Product Type: Gaggia ice cream makers
Newest Review: ... time : 30 min. ca * Compressor : 4.03 cc * Accessories :Ice-cream blade, book of receipts Gaggia describe it as a semi-professional m... more
An Italian Dream Machine
Member Name: Verbena
Advantages: Freezes internally, does successive batches, integral or removable bowl options
Disadvantages: Expensive, heavy, takes up work surface space, quality of instruction booklet
I had two reasons for purchasing an ice cream maker: one was because I thought that making sorbets and frozen yoghurt would help me in the pursuit of weight loss; the second was because my other half was eating some form of dessert every day, and usually ice cream with it - no link there, then! It was costing us quite a bit of money, actually, and most of the time he was eating the cheap and nasty stuff, and I had to say I had concerns about whether it was good for his health. So, a few years ago, we bought one of those machines where you freeze the bowl in the freezer beforehand. This made great tasting ice cream, but there were two disadvantages: you had to refreeze the bowl before you could make a second batch, say if you wanted two flavours, or a larger quantity, and the paddle would very often get stuck in churning, making it very difficult to get the contents out successfully. I started looking around for a product that better suited our needs and lifestyle. At the time the Gaggia machine seemed to be streets ahead of any product. I did like the fact that the machine would freeze the contents as it churned, and I guess the thought was in my mind that Italians have a good name for making ice cream, therefore an Italian machine should be good. However at £200+ it was hard to justify spending that amount, so I put it to the back of my mind.
I decided I'd had enough of the old machine around the same time that my husband started to have some persistent medical problems and was later diagnosed with an auto0immune condition, one of the symptoms for which was a dry mouth. This seemed to give him more of an excuse to indulge in his favourite puddings, and being put on a high dose of steroids increased his appetite [and his weight!] I thought it through very carefully and reasoned that I could justify the expense of the Gaggia if it was used regularly and if it made food more palatable for him. I gave the old machine to my parents, as it was still working well, and ordered the Gaggia from Amazon. It's a couple of years ago now, and I don't remember the exact cost, but I know it was in excess of £200. Fortunately we were in a strong enough financial position at the time so felt it was affordable. I see it's currently being sold an Amazon for £245, which apparently is a £55 saving on the recommended price.
It was quite exciting, the day the parcel arrived - but my word it was heavy! The instructions said that the machine was not to be used until at least 12 hours after purchase or after any move which might have resulted in the machine being placed upside down. This is because it has its own coolant inside, and it has to be allowed to settle. Because of this and its weight I decided it was best kept out on the work surface. There were a lot of instructions about the electrical supply etc, including not immersing any part of the actual machinery in water, not replacing the supply cord, not adding any unauthorised attachments and so on. The most important one for everyday use is probably to make sure that there is clear space around the machine of at least 30 cm when in use, for ventilation purposes. As with all new machinery, the booklet advised washing thoroughly any parts that will come into contact with the ice cream before using for the first time.
The Machine Spec
This is taken directly from the Gaggia website as I don't trust myself to get it completely right:
* Power supply : 220-240V-50Hz 165W
* Dimensions :L.29.5xP.38.5xH.21.5 cm.
* Weight :12.7 kg
* Ice Cream : 600 g
* Preparation time : 30 min. ca
* Compressor : 4.03 cc
* Accessories :Ice-cream blade, book of receipts
Gaggia describe it as a semi-professional machine!
The booklet/manual has about 43 pages, about A5 in size. For the cost of the machine I felt the quality of the booklet left a little to be desired; for instance, the cover is of the same thickness of the pages, so with time it's become folded over. The front and back covers are also extended, so they have now become concertina folded and this actually makes it quite hard to find the desired page. You could argue that I should have looked after it better; perhaps so, but I feel a stronger cover would have been a help. The cover has a sticker with details of Gaggia service contact number should the machine malfunction. I'm happy to say that I haven't needed to use it to date as the machine has worked perfectly. There is also an email address and a website, all fine so long as you don't lose the booklet - but then it tells you very clearly to keep it! I have, however, just found a downloadable version - see end of review, so problem solved for me!
The booklet starts with a diagram of the machine, labelling the parts with a key given in Italian, English, German, French and Dutch. There's then a section repeated in each language in that order; the English section in mine runs from pages 11-19. Two pages are about the operation of the machine, including how to use the removable bowl, which includes the use of 'alimentary alcohol' to stop the bowl freezing to the internal bowl, so that it can be removed. I suppose alimentary alcohol is anything that isn't surgical! There are places like this where you can tell that it's been translated, although generally the English is quite comprehensible. My reading of the other languages unfortunately is not quite of a standard where I feel qualified to comment! Following the instructions for use there is a section of recipes. It was here that I sometimes struggled more with the English as I think it may have been aimed more at the American market, with terms like 'heavy cream' which I believe is double cream. I struggled a bit with the idea of cream and milk being measured in grams or ounces to start with - I was expecting a liquid measure. The sections are [with variations] chocolate ice creams; eggless ice creams; zabaglione ice creams; vanilla ice creams; hazelnut ice creams; sherbets - 13, which I take to be sorbets; long drinks - Chicago, Baltimore coffee; granites - lemon and coffee. The recipe I use most often by far is the basic eggless ice cream, where you take 220 g or 7 oz milk, the same of heavy cream, 150 gr or 5 oz sugar and a pinch of salt. I don't always even mix it together beforehand, just churn it in the machine
Thinking about it as I write, there's actually not much information in the booklet about the inside of the ice cream maker, i.e. the parts that aren't visible. It's possible that there were notices about this when it arrived that have since been misplaced. In any case, there's nothing you can do but send it for service or repair if it malfunctions. Thankfully, that hasn't happened.
