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Thread: Gaggia Classic: how to get consistent taste?

  1. #1
    Junior Member DavidJJ's Avatar
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    Gaggia Classic: how to get consistent taste?

    Hi everyone,
    I'm new on the forum, I have been reading for a while trying to choose my first espresso machine and recently I got a Gaggia Classic as a gift.

    The thing I have noticed during this 2 months of trials is that it appears somewhat difficult to achieve a consistent taste.
    I will explain further. What I mean by that is that the same coffee beans, grinded at the same setting will give different results based on when you start to pull the shot.
    I am aware of the single/small boiler of the Gaggia, the floating temperature problem and the various PID modifications and would like to avoid going into that, for the moment.

    I tried temperature surfing but even doing 5/6 coffees in a row (waiting some time between shots) I randomly obtained coffees which were too bitter or too sour. In both cases the puck is usually very dark. Could this be a temperature issue? Is there another variable I should look into?

    I have a SmartGrinder Pro which I set to 16 for the Gaggia.
    The beans are usually taken from quality roasters, grinded just before brewing and I usually use 18 grams for a double shot.

    Every suggestion is much appreciated.
    Cheers,
    David

    EDIT: PS. Also, the machine has the OPV set to 9 bar by the shop where it was taken.

  2. #2
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    I can't fit 18g into my Gaggia double basket. Of course it depends on the bean type and roast, but you may be over filling the basket. I vary between 15.5 to 16.5g.
    It may be a temperature issue, depending on how you temp surf as the thermostat is set for 107 degrees. I like my PID set to 101 degrees, but that's just personal preference.

    Odds are, you are discovering one of the Gaggia Classic quirks and the frustration of temperature surfing.

    The big question is do you have a brand new, post 2015 Classic, with push buttons, stainless steel boiler and an annoying auto shut off feature, or an old machine with the hefty rocker switches on the front and a drain pipe into the drip tray on the left side?

  3. #3
    Senior Member magnafunk's Avatar
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    I have a temperature controlled dual boiler with a cafe grinder and probably sink 10% or so of my shots so maybe you're doing better than you think (or I'm doing worse) \_(ツ)_/

    edit: bear in mind I'd consider most of the shots I see on youtube sinkers
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  4. #4
    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    Hi David, ahh the Gaggia Classic, that was my first machine too, served me very well for many years!
    Yeah there are a few tricks to it that I stuck to and allowed for consistent shots.

    Yeah timmyjj21 may be right in terms of overfilling the basket.. there were times when I could use 18g in the basket but only with lighter roasts.. I stuck to mainly between 16-18g depending (and I eventually got a bigger basket to accommodate for 20ish or more grams). If the puck is scraping each time when you lock it in it won't be consistent, so you can test that by locking in the portafilter then remove it. If the puck wasn't disturbed at all you're good to go, but if it's scraped it a bit, best to lower the dose.

    In terms of temperature surfing. I'm not sure what method you're using but I'll run through what I did:
    1) I'd let about a cup full out of the group head and at the same time open the steam wand knob till it's a steady unbroken stream of water (not sure why I did this, I must have read it somewhere..).
    2) Get the coffee ground and tamper and ready to go in the portafilter.
    3) Don't lock it in yet, but hit the brew switch to let water come through the group head (not much, I'd maybe do 5s or so, just enough so that the orange light eventually turns 'off' to signify it reheating).
    4) For some reason, before every shot I'd empty out the boiler a little (by just turning the steam knob and emptying it until no stream is coming out). Again, must have read this somewhere haha.
    5) Lock in the portafilter.
    6) As SOON as the orange light comes back on hit the brew switch.

    This ensured I was always at a consistent temp when brewing shots, which is a big variable to eliminate.
    If beans are freshly roasted and ground right before your shots, other things to look at would be your distribution and level tamping. I've found nutating to improve my shots dramatically, especially with grinders that tend to clump up a bit.

    Any more questions give us a shout, but definitely don't give up on the Gaggia, it produced STUNNING shots for me.

    Simon

  5. #5
    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    P.S. also looking at when you cut off your shot is super important too! Not all shots will be the same, so keeping a close eye on it and cutting off when the striping is finishing is key. Experiment a bit, keep the EXACT same variables elsewhere, but change only when you cut off the shot

  6. #6
    Junior Member DavidJJ's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot everyone for the kind and very informative replies!

    @timmyjj21: Yes, you're right, I should have mentioned which Gaggia I am using. It is a 2003 type, the exterior is almost identical to the newer ones, but it is 1425W and made in Italy. It has a pipe on the left side that goes into the drip tray, as you correctly guessed.

    @magnafunk: I had to google what a sink-shot is

    @simonsk8r: Thanks very much Simon for that temp surfing indication. I will give that a try for sure. Until now I was just running a bit of water out before the shot, that's it. But given that I did not wait for the light to tun off or on etc, it obviously did not give me consistent results.


