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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Espresso - the rest of our story

The story continues as our Gaggia machine is left at the service center, along with a 10 euro deposit and some caffe capsules for testing purposes. The place is full of appliances of all brands, we never knew how popular these machines were - but should have known based on the huge variety available at most big-box electronic stores here. A week went by and no word so Larry dropped by to see what was going on - nothing. They had not had a chance to look at it so Larry feared the thing might languish there for months - too long to wait as we're leaving here in early May. They assured him it would be looked at soon....and barely a week later they called to say it was all ready to go. The repair charge? 10 more euros. It works just like new. A couple of myths were destroyed for us 1) nothing ever gets done in Sicily 2) nobody cares about doing anything in Sicily. Larry doubts this could have been handled as quickly, easily and inexpensively in the USA.

A second issue is sort of related - electronic stuff, especially when it comes to bicycle components. Larry's NOT a fan of electronic shifting, no matter what brand it is and has faced criticism and been called a Luddite as a result. This espresso machine issue is a good example of why he dislikes electronic shifting. It's all about SERVICEABILITY. Sure, in this case the Gaggia was put back into service BUT only after visiting a specialized service facility. At home we have an ancient Gaggia Classic Coffee, one that Larry can literally "open the hood" on and diagnose a problem, order the parts and repair it as he has for years. It does take some skill to operate vs the iperespresso machines. But these electronic things, when they fail, can rarely be repaired and certainly not on tour in the middle of nowhere! One of the essences of cycling to Larry is the simplicity and serviceability of the bicycle as opposed to pretty much all other toys - automobiles, motorcycles, etc. A decent mechanic can put a bicycle back into service quickly and usually very easily but electronics add a whole new level of challenge...and how often must the offending part simply be tossed and replaced rather than repaired or adjusted? More arguments can be found here, just scroll down to Sept. 2's entry.

Final note on ILLY espresso. There are hundreds of capsule espresso machines out there and we've tried a few of them, but NONE make espresso as good as Illy. It's kind of the Ferrari of caffe, the most expensive and the best. If you just want a morning cappuccino, any of the machines that create espresso and steam/froth milk will probably be just fine, as the milk covers up a "multitude of sins" when it comes to mediocre espresso. Just ask the folks in the USA whose name is now so closely associated with it, their name ends in "bucks" but you won't see any of those stores here in Italy. If REALLY good espresso with no skill required is your desire, we think Illy's iperespresso is worth the extra cost. It is for us, we paid full retail for both of our machines here in Italy - anybody out there looking for a barely-used FrancisX7?  For now it's on loan to Heather's colleague who lives below us.

Disclaimer: As previously noted we get nothing from ILLY other than the courtesy of an account that lets us share the world's best espresso with visitors to our office at a lower-than-normal cost.

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