Gaggia Accademia Espresso Machine | In-Depth Review
The Gaggia Accademia Espresso Machine 1003380 is not your everyday spontaneous buy; it is a super-automatic espresso machine with a price to match the Gaggia brand name and machine category.
Until Gaggia comes up with another superior model, this one leads the pack. This review will give you in-depth details as well as common user feedback that will help you make a decision and how to better use the machine.
- 1 Who is the machine for?
- 2 Your Secret to Well-Entertained Family, Friends & Guests
- 3 Construction, Dimensions, and Weight
- 4 Some Caveats: The Size Of This Machine
- 5 Notable Features and Drink Selection
- 6 What is the SBS and Adapting System?
- 7 Power and the Grinder
- 8 Dual-Boilers and the Water Tank
- 9 Adjustable Dispenser
- 10 Other Features and General Maintenance
- 11 Some Caveats: Dregs, Drip, and Liquid Recovery Tray
- 12 Final Thoughts
- 13 Ok, how much does this machine cost?
Who is the machine for?
Most likely discerning coffee connoisseurs, aficionados, and espresso enthusiasts who want a premium bean-to-cup experience without the manual intervention of semi-automatics, most of the time, will find this model appealing.
Do you host parties, gatherings, and such frequently?
You can’t entertain your guests well if you’re busy preparing beverages and other things. Unless most of your guests were invited to see your work your new semi-automatic machine or watch you prepare beverages, such as cappuccinos for them.
Your Secret to Well-Entertained Family, Friends & Guests
Gaggia designed this machine specifically so it is easier for you to cater to your guests. Check out this short 2-minute video clip by Gaggia on the Accademia:
This machine is certainly suitable, and in fact, would be an aesthetically pleasing machine to add to your home for a lot of decor types. Even a home office or small office with responsible workers doing some minor clean-up, especially the milk frother, after each use will find this super-automatic appealing. Smaller bars that serve between 50 to 60 espresso beverages a day will find this an ideal candidate to consider.
The machine does come with a commercial style frothing wand that doesn’t use a panarello. Not all super-automatics come with a frothing wand because one of the goals of a super-automatic is to, well, be automatic.
If it has a panarello where it does most of the steaming milk work for you, then there is some level of automation admittedly. But it doesn’t. The style of the frothing wand does require a bit work and basic skill to froth the milk so it is interesting. Some customers have complained that the brewed beverage using the milk carafe isn’t hot enough and had to use the steam wand for about 30 seconds to finish the brewing job manually.
It’s not ideal in the super-automatic sense but at least it does have a frothing wand to help. The alternative is the brewed beverage the way it is. Microwaving it is not an ideal option.
Construction, Dimensions, and Weight
The machine is considerably larger than your average semi or fully automatic espresso machine. It measures at 11″ (W) x 15.2″ (H) x 16.8″ (D) (28cm x 38.6 x 42.7cm). The machine is made from a durable metal frame housed with a “smudge-proof” (no fingerprints) stainless steel front panel and plastic sides.
A larger machine means a heavier machine and this one weighs 45 pounds (17 kg).
You might be wondering:
“The front looks quite nice, but the sides don’t look like stainless steel…”
OK, some customers on different websites have made an ‘observation’ that the 3 sides apart from the front panel are plastic.
But consider this:
A full stainless steel housing would push this machine’s weight considerably higher without any obvious improvement to functionality. Most users would probably put this on a countertop or a larger wet bar with the back facing the wall / backsplash so having a fancy all-stainless steel housing may be a moot point for many.
Some Caveats: The Size Of This Machine
One important thing to note about putting this machine on your kitchen countertop, and especially underneath cupboards / cabinets, is the height. As mentioned, the height of this machine is 15.2″, that is, with the lids for both the bean hopper and water tank fully opened adds another 3″.
At 18.2″, this will fit most standard kitchen cabinet clearance from the countertop. But you still need to make sure you have enough clearing space at the top to fill the machine with coffee beans and water. If you have the machine situated close against the wall or backsplash tiles, you may have to move the machine forward towards you a few inches for better bean hopper and water access.
Another interesting suggestion by some customers is to use a heavy-duty swivel, also known as a ‘Lazy Susan‘. The cord length is 36″ so you should position the unit near an electric receptacle and at the same time allows you to turn the machine left for water refills and right for coffee bean refills. This is an added cost but one that may save long term frustrations.
Notable Features and Drink Selection
Super-automatics are known for their one-button operations. A bright color LCD display offers a variety of easy programming and customization options. This unit features no-fuss popular espresso beverages that are available using one of the 7 one-push buttons:
- caffe lungo
- latte macchiato
- hot water
With the exception of hot water, the rest are customizable and memorized thanks to the electronic dosing system.