    So, I have experimented a bit in these few days. I have tried to lower the dose as timmyjj21 and Simon suggested. I also should have mentioned that two days ago I was given a VST basket (18 grams ridgeless version) as a gift by my partner, and started experimenting with this setup. I did not know these baskets before but they seem to be much much better, at least compared to the one my machine was equipped with.

    Also, by reading other threads on the forum here is what I did.

    -I went to my local roaster and got an espresso there (meaning that I drank it directly there). So that I could have something to aim to. Otherwise I will never know if it is me or the coffee.
    -I then asked them to give me the same type of coffee beans that they used for my espresso.
    -In trying to eliminate a variable I also asked for a small amount (50gr.) to be grinded by them (this was apparently a newbie error...see below).
    -Went immediately back home and tried pulling a shot both with the seeds they grinded and the whole ones I bought.

    These were the results:
    -The seeds they grinded appeared to be too coarse for my Gaggia. This is obviously not their fault as I think they were using a Mahlkonig of some sort, at least that is what I could see from afar. The flow was too quick (around 8 seconds total) and the resulting flavour was obviously more acidic than the shot I drank in the shop, it lacked structure and was way more watery.

    -I then used the whole seeds and grinded them at the usual setting I use (burrs at 6 and number 9 on the SmartGrinderPro). This, as far as the pulling phase is concerned, it was much better. I used 16 grams of seeds and obtained 35 grams of coffee in 27 seconds, when I stopped the extraction. The flavour was very similar to what I tasted in the shop, but more bitter. The coffee that they served me in the shop was very good, at least for the flavour I prefer, as it was well balanced and without any apparent dominant of acidic or bitter taste.

    -I tried pulling a shot in the afternoon, mainly following the lines of the previous one but, given the bitter prevalence, by trying to lower the temperature a bit first. It didn't help very much (maybe because I did it the wrong way) and, though the extraction was completed in 28 seconds, it still had a bitter dominant.


    Today I tried using two different tampers I recently got but never started to use. The 'round ones', I think the name is smart tamper or something similar. One has a flat bottom and mine is branded Rhinowares and another is a chinese knockoff of the famous OCD (ona coffee distributor). The results using these two were much more positive, so the problem probably also lied in my coffee distribution and tamping (I do not have a bottomless portafilter for now so I am guessing). I used 16 grams and obtained 35 grams in 34 seconds. I noticed that it took visibly much more time from the moment I pressed the brew button to the moment when coffee started pouring out of the spouts. The flavour was much better, it was creamier but still it was slightly more bitter if compared with the one I had in the shop (made with a La Marzocco Strada).

    I will try to apply the temp surfing instruction suggested by Simon and let you know the results. Could the wrong tamping (I mean the excessive force applied) cause this bitterness? Just to try to detect which variables could be most likely to affect the flavour.

    Thanks so much for now!

    David
    Last edited by DavidJJ; 29th June 2017 at 02:05 PM.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    Ah that's awesome you're getting better results! So with that 16g in 35g out pour in 34s, it's possible that it may have been left pouring too long (only a little). Tends to affect the bitter component when extracting too long, so maybe either cut it a bit shorter (bit closer to a 1:2 ratio, even 1:1.5), or up the dose maybe by 0.5-1g to slow it down just a tad. Try reaching about 32g espresso within 25-30s or so with your 16g dose (just as a starting point). Or even better use your VST basket and get higher doses going, as it gets a higher yield (just so you're not left with a tiny amount of coffee if you need the ratio a bit lower to suit the bean!)

    Distribution is pretty important, so definitely worth focusing attention on that. Research a few different methods and trial them out . With tamping, I don't think excessive force can cause bitterness.. there reaches a point with tamping in which you can't physically push anymore as everything is compacted as much as it can be. So I would recommend just tamping until the compression stops, no more needed after that. Just best to keep it consistent.

    And definitely watch the pour, if it goes really pale really early in the pour, it's going to be bitter, even if produces an ideal pour weight. So distribution might be the factor here.

    And yeah it's a tricky business when someone else grinds the beans for you.. because who knows how fine/coarse it'll be and how that'd go in your machine! You may need to significantly up the dose of preground coffee in order to get a decent shot, but in some cases you won't be able to up the dose any more due to lack of room in the basket, that's why it's always best to grind it yourself and use it directly before the shot. Not to mention ground beans not lasting very long fresh-wise..

    Be interested to see how you go!
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  8. #8
    Junior Member DavidJJ's Avatar
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    Thanks Simon!
    I had time to experiment during all my afternoon today and I think I got very good results. I took notes of my best and worst shots and will post the info tomorrow when I'm less prone to fall asleep on the keyboard

  9. #9
    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    Ah that's awesome to hear, yeah experimenting is the name of the game, and definitely helps to record what variables are involved and what you've changed

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