Breville Barista Express vs. Gaggia Classic Pro: Clash Of The Titans?


Today we’ll be putting head-to-head possibly the two most popular and widely suggested entry-level espresso machines on the market. 

The Breville Barista Express and the Gaggia Classic Pro are both strongly recommended and defended by their respective fan bases, and for a good reason.

So today, we’ll be helping you decide which one is best for your level of experience and particular use case.

I’ll be pairing the Gaggia Classic Pro with the Breville smart grinder pro to make sure that we’re truly comparing these two machines and not just grinder quality.

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The grind quality of this standalone grinder is almost identical to that of the built-in Breville grinders. When paired with a Gaggia, it brings both systems up to around the same price at MSRP.

Build Quality

These two machines use real metal in their construction, but the Gaggia has an overall sturdier feel.

It uses a single metal piece to make up the shell and subframe; there is also noticeably less creaking when doing things like locking in the portafilter.

However, there are three areas where the Gaggia feels cheaper than the Breville. 

Those are the steam knob, the portafilter handle, and the drip tray, which is unfortunate because those are all areas that you interact with regularly.

Features

Breville Barista Express vs. Gaggia Classic Pro

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Gaggia Classic Pro
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ColorStainless SteelBrushed Stainless Steel
Weight23 pounds20 Pounds
Dimensions LxWxH12.5 x 12.6 x 13.1 inches9.5 x 8 x 14.2 inches

The Breville has far more bells and whistles to talk about. It has a dedicated hot water spout for things like americanos or tea, an analog pressure gauge, programmable single and double shot buttons, a hidden tools bin behind the drip tray, and tell you when it’s time to clean it. And finally, it has a good quality birr grinder built right into the top.

The Gaggia does not have any of those features, but the ones it does have are refreshingly performance-oriented. It has a full-sized 58-millimeter portafilter versus the 54 found on the Breville. 

In addition, a variable flow steam knob versus an on-off switch, a two-hole steam tip versus a single hole steam tip, and a water reservoir can be filled from the top like on the Breville and from the front. 

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This is very handy if you have low-hanging cabinets in your kitchen.

Both machines also have a cup warming rack on top, but the cups get significantly warmer on the Gaggia thanks to using a boiler to heat the water as opposed to the Thermo coil heating system found on the Breville.

Espresso Quality

Both these machines come with both single wall and dual wall filter baskets.

The Barista Express, along with many other entry-level semi-automatics, comes with two sets of filter baskets. 

Two pressurized and two nonpressurized. Here’s how and when to use each type.

The pressure needed to brew espresso can be built in two different ways. First, when you use a nonpressurized or single wall basket, the pressure is built by the compressed puck of coffee. 

This gives you full control over the extractions as you can vary the flow rate by adjusting your grind size or tamping pressure.

This is the traditional way to brew espresso. However, the dialing-in process can often be frustrating and inconsistent to beginner home baristas, so companies created the pressurized or dual-wall filter basket.

A pressurized filter basket does not rely on the coffee itself to build pressure; instead, it only has one very tiny hole for the coffee to exit from.

This ensures that proper pressure is built in the basket regardless of small tamping or grinding inconsistencies.

Looking at these filters side-by-side, they might look identical, but if you shine a light from behind, you can immediately see what I’m talking about.

We can see this in action by using our trusty bottomless portafilter. 

With the nonpressurized basket, water pressure is built up evenly across the surface of the coffee puck and then exits evenly through the hundreds of small holes in the filter basket.

In comparison, the pressurized basket can be seen forcing all the espresso out through one single hole. 

In addition, they also tend to create a coarser, more foamy crema because of how pressurized to build baskets work. 

So when should you use a pressurized filter and when to use a nonpressurized filter?

A pressurized filter should only be used in two scenarios. First, suppose you’re using pre-ground coffee, or it can simply not grind fine enough to build the appropriate pressure. 

In that case, a pressurized filter basket will be your only option as it can effectively help you build proper pressure.

The second scenario is if you are exhausted by the dialing-in process and want to get a drinkable shot of espresso for now. But you must promise to learn properly in the future.

