Gaggia Classic Pro Review: The Good, Bad And The Ugly


The world entry to mid-level espresso machines can be a bit daunting to navigate. Consumer-focused brands like Breville are a pretty safe bet.

Still, with a little bit of research, it’s possible to get better quality and performance for your money depending on where your priorities lie.

One of the names most commonly brought up in this discussion is Gaggia, more specifically, the Gaggia classic pro.

So today, we will take a look at the Gaggia classic and see if we can make proud the huge number of people who sing its praises. 

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Build Quality

Starting off with the build quality and finishing, it’s immediately clear that this unit is built to last.

The main chassis is an impressive piece of manufacturing made of one 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 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 is made from plastic to save on weight and manufacturing costs.

The cup warming rock is polished metal. The port filter has a good weight to it. The machine is very solid on your countertop, completely free of any creaking or bending you might experience in lower-end offerings. 

I think Gaggia did not nail the balance between quality and cost in two areas: the portafilter and the steam knob.

Both are made from a light and shiny plastic material 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’ve made a world of difference. 

Appearance is, of course, completely subjective. However, I feel like I need to share my experience with this particular machine. 

Looking at the photos online, and when I first unbox it, I wasn’t a huge fan of the very classic boxy appearance. 

But each time I went into my kitchen and looked at it, it started to grow on me, especially I think thanks to this dark blue color you can purchase it in.

The machine’s functions are controlled by three heavy-duty switches on the front, which have a satisfying feel and the knob on the side.

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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 means you can slide the machine as far back as you want underneath your cabinets, and you can still refill it from the front without having to move the machine 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 switches and then opening the steam valve.

Milk Steaming

With any single boiler machine, there is that transition time between brewing and steaming. But with this one, in particular, you’re rewarded with very good steam pressure in a two-hole steam tip that can produce some great milk texture.

I’m not a huge fan of this steam workflow because the steam arm is not on a ball joint; it only rotates.

This might give some advantages in terms of durability but the sacrifice of positioning flexibility in the pitcher.

Espresso Performance

The first thing I noticed with this machine is that it very quickly and effectively warms up the portafilter when sitting in the group head.

Also, having a commercial-sized 58-millimeter basket is great because it makes buying aftermarket accessories an absolute breeze. 

Not like other entry-level machines that are up to use 54 or even 51-millimeter baskets. Not to mention the advantages that a 58-millimeter portafilter provide 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 Breville. 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 head resulted in a consistent temperature from shot to shot, and overall it was a more commercial feeling experience than other machines I have tested in this price range.

With that being said, it would be irresponsible of me to talk with performance in this way without mentioning the caveat that the performance will be directly linked to the quality of the espresso grinder you choose to pair with it.

If the Gaggia classic pro is already maxing out your budget, you may want to look somewhere else.

In order to get the most out of this machine needs to be room in your budget to parent an equally capable grinder.

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 advantage of this machine is producing true, non-pressurized shots consistently with a quality that makes you wonder why you would ever really want a more expensive machine.

As with anything, there is some give and take with the Gaggia class pro. The transition time between brewing and steaming is quite considerable, especially when you consider some of the innovative solutions that other brands are bringing to the market.

I really wish this steam arm was on a ball joint and didn’t just pivot, and I would like to see the great build quality carried through to the portafilter handle and steamed knob. 

But these are all small trade-offs that the Gaggia is able to offer you in return. 

So 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 bracket.

Thanks to its great espresso quality, good steaming, and bombproof build, combined with a company with a long, storied history.

If you’re a bit skeptical about the looks, like I was, be sure to check it out in this classic blue shade, I promise it’ll change your opinion.

Tips & Tricks

The Gaggia Classic Pro is a great first espresso machine or even a great upgrade from your first espresso machine. So I thought it would be good to go over some tips and tricks to ensure that you are getting the best out of it.

1. Pre-Infusion

Now I know there are some DIY-ers out there who have modded their machine with dimmer switches wired to the pump or other hacks to allow for pre-infusion.

The method I’m going to show you involves no extra parts or risk of damage, no voiding warranties, and can be done quickly and easily in your own home.

What Is Pre-Infusion?

Pre-infusion is the process of gently soaking your ground coffee in the portafilter before introducing full water pressure to the puck. There are a few reasons why this can be a good thing.

Number one is less channeling. Pre-infusion saturates the ground and allows them to swell, which generally strengthens your puck and prevents it from breaking apart or allowing water channels to flow through once full pressure is applied.

