One of the joys of reviewing coffee equipment, espresso machines, grinders and so on - is the variety... and the pleasant surprises that come with the task. And task it is - and responsibility. Because at some point you come to the conclusion that this endeavor is part job, part obligation, part passion and almost always lots of fun. And so the tradition continues with the review of the Espresso Dose, an elegantly crafted piece of hardware by Gaggia's design engineers. The Gaggia Dose falls into the lightweight category - heavy gauge thermoset ABS that takes up very little counter space.
The Gaggia Dose's special feature is programmable brew times - that are volumetric. More on that shortly.
The Gaggia Espresso uses a 1100-watt boiler element that heats the machine up in a few minutes. Like most other machines, it performs best after it has been on for 5 or 10 minutes - with a couple of flushes of water through the brew group. Like every other Gaggia, the boilers have dual elements on the outside of the boiler - almost eliminating the risk of burnout. The Gaggia Espresso has a heavy-duty 58mm grouphead and solid brass portafilter handle. Commercial size!
Steaming: Having an actual boiler, means real steam and fast - prep time is usually a couple of minutes - and the steam is robust and reliable. The Gaggia Dose comes equipped with a pannarello but you can also run it barefoot.
Brewing: The Gaggia Dose has volumetric brewing - and that is electronically regulated volume based brew times. And what that means is - you can program the Gaggia Dose to deliver 1 and 3/4 ounces of water through the brew group. Press the right sequence of buttons (yea, read the instructions!) and you get exactly 1 and 3/4 fluid ounces of espresso out of the Gaggia Dose. It is that simple and that reliable - and it does free up your hands to do something else while you are waiting those 26 seconds for the perfect shot! Mind you, you have to tamp your coffee accordingly - and grind to commercial standards. With semi-commercial espresso machines, attention to the details is rewarded with great coffee time and again!
Using Pods: I am a recent convert to ESE Pods (I have a La Piccola Sara and I love it!). The Gaggia Dose has a ESE basket that allows simple usage this ultra-convenient medium. Keep in mind that ESE Pods are typically 50 to 60 cents a shot, they have a long shelf life and a lot of the muss and fuss is eliminated from the espresso process.
Hot Water: The Gaggia Dose can dispense hot water for Americanos, hot chocolate, teas, soups, etc. To pour hot water simply open the steam wand, click the brew button, and hot water will pour out of your steam wand.
The Gaggia Dose is easy to operate and maintain in the Gaggia tradition. It is good to know that there are years and years of design integrity with all the Gaggia products - and a lot of cross brand consistency - and that is, one Gaggia is as robust as the next one regardless of the price point.
Creature features: A 60 oz coupled water tank can be filled from above our easily pulled out with the handle and filled at the sink. There are no tubes or pipes to fuss with. The tank is gasket coupled to the pump intakes - that is handy. An adequate drip tray also easily slides out for cleaning. The Gaggia Dose uses separate thermostats to control boiler temperature. There is also a replaceable non-resettable thermal fuse that protects your boiler in the event it over heats.
Taste tells: I found the Gaggia Dose shots to be as good as any other Gaggia I have ever used and definitely superior to any other units that use smaller brew baskets. For me, size counts and the 58MM handle and group really shines with these units. Coming in at under $400, the Gaggia Dose represents very solid value for the enthusiastic newcomer to the espresso game and a machine perfect for the intermediate consumer. Big thanks to EspressoTec.com in Vancouver for the loaner of the Gaggia Dose!