How to Choose the Right Espresso Machine or the Coffee Maker? Expert's Blog.

Gaggia Classic Pro Review (aka New Classic or Classic 2018/2019)

Comments: 11↓ specifications & manual ↓

The most iconic semi-professional espresso machine for home – Gaggia Classic – was updated on the edge of 2018 and 2019. The new version is commonly called Gaggia Classic 2018 or Classic 2019. However, the more correct name is Gaggia New Classic in Europe and Gaggia Classic Pro in the States and Canada. The machine is the same, just voltage differs (220V/120V).

Gaggia Classic Pro RI9380 = Gaggia New Classic RI9480. Tested and Reviewd by 101coffeemachines.info

I write this review with two assumptions in mind. First of all, I will try to compare new Classic Pro with cheaper ($100-300) semi-automatic machines, not with more expensive semi-professional equipment. In other words, I will try to answer questions like:

  • what to expect when upgrading from, let’s say, Delonghi Dedica or Gaggia Viva to Classic?
  • should you buy Classic as a first espresso maker or a present?
  • why it makes no sense to buy Classic if you don’t plan to put at least $300/€150 on the grinder

Secondly, this is at least 3rd generation of Classic, and I don’t want to dig deep into a comparison of the current generation with previous ones. Except for the following buying advice, which is important to give:

1. Make sure you are about to buy the right version of Classic

Gaggia Classic Pro (120V version for North America) has a model number RI9380/46. Gaggia New Classic (220V model for the rest of the world) has numerical code RI9480/11 (barcode 886948011010). These are the only designations of updated Classic. Don’t confuse it with the previous generation, which is still in stock:

The most noticeable visual attribute of the older version is black plastic panarello wand vs professional metal steam wand (steamer) of the New Classic.

1. 1. What would be different in the cheaper and older model (14101 vs RI9380)?

On the American market there are not much functional difference between. The new RI9380/46 is better than old Classic 14101 at following:

  • The pump is better vibroisolated on the new version. Demitasse will dance less on the cup stand 😉
  • The above-mentioned professional metal steam wand with two holes. Old version had a plastic panarello wand, which is easier to use for a beginner, but it gives more bubbles in frothed milk – read here more about the difference.
  • New one is made in Italy, old one – in Romania. And that’s the main factor of price rise. Other changes like rubber handles on the hot tubes are minor.

What's new in new Gaggia CLassic Pro = New Classic 2019

Can’t say anything bad about Romanian assembly, by the way. So if older Gaggia Classic 14101 is currently cheaper and if you are short on budget and don’t need a pro steam wand for cafe-quality milk foam for your cappuccinos and flat whites, then it’s OK to go with it.

NB! The completely different situation on the Europan market. The old European generation (RI9403/11)  had much more limited functionality and here we have more differences in addition to the previous list:

  • Old european versions had a simple mushroom-valve, not a solenoid valve – what is it and why it is important?
  • Plastic coffee spouts in the old model.
  • Only pressurized filter baskets come with the old model (in most of the countries, but sometimes Gaggia or local dealers changed the package)
  • On the other hand, RI9403 had a bigger stainless steel boiler, while all the new models have smaller aluminium ones.

The old one was a very controversial model. Overall, I would personally prefer to pay more for the New Classic RI9480. Even considering the price gap (below are Amazon.co.uk price comparison):

Reviewing the pros and the cons of this machine, I will start by giving the list of drawbacks. Yes, the machine is not ideal, however, none of the following cons are critical. I list them to prevent the over-expectation effect right away.

I would also appreciate your starred review at the end of the article

2. Cons: No One Cares About The Ease Of Use

Just admit it. The Italian company is focused on the espresso quality in your cup, worried a bit about the design, but don’t give a damn about your everyday comfort. This is common to all semi-professional machines.

  • Gaggia claims in its official specifications that the maximum cup height is 3.25 inches (8.25 cm). Bullshit, my ruler clearly shows that it’s 2.75 inches (7 cm) under the coffee pouring spouts and even smallest cappuccino cups like these (amazon link) won’t fit.

