No, Gaggia has not started making single ended triode espresso machines, nor is the Naviglio a network streamer. It is a bean to cup coffee machine and our excuse for reviewing it on this site is that even hi-fi reviewers need more than pace rhythm and timing to keep us awake sometimes. Neither am I immune to the appeal of decent coffee, so when this machine was offered for review they didn’t need to ask twice.
The deal with the Naviglio Standard is that it brings the entry level for an adjustable grind Gaggia down to £399 (RRP), which is a bit like Sonus faber offering a serious speaker for £999. In a world where pod machines are making serious inroads into the enthusiast coffee market Gaggia is making the case for keeping it real. That is using your choice of real beans and offering adjustable grind and strength so that you can make a consistently decent cup of espresso, cappuccino, Americano, you name it.
But why should you spend this sort of money on a relatively large machine when a pod squeezer can be had at half the size and a quarter the price? In the long run the answer is cost, capsules cost 30p and up and that price is maintained by the multinational behind the technology, there is a little bit of competition but nothing serious. Gaggia reckons that over two years the fact that coffee beans cost between 6p and 15p per cup will make up a £300 difference in cost between a pod machine and Naviglio for people who drink two cups a day.
That’s a good reason in itself but as anyone who has owned an espresso machine knows they are a bit more hands on in terms of cleaning and maintenance, so what other reasons are there? Well there’s the eco angle, all those aluminium capsules need recycling and that’s not just a case of putting them in the regular recycling bin. But the strongest argument in favour of a machine like this is that you can tweak it to give you exactly the strength and flavour that you want. Firstly by choosing beans from the many options on the market and then by choosing from five grind settings. The Naviglio has ceramic grinders that can be adjusted with a simple tool for a finer or coarser grind, I was sceptical about what difference this would make but was pleasantly surprised at how much change in taste a two notch adjustment made. I don’t claim to be a connoisseur but do find it hard to get a coffee that’s got flavour but isn’t too strong without having to use lots of milk. By experimenting with the aroma knob on the front and the grinder settings I was able to make many cups that had all the right qualities.
I also used the steamer to heat milk, this is operated with one of the illuminated buttons but takes a few seconds to come on, just long enough for the easily distracted to wander away until the sound of high pressure steam prompts a lunge for the jug to get the nozzle into the milk! This only happened a couple of times in as many months and it’s not as alarming as it sounds. Fortunately turn off is almost immediate because the frothing milk tends to rise in the container pretty quickly.
There is drip tray with a stainless steel cover that copes with most of the excess and it has a red float to let you know when to empty it. I don’t recommend ignoring this for long because the tray is as long as the machine but shallow and can’t be carried far without spillage if it’s too full. The other thing you need to do regularly is clean the steamer nozzle of milk, this is quick and easy but much more pleasant if you don’t touch the metal pipe at the top! The weekly clean recommended in the manual is a bit more laborious but not such a chore that you’d put it off, the key is to do it after your last cup of the day so that the ‘brew group’ element has enough time to drip dry. Apparently you are supposed to lubricate this after 500 cups or once a month and descale the machine if the ‘calc clean’ light comes on, but my one a day intake and lack of Gaggia grease meant that this did not come to pass.
I would recommend the Naviglio to anyone interested in enjoying a decent cup of coffee, and those that like several in the day even more so. The cleaning/maintenance aspect is a minor but not insignificant issue that Gaggia has done its best to minimise but it would but great if they could eliminate the lubrication aspect. Ultimately however this is like a decent turntable, it needs a bit of TLC to keep it performing well, and the reward in terms of top notch awakening juice is well worth the candle.
Pump pressure: 15 bar
Nominal input: 1850 watt
Mode: power / standby / sleep
Water tank capacity: 1.5 litres
Dimensions HxWxD: 440 x 256 x 340mm
Net weight 8 kg