pros but also some less attractive quirks that I found during the usage.

There are a lot of great bean-to-cup coffee machines as well as awesome espresso machines available in the market. To be honest, the Gaggia Brera is a great machine that deserves its place on both of those lists. If not this exact model, there are other coffee machines made by Gaggia that will be featured on those lists. The company has a lot of experience behind them, and it shows not only in their design but also the user experience they have designed. I’ve already written reviews for the De’Longhi Esam 4200 as well as Sage Oracle, so if the Gaggia Brera is not enticing you enough, I highly recommend that you check those out as well.

 

Gaggia Brera Review

The Gaggia Brera is made by the company that some consider to be the pioneers of a modern coffee machine. It has a beautiful-looking stainless steel front panel and offers quite a few customization options. But the biggest reason why you’d want to consider the Gaggia Brera is its attractive price point. It is not inexpensive by any means but the competitive and somewhat reasonable price makes it an attractive choice for first-time buyers. We will go in-depth about every aspect of the machine, so you know what you’re getting for your money, and hopefully, by the end of the review, you’ll have a good idea about the Gaggia Brera.

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Gaggia Brera – Main Features

  • A lot of different coffee customization features
  • There is a good quality inbuilt ceramic burr grinder
  • Easy to make coffee out of beans or already ground coffee
  • The capacity to offer double shots
  • There is a very good energy-efficient standby mode

 

Gaggia Brera – Design and Appearance

The very first thing you notice about a machine is its appearance, and like it or not, it does play a part in your decision-making process. Personally, I would undertake aesthetics over good quality coffee, but I don’t want a hideous-looking espresso machine in my kitchen either. Thankfully, the Gaggia Brera has a very neutral and pleasant-looking modern design that can be easily at home in most kitchens.

When I first saw the Gaggia Brera out of the box I was pleasantly surprised by how compact it was. The packaging made it seem like it’s going to be huge, but it hardly takes a lot of space on the kitchen counter. The bean to cup coffee machine feels premium, I even did the official (it is not) knock on steel test, and it sounded really solid. That’s not to say that there are no plastic parts on the Gaggia Brera because there are, and they are of okay quality, but the steel body not only looks great but also gives off a luxurious feel. In short, the Gaggia Brera looks and feels like a high-quality machine that is going to serve you well for years to come.

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Speaking of the materials, while the front panel made out of steel band looks amazing, the side panels are made with plastic. The primary control knob is also plastic, that’s what I don’t like about the design, the plastic feels out of place and a bit flimsier than steel, but that is to be expected. Thankfully, the Gaggia Brera espresso machine does a great job of hiding the plastic and will look beautiful on your kitchen counter or even in a professional setting. The control panel is simple and intuitive to use. There are only 4 buttons on the panel; the on-off button, the espresso button, and the long coffee button. There is also a dedicated knob to select modes on the machine.

Overall, the Gaggia Brera is a great design that is really pleasing to look at. The materials used are of quality, despite some of them being plastic. The knock-on plastic test (again this is not a real test) showed that the plastic sounded solid as well, not the hollow cheap kind we usually see on low-quality machines. I would’ve liked the overall machine to be made out of steel, but I don’t mind the Gaggia Brera at all.

 

Gaggia Brera – Using the Machine

The company has made the machine a lot easier to use and I had absolutely no trouble setting it up myself. It does come with an instruction manual and there is not a lot you have to do in order to get the machine running. After you’ve taken the machine out of the box, all you need to do is insert the drip tray, fill the coffee hopper with beans, put water in the water tank, give it some power, press the turn-on button, and that is about it.

There is no advanced assembly required and the device worked perfectly from the get-go. This is the kind of experience I really enjoy, I know a lot of people are getting this for the first time, and the ease of usage matters a lot for first-time customers. If this is your first bean-to-cup coffee machine, you don’t need anyone to set it up for you.

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The company has made the user interface quite easy to use. I had absolutely no trouble figuring out what to do to get a good cup of coffee out of it. And I am certain that you will have no trouble as well because there are only 4 buttons to press with icons on them. As I’ve stated before there is an on-off button, along with a coffee button, an espresso button, and a coffee strength/ground coffee button. The espresso and long coffee buttons can be pressed twice for making 2 cups. This actually makes 2 separate caps with fresh coffee instead of passing more water through the same grounds. There is a small LCD screen that also guides easily on what modes are selected and what the machine is currently doing.

Speaking of the bean settings, there are 3 different modes. One bean is 7 g, two is 9 g and three is 11 g respectively. This is fairly simple to understand after a couple of uses, if you want a double shot at 18 g for example, all you need to do is get the setting to 2 and press the espresso button twice. The same goes for if you want a double shot at 22 g, set the setting at 3, and press the espresso button twice again. I recommend going for the higher settings especially if you are coming from other semi-automatic machines. Generally speaking, bean-to-cup coffee machines usually don’t give you a strong coffee at the same setting, but of course, you can gradually increase your coffee strength as you test the Gaggia Brera.

