I came across the Gaggia Classic Pro espresso machine in the most extreme circumstances. It was my first day on the job here in BA, and my trusty drip coffee maker just stopped working when I needed it most. I took it as a sign that it was finally time to seriously consider a home espresso machine.
As a former barista, I drink espresso every day and I know what I like. Most of the time, it’s a homemade Americano (a double espresso topped with hot water and a generous splash of cream). Occasionally I’ll opt for a cappuccino – an espresso with whole milk frothed to the approximate texture of heady froth atop a large pour of Guinness beer. I know the telltale signs that the beans have been over-extracted (bitter, burnt espresso) and I notice when a cappuccino has been frothed so aggressively that the milk has practically evaporated.
All this to say that the semi-automatic Gaggia is a great espresso machine for someone like me who knows how he wants his coffee to taste and isn’t afraid of a little espresso geek. I appreciate the control I have over everything from the density and weight of the coffee grounds to the pressure used to froth the milk. I didn’t want a machine with a touchscreen or “smart” features; I wanted to pull shots and steam the milk by touch, learning the timing, texture, and temperature that worked for me. (Also, in my experience with touchscreen espresso machines in kitchenettes and office cafeterias, software or firmware issues may prevent you from actually using the machine, even if there is no nothing wrong with its mechanics. It’s quite frustrating having to troubleshoot my laptop and its applications to do my job; I have no interest in having to contact IT about my morning coffee.)
Machines aimed at home coffee lovers can cost upwards of $10,000 (and of course, if you can afford a La Marzocco, get a La Marzocco), but the Gaggia Classic Pro had the mix of specs and features I wanted for a comparatively more reasonable price. At $449, it’s still pricey, but after more than a year of continuous use, it’s proven reliable for morning Americanos, after-dinner affogato, and, with a little practice, an espresso. deliciously drunk with a perfect cream.
- A commercial-grade portafilter, filter basket, and steam wand keep drinks taste and texture consistent with what I would order at my favorite cafe.
- Since it’s a semi-automatic espresso machine, I can control everything from the size and weight of my coffee beans to the length of my shots, but I don’t have to spend a lot of time tinkering and calibrating the boiler and the water pressure.
- This baby is analog: three simple toggle switches activate on-off functionality for everything from power to a steam wand, and there’s no touchscreen or “smart” features that require a degree in computer engineering to solve problems.
- The single boiler design means that the steaming of milk cannot be done at the same time as the shot, and if due to user error a shot is fired while the boiler is s turned off, the espresso may be slightly under-extracted and lukewarm.
- The plastic attachments, like a pestle and teaspoon that come with the machine, look cheap and aren’t very useful.
But first, here’s what you need to know about home espresso machines:
There’s an entire internet subculture (and, obviously, an entire profession) dedicated to the “essentials” of espresso brewing, but even if you don’t want to fall down that rabbit hole, it’s important to understand the the very basics of the process if you buy yourself a home espresso machine. Great espresso starts with fresh, whole coffee beans that have been roasted in the month or, preferably, week they are used. Weighing whole grains at the industry standard of 18-20 grams for a double shot is key to getting a good extraction. Next, grind your weighed beans in a preset burr grinder to the fine, powdery consistency needed for powerful coffee extraction. A coarser grind setting like what you would use for a drip machine will cause your espresso machine to spit 200 degree water at you full of grounds, so don’t try it. Transfer your ground beans to the portafilter basket (a portafilter is the handle device that holds the coffee grounds up to the machine’s group head, where pressurized hot water is applied to the mark itself). Throw your weight behind tamp them into a small, compact, level washer, snap the portafilter into the machine, and you’re ready to brew. Still confused? Rest assured that, like any appliance, the Gaggia comes with a detailed manual with step-by-step instructions on how to use it – and, unlike baristas-in-training, you won’t have to worry about being quizzed on. on the process or parts.
The boiler of an espresso machine is responsible for heating the machine to the ideal temperature range for extracting espresso and steaming milk. These two temperature ranges aren’t the same, so high-end machines often come with two boilers that allow you to pull one shot and immediately steam milk for a latte or cappuccino. As you would expect, these machines also come at a higher price. The Gaggia’s single-boiler design keeps the cost lower than a dual-boiler home espresso machine, but it may take a minute or two after frothing the milk to lower the temperature enough to make another espresso drink. . As someone who only occasionally indulges in a cappuccino or cortado, this hardly affects me, but it could be annoying for a household with two latte drinkers.
The basics of the Gaggia Classic Pro:
As it concerns in fact good home espresso machines, the Gaggia Classic Pro is quite compact. It weighs a perfectly manageable 20 pounds, which means it’s easy enough to pull it off the counter for a kitchen deep clean, whether or not I hit Pilates on the reg (thanks to the weapon streak of Amanda in New York Pilates; she does not bother him). And at about 14 inches tall by 8 inches wide and 9.5 inches deep, it preserves the already limited counter space in my small kitchen. These dimensions house the 72-ounce water reservoir and a small drip tray.