Top positive review
21 people found this helpful
A perfect beginner machine for someone passionate about coffee!
on 14 February 2015
I purchased the Gaggia Classic as an upgrade to my previous model, the Gaggia Cubika. I'd always desired a Classic due to it's elegant and some may say timeless design and also starting a new job working with a £6000+ Faema machine really reignited my passion for coffee.
Before I talk about the machine I do want to very quickly take a moment to recommend a few crucial upgrades for this machine if you are serious about the quality of coffee you want this machine to produce.
First off is the baskets in the portafilter, as standard Gaggia supply the machine with pressured single and double baskets. What these pressured baskets do is force the espresso shot through a single hole at the bottom of the basket and past a small plastic widget which introduces air and produces a fake crema (The creamy, light coloured layer on top of a shot of espresso). Crema naturally appears from in the most basic terms using the right grind on the coffee beans, an even and firm tamp on the coffee grounds in the basket and the heat and pressure supplied by the machine when you pull a shot, there are other small factors which can influence the presence of crema in your espresso but I won’t bore you with all of those. The quality of the crema is a good gauge for the quality of the espresso shot you have made, the main problem is that with the pressurised basket it is faking this element of the espresso which means that you would have no sort of indication that anything is wrong with your coffee until you drink it and then you may find it sour or bitter. Some users may then criticise the machine itself for poor results and bad tasting coffee when the real issue is that the not so well prepared coffee has been masked by the beauty of the faux crema.
So this leads to my first recommendation, please consider purchasing an double unpressurised basket (58mm is the size of the baskets for this machine and remember to remove the plastic widget under the basket in the handle as well). It will take a few tries and probably a bit of stress to obtain that real layer of crema on top of your espresso, but the difference in taste will be well worth it in the end. It’s worth noting if you have no interest in the mess and hassle of grinding beans yourself I can preach for the quality of ily pre-ground coffee, I use the medium roast espresso grind (250g in a red and silver tin) and the grind works well on this machine and produces a good crema and has a overall very nice taste.
My second recommendation applies for those of you that enjoy milk based drinks such as latte, mocha and cappuccino. As standard the machine comes with a steaming wand called a panarello wand. What this does is pull air into your milk through small holes at the top of the wand while you steam the milk and from experience you’ll most likely end up with loads of large bubbles which will not give you that smooth silky, almost creamy texture you get from drinks such as lattes in the coffee shops. The panarello wand is another cheat device, it attempts to fake the texturing of the milk and does a pretty poor job at it. I choose the most popular modification to the machine which is the Rancilio Silvia steam wand, you can purchase it on Amazon from Edesia Espress in a pre modified form which means all you have to do is unbolt the current wand from the machine and replace with the new Silvia one.
The benefit of the Silvia wand is that it delivers the steam from a single hole at the bottom of the wand, similar to that of commercial machines and it does not constantly let in air giving you a big jug of froth every time. Again like the unpressurised basket it will take a few tries to master, to give you an example for latte milk what you want to do it have the tip of the wand on the surface of the milk and open the steam valve, it will make a noise that is similar to the opening of a frizzy drink, a ‘pfffffff’ sort of noise is what you are looking for, not a high pitch screech. Do this for a few seconds (I was trained three seconds) and then submerge the tip just under the surface of the milk and angle the jug slightly until you find the perfect place and the milk begins spinning in the jug. What this does is incorporate the foam you created in the first few seconds into the rest of the milk, this process creates that silky smooth thickly textured milk called ‘microfoam’. Carry on steaming the milk until you reach 140°F or 70°C if you have a milk thermometer or without one feel the base of the jug with your fingers and palm and when it just begins to feel like it’s just about to burn your hand cut off the steam and remove the want from the jug. Wipe the wand with a damp cloth quickly or you’ll end up with dried milk on the wand. To finish the milk tap the jug firmly down, this pops the big bubbles and swirl the milk in the jug until it takes on a shine similar to glossy photo paper. It all sounds horrendously complicated and quite involved but once you’ve practised a few times this entire process of steaming the milk will only take you a few minutes and you’ll get fantastic results.
These two modifications cost around £10 at the most for basket and about £20 for the steam wand. So for £30 you’ve already massively improved the quality of the drinks you’ll get from the machine, sure you’ll have to work a little harder but if you really enjoy coffee than that little extra effort will be well worth it.
Finally we reach the overview of the machine, out of the box you get the machine itself which comes with a drip tray and clear water tank, a chrome plated brass portafilter, single and double baskets (those nasty pressurised ones I’ve mentioned above), a plastic tamp, a coffee scoop and the power cord.