So what if you don’t want to use the integrated ceramic burr grinder? There is a mode for that as well. After setting the 3 bean setting, you can press the strength button again and a small green spoon icon will appear on the screen. This means that the machine is going to use already ground coffee from the bypass chamber instead of grinding coffee beans from the hopper.

I totally understand why you’d want to use this option sometimes, especially if you are into decaf. I really appreciate the option of using pre-ground coffee here because a few of my friends prefer decaf. And instead of taking all the regular beans out of the hopper and putting in the decaf beans, I can simply have a container of decaf pre-ground coffee readily available to be used. Many people are simply more sensitive to caffeine or don’t want to consume it for medical reasons but the Gaggia Brera makes sure your guests will get what they need without giving you extra trouble.

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If you want to reset the volumes for long coffee or espresso you long-press the respective button. Simply keep it pressed until the coffee is grounded, and you’ve achieved the volume you need. Speaking of the control panel, there is only one thing left to discuss here and that is the steam/water dial. It is the self-explanatory text of the icons, turn the dial towards the teacup icon for water and towards the steam icon for steam. That’s all there is to it, the Gaggia Brera has made the interface a lot easier to use than other companies and I highly praised it. Can it be improved further? Yes of course it can be but at this price point and the limitations of the old school LCD screen, this is more than enough. I do recommend that you go through the instruction manual at least once or twice, so you get a better handle of the interface.

 

Gaggia Brera – Making a Cup of Coffee

Now that you have already set up the machine and know how it can be operated, it is time to make your 1st cup of coffee from the Gaggia Brera. After all, this is the reason why you are going to get a substantial bean-to-cup espresso machine. Usually, I let the machine do the 1st cup itself, it gives me a good idea and a baseline on what to expect from the machine and this is what I did with the Gaggia Brera. The 1st cup it made was not as strong as I usually like, but it was flavourful, and I didn’t have to discard it at all. For someone who likes their coffee mild, it would’ve been a good cup of coffee but not a great one. The coffee was a bit under-extracted and this is the only complaint I had with the cup.

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After a few adjustments, I was able to extract a great cup of coffee from this espresso machine. In all honesty, after increasing the strength and making a few minor adjustments, I was really enjoying my 2nd and 3rd cups (they were not at the same time). This is a bean-to-cup coffee machine and there are a limited number of ways you can change the settings. This is not a traditional espresso machine at all, so you won’t have a lot of control over the fine-tuning and the coffee grind.

Sometimes you do need to fine-tune your coffee. By that I mean if the coffee is ground a lot finer, the espresso will flow through slow and the taste will be extra strong. Or in case the coffee is ground coarser, water can pass through faster and as a result, the coffee will taste weaker. The options of fine-tuning this grinding process help you in extracting good taste from your coffee. Unfortunately, the Gaggia Brera only comes with 5 settings. This can be enough for many people but if you need some more customization, it can be a bit of a pain to only have a limited number of bright settings. I’d love to see at least 10 to 12 different grind settings for the coffee, but I’m not going to complain about the 5 we already have here. I am definitely not saying that the Gaggia Brera is severely lacking simply because it doesn’t have more grind settings, but it would have benefited more from having more of them.

 

Gaggia Brera – Magic Wand

Almost all the bean-to-cup coffee machines come with the Pannarello wand these days. Of course, there are exceptions, but they are few and far between. I’ve only seen single touch bean-to-cup machines that didn’t come with a Pannarello wand and that’s about it. The Gaggia Brera does come with one, and it works wonderfully, that is if you are a total beginner with not a lot of experience.

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A Pannarello wand is great if you’re just starting making coffee at home. It aids you in steaming milk which is a great feature to have in the beginning. A Pannarello wand is just like training wheels on your bicycle, it is a great safety feature that will allow you to ride your bike safely and won’t let you fall down. Just like with training wheels, you won’t be doing any fancy tricks or turning sharply with the Pannarello wand. That analogy is trying to convey that you won’t be able to make latte art with a Pannarello wand.

A Pannarello wand is amazing at making bubbly and big foam. The foam is thick enough to be scooped on a spoon as well.

Thankfully, the Gaggia Brera bean-to-cup coffee machine allows you to easily remove the Pannarello wand if you so desire. This reveals the steel wand which in theory will work better as a steam wand, but you’ll need a bit of practice with it first. Overall, I cannot complain about having both options available for experts as well as beginners on the machine and I appreciate the company accommodating this feature. As for the wand itself, it works perfectly fine, and I found no problems using it. Granted, I am terrible at doing latte art, so I just steam the milk like a regular non-artistic person.

