As you’ll know if you read my original Gaggia classic review, I’m really fond of the original Gaggia Classic – as many people are. Released in 1991, the Gaggia Classic was an incredibly popular home Espresso machine and remained largely unchanged (why fix what isn’t broken?) until 2009 when Phillips took over Gaggia & things began to change.
The original Gaggia classic was made in Italy, had the the 3 way solenoid valve, all brass group and full sized 58mm portafilter, and really was built to last, proven by the fact that there are still so many of the pre 2009 original classics still going strong, it really was a stonking machine for the money.
The only thing this inexpensive (when compared to other home barista Espresso machines) machine was lacking when it came to home barista use, was a proper steam wand – and this simply involved a 5 minute job of removing the factory fitted panarello and fitting a £15 Rancilio steam wand.
But after 2009, things began to change, they “messed” with a machine that most users agree didn’t need to be messed with.
This came to a head with the 2015 model, which had push buttons instead of rocker switches, a mechanical valve instead of the 3 way solenoid valve, a couple of plastic bits that were previously metal, lower power, and a panarello steam wand that was much more difficult to modify.
So the general consensus about newer models, and especially the 2015 model, is: They don’t make them like they used to.
Then what happened?
It appears, that Gaggia listened to their customers!
By the way – before I continue, I just wanted to make it completely clear that this not a sponsored or paid for review. I have no business relationship whatsoever with Gaggia, Gaggia Direct, or Caffe Shop Ltd.
I never do any kinds of sponsored or paid posts or reviews on coffeeblog, every post on this blog is 100% based on my own … I wouldn’t go so far as to say expert opinion ;-), but I can say for sure, unadulterated opinion.
I say this because I know that many people (myself included) get fed up of using the web to find genuine, unbiased reviews, opinion & information, only to get to the end of a post with a feeling that we’ve been taken for a mug by a paid advertisement thinly disguised as a genuine review. You can be 100% sure that this will never happen on this blog. With this being such a glowing review, I suspected that some new readers who don’t realise that I don’t ever do commercial posts, may assume it’s a sponsored review, so I just wanted to make it very clear that it’s not, this is 100% my own opinion.
Anyway, to get back to the Gaggia Classic 2018 2019 review.
The new 2018 or 2019 Gaggia classic (and by the way, I’m using the term 2018 and 2019 because it’s officially the 2018 model, but I do appreciate that it’s now 2019 so I would assume people will be searching for classic 2019 too).
Is Made in Italy
Features the famous solenoid valve
Has lost the bits of plastic
Has some other improvements (which I’ll get to shortly)
Features a professional steam wand!
This for me, is a big deal. Call me sad, I don’t care ;-).
The one thing that I feel always kept the classic within the domestic/consumer Espresso machines category, was the fact it comes factory fitted with a panarello steam wand. Other than this, I’ve always seen the Classic as a prosumer home barista Espresso machine.
It has a proper boiler, not a thermocoil or thermoblock. It has a full sized, metal portafilter, a decent sized water tank, decent sized drip tray, everything about it has always said home barista, to me, except the steam wand.
So the fact Gaggia have finally noticed, after several years that many people who buy the classic, mod it with a Rancilio steam wand, and decided to factory fit a pro steam wand – is great news!
I spoke Raj Beadle, the owner of Caffe Shop Ltd, Gaggia distributor in the UK (he was the MD of Gaggia UK until the Phillips takeover), to see if I could get a loan unit for a week or so to work on a user review, and unfortunately they had completely sold out of all the UK stock of this machine. The only one they had left at the time was the demo unit in their head office, so I headed up there to get my hands on it. Here’s what I thought.
Gaggia 2018/2019 Review.
The first thing I think I need to point out about this, is that we’re talking about the latest (at the time of writing) 2018/2019 model. Be very careful if you’re buying this from anyone but gaggiadirect.com, as there are others who appear to be selling the 2015 version as the “2018” based on the manufacture date, however simply being manufactured in 2018 doesn’t make it the new 2018-19 model. Also, if you do appear to be getting a great deal on a Gaggia machine (or any other machine), I’d recommend doing a bit of Googling to ensure that you are actually buying a machine from within the UK, with UK warranty – as there are firms who claim to be selling UK stock, who aren’t.
