Gaggia Classic Pro Review
Pros: Good espresso, makes a good dry cappuccino
Cons: Poor overall milk steaming performance, use and cleaning presents a bit of a learning curve
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Though we have run into other models in the same price range that offer slightly better experiences.=
In our opinion, we think the the Classic Pro's epresso reaches near cafe quality. We found it to impart a bold and rich taste and to produce a decent crema that pleased our taste buds. When we directly compared it to a cafe shot or one from some of the more capable machines we did notice a slight relative lack in robustness and flavor, but when enjoyed in isolation we didn't have any major complaints for this machine's espresso.
That good taste likely comes from the very consistent and stable pressure and temperature the Classic Pro is able to produce. If you really like to toy with your espresso's brewing process you may be disappointed that you can't adjust this pressure or temperature profile at all - meaning the only control you have over your brew is the coffee and specific grind size that you use. However, it does make the overall brewing process a bit simpler.
Unfortunately, the milk steaming capabilities of the Classic Pro don't quite live up to its espresso brewing proclivities. Therefore, its milk drink were amongst our least favorite of the bunch. However, its propensity to create a lot of fluffy foam did make for a decent dry cappuccino.
The Classic Pro also comes with a filter basket that can accept most pfe-ground espresso capsule and pods. In general, we've found the taste extracted from these pods is determined much more by the pods themselves rather than the machine used to brew them, and that those pods can't match the quality of fresh espresso pulled with the Classic Pro.
Ease of Use
When it comes to actually brewing your espresso, the Classic Pro keeps things very simple and straightforward. However, many things tangential to the actual brewing process have eccentricities that make the task a bit difficult, but not overly so.
Though you can't adjust any sort of temperature or pressure profile, the Classic Pro offers a simple and fairly easy extraction just by flipping the brew switch. Getting the coffee into the portafilter, however, can be a bit difficult. First, you must use a separate grinder (or use pre-ground coffee and the pressurized basket). Then you need to tamp the coffee down, and the only tool that comes in the box to aid in this task is a fairly flimsy-feeling plastic tamper. Apart from being flimsy, the tamper is actually too small for the portafilter, so it's hard to get all the coffee tamped down evenly. You can certainly upgrade to a metal and properly sized tamper for not too much, but considering the Classic Pro's price we would have expected such a device in the box.
We also found the design of the steam wand to be less than ideal. Where other models have a ball joint that lets you position the wand in a number of orientations, the Classic Pro's wand has very little play. This makes it a bit awkward to get the milk in the right position to steam properly. Also, if you're making a latte and thus have a decent amount of milk in the pitcher, it can be difficult to extract the pitcher from the steam wand without spilling once the milk as been aerated and increased in volume.
Additionally, while initial setup of the Classic Pro is fairly easy, the manual doesn't lend much guidance for the process. For instance, we found out the hard way that a small tube needed to be connected to the waste water nozzle to avoid a big mess…bottom line, our recommendation is that you watch a few youtube tutorials before using this machine for the first time.
Though we ran into numerous annoyances when using this machine, none were so egregious that we disliked using it. Sure, other models on the market offer more streamlined experiences, but we certainly wouldn't call the Classic Pro's experience off putting.
Ease of Cleaning
Here again, the Classic Pro isn't particularly hard to clean, but there are definitely other semi-automatic models that make cleaning a bit easier.
The process for cleaning the Classic Pro is standard for semi-automatic machines — rinse and clean the portafilter and steam wand, empty the drip tray, and clean out the milk pitcher. In general we found these processes to be simple, but there was a small plastic piece in the portafilter that tended to hang onto some gunk and that necessitated a bit more precision when wiping things clean. The angle of the steam wand could also make purgering and wiping it a bit awkward, particularly if the machine is placed on a lower table or counter.
Long term cleaning (descaling) of the Classic Pro is a bit more difficult than the average machine. The solution is not included with your purchase, ao that will need to be bought separately. The process itself is quite involved, taking us 40 minutes to complete and requiring our undivided attention for the vast majority of that time. Also, while the process isn't particularly complicated, the manual again left us somewhat wanting for information, so we would suggest finding a YouTube tutorial before attempting it for the first time.
The Classic Pro's steam wand is serviceable, but falls well short of cafe quality.
The biggest weakness of the Classic Pro's steam wand is the seeming inability to create that finely textured, creamy microfoam that has come to define a good latte. You can either get warmed milk or very fluffy foam, without much in between. This is great if you like your espresso with just a dab of milk, or if you're a fan of very dry cappuccinos. However, if you're a latte fan, we think this steam wand will likely be a bit disappointing.
Additionally, if you want to attempt a latte with this machine, we found that its wand generally putters out before a full pitcher of milk is up to temperature, which results in the drink being a bit less hot than most people would probably like.
The Gaggia Classic Pro's price feels fair for a relatively capable semi-automatic machine. However, we've seen other models in the price range that are just as adept at pulling shots as the Classic Pro, but have better steam wands, so we think this machine is a good value only if you find it on sale.
The Gaggia Classic Pro offers a fairly good experience to those that want to learn the craft of making espresso at home at a relatively reasonable price. However, its steam wand lacks a bit of power and there are other machines in the same price range that offer better steaming capabilities, so this machine is likely more suited to straight espresso or dry cappuccino lovers.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell