This is the best espresso machine you can buy for under $500 – I’ve used mine for 3 years without a hitch

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

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  • You don’t have to spend four figures to produce quality espresso in your own kitchen.
  • Gaggia’s new Classic Pro is our overall pick for the best espresso machine.
  • It’s an excellent choice if you want to learn how to use and dial an espresso machine, without any training wheels.
  • See more: The best espresso machines

The $449 Classic Pro Espresso Machine from Gaggia is an update of the brand’s original consumer-priced espresso machine without many changes, but that’s only because they weren’t necessary.

We’ve been using this machine for almost three years with minimal maintenance and without a hitch. If you’re really looking to learn how to make quality espresso at home, pair this with a good burr grinder and you are on your way to mastering how to dial in a shot and get the most out of your fresh grounds.

This is the machine for those who really care about the craft of making espresso.

Gaggia is a classic name in home espresso, and there’s a reason why the Italian brand has stood the test of time: these machines make great coffee.

The latest Classic Pro has the same brew head and portafilter as the previous version – which Gaggia also places in commercial espresso makers – along with the three-way solenoid valve that purges any residual steam or water after you stop the machine. That keeps pressure and temperature consistent and helps keep your coffee from getting burnt by any stored steam or water in the chamber. Modifications are slight but appreciated: a frame that allows you to see how much water is left in the reservoir, a small silicone grip on the purge valve and the frother, and a simple on/off switch and light setup.

Along with an updated boiler that’s better secured inside the machine so that it stays steady and a little quieter, this all adds up to one hardy espresso maker that offers you a good bit of control over how your shot turns out. You won’t be able to regulate temperature or pressure in the way you can with a $5,000 machine like the La Marzocco Linea Mini, but this is your transition from an automatic to a manual transmission; it’s time for some real, unfettered fun.

Below, I’ll walk you through every aspect of the Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine.

The design of the Gaggia Classic Pro

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Simple, understated, and (mostly) steel, this is how any home espresso machine should look on your counter.

This machine looks like it belongs on your grandfather’s kitchen countertop, and he may well have a Gaggia; the brand has been making professional-quality espresso machines for the home since they introduced the Gaggia Baby in 1977.

Wrapped in brushed stainless steel, the Classic Pro has a timeless look. It’s not much larger than a pod machine and costs only a tad more. But it doesn’t come with a built-in burr grinder, which, when bought separately, can be pricey and equally cumbersome. In fact, if you plan on buying any espresso machine of this size, take the amount of counter space you’ve set aside and double it to accommodate a grinder.

The one thing I don’t like about the design is that the wrapped stainless steel frame has some sharp, exposed edges, and if you’re ever bleary-eyed and having trouble fitting your portafilter into the brew head early (or late) in the day, you might slip and lose a small chunk of your knuckle. Still, you’ll learn to dodge them as I have.

The specs

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There’s not too much to this machine, but that’s part of why we like it. Fewer parts mean fewer pieces to break and or lose.

This machine is almost foolproof. There are only three two-way switches and a dial to turn the frother on and off. 

The Classic Pro has a respectable 1450 watts of power and 15 bars of pressure (equivalent to the Breville Barista Pro, our favorite two-in-one espresso machine in our full guide), and a three-way solenoid valve that prevents pressure from building up in the group head, making things a lot cleaner. Without the latter, taking the portafilter out too soon can result in a scalding spray of soppy espresso grounds. You can tell that the solenoid is working when, after finishing pulling a shot (that is, turning off the middle switch), you see a little water running from the purge valve to the left of the group head.

The steam wand is not particularly special, but that’s a good thing. Switch off the group head valve, switch on the steam valve, wait for the light to turn on, blow out any excess water in the chamber (preferably over the drain reservoir in the machine), and you’re ready to go. Turning the valve one way engages it and increases the pressure, and going in reverse eases and shuts it off. We’ve found that the more complicated a frother, the less likely we are to use it, and while there are all sorts of fancy ones out there, good pressure from a powerful machine is all you really need.