They don’t make them like they used to… they make them even better!
I know it may seem strange to put the conclusion of a post at the beginning, but I thought this may be helpful for anyone who just wanted to quickly find out what I thought, overall, of the new Gaggia Classic 2018/19, and that is, that in my humble opinion, it is not just as good, but even better, than the highly acclaimed original Gaggia classic.
To quickly explain why I’ve come to this conclusion – and I’ll get into more detail shortly – but in a nutshell, it has the 3 way solenoid valve, and everything else that was great about the original, but it also has the professional, factory fitted steam wand – it heats up in about 45 seconds, there’s a lower profile drip tray available, its easier to see the water level in the tank, and personally I think just the rounding off of the front of the standard drip tray makes the new classic slightly more aesthetically pleasing.
So if that’s all you wanted to know, then there you go, go put your pre-order in at gaggiadirect.com or give them a call on 01422 372554. When I was there (2nd of Jan 2018) they had completely sold out, they have more on the way very shortly but you’ll probably need to get a pre-order in if you want one of these, as they’re selling like hot cakes apparently.
If you want to know more – then read on 🙂
On the face of it, the Gaggia Classic looks very similar to previous models.
The front edge of the drip tray is rounded off which I think is a good thing, it’s only a small touch but I think it makes the machine look slightly more modern. The pressure overflow pipe has an anti burn cover on it, as does the new pro steam wand.
There’s a slight cut-out on the side of the metal framework which gives you another way to view the water tank level, which again I think is a positive change. The steam and coffee buttons have swapped positions, which may throw you a bit initially if you’re used to the older models.
Other than these small details, it’s very obviously the Gaggia Classic in appearance.
The solenoid valve is back
Some other models, including the more recent 2015 version, had a mechanical valve instead of the 3 way Solenoid valve. Actually, switching to a mechanical valve made sense on paper.
Although they’re not as powerful, they actually require less maintenance than solenoid valves. If you live in a harder water area, it’s a bit more important to keep on top of descaling with a machine with a solenoid valve vs a mechanical valve.
But, the people spoke, they wanted the power of the good old solenoid, and Gaggia listened ;-). Actually the new solenoid valve is slightly smaller than the older ones, but I’m told it’s just as powerful, and that size doesn’t always matter…
Speaking of size, the 2015 classic featured a larger (200ml vs 130ml), stainless steel boiler. The new 2018/19 version has gone back to the smaller aluminium boiler.
If you’re one of the few readers who have emailed me in the past asking if the Aluminium boiler on the Classic is coated to prevent water from coming into direct contact with it, the answer is yes. The Aluminium boiler is anodized, meaning there’s a coating to ensure that the water in the boiler isn’t coming into direct contact with the Aluminium.
One thing to add, though, is that if you do live in a harder water area, one of the reasons it is important to keep on top of descaling, is if limescale builds up and causes pitting on the surface of the boiler, this can, in theory, cause damage to this coating over time, allowing the water to come into direct contact with the Aluminium.
Another thing to note, is to make sure you’re using the proper descaler. Raj mentioned to me that some people use different kinds of descaler, which can also damage this coating. Gaggia create a descaler which is made specifically for their domestic machines, so It’s worthwhile using this – or at least contacting them to ask if the descaler you’re planning on using is compatible, and isn’t going to cause any damage.
Faster warm-up time
One of the benefits of the smaller, Aluminium boiler vs the larger stainless steel boiler that previous versions have used, is that the new Classic heats up quicker, at around 45 seconds (I’m assuming the increase power helps in this regard too, but more on this shortly).
Smaller boiler, less steam power?
The larger boiler size would naturally provide more steam power, but actually, I was very impressed with the steam power on the new classic.
While Raj was showing me the new classic, one of their regular customers called in to buy some coffee and enquire about purchasing the new model. He’d bought the original classic from them in the early 00s, he told me it was still going strong but he just liked the look of the new one, and he’d had over 15 years use from his classic, so he thought it would be a good time to replace it.
