Gaggia is a name rooted in the history of coffee, and for the last 80 years they’ve been producing some amazing at-home coffee makers.
The Gaggia Brera is one of their super-automatic espresso machines. If you’ve been looking for a coffee maker that brews an amazing espresso, froths milk, and doesn’t break the bank, then this might tick all your boxes.
In our Gaggia Brera review we’ve looked at all the impressive features it comes with, and talked about the pros and cons. Is the Gaggia Brera a match for you? Let’s take a look.
- Key Features
- What The Gaggia Brera Does Well
- What The Gaggia Brera Could Do Better
- Additional Features We Like
- Who Shouldn’t Buy The Gaggia Brera?
- The Verdict
Let’s start off by covering the main features of the Gaggia Brera.
Controls and Ease Of Use
When looking at a bean to cup machine like the Brera, you’d expect it to be easy to use. The idea is that we want a high quality, fresh coffee, with little hands on work. If you’re wanting to get involved more in the making of a brew, it’s best to go for manual brewing methods.
But with regards to the Brera, it’s about as straightforward as you can get. From taking it out the box, all you need to do is insert the drip tray, fill up the hopper with beans, fill the water reservoir with water, and voila you’re good to go.
There are 4 buttons to choose from. An on/off button, one for an espresso, one for a long coffee (Lungo), one to choose the strength of your coffee or to switch to ground coffee.
Having only 4 buttons means pretty much anyone can use this machine. You don’t have to have experience with an espresso machine to master the Brera.
The strength of your coffee is indicated by how many coffee beans are on the digital display (1, 2 or 3). The amount of beans shows you how much coffee the Brera is going to grind up and use to brew your coffee.
1 bean means 7g of ground coffee, 2 beans is 9g and 3 is 11g.
The Panarello Steam Wand
If you’re wanting to froth milk to make lattes and cappuccinos, but don’t have any experience frothing milk, then let me introduce the panarello wand. All the best bean to cup espresso machines normally have one.
Although you won’t be able to make latte art, or really refine the texture of the milk, it still allows you to create milk based espresso drinks.
With the Brera, you can even remove the panarello to reveal the steel wand underneath. Once you have the hang of it, the wand works much more like a commercial style one. After a few practice attempts, you should be able to get the hang of creating beautifully textured milk for your latte.
Don’t think you’re going to be able to create latte art straightaway though. It takes a hell of a lot of wasted coffee beans and milk before you’ll even begin to make something that looks like art. I’ve had quite a lot of practice and some professional tips, and I can just about make a pretty pattern. But it’s awesome when you get it right. So practice away!
Unlike a lot of bean to cup espresso machines, Gaggia sport ceramic burrs, as opposed to stainless steel burrs. Normally stainless steel burrs are considered the better ones, as they last longer. However, they’re not without their downfalls.
Gaggia use the ceramic burrs as they don’t generate anywhere near as much heat as the stainless steel burrs. I think it’s a good move as you shouldn’t have any heat touching your beans until it’s brew time.
To grind coffee with the Brera you need to press one of the coffee buttons. This will start the bean to cup process. To adjust the grind settings, you need to do so while the grinder is grinding, so that it doesn’t jam up.
The Brera has 5 grind settings. For a bean to cup machine of this price, there are normally 3-5 settings. 5 isn’t an awful lot of settings so you’re not going to be able to really fine tune your grind size. Some electric burr grinders can have 40 settings, like the Baratza Encore.
Even so, the grind is uniform and precise, which is exactly what you need for a balanced extraction.
The Bypass Doser
It’s quite common for these types of machines to have a bypass doser.
It seems a little backwards to have a place for pre-ground coffee, when you buy a coffee maker with a built in grinder. But there are two reasons I can think of for why you would use it.
First is decaf coffee. If you have your hopper full to the brim and your friend walks in who’s a little sensitive to caffeine and would like a decaf, you don’t have to empty out your hopper. You can simply bypass it.
The second reason is some people have a favourite pre-ground coffee brand, that simply doesn’t have a whole bean option. This is ideal for that situation, because you don’t have to give it up.
The Water Reservoir
The water reservoir isn’t huge. You can definitely find bigger tanks, however that’s going to come at the cost of compactness, and the Brera is definitely a nicely compact machine.
It’s got a 41oz reservoir, which is enough for about five drinks max. If there’s two of you using it a day you might have to refill each morning. But having fresh water in your tank each morning isn’t a bad thing.
Something quite unique to this machine is the fact you can place a water filter into the water tank.
The Drip Tray
Super easy to insert and remove, and has a sleek and modern looking design. It doesn’t look like it’s very big though, so I wouldn’t leave it too long before deciding to empty it, or else that could be one messy journey to the sink.
Because it’s easy to reach and remove, that makes it all the more easy to clean. And from my experience, the easier that is to do, the more likely I am to do it (I’m not lazy I swear!).
The Coffee Grounds Bin
The access to the coffee ground bin is at the front of the machine, which again makes easy access.