The machine is finished in flawless brushed stainless steel with a flush front which curves around the sides that extend outward towards the rear of the machine to the back which is also a flush finish, this means it fits nicely against a wall without a massive gap between the machine and your wall . The front of the machine has three switches, one for the power; this turns on the elements and heats the boiler to prepare for brewing temperature, the second is for steam; flicking this switch lets the boiler heat to a higher temperature in order to produce steam and the third switch is for brewing; this pumps hot water through the grouphead for pulling a shot of espresso. The only other control on the machine is the steam valve on the right hand side which you turn to release steam from the steam wand, the more you turn it the more steam comes out. The power and brew switch have orange indicator lights, the power light illuminates to show that the machine is powered on and the brew switch light illuminates when the boiler was reached the correct temperature.
Filling the machine with water is simple, there is a black cover on the top of the machine lift this off and you just pour water into the hole. The water level can be easily viewed from the front of the machine where the tank is showing with the clearly shown max fill mark. When preparing to use the machine leave the portafilter in the grouped at all times, even when there isn’t any coffee in it. The reason for this is that you want to have an even temperature for when you pull a shot, if the portafilter was cold then the water would begin to cool down as it hits the portafilter and this may leave you with a bitter or sour espresso shot. So, leave the portafilter in the machine locked in place and leave it to heat for at least 15 minutes. This allows enough time for everything to heat up, the boiler, the grouphead and the portafilter. Rather than explaining the process of making espresso I’d recommend visiting Youtube for some tutorials on pulling espresso shots and texturing milk if you are completely new to this, there are people out there that have created some very well explained how-to videos which will take you step by step through each process in an easy to learn manner.
The machine features a three way solenoid, what this does is remove the excess water from the grouphead after you have pulled a shot. This is a good thing as it leaves the ‘puck’ of used coffee grounds dry and easy to remove from the portafilter with a light tap rather than a wet mess of used grounds which you’ll always get from machines without a three way solenoid. Using the included plastic tamper and an unpressurised double basket I have no issues pulling a double shot with a decent crema. A metal 58mm tamper is an ideal upgrade to make the process a little simpler but not essential, the included plastic tamper (as always with any machine) is slightly too small for the basket which means you have to go around the edges manually as it doesn’t completely cover the coffee grinds in a single press. It’s not useless but for £20-30 you can get a massively improved flat based metal tamper which allows you to tamp in one push and makes much less mess.
The machine does also dispense reasonably hot water on demand (while in brew mode, just the power switch on and steam switch off), this is performed by opening the steam valve and turning both the steam and brew switches on at the same time and again in reverse to turn it off. This produces hot water straight from the steam wand, perfect for making an americano for making a cup of tea. For steaming milk the machine has impressed me in terms of pure power, compared to the professional machine I use at work. I have no issues steaming a jug of milk for one large latte so I’m sure it wouldn’t have any issues making enough for two small cups but I wouldn’t push it any further than that as you might damage to boiler by drying it out
The machine is highly versatile, with the combination of espresso shots, hot water and milk you can create, americanos, lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, flat whites, macchiatos and even hot chocolates using just the steamed milk. I’d say this is an ideal machine for someone that loves coffee and wants to learn more about the process behind a good cup of coffee or perhaps the aspiring home barista that wants to step-up their current coffee skills. If you want a machine that makes no mess and requires no effort and you don’t want to learn about the skills required to produce a great coffee then this probably isn’t the machine for you, maybe a Tassimo or a Nespresso pod based machine would be better suited in that case. The machine does take ESE coffee pods but if you plan to use only these then you are honestly better off to save your money and spend much less buying a dedicated pod machine.
Overall I highly recommend this machine for the sturdy build quality, great tasting coffee and huge community of support from other coffee passionate people on various coffee forums for standard machines and modified machines. A two year warranty is supplied so you may wish to wait until this runs out before performing warranty voiding modifications such as installing a PID or adjusting the over pressure valve (OPV mod) to get the perfect 9 bar pressure when pulling a shot but the usability of this machine as standard is absolutely adequate and should keep me happy and well caffeinated for many shots to come.
If anyone does happen to have a questions about this review or the Gaggia Classic in particular please feel free to leave a comment on this review and I’ll get back to you as soon as a can. Please do keep in mind I am a beginner barista so some of the terms and techniques may be slightly incorrect or explained in a odd way as I have tried to make the technical details of processes as simple as possible so that (hopefully) everyone can understand, so please do excuse any errors due to this. People do tend to have different ways of making coffee which often end up in the same results and I have explained here the methods I have been trained on to date. With some trial and error you’ll find your own way of producing great tasting drinks that you will feel comfortable making, just give yourself plenty of time and a good bit of patience as just like any other skill you are unlikely to fully master it on the first go.