Friday, 26 August 2011

Coffee headaches.

Many years ago, I purchased a Gaggia espresso machine. I forget the model name, but it cost a small fortune.   It worked really well, and packed up shortly after the guarantee expired.  I vowed never to buy Gaggia again.

Quite a few years ago, I bought a Krupps espresso machine.  It was their then top of the range machine, and it worked really well.  It was one where you had to start it espressing and stop it espressing, and it took a while to recover enough to produce steam for the milk.  DH and I have a double espresso each every morning, with milk done in the antipodean "flat white" style. Eventually I got fed up with overfilled coffee cups (attention span of a...), and the time it took to produce 2 coffees so, I bought a Gaggia Baby Class D.  

Another small fortune (to me).  But, it stopped automatically when it has dispensed the right amount of water,  it had a pre-infusion feature which made better espressos.   I bought the cappuccinatore accessory, which helped me make "flat whites", and we were in coffee heaven. For a short time.

The machine went seriously wrong. Helpfully in-guarantee. Gaggia, meanwhile, had disappeared to be rescued by Philips.  I called them.  They sent packaging. I packed the machine, arraged a courier to collect it from me and take it to the service centre. We waited.  It came back to us.  It went wrong again. I phoned the service centre.  I had to wait for them to send packaging (even though I still had the previous lot), because it wasn't possible to send only the labels & paperwork.   it went back to the nice people at Philips,we waited,  it came back to us.   It went wrong a third time. I phoned.   I waited for packaging. I packed it, arranged a courier, it went back to Philips.  We waited quite a long time. It came home.   It went wrong a fourth time. I phoned and arranged for packaging. The packaging arrived, I packed it up it went back to Philips.  We waited. It came back, having had some major surgery,  and it worked beautifully for about a year. Then it packed up again. A bit outside the guarantee period.

I was going to chalk it up to experience, and buy something else.  But I really liked the coffee we'd been getting out of it.   And when I considered how much it had cost and how it had lasted just over 2 years (less the time away), I really felt that we hadn't had good value out of it.   WIthout much hope, I emailed Philips and asked if they would consider a final go at fixing it, as a gesture of goodwill given the machine's chequered history.  

Philips customer service chap, Tim, phoned me.  We talked about my machine and the experience I had.  He said, fairly enough I thought, that it wasn't really worth trying to repair the machine again. He then surprised me by saying they would send me a refurbished machine as a replacement, and would arrange to uplift my broken machine.  We left it that he would try and arrange for them to happen at the same time.

Joy! Surprise!  Singing Philips' praises!

I didn't hear anything about my existing machine for a while,  but I did receive a call to arrange delivery of the replacement.    It arrived, we unpacked it,  suffering somewhat from decent coffee withdrawal.   The machine was well wrapped, but I could see through the packaging that it was different to my current machine.

Never mind, I thought.  But as I looked at the fascia, I had a horrible feeling that this machine was going to be like the Krupps - no automatic dosing.  I opened the instructions and pored through them. Yup. Manual start and stop. 

At least it's a coffee machine, I told myself.  But then I rmembered how annoying the Krupps had become.  And I know myself well enough to know that I would be buying a replacement very shortly.   So, I emailed Tim.  I thanked him for the machine,  apologised for being ungrateful, and explained that it didn't have the automatic dosing facility which is why I had bought the Baby Class D.  Did he have another machine available by any chance? And. by the way, I hadn't heard anything about my broken machine being picked up.  Tim was brilliant.  He said he'd arrange to have the machine picked up and a replacement delivered.  

Some time after I received a phone call from someone arranging to deliver packaging so that they could subsequently uplift my machine.  I checked which machine they were uplifting, and it seemed to be my old machine.

The packaging arrived,  no replacement.  The packaging referred to a machine going back into stock.  I emailed Tim to clarify.     Tim phoned to say that actually the packaging was for the refurbed machine,    they hadn't realised I still had my old machine,  and a new replacement was on the way.  I asked him to send me a label for the old machine so I could send it back at the same time. It would take 3-5 working days.

Time passed.   Eventually a call from the service centre arranging to deliver the second machine.  The label arrived. It mentioned going back into stock. I crossed it out and wrote on there that it was the broken machine.   I packed up my old machine, I now had two huge boxes sitting in my hallway. On Wednesday morning,   I arranged for them to be collected on Friday.  Later on Wednesday, the new machine arrived.

