Being an espresso lover, if you have budget constraints but you still want to enjoy your espresso drink at home, you might think that buying a decent espresso machine is simply not for you – however, this is not true.
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If a fully automatic espresso machine is not within your reach, then semi-automatic coffee makers such as the Gaggia 14101 Classic are also practical options and something worth considering.
Difference Between a Fully Automatic and Semi-Automatic Coffee Maker
The main difference here is that the fully automatic coffee maker is a complete “bean to brew” system. This means that these coffee makers come with incorporated grinders and there is an option of one-touch ease.
With the fully automatic coffee makers, you simply put the beans in the hopper, choose the drink of your liking, then relax and wait for a minute or two till your coffee cup is ready to be sipped on.
However, when it’s a semi-automatic coffee maker, there is some sort of manual labor included. There are no incorporated grinders. This means that you need to either have one that is your own or you can use the pre-ground coffee.
Who Should Buy a Semi-Automatic Coffee Maker?
The perfectionists would like to go for the first option, which is buying the fully automatic coffee maker, since using ground coffee beans gives a rich, strong and flavorful drink but those who have some budget constraints, pre-ground coffee is the way to go about it.
Improving Coffee Making Skills with a Semi-Automatic Coffee Machine
As we know that there is no grinder in the semi-automatic coffee maker, one needs to prepare their grounds for each drink, they need to load and tamp for each and every drink that they make. This process is not time consuming and if you want to become a proficient at making coffee by improving your Barista skills, then semi-automatic will definitely help you out.
It all boils down to convenience. If you are the sort who has no time on their hands and just want your coffee to be ready in a couple of minutes, then you should definitely go for the fully automatic.
If you don’t mind working a little for it, the semi-automatic coffee maker with very less cost compared to the fully automatic one will provide you with surprisingly wonderful capabilities. The Gaggia Class is a perfect example for this.
The Gaggia 14101 Classic Semi-Automatic Espresso Maker
Let’s have a look in detail at what the Gaggia 14101 Classic espresso maker is capable of. This is so you have all the know-how and are fully informed enough to make a purchase decision.
Durable and Robust Machine Exterior
The first thing to notice about Gaggia classic semi-automatic espresso maker is that it is built ruggedly. Its casing is made of stainless steel and comes in silver color with some black plastic highlights.
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While we wish that there were other fun colors available in this machine, we are more concerned with the performance of this espresso maker which is brilliant.
The robust build and strong look works in any kitchen or coffee shop. So, lack of color is a flaw we can easily ignore.
Weight of the machine
The weight of this machine is 20 lbs, the solid casing contributes mostly to it. It is big enough to be noticed by all yet small enough that it can fit in the kitchen counters of almost every home.
Some specifications are as follows:
- Dimensions are 14.5 x 8 x 9.5 and 20-pound weight
- 17.5 bar pump (we must know that it is a pump machine and not steam machine).
- The boiler is high voltage
- It is equipped with a hot water dispenser
- This machine has a frothing wand
- Water tank has a capacity of 72 ounces – meaning it can make 9 cups before it needs to be refilled
- Brass porta-filters are attached with grouphead so that stable water temperature can be maintained.
Let us now have a look at some of the positives and negatives of this espresso maker.
The Pros of Gaggia Classic
Size of Reservoir
The size of Gaggia Classic espresso machine’s reservoir is important. Although in theory and on paper, this machine has an amazing 72-ounces loading water container, but there lies an issue.
The suction hoses present in the reservoir don’t go all the way to the end, and reported by users, you get about 64 ounces. Although it’s nothing too drastic but this reduction in capacity is somehow disappointing.
You also need to know that the water reservoir is not removable. This makes it very much like the drip brew coffee machines. You open the lid easily and then pour water whenever you need more of it.
Also, there is no water filter in the reservoir meaning you would have to spend some more time on the maintenance of system or use distilled water. If there is a water filter installed at your sink’s tap, then it can be used instead of the distilled water. It will have the same effect.
The Gaggia 14101 Classic espresso maker has a single boiler made of aluminium, and is coated with stainless-steel.
While most of the coffee aficionados prefer coffee machines that have a double boiler, entry level machines are not equipped with them. Main advantage that a double boiler has is the fact that the machines that have them let you to steam milk and make a coffee drink simultaneously. This cuts down on the wait time and adds to your convenience.
