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Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

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  • Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

    Ola everyone

    As you can see by the number of my posts Im a total newbie here. I already posted my question on the Home-barista site, but I got very little replies, which is probably because 90% of people there use better machines than the Classic. I know theres a rule on HB which says to not cross-post on other forums, but since I got almost no response, I thought it wouldnt be bad to post here So if anyone from HB is reading this, try to understand a frustrated newb

    First of all Id like to introduce myself: my name is Tom, Im from Poland and recently I bought a Gaggia Classic and MDF combo. I know its not amazing, but its the most affordable and pretty good machine here in Poland. I had a small problem with it the day it arrived cause it turned out to have a huge leak inside (the pipe which was going from the pump, was disconnected and the machine pumped water into the inside, onto the cables, boiler and everything else). Fortunatelly it was easy to repair and while doing that I also modded my OPV, to give around 100ml in 30s with the blank basket. After everything was set, I screwed the cover back on and made my first espresso shot ever...

    Just to make things clear, I have never tasted good espresso. Sure Ive tasted "espresso" or "expresso" before, or smth which you end up with after 15s of extraction, with no crema and/or taste. So I wasnt even sure what to aim for After a lot of shots down the sink I got smth like this (double basket):

    - crema which is created with a Guiness effect and is around 1,5cm thick, but disappears really fast (it might be the coffee beans though as Im using some Saeco beans for testing, which smell like fish and are probably old):

    and a side shot:

    and heres how the coffee cake looks like after the shot:

    I also did a couple of shots of the pour:

    - first few seconds, the coffee is really dark in the beggining and starts to flow after around 5-7 seconds after I hit the On switch, the pour is thin at the beggining, but gets quite thick afterwards:

    - in the middle of the pour, its quite thick, but still brownish:

    - the last seconds, premature blonding accures around the 20th second, which is bad I think, besides you can see that by the two lighter spots on the surface of crema on the first picture; the "tails" start to "dance", the pour isnt solid anymore:

    Usually the pour is also dripping, which is probably caused by chanelling, right?

    I wanted to ask you what you think of this, how does the crema look, and how it should look if done properly? If you could give me some tips on how to improve my shots I would be really grateful

    Below I listed some of the probable reasons of my bad shots:

    - the lack of a good tamper, I already ordered a TORR tamper and a naked PF. Right now Im using a scratchbuild tamper, based on the Gaggia plastic one, but its not very good

    - old beans/bad beans, Im using Saeco coffee, which probably isnt fresh roasted. I grind it on my MDF on setting 4. This setting and really hard tamping (with all my body weight) gives blonding around the 20th second. So I changed the setting to 3 and tried it out. Sadly it turned out to be too fine for my Gaggia, as the whole pour was drippy and I only got 30ml from a double basket.

    - uneven distribution, which shouldnt really appear, cause I tend to grind evenly into the PF and than I tap lightly in the counter to settle the coffee, after that its a mix of NSEW and Stockfleths move and I level the coffee. Tamp lightly, check if its even and than tamp again hard.

    It would be great if you could help me out here a bit. Maybe say what Im doing wrong or what to change/improve. I know there are a lot of Classic users here, so if you are reading this, please reply if you had similar problems

    Ok back to practice and thanks in advance for any help. (and thanks for reading)

    Take care,

  • #2
    Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

    Hi dsc and welcome to coffeesnobs... we are a friendly bunch here so Im sure you will get lots of replies!

    There is nothing wrong with the Classic machine- or the MDF - several members here have that hardware and swear by it... they say it makes great coffee.

    Considering what you are using- stale beans, not a great tamper - those pictures look good..

    I assume the volume in the glass is about 60ml.... The start of the pour looks really good and, as you say, it is blonding a bit at the end. You can stop the pour when blonding starts and the tails start to look watery - even if you have less than 60 ml...better to have 50ml of great espresso than spoil it with the more bitter tails.

    The actual grind could be a bit thinner, however the adjustments on the MDF dont allow really small changes as far as I can recall. And crema with older beans wont last long.... if you even get any in the first place!

