Drinky Coffee Logo

Gaggia Classic Pro vs Breville Barista Express

See how we review products

Last updated: December 22, 2023

Quick Answer: Go for the Breville Barista Express if your priority is making a good espresso with as little work as possible. Go for the Gaggia Classic Pro if your priority is making as good an espresso as possible and you don’t mind going through some trial and error to get there.

This is my comparison of the Gaggia Classic Pro vs Breville Barista Express.

The two machines are very different from each other and have clearly been designed with different types of espresso drinkers in mind.

I’m therefore going to explain the strengths and drawbacks of each of these machines and give my verdict on who I think each one is better suited for.

Let’s get started.

Should I Get a Gaggia Classic Pro or Breville Barista Express (Quick Verdict)?

I’d recommend the Gaggia Classic Pro over the Breville Barista Express if you are interested in espresso making as a craft and are looking for a new hobby as much as a delicious drink.

Best for Budding Espresso Hobbyists
Gaggia Classic Pro
$499.00 $449.00
The Gaggia Classic Pro is also an excellent starter machine. The big advantage of the Gaggia Classic Pro over other machines is that it can be easily modified and upgraded. There are thriving communities online dedicated to modding Classic Pro making it the best machine for potential espresso hobbyists.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/02/2024 07:39 pm GMT

The Gaggia Classic Pro has good brewing capabilities and a very durable build.

Match it with a high-quality coffee grinder and you can pull some excellent shots with the machine.

It can also be (relatively) easily opened up and modified and there is an active community of Gaggia modders online so you can find lots of guides and advice on how to optimize the machine.

Most espresso machines (including Breville models) do not have such a community.

Gaggia Classic Pro Pros

Very durable – it can last you a lifetime with proper maintenance.

It was designed in a way that it can be easily upgraded and modified.

It has a thriving community of modders online so it’s easy to find advice and resources about how to do this.

Gaggia Classic Pro Cons

It does not have a PID so it can be hard to control the brewing temperature especially if you are making multiple coffees in a row.

It has limited cup clearance so you are restricted to brewing with espresso cups with this machine.

I’d recommend the Breville Barista Express over the Gaggia Classic Pro if you want an espresso machine that can pull good shots with a minimum of fuss and aren’t that bothered about making a hobby out of espresso.

Best for Casual Espresso Drinkers
Breville Barista Express
The Breville Barista Express allows you to pull consistently good espresso shots without needing to play around too much with brewing recipes and techniques.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The Breville Barista Express’s integrated grinder-assisted shot volume dosing and temperature controls allow you to pull consistently good espresso with less manual work than the Gaggia Classic Pro.

It has a lower-quality ceiling than the Gaggia Classic Pro, largely due to its built-in grinder, which is ok but not great.

It also is not the type of machine that can be modified, unlike the Gaggia Classic Pro. 

Once you get the Breville Barista Express then you are stuck with its limitations (and, of course, its strengths) until you get a new machine.

If you’d like to find out more about how the Breville Barista Express compares to other espresso machines, please see my comparison of the Breville Barista Express vs Delonghi La Specialista and Breville Barista Express vs Barista Touch

Breville Barista Express Pros

Its PID means that you can have a consistent brewing temperature without having to play around with the machine.

Its automatic shot volume dosing means you can brew consistent shots without timing them yourself.

The Barista Express takes up less space than the Gaggia Classic Pro and a separate grinder.

Breville Barista Express Cons

Its grinder isn’t great, it’s the bottom end of what you can still class as an espresso grinder.

It’s very difficult to open up the machine and modify it.

Gaggia Classic Pro vs Breville Barista Express: Overview of Machines

The Gaggia Classic Pro is a semi-automatic espresso machine, meaning that you have to start and stop its shot yourself by flicking a switch on and off. It has a pinhole steam wand for frothing milk but no built-in grinder.

The Breville Barista Express is an automatic espresso machine. This means that you just press a button once to pull a shot. The machine will automatically stop pulling your shot after a specific (and adjustable) volume of liquid has been released. 

The Barista Express has a pinhole steam wand for frothing milk and a built-in grinder.

You can find a table comparing the key features and specifications of each machine below.

