I purchased a Gaggia Titanium machine in February 2011. I share it with 5 co-workers to make our espressos at the office. Our average usage is around 15 runs per work day. We clean and flush the machine regularly, descale when the machine prompts for it.
Before this we had a Saeco Vienna and used it for 4 years before it died. We decided to try out a different brand and went with the Gaggia Titanium.
The machine makes good espresso. It was able to produce 3154 shots in 10 months.
The milk frother was not that good. The steam was often not very strong or was bursty. You also have to let it run 15-20 seconds every time before it starts producing steam instead of water.
The machine looks nice in the picture, but the plastic material got me worried when I opened the box the first time. It is flimsy and thin and does not look like something that can handle serious use. It is also entirely made of plastic - inside and out.
Once we started using it plastic started to peel off from the bottom of the drip tray. The plastic could not handle the hot water, but this was not causing a major problem.
The sensors of the machine are not good. The producer tried to provide electronic "features", but in my opinion this was a shot in the foot.
Every so often the machine will recognize that water needs to be filled into the tank. You can't just fill water while the tank is attached, the machine will not recognize this and will not reset the sensor. You also can't detach the tank and fill it quickly and attach it back. You have to fill it and 'wait' for about a minute. There must be a timer that needs to run out before you put the tank back in place.
Every other week the machine displays the message 'Ventilate' and waits for you to prime it with water. The reasons for this are not obvious. Apparently the most frequent cause is an air bubble that gets into the pump.
We dread this moment and only me and another co-worker were able to develop the expertise to handle this situation without resetting the machine to factory settings. The instructions in the manual are of no use so we had to consult a video on youtube that is posted by the owner of the importer company Todd Salzman: [...]
We had to prime and re-prime a number of times, we would usually spend around 20 minutes doing this until the message disappears, there is water all over the counter, etc..
We had to decalcify the machine 3 times. We bought a product and did it. The final step of the process is to run hot water through the machine until it stops displaying the rinse message. We would run water for more than an hour and nothing would change. In two cases we gave up and reset the machine to factory settings. In the third case we were somehow able to persist and see the message disappear.
After 10 months of use the machine stopped running coffee through the nozzles and was leaking the water from the back right side. Time to open the warranty card. Turns out the importer and service company is called Importika. Later research showed that Importika and WholeLatteLove.com are part of the Salzman Group owned by Todd Salzman.
I called Importika and spoke to a friendly young person. After inquiring about the issue he determined that the machine has to be sent for repair, but no problem - machine is under 1 year warranty and will be serviced for free. There is no local service or pick up of any kind with this company. He would send me a shipping label in the email within a day.
Nothing comes within 3 days, I go on vacation and return. 10 days after the first call I call again to ask about the label. Turns out I was speaking with an intern and nothing is entered in the system. Well, at least I can reach the company. This time we get everything entered. The procedure changes slightly and from free warranty things change to me having to pay for shipment both ways. They take my credit card number, which will be charged only after service for the return shipment ($39). I have to take care of the shipment to them (still unknown amount).
On the next day I receive an email with instructions on draining the machine, packaging, address to send to. Lots of disclaimers that Importika is not responsible for any damages, loss, etc...
I package the machine as good as I can. I use lots of bubble wrap, foam - we are an IT department and have lots of padding from other shipments.
I ship the machine with UPS and it arrives 2 days later (I track) ($39, own packaging, no insurance - UPS will not warrant insurance on packages packaged by customer). 2 days nothing happens and then I receive an email with the subject 'Importika Receipt of Merchandise - Damaged'. The email is generic - it has my name, order number, UPS tracking number and phone numbers of the claim departments of all known carriers. They recommend that I file a claim with the carrier and, once the claim is processed and I decide how to proceed, they would be happy to provide an estimate ($45) to repair my machine.
I call Importika and they say that the entire front panel is broken and the issue is between me and UPS since I am the shipper.
From sending a machine for 'free' warranty service I move on to filing a damage claim and preparing to pay $45 for an estimate.
I file a claim with UPS and hear nothing for 3-4 days. When I call UPS they tell me the claim is under investigation. On the fifth day I go to track my package and see that it is out for delivery in my direction.
The store where I shipped it from also received a fax stating that UPS determined that the damage is not caused during transportation. It also states that the packaging did not pass the 'standard ISTA 3A test'.
I receive the package and open it - it contains an unrecognizable pile of plastic - total damage. Importika is conveniently not involved in any of this.
I try to go over the packaging in my mind and see what I did wrong as I tend to believe that UPS has handled the package like any other package and did not drop it from the third floor and then run over it with their truck. I put lots of padding, the box was big enough, not too big. I removed any parts from the machine that were not required for the service (drip tray, dregs drawer, water reservoir). The email with instructions stated that these should be removed to prevent damage. I think though that removing the drip tray helped the front panel collapse under its own weight during transport vibration, who knows..
Long story short we lost a machine under warranty to total damage. The conclusions (for us):
- This machine is not robust. The materials are cheap and once taken out of the package the machine should not be moved too much.
- If you don't have the original packaging it will be very difficult to package the machine in a way that will survive shipping.
- There is no local service. When the machine breaks you will have to ship it to Importika/WholeLatteLove and assume full responsibility for it to arrive safe. If you have to do this I recommend to have it packaged by the carrier or an authorized service and insure it (you might still go through a *** to get your money upon damage though). This will probably run you around $70 - $80. Then add the return shipment of $39. At the very least you will pay 1/8 of the machine price when you enjoy the free warranty service.
- When the machine is out of warranty you will have to pay $45 fee for a repair estimate. Per their email a 'Tune-Up' is $140, so estimate for yourself how much real repair and spare parts will be.
- Frequent outages and trial and error fumbling due to sensor issues will be a problem and will force you to learn a lot more about the machine's internal operations than you wanted to know.
- If you make anywhere more than 1-2 coffees per day this machine might not last you very long. Not saying it won't but chances are high that it will start leaking or develop other problems. Having it survive service after this is a matter of luck.
- Salzman Group, Importika and WholeLatteLove.com are the same company. They try to create an illusion of a competitive market by selling the same products at different prices on amazon, wholelattelove.com and other online stores. The service they provide is not adequate, but they will talk to you nicely.
- When it comes to espresso machines in this price range we have decided to always buy from a local store where we can put the machine in our car and take it there for service if needed.
- Never again Gaggia.