    The puck looks good- I think fresh beans (if you can get some or even better roast some yourself) and a decent tamper which fits tightly into the basket and you will be there!!

    Good luck on your coffee journey - you will no doubt hear from some Classic owners shortly.


    • #3
      Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

      Welcome dsc.

      Maybe also try setting 3 but dont tamp with all your body weight.


      • #4
        Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

        Theres lots of signs of channeling in your puck and I dont see any signs of an impression left by the showerscreen screw.

        Your basket should be filled full enough so that you can see an impression of the showerscreen screw in it after a pull.

        The channeling in the puck is most likely caused by old beans and an improperly fitting tamper. Until your new tamper arrives look around the house for a glass or anything else with a flat bottom that will fit your basket and tamp with 15kgs of force adjusting your grind as needed to get a proper extraction and try getting some fresh beans.

        Java "Welcome to the club" phile
        Toys! I must have new toys!!!


        • #5
          Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems


          Yep, I thought the ring near the edge was the impression of the "outer ring" of the shower screen - the Solis used to do that - for some reason the outer ring was lower with the actual shower screen set up into it!- dont know about the Classic..... but when I look more closely....

          Yep dsc, it does appear there is channeling there!


          • #6
            Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

            Welcome aboard Dsc! No need to apologise for your equipment at all. I for one started with far inferior equipment and have heard many good reports on the classic. I am sure you will be happy with the results very soon. People have already given you some advice to work with so I wont bombard you with anything else.
            But I would be trying all the advice that you have already been given; fresh beans, your tamper and consistent dosing.

            The naked portafilter is a good idea, so by the sounds of things you are well on the way and are keen, which is the most important factor.


            • #7
              Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

              For someone who says they have no experience of good espresso, youre doing very well. Realistically, most newbies would have thin watery extractions. That includes fairly experienced ones who move to a new machine (notably the Silvia till they get it sorted out).
              As people suggested above- get some fresh beans and youre not far off.
              All the best


              • #8
                Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

                Dont let anybody tell you that the Classic combo is an inferior set up! I have had my classic nearly two years and when and if I upgrade, it is a long time away unless the thing blows itself into smithereens or something. I get my MDF grinder on Dec22. It actually annoys me that people do this oneupmanship rubbish, we all start somewhere. The gaggia classic is a great value machine for its price and you should get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

                If you have a read here
                and here There is a little love fest for the classic going on.

                From what I see, you are doing very well, I do see a little channeling, but this is easily solved by adding a bit more coffee to the PF basket until it comes to about 2 - 3mm below the top of the basket when smoothed out. Then tamp. This should give make the gap about 4-5mm. You may need to play around a bit to get it right.

                The gaggia does not like over tamped coffee so just give a quick but firm tamp - once and once only, do not put too much weight behind it.

                You may also have to play with the grind a little to suit your machine, so far you are doing very well.

                Good luck and let us know how you are going.


                • #9
                  Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

                  I hope you didnt read my comment as suggesting the classic was inferior in my post above. I was actually meaning the equipment I started off with was far inferior to the classic. Probably didnt read that way after re-reading my post. I was actually encouraging Dsc with machine choice and technique.


                  • #10
                    Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

                    I didnt take it that way at all coffeechaser. I meant people on other sites as I have gotten the same impression when I have visited them myself. I am happy to stay on here myself.

                    Coffeesnobs is a great site because we all remember when, and are willing to help people who dont have the best/most expensive equipment to get the best they can from it.


                    • #11
                      Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

                      All good than Lucinda just wanted to make sure as obviously things can be taken a different way to the what was intended. But not in this case so no harm no foul on my end than

                      In fact I often suggest to my dad about getting a Gaggia Classic for himself at home, but not successful yet.


