Quick Answer: I’d only recommend the Gaggia Classic Pro if you want an affordable espresso machine and don’t mind a bit of tinkering around to get consistently great shots. If you just want to pull a decent espresso shot with as little effort as possible, I’d instead recommend the Breville Bambino Plus.
If you’ve been looking for a semi-automatic espresso machine under $500, there’s a good chance that you’ve narrowed your search down to the Gaggia Classic Pro, the Breville Bambino/Bambino Plus, and the Delonghi Dedica.
In this Gaggia Classic Pro (GCP) review, I’ll explain why I think that the machine is the best affordable espresso machine for someone who is “into” espresso and views espresso making as a potential hobby rather than just a means to a delicious coffee.
I’ll also explain why, if you’re in the latter group (i.e. you just want a good espresso without too much fussing around), then you’re best off getting the Breville Bambino Plus.
Let’s get started.
Should I Buy the Gaggia Classic Pro (Quick Verdict)?
You should buy the Gaggia Classic Pro if you want an affordable espresso machine and you’re not scared of going through a small learning curve in order to pull consistent shots.
This learning curve includes:
- Ground coffee distribution and tamping: The Gaggia Classic Pro has a greater tendency to channel than other similarly priced espresso machines. So proper puck prep is particularly important with the Gaggia Classic Pro. You’ll want to buy a good quality tamp and a WDT to go with the machine.
- Temperature surfing: The Gaggia Classic Pro struggles to regulate its brewing temperature. You’ll therefore need to learn how to raise and lower its brewing temperature manually (“temperature surfing”). This two-minute video shows you the basics of how to do this.
If you’re willing to learn these two techniques then the Gaggia Classic Pro will allow you to pull better-tasting shots than any other espresso machine in its price range.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is also easy to modify and repair.
This means that the machine can last you far longer than other similarly priced espresso machines and, if you’re willing to open up the top of the machine and fiddle with its internals, you can upgrade the machine to one that far outperforms its initial price tag.
Gaggia Classic Pro Pros
- It has the highest potential quality ceiling of any machine at its price point.
- It’s incredibly durable and should last you well over ten years.
- Espresso machine technicians are willing to repair the machine if it breaks down (this is not the case with many entry level machines).
- It’s relatively easy to modify and upgrade.
Gaggia Classic Pro Cons
- Its underpowered steam wand means its milk frothing is poor.
- It doesn’t have enough cup clearance to easily brew with a scale under your cup.
- It is set to brew at 12.5 Bar out the box which can make channelling more likely.
I wouldn’t recommend the Gaggia Classic Pro if:
- You value ease of use above gaining small margins in your espresso quality.
- You’re primarily buying an espresso machine to make milk drinks.
If either of these apply to you then I’d recommend getting the Breville Bambino Plus.
Gaggia Classic Pro Review: Machine Overview
|Gaggia Classic Pro
Semi automatic espresso machine
Buttons and indicator lights
Heat up time
Steam wand type
Commercial steam wand with two holes
Single and double, pressurized and non pressurized (four in total)
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
9.1″ W x 9.4″D x 15″ H
Design and Workflow
The Gaggia Classic Pro requires you to start and finish its brewing manually. Its exterior is mainly made out of stainless steel (a rarity among espresso machines under $500)
The Gaggia Classic Pro is a semi-automatic espresso machine.
This means that you have to turn a switch to make the machine brew, and then turn that same switch off to tell it to stop brewing. This is in contrast to automatic espresso machines which automatically stop brewing once a certain volume of water has been dispensed through your coffee grounds.
The machine also has dedicated switches and dials to:
- Turn the machine on (this will bring it up the water in its boiler to around 230 Fahrenheit (110 Celsius)).
- Heat up its steam wand (this will heat the water in its boiler to around 290 Fahrenheit (145 Celsius)).
- Open up its steam wand. This will either blow out steam if the brew switch is off or release hot water if the brew switch is on.
The vast majority of the Gaggia Classic Pro’s outer body is made up of stainless steel. Its only plastic components are:
- Drip tray (although it has a metal grill)
- Water tank
- Buttons (they can’t be metal because you’d get electrocuted. Its buttons are very sturdy to the touch).