There’s also a warming plate on top (more or less standard), a full-sized 58mm portafilter with pressurized and non-pressurized baskets (the latter for pre-ground espresso or pods), and a stainless steel drip tray with an easy-to-remove reservoir for collecting overflow and spillage.

Essentially you’ve got everything you need and nothing you don’t.

The set-up and brewing processes

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A bit of dialing goes a long way, but with a little patience, you’ll eventually arrive at a rich, frothy goodness no pod machine could ever replicate.

The Gaggia Classic Pro comes more or less set up for you. Make sure to clean out the water reservoir with soap before inserting it into place in the base of the machine.

Before you begin prepping your shot, turn the power switch on. This gets the machine ready, but if you put the portafilter in during this stage, it’ll warm that up, too. Espresso can turn sour when it’s made cold, and if the scalding water from the boiler hits a cold portafilter, it can do funky things to your brew.

Next, you want to insert the portafilter basket that corresponds with the type of coffee you’ll use (pre-ground and/or ESE pod, or freshly ground). Just make sure you use the little plastic riser piece if you’re going to use one of the pressurized baskets.

Once your portafilter is ready to go, grind your coffee (if you’re grinding your own) and load up the basket. Remember, grind size and tamping are two key components. A good rule of thumb is to get your grounds somewhere between the texture of flour and table salt, but what works with one roast may not work with the next, so be prepared for some experimentation. Give it a good bit of tamping pressure, but, more importantly, distribute your grounds evenly throughout the basket.

Between about 25 and 35 seconds of brew time should do the trick, but while 35 seconds might nearly incinerate one type of coffee, it could be just right for another. Play around with dialing in your machine. This should be part of the fun, after all.

Lock your portafilter into the brew head and, if the light beneath the brew switch is on, that means the machine is primed and ready. Flip it, and delight in the caramel-colored tonic that runs in two perfectly even streams into your demitasse. If the stream is but a slow drip, your grind size (for that particular bean, remember) is either too fine, or you’ve tamped it with too much force. (Pro tip: use a small measuring cup or a demitasse with measurements on it to learn how much of an extraction you like.) You want a steady, even-colored trickle.

And, again, remember to have some fun and play around. Talk to any good barista and you’ll be appalled at how much coffee they dump out just to get their machines and beans right in the morning. Two-time UK Cup Tasting Champion (also 8th in the World Cup Tasting Championship in 2013) barista master Jason Gonzalez once told me that he often spends up to half an hour dialing shots every morning at his Burlington, VT espresso shop Onyx Tonics.

The frothing process

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Yes, and there’s an extremely high-powered frother that’s remarkably easy to clean.

My favorite thing about the Gaggia Classic Pro, especially compared with similar machines, is that the steaming wand is manually adjustable (using the knob, right of center in the image above). This feature is especially handy for frothing various sorts of milk, which all have their own consistencies and boiling points.

Plus, it’s quiet. On some machines, like the Breville Barista Express, the steam is either on or off, and “on” produces a high-pitched screech. 

 

Potential cons

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There’s a lot to be said for having a high-powered frother at the ready, both for your morning cup, and dazzling guests after dinner.

For one, you don’t want to have the brew and steam switches on at the same time, which is just part of the responsibility of owning a professional-grade espresso machine. You’ll get used to it, and the budding barista within you will be all the better for it.

The only limitation of the steam wand, which is still my favorite out of any frother-equipped machine I’ve tested, is that it’s not gimballed, like on the Breville Barista Express. You’re confined to working with specific angles, and purging it of excess water requires either awkwardly placing a glass underneath or twisting it around so that it spills into the drip reservoir. All in all, not a big deal.

The only true issue I have with the Gaggia Classic Pro, and the original line before it, is that the stainless steel housing has unfinished corners, leaving hazardously jagged edges. I’ve been using the new Pro for a few months now, and twice I’ve missed locking in the portafilter and jammed my thumb right into one of those corners, taking a nice little bite of my knuckle. Be a little more careful than I am (not difficult) and you’ll be fine. 

