UPDATE November 2013:
After 30 years, the boiler on my machine became pitted and started leaking. Since those days, they changed from a steel boiler to an aluminum one. I'm not sure if that's an improvement or not, but it does mean that I could no longer get replacement parts. So I got the latest model. Since I found that some changes were more than cosmetic, I'm adding this section to the top of the review. I'm also lowering my rating by one star. In some ways, the quality has gone down by several stars, but in some ways it has improved. However there's no negative effect on the quality of the beverages.
The first thing I noticed when I went to plug it in was the new cord. The old cord's design was similar to this Power Cord with the right angles. I can no longer place the unit it its old location and needed to move it several inches further from the wall. It's also a bit awkward having a thick cord sticking straight out of the socket instead of at a right angle, so I have a replacement cord on order. Another issue is that it comes with a two prong cord. The unit isn't grounded as well, and I noticed that I felt a slight tingle when touching the metal lightly. I read the difference in ground potential by holding one lead of a volt meter in one hand while touching the outside of the Gaggia with the other lead. I measured between -15 mV and 15 mV. It's not enough to be harmful, but I don't like touching appliances that feel as if they are leaking electricity.
The case itself is made of thinner metal than my old one. It also weighs less because of that. Aside from it being a cost cutting measure, it also means that when I go to twist the portafilter into place, the machine will move unless I steady it with my other hand. It also gets much hotter to the touch, but nowhere near burning hot. Other minor changes in quality are a lower quality tamper and scoop, and a lower quality tray insert. The top of the drip tray still uses a quality polished metal piece, but the piece under it is now plastic. That piece is far less visible, and none of these changes should make a functional difference. The pump is actually quieter than on the old model. Another up side is the price. If you adjust the original price of the Italian made predecessor to 2013 dollars, it was the equivalent of over $1,100 when I bought it. So this Romanian made model understandably needed to have a few shortcuts. Unfortunately, the drip tray also wobbles on my new one, making it feel like a lower quality machine.
Other changes have to do with the steam nozzle. The steam knob is now bigger and more robust than the ones on the original machines. That makes it much easier to turn off from a full on position and vice versa. The down side is that the old one was on the front and this is on the right side. With the old configuration, you could hold the pitcher with your right hand and operate the knob with your left. You also had the option of using the opposite hands, but on this one, you have to control the pitcher with your left hand unless you want your hand twisted backwards to use the knob.
The portafilter has also changed. The current one is thicker, heavier and more robust. It seems like an improvement in quality. The old one had a pivoting piece that could be pushed forward to retain the basket when you hit it against a knock box to empty it. With the new one, the basket is held firmly in place by an inner ring with the proper amount of tension. This is also more practical when using the new "perfect crema" baskets. The old model was able to sit on a counter with the basket level, while the new one isn't, but that's true of virtually any on the market these days. The newer design seems nicer overall, but on the old one, taking the basket out for cleaning took zero effort.
Overall, there are shortcuts in quality for things that don't directly affect the unit's ability to make a good quality coffee drink. And there are improvements in areas that do directly affect the quality of the drink. So it's worthy of four stars, but despite the shortcomings, the improvements might result in making better beverages with a much smaller learning curve for new users.
I wasn't getting the results I hoped for with the steam wand. I figured that it would be a good wand for a beginner and that pretty much describes it. It takes lots of experience to get good microfoam with a traditional steam wand so this one should help a beginner. The foam has much larger bubbles than what you might see at a coffee house, and if you swirl the steamed milk afterwards, it will be closer to what you expect.
I researched it and found that there's a chrome version of the Pannarella attachment that makes much better steamed milk. I ended up buying a "latte art Pannarella wand" that can work much as a traditional steam wand, and it attaches the same way as the original. It's great for those with experience who found the included wand disappointing. Look for an on-line video that compares the wands I mentioned and you will have a better notion of what to expect and how to use it.
I also found that the pressurized portafilters that come with this machine do a good job, but the traditional baskets might be slightly better. However, the non-pressurized baskets are more finicky, require you to learn the exact ground you need, the exact quantity, and how to tamp things right. The pressurized baskets will satisfy all but the most critical.
Ultimately, all this means that the changes are a good advantage to new users, and not a major problem for very experienced users, who may prefer to get accessories.
When I got my Gaggia several decades ago, it was not yet called a Classic. It was called a Coffee Gaggia. About 20 years ago [this was based on my original review date], some minor changes were made, and the unit was renamed Classic. The new "Coffee Gaggia" is not the same as this machine.
