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Noobie with a new to him gaggia classic... Help!!

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  • Noobie with a new to him gaggia classic... Help!!

    Hi guys, I discovered how wonderful a good espresso is only 12 months ago and am now heavily addicted :| I've been looking into buying a machine for home for a few weeks, well today I found a local guy with a gaggia classic for $50!! I checked it worked and jumped in the car and went to get it... I also went to Coles and got some cheap crappy preground crap coffee to test the machine. I expected this coffee to be bad but not as bad as what I had come out lol. Could I please have a few pointers on the actual process of making a shot of espresso from the machine side of things as I will certainly be getting good beans and a good grinder in the coming days. I found the coffee wasn't really hot enough, there was next to no crema, very thin and very bitter. I am unsure how much coffee I should be putting in and then how much to tamp it, I'd like to get the process sorted before I spend good money on beans and a grinder and have it continually tipped down the drain. Sorry for the long winded post and to re iterate I do know the crap from Coles is so bad it's not funny, I just think I could be doing more to make it less bad and then move on to the good stuff!!

  • #2
    Hi Josh, congratulations on your coffee machine purchase! In regards to coffee not being hot enough, you may like to leave your machine turned on for about 15-30 min prior to pulling a shot so all the components are hot and ready for brewing. I typically over fill my basket with coffee ground, distribute evenly using my index finger with minimum amount of pressure, and tamp evenly to create a uniform thickness of compacted coffee ground. As a general guide (very general, as everyone has his/her own view) 14-18 gr of coffee for a double basket, 13-15 kg of tamping pressure .... All the best with your coffee journey and please do share your tales

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    • #3
      Make sure your beans are fresh from roasting or opening the nitrogen filled bag (1 week), then dial
      in your grindr after .5 hr min of machine warmup. Get consistent with your dosing.

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      • #4
        Sounds like the preground is too coarsely ground for your machine. You need a grinder.

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        • #5
          preground coffee
          Everything you've described (except temp) is attributable to this.

          16-18g in a gaggia double, but do yourself a favour and get an EP Precision basket from Talk_Coffee from the outset.

          Honestly the quickest/cheapest path through is with the guidance of a knowledgeable friend who can keep you in the ballpark while you learn.

          As for beans, while you can practise your technique on poor beans, it's easier to work with the good stuff from the outset. Good beans are easy to get good results from, bad beans have a much smaller bullseye to hit. As a newbie, it will be far less frustrating to try your skills on known good beans.

          What state are you in?

          As for the machine, the classic has a small boiler. Don't make the mistake of trying to pull shot after shot, as it will only get more sour (as temp drops).

          I'd suggest warming the machine up until the front left-hand panel (8 o'clock, as viewed from above) is nice and warm before pulling your first shot. Leaving the steam switch on for a few (2-3) thermostat cycles will speed this up, but make sure you prime the boiler first (on first start, and after steaming, all switches down, stream wand open, until water squirts out in a stream).

          Look up temperature surfing and make it your friend (personally I hated it, so I fitted a cheap pid controller). Without a pid, leave at least five minutes between shots if you can. With a pid you can tune it to pull shots back to back.

          Might be worth pulling your shower screen and dispersion block off and giving them a clean, it's a matter of three bolts and there could be gunk in there affecting your coffee.

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          • #6
            excellent advice here Josh, to sum up:

            Fresh roasted beans a must - beanbay here at Coffeesnobs has them
            Decent grinder - staring new price is around $400, keep an eye out for 2nd hand
            Pre warm your machine for at least 15mins - feel the grouphead/portafilter with your hand and check that its hot, otherwise the water is warm and the brew sour as Dragunov mentioned
            Clean your shower head and back flush with detergent
            Descale would be a good idea - since its a $50 machine its possibly in poor maintenance
            Youtube is your friend, if in doubt about what to do there is usually a youtube clip that shows

            Good luck and let us know how it goes

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            • #7
              Welcome to CS Josh. You got a bargain there. I have several Classics and I think they are a great little machine.

              As for advice on how to get good coffee from it - everything that Bazooka and Dragunov have said is on the money, but just to add a few extra details, this has worked for me :-

              As well as turning the machine on at least 15/20 minutes before brewing, preheat your cup and your portafilter handle or they will suck a lot of heat out of the shot as it pours.

              It is important to understand that the shot and the pour is going to depend not only on how fine the coffee is ground, but on the combination of grind, dose, and tamp pressure. An extra gram or two of coffee can have the same effect as a finer grind or a firmer tamp.

              With the standard Gaggia double basket the traditional method of over-filling the basket slightly, then levelling off, usually gives me between 17 and 18 grams, which is the max I would recommend for starters.

              If you got a single basket with the machine, put it in the back of the bottom drawer and leave it there until you have mastered the double.

              Hope this helps, Deegee.

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              • #8
                Thanks so much for all the advice guys!! I shall put these things into practice and hopefully post so e good results soon

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                • #9
                  as a PS, a lot of us get by with a breville smart grinder which are around $250

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                  • #10
                    I've eyeing that grinder actually Richard, good to hear it's not rubbish! On another note, I have realised I only received a single shot basket with the machine as far as I can tell ( ordered the EP precision double as mentioned previously ) would this be the major reason that my coffee is awful?

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                    • #11
                      No. It's your preground, primarily. Crap in, crap out.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dragunov21 View Post
                        No. It's your preground, primarily. Crap in, crap out.
                        Agreed - but if you are using those supermarket beans in a single basket on a standard Gaggia Classic you are starting even further behind the 8 ball.

                        The single basket can be challenging even for experienced people using good beans, a good grinder, and a tweaked machine.

                        With some good beans, a precision basket, and a halfway decent grinder, you will find it much easier to pull a good shot.

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                        • #13
                          Hi josh. I've had a Gaggia Classic partnered with a Sunbeam grinder for years and its a great machine. Has its limitations, but a great machine. I agree with everything mentioned above, particularly the retiring of the single basket and the rubbish pre ground beans. Don't be afraid to try heaps of beans from heaps of different roasters, it's the best part of having espresso machines at home. Don't worry about wasting beans while you find your technique its all part of it, and its not wastage, it's called "getting it dialed in"

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by deegee View Post
                            Agreed - but if you are using those supermarket beans in a single basket on a standard Gaggia Classic you are starting even further behind the 8 ball.

                            The single basket can be challenging even for experienced people using good beans, a good grinder, and a tweaked machine.

                            With some good beans, a precision basket, and a halfway decent grinder, you will find it much easier to pull a good shot.
                            Of course, my point, though, was that while it may be a factor, it is not the primary factor and while it may yield improvement, changing the basket will not fix the problem (being that the coffee is bitter crap, not merely suboptimal)

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