Thrilled with this home machine as a practice for the real thing when I open my cafe!
Positive Product Points
The machine certainly looks good and seems to be able to produce a good shot of espresso without much prior experience.
Negative Product Points
Milk frothing - like all other reviews, it's hard to get anything resembling microfoam with the attached wand but with an upgrade (bought via Ebay), things are looking up!
I'm new to all of this espresso lark. Whilst I have drunk endless coffees all over Europe and am in the process of setting up a cafe in North Norfolk, UK, I have never actually pulled my own shots. I've bought a San Remo Venezia for the cafe but can't use it until it is installed in September so I thought I'd better start getting some practice in at home. Having check on good old Coffee Geek for the best option, I found my Gaggia Classic on Ebay for £135 and unboxed it yesterday. I am now hooked on making espressos and have hardly stopped!! My grinder hasn't arrived yet (also and Ebay purchase - Gaggia MDF), so I'm using some pre-ground coffee from the local roaster and the machine copes brilliantly with a crema on each shot. The taste seems fine although I can't wait to put my own cafe blend through when the grinder turns up. The Classic seems very forgiving on both blend density and tamping (yet to really understand what this is all about), and gives me a consistent espresso each time. The only let down so far is the milk foamer. The steam wand seems weak and it is hard to get anything other than basic bubbles. I'm probably expecting a bit too much considering I have so little experience but, having followed the 'How To' guides to the letter (and using a thermometer), the wand attachment just seems to get in the way. Another review recommended using the pump function (the same as the button for pulling a shot), to give extra steam and that really works. I'm amazed how it can keep on going if you are smart about it. However, I've started the search for a Rancilio Silvia steam wand to replace this one as many other reviewers report good results with it. It's early to tell how I'll get on with the machine in the long term but, since I have nothing to compare it to so far, so good. A MONTH ON: I have bought a steam wand conversion kit via Ebay (£21.65 from a seller called CoffeeMiko), and fitted it easily (you have to use the nut bolt from the old Gaggia Wand on the new one and have to bend the old wand to get this off). The steam power is considerably improved and I'm moving towards getting a much more dense foam but it is takeing some practise! However, I am having problems with getting a really consistent shot from the machine. This could be down to user error but there does seem to be an issue with an inconsistent flow from the group head with more water coming from the left of the shower screen than the right. I imagine that this is down to the age of the machine as I've given it a really good clean but there are still problem. Back to dialing!
I love Ebay and I never fail to find a bargain. This machine isn't new but hardly looks used at all. A bargain at £135.
Three Month Followup
I can't now imagine life without my Gaggia Classic. A fabulous little machine which does everything I had hoped for. I swapped the useless little Gaggia steam wand for a Rancillio one which I found on Ebay (only £21.65 from coffeemiko), which was really easy to install. I'm now foaming milk like a pro! I'm getting better shots and foam from my £135 machine than the vastly expensive one at the cafe where I'm temporarily working. My only complaint is that it takes some time to make more than a couple of drinks as you can't pull a shot and steam milk at the same time. However, this isn't the biggest issue and I try to keep my barista skills to a close circle of family and friends! The machine will last me a long time until I can justify something more 'Pro' for home use. The Gaggia MDF grinder is a good pairing with the machine and I use this on a 4 setting which suits most blends of bean (sometimes I knock down to a 3 for an extra special shot). Thrilled - couldn't recommend the machine highly enough. Don't buy brand new, search out a bargain!