New Gaggia Classic 2019 Msx. Cup Height

  • Guys from Gaggia probably measured the height without spouts, which you can’t unscrew out of the holder, by the way. At least, I didn’t managed to. Even though it’s drawn as a separate part on the diagram. I wanted to do a change for a 1-way spout because my espresso cups are to narrow for original 2-way spouts. It’s 2+ inches (5+ cm) between two coffee flows, another thing you should consider if making one espresso, not two.
  • Rocker switches often didn’t really switches from the first touch and the corresponding lights are too dim to be visible on a sunny day.
  • The water tank, which is located so much deep into the machine and partly covered by the drip tray, that you can’t see the water level. At least, they made a bypass to add the water from the top without ejecting the reservoir:
Gaggia Classic Pro (Classic 2019): water tank and bypass to fill the water tank

There is approx. 700 ml (22.3 fl oz) of water in the invisible area.

  • The water tank max level is 2 litres (68 fl oz, not 72 like is written on Gaggia USA web site), by the way. I personally to keep as less water as possible in my espresso machine because I want water for my espresso to be fresh, and you don’t need much water for several espresso shots. Okay, the bigger water tank is OK, but in my home kitchen, I would rather prefer a smaller machine with smaller water reservoir.
  • Finally, yes, the body is huge. Unexpectedly huge, if you get used to home models like Delonghi or if you browse photos on the web. And that’s not because they use the biggest boiler or other parts are too big. No, a small kitty could leave inside Gaggia Classic:

Should I note, that there is no auto dosage or energy-saving functions? Thank God, they made a power button on the front, not on the back, like they used to.

In other words, if we compare Gaggia Classic Pro and the Delonghi Dedica with a similar price tag, then Gaggia gets 1 out of 5 for usability. While Delonghi gets it’s 5/5. But if you are not afraid of these issues, then Gaggia will beat Delonghi in terms of coffee. For sure.


 

3. Pros: Better Espresso Than On Any Entry-Level Machine

The cons list above may look long and I didn’t even write all the small things that could be improved. But it’s only to illustrate the fact that it’s useless to compare Gaggia Classic Pro/New Classic with any entry-level espresso machines: all Delonghis, including new professionally-looking La Specialista, Gaggia Viva, Saeco Poemia, all machines by Krups, Mr. Coffee, Oster, Hamilton Beach, etc. Gaggia plays in different league, which is characterized by following pros:

  1. Big brass group head (chrome-plated) → don’t let the temperature in the filter fall during the brewing
  2. 58mm brass portafilter → professional size allows you to use the finest ground and distribute water evenly through the coffee puck
  3. Boiler (here we have an aluminium one, unfortunately – they wanted it to heat fast, that’s why). In contradistinction to thermoblock (like on Delonghi EC9335M for example), it also helps to improve the thermostability.
  4. Unpressurized filter baskets ( = single-wall baskets), of course. They are useless without a grinder and a good tamping technique. However, with such filters, the physics of brewing is the same as in professional espresso machines in Italian coffee shops (while pressurized baskets create artificial resistance, which imitates the resistance that-well tamped coffee puck should create).
Gaggia New Classic (Pro) RI9380/RI9480 filter baskets: pressurized and two unpressurized

The 1-cup unpressurized filter basket is semi-conical, which is useful because it’s always harder to tamp well the smaller baskets.

These 4 points may sound not so important if we talk about in-home espresso machine. But the fact is that they are. All these results in one, the only, and the strongest feature of new Gaggia Classic 2018/2019.

Under certain circumstances, Gaggia Classic Pro can make you an espresso shot as good as in 9 out 10 specialty coffee shops in your town. Simpler $300 espresso machines with all their bells and whistles can do a decent espresso shot, indeed. But it would be better than in most of the non-Italian restaurants or ordinary cafes. See the difference?

These circumstances are: good freshly ground coffee beans, the machine well heated and well maintained, a little practice and… here we come to the most important… the grinder. The burr grinder.

3. A Good Grinder Is A Must

You’ll need a $300/€150 grinder and it’s not just a coffee geeks mantra. I’ll prove it below.

So, unless you have a coffee shop in the next building, which can sell you every morning a small dosage of freshly ground coffee, you will need a good burr coffee grinder.