This can also make the brewing process more forgiving of slight variations in grind size distribution or puck preparation.

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Reason number two is off-gassing. Freshly roasted coffees tend to have a lot of carbon dioxide trapped inside the beans. Even after grinding, this gas can serve as a barrier to extraction and produce sub-optimal results in the cup.

By wetting the grounds, you allow some of that CO2 to off-gas before hitting it with full pressure. This can help tame brightness in a fresh light roasted coffee and lead to a more even extraction.

Reason number three deeper flavors. In general, pre-infusion allows you to use a finer grind.

This can help bring out more subtle nuances in your coffee which is great on a machine like the Gaggia classic pro, where you may have less control over other brewing variables than some more expensive machines.

So to accomplish pre-infusion on the classic pro, we’ll use a little tip. The process is to grab a second cup or container and place it under your steam wand.

After you’ve ground, tamped, and inserted your portafilter, slightly open your steam knob, then immediately hit your brew switch.

This will reroute some of the water to the steam wand rather than sending it all to the brew group. When you want the pre-infusion to end, close the steam knob, and all of the water will then go straight to the group for the rest of your extraction.

I ran some tests to measure flow rate depending on how much you open your steam knob. With normal brewing and the knob fully closed, the flow on my machine was 9.3 grams per second.

Opening a quarter turn decreased to 4 grams per second at a half turn of 3.4 grams per second and a full turn of 2.9 grams per second.

Remember, though, that due to the small boiler size on the classic pro doing a long pre-infusion or running a lot of water through the steam wand can lower your brew temperature, so I’d recommend keeping your pre-infusion times on the shorter end.

You may be thinking that an easier method is to flip your brew switch for a few seconds, then turn it off, wait and flip it again. But this isn’t the best option for a couple of reasons.

The first is that once you turn on the pump, it will ramp up quickly to full pressure, and you won’t get that gentle wetting that the other method provides.

The second reason is that when you turn the brew switch off, it activates the three-way solenoid valve to relieve pressure in the group.

Unfortunately, this sucks up the excess water and can disturb your puck leading to more issues later when brewing.

An added benefit of using the method where you open the steam knob is that you can easily make an americano or long black in one step because you already have a cup of hot water prepared.

For an Americano, pour your hot water into your espresso; for a long black, pour your espresso into the hot water.

I find it easier to make the long black because you have more clearance for a larger cup under the steam wand than under the portafilter spouts.

So obviously, this isn’t something you have to do, but it can be another tool in your arsenal to experiment with and find out what works best for you, your beans, and your personal taste preferences.

2. Steaming Power

Our second tip has to do with steaming power and steam transition speed. When you flip into the steaming mode on this machine, the manual will tell you to wait for the indicator light to illuminate.

But it has been well documented that if you start steaming about 10 seconds before the indicator light you will not only do less weighting but you’ll also be rewarded with better steaming pressure and capacity.

Now Whole Latte love did a great video on their youtube channel. The results of their testing were that if you started steaming 10 seconds before the light otherwise would have come on, your steaming process would take 9 seconds less to reach the same milk temperature.

So 10 seconds less waiting, plus 9 seconds less steaming, means that your entire latte process will be a total of 19 seconds quicker. That’s a pretty good tip.

3. Spout Clearance

Tip number three is a workaround for a very common complaint of the Gaggia Classic Pro, and that is the spout clearance. 

If you want to use a full-size cup or a scale with this machine, I recommend removing the drip tray and placing a small cup underneath the solenoid outlet. The thinner and taller the cup you can find, the better.

Because this is the only water outlet on this machine, you can use it safely in this configuration without risking a mess. 

No, it’s not the most elegant solution, but it is highly effective, allowing you to use a thick scale like the Timemore coffee scale and a full-sized cup with room to spare. It just goes to show how thick the built-in drip tray is.

4. Smart Switch

My fourth and final tip is a tip for any espresso machine that uses a mechanical breaker style switch, and that is to make your machine smart by plugging it into a smart outlet and leaving the power switched on.

In this way, you can schedule what time your machine will turn on 15 minutes before you wake up in the morning so that you have a piping hot portafilter and group head the second you reach your kitchen.

Or you can turn it on remotely as you’re leaving work so that once you reach home, you have a hot machine. These smart outlets can be found on Amazone here.

Where To Buy

There are a number of reputable retailers of the Gaggia Classic Pro. My favorite is Amazon as they are always great on price. You can currently get the Gaggia Classic Pro for just $450. Click here to get the most up-to-date price.

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