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Gaggia Classic - Peter Chenoweth's Review
Posted: December 13, 2007, 7:57pm
review rating: 7.4
feedback: (1) comments | read | write
Gaggia Classic Machine
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More About This Product
Arrow The Gaggia Classic has 78 Reviews
Arrow The Gaggia Classic has been rated 8.03 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Gaggia Classic reviews have been viewed 643,406 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
A C C 9.00
Daryl Cross 9.00
John Anderson 8.85
Peter Buchta 8.00
Dan Pohl 8.00

Previous Review Next Review
Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.6
Manufacturer: Gaggia Quality: 9
Average Price: $449.00 Usability: 8
Price Paid: $375.00 Cost vs. Value 9
Where Bought: Whole Latte Love Aesthetics 8
Owned for: 1 month Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Breville Ikon, Nespresso, Krups
Bottom Line: Fantastic espresso, great machine.  Just love it.
Positive Product Points

Great machine, great Espresso.  Classic Italian design.  Very easy and simple to use.  Somewhat forgiving with grind, and very easy to get fantastic espresso with tons of goregous crema.  Amazing boiler power - use it to your advantage!

Negative Product Points

Steam is weak if you do it 'by the book'.  Easily solved with a simple trick.  Very bad 'turbo frother' design that makes 'plasticy' foam.  Also easily solved for little or no cost.  The boiler is a bit small, but this is mostly offset by the massive heating elements.

Detailed Commentary

What can I say that you haven't read before?  This, along with the Rancillio Silvia, are the classics.  They are the standards to which all other good, serious, 'entry level' home espresso machines are measured.  

This is my fourth or fifth espresso machine.  The first couple of espresso machines I owned were hand-me-down steam-powered espresso machines.  In a word, junk.  About 6 years ago I started really getting into coffee.  At that time, I found a nicely pre-loved Krups pump machine.  As I started researching espresso and techniques, I learned all about the importance of a grinder, crema, etc, etc.  After a year or so of that, I was swayed by a demo of a Nespresso machine.  It actually made pretty good espresso with a decent amount of crema.  But after a year or so, I grew very tired of their blends and longed for the day when I could go back to my local roaster and pick up a bag of still-hot beans.  So a few months ago I bought a Breville Ikon from Williams Sonoma.  I wrote a review about it here.  It was a significant improvement over what I had, but really didn't produce anything resembling the dark & rich crema that I've seen online and in good coffee shops.  It just didn't 'do it' for me.  I returned it and decided that it was time to do it right and just buy a Gaggia Classic or an Silvia.  I had read about the hype for years but finally broke down and bought one of these.  I couldn't quite stomach spending $600 for a Silvia, which is basically regarded as the king, but I've been very impressed with my Gaggia MDF grinder so I thought I'd give the Classic a try to have a 'matched pair' espresso bar.  

I have zero buyers remorse about this machine.  Zero.  I absolutely love it.  I'm easily making the best espresso drinks I've ever had.  It's taken a few dozen shots to get the machine, grind, and tamp dialed in, but it's so worth it.

It's bringing out something I've never really experienced before, and that's the nuances of coffee blends.  I had always read the taste description of the beans, things like 'choclatey', 'hazelnut finish', etc.  But I never really tasted it.  Maybe if I thought really hard about it, but not really.  With this grinder and this machine, it's totally there.  The tastes from the beans explode on your taste buds.  It's incredible.   Yeah, I've had several 'blown' shots, but almost all are great and several have been simply outstanding.  

The drawbacks of the machine?  Both problems concern steaming.  The first problem is that the auto-frother attachment is pretty crummy.  It does work, but it produces tons of plasticy, hard, soap-bubble like foam.  It's not what you really want.  Two ways to fix it.  For no cost, you can simply pull the tip off.  There's an inner piece that works quite well, though it's a bit on the short side and it's somewhat messy to clean up.  You can pull all of the plastic parts and you're left with a lovely little stainless steel wand that works really, really well and is a cinch to clean up.  But it's so short that it's almost impossible to use.  For just a few dollars, you can pick up a Saeco Paranello wand.  It slips over the steel wand perfectly.  It's tip is almost as gimicky as Gaggias, but the difference is that the inner piece is much longer and works really well for great micro foam, and is pretty easy to clean up because it's just smooth plastic.  A third option is to buy a Rancillio Silvia steam pipe.  Apparently, it's a bolt-on replacement but I haven't done it yet so I can't say for sure.