Lastly, the latest version of this machine comes with an undersized plastic tamp, which feels a little cheap on the brand’s behalf given they have previously included a nice stainless steel one. Do yourself a favor and spring for a proper 58mm tamper that fits this portafilter and makes tamping even, and easier.

The bottom line

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Look, it takes a while to get this right. Maybe start with cheap coffee so you don’t tear through a whole bag of precious coffee when you’re still learning. But most importantly: Have fun.

The Gaggia Classic Pro is a temperamental machine in comparison with something like the Breville Barista Express, but if you want to learn how to use a real espresso machine, and you either already have a good burr grinder or don’t want an all-in-one maker, this is a compact but powerful machine that will serve you well.

Pros: Powerful, commercial-grade, compact, not terribly expensive

Cons: Misuse can cost you (i.e., it’s not foolproof) but the new Pro model is slightly more user-friendly than the original, sharp edges on corners can cut your hands, no longer comes with 58mm stainless steel tamper

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best coffee makers in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

When shopping for a drip coffee machine, there are a few key questions to ask yourself. How much time would you like to devote to your morning coffee routine? Do you want to roll out of bed and press a button, or would you rather wake up to already-brewed coffee?

While some people are perfectly fine with a basic model that just has an on/off switch, others might appreciate fancier features like scheduling, a built-in grinder, or the capability to make specialty drinks.

The picks in our guide below run the gamut, but they all have at least a 10-cup capacity and some sort of display for programming. Here are the best coffee makers on the market right now, after hours of research and personal testing.

Here are the best coffee makers in 2021

The best coffee maker overall

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The Cuisinart Coffee Plus 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker not only makes great coffee, but its built-in hot water system also lets you make tea, oatmeal, and more.

Pros: Separate hot water system, 24-hour programmability, carafe temperature control

Cons: Doesn’t have a backlit display, awkwardly placed water fill container, not the quietest machine

The Cuisinart programmable coffeemaker comes with its own hot water system so you can brew coffee and get your favorite tea or snack ready at the same time with hot water on demand. The hot water system is controlled via a power button and can be used even if you don’t want coffee, or if you’re already done brewing a cup. The hot water is ready almost instantly, so all you need to do is press the lever down to dispense it. 

If your day can’t start before you’ve had coffee, you’ll appreciate this machine’s 24-hour programmability so you can have a cup ready and waiting for you each morning. The machine also automatically turns on and shuts off so you’ll never have to worry about it running after you’ve left the house.

You’ll find low, medium, and high carafe temperature control settings for keeping your pot warm. The machine comes with one charcoal water filter and a gold-tone filter to eliminate any impurities that can impact the taste of your coffee or other beverages. When it’s time for cleaning, just use the self-cleaning function. A “Brew Pause” feature also lets you stop the brew cycle temporarily if you’ve made a mistake with the beans or put a too-small cup under the spout.

This particular machine has settings for one, four, or 12 cups. A slightly smaller 10-cup model is also available. However, most models this size actually brew cups that are closer to five or six ounces, rather than the full eight ounces, according to Consumer Reports.

The best budget coffee maker

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The Black+Decker Programmable Coffee Maker is a budget-friendly machine with a large capacity, digital control panel, and plenty of features for the price.

Pros: Small footprint, the brew-pause feature makes it easy to sneak a cup, removable filter basket

Cons: Can be tough to see the water level, can’t remove carafe lid for cleaning, warming plate surface may peel over time

It’s not the fanciest coffee maker around, but the Black+Decker Programmable Coffee Maker gets the job done. There’s a lot to appreciate for such an affordable price, from the 12-cup capacity to a water window that lets you keep track of the amount.

The coffee maker is a good choice if you’re looking for a compact coffee maker for your home, office, or both. You’ll also find a digital control panel with soft-touch buttons. It’s easy to program the machine to make coffee ahead of time thanks to its 24-hour programming functionality.

If you simply can’t wait for the brewing cycle to finish, you can grab a cup before it’s done thanks to the brew-pause function. And as long as the glass carafe is properly positioned underneath the basket, you shouldn’t experience any dripping or leaking.

