A couple of years ago I found myself looking for an espresso machine and after much deliberation I bought myself a Saeco Odea Giro Plus from a coffee shop near my school. I paid about 40,000 yen for it – a little more than one can get it on sale for in the States, but this is Japan and appliances tend to be pricey.
Why did I pick this machine? I had started out looking for a nice semi-automatic. I liked the thought of grinding and tamping and all of that – and I had a very nice grinder. The thing that stopped me is the amount of coffee I drink on any given day. These days I have cut back to four to six cups – there was a time when I was drinking quite a bit more… that would amount to a lot of time spent grinding and tamping – especially when I have to make coffee for two. So I settled on a fully-automatic and at this stage in my life I am satisfied that it was the right choice. I typically have about five to ten minutes to spare between eating breakfast and getting out the door. That is more than enough time to down a couple of shots of unsweetened espresso, brush my teeth and jump in my car.
As far as maintenance goes, I do not clean the machine anywhere near as much as I should (once every week) and I only descale every three or four months (I don’t use the optional filter, but I do use filtered water).
What I love about it
- It warms up quickly – seriously, it takes around a minute to warm up and complete its cleaning cycle.
- It flushes itself – the machine flushes a little water through the group head every time you turn it on.
- Cleaning is ridiculously easy – remove the group head, run place it under running water and clean off any grime with your fingers. It takes a couple of minutes every few days.
- It consistently makes a great cup of coffee.
What I hate about it
- Hypersensitive sensor over the grounds container – once you know how to fix it, it is less of a big deal but at the beginning this is pretty annoying.
- Plastic wrench for changing the grind setting – they should have made it out of metal.
There is a lot to love about this machine, but it is not without its quirks – but what espresso machine isn’t? The red exclamation light that tells you that something is wrong can come on for a number of reasons: the bean hopper lid not being properly closed, the machine being out of water, the waste water container being full, the water reservoir not being properly pushed in, or the grounds bin being full – the latter is where things can get a little annoying. The sensor for the grounds bin seems to be a little overly sensitive and every once in a while it will keep you from brewing. The first few times it happened, it took me a considerable amount of time to figure out what was happening. In the end I realized that all it took was to remove the grounds bin and dust off the sensor by hand. With that figured out, this ceased to be an issue for me.
Frothing performance is acceptable (if you are into pouring intricate latte art then this obviously isn’t the machine for you) and about what one would expect at its price, maybe a little better. As I have a mild milk allergy, I have not spent a great deal of time getting to know the intricacies of the steaming wand. I have made quite a few very respectable looking cappuccinos with it. Most importantly, it switches quickly from steaming to pumping espresso – I’ve never pulled out a stopwatch, but it is generally fast enough that it is ready by the time you’ve put the frothing pitcher out of the way and put a cup into place.
The optional Brita filter is nice if your water quality is less than desirable, but I found that they needed to be replaced too often. Having a dirty filter is especially annoying because it can trip the descaling sensor. I have a water filter in my home, so opted to avoid this hassle and use it to maintain water quality instead.
There are a few complaints posted about the various Odea Giro models on Amazon, which has caused it to have a fairly mediocre rating. Reading some of the reviews I felt that the authors might have jumped the gun a little. A few months spent figuring out the machine’s quirks makes for a completely different experience. I would rate it at four out of five. It is not perfect, but what espresso machine is?
Where I have had no cause for complaint is in its reliability. A year-and-half after I purchased the Saeco Odea Giro Plus, it still makes a consistent cup of coffee. If it gives me another year-and-a-half of service I will feel that the 40,000 yen was money well spent – but the real question is, “would I buy another one?” Absolutely.