Gaggia Classic Pro Breville Barista Express
Description
Semi-automatic espresso machine with steam wand
Automatic espresso machine with steam wand and grinder
User Interface
Button operated
Button operated
Preset drink options
None (manual dosing)
Single espresso, double espresso, hot water
Built-in grinder
No
Yes
Heating System
Single boiler
Single boiler thermocoil
Heat up time
25 seconds
40 seconds
PID
No
Yes
Steam wand type
Pin hole (2 holes)
Pin hole (1 hole)
How long to steam 5 oz of milk
40 seconds
30 seconds
Descale warning light and descale system
No
Yes
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
9.5” W x 8” D x 14.2” H
12.5” W x 13.8” D x 15.9” H
Water tank capacity
71 oz
67 oz

What are the Differences Between the Gaggia Classic Pro and Breville Barista Express?

I’m now going to go through the differences between these two espresso machines (in order of significance) and explain how I think they affect the performance and usability of each machine.

Breville Barista Express has a Built-in Grinder, but Gaggia Classic Pro Does Not

The Breville Barista Pro’s built-in grinder accounts for the price difference between the two machines. A standalone grinder of the quality found on the Barista Express costs around $150 (the same as the price difference between these two machines).

I think that it’s almost always better to have a separate espresso machine and grinder. 

Having a separate grinder for your machine gives you far more flexibility if you ever want to upgrade your espresso setup.

Upgrading the grinder alone can make a huge difference to the quality of the shots you pull – many baristas say that the grinder is more important than the espresso machine.

Buying a machine with a built-in grinder financially commits you to stick with that grinder. You pay a premium for a machine with a built-in grinder. Buying an additional grinder over that makes your whole setup really expensive.

This issue is particularly relevant to the Breville Barista Express as its built-in grinder is pretty low-level. 

Many Barista Express users on Reddit express frustration with its grinder and say that it would be the first part of their machine that they would upgrade (see examples of people saying this here and here).

Separate grinders are also easier to clean and are less wasteful when switching between coffee beans.

The only time I would recommend buying a machine with a built-in grinder is if you have very limited countertop space. In most cases, an espresso machine with a built-in grinder will take up less countertop space than a coffee machine and a grinder.

Winner: Gaggia Classic Pro

Breville Barista Express has Automatic Shot Volume Control, and Gaggia Classic Pro has Manual Shot Volume Control

You pull a shot with the Breville Barista Express by pressing its single or double shot button once. The machine will then release a specific amount of water.

You pull a shot with the Gaggia Classic Pro by flicking a switch down to start the release of water and then flicking it back up to stop this flow.

The Breville’s automatic dosing makes it easier to pull a good shot with than the Gaggia. 

The Barista Express’s default settings are one ounce of water for a single shot and two ounces for a double shot. If you brew with nine grams of coffee for a single espresso and 18 grams for a double is a good place to start. Its shot volume sizes are also adjustable.

The Gaggia Classic Pro’s manual dosing gives you more control over your shots, however, you will have to time every shot you pull if you want any degree of consistency between shots. The machine does not have a built-in timer to help you do this, unfortunately.

Winner: Breville Barista Express

The Gaggia Classic Pro Can Be Easily Modified, The Breville Barista Express Cannot

The Gaggia Classic Pro can be (relatively) easily opened up and modified. There are thriving online Gaggia modders communities along with lots of guides on how to make certain changes to the machine.

You can see a video of someone making some modifications to the Gaggia Classic Pro below. This should give you an idea of how much work is required to make these modifications:

Some of the most common modifications for the Gaggia Classic Pro are:

  • Adding a PID (it’s worth noting that the Breville Barista Express has a PID out of the box)
  • Changing its pump pressure (often called “overpressure valve” adjustment)
  • Changing its steam wand (Rancilio steam wands are the preferred replacement for most users)

Please note that making these changes will void any warranty you have on the Gaggia Classic Pro.

The Breville Barista Express was not built to be modified. Making these changes will be much more difficult than with the Gaggia. There aren’t many guides on how to do this and there is absolutely no community around it.

The Barista Express’s lack of durability compared to the Gaggia Classic Pro also makes modifications a bit pointless as you aren’t going to have as much time to enjoy the benefits they bring.

Winner: Gaggia Classic Pro

Heating System: Breville Barista Express has a PID, but Gaggia Classic Pro Does Not

The Gaggia Classic Pro uses a single boiler heating system without a PID. The Breville Barista Express uses a single boiler thermocoil heating system with a PID.

