There are two essentials for making great espresso: great beans, and a great espresso machine. Whether you prefer manual or automatic, it’s imperative to have a quality espresso machine that will make great espresso, cappuccinos and lattes - and make them consistently and reliably for years to come. Enter the Gaggia Brera.
Last year, the Gaggia Brera took the top spot in our Best Home Espresso Machines article as the best automatic espresso machine under $1000. This week, we take a closer look at the Brera and what sets it above and beyond competing models.
The Gaggia brand’s roots trace back to when Achille Gaggia first filed his patent for a steam-free espresso machine in 1938, with the Brera reflecting the evolution of more than 75 years of espresso making design and technology - beginning first with the Gaggia Classic manual espresso machine, and extending into the realm of automatic and superautomatic espresso machines.
Last summer, the Gaggia Brera took the top spot in our Best Home Espresso Machines article as the best automatic espresso machine under $1000 - a title that still holds strong to this day. The features of the machine are relatively standard for a basic automatic espresso machine (manual panarello, simple interface, push button controls) - what makes the Brera stand out, however, is how well these features are executed especially in a compact machine.
As one of the smallest automatic espresso machines available on the market, the Gaggia Brera uses a smart, intuitive and highly-efficient design to organize features and components without sacrificing quality or feeling cramped - making it a perfect fit for smaller apartment or modern condo kitchens, or even for those looking to optimize kitchen and counter space. At only 31 cm tall (just over 12 inches), the Gaggia Brera can easily slide under most cupboard overhangs, and the front-access removable water tank makes it easy to refill (unlike the larger, top-access tanks on bigger machines).
Another key point that distinguishes the Gaggia Brera from similar machines on the market is its price point - though there are a several entry-level automatic espresso machines that hover around the same pricing, the Brera stands out with a truly tangible difference in quality. While many entry-level machines feature and all-plastic external housing, the Brera features stainless steel front panels and plastic siding; the same holds true for the manual milk frothing system - many (if not all) entry models use a plastic panarello wand, while the Gaggia Brera opts for stainless steel. The end result is not only a machine with a better looking design and aesthetic, but one with increased durability and quality as well.
Voltage: 110-120 (North American standard)
Power Cord Length: 94 cm (37”)
External Housing: Stainless Steel/ Plastic
Cup Warmer: Passive cup warmer on top of machine
Steam Wand: Stainless steel panarello
Energy Efficiency Features: Automatic shut-off, automatic energy-saving hibernation mode,
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Gaggia Brera is the fact that it packs its full-range of specs and features into a small, compact housing without sacrificing on power or capability.
The Gaggia Brera uses a small, LED indicator-light display and simple push button interface.
Buttons (clockwise from top right):
Indicator Lights (left-to-right, top-to-bottom):
The red, bean-shaped display lights indicate the brew strength, and can be toggled with the corresponding button on their right. One bean is mild, two beans is medium, and three beans is strong. Press the button once more and you will toggle the machine to indicate brewing via the bypass d
Steam: To use the Gaggia Brera’s manual, stainless steel panarello milk frothing wand, simply turn the rectangular knob to the left (counter clockwise) - this will activate the steaming function.
Hot Water: To create hot water for tea or coffee, turn the rectangular knob to the right (clockwise); hot water will dispense from the panarello wand.
Pro-tip: Combine these two functions to froth milk for an indulgent hot chocolate or tea based latte (such as a London Fog)!
To Program Beverage Length:
To set the volume of the short and long beverage buttons, press and hold the desired button for five seconds. The machine will begin brewing, and the single-espresso indicator light will flash throughout extraction. Once the desired volume has been dispensed, press the button again to stop extraction - the brew volume will now be programmed for that button.
Pro-tip: Once programmed, you can stop extraction before the full volume is dispensed simply press the corresponding button (short/long) to stop the machine! oser for pre-ground coffee.
What makes the Gaggia Brera stand above competing models is its all-around durability and quality - while other machines at similar price points use plastic housings and panarellos, the Brera boasts stainless steel front panels and a stainless steel panarello. This, combined with it’s compact size make it a fierce competitor in the automatic espresso machine market.
After using the Brera daily for more than the last eight weeks, I’ve also noted several other areas where it excels:
Ease of Use: Easy to understand, easy to program, easy to use - the Gaggia Brera is just all around a simple machine to navigate. The machine powers on first thing in the morning via a power switch in the rear of the machine - once flipped on, the machine is warmed up and ready to brew within moments, making it easy to get your espresso exactly when you want (or need) it most.
Although this element of ease and convenience is often a primary selling point of going with an automatic espresso machine over a manual machine such as the Gaggia Classic or Rancilio Silvia M, the Brera strikes a perfect balance of simplicity and ease without compromising on quality or versatility. Instead of an in-depth digital interface to navigate, the Brera’s LED display and push-button controls give you all the basic options you need at the touch of a button - even the programmable volume feature is remarkably simple to work. In fact, it’s probably easier (and faster) than setting the clock on your microwave.
Reliability: Next to beverage quality, I would argue that reliability is the second-most important feature of any espresso or coffee machine - not only do you want your morning-kick or mid-afternoon pick-me-up to taste great, you also want to trust that it will be there exactly when you need it. And, it’s here where the Gaggia Brera’s added durability truly pay off - while small and simple, it’s clearly designed to stand up to daily use.
Ease of maintenance and Care: Not only is the Brera easy to use and enjoy, it’s easy to clean and maintain too. Similar to Saeco’s approach to maintenance, the Brera features a removable brew unit - this means that instead of having to use (and purchase) maintenance supplies to clean out your brew unit (like for Jura machines) you simply need to remove and rinse the brew unit once a week - all around faster, cheaper, and easier. The Brera also does well to use the same filtration system as many of the Saeco machines - meaning that they are easy to come by.
After using the Gaggia Brera regularly for the past eight weeks, I was only able to spot one glaring downside to the machine: the Brera’s small sized combined with the energy saving auto-hibernation feature means that you will need to be prepared to empty the drip tray and refill the water reservoir if you’ll be leaving the machine on all day. Once the machine goes into hibernation mode, it will go through a quick rinse cycle when you come back to use the machine - this is simply dispelling the un-heated water in the circuit to replace it with freshly heated water.
This is fairly standard on most machines, and only becomes noticeable when paired with the Brera’s small size IF YOU’LL BE LEAVING THE MACHINE ON ALL DAY. Since we use the Brera as a demonstration model in our showroom, we have the machine on for eight and a half hours a day, and use it for espresso beverages for our staff and customers - this results in the machine frequently coming out of hibernation mode and rinsing. The Brera is very fast to reheat, but its small size means we typically need to refill the water tank two or three times throughout the course of the work day. This drawback becomes less noticeable (or just completely a non-issue) when used in a home setting where the machine is used to prepare a couple drinks in the morning and then turned off for the day when the users leave for work. If you work from home, or will be having the machine on for longer periods of time, just be prepared to refill the water tank. And, if you want to cut down on having to take out the drip tray to empty it, you can just place an empty cup under the spouts between brews - this is what we do, as it’s much easier for us to quickly empty a cup than to remove the drip tray and walk it all the way to the nearest sink in our staff break room.
Thank you for taking the time to read our review of the Gaggia Brera - it comes in the Gaggia Brera Black or the Gaggia Brera Silver. Both machines are identical, with the only difference being the colour of the side panels.
If you have any questions about the machine, or would like some more information, please leave a comment below or send us an email at email@example.com.