The world of entry to mid-level espresso machines can be a tough one to navigate. Consumer-focused companies like Breville are a pretty safe bet, but with a little research it can be possible to get higher quality and performance for your money, depending on where your priorities lie.
One of the names most commonly brought up in this conversation is Gaggia, more specifically this machine, the Gaggia Classic Pro. So today, we’ll see if this crowd favourite can make proud the HUGE number of people that sing it’s praises.
When first unboxing the Gaggia, it’s immediately clear that this unit IS built to last.
The main chasis is an impressive piece of manufacturing, being made of on single piece of metal, which can be seen more easily when you remove the drip tray.
It’s apparent that the designers were purposeful when selecting which components would be made from metal, and which from plastic to save on costs. An example of this is the drip tray, the top grate is made of metal as it’s a high wear area, but the reservoir itself is plastic to save on weight and manufacturing cost.
The cup warming wrack is polished metal, the portafilter has a good weight to it,
and the machine is very solid on your counter-top, completely free of any creaking or bending you might experience in lower-end offerings.
Two areas where I think is machine did not nail the balance between quality and cost are the steam knob, and the portafilter handle. Both are made with light and shiny plastic, that detracts from the otherwise premium feel of this machine.
With that being said, the actuation of the steam knob feels robust, it’s just the superficial feel I wasn’t a huge fan of, a knurled metal finish would have made a world of difference here.
Appearance is of course a completely subjective topic, but with this machine I feel the need to share my experience. In photos, and when first unpacking the unit, I wasn’t a huge fan of the very simple, Classic, boxy appearance. But each time I walked into my kitchen I grew more and more fond of it. ESPECIALLY in this dark shade of Blue I went with.
The machine’s functions are controlled by 3 heavy-duty switches on the front which have a satisfying feel, as well as the steam knob on the side.
The water reservoir is 2.1 Liters, and can be refilled either from a top mounted access point,
or by pulling forward after removing the drip tray.
This is a great feature, because it allows you to push the machine further back under your cabinets if you want, and still be able to refill the reservoir without pulling the whole machine back out every time.
The Gaggia Classic Pro doesn’t have a dedicated hot water outlet, but the steam arm can be used to dispense hot water, by activating both the steam and brew switches, and then opening the steam valve.
Now that we’ve taken an in-depth tour of this machine, let’s talk about how it actually performs, starting off with steaming.
As with any single boiler machine, there is a transition speed between brewing and steaming, but on this one in particular, you’re rewarded with great steam pressure, variable flow control, and a 2 hole steam tip that’s capable of some awesome milk texture. The one thing I’m not a huge fan of with the steaming workflow is the fact that the steam arm is not on a ball joint, it ONLY rotates. This might give some advantages in term of durability, but at the sacrifice of positioning flexibility in the pitcher.
Moving on to espresso performance, one thing I noticed is that group head warms up the portafilter very effective, and very quickly.
Also, having a commercial sized 58mm basket is great because it makes buying aftermarket accessories a breeze, unlike on other entry level machines that opt to use 54, or even 51mm baskets. Not to mention the advantages a 58mm portafilter provides to the extraction itself.
I’ve been using this machine as my daily driver for the last week, and here’s what I’ve noticed. Being someone who’s reviewed all the Breville machines, and owns an Appartamento, the espresso performance of the Gaggia is closer to the Rocket than it is to the Brevilles. Here’s what I mean by that.
Once dialed in, the Gaggia Classic Pro was able to easily and consistently repeat the same shot time after time. A quick purge of the group resulted in consistent temperatures from shot to shot, and overall it was just a more commercial-feeling, and consistent experience than some of the other machines I’ve used in this price range.
With that being said, it would be irresponsible to say these things without the caveat that performance will depend on the espresso grinder you choose to pair with the Gaggia. If the Classic Pro is already maxing out your budget, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere, as you still need enough cap space to purchase an equally capable home espresso grinder to get the best out of it.
It does ship with a pressurized filter basket, if you want to use pre-ground coffee or espresso pods,
but if you’re planning to go either of those routes, you might as well save your money and go with something less expensive like the Breville Bambino. The advantages of THIS machine come from it’s ability to produce true, consistent, non-pressurized basket shots of espresso, that make you question whether you’d really ever need a more expensive system…
As with anything, there is some give and take when it comes to the Gaggia Classic Pro. In this beautiful metal package, you get a durable, well thought out, consistent, and classic home espresso machine capable of producing top notch espresso and milk-based drinks. However, the transition speed from brewing to steaming is relatively long especially when we consider the innovative heating solutions some companies have been coming out with lately…. I really wish the steam arm was on a ball joint, and didn’t just pivot, and I would’ve liked to see the great build quality carried through to the portafilter handle, and steam knob. But these are small trade-offs for what the Gaggia offers you in return.
If you’re looking for your first espresso machine, or even an UPGRADE from your first espresso machine, the Gaggia Classic Pro is a tough one to beat in this price range thanks to it’s great espresso performance, solid steaming, and bomb-proof build quality. If you’re a bit skeptical about the looks like I was, check it out in the “Classic Blue” shade I got it in, I promise it’ll change your mind.
Need more? Watch the video!