Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine Put To The Test: An Entry-level Model For Aspiring Home Barista
gaggia classic espresso

Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine Put To The Test: An Entry-level Model For Aspiring Home Barista

Are you new to the area of ​​portafilter machines and looking for a suitable entry-level model? Then be sure to check out the Gaggia Classic.

The Gaggia Classic is suitable for all newcomers to the portafilter who want to prepare espresso the traditional way at home. The machine is easy to operate. Besides, with the steam wand, it offers the option of making great milk foam for cappuccinolatte macchiato & Co. This is what awaits you in this Gaggia Classic review.

benefits

  • Stylish and elegantly designed – a visual eye-catcher thanks to the high-quality stainless steel housing
  •  Easy to use for beginners
  •  Suitable for everyday use
  •  Energy-saving function through automatic switch-off
  •  Professional steam lance with two discharge openings, 2-hole steam tip
  •  Three-way solenoid valve for constant control of the water pressure in the portafilter
  •  Traditional Gaggia professional boiler
  •  Visible water level indicator
  •  Compactly built – saving space
  •  Quickly to operating temperature
  •  Made in Italy

disadvantages

  • No PID control
  •  Only small cups fit under the outlet (maximum 6.5 cm high)
  •  The steam pressure for frothing larger quantities of milk is too low

You can buy the Gaggia Classic online at amazon.com


Gaggia RI903 / 11 Classic

Our very first portafilter machine that moved into our kitchen was a Gaggia RI903 / 11 Classic. A real Italian machine. That was about eight years ago. Before that, we used an espresso maker. The result of our new machine compared to the simple espresso maker was simply excellent. The price-performance ratio of this machine was right and convinced us. So we were not surprised that the Gaggia Classic was very successful on the market.

However, the Gaggia Classic is now on a short journey. After taking over Gaggia, the Phillips company launched a successor model in 2015. However, this machine had significant weaknesses and the customers were very dissatisfied.

Fortunately, improvements have been made and there has been a new model of the Gaggia Classic since 2018/2019. The machine is called “New Classic”. With this beautiful entry-level model, you can build on the old successes again. The Gaggia New Classic is the revised version of the Gaggia RI903 / 11 Classic.

Look of the Gaggia New Classic

The “new” Gaggia classic 2018/2019 is Made in Italy. It is, therefore, to be expected that the machine has something to offer in terms of optics. The case is made of brushed stainless steel. We think that this makes the Gaggia New Classic a real eye-catcher in the kitchen. The machine conjures a piece of Italy into your own four walls. 

At first glance, the new Gaggia looks very similar to the previous models. However, the front edge of the drip tray is rounded. This delicacy makes the machine more aesthetic than its predecessor and therefore looks a bit more modern. 

Brew head and portafilter

Gaggia RI903 / 11 Classic

The brewing head and portafilter are made of chrome-plated brass – just like a professional machine. This gives you an almost constant brewing temperature and thus has a great taste.

Boiler made of aluminum:

The Gaggia New Classic is a single circle. In single-circuit machines, the water heated in the kettle is used both to prepare the espresso (the so-called brewing process) and to generate the steam to froth the milk.

What is a single circuit, dual circuit, or dual boiler? We’ll explain to you in our ultimate espresso machine guide.

The machine has an aluminum boiler which is coated on the inside so that the water in the boiler does not come into direct contact with the aluminum.

Important to know: If you live in a region where the water is harder, then decalcifying the Gaggia Classic is particularly important. Because limescale deposits can damage the coating. The Gaggia descaler should be used for this purpose.

The small aluminum kettle has a quick heat-up time of approx. 45 seconds. That’s a short time for a machine to get up to speed. However, after this short time, the rest of the machine – in particular, the brewing group and the 58mm portafilter clamped into it – is not yet at the desired temperature. This means that the flowing espresso would cool down again when it was drawn off. The result: the espresso tastes far too sour.

To prevent this, you can simply run some hot water from the boiler through the brew group with the portafilter inserted to bring the other parts to a higher temperature more quickly. Or you can extend the heat-up time for the Gaggia Classic to at least 5 minutes. The portafilter should also be clamped in here.

The cup that is being used should also be warmed up to prevent the espresso from cooling down when it is hit on ceramic or glass. The top cup shelf has room for a few cups and uses the heat from the machine to keep it warm for use. The distance between the drip grid and the outlet is 8 cm. Cups with a maximum height of 6.5 cm fit the best underneath. Cappuccino cups work well.

The professional steam wand

The great thing about the Gaggia New Classic is the professional steam wand. Our old model had a simple Panarello rod with only one hole. 

The Gaggia New Classic’s steam lance has two holes. This increases the steam volume and makes it easier to froth the milk. This enables the milk to roll better and creates a nice micro-foam that can also be used for latte art.

How do you get the perfect milk foam? Read the tangycoffee guide on frothing milk now!

The steam lance is provided with a rubber burn protection cover. 

The water tank

The tank has a capacity of 2.1 liters. This means that the volume is large enough for several espresso beverages in a row. Two cups with a suitable sieve can be brewed at the same time. Besides, the metal frame contains cutouts on the edge so that the water level can be easily read. So you can easily see whether the water has been used up and can be topped up in good time. The water tank can be easily removed from the side.

The solenoid valve of the Gaggia Classic

The Gaggia New Classic has a 3-way solenoid valve. In short, this valve controls the water pressure in the filter holder/portafilter. It ensures constant pressure, which means that several espressos can be prepared one after the other without long waiting times.

The pressure overflow pipe is attached to the solenoid valve. When the brew switch is turned off, the valve opens and relieves the water pressure. The water then flows through the pipe into the drip tray. The pressure overflow pipe helps to keep a nice dry coffee puck and makes cleaning the sieve easier.