While he was there he asked about the larger milk jugs that Gaggia offer, so Raj decided to find the biggest jug they had, poured a large quantity of milk into it, and decided to see how it would handle such a volume of milk. I’m guessing there was maybe 500-750ml of milk in the jug, and it steamed it fine.
The new professional steam wand.
Yes, I know I’m going on about it ;-), but one of the reasons I think this model is better than previous versions – is it comes factory fitted with a proper, professional steam wand.
For me, a machine with a panarello wand is a standard domestic Espresso machine. Home Baristas need full control over the steam, for making a wide range of different drinks, not just the thick cappuccino foam that a panarello will provide.
The new steam wand does look very similar to the Rancilio steam wand that people have been using to mod their Classics for years – but the biggest difference is that it has a two holed tip as opposed to a single hole steam tip.
The idea of having more than one steam hole is that it helps to get the milk spinning, to distribute the micro-foam throughout the milk. It seemed to work very well, although I’d want to spend some time using it before deciding whether or not to swap it for a single hole tip.
The water tank
Not much to say about the water tank really vs the other models, it’s the same large 2.1L capacity water tank. The only thing to note is that I did often find it difficult to tell what the level was by looking at the tank, probably due to the lighting in our kitchen. The new design of the metal frame includes cutouts on the edge, enabling you to see the water level there too, which I think is a nice little touch.
The drip tray
One of the things I’ve missed actually, about the classic after boxing it up and using my La Pavoni Europicolla for a while, is the drip tray. It’s got plenty of capacity for home use, and it’s very easy to remove and clean.
The drip tray on the Europiccola is almost non existent, and any water dripping from the steam wand has a tendency to drip down under the drip tray and make it float – so I do appreciate the drip tray on the classic.
The drip tray on the new classic has a rounded off front edge, which I think is a slightly nicer look. They also now offer a nice looking low profile all chrome drip tray, which is good idea for anyone who likes to pull their shots directly into taller cups rather than using shot cups or glasses.
All brass group & portafilter
The older versions of the classic featured an all brass group head, and all chromed brass portafilter (except the handle of course). The 2015 version contains some plastic to aid the locking of the portafilter into the group, the 2018/19 model doesn’t have this, it’s all metal.
The splitter on the bottom of the portafilter, which does the job of separating the Espresso flow into two sides, is metal on the original versions, but the 2015 version came with a plastic splitter.
On the 2018/19 model, I’m happy to see that they’ve switched back to the metal splitter.
Traditional baskets and pressured baskets
There are two kinds of baskets you can use with Espresso machines, pressurised or “perfect crema” baskets, and traditional baskets.
Pressurised baskets were developed to aid domestic Espresso machine users to generate the pressure in the basket to create better Espresso. Most domestic machines come with pressurised baskets, while prosumer or home barista machines, and commercial Espresso machines, will always come with standard baskets.
The new classic comes with both pressurised baskets, and single baskets.
So if you have no interest in catching the home barista bug, which is really a hobby rather than just a case of buying a machine, and you want to simply buy pre-ground coffee rather than to also buy a grinder and grind your own beans, then you’d use the “perfect crema” pressurised baskets, which will help you to get better results from pre-ground coffee.
You may consider yourself to be a home barista, as I do, meaning you want to do everything yourself including grinding the beans, spending the time to dial in the grind for each bean, before dosing and tamping the coffee into the portafilter, and then steaming the milk and making a proper pigs ear of the latte art 😉 as I often do, it’s so much harder than the professionals make it look, isn’t it??
In this case, then you would use the standard non pressured baskets, and use the perfect crema baskets as mini frisbees, or something, or actually, probably a good idea to keep them for when someone (it’s the thought that counts) buys you pre-ground coffee as a gift, so you can at least use it if you run out of coffee beans ;-).
You may just be considering buying the classic purely because you want a great Espresso machine, and you have absolutely no interest in taking up a new hobby. In this case you’d reach for the pressurised baskets (make sure you don’t lose the small pressure pin that will be in the bag with the baskets, you’ll need that) and put the standard baskets away for a rainy day.