Although the two machines have different heating systems (boiler vs thermocoil), they both take a similar time to get to their required brewing and steaming temperatures. You can see this in the table below:

Gaggia Classic Pro Breville Barista Express
Time to get to brewing temperature
25 seconds
40 seconds
Time it takes for its steam wand to turn on
35 seconds
35 seconds

The big difference between the two heating systems is that the Breville Barista Express has a PID whereas the Gaggia Classic Pro does not.

The Barista Express’s PID ensures that it always brews at a specific temperature. You can adjust this temperature in two-degree Fahrenheit increments.

If you steam milk with the Breville then the machine will automatically release steam afterward to cool down the machine and take it back to its ideal brewing temperature. It does this thanks to its PID.

The Gaggia Classic Pro does not have this automatic temperature stability. Its brewing temperature is therefore a bit more imprecise than the Breville’s.

One way of accommodating the Gaggia’s lack of temperature precision is through “temperature surfing”.

This is where you heat up the boiler by switching it to steam mode, wait a few seconds, and then pull your shot. You can develop this into a specific timed routine to ensure more consistent temperatures with your shots.

This is quite a fiddly process and it’s little surprise that one of the most common mods to the Gaggia Classic Pro is fitting it with a PID.

It’s a shame that the machine does not come with a PID out of the box and its lack of one is definitely a disadvantage compared to the Breville Barista Express.

Winner: Breville Barista Express

Cup Clearance: Breville Barista Express has 5 Inches of Cup Clearance, Gaggia Classic Pro has 3 Inches of Cup Clearance

The Gaggia Classic Pro has so little cup clearance between the bottom of its portafilter and its drip tray that you cannot fit a regular coffee cup when brewing, just a short espresso cup.

Furthermore, it’s impossible to fit a set of scales under your cup when brewing with the Gaggia. You have to remove its drip tray to do this.

This is a really bad design flaw, especially as the Gaggia Classic Pro’s manual dosing kind of necessitates that you weigh your final drink to ensure consistency between shots.

The Breville Barista Express has enough cup clearance to fit a standard-sized (non-espresso) cup and a scale. This is a much better design element than the Gaggia.

Winner: Breville Barista Express

Pressure Gauge: Breville Barista Express has a Visible Pressure Gauge, but Gaggia Classic Pro Does Not

A visible pressure gauge can give you some coarse-grained feedback on how your shot is being pulled, as well as whether your pump is working properly.

In all honesty, timing your shot is a better way of getting feedback on whether you should grind coarser/finer than a pressure gauge. This is why more expensive Breville espresso machines have a shot timer function instead of a visible pressure gauge.

However, Gaggia Classic Pro pressure gauge modification kits are popular, indicating that there is some demand to have these on their machines. 

Winner: Breville Barista Express

Portafilter: Gaggia Classic Pro Uses 58mm Portafilter, Breville Barista Express Uses 54mm Portafilter

People get quite snobby about portafilter diameters, saying that you can brew a better espresso with a 58mm portafilter than a 54mm one.

Personally, I think that difference here is overstated. Each espresso machine is designed to get the best possible shot out of a certain portafilter diameter.

It’s not really the case of one being better than the other, they are just different.

While it’s a bit easier to get aftermarket portafilters and filter baskets for the Gaggia (as 58 mm portafilter baskets are more common than 54mm ones) this gap is closing as more manufacturers are following Breville’s footsteps and releasing machines with 54mm portafilters.

Winner: Gaggia Classic Pro (but only just)

Dimensions: The Breville Barista Express is 3 inches wider, 1 inch deeper, and 4.5 inches taller than the Gaggia Classic Pro

While the Breville Barista Express has a larger footprint than the Gaggia Classic Pro, its still more compact than a Gaggia and a separate grinder.

The Gaggia Classic Pro is better than the Breville Barista Express if you have low cabinets.

Not only is the Gaggia 4.5 inches shorter than the Breville, but you can remove its water tank without having to reach over the top of the machine. You cannot do this with the Breville.

Winner: Draw (depends on your needs)

I’m now going to compare these two machines against the following criteria:

  • Espresso quality
  • Milk steaming performance
  • Functionalities
  • Ease of use
  • Design and build quality
  • Value for money

Espresso Quality

Although there is very little difference between the two machine’s brewing performance, the Gaggia Classic Pro has a higher espresso quality ceiling than the Breville Barista Express when paired with a high-quality grinder.