- Steam wand dial (unlike the buttons, this does feel quite flimsy).
The machine measures 9.1″ W x 9.4″D x 15″ H. This, combined with the fact that its water tank can pull out from the front (rather than from the top) makes it suitable for kitchens with limited counter-to-cabinet clearance.
My big gripe with the machine design-wise is that it only has three inches of clearance space between its drip tray and the bottom of your portafilter spout.
This is barely enough room to fit a small espresso cup and a scale.
Since the machine requires you to start and stop its brewing manually, you’ll need to always brew with a scale under your cup if you want consistent shots. This makes the lack of cup clearance particularly annoying.
I’ll talk more about workarounds to brew with a scale under your cup later on.
Heating and Brewing System
The Gaggia Classic Pro uses a single boiler heating system with no PID. Its pump is set to brew at 12.5 Bars of pressure out of the box.
Single Boiler Heating System
The Gaggia Classic Pro’s single boiler system makes it a more durable espresso machine than equivalent Breville models.
The Gaggia Classic Pro has a boiler that holds around 5 oz of water.
Espresso machines at the Gaggia Classic Pro’s price point either have a single boiler or thermocoil/thermojet heating system. Thermocoil/thermojet-powered machines include the Breville Bambino Plus and the Breville Barista Express.
The Gaggia Classic Pro’s single boiler system offers two advantages over a thermocoil/thermojet:
- Increased durability: This is by far the biggest advantage of a boiler heating system. They are less prone to breaking down than thermocoil/thermojet and (more importantly) they can be replaced if they break down. This means that the Gaggia Classic Pro can last you several decades – the same cannot be said for similarly priced Breville machines.
- The machine’s shower head and portafilter are heated as it heats up: The Gaggia Classic Pro’s boiler sits directly on top of its shower head where your brewing water is dispensed. This means that once the machine is heated up your shower head and portafilter are also heated. This heating of the entire “brewing pathway” helps maintain a consistent brewing temperature which improves extraction.
With thermocoil/thermojet models only one small part of the brewing pathway is heated, so you need to pull “blank shots” (shots without any water in the portafilter) to ensure an ideal brewing temperature.
This heating up of the brew head and portafilter negates people’s complaints about the Gaggia Classic Pro taking longer to heat up than Breville machines. Pulling a blank shot with a Breville takes around the same amount of time as the Gaggia Classic Pro takes to heat up.
The main disadvantage of the Gaggia Classic Pro’s single boiler system is that it reduces its milk-steaming performance.
The machine’s steam wand is underpowered because its boiler can only produce a relatively small quantity of steam at any one time. This means you won’t have enough steam power to roll your milk around so it won’t have the most uniform texture.
The Gaggia Classic Pro’s lack of PID means that you’ll have to develop a temperature surfing routine if you want to pull really consistent shots from the machine.
A proportional integral derivative (PID) keeps an espresso machine’s brewing water at a consistent temperature.
The GCPs lack of a PID means that its internal temperature control is pretty crude.
The machine has a particular tendency to run slightly hotter than the ideal espresso brewing temperature. This means that to get the best espresso shots from the machine, you’ll have to have it brew out a small amount of water to cool it down (this pulls more cold water into its boiler prior to pulling your shot).
Several entry-level espresso machines have a PID, meaning that you don’t need to do any such “temperature surfing” in order to pull consistent shots. These machines include the Breville Bambino and Bambino Plus.
I don’t actually think that a casual espresso drinker would be able to tell the difference between a shot pulled at a slightly too-hot (or even too-cold) temperature and one pulled at an ideal temperature. You’ll only need to temperature surf if you want to get the very best possible shots from the machine.
Pump is Set to Brew at 12.5 Bars of Pressure
The Gaggia Classic Pro’s 12.5 Bars of brewing pressure make it a hard machine for beginners to use (more so than its lack of PID).
The Gaggia Classic Pro is set to brew at 12.5 Bars of pressure out of the box.
