The Gaggia Classic Pro is a timeless espresso machine that has been around since 1991. In 2019, after Phillips took over Gaggia, it underwent some design updates. In this article we will review the Gaggia Classic Pro and consider whether it is a worthwhile investment for those looking for an entry level espresso machine.
Gaggia Classic Pro Review
With Phillips taking over the company, they recently released an updated version of the Gaggia Classic in 2019. The so-called pro version has several updates which have improved on the original design.
What’s To Love About the Gaggia Classic Pro?
If you are thinking about investing in an espresso machine, this is one of the key features you need to consider… how good a shot does it pull? So how does the Gaggia Classic Pro fare? And the answer is fairly well! The Gaggia is capable of producing some decent espresso shots with a rich body and mouthfeel and thick crema.
It uses a commercial sized 58mm portafilter and comes with both pressurized and non-pressurized filter baskets. For the best tasting espresso we would recommend using the non-pressurized baskets or even investing in a VST filter basket which aids in getting uniform extraction.
While the Gaggia can produce a decent shot, it does have a few quirks. The machine does not have the best brewing pressure which may require a bit of tweaking.
When it comes to brewing pressure, it is a well known fact that the Gaggia Classic Pro is set to 15 bars of pressure rather than the desired 9 bars. This is to cater to those using pre-ground coffee, which produces a better shot at a slightly higher pressure. However if you are wanting to use freshly ground coffee the high pressure can make it difficult to achieve an even extraction- not to worry though there is an easy fix. You can buy an OPV mod which is basically a selection of springs at either 9, 6.5 or 5 bars of pressure which are easily installed to achieve the best extraction pressure. Be aware that playing around with this will void your warranty though.
The next thing to consider is temperature control. The Gaggia Classic Pro has a small boiler (120ml) which allows it to heat up quickly. However when it comes to temperature control it does struggle to maintain a stable brewing temperature. If you are an espresso connoisseur it may require you do a bit of temperature surfing- basically when the machine gets hot, you need to pull out the very hot water by dumping it in the drip tray and pull the shot as the machine reheats and the water is at a better temperature. If you are a coffee geek you may want to invest in a PID kit (auber kit) which allows you to tightly control the brewing temperature but these are quite expensive.
We mentioned above that the steam wand was one of the key updates with the Gaggia Classic Pro. And while the new commercial wand is a huge improvement from the panarello wand, the steaming power is not exceptional. It takes a while to get the milk to the right temperature and while it is ok at stretching the milk, it struggles with forming a vortex to texture the milk. Some users have also complained about the lack of flexibility in the wand mechanics when positioning the jug. All that being said the wand is adequate and allows better control over frothing than the panarello did.
Ease of Use
The Gaggia Classic Pro has a well thought out design. It is very simple and straightforward to use. The machine has three rocker switches to control the Power, Brewing and Steaming. A light indicates when the machine has warmed up and then you simply switch the Brewing switch to pull a shot or the Steaming switch and turn the dial to steam your milk. The Pro version also has a new pump which makes it quieter when in use than the original version. The water tank can be accessed from the front of the machine and is easy to fill.
Maintenance and Cleaning
Unlike some other models, the Gaggia doesn’t have a clean me button to indicate when it’s due for a clean. However, cleaning it regularly is fairly straightforward. You can easily remove the drip tray to drain it and clean it. The Solenoid valve also makes it easy to remove the puck and clean the portafilter without creating a mess. When it comes to long term maintenance, the descaling is a bit more difficult. The process is time consuming and cumbersome involving the disassembly of some parts. However as this doesn’t have to be done all that regularly it’s not a deal breaker.
In terms of maintenance, the Gaggia is very well resourced. It is very easy to repair with a large range of spare parts available. There is a whole community of owners with information on hacks, upgrades and accessories available.
The Gaggia Classic Pro has an excellent build quality. It simply feels like a premium machine. It has a stainless steel body with a decent weight to it. The rocker switches are durable and easy to use. The only drawback is that the portafilter feels a bit cheap and the plastic tamper it comes with needs a serious upgrade (but who uses the tamper provided by the espresso company anyway!) The Gaggia is widely regarded as a packhorse when it comes to performance and it seems the company has made the wise decision of investing their money in a well built machine rather than fancy features.
What’s Not To Like About The Gaggia Classic Pro?
Lack of Features
When you buy a Gaggia Classic Pro, you are buying a high quality but basic espresso machine. It doesn’t have all the latest features like pre-infusion technology or PID temperature control. If you are a coffee geek wanting to tweak your recipe this may not be the machine for you.
The single boiler can be a bit frustrating, as it means you cannot brew espresso and steam milk simultaneously. You also have to purge a lot of water to get the machine down to a good temperature for brewing espresso, which means switching between brewing and steaming takes some time. However you will be hard pressed to find a dual boiler espresso machine at this price point. We recommend steaming the milk first and then waiting for the boiler to cool to the right temperature before pulling your espresso shot.
Basket and Tamper
Both the basket and tamper are a bit cheap and flimsy and really need an upgrade. But this is a quick fix, and updating these will vastly improve the espresso shots you are able to pull from the machine. See our guide to the best espresso tampers here.
Who Should Purchase the Gaggia Classic Pro?
The Gaggia Classic Pro is an excellent machine for the hobbyist barista who doesn’t mind tinkering around with different parts. With the addition of a few mods the Gaggia pulls some excellent shots when paired with a quality grinder. Alternatively if you are going to be using pre-ground coffee the Gaggia is a great entry level espresso machine to invest in. Overall this machine is well built, has a timeless design and holds its value well. It is an excellent option for someone looking for an affordable entry into espresso.
If you are looking for an affordable entry into espresso, the Gaggia Classic Pro is an excellent option. While it does have some minor issues that may require tweaking, it is built like a tank and works like a packhorse. Most importantly it is capable of producing decent shots of espresso.