This machine has a robust build, and high quality parts. Its tank heats the water quickly, and to a proper temperature, and the pump is powerful enough to do the job properly. I would strongly recommend using filtered water, especially with a low mineral content, so that deposits do not build up in the tank.
My version has an all metal frothing wand, which does as good a job as the skills of the operator will allow for. The newer versions have a "turbo frother," and an optional milk frother that will take the guess work out of frothing and place foamed milk directly into the cup. I can't comment on these newer features, but perhaps they will allow a better job to be done by those with less experience.
The newer models are brushed stainless, while the original models had an appliance enamel finish. Since the old finish allowed water to penetrate under any scratches or imperfections in the finish, this was a particular problem near the portafilter holder and underneath the drip tray. The new version should retain its finish far longer, although the old one still does not show any wear in places that are visible with the machine assembled.
Minor differences are that the new machine has a more robust looking steam knob that was moved to the side, and the thermostat light, which indicated that the unit was heating, has been replaced with a "ready" light that is integrated into the coffee switch and signals the opposite.
In the time that I've had my machine, I've had only minor problems with it. My steam thermostat needed to be replaced once, and the light on my power switch stopped working. These were larger issues before the Internet made it easy to find parts, as these items are hard to find locally. The other problem is that if the unit is not used for extended periods, and the tank is allowed to dry out completely, and the water used was hard, then some parts are subject to clogging. The troubleshooting steps in the manual are not helpful for these sorts of problems. The machine can be disassembled for cleaning by somebody who is mechanically inclined, but unless you feel comfortable with appliance repair, you are better off avoiding the situation by using filtered water, and/or descaling regularly, especially before any long term storage.
The other "parts" issue is that the gasket for the filter basket should be considered a consumable part, and should be sold (but isn't) by every dealer as an accessory, rather than just by repair facilities. The machine really should have included an extra one since this is the only part that will definitely wear out with regular use. It might take a few years or longer, and is easy to replace, but it will wear out.
Overall, this is a well built machine that should last you many decades. Although it seemed expensive when I bought it, it has averaged out to about 6 cents a day to own it, which was well worth the price, and I'll probably get another few decades out of it.
If you have used cheaper espresso makers, you will appreciate the robustness and quality of this unit. Features such as the three way solenoid controlled valve might be transparent to the user, but the lack of them become clear when you use a cheaper machine. This one just keeps going and going.
on October 25, 2009
I have been using the Gaggia Classic for over twelve years. The first machine is still going strong, but my ex-wife inherited it, so I am on the second and newer machine.
Both are well-made heavy duty units that are used to make 5-6 cups of espresso a day, and the occasional capuccino. The machine does this flawlessly.
Those of you who know espresso making know that a good cup of espresso requires these four things:
1. Temperature: Water temperature a bit below boiling; about 190F is right.
2. Pressure: Of upto 200 psi (about 15 atmospheres or bars)
3. Amount: You need 7 grams of coffee per espresso cup. The included scoop should give you the exact amount.
4. Time: About 25 seconds for enough water to flow through the coffee grounds to make one or two cups
The Classic does 1, 2 and 3 perfectly. By definition, you, the barista, are in charge of 4. This you achieve through grinding the coffee to the right degree of fineness and tamping it with the right amount of pressure. It is this you need to learn with just a bit of trial and error. But you must buy a burr grinder for your coffee to do this right.
A burr grinder does not have to be expensive. I have two (a Krups and a Capressa) at home that each cost less than $40. I have been using them for years without a problem. If they develop one, easy and inexpensive enough to replace.
When you start, try out three or four different levels of grinds, generally at the finer settings of your grinder. The grind should be about the consistency of table salt. Then try out three or so levels of tamping the grounds in the portafilter. Pretty soon you will zero on the combination that provides the right degree of resistance to the water pressure to take about 25 seconds. I found that a rogher grind with very high pressure, or the right grind with medium tamping presssure and a very fine grind with little or no pressure all do the job. Obviously, the right grind with medium pressure is the optimum. If the water flows out too quickly, the coffee will be weak and will not have any of the crema that is the mark of a well-made cup. If it takes too long, the coffee will be bitter and the crema will will be dark brown. I have also found that as I switch from one kind of beans to another, or even from one batch to another, I sometimes have to fine tune the grind setting.
