Posted Tue Nov 27, 2012, 7:44am Subject: Gran Gaggia espresso thread...All you need to know??
Summarizing from posts here and elsewhere. Feel free to correct this information or add to it. (Please add to it....I just bought a Gran Gaggia used for $60 and it was practically new. I am trying to learn more about it).
The Gran Gaggia was a budget Gaggia espresso maker built in the 80s and 90s. It is not the same level of espresso maker as the other Gaggia machines in that it has a smaller boiler, lower rated wattage and an aluminum portafilter. In essence is it an entry level machine. It is no longer produced, but many of them still exist.
As far as I know, the Gran Gaggia can make a pretty good shot if you combine it with a quality grinder and follow the golden rules of espresso found on this site.
Mine was stored in a closet for many years and I bought it from the original owner. At first, it did not produce much water flow from the group. The steam wand had plenty of power. The pump sounded "right" (I have a Gaggia Coffee deluxe, purchased about 4 years ago and Baratza grinder, modded for finer grind control).
In response to the low flow from the group, I removed the shower screen and the group valve assembly. These resemble the ones on my Gaggia Coffee, but could be different, I don't know as I did not compare them.
I descaled the machine using citric acid. It was flowing well after this with the group valve out of the unit. Once I put the group valve back into the machine, the flow was restricted again. Concluded that valve was the problem (call me Sherlock). :-)
Removed group valve again and cleaned it thoroughly. Spring seemed too strong to me and I perceived that it may not be allowing the rubber stopper to move under pressure. I cleaned out the spring holding end of the group valve and tested to see that the spring was seating all the way. I reinstalled the valve assembly.
Lo and behold, the unit works great now.
I ground some Intelligentsia Black Cat and readied for a test shot. I let the machine heat up for about 15 minutes. I ran the pump and let the hot water go through the group and portafilter. Then I added the Black Cat and tamped it down with medium pressure (subjective term, yes?). Surprisingly, the unit brewed a nice shot on the first try. Good crema, nice color. Most importantly, it tasted very good. As good as shots from the Gaggia Coffee deluxe.
How do you change the gasket on the group? I don't see any way to remove the shower holding plate/diffuser.
I read about priming this unit. I did not have any issues with the pump. I'm sure it was bone dry when I first used it (from the prolonged storage). But, water came out freely from the steam wand within seconds of turning on the pump. Is priming the pump in some other way required for this unit?
Are there any other maintenance or repair tips and tricks?
I had low expectations for this unit. I didn't pay much for it. It appears to be practically new. I plan to use it at my office where the coffee is very bad. I'll probably brew a shot or two a day there. I doubt I'll steam anything at work. At home I use my Coffee deluxe almost daily and I love it. If I had a bigger budget for coffee, I'd probably buy a Gaggia Classic. I don't feel the need to upgrade the grinder as I am pulling good shots using my favorite beans and grinding them pretty consistently. But I digress. This post is about the Gran Gaggia.
Please help this post by adding your knowledge of the Gran Gaggia for others.
Posted Tue Nov 27, 2012, 9:35pm Subject: Re: Gran Gaggia espresso thread...All you need to know??
Does the machine have a steam wand? If so, you should bleed it when the "ready/brew? light goes out. This is to relieve "false pressure." The machine is not up to temperature yet. After the short 3 second bleed, tight the wand, and wait till the light goes out. Then grind your coffee, flush once. Fill the basket/PF, lock and go. If the coffee is bitter, skip the flush.
Posted Wed Nov 28, 2012, 6:48am Subject: Re: Gran Gaggia espresso thread...All you need to know??
The ready/brew light going on is not strictly an indication of false pressure or of being ready to brew. All it tells you is that the boiler casing has reached the upper temperature limit of the thermostat. Since the heaters are attached to the outside of the boiler casing, this doesn't mean that the water in the boiler or that the group is up to temperature. You need to leave the machine at least 15 minutes to warm up (the Gran is tiny though, and doesn't have much metal, so it doesn't need much more than that).
There will be some air pressure in the boiler due to heating the small amount of air in there, but I never found I had to bother releasing it from my Gran or Classic. I never found a big effect from flushing either - the group is attached directly to the bottom of the boiler, and there's little losses since it's enclosed in the machine's plastic casing. Since cold water is then injected into the boiler by the flush, cooling it significantly, you then have to wait for the water to be heated, while the effect of the flush on the group dissipates. I think I got more consistency with both the Classic and Gran by just temp surfing (or PID'ing) the light than you do by adding flushing routines. I'd only use a flushing routine if you can't find a point in the temp surf cycle that gives a non-bitter shot, so that you can brew cooler than between the set points of the thermostat (use the steam switch if you want to brew hotter).
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