The buttons on the 2018/19 model have gone back to the more traditional rocker type switches as opposed to the more standard buttons on the 2015 model, so in this regard the buttons look more like the older models – with one major difference, just for a prank, they’ve swapped the position of the coffee button and steam button.
Actually I doubt they’ve done it for a prank, although I like to think they have ;-).
I’m not sure what other purpose there would be for doing this, but it doesn’t really make much difference other than the fact it may throw you a bit until you’re used to it, if you’ve had one of the older models of the classic for years.
Another change re the buttons, is that each one has its own light. It used to be that there was one light above the power switch, and one above the steam which was the light for both the coffee button and the steam. There’s now a separate light for each.
While the 2015 version had push button switches, the 2018/19 model has the rocker switches that we’re used to seeing on the classic.
The power button is a spring loaded rocker switch which actuates a relay, the steam and coffee switches are the same traditional rocker switches you’ll be familiar with if you have used one of the older models.
The reason for the change to the push buttons on the 2015 model, and the reason that the power switch on the 2018/19 model is a spring loaded rocker activating a push button relay switch, is the necessity for the auto off feature.
The 2015 model automatically turns off after 9 minutes. With the new 2018/19 classic, this has been extended to 20 minutes.
This is thanks to EU regulations (see EU rules force coffee machines to switch off) which came into force in 2015 and applies to most kitchen appliances, not just Espresso machines. Coffee machines & other appliances now can’t be sold with the EU which don’t have an auto cut off function.
How things will change if we ever actually leave the EU, remains to be seen, but actually I don’t think this auto off thing is a big deal for Espresso machines, at least not for a machine like the classic which heats up so quickly.
The boiler water is actually up to temp with the 2018/19 classic within around 45 seconds, and just over a minute with the 2015 model.
Some people (I did too when I first bought my Gaggia classic a few years ago, I think I’d read it in a forum thread) seem to think that they need to leave the machine to heat up for 15-20 minutes, but this is a bit of a misconception.
You can actually start brewing with an Espresso machine just about as soon as the brew temp is reached. The only issue at this point is that the other parts of the machine including the group and the portafilter, won’t be up to the desired temp and the flowing Espresso with the first couple of shots would be cooled down as a result.
So all you need to do in order to help bring the other parts up to temp is to run some hot water through the group with the portafilter inserted. The cup, or both the shot cup or glass and the coffee cup (if you pull the shot into a shot class or cup and then decant into a larger cup) should be warmed too, to prevent the espresso being cooled down by hitting cold ceramic or glass.
So, for example, if you pull your shot directly into your cappuccino cup, you can fill up the cup with hot water from the group head, with the portafilter inserted, to heat everything up at the same time.
If, like me, you pull your shots into a small shot cup or glass & then pour this into your larger cup (my cups don’t fit under the portafilter, although they may do with the lower profile stainless steel drip tray that is now available as an optional extra) if your shot glass will fit inside your bigger cup, you can put it inside the cup, and warm both cups up at the same time while warming up the group head and portafilter.
The original classics were 1425 Watts, including my 2003 model. After the Phillips takeover, the power dropped to 1300W, so not a huge drop, but the 2015 model dropped still to 1050W. The new model is back up to 1300W. While I assume that this, coupled with the smaller Aluminium boiler is why the 2018 heats up quicker than the 2015 model, I doubt it makes a huge deal of difference.
Other well respected and more expensive home barista Espresso machines have a similar wattage to the 2015 model, including the Rancilio Silvia (about £425) & the Nuova Simonelli Oscar 2 (about £700), which is what makes me say this.
OPV (Over Pressure Valve)
The OPV on the original classic could be adjusted in order to adjust the brew pressure. The OPV on the 2018/19 model is fitted to the top of the pump, and is factory set, it can’t be adjusted. The reason for this according to Gaggia is that users incorrectly adjusting the OPV has lead to damaged machines (in particular, burned out pumps), and they don’t want people to be able to adjust the factory set pressure. I personally don’t see this as an issue, as I never had any reason to want to tweak the pressure on my classic, I’ve always been more than happy with the quality of the Espresso it produces.
