The Gaggia Classic has been the go-to model in entry-level espresso machines for years. Gaggia has recently released an updated version of this famous espresso machine called the Classic Pro. The Gaggia Classic Pro is one of the hottest home espresso machines on the market, and for good reason. It is an evolutionary progression of the original Classic and a truly worthy successor.
The History of the Gaggia Classic
The original Gaggia Classic (old model) was released in 1991 and soon became one of the most popular home espresso machines on the market. It performed so well that it was left mostly unchanged until 2009 when Phillips took over the Gaggia brand.
The original Gaggia Classic was made in Italy. It had a 3-way solenoid valve, an all-brass group head, and a full size 58mm portafilter. This machine was built to last! As a matter of fact, there are original Gaggia classics still operating today.
The only thing this inexpensive home espresso maker was lacking was a quality steam wand.
Starting in 2009, Phillips began to make changes to this popular machine. Many espresso enthusiasts were of the opinion “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” and were unhappy with a number of the changes.
The 2015 model replaced rocker switches with push buttons, the 3-way solenoid valve with a mechanical valve, lower power, and a Panarello steam wand that was much more difficult to modify.
Luckily, the Gaggia Classic Pro has altered some of these ‘modifications,’ bringing back some of the old Glory of the original!
What’s Changed: Gaggia Classic vs. Pro
Let’s take a look at some of the modifications made to the 2015 version of the Gaggia Classic to create the Pro.
All coffee drinks begin with a base of espresso, so it goes without saying, if you want to create cafe-quality coffee drinks, you need a machine that can brew great espresso.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is an entry-level machine that is capable of brewing a barista-quality shot of espresso. While many espresso makers in this price range have smaller filter baskets, the Pro comes with a commercial size 58mm portafilter.
As will all espresso, beans matter. We suggest using freshly ground dark roast coffee with this machine to get the best results, but if you prefer a lighter roast, it comes with both pressurized and non-pressurized brewing capabilities, which we will discuss later. If pre-ground coffee is more your thing, the Gaggia Classic Pro is also compatible with ESE Pods.
The 2015 version of the classic replaced the original aluminum boiler with a larger stainless steel boiler. Customers spoke up and Gaggia listened. The Pro reverts back to a smaller aluminum boiler. This smaller, aluminum boiler heats up quicker than the stainless-steel version, clocking in with a warm-up time of around 45 seconds.
The speedy heat-up time is due to the two heating elements in this highly conductive aluminum boiler which provide even heat distribution. The boiler also uses a high wattage system that provides great temperature stability when transitioning from brewing to steaming.
Speaking of steaming, one would think that the steam power from a smaller boiler would be reduced, but we found you still have plenty of steam power to froth your milk.
Two Basket Types
Most home espresso machines come with pressurized baskets, while high-end home machines and commercial espresso machines come with standard baskets. The Gaggia Classic Pro comes with both.
The pressurized basket, sometimes called the ‘perfect crema’ basket, simplifies the espresso pulling process and is the easiest way to brew espresso if you don’t have a quality grinder or if you are using ESE pods. Designed to aid home espresso brewers, the pressurized basket helps to generate higher pressures to help create better espresso with pre-ground coffee or pods.
If you prefer to be totally hands-on, grinding the beans, dosing, and tamping the coffee into the portafilter, you can use the standard, non-pressurized basket.
The two baskets give you the best of both worlds. The standard basket for the ultimate espresso and the pressurized basket for those times you are in a rush.
This is the valve used to release the pressure from the brew head after pulling the espresso shot. The original 3-way solenoid valve was replaced with a mechanical valve on models manufactured after 2009. The mechanical valve required less maintenance but didn’t do as good of a job.
The Pro brings back the 3-way solenoid valve, which is a commercial-grade feature that dries out the grounds as it relieves the pressure to prevent dripping, and makes it easy to knock the puck out of the portafilter in just one tap.
Most cheaper espresso machines lack this 3-way valve and therefore produce sloppy pucks, making them harder to remove from the portafilter.
Commercial Style Group Head
The original version of the Gaggia Classic featured an all-brass group head, and chromed brass portafilter, but the 2015 version replaced some of the parts with plastic. The intention was to aid in the locking of the portafilter into the group. After customer complaints, Gaggia ditched the plastic parts and reverted back to the original all-metal version with the Pro.
The Gaggia Classic Pro has a chrome-plated brass group and portafilter head which aid in temperature stability and the 58mm portafilter allows for a more even saturation and an overall better brew.
When brewing your favorite latte, the brewing process actually needs two separate temperatures. Espresso should be brewed between 200℉-205℉, while milk should be steamed at around 212℉.
The problem is if you steam your milk first, the machine’s temperature is too high to begin brewing your espresso immediately afterward.
To solve this problem, you will need to use a technique called temperature surfing.
Temperature surfing helps navigate this temperature inconsistency and allows the home barista to gain better control over the brewing and steaming process. To perform this technique on the Gaggia Classic Pro, simply turn on the steam wand for a few seconds as the machine warms up and you are about to pull your shot. Doing so will help the boiler cool down enough to reach the ideal temperature to extract the perfect espresso shot.
ESE Pod Brewing
ESE is short for Easy Serving Espresso and these pods are small filters, approximately 44mm in diameter, conveniently filled with around 7 grams of coffee. While ESE pods are not for everyone, they offer the convenience of capsule brewing in a standard espresso machine.
In order to use ESE pods, you have to have a compatible portafilter basket. In most cases, this means purchasing additional accessories to make them work, but the Gaggia Classic Pro comes with a pressurized basket specifically for ESE pod brewing. This is an ideal feature for those who want a regular machine with the convenience of ESE pods when short on time.