Its brewing pressure is determined by its over-pressure valve – not by its pump pressure.
(When an espresso machine manufacturer claims that its machine has a “15 Bar Italian Pump”, this really doesn’t mean anything.)
Espresso should be brewed at 9 Bars. The GCP is set to brew at 12.5 Bars to improve its performance when used with grocery store pre-ground coffee and a pressurized basket.
I think that this is a poor design choice.
If you are going to brew with pre-ground coffee then you may as well get a cheaper machine such as the Delonghi Dedica, Breville Bambino, or Delonghi ECP3420. You won’t get a better-tasting espresso using a pricier machine with pre-ground coffee.
Brewing at such a high pressure also means that your chances of channeling are very high.
Channeling is when your brewing water finds a weak spot in your ground coffee puck and all runs through that channel.
Unlike brewing at too low/high a temperature, which can cause small (read: barely noticeable to most people) changes in your espresso’s flavor, channeling can make your espresso disgustingly sour or bitter.
You can minimize your chances of channeling occurring with the Gaggia Classic Pro by properly distributing your espresso grounds before tamping. You’ll need a WDT to do this, and the machine does not come with this.
Unfortunately, even with the best puck prep in the world, the GCP’s 12.5 Bars of brewing pressure means channeling is always a possibility.
I’d therefore recommend replacing its OPV valve with a 9-bar spring if you get the machine.
You can see a video on how to do this below:
Three-Way Solenoid Valve
The Gaggia Classic Pro’s three-way solenoid valve releases excess pressurized water directly into your drip tray after brewing.
This makes using the machine less messy to use in two ways.
- Your coffee puck is firm after brewing: You can knock your coffee puck straight out of your portafilter in one go.
- No portafilter sneeze: You can remove the portafilter immediately after brewing without it “sneezing” coffee everywhere.
A three-way solenoid valve also means that you can backflush the Gaggia Classic Pro. This allows you to clean out any leftover coffee deposits from its brew head, allowing the home espresso machine to stay at its maximum brewing potential.
You can see a video below on how to do this (the video shows someone backflushing the Gaggia Classic. The process of backflushing the Gaggia Classic Pro is the exact same.)
The Gaggia Classic Pro uses a dual-hole commercial steam wand which is on a pivot joint.
A “commercial” steam wand (also called a professional steam wand) simply means that the steam wand does not have a sleeve around it that pumps extra air into your milk.
This contrasts the panarello steam wand found on the Gaggia Classic, as well as the Delonghi Dedica machines.
A commercial steam wand means that you can produce the fine microfoam needed for latte art with the Gaggia Classic Pro.
That being said, I still don’t think that the Gaggia Classic Pro’s steam wand is all that great for two reasons:
- It lacks steaming pressure: This low steaming pressure means that you’ll struggle to get a consistent texture throughout your milk. Instead, your top layer of milk will be nicely textured but your bottom layer will be thinner.
- It’s hard to position: You can only move the steam wand left and right, not in 360 degrees. This makes positioning the steam wand awkward as it becomes a case of positioning your pitcher correctly rather than moving the wand in the pitcher correctly. Controlling your positioning is harder than it needs to be as most home espresso machines have their wand on a ball joint.
I recommend the Breville Bambino Plus instead of the Gaggia Classic Pro for people who want to primarily make milk drinks because of the GCP’s relatively poor steam wand.
The Gaggia Classic Pro has a 72 oz water tank that can be filled from the top and removed from the front. It’s hard to see how full its tank is and doesn’t tell you when it needs filling.
While being able to remove the Gaggia Classic Pro’s drip tray from the front is useful if you have limited cabinet-to-counter clearance, I still don’t like how you have to remove the machine’s drip tray just to pull out its water tank.
Its water tank also does not slide back into the machine all that smoothly, making it likely to splash and spill if you reattach it while it’s filled up to its maximum line. You can see what I’m talking about below (2:05 – 2:10):
I also don’t like how its drip tray has a “smoky finish”. This makes it hard to see how much water is actually in the tank.