In my experience it is very difficult to buy preground coffee, or have it ground by the seller, such that it makes good espresso in my machine. I suspect you will find the same thing. An alternative around this is to use ESE pods, which Starbucks and others sell. These pods have the right amount and grind of coffee sandwiched between two pieces of teabag paper. All you do is pop one in the machine and you get, mostly, a good cup of coffee. But pods are expensive, at about $0.50 a cup, compared to about $0.15 per cup from beans.
My old machine had a plain steel wand for frothing. Took a little skill and experience to learn how to froth, starting with high steam flow and with the wand-end almost at the bottom of the steaming cup, gradually reducing the steam flow and moving the end of the wand closer to the surface of the milk. Worked like a charm with a little experience. Cleanup was easy; a wet sponge to wipe off the milk residue and a squirt of steam to clean out the inside. My new machine has a new-fangled plastic gizmo with many internal parts that slips over the metal steam wand. Now my dog could likely make perfect froth with this, except that it is a pain to clean. I find the easiest thing to do is slip off the gizmo from the metal wand right after the frothing is done, run warm water on/through it in the sink and slip it back on. Seems to stay clean and does not require disassembly of the internal parts.
I don't do much maintenance of my machine. I descale it twice a year and replace the silicone gasket/seal every few years, when the old one wears out and water begins to seep from it. You can find details for descaling elsewhere. All I do is run two cups of water with two tablespoons of citric acid crystals (bought at a baking supplies place) dissolved in it through my heated machine, as if I was making coffee but without grounds.
The Classic is well made, feels substantial, and works flawlessly. Are there other machines out there that are as good or better? Who can tell, without using each of them for some time. All I an say is that the Classic has been more than meeting the requirements of this picky engineer and coffee lover for over a decade.
on October 12, 2007
I bougt the $200 breville ESP8XL when I started my bean habit and was considerably satisfied. With the breville I learned just how tempermentle espresso can be. The grind, the tamp pressure (with a twist) as well as the temerature of every item the coffee contacts in the pull will effect the taste of your espresso. (To warm up cups fast, fill them with water and put them in the microwave for a minute and your set.)
I learned alot in 2 weeks and now considered my capucchino concoction worthy and much better than chain coffee houses. I use Lavazza preground espresso coffee and love it, its smooth satisfying and has an excellent crema. I'm considering a grinder but with the Lavazza (black can) I'm putting it off for a while.
I ordered the Gaggia Classic on impulse due to a sale hoping to improve my pulls with the presumably better machine. Which is better, well the short story is I packed the Breville up for return 2 days later.
The Gaggia arived well packed but after setting it up the pump didnt work. Disapointed but not wanting to give up on it. I opened the top easily with a screwdriver and found that the rubber gromet around the pump had loosened from its mount and pulled a wire (with slip on connector) off its termination point. I slid the motor gromet back into place and remedied the connection easily. From there the machine operated perfectly.
Gaggia Pro's: Better portafilter. Filter is easier to clean larger in surface area and the used coffee pucks come out easier and much drier. Also the espresso comes out of one hole in the middle and is then seperated into channels that flow into the 2 cups you see in the picture. The Breville has a smaller portafilter that is harder to get in place without looking and has 2 holes in the bottom. Most of the time the majority of the water came out of 1 side catching up at the end of the pull.
The plastic turbo frother steams faster, drier and is much easier to clean than the stainless tube provided on the Breville. The milk froth, adheres like paint to the metal tube and has to be scraped off with a knife or a brillo pad. Steam control and overall heat temperature is better on the Gaggia.
Breville pro's: easier to fill with water, drip tray is easy to handle. Dont think this doesnt matter. If you want your espresso hot, you need to run water thru the portafilter to heat it up and not lose temp. The excess water goes in the drip tray. You want this to be easy access!!! The gaggia's works fine but the Breville's fits better and is easier to handle.
If your considering this machine but are concerned with the cost, get the Breville ESP8XL For $200, it makes a nice espresso but use a quality cofee thats properly ground. If theres no concern go for the Gaggia. I got it here for $400 and feel the extra $$$ was worth it.
Update: September 2010
My Gaggia is still going strong. Temperature and pump strength have not varried at all. I've paired it with a Rancilio Rocky Burr-Grinder which was well worth the investment. I buy local italian roast coffee for $7.50/lb and make Espresso better than any Starbucks around. I've seen other's indicate that the plastic frother is poorly designed and falls off. I've had no problem with mine but I clean it thorouhly after every use. I admit I don't use it as much as when I first got it but it is always available for a mid afternoon espresso or an after dinner capachino. My only complaint is with the design of the water tank. You can fill it through the top but you will have to take it out at least weekly to clean as the standing water will attract bacteria after a while. Removing the tank requires the disassembly of a few parts. It's a trivial complaint but worth noting, fore if you dont clean the tank you can probably damage the pump.
on June 24, 2014
In the age of the internet - the virtual sum of all human knowledge is available by merely typing a few well-chosen words into the search engine of your choice, and then carefully reviewing the results. There is no excuse for an uneducated consumer in this day and age.
Those that would spend between $300 and $700 on an espresso machine should understand what that machine is and - more importantly - what that machine is not.
I've owned the GC for six months now, and after between 2 and 4 shots a day for the past six months, I believe I've gained some important perspective on what it is, and what it is not.
First, let me say that everything you read on the internet, forums, and in reviews is absolutely true. If you do not have a grinder capable of grinding finely and consistently enough - you will not ever be able to pull a consistently pleasant shot of espresso. Not ever. Never. The laws of espresso physics do not allow for this to happen. In this regard the GC is absolutely no exception. If you have a less than capable grinder, or are attempting to ladle preground stale coffee into the portafilter - well - you don't have to be Fellini to figure out this is going to have poor outcomes for you. Those people who expected the machine to be fully automatic, or absolve you of the responsibility to understand the espresso meta-concepts of grind, tamp, temp, and time and then posted 1-Star reviews show their complete lack of understanding of what makes good espresso. One should disregard the opinion of these 1-Star monkeys for the uninformed individuals they are.
That being said - you certainly don't need a $1200 grinder to get good shots from the GC. There are several grinders in the $200 to $300 range that are VERY capable, and a patient and determined and careful individual *could* get good shots from the GC using the sub $100 Infinity Capresso 560 Series, although it is my belief that consistency will probably elude you long term. I spent $234 on a Gaggia MDF, with a high quality grind set, and have never been sorry a day. It does it all. I am a coffee aficionado and can tell you it chews through big loads of beans on course settings for my Bodum Press Pot, grinds a beautiful medium grind for automatics, a perfect medium course grind for pour over, and the REALLY course grind required for cold-brew. And - it grinds fine, fine, fine enough for consistent espresso shots day in, day out. The "doser" is a pain the patooty, but - the grind is so fine and consistent that I've learned to overcome it. I've found that a "wee tap" on the side after a dose takes care of most of the dosers annoying issues.
Set aside the price of a capable grinder and in this range there tend to be two machines that most shoppers for a machine in this class come down to after enough research. The Gaggia Classic, and... another model that shall 'remain nameless'. You know which machine I'm talking about.
Read the reviews for this other machine *very* carefully. You will find that although it's almost twice the price of the Gaggia Classic - it is apparently so temperamental that getting a good, consistent shot is almost impossible. You will read statements such as : "After three years, I think I have finally found the right grind/tamp/method of temperature surfing that gets me a good shot 3 out of 5 times." As my daughter would say, "Seriously?" You spent almost $700 on an espresso machine, and g-d knows how much more on a capable grinder, and after three years you are just NOW dialing it in? 3 out of 5? Temperamental? Much?
The Gaggia Classic is NOT overly temperamental. It makes excellent, consistent, and high quality espresso, if you take a *small* amount of time to learn how it works, ensure that you're using a quality grinder, and endeavor to understand the machines limitations. Those reviewers who sent the machine back because the 'instructions weren't very good'... well... I think perhaps if you can't figure out a machine with only three buttons on it out then perhaps making espresso is not for you.
Please understand a few things about a machine of this quality. It is designed primarily to make espresso what many coffee snobs would call the 'right way'. Meaning using an unpressurized basket, a decent quality of fresh bean, ground to the proper fineness with a quality grinder just before use. Period.
It's also meant to be used by someone who understands the type of bean they are using. If you haven't taken the time to research a little and understand what type of beans are best for espresso, how they are roasted, and how those roasts impact the grind and taste of your espresso, then I think perhaps you would be happier with another machine.
If you've made the (poor) decision to use prefilled pods, the pressurized "cheater" basket, or stale pre-ground coffee or grocery store beans through a poor quality grinder, then... I guess I'm not sure why you felt the need to purchase this type of machine. You'll get better quality shots out of an $89 Delonghi 155EC. I promise. That it didn't work out for you wasn't a surprise to anyone but you.
The Gaggia Classic's claim to fame is the stability of its boiler temperature, and I can attest to that claim. It only took me about two or three days of 'fiddling' to figure out the sequence that gave me truly wonderful shots. After a couple of YouTube videos I understood things like purging the wand before steaming, bleeding off the steam before pulling, and how my grind and tamp impact my shot. If you expect to cram some nondescript crap into the portafilter and mash the buttons like a monkey until your shot comes out - this is not your machine. Nor is any other machine like this. You'll be happier with a Verisimo, Nespresso, or Kuerig for that matter. Shove in the pod. Mash the button. Espresso. It won't be authentic, actual espresso, nor will it be an authentic experience, but... you'll have a lot less to worry about - and you'll be happier. You'll also have a lot more time because you won't be posting 1-Star reviews about a machine you never truly put in the effort to operate properly.
The GC is for those who want the classic, authentic espresso experience, without paying $800 bucks and spending three years moaning about how 'temperamental' it is while desperately trying to remain snobby because you spent the additional money on a machine that doesn't do the one thing it should reliably and you need to overcome how foolish you feel.
And to the person who posted the 1-Star review about how "cheap" the GC was made. I have to wonder if you bought some cheap Chinese copy from a knock-off website or something? This machine is a BEAST. It's stainless steel from top to bottom. Brushed. Stainless. Steel. It weighs a metric ton. With water in it - it's damned hard to move. Yes, the steam knob is plastic. As is the water tank. They all are. Good luck finding a machine without a plastic water tank. And the plastic steam knob is very substantial and well made. Doesn't have a cheap 'feel' to it at all. Always purchase from a reputable dealer, and you won't have to worry about 'knock-offs'.
To be clear - the GC has some short-comings.
It has its issues - the steam wand being one of them. It is - without question - a hunk of crap. I want to distinguish here between the steam *arm* and the steam *wand*. The metal steam arm is well made, and very stable. The GC itself is capable of WONDERFUL steam. The little black plastic wand abomination that comes with it is absolutely the hunk of junk that all the reviews say it is.
You will read many comments on forums from people who bought the steam arm from 'nameless' and used it as a replacement. Guess what? Read farther. Apart from voiding your warranty there are even more "I'm still dialing it in" comments.
One of the more reputable on-line coffee gear sites sells a "Saeco stainless steel replacement wand" for the GC. THIS is your money-shot for steaming milk. It's only about $35 bucks (plus 9 bucks shipping - ouch), and does a WONDERFUL job. It's stable, will NOT void your warranty, and only takes about 90 seconds to install. And - because it's stainless steel - beautifully matches your GC - looks like it was made for it. If Gaggia had a lick of sense, they would ship the unit with this wand. It froths milk with microfoam that looks like smooth wet white paint. You really can't do much better in this range. Is it the same microfoam that you would get in an Italian cafe or a place running a $3,800 automatic manned by a professional barista? Of course not. Don't be silly. Is it really good microfoam that tastes wonderful and might even get you nudged into latte art territory? Absolutely.
Yes, the portafilter basket is very firmly inserted into the portafilter handle. By design. I saw where some genius returned their Gaggia Classic because the basket was hard to remove. Most GC owner's figure out very early on that using the edge of another basket quickly and effortlessly pops the mounted basket out of the portafilter with minimal effort.
Understand also that at this price point you are getting a single boiler machine. As is virtually every 'home' espresso machine under about $1,500. This means that you can't steam milk, and pull espresso back to back. You're going to have to make a decision. Milk first, then let the machine cool down to pull your espresso, or, you can pull your shot and let the machine heat up to steam your milk. The aficionados will tell you that "milk can wait on espresso, but espresso should NEVER wait on milk", and I can say that a little experimenting has taught me that this absolutely true. As the saying goes, "Your Milage May Vary". There are a couple of handy videos, both on YouTube and on the major espresso hangout sites like WholeLatteLove, and Seattle CoffeeGear that will show you how to manage this issue. If you aren't willing to invest a few minutes learning this information, then again, I have to say - this is not the machine for you. Nor are any of the other machines in this general class. This is part of the small, but important "learning curve" that I've spoken about previously. This curve is NOT unique to the GC.
There are some things I think you should buy when you buy this machine - of course if you are an accomplished barista you probably already have or don't need them. But, if this is one of your first "real" espresso machines - I think these items are important, and you will have a much better experience if you own them :
1. The Saeco Stainless Steel Replacement Wand. From that online place in Seattle. $35-ish. Make this your first side purchase. Order it when you order the machine and just install it first.
2. A substantial tamper like this Clear Espresso Tamper Stainless Steel 58 Mm Coffee. The plastic one that comes with it is kinda junky. Yes, it will tamp the coffee. But it's kind of a crappy user experience. Buy one of the nicer metal ones. You won't be sorry. $10-$40.
3. Rattleware 3-Ounce RW Logo Shot Pitcher, Glass. About $14 if you shop. The online Seattle place is cheaper than Amazon and you actually get 2 of them instead of $17 for just one. It's a beautiful piece of glass, and is graduated. Starting out you'll want to know where that 2 oz. mark is if you are pulling double, and you need a frame of reference regardless. The Rattleware shot makes it easy to know how you're doing when pulling. You can also really see that beautiful crema, and how you're doing with it. See how some beans give you an INCH of crema, where some only a few mm. This is how you learn about your beans and how their age, grind, tamp and temp impact your experience.
4. A nice, New 20 oz Espresso Coffee Milk Frothing Pitcher, Stainless Steel, 18/8 gauge. They are only $10 on Amazon. Put it in the fridge and get it nice and cold before you froth. It makes all the difference in the world. The GC's boiler and steam capabilities are a thing of beauty. You'll want to take advantage of them.
5. A nice frothing temperature gauge with a clip. Again - in the $10 range on Amazon. You clip it in your pitcher to know when you are going to hit that wonderful 150-160 degree mark. Holding the pitcher until it's too hot to touch is a good gauge, but I really like being able to know for sure what the machine is doing, and that I'm not burning the 2% milk.
6. There is a small scale sold on Amazon, it's an American Weigh Scales AMW-SC-2KG Digital Pocket Scale scale accurate to .1 grams. In order to pull consistent shots you'll need to be able to measure your coffee consistently. This requires a scale accurate to .1 grams. It's only $24. It will kick you 25 yards closer to your goal. If you are guessing or ball-parking - you can't be surprised your shots aren't consistent. Don't blame the Gaggia.
7. Get on line. Go to Red Rock Roasters, or Paradise Roasters, or Atomic Café and order a 12 oz. bag of one of the nicer espressos. It's only about $11 or $13 a bag, which is only a $1 or $3 more than what you'll pay for vastly inferior beans at your local grocery store. Yes, you'll have to pay a few dollars in shipping. It's worth it. A good, quality, fresh roasted bag of beans will kick you another 50 yards closer to the espresso goal line. You'll never go back. I promise.
As to my original statement about knowing what the GC is, and what it is not, I will close with this.
The GC will make an excellent cup of espresso, consistently. It will require a small, but worthwhile learning curve, and a capable grinder.
With a minimum effort the GC will steam milk to very acceptable microfoam.
The GC will make shots, lattes, cappuccinos and macchiato that will make anything coming out of Starbucks hang it's head in shame, shame, shame.
The GC will NOT equal the large, multi-thousand dollar machines. It isn't meant to.
The GC will NOT do well with pods, stale or preground coffee, or dollar store beans ground in a grinder purchased at a big box store.
The Gaggia Classic is in very real terms - where the "good stuff" starts.
*** UPDATE - 01-02-2015 ***
So... two weeks ago I noticed a little drop or two of water leaking from around the portafilter while pulling a shot. After a couple of days it had graduated to a nice little squirt from around the portfilter while pulling. A few days later a significantly large squirt. A few days after that it was shooting water everywhere and I could no longer pull a shot. Checked the interwebs and found that this behavior is indicative of having a bad "Brew Head Group Gasket". This is a $10.00 part, and requires about 15 minutes to install. The manufacturers documentation suggests that this part is a "consumable" that should be replaced approximately once a year. Coincidentally I've had the machine exactly one year.
I will also say I have a REALLY bad habit of forgetting in the morning to pull the portafilter and turn the machine off, which means I come home 10 hours later and the portafilter has been cooking in the Gaggia (still full of grounds). When I twist the portafilter out the metal basket is stuck to the seal from the heat. I have to pry it off. I've done this (accidently) quite a few times. I think it took it's toll on the seal.