Even though, the Gaggia Class is a good machine but it does not offer much in terms of ease and convenience, mostly because of the low price of machine.
Pannarillo Wand Instead of a Milk Frothing System
Another aspect that one must learn about is the milk frothing system. Some newbies might feel a little nervous whereas the coffee aficionados would certainly love it.
The Gaggia 14101 Classic espresso machine does not come with an auto-frother. Hence, it has a Pannarillo wand to steam milk. This gives you unbelievably fine-grained power over the quantity, the quality of foam that is produced as well as the milk temperature which is a nice combination.
However, there is a downside to this too. It is that this requires skill and practice. It is the main reason that people who are new to the art of brewing coffee get nervous by this.
You must not let that stop you. It’s a fact that a bit of practice is required to perfect this, as the first few attempts won’t necessarily turn out to be as good as you want them to, but if you keep trying, you will become perfect.
What’s better is that this will help you enhance your Barista skills. Once you become a master at it, no one can take that away from you.
The Cons of Gaggia Classic
As we mentioned above, the Gaggia 14101 classic espresso maker being a semi-automatic coffee maker, is not equipped with a built-in grinder. For this reason, you need to purchase one or you can use pre-ground coffee.
Should you opt for buying a new grinder, there are some things that you must keep in mind:
- There are two basic varieties in which grinders come. These are: Bladed and Burr. Bladed Grinders are towards the cheaper end but they smash your beans more than they grind them. So, it’s better to spend a little extra and buying a Burr Grinder.
- As far as the Burr Grinders are concerned, you have two options: Stainless Steel and Ceramic. The stainless-steel models are inexpensive and have a major disadvantage. They get heated quickly when they’re used. This can burn the coffee grounds sometimes and wreck the flavour of your coffee.
- Ceramic grinders on the other hand don’t heat up quickly when they’re used and even though they are higher in price than the stainless-steel grinders, they are worth the extra money spent.
- One significant thing to keep in mind here is that getting the grind right can drastically impact the taste of coffee you are about to make, so you might want to experiment here. General rule of thumb is, the more finely the coffee is grind, the better and richer the flavour of coffee would be.
Telescoping Coffee Spigot
The Gaggia 14101 Classic does not come with telescoping coffee spigot. It uses a porta filter instead, you put your grounds manually into it. The coffee dispenses underneath it. While this is usual among the semi-automatics, but there is a potential that you must be aware of.
You can get your coffee with more crema if the spigot is near to the lip of any cup you are dispensing into. In case you want to make a shot in a small cup, you would want to hold it near the spigot. Though it’s not a necessity but you can experiment with it.
You must also know that the maximum cup size to fit under the spigot is only 3.5”. in most of the cases, there shouldn’t be a problem with crema. However, if you like drinking coffee from bigger cups, then there might be an issue as they won’t fit in the space that you have under the spigot.
Cup Warming Tray
Another thing that the Gaggia 14101 Classis espresso machine does not have is the cup warming tray. This is unfortunate. It is the first feature that is stripped out in order to save cost.
For some of the following reasons, the cup warming tray is an unsung hero of the coffee world:
The specialty coffee drinks are made at temperatures lower than most Americans like their coffee. This is essentially true because when it comes to drinks that are milk-based, the milk can’t be steamed at as high temperatures as the coffee itself is prepared.
When espresso and milk are combined, heat is lost. If it’s poured into a cup, it’s lost even more. This is where the cup warming tray comes in. it helps counterbalance that and reduces the loss of heat.
There is a simple method to overcome this. Your cup is to be simply filled with hot water, you can make other preparations during this time. Now throw it into the drip tray having a capacity of sixteen ounces when you are ready to prepare the coffee. Even though it’s not the impeccable solution, its straightforward and convenient.
Espresso Brewing – Things to Keep in Mind
It is imperative to know the basic differences between making an espresso compared to regular, drip brew coffee.
Drip brew system is reliant upon gravity in order to get the coffee from the grounds compartment to your cup or mug. Fully automatic and semi-automatic coffee makers use pressure, measured in “bars”. One bar is equal to atmospheric pressure at sea level.
Powerful Pump of Gaggia Classic
In order to make a great espresso, nine bars of pressure are needed at the very least. The pump of semi-automatic Gaggia 14101 Classic is at fifteen bars. This provides you with all the pressure and power necessary to get a fantastic shot of espresso with the use of this machine.
