Great for long coffee, but it can't match up to the best manual models for pure espresso
Philips owns both Saeco and Gaggia, but the Gaggia Brera beans-to-cup machine looks significantly different to the retro hi-fi-style Saeco Xsmall. The Brera is plastic on the sides and top, but metal panels on the front lend it a classier air. We’re not so keen on the plastic main control knob, though, which feels cheap.
You need to be prepared when using the Gaggia Brera, as whenever you turn it on it flushes the system, so you’ll need to have a waste water mug under the spout. Consumables go in the same place as on the Saeco Xsmall, with water on the left of the spout, waste coffee grounds on the right and roasted coffee beans in the top. You might be able to just about fit two fine porcelain cups underneath the nozzle at one time, but there’s certainly not room for chunky earthenware.
The Brera is simple to use, and the metal panels on the front lend it an expensive air
It’s easy to adjust the coffee grind using the control knob in the coffee hopper. You can also adjust the strength of the espresso with the control under the power button on the front of the machine. There are also separate buttons for espresso and americano-style long coffee.
We found the best espresso came from a combination of the finest possible grind and the two-bean (out of three) strength setting. This resulted in a good, bitter shot of espresso, with a cream that wasn’t too white, at a fair temperature of 64 degrees centigrade. The shot couldn’t quite match the sheer oily richness of the best manual machines’ espresso, so wouldn’t be our choice for a pure espresso shot, but it made a good base for a longer coffee.
An acceptable espresso which is a good base for a longer coffee, but it’s not up there with the best manual machines’ shots
The standard of the drinks we could create was helped by the foam wand, which produced just the kind of frothy milk we wanted, with tightly-packed bubbles making a pleasing foam – just right for a latte.
Foam just right for a latte from the Brera’s steam wand
We like the Gaggia Brera. The quality of the espresso it produced couldn’t quite match that of the best manual espresso machines, but it was close. It’s also a compact and good-looking machine, and there’s nothing like a beans-to-cup machine when it comes to cutting down on mess. If you’re after the ultimate in coffee convenience, it’s a good buy.