The one thing that the 2015 model, has against the new 2018/19 model, is price. The 2015 model had an RRP of £310, but is currently on sale at Gaggiadirect.com for £190 to subscribers (so, erm, subscribe before you buy… maybe).
This new machine costs more to build, therefore it costs more to buy. The RRP is £425, but is currently on offer at Gaggiadirect.com for £399.
At the moment having just launched, they’re flying out of their doors, so I’m not sure what offers they’re going to be doing in the very near future, but I would expect promotions in the future once the initial surge slows down a bit.
As with the 2015 model, though, the best offers will be sent to subscribers, so it is well worth subscribing. I’m on their list, and they don’t sent a huge amount of emails, it’s usually only when they have a new machine or a special offer.
Should you go for the 2015 model while it’s on offer??
There are two main markets for manual Espresso machines. The standard domestic market & the home barista market.
The domestic market consists of every day coffee drinkers who just want to make the best espresso they can, with a machine they can afford.
The home barista market consists of people who see coffee as a hobby, and are happy to invest a considerable amount of time and money into upgrading their skills and their equipment, to gain a continual improvement in the quality of the coffee they’re able to make.
The classic has always straddled these two markets, as a top end manual semi auto Espresso machine for the standard domestic market, and as an entry level home Barista machine.
In my opinion, the 2015 model better suits the domestic market. The mechanical valve vs the solenoid I think is fine for a domestic machine, it’ll do the job OK, but it doesn’t require as much maintenance. The fact that the steam wand isn’t as easy to mod doesn’t matter for the domestic market, as most users are happy to use the panarello. The fact that some bits are plastic, will be helping to reduce the RRP, and I don’t actually think it makes a huge deal of difference to performance anyway.
If you’re going to be using the Espresso machine with pre-ground coffee, and you have no interest in things like learning to pour latte art (most people are more than happy with spoonable cappuccino foam, and the panarello wand will do a fine job of this) then the 2015 model is probably a great choice for you while it’s on offer.
If you’re a home Barista like me, then the 2015 model won’t be for you. You’ll want the pro steam wand, you’ll want the solenoid valve, even if the difference in performance is only slight and that it makes maintenance more important, you’ll want the increased power and the slightly better all metal build quality.
Want an original classic but have a much smaller available budget?
I know some new budding home baristas will be reading this who don’t have anywhere near the budget for the new classic, and this was me when I bought my classic a few years ago.
If this is you – then why not do what I did, look for a used pre 2009 classic, these machines are practically the same as the new 2018/19 machine. That’s my 2003 model on the left, just after I’d bought it and modded the wand.
Yes you may find that a used machine needs some TLC, but if you’re careful enough to read the descriptions properly, look at all of the images, and ask questions if you’re unsure (you may want to ask if it has had regular maintenance such as descaling) you should be able to find a machine with no issues.
I ended up picking up my 2003 model, which was pristine, absolutely no problems with it, for £100 on eBay.
A tip to help you find an original, is to look at the badge. If it has an etched logo like mine does, on the photo on the left, then it’s definitely a pre-2009 model. If you see one with a stuck on badge, as per the photo over on the right, it may be a post 2009 model. If the seller hasn’t specified the date, just ask them to look at the sticker on the bottom, with the manufacture date.
A tip when it comes to limescale, is to check where the item is, and google to see if this is a hard water area or a soft water area. If you can get a machine from a soft water area (as I did) there’s a lot less chance that the machine will be suffering from any limescale issues.
Is the 2018/19 classic still an entry level home barista machine?
For me, the new Gaggia classic 2018/19 is definitely a machine for home baristas. When you look at the build quality, the fact it has the 3 way solenoid valve, the power rating, the fact it has a pro steam wand – it’s built for home baristas.
But, with an RRP currently of £425, I think it’s in a very competitive area price wise, at the same cost as the popular Rancilio Silvia, and with other interesting machines at a similar price point including the Lelit Gilda PL41PLUS which is about £50-£60 more. The Silvia has a 300ml copper/alloy boiler, the Lelit has a 300ml brass boiler, so I can’t help but think that maybe the 2018 classic is punching slightly above it’s weight with this RRP.
