If you’ve been lurking around coffee forums for first espresso machine recommendations the Gaggia Classic is a name that pops up often. But why does this machine get so much praise? And is it all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s take a closer look in this Gaggia Classic review.
Looking Under The Hood
The Gaggia Classic is a compact and rugged espresso machine that focuses on producing great espresso. It measures in at 14.2 x 8 x 9.5 inches making it a great size for any kitchen.
Its water reservoir is 72 oz and has a commercial grade 58mm group head, which is the same size you’ll find in commercial machines at your local cafe. The shell of the Gaggia Classic is stainless steel with plastic buttons, knobs, and handle. This combination of stainless steel and plastic makes it durable while keeping the cost down.
The Gaggia Classic is a single boiler semi-automatic espresso machine. This means it cannot simultaneously steam milk and extract espresso at the same time. You have to flip button to change between these functions. However the aluminum boiler itself is very powerful and packs out a lot of pressure to speed up the brewing process.
Single Boiler (Aluminum)
Yes (Panarello Wand)
14.2 x 8 x 9.5 inches
Coffee Making Ability
Now that the basics are covered lets discuss the most important thing — the espresso. How does it taste? Thank to its commercial portafilter and group the Gaggia is capable of producing cafe quality espresso.
However as the Classic is a single boiler machine there are few extra steps involved in order to create your coffee. The video below from Gaggia is a great tutorial showing how to use the machine.
In the mornings you have to first turn on the machine and wait for it to heat up. Once the brew icon lights up it means the water within the boiler is the correct temperature to extract espresso.
If you want to steam milk you’ll have to flip the steam button and the boiler will increase in temperature. Once the brew icon lights up again it means you’re ready to steam. When the steaming is complete you should switch off the steam button off and purge the group until only water comes out and there is no steam. Now you’re ready to extract espresso again.
This process is a bit time consuming the first time you do it, however after you get over the learning curve it’ll be second nature.
But remember the most important thing in making great espresso is #1 fresh coffee, #2 a good grinder, and then #3 the espresso machine itself. So if you’re using a sub-par grinder with the Gaggia you’ll be getting sub-par results. I recommend checking out my coffee grinder guide to find a suitable match for the Gaggia Classic.
The Thing I Dislike – Panarello Wand
One thing I hate about the Gaggia Classic is that it has an “panarello” / “assisted steam wand”. This is the plastic cover around the steam wand that makes it easier to create dense milk foam.
If you’re a fan of really frothy cappuccinos this may not be an issue for you. However as a barista I prefer textured milk with micro foam. You cannot create adequate micro foam with a panarello wand. This in turn causes two issues:
- You loose control over how much and what kind of micro foam you want to create.
- Without proper micro foam making latte art is not possible (this is Latte Art Guide after all).
If you’re a fan of textured milk the Gaggia’s milk frother is a let down.
The Solution To The Panarello Issue
Luckily there is a solution to the Gaggia’s panarello wand – you replace it!
This is actually a very common modification and a lot of people do it. You basically replace the panarello with a Rancilio Silva manual steam wand. I recommend following this guide written by Ruslan. You can buy the Rancilio steam wand here.
The procedure is very straight forward and makes for a fun weekend project. It also helps you understand how the coffee machine works. So if you’re a bit of a tinkerer I recommend this modification as it’ll allow you to create barista grade milk for your lattes and cappuccinos.
Should You Get The Gaggia Classic?
If you’re an avid espresso drinker or love a frothy cappuccino I 100% recommend the Gaggia Classic as a first espresso machine. You can get one for yourself here on Amazon.
But if you want to create latte art and want full control over your milk frothing abilities I’m not as enthusiastic to recommend it unless you replace the panarello with a manual steam wand.
Alternatively if you don’t want to go through the effort of replacing the steam wand but still want a good first espresso machine, I recommend checking out the Breville BES870X. It’s a little bit more expensive, however it’s ready to go straight out of the box and matches the Gaggia in espresso quality with the added bonus of a manual steam wand and inbuilt grinder.