The two machines have a similar brewing performance. I’d say that the Barista Express’s brewing system edges the Gaggia Classic Pro due to its PID.

While both machines can pull very good shots, the Breville Barista Express will do this more consistently because of its increased temperature control.

The Breville Barista Express’s big limiting factor as far as espresso quality is concerned is its grinder. There are relatively large differences between each grind setting which makes it hard to fine-tune your espresso. 

One grind setting can produce a bitter shot, with one grind setting up producing a sour shot and it can be very difficult to find a sweet spot.

The Gaggia Classic Pro paired with a higher quality grinder will produce a better espresso, however, this will be as much down to the grinder as it is with the machine.

Espresso Quality Winner: Gaggia Classic Pro (but only just)

Milk Steaming Performance

The two machines have a near identical steaming performance – good, but slow.

Both espresso machines have relatively low-powered steam wands. 

They can both make thicker foam and silkier microfoam, however, they will both steam larger portions of milk frustratingly slowly.

The advantage of having a lower-powered steam wand is that they are easier for beginners to use. Again, both machines have this benefit.

In short, there is nothing to separate these two machines’ milk steaming. They can both make a really good latte or cappuccino if you are patient with them.

Milk Steaming Performance Winner: Draw

Functionalities

The Breville Barista Express can do more than the Gaggia Classic Pro.

The Breville Barista Express can grind beans and dispense plain hot water – two things that the Gaggia Classic Pro cannot do.

The Gaggia Classic Pro has no functionalities that the Breville Barista Express does not have.

Functionalities Winner: Breville Barista Express

Ease of Use and Cleaning

The Breville Barista Express’s automated volumetric dosing and temperature control make it much easier to use than the Gaggia Classic Pro.

The Breville Barista Express is much easier to get good consistent espresso from than the Gaggia Classic Pro. 

This, paired with the fact that you don’t need to buy a separate grinder to get started, makes the Barista Express a better espresso machine for beginners than the Gaggia.

Although the daily cleaning of the two machines is the same, the Barista Express has a descale warning system and descale mode which makes maintaining it easier than the Gaggia.

Ease of Use and Cleaning Winner: Breville Barista Express

Design and Build Quality

Despite some weird design flaws, the Gaggia Classic Pro has a better build quality than the Breville Barista Express.

The Gaggia Classic Pro is built to last. It’s a regular on r/buyitfor life – a subreddit dedicated to durable products. You can find two threads talking about its durability here and here.

The Breville Barista Express is built with feature richness, rather than longevity, in mind. You can still reasonably expect it to last over five years, but it’s not going to offer you a potential lifetime of service that the Gaggia will.

While the Gaggia does have some annoying design flaws such as its lack of cup clearance, you just cannot argue with its durability compared to the Barista Express.

Design and Build Quality Winner: Gaggia Classic Pro

Value For Money

The Gaggia Classic Pro’s lack of a built-in grinder and high level of durability makes it better value for money than the Breville Barista Express.

In truth there is not that much difference value-wise between these two machines, however, I don’t like how the Breville Barista Express financially locks you into having to use its mediocre grinder.

A Gaggia Classic Pro and a high-quality grinder will cost $100 more than the Breville Barista Express but will get you far better-tasting espresso.

The Gaggia Classic Pro will also likely last you longer than the Barista Express and can be more easily modified to suit your changing needs. This means that in the long run, it should give you more for your money than the Barista Express.

Value for Money Winner: Gaggia Classic Pro

Gaggia Classic Pro vs Breville Barista Express

The Gaggia Classic Pro is a better machine if you want to properly get into espresso making are likely to experiment with different beans and brewing styles, and are open to modding your machine.

Best for Budding Espresso Hobbyists
Gaggia Classic Pro
$499.00 $449.00
The Gaggia Classic Pro is also an excellent starter machine. The big advantage of the Gaggia Classic Pro over other machines is that it can be easily modified and upgraded. There are thriving communities online dedicated to modding Classic Pro making it the best machine for potential espresso hobbyists.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/02/2024 07:39 pm GMT

The Breville Barista Express is better for those who just want to make a good espresso with as little thought or effort as possible.

Best for Casual Espresso Drinkers
Breville Barista Express
The Breville Barista Express allows you to pull consistently good espresso shots without needing to play around too much with brewing recipes and techniques.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Related Articles