Post By brendogs
Gaggia Classic with mods or Exobar Brewtus IV or Vibiemme Piccolo
Been a lurker on here for a while! Would appreciate some advice.
I'm thinking of getting a machine after the mypressi broke. Generally I only make espresso for 1-2 people, occasional milk drinks.
I can get a Gaggia Classic at Cash Convertors for $99. Get it serviced/diy service for $50-100 (assuming there is something wrong with it!). Add a PID/pre-infusion/silvia steam wand/temp stability for $350
Total Cost I estimate = $550.
Pair it with my Rocky grinder.
How would my Gaggia stack up to a Vibiemme Piccolo (can get for $900) or Exobar Brewtus IV (can get for $1500)? Are they just worlds apart and better than the Gaggia? Or does a good Gaggia do quite well. Obviously it comes down to money for me. Is the difference 7/10 vs 8/10? or much more.
Should I save up and just wait?
Welcome to the forum!
I'm not sure what your budget is but the Vibiemme and Expobar second hand could be found closer to the $1000 mark. I would say the single boiler e61 machines would make a much better espresso, considering your after majority espresso drinks and the steam will be a bonus I think your money would be better spent on the Vibiemme or Expobar.
It won't take long after buying the Gaggia that'll you wish you bought the e61 machine anyway so don't waste your time and get the better machine. Even if it means saving up for a few more weeks it will be money well spent!
A well tuned Piccolo will make an amazing espresso! No brainer for me, plus the e61 machines look so much better on the bench top then a Gaggia.
Wouldn't spend all that money on a used Classic of unknown provenance. Much better to save up a bit more and go with a much loved HX machine as mentioned above...
Agreed with the others. Buy $99. Spend another $450. Final value (at best) $200- if someone will buy it. Cost of ownership at least $350.
Alternately- buy a Piccolo 2nd hand in good nick $900. Use it and then sell it for $900. Cost of ownership- niente.
You won't regret buying an e61 machine. I had a Gaggia and I pimped it with a PID, then I upgraded to the Vibiemme piccolo and it made making consistently great espresso so much easier and pleasurable. Go for the e61 anyday. Less will go wrong and as Talk Coffee said it will hold its value. I sold mine for a pretty penny
If the Piccolo is too expensive budget-wise, I've seen a number of second hand Silvias with PIDs go for around $450-600 on this site. For about the same price, this presents much better value than modding a Gaggia Classic
As a semi-counterpoint-but-not-really.
- I owned a 240V Gaggia Classic, modified in an atypical way, and now own a 110V QuickMill Alexia (basically the same as the VBM Piccolo) PID'd by the retailer. These comments will not apply to a stock Classic or one not modified for accurate intra-shot heating.
- Stock, the Gaggia sucked hard (as someone who wanted to pull a shot more than once every ten minutes so kept pulling sour cold ones). It's not an easy machine to learn on IMO.
- I haven't had the opportunity to try them back to back, and my distribution has improved since I bought the Alexia
- I find shots from the Alexia to be better than the Classic, especially with respect to texture; I can get thicker, ridiculously-oozy shots with it. I'm no pro-taster, but I've been able to get better shots more consistently. Perhaps this is due to the E61's preinfusion; I'm not sure.
- The Classic, as-modified, was no slacker. Temperature consistency was in the same ballpark (not to say it was similar, but not what I'd consider completely different leagues) and I found it to have better capacity for back-to-back shots (the Alexia likes two minutes between shots for temperature repeatability, according to my grouphead thermometer).
- Steaming on the Gaggia was actually quicker/easier, as it had a much smaller boiler and the same-size element. I'd flick it on and it'd be ready to go by the time I got my milk from the fridge. Only good for 300ml jugs though. After steaming, a quick refill and the boiler would be ready for shots again a few minutes later. With the Alexia, it takes longer to reach steaming temp, then longer to refill the boiler that is 7x the size, then still longer to stabilise the temperature because 350ml+ of the water is cold.
- Steaming performance is better on the Alexia
Personally, I was and still would be very happy with a Gaggia Classic, modified in that specific way. That said, I'm a controls tech so maybe I found the manual tuning a bit easier. If you aren't confident that you could figure it out (and if you're talking about getting it professionally serviced I suspect you aren't) then the higher-end SBDU like the VBM Piccolo would make a lot more sense if you can stretch to it. Adding a PID will not necessarily give you temperature stability and I'd question spending 350% of the machine's value on mods; the wand is 60 and the PID can be had for 50 if you're willing to DIY it, but that'd be the edge of diminishing returns for me. I spent $150 on the machine (as-new), $50 on the PID, $60 on the wand, $60 on the bottomless PF, $50 on the knockbox/jug/tamper/etc and sold the whole lot for for $400, so came out even, labour notwithstanding, but I wouldn't have this as an expectation.
Thank you guys so much!! Fantastic feedback.
I am on a tight budget, i.e. I can afford spending money on the Gaggia now, but not the Vibiemme (would be at least a 6 month wait)
I am confident in the DIY if I needed to do it on the Gaggia, however like you all have commented, it's not worth it unless the total cost was around $200, not $450. It would take a significant amount of time and effort as well.
I have decided for the time being I will keep an eye out for a working, good quality condition Gaggia for $50. If 6 months passes it won't be a problem, I will be able to afford a much better machine e.g. the Alexia or Piccolo by then.
For what it's worth, I've enjoyed my gaggia classic. It was (and still is) my first machine. Had some great shots, and steaming was light years better with the silvia wand and I just like it in general. Still, it was always temperamental. Obviously this can be overcome with a PID, but as above I think it's a case of diminishing returns. Once you start putting that sort of money into it, it feels pointless. I cringed at spending $50 on the steam wand...but only because I bought the machine second hand for about $75.
I'd certainly buy the machine again, but I wouldn't consider PID'ing or anything. In that case I would, as mentioned, opt for a E61 machine.