If you ask any of my friends there are a few things I vowed never to do, but eventually succumbed when the pressure was on. While most of them aren't for publication, there are two I'm willing to divulge – that is switch from a PC to a Mac and to upgrade my espresso machine.
Replacing the PC was painless, because I'd picked up enough Trojans over the last few months to wipe out a small army. And who wouldn't jump all over the opportunity to swap out their machine for the sleek new Gaggia Platinum Vision – in all its stainless steel glory.
The machine swap came about rather suddenly, because we had a huge shipment of Gaggia Platinum Visions come in and I definitely wanted to give one of them a go. After all, there's no better way to get to know something than to try it out. I once again commandeered a machine from the back, brought it home and broke the news to my husband that it might be time for an upgrade if the Vision was as good as people were saying.
As I pulled the Vision from the box, it was clear to see this 19-pound machine was intended to compete with the other luxury espresso machines already on the market. So I had to give it the real once-over and see if the new Platinum line had what it takes to go head-to-head with the others out there.
Without skipping a beat I plugged the Vision into the kitchen outlet, using the 120v plug. This was when I started to notice the upgrades – the little things, or maybe I should say not so little things that made a big difference in my perception of the Vision.
Once I figured out the 57oz water reservoir was located on the side, rather than the back, I pulled it out, inserted the water filter and filled it up. The designers at Gaggia took into account ergonomics and designed both the water reservoir and the dump box, located on the other side, with easy-to-grip handles.
As I waited for the Vision to warm up, I located the 8.9oz bean hopper on the top of the machine and added about half a bag of our Buzzopolis coffee beans. Once again, the little things were starting to add up in my book, because the bean container was fantastic. It's got a large frosted plastic lid, that's got a suction ring around the outside, so the beans stay fresh while they're inside – not that I intended on leaving them sitting around for any length of time, but it's a nice bonus to have a solid bean hopper.
And for the record, that's where the bypass doser is located, within the bean hopper, as opposed to in the front of the machine. A discrete circular lid allows you to use pre-ground coffee instead of the whole beans that are already in the hopper. I've always found a bypass doser a wonderful feature to have, but have always been disappointed as to where they've been located. It seems as though the designers at Gaggia figured this out finally. So now when someone wants to have coffee after dinner, and it's got to be decaffeinated, there isn't the hassle of moving all the demitasse cups on top of the machine and taking off the bypass doser lid.
The Vision comes pre-programmed straight from the factory in Robecco sul Naviglio, Italy, so it's ready to brew espresso for macchiatos, cappuccinos, café lattes and café Americanos – or straight shots if that's your favorite. The Vision also allows you to customize drinks by simply touching the icons on the intelligent looking touch-screen. And while it doesn't drag and drop like my new Mac Book, it's still really cool. There are icons for temperature settings, aroma settings, liquid volume, strength, dosage and intensity as well as language, time and calendar settings. There is also a cup counter that keeps track of how many coffees have been brewed right down to the specific size. So wherever you decide to use this machine it's easy to monitor its usage.
As always, I advise experimenting a little before you begin programming the customized drinks. However, once you're comfortable with the Vision, it's easy to change the amount of coffee to be ground, amount of water desired or even the temperature of your coffee. If you've ever owned a car with adjustable memory seats, its very similar – you can adjust them, but you can always revert to the factory settings.
All these features are really easy to utilize on the touch-screen, they're much more interactive than any push buttons or toggle switches found on other machines in this price range. In fact, the touch screen is one of the best features on the machine.
Steaming and Frothing
I attached the curvaceous looking milk island to the left side of the machine because I was gearing up for some serious cappuccinos. It was easy to hook up, much easier than other milk islands on the market, and much less obtrusive looking. I know, because I've seen them all around our office – this one is pretty normal looking and doesn't take up much space on the counter.
The discreet milk hose snakes under the bottom of the machine to the island, so it's totally invisible. Once the container is filled, anywhere between the min/max line, technology takes over and cycles milk inside the island to form quality steamed or frothed milk. When it's done, just pop it off the base, you'll notice the light change from green to red, give it a quick swirl and you're ready to pour it directly into your cup.
But if you're a die-hard coffee geek and refuse to use the milk island frother, the Vision allows you to use the Pannarello wand with no hassle at all. You don't have to disconnect or change anything, just press one of the icons on the touch screen and you'll be steaming with the wand. Attached to the steam wand is a plastic handle, so you can pivot the wand around on its ball joint without burning your fingers.
Cleaning and Descaling
Unlike a lot of other super automatic espresso machines on the market the Gaggia Platinum Vision utilizes and comes with an Aqua Prima Water Filter that dramatically improves the quality of your water as well as the overall taste of your espresso. The filter removes chlorine, lead, aluminum and copper – all the cleverly veiled minerals often found in unfiltered tap water that can damage the inside of an espresso machine and would add bad flavors to your coffee.
In addition, the Vision alerts you when it's time to run a cleaning cycle. It'll ask you to place a cleaning tablet in the bypass doser and begin a fully automated 4-minute cleaning cycle. The engineers at Gaggia recognized that a lot of people fudge a little when it comes to maintenance, so they made it that much easier and quicker to maintain the machine.
The milk island is just as easy to maintain as well. Simply pop it off its base, pop open the top, remove the internal connections and tubes, rinse under warm water and them let air dry. In all, the Vision is one of the easiest espresso machines to clean I've ever seen.
A Few Extras
Like all Gaggia machines, the Vision comes with a few extras, but the most impressive part of this machine is the intuitive touch-screen display. Using the Vision's touch-screen to make my café latte was, as they say in the MasterCard ads, priceless. I can't think of another machine on the market that grinds as quietly, has features like a motorized drip tray, oversized water reservoir and an almost endless list of brewing options - not to mention its espresso is some of the best tasting I've had in a while.
After giving the Vision a thorough workout over the last few weeks, it was clear this machine is the best on the market, and the people at Gaggia put everything they had into the line. And even if it did take a little poking and prodding to get the Vision in the door, my husband quickly recognized the Vision was worth every dime.
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