The best coffee maker with water filtration

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From its high brew temperature to delay-brew and auto-pause features, the Mr. Coffee – 10-Cup Coffee Maker with Thermal Carafe is a solid value.

Pros: Delay brew feature, filter greatly reduces chlorine taste from water, high brewing temperature, stainless steel carafe keeps drink warm

Cons: Plastic construction cheapens the appearance, produces a fair amount of steam when brewing, doesn’t have a permanent filter

If you’re looking for overall value in a programmable coffee maker, consider this Mr. Coffee model. For starters, it’s equipped with many features you’d expect on a higher-end coffee maker, such as the delay brew function and an auto-pause feature that lets you grab a cup of coffee before brewing is finished. The machine automatically shuts off after two hours, which is a big plus if you’re the forgetful type.

A built-in water filtration system helps to remove up to 97% of chlorine, which is a huge plus if you find that your tap water doesn’t taste great. The filter ensures that any mineral or elemental tastes don’t make their way into your coffee.

If you can’t get to your coffee right away or you want it to stay warm, you’ll appreciate the double-walled stainless steel carafe. Unlike some models in this price range that come with a glass carafe, the extra insulation in this thermal carafe maintains a warm, but not scalding, temperature. Whether you like your coffee strong or mild, the brewing temperature also plays a major role. This machine brews up to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only does this keep your coffee from tasting burnt, but you also won’t have to rely on a warming plate or a microwave to get your coffee back to a drinkable temperature.

The best coffee maker with a built-in grinder

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Not only is the KRUPS Grind and Brew Auto-Start Maker fully programmable for brewing, but it can also grind your coffee beans for an even fresher brew.

Pros: Built-in burr grinder, auto-start function, three brew strength settings

Cons: Grounds can get stuck on the container walls, carafe lid is prone to opening when pouring, can get loud when grinding coffee

The highlight of the Krups Grind and Brew 10-Cup Coffee Maker is its built-in grinder. Whether you’re a bit short on space or you simply prefer the convenience, having a built-in grinder lets you grind beans and then brew all within one machine. You can adjust the settings on this machine according to the type of bean you’re using as well as your desired drink.

As far as built-in grinders go, this one is fairly bare-bones, but it will produce good drip coffee (just don’t expect to be able to pull espresso from it). Cleaning the hopper, or storage container can be a bit of a chore, but that’s always the case with a burr grinder. Using a smaller brush can help reach into tight spaces for easier cleaning.

The main drawback to having a grinder attached to your coffee machine (as is the case with espresso machines), is that beans stored in the hopper will be heated and dried out every time you turn on the machine, degrading their quality. The best way around this issue is to store your beans in an airtight jar or container and dose them into the hopper as needed.

If you’re looking for user-friendly features to help make your mornings easier, you’ll appreciate the straightforward controls on the Krups Grind and Brew. For starters, you can push a button to select anywhere from two to 10 cups. An auto-on feature allows you to program the machine to start at a time that’s most convenient for you. After you put the beans in the grinder and add water, the machine automatically takes the correct amount of beans to grind depending on how many cups you want and the strength you choose.

The best coffee maker for specialty drinks

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The Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System brews your favorite hot and cold coffee and tea, and it comes with a built-in milk frother and tea brewing basket.

Pros: Pull-out tray accommodates smaller mugs, makes specialty coffee and tea, one-touch technology

Cons: Stainless steel smudges easily, doesn’t have an espresso setting, doesn’t produce the hottest coffee

With a coffee maker or espresso machine, you’re only able to make just that — coffee or espresso. But if you’re looking for a multitasker that can make several types of coffee and tea, and at different temperatures, try the Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System.

It has a built-in frother and a tea brew basket, which you can use for loose leaf and bagged tea. There’s a menu with options for hot or iced drinks, along with different drink varieties like cold brew coffee, or green or oolong tea.

Programming the machine may take a few minutes longer than expected, but the extended menu and sizing options ensure you get the drink you want when you want it. A delay brew option lets you make your favorite hot beverage in advance.

When the beverage is done, it’s automatically kept warm via the hot plate. However, you can adjust the plate to a warm setting instead to ensure your drink doesn’t get too hot.