After 8 or so coffees have been brewed, the machine will let you know it’s time to empty the grounds bin. Super simple to do and takes literally less than a minute.
Removable Brew Unit
This is something you don’t see a lot, and shows Gaggia have really put a lot of thought into how easy to use they want their machines to be.
When it’s time to clean or even do a bit of maintenance, the whole of the brew unit can be removed in one simple movement. This is easily accessible too from the side of the coffee maker.
What The Gaggia Brera Does Well
The majority of things to be said about the Brera are good, no infact they’re great. It’s a solid machine, but it isn’t without its downfalls.
When you turn on the machine it does a quick cleaning cycle which is fully automatic, but this is finished within a minute or so.
Once it’s done, you’re good to brew your espresso. If you’re only making an espresso then it’ll be ready in 2 minutes, from when you push the button to drinking it. If you’re frothing the milk it could take a little longer.
All in all, from switching it on to drinking a beautiful latte, takes no more than 3 minutes.
Easy And Simple Controls
It really couldn’t be easier to make yourself an espresso. One push of a button and voila, there you have it.
For the price you pay, Gaggia have done a great job at keeping their layout user friendly. With only 4 buttons to operate, 3 strength options and a water dial to switch from water to steam, it’s a doddle.
Someone who has never touched a coffee maker before could jump on this and brew a coffee. A very straightforward and simple layout.
I know this is a bit of a push considering you have much cheaper coffee makers on the market. Plus there are brewing methods like a moka pot and French press that are as cheap as chips.
For a budget, entry level bean to cup coffee maker, you’re looking at between $400-$500. You can get a simple espresso machine for something around $100, but that means you have to buy a grinder separate or just use pre-ground.
For what you get with the Gaggia Brera, I think it’s a great deal. Not only will you be able to drink espressos with the touch of a button, but it’s also a beautiful appliance to have in your kitchen.
Beautiful Aesthetics And Timeless Design
The history of Gaggia is an interesting one. Their classic design has been around for over 80 years. Achille Gaggia was the guy that invented the modern espresso with the crema on top, and worked with engineers all through his life to refine the extraction and brewing process.
It’s thanks to this man we even have such a thing as an espresso. So with the history and timeless design, a Gaggia sitting in your kitchen is not only a conversation starter and a beautiful coffee maker, but you’re getting some authentic Italian cafe vibes.
What The Gaggia Brera Could Do Better
There’s really not a lot to say here.
More Grind Settings
There could be more flexibility when it comes to grind settings. If you’re not experienced with grinding your own beans, and you really want to explore how the grind size affects the taste of your coffee, then ideally you’d want more settings.
This is not unique to the Brera though. A lot of bean to cup coffee makers around this price share this problem. They normally range between 3-5 grind size settings, with the exception having 7.
It really depends how much of a coffee connoisseur you are, as to how much of a problem this would be. I’m sure some people would pick a grind setting that works and stick with it. Others may like to change the grind setting depending on what beans are being used.
5 grind settings gives you room to play around with, but just not enough room to really find that perfect sweet spot.
Maybe A Larger Water Reservoir
The Brera could have a slightly larger water reservoir. At 41oz, there are some machines with larger tanks.
But on the flip side, it’s a really compact espresso maker that would fit in smaller spaces. You wouldn’t get that with a larger tank.
Additional Features We Like
Apart from the main features we looked at, there are a few other things Gaggia added to the Brera that are worth a mention.
The Cup Warmer
Although technically a byproduct of the heat generated by the boiler, it’s still a cool feature. Like you see in cafes, where all the cups are on top of the espresso machine, you can do that at home too.
It’s a nice touch and keeps your coffee hot for longer as the mug is already hot.
Power Saving Mode
The Brera will turn off after one hour since it was last used. Good if you’re forgetful like me, good for your bills, and good for the environment.
I think an hour is quite a long time, but still better than not having this feature at all.
Who Shouldn’t Buy The Gaggia Brera?
There’s about a hundred and one reasons why you should buy the Gaggia Brera, but that would take quite a long time to reel off. Instead, these are some reasons why the Brera might not be for you.
You’re Not Going To Froth Milk
If you’re not going to take advantage of the steam wand to create drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, then there’s no point paying for one.
There are plenty of machines out there that grind up your coffee beans and brew a carafe of coffee and come with a smaller price tag. You can check out some of these grind and brew coffee makers to see if they float your boat.
You’re Wanting That Perfect Espresso Shot
Now I’m not saying that the Brera doesn’t make a beautiful espresso, because it does. I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed with the espresso you get.
However if you want to spend some time trying to find the perfect espresso shot at home, by changing the grind settings and extraction time, then I’d look for a more advanced level espresso machine.
So here’s the big question. Is it worth the money?
Yes I believe it is. The Gaggia Brera allows you to brew high quality espressos, americanos and milk-based drinks.
The frothing couldn’t be easier and neither could pulling a shot. If you’re looking for a super-automatic coffee maker that allows you to create lattes and cappuccinos too, then I think you’ve found your match.