The Gaggia Classic Pro is the latest entry-level home espresso machine from Italian outfit Gaggia. For those not in the know – Gaggia is one of the biggest names in coffee machines and can lay claim to having invented the modern stainless-steel coffee machine. The Classic Pro is the latest iteration of Gaggia’s ‘Classic’ series, which first hit the market in 1991. Gaggia machines have a loyal fanbase and are renowned for their high build quality.
There is a strong community of coffee geeks that loves to tinker and restore old Gaggia units, which are famed for giving decades of service.
These machines hold their value very well – if you don’t believe us, search ‘Gaggia Classic’ on EBAY and you will find plenty of units from the nineties and noughties retailing at prices upwards of £150.
It’s at the top end of entry level machines price-wise, but the extra money is justified, as the Gaggia Classic Pro is far better than most of the competition in this bracket.
It’s really well built, looks great, has an excellent frothing wand and great tactile buttons and knobs, which make it a pleasure to operate.
The coffee produced is top-notch so no qualms there, and these machines have a great reputation for longevity and will provide many years of quality coffee if cared for.
Some buyers may look elsewhere if an integrated grinder is desired, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with this machine whatsoever and would make a solid purchase.
So how does the latest iteration compare to its predecessor? What are the features of the Gaggia Classic? Is the machine right for you? And how does it compare to other machines in its price range? What is the difference between the new Pro and the old Classic?
The Gaggia Classic Pro was released in 2019 – some 18 years after the original Classic retailer’s shelves. In terms of functionality, the two machines are very similar even if the Classic Pro represents a nice aesthetic overhaul to its predecessor. The main difference in quality is the Classic Pro’s vastly superior milk- frothing ability.
The Classic Pro uses a commercial 15-bar dual-tip steaming wand – a massive upgrade on the Classic’s cheap entry level panarello steam wand. The quality of the steam wand on the original machine was always a bone of contention for Gaggia fans, with many taking matters into their own hands and installing new dual-tip wands to get better results.
Thankfully, with the release of the Classic Pro punters do not need to undertake warranty-voiding tinkering to get a decent froth. Who is it for? This is a pure-play espresso machine and as such clearly aimed at people who love espresso-based coffee drinks. While we appreciate this is probably to some extent all coffee drinkers, there is no point splashing out if you prefer a drip-filter for your morning joe.
The Gaggia classic is not a bean-to-cup machine. It does come with a pressurised portafilter basket which will allow you to get a decent crema on a coffee made from store-bought ground coffee or the (surprisingly good) bag-style coffee pods you can get for espresso machines. The machine is a semi-automatic affair and really aimed at people who want to grind their own coffee, tamp their own shots, and pull their own espresso. Coffee nerds basically.
Features and Design
The Gaggia Classic Pro comes with a 2.1 litre water tank enough for loads of espressos and arguably over-dimensioned for the machine. The machine is however still fairly compact measuring 9.5 inches deep, 14.2 inches tall, and 8 wide. The tank is filled from the top of the machine which also boasts a heated cup warmer capable of holding up to five small coffee cups. The machine comes with the adjustable dual-tip frothing wand mentioned above and three portafilter baskets.
There is a pressurized basket for store-bought coffee, a single shot basket for using your own fresh ground espresso or bag style coffee pod, and a double basket for freshly ground beans. The important thing to note here is that Gaggia has designed the machine so it uses a commercial size group head with a 58mm portafilter basket.
This means you can buy your own filters to put in it, including things like the fashionable bottomless portafilter which looks cool as hell and also lets you see how well or badly you are pulling shots allowing you to hone your technique. This is nice as the machine does allow you some freedom to add your own accessories as you get into it. You can also change the shower screen (which sprays water onto grounds) and gasket so there is some limited upgraded potential. You cannot change the clearance height so cannot get tall glasses under the spout.
Given the machine is somewhat designed to appeal to purists this is unlikely to be a deal-breaker. The machine features an excellent build quality and really lives up to its prestigious ‘made-in-Italy’ tag. The Classic Pro is entirely housed in stainless steel which looks great, is easy to clean, and difficult to break. It also comes with the obligatory (and cheap-looking) plastic tamper and coffee scoop.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is a joy to use. It’s really instinctive. Across the top are three rocker switches. The left one turns it on, the middle one pours coffee and the right one turns on the steam wand. The switches are nice and tactile and make for a satisfying user experience. Underneath the switches are lights which tell you when the machine is up to temperature. It does take a few mins to get going from a cold start. The other thing worth noting here is that there is only one boiler on the machine, so you cannot pour a coffee and froth at the same time. That is something that only professional machines in a much higher price bracket can do. The significance of this is that you need to pull your shot, turn on the steam wand and wait a few seconds for it to get up to the right temperature/pressure before you froth.
The steam wand features a cool back rubber grip so you can adjust the angle of the wand without scorching your fingertips. It takes just over 30 seconds to froth milk. The wand is a revelation and yields great textured foam with no trouble. Another useful feature is the Pro Classic’s three-way solenoid valve – this allows pressure and water in the group head to flow directly into the drip tray post-use via a stainless steel tube on the left. The effect of this that you can empty the portafilter immediately after brewing and are left with a hard-dry puck and not a soupy mess of water and coffee grounds.
The drip tray fits super snuggly into the machines and does not move around at all. It is a plastic box topped by a stainless-steel grill that detaches easily and requires nothing more than a quick rinse. The Gaggia Classic Pro makes an espresso comparable to that from a much more expensive machine. After a bit of trial and error, it is easy to get consistent results. One gripe is that there is not a temperature or pressure indication valve which many other machines offer.
The units 15-bar vibrator pump is nice a quiet and will not wake the whole household if you make an early morning Joe.
There is good product support online to help you out with descaling, cleaning, and other maintenance.
Coming in at around £400 the Gaggia Classic Pro is clearly at the top end of the market for an entry-level machine.
Punters willing to spend but more can pick machines with higher levels of programmability and integrated burr grinders such as the Sage Barista or even splash out a bit more for the fully manual piston machine like the La Pavoni Europiccola. But the Gaggia Classic Pro is far better than most of all machines in the entry-level espresso machine market niche. Part of its appeal is its excellent frothing wand which is a cut above the cheaper machines in this segment such as the Sage Barista.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is also beautifully designed, features an excellent build quality. Though a fairly simple machine it is capable of making truly impressive frothy coffees that are almost on a par with professional machines. The tactile switches and knobs make the Gaggia Classic Pro joy to operate. Buyers can take heart in the fact that the Italian built Gaggia machines have an almost unparalleled reputation for longevity which promises years of good service if well maintained.