Need help with Gaggia Baby Class Espresso Machine
I just got my husband the Gaggia Baby Class Espresso machine as an impromptu gift (my not so joking joke is that the real gift was giving up that amount of my very precious counter space.) Anyway, it took him about four cups to figure out the right amount of coffee to make a good cup of espresso, but he's still having lots of problem with the crema. Basically, there is none. I would expect with a $500 machine, it must be his technique which is off. He has a cheap Aliette machine at work that he said makes a nice crema so he's a little frustrated. Any tips you can provide as to what he has to do to get the crema would be greatly appreciated.
Your problem probably starts with your beans. Are they fresh? (5-14 days from the roaster).
You didn't mention a grinder? Unfortunately the grinder is even more important to good espresso than the machine. And on a further note a cheap grinder will not cut it for espresso. Plan to spend at the very minimum $200. There are various INTERNET sites to research. In my opinion the Rocky at about $310. is rock bottom,but others think you can start cheaper. Did you buy a tamper, or are you using the cheap plastic one provided with the machine?
For me, the road to espresso Nirvana will probably involve financial ruin. You don't have to go that far.
Without more information it uncertain if the cheap machine at work uses a pressurized portafilter basket. This produces "fake" crema which is not dependent on beans and technique. Using a non-pressurized basket you need fresh beans, the correct grind, and good dosing and tamping techniques. Just look to your average coffee espresso bar in the US to see machines that cost over 10K produce strong black coffee san crema. It's not the machine.
agree with the previous posters. it's most likely the grinder and not the gaggia. if you're using a blade grinder, you don't have a chance in hell of getting crema because the grind will not be consistent. check out wholelattelove or home barista for more specific info, but my guess would be you need to get a good burr grinder to bring out the best in your gaggia
Don't know anything about Aliette, but most cheap machines "fake" the crema using a pressurized portafilter. Real crema is the mark of a properly-pulled shot of espresso, and requires a lot more than just a good espresso machine. You'll need some additional equipment, a lot of patience, and plenty of practice. If you're up for it, here's how to pull a proper shot:
First, the beans. They have to be fresh (roasted less than ten days ago) but not too fresh (they're still offgassing CO2 for the first three days after roasting). If you have a local coffee roaster you trust, that's great. Otherwise you're better off buying green beans and roasting your own.
Next, as chipman noted, you need a good grinder. You'll never get crema without a very fine, very uniform grind. The Mazzer Mini is really the way to go, but the Rancilio, Saeco, and Solis machines are adequate. If you want to save some coin and work your upper body, a Zassenhaus manual grinder will also do the trick.
The remaining hardware required is a tamper (a heavy metal one, not the plastic one that came with the machine) and two scales, one that's accurate to fractions of a gram and another that's good up to 50 pounds.
Grind your coffee and put 7 grams in the filter basket (to start, anyway--the amount of coffee can be adjusted, but getting reproducible results requires that you use the same amount each time). Put the basket on the big scale and tamp the grounds, rotating the tamper, in one smooth motion that takes the scale up to 35 pounds (again, you may want to adjust the amount of tamping force, but reproducible results require consistency).
Let the machine warm up thoroughly (some folks even go so far as to toss first shot of coffee, since making it heats up the works), firmly attach the portafilter, and let 'er rip. If the beans were ground to the proper fineness and tamped with the right amount of pressure, the coffee will come out of the spout like a mouse's tail. That is, it will be a barely continuous stream that threatens to break apart into individual droplets without ever actually doing so.
The coffee should be dispensed into a heated cup. There are lots of pretty ones out there, but while you're learning the best bet is a clear Pyrex cup with measurements marked on the side. This not only lets you control quantity, it also lets you see the crema forming (or not, as will more likely be the case the first few times).
If all this sounds like too much trouble, it probably is. But it's the only way you're going to get real crema on a cup of espresso.