It is never easy to pick the right coffee machine for the home. There are so many choices that can have almost the same features.
Most of them will only differ in their brand and price.
All things being equal, you have got to put your trust in a brand that has an excellent reputation in the design and manufacture of world-class coffee machines.
One such brand is the Italian company, Gaggia.
The Gaggia Babila Espresso Machine (RI9700/64)
The journey of the Babila can be traced back to 1938 when Giovanni Achille Gaggia invented the first steamless coffee machine of the modern world and had it patented in his native Italy. Gaggia wanted a machine that can deliver instant espressos to his clients at his coffee bar. The machine produces crema by forcing pressurized hot water through coffee grounds.
Related: Gaggia Classic PRO Review
Because of the resounding success of his patented coffee machine, Gaggia decided to form a company in 1947. The brand relied on the original design of Gaggia to produce high-quality and high-performance coffee machines for commercial establishments. With more and more Italians getting interested with the commercial coffee machines of Gaggia, the company decided to come up with a consumer version – the Gilda.
The Babila has all the design elements of a classic Gaggia with many of the modern features of a 21st century super-automatic espresso machine. The machine has a very simple user display that gives users access to 8 brewing options. The same stylish screen allows users to set the strength of their coffee’s aroma and temperature.
Coffee purists will love the Babila because of its integration of a milk frothing system. Unlike other brands that have this feature fully automated, Gaggia decided to go both ways. There is a one-touch automatic milk frother for absolute beginners. The system was designed to take the guesswork and hassle of making the perfect foam for your drink. Coffee aficionados and purists, however, will want to use the manual steam wand. This contraption gives them the latitude they need for making the ideal, coffeeshop style milk froth.
The Gaggia Babila has an excellent water capacity to bean capacity ratio that is perfect for precise timing of refilling. The 50.7-ounce tank is perfect for the Babila’s 10.58-ounce bean hopper. The grinder features a silent and efficient ceramic disk. It has 15 grind settings that will make you feel like a barista.
This espresso machine comes with a bypass doser, a removable brew unit, and an auto-cleaning carafe. With the Babila’s feature set, you can expect it to be both hefty, both in its dimensions and its price tag.
- Produces consistently amazing coffee without the burnt taste
- Hassle-free, guesswork-free cappuccinos
- Features a dual-chambered, removable, and self-cleaning milk carafe
- Dishwasher-safe removable parts
- Excellent ratio between hopper capacity and water tank capacity
- Easy to maintain, descale, and clean
- Allows for manual or automatic milk frothing
- More compact design than other coffee machines
- Still pricey
- No integrated cup warmer
Aesthetics, Footprint, and Form Factor
The Babila has the curved aesthetic of a 1960s coffee machine. However, it does have enough design elements that make the Babila a machine of the future. Its stainless-steel housing should feel right at home in modern kitchens, especially those that have plenty of stainless-steel appliances and decors. There are elements made of ABS plastic. The way Gaggia designed these elements gives the machine an expensive look.
Most super-automatics are quite hefty and bulky. The Babila comes in at a modest 9.64 inches wide, 16.53 inches deep, and 14.78 inches tall. Its dimensions should be perfect even in small kitchens, provided you begin the process of decluttering your countertop. It is heavy, though, at 28.66 lbs. This is a compact espresso machine that requires at least two persons to move it around the kitchen.
The LCD screen has a very simple design that provides easy-to-follow directions. Outside the four corners of the screen are small soft-touch buttons that serve to select a menu setting. There are also buttons for going back to the previous menu, adjusting the coffee dose, and navigating through the menus. On both sides of the screen are a bevy of soft-touch buttons that allow access to 8 brewing programs. These include one-touch buttons for cappuccino, espresso, coffee, espresso lungo, and latte macchiato. There is also a button for special drinks.
There is a dual coffee spigot in the center of the Babila. The spigots are high enough to accommodate a coffee mug as tall as 6.375 inches. On the right of the coffee spigot is the integrated removable milk carafe that has enough unique features to warrant a separate discussion. On the left of the Babila is a milk frothing wand that many coffee purists are looking for in a super-automatic.
The drip tray is spacious and can accommodate 31.5 ounces of spilled fluids before the need to empty it. However, we do recommend emptying the tray daily. The top of the machine is a chute that opens to its spacious coffee bean hopper and bypass doser compartment. For all its ingenuity, we find the lack of a cup warmer to be a minor issue with the Gaggia Babila.
Features and Functionalities
It pays to learn more about the Gaggia Babila, including the different features it has in store for every coffee lover on the planet. The following are the noteworthy features of this wonderful espresso machine.
The Babila features 8 soft-touch buttons that make its operation as effortless as possible. Six of these buttons correspond to the common beverage recipes that your favorite barista can prepare for you. The best part of the design is that there is no significant wait time. You can have your delicious drink in under a minute and with only the press of a single button.
Gaggia engineered the Babila with the convenience of a one-touch brewing wonder machine. You get an amazing cappuccino, a delightful espresso lungo, a surprising espresso, and an almost-magical latte macchiato all at the press of their respective buttons.
There is also a dedicated button for people who want an Americano or ordinary coffee. And if you are a big fan of creating your own specialty drink, there is a one-touch button for that, too. A favorite of ours is the flat white. You can have yours, too, if you spend enough time to get acquainted with the different brewing functionalities of the Babila.
Tweaking these beverages to suit your palate is also easy. There are also buttons that allow you to strengthen the dose of coffee, adjust the volume of water into your cup, and set the preferred temperature of your drink. The machine comes with a very special flow knob that simplifies the way of adjusting the strength of your beverage. The best part of this feature is that there is no danger of over-extracting the coffee.
Gaggia already simplified almost every aspect of the coffee making process that all you need to do now is to flex the muscles of your index finger and press the corresponding button.
