This was my second venture into the world of espresso machines – my first being a Krups (What can I say – I didn’t know any better…).
My decision to buy a Gaggia wasn’t spur of the moment it was done after reading many reviews and weighing up my budget. Forums like this one played a big part in helping me to make my decision, Gaggia has a great reputation and deservedly so.
The Classic is very solid – just picking up the portafilter confirms this – it’s made of marine-grade brass with chrome plating as is the group; this provides for good temperature stability.
It also has other features not typically found in cheap domestic machines the 3-way solenoid valve for one; which means an immediate pressure release from the group after an espresso pull.
It also has a decent pump (I have read many claims that it delivers a whopping 17.5 bar) and a real boiler none of this horrible thermo-block rubbish (As found in some machines such as the Krups Novo 4100).
Add to this a good looking - high quality - stainless steel shell and you have a high quality product.
However I have to say that I was initially disappointed with the Gaggia, this however wasn’t due to a fault with the machine – this was due to my own inexperience and limited knowledge of beans, grind and tamp.
I had bought supermarket pre-ground coffee for a couple of years prior to this for my Krups and didn’t have any idea that I had any other choice. I had only recently discovered coffee geek and forums like it - people kept on talking about grinding their own coffee and buying fresh coffee, or buying green beans and roasting their own (something I look forward to doing in the future).
Buy a decent grinder, (My thinking on this subject went something like this: My god these things are expensive. Huh - what do these guys know - I’ll buy a (AU) $35- grinder and see what happens)
I ended up with a sunbeam whipper snipper and bought my whole beans from the supermarket sticking with the trusted brands I had bought before and believe it or not it was an improvement – In fact I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised.
However anyone who has used a blade grinder will know that they are incredibly inconsistent, it’s almost impossible to get the same grind twice, they are noisy and produce static like you wouldn’t believe, which in turn makes the grounds cling to the charged plastic surfaces of the machine, this can be very messy. I stuck with this combo for about 6 months (yeah I know - I’m a bit slow – just call me Forest). I kept reading phrases like “Buying a grinder is more important than buying a machine and buying fresh coffee will make all the difference in the world…” Eventually it sunk in - I decided I should try something different.
I grabbed the phone book and scoured the internet for local coffee roasters and found a few – I then went out and bought some beans from a couple of local roasters and ground them in my bargain-basement (AU) $35- dollar grinder and what do you know – better coffee, much better coffee, coffee with this rich golden stuff on top – something my Krups had manufactured by way of a crema enhancer, but it wasn’t anything like this – this stuff was fantastic - and the smell from fresh beans (just can't be beaten) not to mention the taste - all of a sudden my Gaggia had improved in leaps and bounds. I now decided it was time to take note of what I read on coffee geek – these guys know a thing or two.
The grinder everyone seemed to think was best was called a Mazzer Mini – this wasn’t your run of the mill domestic grinder – oh no, this was a "full on" semi commercial machine with a price to match, when I first started looking I saw prices of (AU) $750- this was far more than I had paid for my beloved Gaggia Classic. But I kept looking the longer I looked the more I was convinced that this was just too expensive – how can anyone justify a (AU) $750- for a bean grinder… – I started to look at other burr grinders and read many reviews, almost all were a compromise to the Mazzer.
In the end I found a site selling the Mazzer Mini at a price I could accept (AU) $650- I placed an order and within a week the machine landed on my door step. Wooh this sucker is heavy, beautiful, there is nothing cheap about this machine, there are no compromises, this is a work of art and its sole function is to grind beans. After a week of playing with the machine – I finally had it calibrated to what I considered to be its optimal grind. And almost every cup I make is perfection (I say this with tongue firmly in cheek), with the occasional god shot thrown in for good measure... of course I still have much to learn and like every one I occasionally make a bad cup – but it’s my fault nothing to do with the equipment.
Bottom line – thinking of buying a Gaggia Classic and have a limited budget?
– I say go for it, but before you part with your money - do yourself a favour and buy a decent grinder.