I ordered this replacement :
It took me about 10 minutes to remove the old gasket. I had to resort to the 'machine screw trick'. The old gasket is so hard to remove in most cases that you have to screw a small machine screw into it, and then use a pair of pliers to gently pull on the screw to remove the gasket. It took about 5 minutes to install the new one. The old gasket was very hard, and very brittle. Compared to the new gasket which was very pliable and flexible. The new gasket was a perfect fit, and now doesn't leak a drop.
On the down side, I didn't care to have to replace this gasket after only a year, although I'm sure I damaged the gasket all the times I forgot to remove the portafilter and left the machine on. Also don't like the idea of a part like this being a "consumable" I'll have to replace ongoing.
On the up side, it was only a $10.00 part, and was easy (ish) to replace. And the Gaggia is manufactured in such a way as to allow the consumer to replace parts and maintain the machine, which is a very good thing.
on November 29, 2007
I started my espresso machine search with a review in Money magazine (of all places). In that article, the Breville 800ESXL was top rated, with the Gaggia Classic coming in second. The article rated the espresso quality of the Gaggia as better, but gave the top rating to the Breville based on the combination of quality *and* the fact that it cost about $100 less than the Gaggia. I jumped into Amazon to see what others said about the two machines. What turned me off about the Breville were the negative reviews about how the filter kept clogging, and how one person was ditching this machine and going to the Gaggia. As luck would have it, at that moment, the Gaggia machine was on sale on Amazon, by $100! So I get the machine that got the better all around reviews, for the same price as the other...a no brainer!
I've been very happy with the Gaggia. I admit that I'm still working on the proper mix of coffee grinding and tamping pressure, but right from the first cup (which had a perfect head of crema), I've been encouraged to expand my knowledge of the "science" of espresso, and feel that this machine is the right one to perfect my technique with. Unlike the Krups, this is a serious machine for people who *really* enjoy a good cup of espresso. It's like the difference between people who "live to eat" vs. people who "eat to live". If you're just looking for a cup of strong coffee, throw an extra spoon of instant in your cup before you put the boiling water in. If you savor the intense taste of a perfectly brewed shot of espresso, stop here, do not pass "go", buy this machine.
One heads up; the written instructions pretty much suck, so make sure you pop the c.d. into your computer first, and view it beginning to end...before you even start pulling all the parts out of the box. And in case you're scratching your head wondering why they didn't give you a power cord, it's inside the water reservoir.
on March 28, 2005
For the price, I'd give the espresso making part of this machine 5 stars. The portafilter and brew group are substantial and well-made. I've worked at two espresso shops with commercial machines, and the parts on this moderately priced Gaggia are nearly as heavy and substantial as the big multiple-thousands of dollars machines. I've had the machine for 4 days and have been brewing shots with Starbuck$ pods. The toggle switches are easy to use, the reservoir is easy to fill, and the shots are aromatic and full of crema every time. However, the steaming wand takes a star away from this machine. It does not rotate in every direction like the comparably priced Starbucks machine. This makes it hard to remove a cup full of frothed milk from under the wand without spilling. Also, the plastic frother contraption is silly. Actual frothing capability is pretty good, though the plain metal tips on the commercial machines produced finer microfroth, and were more fine-tuned to the trained barista's hand. Overall, it's a good-looking machine, and I'm satisfied with it for my main purposes - iced lattes and americanos, and straight double shots, all of which do not require use of the steaming attachment. This is a good entry-level machine that will brew you good shots, and look good on your countertop. However, I'm expecting to outgrow it and move up to an Isomac with more refined steaming capability within a few years.
on October 30, 2007
I've used this machine extensively for the last 12 months. In every aspect, I learned a lot about making that still elusive perfect espresso: the bean, the grinding, the water, the temperature, the cleaning, the back flushing, the descaling, you name it. The purchase of this machine started a very rewarding journey into the unknown. From thermodynamics through agricultural techniques, I've read a lot. But only recently I started a new stream of Googling when I researched how to make a more thorough maintenance of the machine. I'm a chemical engineer, so by training, I know that machines need more than cosmetic cleaning to keep working.
And here is when the boiler issue comes along. Among the key components in any espresso machine, the boiler has obviously a very high importance. It's here where a truly exceptional machine shows it's quality. From the steam "disponsable" ones using stainless steel to the almost coffee bar quality solid brass boiler machines, the difference is astounding in terms of temperature stability and durability. There are cheaper machines that use aluminum instead of brass in the boiler. Like the Gaggia Classic. And that I didn't know when I bought it. Aluminum you see, corrodes VERY fast. Even if it creates a self protecting layer of aluminum oxide when exposed to the elements, it DOES corrode and it DOES end it's life in much faster way than a brass boiler. Why? simply because brass doesn't corrode as fast, and if you need to descale or clean a brass boiler, you can be much more aggressive in what you use to do that cleaning.