This, combined with the GCP’s lack of low water warning means that you can run out of water mid-way through a shot. This will ruin your shot and waste your coffee.
The Gaggia Classic Pro’s drip tray is made out of thick plastic with a metal grill. I like how it has a float to tell you when it’s full but a lack of cup clearance is an issue.
The drip tray is made out of plastic is a fair concession to help keep the machine’s cost down. It’s not too flimsy and slides in and out of the machine smoothly enough that you’re not likely to spill it even when it’s relatively full.
The problem with the Gaggia Classic Pro’s drip tray is that there are only three inches of vertical space between its drip tray and the bottom of its portafilter spout.
This means that it’s very difficult to brew with a scale underneath your cup – something that’s a necessity if you want to pull consistent shots with an espresso machine that doesn’t have automatic shot volume dosing.
The workaround for this is to brew with the machine’s drip tray removed.
This is hardly an elegant solution, as it means that you’ll have to mop up any spilled coffee, and you’ll have to put a second cup under its solenoid valve to collect any water emitted from there.
A common Gaggia Classic Pro modification is to fit it with a lower profile drip tray so you have more cup clearance (it really should be this way out of the box though).
The Gaggia Classic Pro comes with four portafilter baskets (for single and double shots), a plastic tamp, and a plastic coffee scoop.
The Gaggia Classic Pro’s tamp and coffee scoop are both terrible. Its tamp isn’t wide enough to completely cover the 58mm portafilter diameter and is too lightweight to consistently get an even puck.
Its coffee scoop is too deep to pour into a portafilter basket without a high chance of spilling.
Even its baskets, while usable, can still be improved upon if you want to get the absolute best from the machine.
I do like how the machine comes with pressurized and non-pressurized baskets. Pressurized baskets are good if a friend or family member wants to make a quick espresso as they reduce the risk of channeling (you’ll never get a great espresso using them though).
The Gaggia Classic Pro’s manual shows you how to set up the espresso machine in images only (a bit like a comic strip).
It would be nice if these had some written instructions to follow as well.
Modification and Repair Potential
The Gaggia Classic Pro can be easily opened up for you to modify or repair it. Espresso machine technicians are generally happy to open up and replace faulty Gaggia components, more so than with Breville espresso machines.
Two easy modifications that I can see myself (someone who’s not very handy at all) make to the Gaggia Classic Pro are
- Changing to a low-profile drip tray: This allows you to brew more easily with a scale under your cup. All you need to do is buy a low-profile drip tray and longer three-way solenoid valve exit tube and then replace its current drip tray with the new one.
- Changing its OPV spring to a 9 Bar one: This will allow the machine to brew at 9 Bars of pressure rather than 12.5 Bars. You’ll need to open the machine up at the top to do this, but once it’s open it’s not too difficult. You can see a video on how to do this here. Replacement Gaggia OPV valve springs cost around $20.
More complex (I’m a bit intimidated by the prospect of doing them), but potentially useful modifications include:
- The installation of a PID: Will give the machine extra temperature control and will negate the need to temperature surf. You can see a video on how to do this here.
- The addition of a dimmer switch: Allows manual preinfusion of your coffee grounds puck, reducing the chances of channeling. You can see a video on how to do this here.
- The addition of water tank lights: This will help you better see when you are running low on water.
There are a lot of online resources and communities around modding the Gaggia Classic Pro, including the Gaggia Classic Facebook group, Gaggia Classic subreddit, and a boatload of instructional YouTube videos.
Even if you have no plans on modifying your Gaggia espresso machine, the ease of opening it up is still useful as it means that technicians can easily troubleshoot and repair any issues with it.
Most espresso machine technicians refuse to touch entry-level Breville machines, so a Gaggia Classic Pro should last you longer than a similarly priced Breville model.
Now that I’ve gone through the Gaggia Classic Pro’s features, I am going to assess the espresso machine across the following criteria:
- Espresso quality
- Milk steaming performance
- Ease of use
- Design and build quality
- Value for money
The Gaggia Classic Pro can pull excellent-tasting espresso shots if you can control its temperature and avoid channeling.