What to look for in a coffee maker

Aside from programmability, size, and price, certain features can help make the decision easier.

If the flavor is crucial, you’ll want to consider the brewing temperature. In general, coffee makers that reach a range of 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit deliver the most precise results. Some machines come with a warming plate to keep your beverages hot after brewing, which is particularly helpful if you’re not going to be drinking your coffee right away, or you want the remaining coffee to stay warm.

Impurities in the water you use to brew, such as chlorine, could also impact the taste of the coffee; machines with carbon block filters work particularly well. What you don’t want is hard, mineral-rich water, which will calcify inside your machine and while you might not necessarily notice it in your coffee, it will eventually give your machine trouble.

How important are fresh grounds?

What gives coffee its flavor is the oils stored in the beans. Older beans will be dried out, and lacking flavor. If you like a rich, flavorful cup of coffee, it’s best to always use freshly ground beans each time you brew.

To maximize flavor, it’s also important to store your beans properly. We recommend keeping your beans in an airtight container in a dark, cool space.

Another thing to consider is that while built-in grinders are convenient and generally more compact, storing your beans in a hopper above or next to your coffee maker isn’t great. Heat and coffee are enemies, and as you run your coffee machine, your beans are going to heat up and the precious oils inside them are going to evaporate, leaving you with prematurely stale coffee. That said, grinders are expensive, and it’s a matter of weighing out the conveniences and expenses as they pertain to you and your kitchen.

Check out our other great coffee guides

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Read the original article on Business Insider

This is the best espresso machine you can buy for under $500 – I’ve been using mine for 3 years without a hitch

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

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  • You don’t have to spend a thousand dollars to produce quality espresso in your own kitchen.
  • Gaggia’s new Classic Pro is our overall pick for the best espresso machine.
  • It’s an excellent choice if you want to learn how to use and dial an espresso machine, without any training wheels.
  • See more: The best espresso machines

 

The $449 Classic Pro Espresso Machine from Gaggia is an update of the brand’s original consumer-priced espresso machine without many changes, but that’s only because they weren’t necessary.

We’ve been using this machine for almost three years with minimal maintenance and without a hitch. If you’re really looking to learn how to make quality espresso at home, without any training wheels, pair this with a good burr grinder and you are on your way to learning how to dial in a shot and get the most out of your fresh grounds.

This is the machine for those who really care about the craft of making espresso.

To use the parlance of our times, it’s old school, and again, it’s hardly much of an update on the old machine, which is why we like it so much. Gaggia is a classic name in home espresso, and there’s a reason why the Italian brand has stood the test of time: These machines make great coffee.

Gaggia kept the exact same brew head and portafilter it’s always used – which it also places in commercial espresso makers – along with the three-way solenoid valve that purges any residual steam or water after you stop the machine. That keeps pressure and temperature consistent and helps keep your coffee from getting burnt by any stored steam or water in the chamber on the next shot. Other modifications are slight but appreciated: a frame that allows you to see how much water is left in the reservoir, a small silicone grip on the purge valve and the frother, and a simple on/off switch and light setup.

Along with an updated boiler that’s better fixed inside the machine so that it stays steady and a little quieter, this all adds up to one hardy machine that offers you a good bit of manual control over how your shot turns out. You won’t be able to control temperature or pressure in the way you can with a $5,000 machine like the La Marzocco Linea Mini, but this is your transition from an automatic to a manual transmission; the training wheels are off, and it’s time for some real, unfettered fun.

Below, I’ll walk you through every aspect of the Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine.

The design of the Gaggia Classic Pro

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Simple, understated, and (mostly) steel, this is how any home espresso machine should look on your counter.

This machine looks like it belongs on your grandfather’s kitchen countertop, and he may well have a Gaggia; the brand has been making professional-quality espresso machines for the home since they introduced the Gaggia Baby in 1977.