  • No, not fake flat burr grinder like popular KRUPS-GX5000 or Secura. Did you read my article about coffee grinder types, where I compare microscopic photos of the coffee powder, by the way?
  • No, not the cheapest conical burr grinders like OXO Brew, Baratza Encore, Delonghi KG 521 America or Solis Scala. The finest grind level they give isn’t fine enough for a 58-mm unpressurized basket. Yes, as I wrote in my entry-level espresso machines reviews, these grinders are very good for pressurized baskets, but they are incapable to produce grind fine enough for unpressurized baskets.

You may try to buy some of above-mentioned models (they all have identical grinding unit inside) and try to pull the burrs together to achieve finer results (there are a lot of video tutorials of different mods on youtube – example). But even modified grinders of such type would be barely suitable for a 2-cup filter basket. Modified versions are OK for unpressurized 51mm filters, but 58-mm diameter requires even finer grind. Here is why:

The same volume (weight) of the ground coffee in the 51mm and 58mm filter basket. The latter one formes more thin coffee puck. Thus, you need to have finer grind to create needed resistance to the water flow.

What you need is a coffee grinder of a higher class. I will name few models both for American and European markets that can make a decent setup with a Gaggia Pro/New Classic.

  • The cheapest suitable options: Gaggia MDF, Ascaso I-2 or imini I-2, Nemox Lux, Lelit Fred, Isomac IS120044, Demoka GR-0203.
  • Better choose following models if you can afford: Ascaso I-1 or imini I-1, Nuova Simonelli MCF or Grinta, Eureka Mignon, Baratza Sette, Rancilio Rocky.

And here is a video proof that I promised. It shows how differently Gaggia Classic behaves depending on the coffee grinder you use:

3.1. What about a pressurized basket that comes with Gaggia Classic Pro/New Classic?

Indeed, they put one pressurized 2-cup filter baskets in the box. But the problem is that it works worse than pressurized baskets on cheaper machines. Delonghi, Saeco and even numerous OEM-manufactured Chinese espresso makers achieved better results in term of pressurized baskets.

If you choose Gaggia Classic with an idea in mind, that you will start with a pressurized basket, and then maybe switch to unpressurized, then.., just don’t think so.

Because without a grinder you will get better espresso on your old cheaper Delonghi/Saeco/whatever than on this machine using a pressurized basket. Paradox, but Gaggia Classic literally force you to immediately get an expensive grinder. It will not get you a good espresso without it. On the other hand, in a pair with a good grinder, you will quickly forget your old Delonghi/Saeco/whatever. As well as the road to your nearest coffee shop 🙂

Another weak side of using the Classic Pro/Classic 2019 with double-wall baskets is the fact that the above-mentioned solenoid valve will suffer from ground coffee (pressurized baskets create backpressure, which pushes coffee powder back to the shower screen and that valve).

Just an illustration of my thesis. Today, when I am writing this review, there is only one negative review on amazon.com about new Gaggia Pro (among six – the machine was introduced in the US not long ago). It’s from a woman who complains about “not good espresso”. She was told that her grinder is no good, so she bought a “burr grinder”, but it didn’t improved her opinion and her espresso. Guess which grinder she bought? 🙂

4. Disassembling and Construction Scheme

Gaggia Pro/New Classic has not the smartest construction scheme. As I already noticed, one may fit all the same parts in the smaller body with less usability issues. On the other hand, this simple and reliable scheme has almost no weak points in terms of durability.

Gaggia Classic is good not because it has some special features or know-hows. It’s good because it uses the classic (tautology!) construction scheme of professional espresso machine for bars and restaurants. Still with some simplifications, of course – there is no PID or adjustable OPV valve, for example. But the Classic 2019 has much fewer compromises than cheap home models.

So, let’s investigate the internals. We have a big stainless steel frame. The upper cover, which also plays the role of a cup warmer/cup stand, is fixed with two tapping screws:

Disassembling Gaggia Classic Pro RI9380

The warmer itself is of a passive type, which means that it becomes hot simply by the heat of the boiler underneath. Here, on Gaggia Classic Pro Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine, a passive cup warmer is quite efficient, because the boiler has external heating elements.