Ease of Use
This espresso machine, like all of Gaggia’s machines, has an intuitive operation. It features three rocker switches with ready lights that control the power, brewing, and steam with a side knob that operates the valve to regulate steam and hot water.
If you are looking for a machine that will let you push a button and go, this machine will serve you well.
Spacious Removable Water Tank
The removable water tank has a large 2.1L capacity and can be conveniently filled from either the top or front of the machine. This feature is a bonus for those who are short on counter space or have low-hanging cabinets. The new design of the Pro’s metal frame includes cutouts on the edge so you can easily see the water level.
Cup Warmer Feature
Nothing is better than a piping hot cup of coffee, but when you brew espresso into a cold cup, the temperature of the espresso can drop in a matter of minutes. The Gaggia Classic Pro comes with a passive stainless steel cup warmer. It is located on top of the machine and uses radiant heat technology to warm the cup as the machine warms up. Brewing into a pre-warmed cup will keep your espresso or latte at your preferred drinking temperature for a longer period of time.
Automatic Shutoff Feature
The main reason the 2015 model moved to push button technology was in order to add an automatic shutoff feature.
The Gaggia Classic Pro moved back to rocker switches but wanted to keep the automatic shutoff so they switched to a spring-loaded rocker switch. This allowed them to revert back to the customer preferred switches while still maintaining the convenience of automatic shutoff.
The machine will turn off after 20 minutes, saving energy and giving you peace of mind.
Other Things to Consider
The original Classic used a Panarello steam wand, which injected air into the steam. These steam wands are common on cheaper machines and are great at maximizing foam production with a smaller boiler, but they produce inferior foam and give the brewer less overall control.
Gaggia upped its game with the Pro and replaced the Panarello steam wand with a commercial steam wand. Since this machine is a single boiler, you cannot brew your espresso and steam your milk at the same time, but the milk will be properly steamed. The commercial wand will give you the ability to produce the perfect microfoam, providing a higher quality latte or cappuccino.
Build Quality and Appearance
The Classic Pro definitely stands up to the high-quality standards that distinguish the Gaggia brand. The Pro is much sleeker than the previous Classic, but it still leans toward function over style. The rocker switches are less likely to have issues than regular push buttons and the stainless steel body is a major perk at this price point. Finally, the plastic drip tray pairs nicely with the overall aesthetic of the machine.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Daily cleaning on the Gaggia Classic Pro is a breeze. The drip tray is easy to remove and the 3-way solenoid valve means a dry, compact puck will fall out of the portafilter with ease after each use. Lastly, the stainless steel body simply needs to be wiped down with a soft cloth to keep it looking great.
The descaling process is where Gaggia falls short. Descaling the machine involves annoying disassembly and the instructions in the Gaggia Classic manual involve 20 separate steps. Cleaning the group head involves the removal of screws, and sometimes even needle nose pliers.
Descaling is essential since the aluminum boiler is coated. The coating prevents rust but limescale build-up can damage this safety coating. Luckily, depending on how hard your water is, you will only need to go through this cumbersome process once or twice a year.
Things That Could Be Better
While the updated features of Gaggia Classic Pro make it an exceptional machine, it does come with a bit of a learning curve, and let’s face it, no espresso machine is perfect.
One of the most annoying issues with this machine is that not all cup sizes fit under the portafilter. The space is rather small and you might find yourself cramming in your cup at odd angles to make it work.
Its simple design also means you don’t have the same flexibility in brewing as some of the high-end espresso machines.
Reasons Not to Buy the Gaggia Classic Pro
This upgraded version of the Classic is a great machine but it’s not for everyone. We have listed a few reasons you may want to pass on this machine.
You Want to Press a Button and Forget It
If you are looking for a machine that does all the work for you, the Classic Pro is not the machine for you. The Pro is a semi-automatic espresso machine, meaning you will be responsible for grinding, tamping, and timing each espresso shot. Instead, you should consider a fully automatic espresso machine like the Nespresso OriginalLine or the Gaggia Brera.
You Favor Style Over Function
This is not a sleek and stylish machine. It is a great espresso machine but it definitely favors function over style…that is, unless your style is industrial.
You Want A Built-in Grinder
If you don’t own a grinder, or don’t have the counter space for extra appliances, you may want to consider a different machine. The Breville Barista Express is a great choice and in a similar price range if you need a built-in grinder.
You Are On A Tight Budget
If your budget is less than $200 there are a number of great machines out there like these.
How long should a gaggia classic last?
There are still some of the original 2009 machines going strong. If well maintained, the Gaggia classic should last for years!
Is Gaggia a good brand?
Yes, Gaggia espresso machines are very good. Keep in mind that the Gaggia brand makes both manual espresso machines like the Gaggia Classic, all the way to fully automatic machines that do all the work for you.
Where is Gaggia Classic made?
Most of Gaggia’s machines are produced in Milan, but the Gaggia Classic (their most popular machine) is actually made in Romania.
Is Gaggia and Saeco the same?
Yes and No. Gaggia was acquired by Saeco in 1999 but they made sure to maintain the reputation of the Gaggia brand.
Should I buy a Gaggia Classic refurbished model?
It depends. Keep in mind that there are a number of Gaggia Classic models out there. Purchasing a refurbished model of any appliance usually means a voided warranty but since many of the 2009 machines are still running strong, if you find a great deal on a pre-2015 refurbished model, it’s worth a go…especially if it comes with a warranty.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is definitely worth the money. At its price point, it is one of the best espresso machines on the market. If you are a home barista looking for a versatile machine that will allow you to control almost every aspect of brewing, this is the machine for you!