The trick is to get more air into the milk when it’s cold. All you need to do is put the tip into the surface and let the wand do its job. Producing huge bubbles is not going to help you with the foam, smaller and precise sounding bubbles are what you want. No matter how many words I write about those, they won’t replace the experience you would have yourself. After one or two times, you’ll know what kind of bubbles you want. Starting at the surface, you move slowly down after around 10 to 30 seconds until the milk gets warmer. You’d want to continue until you are barely able to hold a jug, do a little swirl, and you are ready to go.

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It may seem like a complicated process but overall, the Gaggia Brera makes it easy to do. Once you’ve gone through this process, you’ll know how you want your foam to be and what you need to do in order to get good quality bubbles out of it. If you are into making latte art, getting the right consistency while milk texturing is going to take a little while. I’m not going to come out and say that I am the master of making foam because in reality I am far from it but the Gaggia Brera did allow me to get the consistency right. I recommend that you keep on practising until you reach the point where you are satisfied because unless you are gifted naturally, it is going to take a little while.

If you want hot water, turning the water/steam dial clockwise to the hot water icon will get you just that. Turn the dial to the left for steam. Steam gets ready really quickly on the machine, and I was really impressed by how easy it was to get either hot water or steam.

 

Gaggia Brera – The Grind

Getting a good cup of coffee depends on a lot of factors and one of them is the grinder. Yes, the grinder has the capacity to make your coffee taste flavourful and rich simply by the way it grinds. There are 2 types of grinders one is made out of steel and the other one is ceramic. You’d want the ceramic one for the coffee beans because the steel one is known for slicing the beans instead of crushing them.

The Gaggia Brera features a ceramic grinder which you can access by pressing the coffee buttons. The grind adjustment needs to be done while the coffee is in the grinding process, do not simply twist the grind dial. This is a standard procedure on all grinders, we have to adjust the grind during the actual grinding otherwise you risk the beans getting jammed. Many bean-to-cup coffee machines offer stainless steel burrs, they are prone to get hot during the grinding process and can reduce the quality of coffee grounds you get.

 

Gaggia Brera – Things I liked

There are a couple of things I really like about the Gaggia Brera which I think will help you decide whether the machine is for you are not.

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Brew Unit – The Gaggia Brera allows you to remove the entire brew unit. That’s right, you can take it all out in one clean go. It does allow you to clean the unit by running it under the tap or do repairs.

Drip Tray – The drip tray on the machine was very easy to insert and take out. While it doesn’t seem like it has a lot of capacity, it has parts that slide into the machine giving it a bit more capacity.

Quiet Functionality – The Gaggia Brera is a very quiet machine. It is not going to be completely silent, but it is significantly quieter than other bean-to-cup coffee machines we have tested. As it is a thermoblock machine there is a knocking sound when you are steaming milk, but it is nothing to be worried about.

Grounds Bin – I really liked how the grounds bin icon flashes to tell you that it needs to be emptied. A small but very convenient feature.

Quick Warm-Up – After doing its cleaning cycle, it is ready to roll in just about a minute. Which is quite impressive.

Simple Controls – The user interface on the Gaggia Brera is designed really well, and I was very impressed by the simple and intuitive controls.

Price – For everything you are going to get with the machine, the price is very reasonable. The Gaggia Brera also comes with a 3-year warranty which is always appreciated.

 

Gaggia Brera – Things I didn’t Like

Water Tank – The 1.2 litre is a bit smaller for my taste. That’s the only complaint I have about it because everything else is done wonderfully. The machine even alerts you when the water tank needs refilling. It is also easy to access from the back and put back in. Also, you can fit a water filter on this water tank which is always a great feature.

Grind Settings – With only 5 different grind settings, the Gaggia Brera lacks the ability of fine-tuning your coffee grinds. I certainly would’ve loved a bit more customization options here.

 

FAQs

Is Gaggia A Good Brand?

Yes, Gaggia has been around for a while, and they have proven their commitment to making quality coffee machines. I’d say their reputation is well earned.

 

Which Is Better De’Longhi or Gaggia?

Both have their merits and advantages. I’d say that they are very evenly matched.

 

Where is Gaggia Brera Made?

Most of their machines are made in Italy but some of them are assembled in Romania as well. But they have strict quality control and all their machines are very well made.

 

Which Gaggia Espresso Machine is Best?

That entirely depends on your needs. Gaggia makes multiple espresso machines and all of them have different features and advantages. For me, the Gaggia Velasca Prestige is the best one.

 

Parting Words

The Gaggia Brera bean-to-cup machine is an excellent piece of equipment and I had a lot of fun testing it out. There are not a lot of times when I’m sad to see a machine go back to the office but the Gaggia Brera did make it happen. So not only that machine is capable of making a good cup of coffee but also can make adult writers sad, a unique combination.

The Gaggia Brera is an excellent bean-to-cup espresso machine that is not only affordable but also stylish. I recommend it to people who need a good quality coffee machine at a good price.

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