The pressure overflow pipe is provided with a rubber burn protection cover. 

Sieves and tamper

Three sieves/filters are supplied with the machine.

The “Crema Perfetta” filter is for one or two cups. It may only be used with the pearl-jet frother (two-way pen). If it is used without the pearl-jet frother, the machine will spray the coffee out. Not only is it unsightly, but it can also cause burns. 

I find this filter impractical. It’s questionable why the manufacturer recommends this to beginners.

Fortunately, there are two more sieves included. These screens are conventional screens and are made of chrome-plated brass and have a diameter of 58mm.

One conventional sieve is for a cup of espresso. Pads can also be used with this sieve. The volume is 7 g.

The other conventional sieve is for either one or two cups (depending on your taste) and has a volume of 16g.

The use of cleaning tabs from GAGGIA is recommended for the optimal cleaning of the sieves.

I wouldn’t want to call the supplied tamper a tamper, but rather a compactor. It is made of plastic and does not sit well in the hand.

For an optimal result, we recommend a high-quality tamper, e.g. the 58mm tamper from Motta

The operation

The Gaggia New Classic has an intuitive user interface. The three toggle switches for switching on / off, espresso preparation and steam dispensing are easy to operate. 

There is an individual indicator lamp under each toggle switch. These are used for control and indicate that the machine is ready.

The toggle switch also controls the amount of water for making espresso. There is no automatic dosage for the amount of water, it is determined by the user himself. 

On the right side of the machine, there is a knob to control the steam valve to let the steam out of the nozzle. 

The Gaggia has an energy-saving function. The model switches itself off after about 20 minutes if the device is not used. This is a great new feature on the Gaggia New Classic.

Espresso cover

Espresso making with the Gaggia Classic

Before you extract the first espresso, you should wait a few minutes until the machine with the portafilter inserted has the correct temperature. The coffee button is pressed to dispense espresso. Fill the portafilter with coffee powder and hang it back in the brew group. Wait until the control lamp lights up and then press the coffee button.

Do you want to know how to prepare the perfect espresso? Check out our ultimate espresso guide.

Milk foam with the Gaggia Classic

This is how you proceed if you want to froth milk with Gaggia Classic:

  • Press the steam button. The heating of the boiler goes on and the water is heated to approx. 125 ° Celsius
  • After about 15-20 seconds the control lamp for the steam temperature lights up. You can now draw off steam.
  • The following applies The steam pressure increases by turning the rotary knob counterclockwise.
  • Pour cold milk into a milk jug. The jug should be no more than half full.
  • Now let the condensation water out of the steam wand.
  • Now dip the steam wand at a slight angle and not straight into the milk jug. Besides, the tip of the lance should be positioned about one centimeter to the side of the can edge. 
  • Now turn on the steam valve of the Gaggia Classic.
  • Now move the steam wand just below the surface of the milk. The fact that the lance dips in at a slight angle create the desired suction. You now hear a scratching, slurping sucking noise. The air is drawn under the milk (“drawing phase”). During this process, the jug must not be swiveled or moved. The jug is held still.
  • For the rolling phase, the tip of the steam lance is dipped about one centimeter into the milk. Try to find a position where the milk swirls in a circle through the jug. Now the air bubbles are crushed and a homogeneous emulsion is created.
  • As soon as the desired temperature of 60 to 65 degrees Celsius is reached, you close the steam valve. 
  • Use a damp sponge cloth to remove the milk foam residue from the Gaggia Classic’s steam wand. Then open the steam valve briefly so that the drawn-in milk is blown out.

Latte art with the Gaggia Classic

With the Gaggia Classic, you can produce fine-pored milk foam, which is also suitable for pouring latte art.

Lower the boiler temperature to make another espresso

If you want to make another espresso immediately after preparing milk foam, it is essential to lower the temperature in the boiler. The temperature in the boiler is too hot due to the previous milk frothing process. To do this, hot water is simply let out of the brew group. Otherwise, the coffee may taste burnt.

Gaggia Classic: Technical Specifications

MODELGaggia New Classic stainless steel
MANUFACTURERPhilips DAP
MACHINE TYPESingle circuit system
DIMENSIONS (WIDTH X HEIGHT X DEPTH)20 x 35.5 x 23 cm
WEIGHT8.0 kg
POWER1200 watts
BREW GROUP∅ 58 mm
TANK VOLUME2.1 l
HOUSING MATERIALstainless steel
PRICEapprox. 500 $

Conclusion

With the Gaggia New Classic, you can feel like a real barista at home. With this entry-level machine, every home barista can emulate the steps of the espresso professionals when preparing coffee. With the Gaggia New Classic, you get a great espresso as a beginner. With a little practice, it is possible to make great milk foam with the steam wand. Every beginner can be proud of the result.

We bought the Gaggia Classic at amazon.com . check it out in their website.

Please consider the following note at the end of the article: Basically, it is not only the espresso machine that is responsible for an excellent espresso: it is rather an interplay between the machine,  espresso grinder, and the quality of the espresso beans.

My recommendation: You should attach at least the same weighting to the espresso grinder as to the espresso machine. I would even weigh the importance of the grinder a little higher: You can prepare better espresso with a high-end grinder and a low-quality espresso machine than with a cheap grinder and a high-priced professional espresso machine. 

So when buying an espresso machine, always budget for an espresso grinder. As a rule of thumb, the cost of a good grinder should be 30-50% of the purchase price of an espresso machine.

Espresso grinder Quamar M80E & Gaggia RI903 / 11 Classic


Alternatives to the Gaggia Classic

There are a few good espresso machines out there that are in a similar price range to the Gaggia Classic. I have listed three of them here.