Is this the best value bean to cup machine? The Gaggia Brera review

The Gaggia Brera is an entry-level super automatic espresso machine designed for those who just want a great cup of espresso, without any of the hassle.

No more waiting in line at your local coffee shop, or struggling with a machine you need a degree to use. Right away we saw the attractive design and simple interface – but how well does it work?

We put the Brera through an extensive review to see how well it held up to Gaggia’s claims.

For an entry-level super automatic machine, the Gaggia Brera is a wonderful choice that lets you produce high-quality drinks with little effort.

Master Reviewer

The Good

  • Super automatic machine reduces most of the work in the grinding-brewing process
  • Pre-infusion moistens the grounds before brewing for optimum extraction
  • Can “stack” button presses to get a single or double shot without waiting for the first to finish
  • Dual spouts to fill two (small) cups at the same time
  • Gorgeous counter presence and relatively small footprint without compromising features
  • Automatically dumps pucks into a collection bin. This bin will need to be emptied every 5-6 cups, depending on how strong you make your shots
  • Bypass doser lets you use pre-ground coffee – which is essential for oilier coffees, as they will mess up the built-in grinder
  • Most functions can easily be operated from the front of the machine, either via the control panel or the water and waste receptacles

The Bad

  • Larger cups don’t fit in this machine, so you will need to brew into a smaller cup and then move your coffee into the larger cup
  • Descaling the machine takes a significant amount of time and effort, and the light may stay on after you complete the process as outlined in the instruction manual. However, this is because the manual was not updated when the machine was. We have included a link to the correct descaling instructions for newer models.
  • The frothing wand will need to be completely removed for thorough cleaning – a complicated process with a less-durable component. This can mean replacement over time.

In-Depth Gaggia Brera Review

Right out of the box, the Gaggia Brera looks like a powerful (albeit small) machine. The design itself is attractive and simple, with four buttons and an easy-to-understand dial at the front. In fact, the whole interface is pretty easy to understand – which is definitely a plus with a super-automatic machine. Most of the machines we’ve used have been more complicated than the Brera – and for that, we are thankful to Gaggia.

Gaggia Brera Review continued

With its smaller size, there are implied downsides, primarily that you will need to fill the tank every day. This is a minor inconvenience overall, since fresher water makes better tasting coffee, anyway. There is a four-stage water filter to make sure the water is pure before brewing, too. As with all similar machines, it is recommended that you use distilled water, to avoid extra maintenance. With pre-filtered water, you might be able get by for a full year without descaling – the machine will tell you when it’s time.

The descaling process itself has brought about a lot of controversy for this machine. The instructions included with many units was entirely wrong about the proper way to descale the machine. Users were understandably upset about this oversight – after they’d spent half an afternoon following the instructions, only to find out that it didn’t really do anything. Thankfully, there is a helpful tutorial on YouTube that tells the right process. If your machine was manufactured after mid-2013, you should follow the instructions in the video rather than the instructions in the manual. The video also tells how to identify the manufacture year of your particular machine.

Once you’ve figured out the correct process for descaling your machine, it’s going to take at least an hour of your time, and unfortunately it’s not exactly independent. You will need to be nearby to know when the machine needs your attention. It won’t require a lot of work on your part, thankfully, but you might need to refill the water tank 2-3 times during the cleaning process. We’re glad this doesn’t have to be done often – and we consider this a good enough reason to use water that’s been pre-filtered, even if you can’t taste the difference personally.

Another high point of maintenance for us was the steaming wand. It’s generally advised to completely rinse it after every use, and then give it a more thorough cleaning periodically. Unfortunately, the design of this particular component isn’t really meant for a thorough cleaning. In order to do more than just a rinse, you will need to completely remove it from the machine – which can be a tedious process. We also feel that this could break down the spout after a while, since these pieces aren’t the highest quality materials. Hopefully, replacement parts would be covered under the warranty included – but ours is still holding up pretty well with moderate use. We recommend using a separate milk frother if you will be using it frequently.

Key Facts

  • Super Automatic Espresso Machine
  • 3/5 $'s
  • Single Serving
  • Bean to Cup that also accepts ground coffee

Aside from the maintenance steps, this machine is actually pretty simple to use. There is a bean hopper with a decent capacity on top, as well as a bypass doser to let you use a single serving of pre-ground coffee. It’s highly recommended that you use the bypass doser when you’ll be using oily beans, as the built-in grinder can’t handle them. Thankfully, this bypass doser also means that your machine isn’t just wasting counter space if the grinder does go out after your warranty ends.

The settings and controls on the Brera were designed with the absolute beginner in mind. Strength is showed with either one, two, or three coffee beans on the display screen. The size of your shot (single or double) is represented with either one or two cups on the display. The water direction (steam or brew) is chosen with an easy-to-understand dial. After brewing, the grounds are dumped into a separate receptacle, which you can empty from the drawer on the right. For the absolute beginners, that’s all you need to bother with. The machine automatically sorts out most issues on its own within a few days.

Gaggia Brera Review Overall

For those with a bit more discerning taste, there are some settings you can refine, but this machine gives a good cup of espresso, right from the start. Experience and experimentation will teach you what to change, but this machine isn’t designed for too much customization. If you’re looking for options, this machine really doesn’t have too many – but life has too many options, anyway. If you’re looking for a push-button espresso machine that delivers smooth drinks with gorgeous crema, this one is a respectable budget machine. Be prepared to upgrade if you decide you want a more personalized experience.