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Gaggia Classic As A First Machine - Review

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  • Gaggia Classic As A First Machine - Review

    Machine build date - 2003
    Purchased 2nd hand for $75. New price $550
    Repairs/\/Replacements - new steam wand and group head seal $50

    This is the kind of machine garden variety consumers buy when they fancy being a bit of a barista. And they duly replace it with a nespresso when their $30 spice grinder fails to produce decent shots. Its the grinder not the Gaggia. But the good news is these machines can be picked up on the 2nd hand market for about $100 in good working order.

    The Good

    Fast and easy learning curve. Its a very forgiving machine as long as you have fresh beans and a decent grinder. Will produce an espresso beverage equal to the average cafe without breaking a sweat.

    High quality build and stainless body ensures long working life. Easy parts procurement and inexpensive parts make purchasing a dodgy 2nd hand one worthwhile.

    Simple machine perfect for tinkerers. Even a noob opening up the top could easily identify the parts and see any major issues with a glance. Replacing the seal and the steam wand will be the most common operations, both easily done by someone whos never seen an espresso machine before and owns a screwdriver and spanner set.

    Good enough to produce a couple of espressos/\/milk drinks as long as youre not in a hurry. If youre opening up a
    micro-cafe in your kitchen however youll need an upgrade.

    Small footprint. My kitchen isnt much bigger than a caravan kitchen yet it manages to not get in my way. It sits very happily next to my sink and doesnt make me wish Id bought something half its size. Probably one of the smallest single group machines around in terms of footprint. Its tall and skinny.

    Foolproof controls. Who needs a manual when youve got buttons with pics on them.

    Deep drip tray means you only need to empty it once per day. All the things which need cleaning easily disassemble for quick washing up.

    The Compromises

    Replacing the steam wand is essential if you want milk drinks. Dont even think about using the standard issue thing it comes with. $50 spend to change it.

    The pump is quite musical and sounds a bit loud in the wee hours. Or maybe mine just does because its a decade old. Either way you wont be making espresso at 5am if you live in a share house.

    Bauhaus 90s design was probably cutting edge 20yrs ago but looks a bit dated now. Its not offensive, its just not one of the prettiest machines on the market. Will probably be a retro gem in another 10yrs though.

    Crap standard accessories. You will need a proper tamper and possibly a double filter basket too, unless youre a dab hand with the single. These days new ones ship with pressurised baskets so buying standard ones is a must as is a blind filter.

    Youll probably want to/\/need to reduce the pressure down to 9 bar if you get technical. Its usable with the higher pressure though.

    You may have to spend 3 times as much on a grinder to match as this machine doesnt like pre-grind (neither do I). But does do well with a budget Kyocera/\/Hario/\/Porlex grinder if youre really in a pinch.

    I got my complete setup for under $300 including all parts accessories and a grinder. Not bad for a first setup. Yes I can make a decent cup at home with this kit. Certainly better than what I can purchase in the cafes in my area (which are admittedly dire).

    You cant froth milk while you pull a shot. Big deal. Ive found that a non-issue when making my own coffee. I prefer to stand there and watch the shot extract anyway. Has plenty of power for frothing milk for one drink. Ive not had occassion to try and froth milk for two drinks yet. I get micro foam easily with the new wand. Heating up time for the machine is about 10mins from cold. Some people complain about the lack of clearance between the group head and base board. Fits a standard latte glass just fine. Wont fit a bucket-sized mug.

    Kyocera CM-45F grinder. Good for the low price and will work with this machine. However I find the build quality (understandably for the price point) flimsy and using it as your solo grinder will probably see a short-ish lifespan. Maybe about a year. The grind setting does shift as you use it. Not enough to be a real problem but you do need to reset it after each use. Dialling in is not that much fun as there isnt a large sweet spot when using with the Gaggia, its also not a precision instrument so near enough will have to be good enough. It does however produce a pretty consistent grind that will pass for espresso. Buy it to get going but plan to replace it asap and use it for travel or work.

    I would recommend this machine for a budget setup that has a bit of lifespan in it. It produces an acceptable espresso with plenty of room to hone your skills. If you pick it up 2nd hand for a song you will be able to afford a good grinder. Its easy to use, solid and repairable. Which in my books places it above the consumer brands at the same price point.

  • #2
    Re: Gaggia Classic As A First Machine - Review

    also to the pros, adding a pid to one of these machines is very straightforward and produces excellent results. at a minimum id recommend a digital temperature gauge with the thermocouple attached to the boiler- this will let you see how wildly the temperature swings under thermostat control at brew temperature allowing easier surfing, but also (and imho most critically) it lets you see boiler temperature for steaming so you can pick a temperature setpoint where you know you can open up the wand and get maximum steam power and also ensure that the element stays on for the entire time youre texturing the milk.

    but yes, overall a very robust machine capable of good milk drinks with a silvia wand and acceptable (though not incredible) espresso.