                      • #12
                        Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

                        Gday Tom,

                        Welcome to CoffeeSnobs [smiley=thumbsup.gif].... Whatd I tell you, eh? Plenty of people around here are only too happy to help you out . All the best mate and that shot above doesnt look too shabby at all, by the way 8-),



                        • #13
                          Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

                          Ola everyone

                          WOW!! thats a LOT of replies Thank you very much people, I really appreciate you helping me, its really cool in the beggining, but I guess you already know that, we all were newbies at the start

                          So about the replies:

                          JavaB: hell yeah, this is a really friendly bunch I used some newly roasted beens (20 days ago, not so new anymore, but still better than those Saeco beans) today and it seems like the MDF could really use some half steps. I grind it on setting 3 and it totally got stuck, I got first drops of coffee around the 20th second of the pull. So I went back to 4 and tried it out. Still only 40ml of fluid, but better, faster and not blonding so fast. I used 4 again but tamped a bit lighter, it came out pretty well, but sadly not much crema, I will still have to give it more practise.

                          Thundergod: I tried a 3 on MDF and tamped lighter, but it still gave only 40ml in 30s. Besides that if I tamp too lightly theres too much coffee and I can lock the PF in the group. If I use less coffee I cant level it, cause theres too little coffee to move around in the PF.

                          Javaphile: I scratchbuild my own tamper and it has a 58mm PVC ring which fits the basket quite well. I couldnt find anything in my house that was 58mm, to fit my PF, so I decided to build smth. The hole on the side of the coffee cake is the shower impression, I checked again today and it seems that the outter rim of the shower is a bit lower than the inside. Todays coffee cakes had shower impressions so I must be getting better at dosing, I hope things will be better with my new tamper.

                          JavaB: so you think that the "outter ring" was infact channeling? I can make some test shots today and post some more pictures. I also checked the pucks and they were solid, came out of the PF when I tapped it on the counter, leaving almost no coffee inside.

                          Coffeechaser: well the MDF and Classic is all I can afford now, besides its a machine for my parents, which sadly already hate me for taking advice from me. They say theres too much trouble with it and that they should have bought a full-auto. I told them autos are crappy, but they are stubborn but my mum liked the coffee I made today, so I guess its getting better.
                          The NPF should help me diagnose the problems, like channeling and its said to give more crema, right?

                          telemaster: thanks you for the kind words I will buy some fresh beans next week and try it out.

                          lucinda: so I see you have the same combo as me, may I ask what setting are you using on the MDF? I usually grind somewhere around 4, 3 is usually too much for my Gaggia, I dont know if thats normal. I normally get around 5mm of space between the coffee and the upper rim of the basket, so the PF can be locked into the group without problems. The puck expands during the shot and usually I get a shower impression, which is good I think.

                          Mal: yup you were right! this is a great place, glad to be a part of it

                          Thanks everyone for the encouragment and kind words, I shall practice a lot Now back to that milk frothing...



                          • #14
                            Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems

                            I dont have my MDF yet (getting it friday, cant use until xmas day as it is a xmas present), but a few people on here have them. If Hazbean reads this he may be able to help you as he has had an MDF for years and even though I had a look at it yesterday, I dont know if the settings would be appropriate for the classic as he has a new machine.

                            From what I remember, it was set at 2 or 3. You could always try and see what happens.


                            • #15
                              Re: Gaggia Classic begginer - extraction problems


                              Grinder settings vary a lot from one grinder to the next of the same make/model (in even expensive grinders like my La Cimbali or Mazzers etc)...

                              Knowing what someone else with the same machines as you uses probably wont help a lot .... for example with the Sunbeam grinders one person can user setting 2 whilst someone else uses 15 - or even higher - to get the same size grinds - and the same extraction on the same type of coffee machine. The scale is only an approximation.

                              You pretty much have to experiment to get it right for your machine.

                              Yep, we were all newbies once, and we only "got it right" with help and advice from others.... so its kind of paying back a debt!

                              Re your puck, yep it looked a bit like the outer ring on the showers screen when I first looked at the photo - but after javas post and another look it did look a bit like channeling. More photos please!

                              And I fill my basket so that it just touches the shower screen - leaving a slight imprint - before extraction.... the more grounds in the basket - the better the resulting coffee