Wrapped in brushed stainless steel, the Classic Pro has a timeless look. It’s a fairly tiny little thing, not much (if at all) bigger than many pod machines. Also, keep in mind that it costs only a tad more than most pod machines, and in some cases less. But it doesn’t come with a built-in burr grinder, which, when bought separately, can be pricey and equally cumbersome. In fact, if you plan on buying any espresso machine of this size, take the amount of counter space you’ve set aside and double it to accommodate a grinder.

The one thing I don’t like about the design is that the wrapped stainless steel frame has some sharp, exposed edges, and if you’re ever bleary-eyed and having trouble fitting your portafilter into the brew head early (or late) in the day, you might slip and lose a small chunk of your knuckle. Still, you’ll learn to dodge them as I have, and overall, the thing looks great.

The specs

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There’s not too much to this machine, but that’s part of why we like it. Fewer parts mean fewer pieces to break and or lose.

This machine is almost foolproof. There are only three two-way switches and a dial to turn the frother on and off. The largely plastic-free machine is compact and wrapped with brushed stainless steel housing. I, for one, don’t have a lot of counter space in my kitchen, and while you still have to have a burr grinder (or buy pre-ground coffee, which we don’t recommend because you’d be beginning to defeat the purpose of this nice machine), I’ve found it a lot easier to have this small machine and a grinder off to the side or on the window sill so that I don’t have a big swathe of space taken up by a large appliance.

Features that make this a respectable machine are the 1450 watts of power and 15 bars of pressure (basically equivalent to the Breville Barista Pro, our favorite two-in-one espresso machine in our full guide), a three-way solenoid valve that prevents pressure from building up in the group head, which makes things a lot cleaner. Without one, taking the portafilter out too soon can result in a scalding spray of soppy espresso grounds, or stored water in the group head, which could also mean coffee grounds getting up in there, necessitating a cleaning. (Here’s a good guide to cleaning Gaggia’s Classic (and Pro), and one by Gaggia on how to descale your machine.)

The steam wand is not particularly special one way or another, but hang on: That’s a good thing. Switch off the group head valve, switch on the steam valve, wait for the light to turn on, blow out any excess water in the chamber (preferably over the drain reservoir in the machine), and you’re ready to go. Turning the valve one way engages it and increases the pressure, and going in reverse eases and shuts it off. We’ve found that the more complicated a frother, the less likely we are to use it, and while there are all sorts of fancy ones out there, good pressure from a powerful machine is all you really need. The less that can go wrong the better. Again, just make sure to switch off the group head valve (middle switch) before priming the frother (right switch).

You can also tell that the solenoid is working when, after finishing pulling a shot (that is, turning off the middle switch), you see a little water running from the purge valve to the left of the group head.

There’s also a warming plate on top (more or less standard), a full-sized 58mm portafilter with pressurized and non-pressurized baskets (the latter for pre-ground espresso or pods), and a stainless steel drip tray with an easy-to-remove reservoir for collecting overflow and spillage.

Essentially you’ve got everything you need and nothing you don’t, which is exactly what you want with an espresso machine that’s already consuming counter space — something of which we could all use a little more.

The set-up and brewing processes

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A bit of dialing goes a long way, but with a little patience, you’ll eventually arrive at a rich, frothy goodness no pod machine could ever replicate.

The Gaggia Classic Pro comes more or less set up for you. Make sure to clean out the water reservoir with soap before inserting it into place in the base of the machine (you can either remove it to fill or pour from the top, which is much more convenient than you might think).

Before you get going on prepping your shot, make sure to turn the power switch on. This gets the machine ready, but if you put the portafilter in during this stage, it’ll warm that up, too. Espresso can turn sour when it’s made cold, and if the scalding water from the boiler hits a cold portafilter, it can do funky things to your brew.

Next, you want to insert the portafilter basket that corresponds with the type of coffee you’ll use (pre-ground and/or ESE pod, or freshly ground). Just make sure you use the little plastic riser piece if you’re going to use one of the pressurized baskets.

Once your portafilter is ready to go, grind your coffee (if you’re grinding your own) and load up the basket. Remember, grind size and tamping are two key components. A good rule of thumb is to get your grounds somewhere between the texture of flour and table salt, but what works with one roast (or even batch) may not work with the next, so be prepared for some experimentation. 

