I finally got my hans on the Gaggia Classic Pro, so I would like to share my purchase experience and first impressions with the machine today. (I will write a in depth review after using it for a good while.)
What happened after the purchase?
As I wrote in this post, buying espresso gear in Japan can be a bit tricky since there aren’t too many people who own espresso machines at home so most things aren’t easily available here. Even though Gaggia does not sell their machines in Japan, it was actually relatively easy to buy one. (It’s easy but it does cost quite a bit more, of course). I purchased mine though Rakuten-Ichiba (a famous commerce site in Japan). I got the thunder black color model.
I ordered it on Thursday midnight, by the next day it was shipped out from LA already. Within 5days it arrived in Haneda-Airport in Japan, and on the 6th day it arrived. It said I should expect about 10 to 14days for the delivery, so that was a nice surprise!
Except for the sightly longer delivery time, the process was no different than ordering something from Japan.
Did it arrive OK?
The delivery arrived in an Amazon box, although I bought through Rakuten. I expect that the import shop orders the item in the US from Amazon and then ships it to Japan.
It had a fragile label on it and the box seems to be in OK shape.
With the Amazon box open, a Gaggia box appeared.
And another box in side the box. Nice to see that the properly package it, especially when its being shipped so far.
All the boxes seemed fine, but with the final box open, the first thing I found was this really cracked styrofoam…
With the stryofoam away, the first sight of the machine. (I was half expecting it to be in a bag, but I guess not)
And out it comes! The cracked styrofoam did frighten me a bit, but the machine seem to be completely fine. Finally I have an espresso machine in my house! Got to say this was a pretty exciting moment!
The thunder black color has a nice matte finish and I like it so much.
There was a box with the accessories in it. This box also seems to have taken a beating from the transport and the portafilter spout was sticking out… But everything inside was fine so, I guess I got lucky.
The Gaggia Classic Pro comes with the following accessories.
The portafilter is a double spouted one. As mentioned in this post detailing the specs, the handle part is plastic. Even though it looks a bit cheep, when you actually hold it, it does not feel cheap at all. It has a substantial weight to it (475g) and you know that it’s built to last. The metal parts are very heavy duty.
The Gaggia G on the handle also is a nice touch.
The fact that these machines are not available in store to actually touch in Japan makes things like the feel of the portafilter quite a mystery before buying the machine. So this was a bit of a worrying point for me, but it turned out that it was not a problem at all. Having said that I did already get a bottomless portafilter, so I will be using that for the most part. (This is because bottomless portafilters are important in improving your skills)
Lets now take a look at the included baskets. The Gaggia Classic Pro comes with 3 baskets. A pressurized double, a non-pressurized single and double shot baskets. For the pressurized basket, it comes with a plastic part call the 2-way pin. Apparently this prevents the espresso spurting out.
I checked the holes in the basket by sining some light through. There were no spots which had a complete jam, but if you look closely the hole sizes did seem pretty inconsistent.
You might be able to make out even from the photo, but the inconsistent shapes of the holes does affect the espresso. I explained this in a bit more detail in this post. I will be using this for a while to practice, but I will get a good precision basket eventually.
It’s commonly said that the pressurized baskets do not produce ‘true espresso’, so I probably never use the pressurized basket. But if you do not have an espresso capable grinder, this will help you brew with pre-ground or coarser coffee. I will try a comparison of non-pressurized to pressurized baskets in the future.
This is the drip tray cover. It comes with a white sheet on top, probably a protective layer then they machine the part. Removing it, the sheet is a mirror finished stainless part. It’s not bad.
What is bad is the included tamper. It’s made of plastic and it looks and feels very cheep. The surface to tamp the coffee has a seam in it and its not even flat. I personally don’t think theres much point in even including it. You really need to get another proper tamper with your machine. Even a low cost $20-ish one is leaps and bounds better than this.
A scoop is also included. its made of plastic as well, but it should work fine if you want to use it.
The machine itself
With all the accessories attached, the machine looks like this. It looks exactly like what you find on the official site, so no surprises here, but it does look and feel quite nice.
A few comments after taking a closer look at it. First the steam valve knob, this undoubtedly looks and feels cheep. It’s unmistakably plastic and it has a little wobble to it. It works but this is a weak point for the machine.
After using it a few times I realized that you had to turn it 3 or 4 full rotations to open the valve completely, which is a bit annoying. Also its position on the right side of the machine is actually quite difficult to get at when steaming.
The switched on the front are also plastic, but they have a satisfying feel and are much better than the knob. I don’t really have too much complaints here.
The lamps below the switches are a bit difficult to see depending on the lighting conditions and where you place your machine. When it’s bright around, you can hardly see the light (can you see that the left lamp is glowing in the photo?)
One thing that I did not know until actually having the machine in my hands it that the GAGGIA CLASSIC logo on the front of the machine is made of metal. Why… Why could you not have spend the extra cost on the knob instead of this logo… Gaggia. I don’t understand…
The drip tray is very simple. The tray itself is made of plastic, but it doesn’t bother me too much. It’s easy to remove even when it is quite full with water. The cover is a nice mirrored stainless piece, but it doesn’t stay clean for long, with all the water falling on top of it. This is inevitable.
The reservoir can be pulled out from the front after removing the drain pipe. It has 2 pipes inside it, the longer one is an intake and the shorter one is a return line.
You can of course fill the tank from the top. Its got a lid and you cant see it from the picture but its got a funnel structure to neatly guide the water to the tank.
The group head looks like this. The steam wand only rotates horizontally, unlike some other machines which have a ball joint. I didn’t might this too much.
The group head is made from some thick heavy metal, and you can really feel that this machine is built to last. The fact that even the not easily visible parts of the body are properly coated with the same black finish.
The Power Concern
One major concern before buying the machine was the power. Can I use the machine with the a power outlet in Japan? The short answer is that I could!
The machine functioned without any noticeable problems. But I don’t yet know the long term effects. (If you are going to try, please do so at your own risk)
The power cable that comes with the machine is a 3 pronged one which does not fit on normal Japanese outlets. So I just got a different cable with a normal 2 prong, and that worked fine.
Trying it our for the first time!
I will write a bit more in detail after getting use to it a bit more, but to share some first impressions of using it, I am having so much fun!
I set up the machine and pulled 4 double shots in a row. haha. In the middle of the night, mind you. Theres no way I can drink them but couldn’t stop myself.
For the first try, I had no clue how fine the grounds should be so, I randomly set my TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS to 5 clicks and tried. And… nothing came out. I got worried that I screwed up something or the machine was broken, but it turns out that the grounds were too fine. After 20~30sec, if finally started to flow so that was a huge relief.
My first ever shot looked like this. No crema, and instead there was like some oil floating on top. The taste was also… very intense… a clear failure.
For the next try, I set my grinder to 10 clicks. And the water just came straight through. No sign of any pressure build up.
So I tried 8 clicks and 7 clicks and the 4th shot finally started to look like proper espresso with a nice crema. The taste was intensely sour. I’m still far away from a nice shot of espresso, but it was so much fun.
I will continue to practice and hopefully I can get a nice tasting shot soon!
For a proper review of the machine I will need to use the machine for a while and get to know it, but so far it is awesome!