Review: Gaggia Classic Espresso Maker
The Gaggia Classic Espresso Maker is a best-seller and crowd favorite for good reason. This small machine packs a powerful punch and is often touted as being a great starter machine for those beginning to explore the world of espresso.
Gaggia is an Italian company with a rich history, so this particular machine comes with all of the prestige of being produced by one of the world’s oldest espresso machine-making companies.
In fact, Achille Gaggia’s machine produced the original espresso “crema” that has come to be a measure of espresso quality used by enthusiasts all over the world.
classic design & history never goes out of style
the price fairly matches its reputation in the industry
our rating, based on our sound and impartial assessment
So how does the Gaggia Classic perform and does it live up to its reputation? Here is our opinion of this popular product.
The main draw about the Gaggia Classic is not the laundry list of added features—which you won’t find—but the small list of basic, high-quality parts that make this an overall beginner-friendly machine that produces impressively good espresso.
The Gaggia is a semi-automatic espresso machine with a knob to control the steaming wand and three buttons on the front to turn the machine on, start extraction, and switch to steaming. It’s about as simple of a setup as it can get.
Here is what you can expect to find on the Gaggia Classic:
What Do We Think?
The Gaggia Classic is a product that you have likely seen before sitting on kitchen counters: its industrial design has become a sort of outward emblem of its enduring presence in the world of at-home espresso machines. Quite simply, the Gaggia continues to be a popular product on the market because it consistently delivers quality results and delights consumers.
However, do not expect a lot of pomp and circumstance from the Gaggia. It does not have much room for programmability and is not particularly forgiving if you have poor technique. That is one of the reasons that it is such a great starter machine for beginners and makes it a great piece of equipment to use for practice.
That being said, the quality of materials on the Gaggia set up the user for unbridled success if you get it right. The commercial-grade portafilter and group head combined with the 17 bar pump and quality heating system give you everything you need to extract an excellent shot of espresso. The rest is really up to you.
This is the perfect machine for consumers of any skill level who are looking for a simple machine that won’t break the bank but will produce quality espresso without much fuss.
Here is what we think of the Gaggia Classic.
Performance: Ability to Produce Good Espresso
Here, the Classic is an impressively competitive machine. Though there are not many fancy components, Gaggia splurges on the right areas to ensure you will have a stellar shot.
The Classic makes you work for your espresso, but it helps you along with a few quality pieces of equipment. Good espresso extraction relies on a machine that provides quality extraction, water temperature, and water pressure. Besides the quality of the beans, grinding, and tamping—all of which you do—these elements form the basics of creating tasty espresso shots.
The Classic does these three things extremely well. The resulting quality of espresso is top notch and will please a wide range of audiences. The commercial-grade group head and portafilter, the 17 bar Italian pump, the sturdy heating system—these are the crucial components for cafe-worthy espresso and the Gaggia will provide them to you with just a little effort on your part.
Flexibility and Therefore Usability
Your perception of that effort will likely determine your opinion of the Classic. In terms of usability, the Classic is straightforward but has a learning curve.
That is why it is such a popular machine among those looking to join the ranks of at-home baristas or hone their skills: the Classic isn’t particularly difficult to operate, but it does require that you learn how to pull a shot correctly.
That means that there will be some trial and error if you have never made espresso before. If you are looking for a machine that will give you a morning latte at home without learning about the espresso-making process, try a super-automatic machine.
There are not many adjustments available on the Classic, either. What you are able to control is limited to the length of extraction. Other than that, there is nothing else you can program or control on the Classic unless you want to disassemble part of the machine and manually adjust part of the mechanics.
There are a few user-friendly additions, like the large water reservoir that you won’t have to refill often or the three-way solenoid valve that produces a dry puck instead of mushy espresso grounds mess. Other than those few features, there is not much else to talk about on the Classic. Operationally, it’s actually quite refreshing to use a machine where everything functions exactly as expected.
Durability: Quality of Materials and Endurance
The Classic has been around for a long time; the current model is roughly the same machine that first appeared on the market years ago and it’s likely that you have seen a Gaggia Classic before on someone’s countertop. That kind of popularity is not easily won in the espresso world and is evidence that the Classic stands the test of time.
Though we don’t love that the boiler is made of aluminum, a somewhat lower-grade material to use for espresso parts, it seems to hold up quite well for consumers. It does the job of getting the machine hot enough for espresso extraction and that is really what counts. Plus, the cost saved with an aluminum single boiler leaves room for the amazing chrome-plated brass portafilter and group head, a feature we’ve already mentioned several times but can’t stop talking about because it’s just worth stressing how rare it is to find such quality equipment on a starter machine.
For the most part, the parts of the machine that really need to function well are all made from quality metals. However, the plastic drip tray and a few other plastic knobs here and there do seem a bit off on an otherwise sleek, industrial machine. Our other big complaint is the Pannarello wand in place of a regular steaming wand. It’s simply a little more cumbersome and not as high-grade as the alternative. Many people adjust for this flaw by simply taking it off and replacing it with something that they like better. However, the extra cost and time spent on installation are worth noting before purchase.
How Does It Compare?
One machine that is consistently compared to the Classic is the Rancilio Silvia. Both machines are Italian, sturdy, and produce outstanding espresso. In fact, the similarities make it quite difficult to chose between the two: even user ratings are almost identical.
Both are single boiler machines with a commercial-grade, chrome-plated portafilter and heavyweight brass group head for increased temperature stability. They also both include a three-way solenoid valve, a feature that allows the release of pressure in the group head immediately following brewing so that you can knock a clean, dry puck of espresso grounds into the trash (or compost) instead of being left with a mushy mess.
The machines are close in size, cased in stainless steel, have about the same capacity in the water reservoir, and come with a two-year warranty. Because of the simplicity yet reliability of their design, both machines have made a name for themselves as great starter machines for beginners looking to grow their barista skills.
The biggest difference between the two machines is the price: the Silvia is about twice as much as the Classic. In addition, the Classic comes with the ability to use ESE pods or pre-ground coffee with the included single and double shot pressurized portafilter baskets. The Silvia comes with only the standard single and double shot baskets. There are some slight differences in the boilers and as a result, the Silvia has slightly more steaming power but the Classic recovers more quickly after steaming. Finally, the Silvia comes with a commercial-style steaming wand that takes just a bit of practice to use for the first time, while the Classic comes with a Pannarello wand that is much easier to use but lacks the finesse of the regular steaming wand.
Overall, the machines are both fabulous investments. The Silvia may have a slight edge if you are looking to brew back-to-back steamed milk drinks. However, the Classic is much more user-friendly with its ESE pod adaptability and Pannarello wand. It also has just a slight edge in terms of heating power. Plus, for those who like to take a look under the hood, the Classic is easier to adjust mechanically.