One-Touch Milk Frothing
This has got to be the most pleasant surprise that we ever had in the countless super-automatic espresso machines that we have encountered. Many of the super-automatics on the market have a fully-automated milk frothing system. They do deliver a very fine quality of milk foam. Some machines also offer the chance of selecting the density of the milk froth. These machines are perfect for newbie latte drinkers. The convenience of one-touch milk froth creation is something that people can never forego.
Do not get us wrong. We love super-automatics that deliver amazing drinks without requiring any substantial effort from the user. However, when it comes to deciding on the consistency and density of the milk froth, we prefer using a manual frothing wand. Purists will agree that no amount of automation, regardless of how advanced it is, can ever replace the skill of a barista whipping up an amazing milk foam.
Thankfully, the Gaggia Babila is a super-automatic that appeals both to convenience-seekers and coffee purists. Its milk frothing is predicated both on convenience and precision. If you do not have time to create a fantastic foam, then you can leave the machine to do it for you. However, if you want a micro froth that is going to be the perfect canvas for your latte art, then using the manual frothing wand is a must. The same is true if you want an airier milk froth for your favorite cappuccino. You decide. The manual frothing wand lets you unleash the barista creativity in you.
Large Capacity Tank and Hopper
The Babila combines a 50.7-ounce water tank with a 10.58-ounce bean hopper to give you a machine that will not require very frequent refills. The capacity of the Babila is enough to deliver drinks for a large household as well as a small family of power drinkers.
We also give credit to Gaggia for integrating a bypass doser for those moments when you prefer an instant drink instead of a brewed one. The only issue is that the bypass doser can only hold a scoop of pre-ground coffee. This is not a real deal-breaker, since the Babila is designed as a bean-to-cup super-automatic.
Silent and Efficient Grinder
We love the design of Babila’s grinder. It features a premium-quality ceramic construction that is more efficient than stainless steel. Ceramic’s main advantage is that it will never leave a burnt taste in your coffee grounds. The conical burr grinder will never overheat and alter the qualities of coffee beans. Another big plus to a ceramic design is a less-noisy operation. The hum that the grinder produces will never awaken your partner in the middle of the night.
We also like the 15 grind settings of the Babila. Other super-automatics at this price can only provide 5 or 6 grind settings. Fine-tuning the strength of your beverage is made a lot easier with the Gaggia Babila.
Double Boiler System
We like super-automatics with double boilers. They are very efficient in terms of making delicious coffee. There is no need for the separate brewing of coffee and the steaming of milk. You can have both at the same time.
Operation, Cleaning, and Maintenance
We were surprised at the ease of programming of the Gaggia Babila. There is still a learning curve that everyone must go through. However, when compared with other super-automatics, you can master the different functions and menu settings of the Babila in as short as a few hours. It helps that Gaggia allows the saving of individual drink profiles. The main issue here is when you are not sure about the characteristics of the beverage that you want. You will be cycling through the different settings to find the sweet spot.
It is the initial programming of the machine that can be quite challenging for absolute beginners. They may not know which buttons to press. People who are not well-versed with technology can also feel overwhelmed. However, one only needs patience to set the programs of the Babila according to one’s preferences. The Babila does the rest once you have set everything.
Maintaining the Gaggia Babila is also a breeze because of its automatic descaling and self-cleaning programs. Gaggia already provides an AquaClean filter with the Babila unit. This will help eliminate the need for manual descaling. Do keep in mind that using the water filter will be more expensive as you will have to replace it after every several months. Gaggia also provides only one water filter with each purchase. You will have to buy the filter a lot sooner.
The Babila comes with an automatic self-rinse program. Every time you turn the unit off, it washes and rinses its coffee system to remove any debris and keep it in good condition. The same process occurs when you power on the coffee machine.
We love what Gaggia did with its dual-chambered milk carafe. This container also features an automatic self-cleaning system to keep its circuit clean. It is also easy to remove the Babila’s brew unit. The cleaning of the brew unit may be more tedious than fully automated cleaning systems. However, they do tend to provide owners with the best possible way to ensure a more thorough cleaning of the brew unit.
All removable components of the Gaggia Babila are also safe to be cleaned and sanitized in the dishwasher. This is one more aspect of cleaning the Babila that we are pleasantly surprised with.
Who this Product is For? / Should You Buy This?
The Babila is not for people who only consume coffee once or twice a week. It is also not intended for people who only drink regular coffee or espresso. The different coffee recipes that the Babila can offer will only go to waste if you are this kind of person. It would be great if you can take an honest assessment of your coffee-drinking habits and preferences. If a decaf suit you fine, then the Babila is not for you. This machine is perfect for those who want precision in their coffee drinks and for those who are more than prepared to enjoy different coffee specialties.
While the Gaggia Babila is very convenient to use, the espresso machine still requires a modest understanding of technology. People who are more comfortable with old-school methods will often find the programming of the Babila to be very complicated. As such, this espresso machine is best for those who are tech-oriented.
There is no question that the Babila is expensive. Average-income families may find it difficult to purchase the unit without making significant changes in their budget. There is also the operating cost that one must consider when getting a super-automatic. It is for this reason that Gaggia designed the Babila for those who can afford the different innovations that the machine has to offer.
No one can question the performance of the machine. The only questions you will have to ask yourself are if you can afford such a device and if you need more than the average coffee to perk up your days.
The Gaggia Babila RI9700/64 is an awesome super-automatic espresso machine. It has many of the intelligent one-touch brewing functionalities of a multi-thousand-dollar unit at a fraction of its price. While it remains beyond the means of ordinary homes, the Gaggia Babila is still an excellent option for coffee purists, cappuccino lovers, and anyone who values exceptional coffee every time.