In his testing of the best espresso machines under £500, barista and coffee YouTuber James Hoffmann found that the Gaggia Classic Pro could brew espresso with the finest ground coffee of all espresso machines tested (you can see his findings here (watch from 15:03-15:06)).
This means that the Gaggia Classic Pro has the potential to get a better extraction and pull out more flavor from your coffee beans than any machine in its price range.
While the Gaggia Classic Pro has the highest quality ceiling of all entry-level espresso machines, it’s harder to pull consistent shots with the GCP compared to similarly priced Breville machines.
This inconsistency is due to its relatively high brewing pressure (which makes channeling more likely) and a relative lack of temperature control (temperature affects extraction rates).
That being said, with proper puck prep (or even better and OPV modification) and a good temperature surfing machine, the Gaggia Classic Pro will outperform any entry-level machine as far as espresso quality is concerned.
Espresso Quality Rating: 9/10
Milk Steaming Performance
The Gaggia Classic Pro allows you to texture a small amount of milk well but struggles to get consistent texture with larger portions of milk.
The Gaggia Classic Pro uses a commercial steam wand. This means that it gives you good control over your milk’s temperature, unlike a sleeved Panarello-style steam wand.
The problem with the GCPs steam wand is that the boiler that powers it isn’t very big. This means that its steam wand is underpowered.
This low steam power means that you’ll struggle to roll your milk around. This rolling is necessary to get a consistent texture throughout your milk.
Steaming milk with the Gaggia Classic Pro will likely give you some milk that’s perfectly textured (and suitable for latte art) but some milk that’s still a bit thin and under-textured (even if it’s at the correct temperature).
The Gaggia Classic Pro’s low steam power also means that it takes a relatively long time to steam milk. This can get frustrating, especially if you’re used to steaming milk with a more powerful machine.
Some people online have said that you can get more milk-frothing power from the machine’s steam wand if you open up its steam valve around 10 seconds before its light goes off.
This makes sense, as it means that the boiler is still creating steam when you start to froth milk (the indicator goes on when the boiler reaches temperature and stops heating further).
Milk Steaming Performance: 5/10
Ease of Use and Cleaning
The Gaggia Classic Pro is less user-friendly than a lot of entry-level machines.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is a relatively tricky espresso machine to use for three reasons:
- Its high pressure makes channeling more likely: This puts a lot of onus on your puck prep (especially your ground coffee distribution) which is one of the more challenging parts of espresso-making for a newbie.
- It only has three inches of cup clearance: This makes it hard to brew with a scale under your cup – something that’s vital when you’re dialing in your espresso machine.
- Its steam wand is on a pivot, not a ball joint: This means you need to maneuver your milk jug around your steam wand when frothing milk, rather than the other way around.
- It doesn’t have a PID: So you’ll have to develop a temperature-surfing routine if you want consistent shots with the machine (this is only a problem for more fussy espresso drinkers)
The Gaggia Classic Pro essentially trades off some user friendliness for a higher espresso ceiling and (in particular) increased longevity compared to other entry-level espresso machines.
The machine is relatively easy to keep clean, especially as its three-way solenoid valve ensures that your coffee puck can be knocked out of your portafilter in one firm piece.
Ease of Use and Cleaning Rating: 6/10
Design and Build Quality
The Gaggia Classic Pro has an incredible level of durability and can be easily repaired.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is the most durable entry-level espresso machine (along with the slightly-more-expensive Rancilio Silvia).
A Gaggia espresso machine can easily last you decades, especially as its internal parts can be replaced (unlike with Breville machines).
The machine’s simple design makes it relatively easy to upgrade and modify, as well as repair. Its external body is made largely out of stainless steel, which again cannot be said of similarly priced Breville machines.
My one problem with the Gaggia Classic Pro’s design is its lack of cup clearance.
This makes the machine so much more fiddly to use than it needs to be, especially as it lacks automatic shot volume dosing so you’ll need to brew with a scale under your cup a lot of the time.
