The Gaggia Classic is known for being one of the cheapest espresso machines that will produce so-called god shots.
It’s also famous for being a reliable and easy to repair workhorse that can last for decades with just a tiny touch of tender loving care.
For that reason, many people got upset, when the Classic was redesigned and production was moved from Italy to Romania five years ago.
It turns out that most of the “upgrades” were downgrades. It appeared as if Gaggia’s new owners, Philips, were just out to make a quick buck.
Now, the iconic model is back again, and it had a facelift. This time it goes under the name “Gaggia Classic Pro.”
In many ways, this model succeeds the original version. However, there are still some things you should be aware of before buying. In this review, I’ll explain who this machine is for and, more importantly, who it is not for.
The most obvious thing about the new Gaggia Classic Pro is, of course, the range of new colors. My version is a lovely matte white, which looks much more stylish than the original chrome version.
Let’s be honest; looks are vital when choosing an espresso machine. I think the Gaggia Classic Pro strikes a nice balance between looking minimalist and modern while still retaining some Italian art deco vibes.
The logo has also been moved and redesigned compared to the original version.
The buttons are also more prominent and more sturdy on the new Pro.
The Classic now also has the “Pro” moniker because the steam wand has been updated to a more legit type.
The previous model came with a Panarello steam wand, which is not suitable for frothing microfoam milk for latte art.
Many people had to install a Rancilio Silvia steam wand on their unit due to this issue.
I’ve noticed that the new steam wand is a significant improvement. It’s capable of producing frothed milk of excellent quality. However, there are machines with more steam pressure and larger boilers available on the market. If you’re only making two cappuccinos or a large latte, this steam wand should suffice.
The Gaggia Classic Pro now includes the solenoid valve, a feature that sets it apart from cheaper espresso machines. This valve, without delving into technicalities, aids in cleaning and regular use. Specifically, it helps flush out excess water from the puck, resulting in a dry and easily removable portafilter.
It also allows you to backflush the machine. It sounds fancy, but it just means that the machine’s hot water can be used to clean the group head when a blind basket is inserted to the portafilter.
What do I like?
So the updates compared to the 2015 machine are all pretty great. The solenoid valve, new colors, and better steam wands are all nice to have.
There’s also a smaller aluminum boiler than the previous one, which was made of stainless steel. I’m not qualified to say which one is better long term, but in daily use, the new boiler configuration is heating super fast, which is very convenient.
You can find a ton of information when it comes to hacks, upgrades, repairs, accessories, and so on.
The Gaggia Classic is also famous for being one of the cheaper models available, which sports a commercial-sized 58 mm portafilter.
However, 58 mm means that you can have a thinner puck of coffee, which theoretically means a better extraction.
Getting a Gaggia Classic also means buying into an ecosystem where countless people have paved the way before you. You can find a ton of information regarding hacks, upgrades, repairs, accessories, and so on. There’s even a whole subreddit dedicated to the Gaggia Classic.
All this is great if you want a new hobby. But that begs the question: Is the device still worth it if you don’t want a hobby?
But that begs the question: Is the device still worth it if you don’t want a hobby?
The Gaggia Classic Pro is capable of pulling some truly fantastic shots. After I had dialed in the grinder (I used the Eureka Mignon Specialita), the shots tasted great.
The machine is set to 15 bars out of the box, which is too much, but if you’re pulling more traditional darker roasts for milk-drinks, I don’t think you’ll notice it.
It’s challenging to get a perfectly even extraction with such high pressure, so most people will get the spring mod kit.
I also used a precision basket (IMS Competition) and a naked portafilter, and along with the lower pressure, I have had some fabulous pulls.
The main issue when brewing espresso is that the temperature is so unpredictable. The machine tends to overheat and push steam out of the brew head, so purging a lot of water is necessary to get to an acceptable temperature.
You need to get a careful temperature surfing routine down to a science, or you’ll have to live with the occasional bad shot.
On the flip side, it heats up remarkably fast, which is excellent in the morning when you’re busy. I know some people will disagree, but I sometimes pull shots after 2-3 minutes.
I’m not a big milk drinker, but the steaming capabilities were also adequate in my tests. It goes from espresso to steaming in around 30 seconds, which is fine when you’re just making for one or two people.
The steam power is nothing exceptional, but you should be able to get some decent microfoam with practice.
What I don’t like
The Gaggia Classic was introduced in 1991. That’s a long, long time ago. And it hasn’t substantially changed in the meantime.
If you look at it from one side, it must be good for something to remain the same for thirty years.
On the other hand, one can also wonder about the absence of new technologies such as PID and preinfusion.
Out of the box, you can get pretty good espresso from the Gaggia Classic.
If you’re a little bit laissez-faire and don’t want to obsess over small details, the coffee will likely be good enough for you.
However, if you want to treat espresso as a science and measure all the small details, then the Gaggia Classic is a bit limited out of the box:
- Pressure: First of all, the machine’s pressure is too high. It’s set to 15 bars from the factory. It’s made this way so the device will give a better result with a pressurized basket. If you use a single wall basket, it becomes more of a problem – especially if you want to use a naked portafilter.
Luckily, you can buy a cheap spring kit from Mr Shades, which is pretty easy to install; however, having to do something like that is a bit disappointing when you buy a machine that prides itself of being a “Pro.”
- Basket and Tamper: The basket and tamper that come with the machine are cheap and flimsy. I think most people would want to upgrade ASAP.
- Single boiler: Since the machine has one boiler responsible for heating water for espresso and steaming, it can be frustrating. You must purge a lot of water to get the machine down to espresso brewing temperature.
Simultaneously, you must also be aware that the brew temperature is not too low. Many people end up installing a PID to overcome these frustrations. A PID is not easy to install and will save you at least $100.
What about the Pro EVO? 🤔
Since I reviewed the Gaggia Classic Pro, the company has launched an updated version, the so-called “Gaggia Classic Pro EVO.” While some of its new features are welcome, they don’t significantly alter my overall impression of the machine. The majority of these updates seem minor, except for a key change in the North American version: the introduction of a 9-bar OPV.
Here’s a breakdown of what the EVO offers:
- 9 Bar OPV Spring: The most significant enhancement is the 9 Bar OPV spring in the North American model, which is ideal for “real” espresso. This feature eliminates the need for the popular OPV-Spring Mod from Mr Shades, which voided the warranty on older models. However, it appears that this update will not be rolled out globally, leaving coffee enthusiasts outside North America wondering.
- Updated Finishing and Colors: The EVO sports a new painted finish, offered in a variety of colors or in classic stainless steel. However, the previous model also had several color options, so it’s not a big change if you ask me.
- Improved Portafilter and Group Head: The portafilter now boasts polished stainless steel, enhancing durability and appearance. Similarly, the group head has been upgraded with polished stainless steel and brass, improving its thermal properties and longevity. While these are appealing improvements, they are unlikely to change the quality of your espresso shots.
- Improved Pump Setup: The pump in the EVO is now mounted more securely, which should result in quieter operation during brewing – a subtle yet appreciated improvement.
- The Aluminum Boiler: It now features an internal coating designed to reduce scale buildup. On paper, it sounds good, but we’ll have to see how it works in real life, which will take a few years.
Overall, the Gaggia Classic Pro EVO brings some notable enhancements to the table, particularly for North American users. However, for most, these changes may not be compelling enough to warrant an upgrade from the previous model.
The Gaggia Classic Pro has both undergone a facelift and major internal surgery. IMO, all of these things are great. At the same time, it’s still the old and trusty espresso maker that has won so many fans over the years.
With proper care, it should last you a decade or two. If you can’t repair it yourself, one of the local espresso technicians certainly can.
While all this is great, it’s becoming evident that other manufacturers are way more progressive tech-wise. Nowadays, you can get Breville machines with PID around the same price as the Gaggia. Or even the way more advanced Apex-machine.
In the same way that specialty coffee has pushed manual brewing forward, espresso has also changed. Stuff like preinfusion, temperature profiling, single dosing, naked portafilters, and so on are becoming mainstream. To be a “Pro” rather than just a “Classic,” you must support those things.
Learn more: Gaggia Classic Pro vs Rancilio Silvia
I think the single-boiler temperature surfing workflow is too cumbersome for most people. It’s almost 2024, and we are used to advanced technology in our kitchens. Many electric kettles have PID technology now. I think that should also be standard among espresso makers.
With enough time and patience, you can make modern espresso with the Gaggia Classic Pro, but the key here is to take that time and effort. It’s not just plug-and-play.
If you have the patience and want a new hobby, this is still a good option for people who heritage products as much as they like tinkering.
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