More "Moorish" style, than "Mid Century" (like most of the stuff you find at VoltAge 110) but there's a reason for that.
It's PRE "Mid Century."
This rare first generation Gaggia Gilda (legendarily named for the Rita Hayworth Film Noir character) which rose from the ashes of a bombed out Post War Italy, sprung from the mind of famous coffee machine inventor Achille Gaggia.
Gaggia discovered that coffee beans ground finely, tamped, and extracted under pressure (instead of the steam drip process, typical til that point) yielded a "creamy" coffee drink that tasted much less bitter.
Yes, the modern "crema" concept is a result of Gaggia's pressurized piston idea!
Gaggia got a patent on it, and the Gilda was his first effort at putting his "cream coffee" idea into Italian homes.
So in a very real sense, this is the progenitor of modern espresso.
But what looked "modern" was changing rapidly during the 40s. (Check out the military tank and airplane design evolution from 1939 to 1945!)
And this Gilda model owes more to the "streamlined" aesthetics of the 1930s, than the clean lines and minimalist ideas that were developing by the 50s.
Like the Airstream trailer, and a lot of Pre War "modern" design, it was made almost entirely of aluminum! Think: Aircraft. (And the bombed out industrial capacity of Post War Italy was just rebuilding, so tooling and milling with a lot of steel and brass would have undoubtedly been difficult for the fledgling Gaggia company.)
Our favorite part of the machine is the chrome plated drip tray, with it's amazing "random" pattern of holes that actually resemble "drips." It's whimsical and elegant at the same time. (A la Rita Hayworth at her sexiest?)
To make the smooth cylindrical aluminum boiler more interesting (especially after the soft aluminum inevitably developed some scratches) Gaggia etched their name into the sides in a vaguely "Arabic" scrolled pattern.
After some intitial success with this design, Gaggia radically retooled the 1954 models. (A lot more chrome!) So this is the last year of the original design.
Early examples like this were reletively rare even when new, and of course, were sold only in Europe. But we've converted this to use American household 120 volt current, with a custom heating element, and new wiring, to make it truly "one of a kind."
There is no steam wand on this gal. (That skinny pipe on the left is a drip pipe for the pressure relief valve on top.) So it's a dedicated "espresso only" machine. It's unlikely Gaggia would have taken kindly to the idea that anyone would want to add steamed milk to his fabulous new "cream coffee."
Of course we've also done a complete re-seal on it. (The 65 year old rock hard portafilter rubber was ridiculous to remove. )
So now you can not only own a "museum piece" of espresso history, you can actually pull a damn good shot with it.
There are some quirks and kinks of course. Without a sight glass one needs to stay aware of the water level in the boiler. But thankfully a super cool key element of the Gilda's design makes that not too difficult.
Gaggia managed to source an almost "medical grade" stainless steel thermometer with a long "dipstick" end that doubles as the filler plug. (Pulling it out is a convenient way to check the water level.)
The thermometer has an almost Swiss watch-like beauty to it, and it's incredibly sensitive and accurate. You can literally watch the needle move, as it rises to Gaggia's "optimum" temperature of 100 C.
The pressure relief valve is designed to open on cue, as the needle hits the century mark. (100 C. is unpressurized boiling temp, for the metric challenenged out there!)
You'll just have to "play" with it to develop your own style, but the general idea is to wait 'til the pressure valve opens (100 C.) then switch off the heating element, and pull the handle down to run hot water through the unloaded portafilter to heat it up.
Then load and lock your favorite grind, and pull the handle down a second time for your shot.
Whether it's the new seals or the tight build tolerances, it pushes down with some amazing pressure, even with a fine grind! So you can really get great crema and a decent sized shot out of this baby. (Which, of course, was Gaggia's whole object when producing these.)
The portafilter basket, like most vintage lever machines, is tiny by modern "commercial" standards, but the lever stroke is long, so you can pull surprisingly large volumes of water through on one stroke. This makes the "double pull" we often find ourselves doing with most home levers unecessary. A single pull on this results in a "double" sized shot!
We're not suggesting most people use this as a daily driver, but the cool truth is that you could!
It's so unusual and rare, that we're torn about even selling it. Hence the "open" price tag.
But if you're interested in a one of a kind, "Americanized" early style Gilda, let us know, and we'll consider offers!
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