The new Gaggia Brera is a very impressive super automatic espresso machine that has a small form factor, making it perfect for use on small kitchen countertops. Not only that, but it seems that the company has focused, among other things, to ensure that the Brera fully maximizes user convenience. For instance, the water tank, drop tray and the dregs drawer are all within reach and can be easily accessed from the machine for simple, swift maintenance and regular cleaning. With this model, beverage selection and machine programming has been greatly simplified, allowing users to easily navigate through the options which are certainly more than you’d expect from such a small machine.
Six years and 7540 shots of espresso. The only downside of this machine is that it is too easy to use so that you end up drinking more cups than you might otherwise. It's very fast to heat up, both for the main heating block, as well as for steam. The steamer wand takes some practice to get good, tight foam, but once you figure out the technique it's not difficult. The openings in the wand can clog up if you don't wipe it down right after use. I also give a short blast of steam right after that as well. After about five years we bundled it up and sent it in to the factory for cleaning and reconditioning. It came back as good as new and it's still going strong. About the only real negative aspect to the machine is that it tends to be a bit noisy, but probably no more so than someone using a fully manual pull machine and grinder.
For most users looking into bringing home a Jura, the basics of what to look for are a little fuzzy. There isn’t as much general information on Jura espresso machines, but we’ve compiled our favorite key points to keep in mind for your search. Juras can add a professional quality espresso and sophisticated edge to your day, but they also need to be able to fit within the demands of your lifestyle and environment.
This is probably one of the more important points to note – just how easy it is to get started. Bean to cup coffee machines tend to fall into two categories, they are either easy to use but inflexible, or take time to master and give a lot of opportunity to experiment. This Jura machine gives a lot of scope to both, which is great if you’re short on practice time or not sure if you’ve got the skills needed just yet.
Best of all, thanks to a thermal coffee pot, if you don't polish off the whole pot right away, it will still stay piping hot hours after it was brewed. For $130, the MT600 from Capresso offers all these abilities plus is wrapped up into a snazzy brushed-metal-and-black-plastic frame. Sure, the MT600 won't deliver a truly sublime cup of drip-brewed coffee. For that there's no getting around splurging at least $200 and up for a more capable machine.
To enable the filter and coffee machine to communicate, JURA uses modern RFID technology. Any machine fitted with the intelligent water system (I.W.S.®) recognises when a filter is inserted, automatically switches to filter mode and starts the rinsing process. When the filter capacity is nearly used up the machine prompts the user to change the filter. If the filter is not changed, the machine activates descaling mode. After a certain amount of use, the user is prompted to descale the machine. This can only be done when the filter is removed, so there is no more risk of user error resulting from misunderstandings.
Edit - 01/15/2015: Eight and a half years later, this gem is still cranking out great coffee. I had it serviced by the wonderful folks at CoffeeBoss in Cornelius, NC last year, and it's still going strong with a cup count of 9,922. The brew group is not user serviceable, so occasional maintenance should be expected. I use distilled water (at the cost of flavor, I know) now that I'm back in the city on municipal water, so I don't need or use the Clearyl filter (I recommend it for tap/well water, though), and I do use a cleaning tablet within 5-10 cups of when it starts asking for it on the LED display.
And it bears out in the coffee the machine produces: our very first cup was a delicious and gloriously smooth latte with barely a hint of bitterness. The milk steaming wand is excellent too, producing much lighter, airier foam than the (admittedly way, way cheaper) Morphy Richards’ model, and there’s also a hot water spout for those who want to make an Americano by topping up their espresso.
There's one other area needing fixing, not only in these machines but in all super automatics I've ever tried - tiny puck sizes (diameter) = bad extraction. That's not me saying it. That's Dr. Illy and a wide range of scientific tests that the Illy labs have done finding the optimal puck size for superior extraction. At 46mm, these pucks are too tiny.
Not trouble free, as they all seem to jam periodically, but easily fixed. Per J-C, the problem is using very oily beans, which we do as we love very dark, heavily roasted Starbucks beans. The part that jams is the press mechanism. When it expresses the puck, it clogs and won't go back up. This seems to be a criticism for many of its machines, but it's hardly a deal breaker.
On the downside, the bean storage is temperamental, after filling sometimes the beans won't feed into the grinder requiring a prod to continue and despite using a drier roast, not all beans get fed into the grinder when it is "empty." The final minor irritation is that the control button requires multiple rotational clicks before it functions.” James U., Amazon Customer