The shape of the boiler – tall cylinder – is one of the reasons why this espresso machine is so big in terms of height. However, the tallness does matter – it affects the steam quality. Output for the steam (all the tubes and fittings for steam are made of metal by the way) is located on top. So when you rotate the steam knob, you don’t way long for a water drops to disappear – after 1-2 seconds you will have completely dry steam. The external heating also helps to achieve this, by the way.

Gaggia Classic 2019 Internals: boiler, soilenoid, heating elements

The wires connected to the cup stand on the photo below is just a ground connection. Two bypasses are made weirdly but do their job. The bypass for water tank allows you to fill the water without ejecting the water tank itself. The second bypass (outlet pipe) is connected to the 3-way solenoid valve and flushes the water to the drip tray after you switch off the pump.

Bypasses and pipes of Gaggia Classic 2018

I already noticed solenoid above and promised to explain the difference between simple mushroom-valve that is used in cheaper machines and a solenoid:

  • Both valves are used to keep the water inside the boiler. You don’t need it pouring out when the espresso maker is idle, right?
  • Mushroom valve (on the photo) is just a spring and plastic knob. When the pump is working, the pressure is high, so the spring shrinks and lets the water out. When one switches the pump off the spring bounces back to its original state and closes the water output.

mushroom valve

  • The problem is that it doesn’t happen immediately. The pressure is rising and falling gradually.
  • That’s why when you switch off the coffee button on the espresso machinу with a mushroom-valve, the water continues to flow into the filter basket for 1-20 seconds, which results in water coffee puck and small coffee drops that continue to fall on the drip tray after your already finished with your espresso.
  • The 3-way solenoid valve helps to reduce both problems. It immediately flushes unnecessary out of the group, leaving the coffee puck dry, which is useful because it will pop out if you knock. It also helps to clean the group head and the holder. Especially when you are making several coffees in a row.

I can’t say that solenoid is a must, but it’s quite a useful feature.

4. Build quality (pros and cons)

Overall the new Gaggia Classic 2019 is robustly made:

  • heavy frame made of brush stainless steel
  • reliable water connectors – less plastic tubes, more metal fittings
  • the minimum of electronics
  • edges of the metal parts are well-finished
  • a small amount of plastic parts doesn’t have any smells. In case you are worried about plastic, these parts are:
    • the water tank
    • the above-mentioned bypass to the water tank, which allows to fill it from top
    • few tubes from the tank to the boiler (where the water is still cold)
    • the small knob inside the portafilter that should be installed only with a pressurized basket.
    • that’s all if I didn’t miss anything.

However, there is a feeling that the machine is made a bit offhandedly, without much attention to details and a customer. Just a few examples to add:

  • The upper cup plate is fixed with two screws only which aren’t enough to get it fixed well. When you push it with a finger it easily goes down, leaving slights gaps around the edges. I wouldn’t use wet cups here since there are wires underneath.
  • These wires, by the way, is fixed to the metal with a sticky material, which weakens after many cycles of heating up and cooling down.
  • And yes, the body itself is getting very hot, so be careful.
  • The drip tray, which is big enough, isn’t fixed well in its position and plays a little.
  • Finally, the rubber legs on the bottom are not fixed very well considering the weight (7 kg = 15 lb with empty water reservoirs) of the machine. Mine often loose its rear left leg when I move it on the glass surface.

5. Conclusion

It’s impossible to review the Gaggia Pro (= Gaggia RI9480 in Europe) without considering the grinder, which is used in pair, and your past experience.

If you upgrading from a budget 15-bar espresso maker (any Delonghi/Saeco/Mr. Coffee/Oster/Hamilton Beach/ anything under the $300 mark), then:

  • Expect some problems with ease of use if compared to your old espresso maker.
  • Expect worse (surprise!) espresso quality if you don’t get a >$300 grinder and Gaggia’s pressurized basket won’t help.
  • Expect espresso and especially milk foam for cappuccino/latte macchiato/flat white to be as in the bar, if you will get the grinder.
  • Expect to start clearly feel all these “…smooth notes of red berries and dark chocolate…”, which specialty coffee producers promise.

