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Gaggia Achille
Steaming Performance


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Contents

Introduction
Espresso Performance
Steaming Performance
Materials and Workmanship
Conclusion
Appendix
Videos

The designers of the Achille pushed the limits when it comes to heating element wattage. The Achille was outfitted with a 1300 Watt heating element to power a 0.8 liter boiler. Running out of steam is not possible, especially since the volume of steam is restricted by the aperture of the steam wand. The Achille's steam wand is proportioned for steaming smaller amounts of milk, around 3 to 10 ounces. While it will steam more, the time required starts to draw out.

The steam wand is on a ball mount and can be articulated in any direction or angle. The diameter of the steam tube is small, but well matched to the machine's steaming capacity.

The Achille comes outfitted with a "Turbo froth wand," which is also sometimes called a pannarello. I have never been a fan of froth aid devices because they frequently "stretch" the milk too much, producing a voluminous, dry foam. That said, the one on the Achille is well suited for the beginning barista who simply wants a decent cappuccino with no fuss, or those who prefer high-foam cappuccinos. Unlike most of its all-plastic contemporaries, this one is constructed of stainless steel with a plastic insert.

The key to this device's operation is a small air intake on the wand. That air intake injects air into the milk producing foam. If you can surf that hole on the milk's surface, you can control the amount of injected air and produce acceptable albeit somewhat airy microfoam. The Achille's froth aid tip is long and the pin-sized aeration hole is near the top. To submerge the aeration hole in milk, it means you either need to be frothing a lot of milk, or less milk in a tall and narrow pitcher.

8 ounces

10 ounces

12 ounces

Gaggia Achille

62

71

90

La Pavoni PC-16 (Gaggia Factory)

34

44

48

Rancilio Silvia

45

60

70

Seconds required to heat water from 40 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (boiler pressure of 1.25 bar).

Removing the froth aid attachment exposes a short stainless steel one hole wand, as shown below (A). Unfortunately that is too short to use by itself. Although it requires more skill, most enthusiasts prefer silkier microfoam that can be produced without froth aids. If you're willing to invest time in developing the skills to properly microfoam milk, there are two easy modifications to consider for the Achille:

Steam wand options

(A) No attachment, (B) stock pannarello, (C) optional pannarello without sleeve

The machine is accommodating when answering the question, "Steam or brew first?" Either works because Achille's hotrod heating element requires no recovery time. You can go from shots to steaming or steaming to shots immediately with no loss in espresso quality. The heating element will actually cycle off while steaming. Not many machines can recover pressure with the steam valve wide open.

Boiler sight glass

Steaming Quality

Once you get the hang of the Turbo frothing wand, the Achille will produce an acceptable cappuccino. I found that plugging the device's hole as described earlier greatly increases the quality of the foam. By plugging the hole you eliminate the air injection into the milk. You can then control the rate and duration of air injection into the milk as you would for any other steam wand.

It is important to note that the sight glass is labeled with a MIN and MAX line. This not only indicates the boiler level recommendations, but also affects the quality of the steam. The steam is bone dry when the boiler level is at the MIN indicator. At the MAX indicator, the steam is more moist, but not what I would call wet steam. If you overfill the boiler beyond the MAX indicator, the steam wand starts to spit water and the steam turns decidedly wet. The only recourse is to allow the machine to cool down and empty some water out of the boiler, or open the steam valve and let it steam out the water.

The Achille really soars as an espresso machine. Gaggia has designed espresso capability that's worthy of the most demanding aficionado, but coupled it with a frothing aid meant for newbies. The price point of the Achille clearly targets the serious espresso hound. I wondered why the designers chose a frothing aid for such a capable espresso machine. Fortunately for those who are willing to develop their barista skills for superior cappuccino or latte milk, it is easily disabled or replaced as described above.

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