My rating of this machine is that it has them all beat hands down in the $500 and under price range. I have used other machines in this price range, but none were built with the quality materials or excellence of design of the Classic
Positive Product Points
Design and construction, quality of materials, and trouble free consistency of operation in a machine costing under $500.
Negative Product Points
Although not a defect in a machine of this price range, it is true that the temperature stability has a bit of a range that sometimes can fall to the low side, but this is a “super nit pick” on my part and actually can be worked-around with a small amount of operator effort.
Perhaps the only two real design defects are the 1.) short steam wand, and 2.) The drain tube for the three way valve that prevents the easy removal of the water tank. As far as the short steam wand, this is non-issue in my opinion, as a machine of this class was never designed or intended to froth a 12oz pitcher. Be happy frothing 6oz maximum, with your Gaggia Classic and be done with it! (see my steaming milk comments )
As far as the drain tube, well, I just bobbed off most of the length of the tube with a small fine toothed hack saw blade until the clearance was great enough to allow the water tank to be withdrawn. Although it is true that the water tank can be filled from the top of the machine (therefore supposedly eliminating the need to withdraw the tank ) this is not really acceptable over the long term, as the tank DOES need to be removed, at least weekly, for proper cleaning.
I have had this machine for about 4 years now and estimate that it has made well over 5,000 shots. In all that time it has never missed a beat or been down for repairs. Finally, last week, I had to replace the Steam Control Valve. Cost was only $35 and WLL had them in stock and shipped it out to me within a couple of days. Now it is back up and running like new, making near perfect espresso every time.
My rating of this machine is that it has them all beat hands down in the $500 and under price range. I have used other machines in this price range, but none were built with the quality materials or excellence of design of the Classic. You would have to reach for a machines in the plus $1,000 range before you gained any appreciable benefit of more advanced functionality, quality of construction and design and (here’s the most important part) before you had any benefit of consistently better espresso shots.
My experience with this machine regards what seems to be a common complaint about rust is that, yes, there is very minimal rust occurring on the inside of the internal support frame (to which the pump, boiler, etc. is bolted to), but it does not effect functionality in any way, and is not a cosmetic concern as it is entirely restricted to the internal base support plate. When I have the machine open from time to time (opening it is a very simple procedure of removing four Phillips head screws that hold down the top cover plate, and gently lifting the cover plate away to reveal all internal components for access and cleaning) I wipe down the internals with a dry towel and spray a very small amount of WD-40 or dry silicone spray lube on the internal sheet metal. It seems that even this problem is a non-issue as WLL states that current machines are 100% stainless, so I certainly would not let the “rust issue” influence any purchasing decision about a Gaggia Classis!
Of course, as has been repeated here a thousand times, if you are new to espresso, you will have to “learn the art” first before expecting the Classic to “do its thing”. It IS a manual pump machine, not a fully automatic, so the owner is responsible for obtaining a proper burr grinder, obtaining a source of high quality fresh beans suitable for the type of espresso shots desired, and spending the little time necessary to “get up on the learning curve” to combine all with the Classic in a skillful way and produce high quality shots. Once mastered and properly fed with the aforementioned high quality raw materials, the Classic is capable of very consistent production over the long haul. Not something that can be said of every machine in this price range. I once had a Brand X machine (from Italy, of supposedly decent quality) that never could jump through the same hoop twice in a row, and was an exercise in total frustration.
WLL is honest and straightforward, and probably deserves your business. They are obviously in the coffee business to stay.