So, my boiler is now showing significant amounts of corrosion. I used bottled water and cleaned the machine every week extensively, used recommended anti-scaling and detergent agents and followed every rule. But next year this machine is ready for a full boiler replacement. Unacceptable in my mind. Go for the Rancilio Silvia (brass boiler), because that's the one I'm buying soon. It's well worth the extra money.
on December 6, 2008
I went through about 10 different espresso machines and finally concluded that the Gaggia Classic is the best one for under $1000. I had gone through 2 KitchenAid Pro Espresso Machines and they both broke. I then exchanged it for an automatic Jura-Capresso and that got clogged. I exchanged that for a Breville espresso machine but that exploded in my kitchen. I also had a FrancisFrancis! but it could not keep up with my 2 cappuccinos a day routine. The La Pavoni Europiccola manual espresso machine looked cool but burnt the espresso everytime. I finally bought the Gaggia Classic and was completely surprised by the power it had to blast through fine espresso & its quick start up time.
This machine has a higher wattage pump than all the others in this price point. Which I think helps a lot. It's easy to clean, easy to fill with water, and I suggest steaming the milk without the provided plastic tube. THE GAGGIA CLASSIC PRODUCES CONSISTENT ESPRESSO SHOTS EVERY TIME! I know what I am getting every morning and don't have to waste coffee to get that perfect espresso shot.
Just thought I would share since I bought and used about 10 different machines and finally landed on the Gaggia Classic. You won't be disappointed.
on September 1, 2010
I've had this machine over a year now, so I can put a review after extensive use of the machine.
The espresso quality you can get is truly exceptional. As you will quickly find out, you need to have a great burr grinder, which will cost you at least $300. Make sure you follow the known rule of having a better grinder than the espresso maker. The main secret for a great espresso is the grinder.
This machine does not pressure automatically the coffee in the porta filter, which means you'll have to put the exact quantity and pressure to the coffee. Most consumer machines will do that automatically, but not the Gaggia Classic. This machine is not consumer, but really pro-sumer, which is why I don't recommend this machine for a novice or casual drinker. If you are not ready to mess with the tamper and grain coarseness, this machine is not for you. Of course, if you are, you are going to drink a superior espresso than with a consumer machine.
I would not recommend this machine for latte and cappuccino lovers: it takes too long. Although the boiler is quickly hot enough to use the steam (2 min): 1) the wand is way too low and creates a mess, in addition to frustration 2) you'll have to wait for the machine to cool down or to purposefully run out of steam in order to make coffee. Which is why this machine is better made for an espresso than a milk-make espresso. I do wonderful cappuccinos with this machine, but it takes time.
Overall, an excellent machine. It is robustly built, good looking, not too noisy, and makes excellent coffee. My review wanted to stress a few points that only comes through having using it. Ask yourself the two questions: when you go to Starbucks, do you order an espresso or something else? Are you ready to spend $800 ($350-500 machine, $300-$500 grinder, $100 accessories)? I truly hope this helps you make a better purchase decision. This review will be posted on different sites. AM.
on March 21, 2008
Based on the reviews, I thought this would be a good choice. I wanted a unit that was well made and could handle both tamped grounds and ESE pods. Upon receipt, the build quality seems pretty high. It makes a nice espresso, but really struggles generating flow with the pods. And, alas, shortly thereafter it started to leak pretty badly around the pump. Sent back to the vendor, who informed me that none of the espresso machines that promise ESE compatibility are very good at it. Sigh. Now they tell me.
Received the unit back and for 2 months it's worked well up until the pump died. I suspect the labourious effort to force water through the ESE pods was just too much for it. So I guess I get to ship the 30 lb thing back to the east coast again for servicing.
Finally, when I purchased this unit I had a choice of vendors and I went with Wholelattlove because they promised wonderous customer support. But I have found their service dept difficult to even get ahold of. When I originally had the issue with the pump leak, they advised me to take the top off the unit, run it and see if I could spot and fix the leak. Nice. It would've been better to purchase directly from Amazon and return for replacement when it didn't work.