Same goes for brew time, but that’s some next-level stuff that even most (relative) snobs like myself don’t dare approach. Give it a good bit of tamping pressure, but it’s more important that you get your grounds evenly distributed throughout the basket.

Between about 25 and 35 seconds of brew time should do the trick, but while 35 seconds might nearly incinerate one type of coffee, it could be just right for another. Play around with dialing in your machine and your coffee. This should be part of the fun, after all.

Lock your portafilter into the brew head and, if the light beneath the brew switch is on, that means the machine is primed and ready. Flip it, and delight in the caramel-colored tonic that lackadaisically runs in two perfectly even streams into your demitasse. If the stream is but a slow drip, your grind size (for that particular bean, remember) is either too fine, or you’ve tamped it with too much force. (Pro tip: use a small measuring cup or a demitasse with measurements on it to learn how much of an extraction you like.) You want a steady, even-colored trickle.

And, again, remember to have some fun and play around. Talk to any good barista and you’ll be appalled at how much coffee they dump out just to get their machines and beans going right in the morning. Two-time UK Cup Tasting Champion (also 8th in the World Cup Tasting Championship in 2013) barista master Jason Gonzalez once told me that he often spends up to half an hour dialing shots every morning at his Burlington, VT espresso shop Onyx Tonics.

The frothing process

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Yes, and there’s an extremely high-powered frother that’s remarkably easy to clean.

My favorite thing about the Gaggia Classic Pro, especially compared with similar machines, is that the steaming wand is manually adjustable (using the knob, right of center in the image above).

On some machines, like the Breville Barista Express, the steam is either on or off, and “on” produces a high-pitched screech that’s reminiscent of a squealing swine. While testing in the office, you can only imagine the glares I received from the room next door, where an executive meeting was taking place.

This feature, I might add, is especially handy for frothing various sorts of milk, which all have their own consistencies and boiling points.

Potential cons

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There’s a lot to be said for having a high-powered frother at the ready, both for your morning cup, and dazzling guests after dinner.

This, in effect, is a real, bona fide espresso machine. You have to remember to turn it off, and you don’t want to have the brew and steam switches on at the same time, which is just part of the responsibility of owning a professional-grade espresso machine. You’ll get used to it, and the budding barista within you will be all the better for it.

The only limitation of the steam wand, which is still my favorite out of any frother-equipped machines I’ve tested, is that it’s not gimballed, like on the Breville Barista Express. You’re confined to working with specific angles, and purging it of excess water requires either awkwardly placing a glass underneath or twisting it around so that it spills into the drip reservoir. In all, not a big deal.

The only true issue I have with the Gaggia Classic Pro, and the original line before it, is that the stainless steel housing has unfinished corners, leaving hazardously jagged edges. I’ve been testing one for a few weeks now, and twice (being hapless, mind you) I’ve missed locking in the portafilter and jammed my thumb right into one of those corners, taking a nice little bite of my knuckle. Be a little more careful than I am (not difficult) and you’ll be fine. However, it’s still worth minding.

Lastly, the latest iteration of the Gaggia Classic Pro comes with an undersized plastic tamp, which feels a little cheap on the brand’s behalf given they have previously included a nice stainless steel one. Do yourself a favor and spring for a proper 58mm tamper that fits this portafilter and makes tamping even, and easier.

The bottom line

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Look, it takes a while to get this right. Maybe start with cheap coffee so you don’t tear through a whole bag of precious coffee when you’re still learning. But most importantly: Have fun.

The Gaggia Classic Pro is a temperamental machine in comparison with something like the Breville Barista Express, but if you want to learn how to use a real espresso machine, and you either already have a good burr grinder or don’t want an all-in-one maker for any other reason, this is a compact but powerful machine that will serve you well and last with the best of them.

Pros: Powerful, commercial-grade, compact, not terribly expensive

Cons: Misuse can cost you (i.e., it’s not foolproof) but the new Pro model is slightly more user-friendly than the original, sharp edges on corners can cut your hands, no longer comes with 58mm stainless steel tamper

 

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