Brewing Espresso with Gaggia Classic
With the Gaggia 14101 Classic espresso maker, there is physical work involved. Load the coffee grounds in the porta filter, securely tamp them down, then load this filter to the front face of the coffee maker. Once in place, you press the brew button then wait for the magic of coffee to take place.
You should note the following things here:
- Firstly, get two different filters. One is for a single shot and the other is for a double.
- Secondly, the tamper that comes along with this model of machine is made of plastic. From a realistic point of view, it is not strong enough to complete the task. So, you need to be careful while tamping. If its broken, then you would have to buy a stronger one so it can serve you better in the future.
Brewing Coffee is Super Easy with Gaggia Classic
The control system is pretty simple and easy. Gaggia 14101 Classic does not require any technical skills to be used. It has two buttons on the front and no high-tech electronics associated with it. It is as easy to use as a drip brew coffee machine that you might have used already.
No learning curve is required here. It is good because the user manual for Gaggia Classic is vague and not at all helpful.
How to Clean a Gaggia 14101 Classic
Cleaning a Gaggia Classic espresso maker is easy. There is nothing complicated to learn about cleaning it. You need to pour water into the frothing wand, porta filter, and two buttons. You do need bit of a hands-on attitude and a DIY attitude.
Cleaning of a semi-automatic machine is different from cleaning a fully automatic machine. The fully automatic machines have computers on-board driving and automating numerous cleaning functions.
Important Points to Remember while Cleaning
There are two important things that are to be done with the semi-automatic machines.
- One is periodic descaling, you can lessen or eliminate altogether by using filtered water from a tap or distilled water.
- The second is backflushing. It is an important detail which is often ignored by many people.
It is significant because the Gaggia 14101 Classic is not equipped with a backflushing disc or with Cafiza. Cafiza is a mild cleaner that is designed to use in semi-automatic coffee makers.
They are inexpensive but you must purchase them shortly after you’ve purchased the coffee maker. This will keep your machine nice and clean.
The backflushing process is simple. Put the cleaning disc in the porta filter, and put in some Cafiza. Now turn on and off the brew unit five times, shut the machine off when you hear that the unit is starting to work.
This has the advantage of stirring water and creating cleansing suds.
Once suds are formed, pour them in the drip tray, insert the porta filter again and repeat the activating/deactivating brew unit process five more minutes. This is to be done till you see the suds leaving the system.
With this, you are done with the descaling process and your machine is nice and clean. This should be done about once a week.
Gaggia Classic Competitor Product
Let us now have a brief overview of some of the competitor products that can be alternatively purchased in this line of category.
Breville BES860XL Barista Express
Brevville BES860XL is a great machine to brew espresso. It really does represent the perfect example for an espresso machine. Not only it looks good but it makes some fantastic shots of espresso and give competition to skilled baristas in this domain.
Sometimes the pressure can be a little tough to adjust to, but it is still relatively easy to use and can prepare espresso in a matter of minutes.
Gaggia Classic 14101 Review Summary
Regardless of the fact that there’s a lot that can’t be done by this machine, there are still a lot of good things to like about it.
Great Quality Espresso with Gaggia Classic
It is equipped with a milk steaming machine and makes great quality espresso. You can make any specialty coffee drink you want with the semi-automatic Gaggia 14101 Classic espresso maker.
Equipped with all the Basics
Although it does not have all the perks and lacks almost every convenience feature that is present in a fully automatic coffee maker, it can cover the basics pretty nicely. If you are willing to do some manual work, you can make magic happen with coffee.
Keeping in mind all of this, the one thing that we would love to change about it is to give some length to hoses in the boiler so you can get 72 ounces from the reservoir.
If any other changes are to be added, for example, adding another boiler, then this will make the price go up significantly and will exclude it from the entry level price range.
Our Final Word on the Gaggia 14101 Classic
From what we have learnt so far, there are a lot of things that a Gaggia Classic 14101 might not be capable enough to do. However, we need to keep in mind here that the semi-automatic coffee makers are not built-in with a multitude of convenience features.
One area where these machines really standout is their ease of use and the Gaggia Classic beats a lot of the fully automatic machines in this domain. We love it for its durability and simplicity.
If you are bothered by its limitations, in that case we would suggest you to carry out some more research before you spend anything on this machine.