Design and Build Quality Rating: 9/10
Value For Money
The Gaggia Classic Pro is amazing value for money if you’re willing to modify the machine. If not it can still offer good value for money if you’re willing to work around the machine’s high brewing pressure and lack of PID.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is far more durable than any other machine under $500. This alone makes it a good value purchase in my book.
Critics of the GCP say that you need to change its OPV to 9 Bars and add a PID to it (a combined expense of around $120, plus a fair bit of time) just to put it on par with the Breville Bambino Plus – an espresso machine that costs the same as the Gaggia Classic Pro.
The problem with the Bambino Plus is that it’s not likely to last you longer than 4-5 years if you use it regularly. The Gaggia Classic Pro can easily last you well over double that time.
In short, the Gaggia Classic Pro is an excellent value purchase for the right person.
Value for Money Rating: 8/10
Product Alternatives – Breville Bambino Plus and Rancilio Silvia
Two home espresso machines that I often see being compared to the Gaggia Classic Pro online are the Breville Bambino Plus and Rancilio Silvia. I’m now going to give my thoughts on how these other machines compare to the GCP.
Breville Bambino Plus – Best for Beginners
The Breville Bambino Plus is easier to use, but far less durable, than the Gaggia Classic Pro.
The Breville Bambino Plus has a PID and brews at nine Bars of pressure (or rather a touch under nine bars) out of the box. It, therefore, is less prone to channeling and has a more consistent brewing temperature than the Gaggia Classic Pro.
The machine also has an automated steam wand for hands-free milk frothing (the Gaggia doesn’t have this).
The Breville Bambino Plus’s steam wand also has more steam pressure than the Gaggia’s so you can properly roll around your milk for a uniform texture.
The Bambino Plus’s big downside compared to the Gaggia Classic Pro is its lack of durability. The Bambino Plus’s thermojet heating system tends to deteriorate after 4-5 years of consistent use and once it breaks down it cannot be replaced.
The Bambino Plus also cannot be modified to anywhere near the extent that the GCP can.
Rancilio Silvia – Much Better Milk Steaming More Expensive than the Gaggia Classic Pro
The Rancilio Silvia is about $400 more expensive than the Gaggia Classic Pro but has far better milk-frothing capabilities.
The Rancilio Silvia has a larger boiler than the Gaggia Classic Pro which gives it much greater steaming pressure so you can steam large portions of milk quickly and to a consistent texture.
The Rancilio Silvia also has more cup clearance than the Gaggia Classic Pro – you can actually brew with scales under your cup.
Unfortunately, the Rancilio Silvia doesn’t have a PID so you’ll still need to develop a bit of a temperature-surfing routine to get the most out of the machine.
To find out more about how these two machines compare please see my comparison of the Gaggia Classic Pro vs Rancilio Silvia.
Gaggia Classic Pro Review: Final Verdict
I recommend the Gaggia Classic Pro if you want an espresso machine under $500 and are familiar with the basics of brewing espresso. The machine can pull excellent shots, has great durability, and can be modified as you go further into your espresso journey.
The big downside of the machine is that its milk-steaming performance is poor. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re mainly going to make milk drinks.
If you’re buying a home espresso machine primarily for lattes and cappuccinos, I’d instead get the Breville Bambino Plus.
Gaggia Classic Pro Review FAQs
Is the Gaggia Classic Pro Worth It?
The Gaggia Classic Pro is worth it if you are primarily going to be drinking black espresso drinks and are looking to experiment with different coffee beans and roast profiles. The machine can get good extraction with relatively light roasts, something that most other entry-level espresso machines cannot do.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is also very durable and amenable to upgrades and modifications given its price.
What’s the difference between the Gaggia Classic and Gaggia Classic Pro?
The Gaggia Classic Pro has a commercial steam wand, whereas the Gaggia Classic has a panarello steam wand. This means that you can make silky microfoam for latte art with the Gaggia Classic Pro, but not the Gaggia Classic.
How Long Do Gaggia Classics Last?
The Gaggia Classic and Gaggia Classic Pro can both last well in excess of ten years. I regularly see second-hand versions of both models on sale in working condition. Gaggia espresso machines can be easily opened up and repaired, increasing their longevity.