A quick note on pre-ground coffee:
At any time, you can substitute whole-bean coffee for pre-ground, such as decaffeinated coffee. This is an especially useful feature for those who are sensitive to caffeine at night, affecting their sleep.
All you need to do is press the opti-dose button until you see a little spoon icon in the LCD display, then select the beverage type. Next, insert the ground coffee using the measuring spoon provided in the bypass doser, and press the OK button – that’s it!
NEVER put whole coffee beans or anything else aside from pre-ground coffee in the bypass doser. You will damage the machine.
Depending on what type of beverage and whether it uses milk, these are the general settings, which apply to the opti-dose feature:
- Coffee Amount – Three settings of mild, medium, and strong controls how much coffee the machine needs to grind. This directly affects the aroma of the coffee.
- Pre-Infusion or “Prebrewing” – If the coffee amount still doesn’t push the aroma level to your preferences, this function should. It dampens the coffee just slightly and prior to brewing to produce what some call “excellent taste”.
- Coffee Temperature – Some like it hot. Some like it hotter. Three options to control the temperature you like: low, medium, and high.
- Coffee Length – This refers to how much water you want in the selected beverage and is controlled by the indicated horizontal bar tweaked by the arrow keys.
- Milk Length – Similar to the option above, this just implies how much milk you want in the selected beverage as indicated by the horizontal strip and is easily controlled by the arrow buttons.
- Milk Foam – Four options are presented: No frothing (hot milk as-is), minimum, medium, and maximum frothing. If you opt to choose no frothing, the milk temperature may be lower so take note; you may have to end up using the froth wand on the left side of the machine to heat up your milk.
- Water Length – This is for the Hot Water button and controls the quantity of water and is indicated by the horizontal strip and controlled by the arrow keys.
What is the SBS and Adapting System?
Here is another nice feature about some super-automatics – this Gaggia machine shows off with its self-adjusting coffee extraction system. This is to cater to the large variety of different types of coffee beans on the market today. You have coffee beans from different climates and soil, different blends, and of course roasting. Aside from flavored and caramelized beans, this machine attempts to adjust itself and “learn” as you feed it coffee beans to process. Now this is certainly a neat feature.
That said, some special blends may require grinder adjustments at the top so be sure you pay attention to what beans you buy and what special instructions, if any, it may have.
Now, do you notice that big dial on the image above?
The noteworthy dial on the front of the machine, just above the dispenser, is called the SBS dial. This is a special dial that allows you dynamically adjust coffee strength even while brewing. Turning the dial left weakens the coffee while right strengthens it.
Power and the Grinder
The machine uses 1500W with a 120V rating, to power a 15 BAR vibration pump and double-boilers. Even though this is a high-end super-automatic, the rated use is expected to be less than 100 cups per day and more in the range of 50-60 cups per day; a vibration pump is suitable in this case. Another positive perspective is that vibration pumps are cheaper and easier to replace.
Power management is built-in to lower power consumption during off-peak or when the machine is not under use for a certain time during the day.
The quality ceramic burr grinder (flat) processes your whole beans from the 12oz (~350g) bean hopper. There are 10 grind settings from coarse to fine to suit your taste preferences.
Dual-Boilers and the Water Tank
Here’s the deal: Dual Boilers.
You do not see this in a lot of other espresso machines. A good part of your money goes to the double-boiler design for independent brewing and steaming temperatures. The boilers are thermoblocks and made of stainless steel lined aluminum. The boilers are heated using external heating elements consuming 1400W of power.
Even though there are two boilers, it doesn’t mean that the brew and steam process are simultaneous but it does offer the ability of a rapid steam.
The water tank holds 1.6 liters, or just less than half a gallon, so it’s not enormous. Depending on the frequency of your consumption, you may find yourself refilling the machine with water quite frequently. The water tank also uses a water filter that needs to be replaced regularly depending on your usage. If you activate the filter in the machine and enable the filter reminder, you will know when to replace it without having to calculate the date yourself.
Test your water for hardness using the kit provided and make sure the water hardness level is set under Water Settings in the machine. This will ensure the decalcification alerts are correct.
A great feature of this machine is the adjustable dispenser spout that allows you to lower to a cup height of 3.5″ and raise it up to, and just over, 6.5″ for larger cups or standard-size tumblers for those on the go. For larger tumblers, you could always make two cups, pour it in your tumbler until full, and drink the rest.
If you’re not on the go and just want to enjoy your cup at home, adjust the dispenser to a suitable cup size. Espresso drinks are best consumed with a pre-heated cup. So the active cup warmer will come in handy here.
You might be wondering:
“Where is the cup warmer, and how many cups / how big should the cups be?”
The cup warmer is on the top of the machine and is the flat surface right behind the pre-ground coffee inlet (the bypass doser) and is 4 x 6 inches in size. It’s powered by an active heating element so some care should be taken to avoid possible burns.
Cup sizes should be relatively small at around 3 to 4 inches in height, especially if you have a kitchen cabinet on the top of the machine. You can comfortably put two standard coffee mugs or 4 espresso shot cups with ease.
Other Features and General Maintenance
The “Carafe Auto Clean” function, accessible in the menu settings of the LCD screen, is useful as it automatically cleans itself after each use involving milk-based products. You should check to make sure this feature is enabled in the menu settings. Even with this auto-clean, Gaggia recommends you conduct the milk circuit cleaning on a monthly basis. This covers other components within the machine that is in touch with milk products. It is quick and easy so do not omit this monthly maintenance step.
One more note about the milk carafe:
This needs to be cleaned separately with hot water once a week for sanitation purposes. Otherwise, you can store the carafe in the fridge, if it contains milk, and take it out nice and cold when you need your special brew.
All espresso machines need to be cleaned regularly and descaled, especially super-automatics. Assuming your water hardness level is set, the machine will remind when descaling needs to be done. If you want ongoing optimal performance from your machine, be sure to stick to the regular descaling cycle.
Some Caveats: Dregs, Drip, and Liquid Recovery Tray
The dregs drawer holding the used coffee pucks uses an electronic counter to remind you when to empty it. It can hold about 10 to 12 cups worth of brewed espresso beverages, depending on what you select.
Since the counter is electronic, emptying this drawer when the machine is off, will confuse the counter giving you incorrect reminders of when to empty it. Some customers have complained about this as being rather cumbersome or ill-designed. But the idea behind this feature was to automate the counting of the coffee pucks so you don’t have to. Nevertheless, this is one feature you will either love or find pathetic.
You can remove the entire brew group for cleaning and easy maintenance and the user manual details the steps. You should only wash the brew group and the filter with running water and pat dry it. Moving parts within the brew group will also need to be lubricated with the supplied lubricant around every 500 brewing cycles.
This is Crucial:
Never put the brew group in your dishwasher and never use any sort of detergent to clean it. Doing so will damage the brew group and a replacement does not come cheap.
The drip tray with grill has an indicator to tell you when it’s full.
There is another tray:
The liquid recovery tray is accessible by opening up the front panel. This also gets filled and some customers complain it gets filled quite quickly while others recommend placing the machine nearer the sink for easier disposal.
The Gaggia 1003380 Accademia Espresso Machine is truly a masterpiece in the Gaggia line. Aimed for home, home office, small office or even small pub use, this machine a robust and caters for the most popular espresso drinks at the push of a button.
The machine is slightly larger so make sure you have enough space and clearing at the top to frequently add water and easily add coffee beans. Here is a snapshot of the key features:
- Built-in ceramic burr grinder with a bean hopper for quality grinding.
- “Self Adapting System” that auto-learns how best to grind your favorite whole beans.
- SBS dial allows you strengthen, or weaken, your coffee on the fly – while brewing!
- Separate doser bypass system allows you to enjoy pre-grounded coffee such as decaffeinated coffee.
- Telescopic and adjustable dispenser that allows smaller cups to tumblers measuring 6.5″; perfect for those who need a quick cup to go.
- Dual thermoblock boilers for brewing and steaming.
- Easily programmable buttons to customize your favorite espresso beverages.
- “Carafe Auto Clean” cleans itself after each use – automatically – after each brewed beverage requiring milk.
- Separate frothing wand for those who feel the brewed beverage with milk needs to be hotter, or if you just suddenly fancy frothing your own milk.
- Comes with a pre-ground coffee scoop, water hardness tester, brew group lubricant, descaling solution, brew group cleaning tablets, power cord, water filter, and a cleaning brush.
Ok, how much does this machine cost?
If you think you are ready to get one of these awesome machines or check the latest price on Amazon:
About This Research and Review:
* More than 16 project hours* invested in researching and producing this article.
* The Research & Analysis component of the project is usually a combination of:
- Analyzing country-specific appliance manufacturer’s / authorized distributor’s documentation and websites.
- Cross-referencing e-retailer’s listed specifications of the appliance against the manufacturer / authorized distributors.
- Only Assessing Verified customer reviews and comments (positive & negative) from reputable e-retailers.
- Physical inspection of the small appliance where possible / available.
* Stated hours may increase due to our constant checking for manufacturer’s updates, news, etc.