Much joy, much caffeine-withdrawal-induced excitement.   I opened the box. I looked at the fascia. It was the same sort of machine that they had sent the first time.  I emailed Tim.   He phoned back to say he was sorry, but there were no other machines available.    We both decided that it was time to give up.

I decided that I would buy a new machine, selling the remaining incorrect machine to part fund it.  I decided I'd buy Gaggia again,  even though it hadn't worked out, because I thought Tim had really tried hard to resolve this for me. Besides, I was planning to sell the second refurbed machine to part fund it,  and it seemed only right that I should therefore buy Gaggia again.

I couldn't find my machine in stock anywhere.  DH was away. Yesterday, in a moment of extreme frustration at not being able to find the damn machine I wanted, I gave in and ordered a bean to cup machine (having phoned a Gaggia Specialist shop to check that the cappuccinatore would fit)   I ordered it on next day delivery.  I then began to wonder if I had done the right thing.  What if, after all this,  it didn't work as well as my Baby Class D?

All morning I waited.  The Yodel man arrived to collect the two other machines.  The Postman delivered another set of labels, this time referring to the broken machine.  Too late to use them.   I scratched my head.  Are they expecting the second machine back?  They can't be.  The label that arrived came before they knew the second machine wasn't suitable.      I realised that the packaging they sent originally must have been for the broken machine after all.  Oh well, I'm sure they'll work it out when they get them.

And then, mid afternoon, It arrived. I unpacked it. I was nervous.   I couldn't find the power supply.  I went through the packaging. It wasn't there.  I was a bit cross at this point, how on earth could "they" send a machine without a blummen power supply?!    I decided not to phone and complain yet. (a) I wasn't in a good mood and that is never a good time to make a complaint, and (b) I wanted to  test the darn thing first in case something else was wrong.  

I started working through the pre-first-use checks. I got to the bit where i had to fill the water reservoir..and I found the power supply. Tucked inside.

Grateful that I hadn't phoned and made an idiot of myself, I carried on. The first-use thing is a bit of a palaver. It involves making 3 large coffees without any coffee, and discharging the contents of the water reservoir through the steam nozzle.    Eventually, having run water through the machine, I was ready to make a coffee with real coffee. 

Now, I have several tins of Illy Long, ready ground. But only 1 tin of coffee beans of some other brand, bought in error when I had decided Illy was too expensive.     As I was trying the new machine, I used the beans.  And I used the supplied panarello frother instead of my cappucinatore.    It was OK, not great.  I don't mind using a panarello occasionally, but I like the laziness of the cappucinatore. 

I increased the strength and tried again. Better. It looked like a proper double espresso now.    But it didn't taste as good as Illy.

The digital display was really difficult to see, very dark.  I moaned about it.  I decided to try the ground coffee mode. I had deliberately chosen a machine that could use ready ground espresso as well as beans.  I was a bit surprised to read that you can only put in one spoonful of coffee at a time. Any more, and it gets rejected by the machine.  Hmmm.  Bit irritating.  Never mind, at least I could use the Illy we had in the cupboard and in the fridge.  I made a coffee with it.  It was OK.  Not great tasting.  Maybe a month wuthout proper coffee has meant my tastebuds  have changed. 

Next, I fitted the cappuccinatore.  Not a great fit, but OK.  It's a bit kack-handed, the wand is really on the wrong side for the design of the cappuccinator,  but it's workable.  I made steamed milk as I adjusted the air inlet.   Mmm. Think I might do it this way instead of heating milk in a saucepan, in future. 

The display was annoying me. I could see what I needed to, but the icons were difficult to make out.  It was OK while I had the destructions in front of me..but, I guessed, I'd get used to it.  And the coffee was OK; I knew it would take me a while to adjust the cappucinatore so it worked properly - it took a few goes on the old machine as well

I pushed the machine back into the corner where it was going to live, and I noticed that a bit of the fascia had come away.  My goodwill was evaporating. I was now rather cross.   I was cross about the display.  I was cross about the cappucinatore.  I was cross that I could only put in one spoon of ground coffee at a time (stupid machine!). And, mostly,  I was disappointed that  the coffee was OK but not fantastic.  I flicked the bit of broken fascia to see if I could put it back in place.  I couldn't. It was very floppy.  I couldn't believe it could be such a crappy design. .

I looked closer, and it was hanging off!   The final straw!  I pulled it (as you do),  and that's when it came right off.   Turns out it was actually a piece of darkened protective film, which was protecting the display during transport.

The display itself is quite bright.

Daft woman.

I'm sure coffee tomorrow will be grand.

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