But as time goes on, as usually happens with machines, I’d expect to see promotions for the new 2018/19 classic, at around the £300 mark, and I think when available for this kind of cost, there’s really nothing to compete with the new classic at that price.
Why buy Gaggia machines from Gaggia Direct?
When shopping online, most of us tend to buy based on price alone, as if price is the only thing to be concerned with. But when purchasing an electrical appliance such as an Espresso machine, we really need to think about who the after-sales support and service will be handled by, and what kind of experience we’re likely to have when it comes to it.
I don’t think many people would choose to save a few quid on a machine if they discovered that this UK was shipping directly from Italy, would actually take over a week to come, and wouldn’t have a UK warranty – but unfortunately some people find this out when it’s too late.
Gaggia Direct (Caffe Shop Ltd) based in Elland, near Halifax (and with shops in Castleford, Northampton, Braintree, Cambridge, Surrey, Glasgow, Pontypridd, Winchmore Hill & Harrow) are basically Gaggia UK, the UK arm of Gaggia Milano.
When Phillips took over in 2009, Raj Beadle was the Managing Director of Gaggia UK. In order to keep the company going, and keep his team in jobs, Raj formed Caffe Shop Ltd, bought the business including the Gaggia shops, and continued to run Gaggia Direct via the new company, as the sole UK distributor for Gaggia Milano.
From what I saw during my time there (and I was there from 10.30am to 2PM, so I had plenty of time to look and listen) these are people who really care about their customers and really know about their products, and it’s no wonder this is the case, given that they are Gaggia UK when all said and done.
When I was there, Raj was taking support calls as the main customer support person was out of the office, and this is someone who clearly knows the Gaggia machines inside and out.
The engineer I met there, who had a look at my 2003 classic for me (which I’ll come to shortly), told me he’d been with them since 1989 – and his level of experience with these machines were clear when he knew just from the sound that my steam knob was making when being turned, that the steam valve needed replacing.
If you’re buying based on price, and you find a deal better than Gaggia Direct, I’d just recommend that you spend 5 minutes checking trust pilot reviews, Google & Facebook reviews, you may well save yourself some potential aggravation.
There’s no need for a conclusion, really, as I opened with it. Basically, I think the new Gaggia classic 2018/19 is even slightly better than the original, and I think as long as you’re either buying it directly from Gaggia Direct, or from one of their re-sellers (so you have a proper UK warranty with Gaggia direct themselves) then you can’t really go wrong.
The only other thing to note is that Gaggia Direct will repair and recondition older machines. I didn’t realise that when I went, but as luck has it, we had been decorating the kitchen, and my 2003 classic which had been sat in a box in the kitchen for a while, just happened to be in the boot of my car!
I’d really given my classic a run for its money over a period of nearly two years. I’d treated it at times like a commercial machine, pulling shot after shot, and steaming jug after jug for latte art practice.
Water had begun to drip from where the wand connects, and I was intermittently getting some poor shots, and the odd really sloppy puck, so I just thought I’d ran it into the ground. I boxed it up and thought maybe I might look at trying to repair it one day, but it had been there for probably a year now, so I was starting to think I’d never do anything with it.
It was in my boot as there was nowhere else for it while the kitchen was being painted, and I was actually considering just giving it away to someone who reconditions machines, or worse still – taking it to the tip…
When I mentioned to Raj that my classic was in my boot, he very kindly asked me to go get it so he could ask one of the engineers to have a quick look. The engineer (who I mentioned earlier in the review) knew from the sound the steam knob was making, that the steam valve probably needed replacing, and he thought that the group seal probably needed replacing too.
So I left it there and asked them to just give me a shout to let me know what the damage would be to fix, and just a day or so later I got an email to let me know that it was all done, the steam valve was replaced, a new seal had been fitted, and they also found it needed a new thermostat. The cost for all this – £85, which I think is great!
My 2003 classic will probably go strong for years now – especially given that from now on it’ll probably only get occasional use. I now also have a La Pavoni Europiccola, which also may start to get little use soon due to something I’ll be announcing soon about a new plan I have which involves using and reviewing a range of different prosumer Espresso machines.
Life is like a box of chocolates, so follow me on Twitter, and that’s all I have to say about that.