The second problem is the boiler size itself.  As noted in many places, it does have a small boiler at only 3.5 ounces.  What does that mean?  It means that when you're steaming more than a few ounces of milk, you will quite literally run out of steam before you make it up to the magic 150-160 degree mark.  By the book, you flip the machine into steam mode, wait for the ready light to come on (up to steam temp, heating elements off), purge the bit of hot water out of the steam wand, then start steaming.  The problem is that within 20-30 seconds it will start to lose pressure.  As the pressure decreases, the ready light will go out indicating that the heating elements are back on.  There's a good 15-20 seconds where the milk temp will level out.  Then steam pressure will slowly come back up and you can continue steaming.  It's not the best for making brilliant micro foam.  What to do?  It's easy.  The basic rule is to not let that 'ready' light come on.  Use that 1400+watt boiler to your advantage and keep it running at full tilt, heating up the water.  Flip the steam switch, wait 10 seconds, purge the water, wait 5 more seconds, and start steaming.  You'll have full steam pressure and the continual loss of steam will  keep the boiler fired up.  Your'e still only working with 3.5ounces of steam at the most, and the Gaggia will not automatically fill the boiler, so you need to be careful not to run it dry as it's not good for the boiler.  Want unlimited steam?  Simply flip the pump on a for a few seconds every 25-30 seconds while you steam.  That'll inject a little water into the boiler, which will flash steam.  Just like using the hot water dispenser feature, but without running it long enough to fill the boiler or cool it off very much.  You can basically go indefinitely like this and steam as much milk as you want.

It's a great machine!

Buying Experience

From Whole Latte Love.  Just as smooth as can be expected.  Mine was an 'outlet' model, but it looked brand new to me.  No water in it, no coffee grounds, etc.  Placed the order, it shipped, and I received it.  I've asked a few questions from their tech support, and they've been promptly answered with great information.  They do seem to care.

Three Month Followup

How about a 4 year followup?  

I bought my Gaggia Classic in November of 2007.  It's now August of 2011.  How's the Classic doing?  Flawlessly.  It performed as well this morning as it did when I bought it, 4 years ago.  I make either 4 or 6 shots of espresso every weekday morning, two latte's worth for my and my wife's commutes.  When the weather is cooler, that includes steaming milk.  During the weekends, we'll make two or four more drinks.  So if I add up the math, 4 years x 6 days/week x 4 shots/day = 4,992 shots of espresso.  And counting.  And it's more than that because some mornings we each need a triple. ;)  

I use clean water & rinse off the brewhead & portafilter daily, wipe it down at least weekly, take apart & thoroughly clean the brewhead about once a month, and run cleancaf through it about once every  6 months.  That's it.  All of the parts are original (except the wand, detailed in my 3-month followup).  Temps are still spot on, brew pressure seems great (amazing tigerstripe crema with good beans), no drips, leaks, or other problems.  

In an age where most small electric appliances can be expected to last only a couple of years, this Gaggia continues to impress.  It's pressed into service almost daily, and it's never complained.  I was worth every penny.

One Year Followup

How about a 4 year followup?  

I bought my Gaggia Classic in November of 2007.  It's now August of 2011.  How's the Classic doing?  In a word, it's perfect.  It performed as well this morning as it did when I bought it, 4 years ago.  I make either 4 or 6 shots of espresso every weekday morning, two latte's worth for my and my wife's commutes.  When the weather is cooler, that includes steaming milk.  During the weekends, we'll make two or four more drinks.  So if I add up the math, 4 years x 6 days/week x 4 shots/day = 4,992 shots of espresso.  And counting.  And it's more than that because some mornings we each need a triple. ;)  

I use clean water & rinse off the brewhead & portafilter daily, wipe it down at least weekly, take apart & thoroughly clean the brewhead about once a month, and run cleancaf through it about once every  6 months.  That's it.  All of the parts are original (except the wand, detailed in my 3-month followup).  Temps are still spot on, brew pressure seems great (amazing tigerstripe crema with good beans), no drips, leaks, or other problems.  

In an age where most small electric appliances can be expected to last only a couple of years, this Gaggia continues to impress.  It's pressed into service almost daily, and it's never complained.  It was worth every penny.

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review rating: 7.4
Posted: December 13, 2007, 7:57pm
feedback: (1) comments | read | write
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