In any scenario, where you have full control over the freshness of your beans and can grind as fine as needed to build pressure, a nonpressurized single wall basket will produce a more balanced and better-tasting shot of espresso. So it’s worth it to learn how to use it.

A pressurized basket will allow you to get a drinkable shot when using suboptimal coffee or simply with less effort than dialing in, but it comes at a cost to both flavor and texture.

Even with the same grinder, the gaussian Classic Pro allows you to make better espresso than on the Barista Express, thanks to its commercial-sized 58-millimeter portafilter.

The difference in flavor isn’t earth-shattering, but it certainly is there. The disadvantage of a 58-millimeter portafilter is that it will be inherently more prone to channeling, meaning that you need to pay more attention to puck prep and tamping consistency.

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In terms of espresso workflow, the Gaggia Classic Pro is a completely manual experience. 

The shot starts when you flip the switch and doesn’t stop until you switch it off, meaning that you’ll need to pay attention to get the right shot time and volume.

On the Barista Express, you can also run manually or pre-Program the single and double shot buttons to run for a certain amount of time.

Meaning that once you’re running, you can walk away from the machine and not risk over extracting your shot.

One final thing to note is the difference in spout clearance between these two machines. 

The Breville has a 10.8-centimeter clearance which is enough to fit even a full-sized mug.

The Gaggia, on the other hand, has a whole three and a half centimeters less clearance meaning that a full-sized cup is out of the question.

Of course, if you’re using espresso shot glass, you’ll have plenty of room on both. 

Steaming Performance

Both these machines are single boiler configurations, meaning that after you brew your shot, you must wait for the machine to get up to steaming pressure.

On the Barista Express, this process takes around 30 seconds. On the Gaggia Classic Pro, you can start steaming after about 35 seconds, just before the steaming indicator light turns on.

Once up to temperature, the Barista Express will take around 60 seconds to steam your milk up to a temperature of 60 degrees celsius. 

The Gaggia, on the other hand, completes the same task in only 30 seconds, showing much better steaming performance.

Independent of the steaming speed, it’s still possible to make great quality Latte microfoam on both these machines with the right technique.

The method will vary slightly because the Gaggia uses a two-hole steam tip, and the Breville only has a single-hole steam tip.

I do, however, much prefer how the Breville steam arm is on a ball joint as opposed to the Gaggia, where the arm only rotates. 

Which One Is Best?

If you’re looking for your first espresso machine, both these units will serve you very well, assuming, of course, that you pair the Gaggia with an equally capable espresso grinder.

The question of which one will be best for you depends entirely on how much value you place on convenience and how much you place on absolute quality.

The Barista Express has long been the king of the entry-level market, and for a good reason. 

The all-in-one form factor is tough to beat, and the range of features included makes it a great option for someone who wants an intuitive and easy-to-use machine.

The Gaggia Classic Pro does not have as many features and is far more analog in its experience. 

You will need to time, measure, or weigh your shots; you will need to remember to clean it on your own and, you will need to save some room in your budget for a standalone grinder. 

But you’ll be rewarded with much better steaming power, the potential to make better espresso, and bomb-proof build quality. 

Not to mention the ability to replace your grinder at any time to even further improve your coffee quality as your budget allows.

Where To Buy

Breville-Barista-Express vs. Gaggia-Classic Pro Features

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Gaggia Classic Pro
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Cafe Quality MicrofoamRapid Heating
Built-In GrinderESE Pod Compatible
3 Second Heat UpCommercial Wand
Good for EntertainingCommercial Steam Wand
Dose-Control GrindingCommercial Style Portafilter
Grind Size Dial3-Way Solenoid Valve
Precise Espresso ExtractionCommercial Components
Micro-Foam Milk TexturingCafe Quality Espresso



You can currently buy the Gaggia Classic pro from Amazon for a little under $450 which is a good price for this quality espresso coffee maker. The Breville Barista Express Can be found for around the same price on Amazon. Both are good value for possibly the two most popular and widely suggested entry-level espresso machines on the market.

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