The ice cream container is at the front right, and contains a mixing blade and a locking nut. There's a clear Perspex-style cover with a lifting handle. The removable bowl has its own mixing blade as it's a slightly different fit. There's a small Perspex measuring cup which is largely for the purpose of measuring the alcohol mentioned earlier. At the back on the left hand side are the controls: the cooling switch - you pre-cool the ice cream container before adding the ingredients - the timer, and the mixing switch. There's also a spatula to help remove the ice cream at the end of the mixing process. I had some difficulty in understanding the timer initially, as its settings are not easy to understand, then decided, as you usually want it set at 30 minutes, to turn it round to maximum anyway as it's easy enough to interrupt it if you need to.
When you've decided whether you are going to use the integral container or the removable one, you need to set the machine up accordingly, with the correct mixing blade & screwing the locking nut firmly into place on top of it.
The recipes usually direct you to put the cooling switch on for about 5 minutes before starting the mixing. This ensures pre-freezing. And to operate it you just press it down. Usually you will set the timer to 30 minutes by turning it round, and then pour in your selected ingredients. You engage the mixing button, and you're away - it starts churning & it's not long before you see the mixture begin to thicken. There's an element of choice about how long it churns for- you can override the timer if you choose to, just by turning git back again to the off position. I think it switches off when it's thick enough, but I've usually stopped it before then manually. I do find that you need to move fairly quickly once it stops, as the ice cream may start to melt again. It's a good idea to have a plastic box nearby if you're going to keep it in the freezer for a firmer result or store a bit longer; if you're going to eat it straight away then the consumers need to be ready to eat it pretty much straight away! The recipe I use most often by far is the basic eggless ice cream, where you take 220 g or 7 oz milk, the same of heavy cream, 150 g or 5 oz sugar and a pinch of salt. I don't always even mix it together beforehand; I just churn it in the machine. I don't even measure the cream every time, just using one of the nearest sized cartons. For everyday use it's great. I take the ice cream maker into my local preschool each summer & make some with the children, and they absolutely love this recipe! When it melts it just reverts to being milk & cream mixed with sugar. Whichever recipe I use, I find the end result to be smooth & creamy, with no unpleasant ice crystals spoiling the texture.
I can't see anywhere in the instructions where an indication is given of the maximum quantity it makes, but as the both bowls holds just over a litre that's really your maximum. There's no point in overfilling it because it just wouldn't freeze properly. There's the advantage that you can make another batch as soon as you've cleared up the first, so if you think you have too much you could always split it into two and do it that way.
You have the option of using the integral bowl or the removable one. For the latter, it's a good idea to use the measure and instructions & put a small amount of alcohol & water between the removable bowl & the integral one, to stop it sticking when you remove it. This does kind of work but it's a bit of a fiddle, I find. It would be easier to lift out if there was a handle. More often than not I use the integral bowl & just work quickly on getting the mixture out.
This is obviously where the removable bowl version has the advantage, as you can take it to the sink with the blade & nut & wash it there. It's a bit more complicated with the integral bowl, as you can't immerse anything in water. I usually take a bowl of hot water across to the machine, making sure I've switched it off & unplugged it from the power supply first. Using a cloth, it's not too difficult to keep wiping until everything's clean. I don't have a dishwasher, but I'd imagine only the removable bowl would be suitable to use in one anyway. I do worry about losing the locking nut, but maybe this has helped to make me more careful & so far I've kept it safe! It's important to be very careful about hygiene, so cleaning after use needs to be thorough. This is clearly pointed out in the booklet.
Using other recipes
I don't think the recipes in the manual are in any way meant to be exhaustive, more to show you what the possibilities are. I already had a book of ice cream recipes from the time when I bought my earlier machine, and I sometimes use it. More recently I've used recipes from cookery writers like Delia Smith, whose Nutmeg & Marscapone Ice Cream is sitting in my freezer waiting to be eaten! I made her cinnamon recipe at Christmas. Both of these require me to make a real custard [with eggs] as part of the process so they're a bit more challenging from the cooking angle, but not difficult once you get the idea. These don't separate like the simple ice cream does so you don't have to eat up quite so quickly!
The manual - I could wish for it to be better written and presented in a better format, but it's not an issue once you've got to grips with operating the machine, especially if you have a few other recipes available.
The ice cream - the usual reaction is very positive and enthusiastic from family, friends and guests alike. I've never had a complaint, and I've occasionally been asked to make some for people.
The machine - even though I don't use it as often as I thought I would [himself went through fazes of preferring custard and then cream & evaporated milk, would you believe?] I love it and wouldn't want to be without it or go back to the other kind. I think there are some other options available now as ice cream making has gained in popularity, from brands like Cuisinart and Magimix, but I can't comment on how the Gaggia compares to them simply because I don't know. For me it's churned out wonderful ice cream every time.
It's not quite perfect, but then, what is? I love it so much I'm going to have to give it 5* despite its tiny issues.
http://www.gaggia.com/macchine-da-caffe.asp?cucin a_49_Gelatiera This is the Italian site but it's in English & has a downloadable pdf for the manual/booklet, so if you are interested you can check it out there, including all the recipes! I have bookmarked it in case my copy gets too tatty.
Thank you for reading my review, which may also appear on other sites.
Summary: Great ice cream every time!