By the way, some of the coffee grounds that were too acidic on your old machine due to under extraction, on Gaggia you will get a more balanced body with a bit more bitterness. And hotter.

If you plan to buy it as your first semi-automatic espresso machine:

  • Think twice, if you are ready to put approx. $800 for your setup, including a grinder and all the accessories like tamper (the one which comes with the machine is rubbish), pitcher etc.
  • Go with it if you are ready because Gaggia Pro/Classic 2019 is the best machine under $500 (in terms of Recommended Sale Price, of course, on sales or among used machines there could be better options).
  • If unsure there are plenty of cheaper machines that make decent home espresso with less hassle. Check my list of best espresso machines for home under $300. You will be able to upgrade when you understand what you really want from your home machine.

If you want the same espresso quality as in Classic but with fewer usability issues or with more functions (mainly PID, which Gaggia doesn’t have), then check the following machines (they are more pricey):

I NEED your opinion. Please rate my review:

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (10 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...

 

Gaggia Classic RI9380/46, RI9480/11 (2019 model) Coffee Machine Specifications:

Download manual: Download pdf manual
Machine type: Pump espresso machine
Width х Deep х Height: 20 x 26 x 36 cm (8 x 10.2 x 14.2 inches)
Coffee used: Ground coffee or E. S. E. pods
Grinder: is a must :)
Brewing group: 58mm, chrome-plated brass with pressurized and unpressurized filters
Heater: Boiler 1425 W
Max pressure: 15 bar
Water container: 2 litres (68 fl oz)
Cappuccinatore: Professional steam wand (steamer)
Max cup height: 7 cm (2.75 inches)
Controlling: Rocker switches
Peculiar properties: 3-way solenoid valve

Author: Dmitriy Yurchenko

29/08/2019

Have any questions? Please ask in comments below!

Have you bought this coffee machine? Leave a review!

11 comments:

  1. Thanks you for this detailed review. Do you know how big is a boiler of the new classic? I mean its capacity in ml.

    Leo

    1 Sep 19 at 9:43 am

    Reply

    • Hi, Leo! I didn’t measured it precisely this time. But it seems that unofficial information about 140ml boiler is correct, because external dimensions of the cylinder are approx. 5 cm in diameter and 7 cm in height, which give us the volume ~135-140ml.

      Dmitriy

      1 Sep 19 at 11:20 am

      Reply

  2. Dear Leo,
    At the end of this review you sound like you will list other options to buy, easier to use, but I don’t see your list?
    I’m looking to upgrade from the Dedica, which doesn’t make hot espresso, and which clogs all the time.
    Thanks!
    John

    John Lovejoy

    24 Sep 19 at 7:38 am

    Reply

    • Thanks for feedback, John.

      Not only Gaggia Classic “is not so easy to use if compared to Dedica”. It’s characteristic of all machines, that are a bit more professional. Rancilio Silvia, La Pavoni – same issues. Just Ascaso Basic/Arc/Dream https://amzn.to/2mLXkv1 is made a bit better in terms of ease of use.

      The better user experience will be on $1000++ machines like Oscar II https://amzn.to/2mhjk0w

      In other words, if you want better espresso below $1000 then you should admit some usability issues of semiprofessional units. If you just want better home machine, then maybe some Breville units will be the good choice?

      Dmitriy

      24 Sep 19 at 8:23 am

      Reply

    • That’s probably because you have some adblock software enabled on your computer while Dimitry used an Amazon widget there to list his picks. There are two machines listed there: “Ascaso Dream UP V3 Programmable Espresso Machine w/PID Controller – Dark Black” and “Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine with Iron Frame and Stainless Steel Side Panels, 11.4 by 13.4-Inch”.

      Sajor

      14 Oct 19 at 10:08 pm

      Reply

  3. Hi,

    I have a question regardign the 2019 model. The OPV is no longer adjustable compared to the 2015 model. Does the unajustable pressure cause any issues with unpreassurized baskets?

    Dave

    1 Oct 19 at 10:51 am

    Reply

    • Hi, Dave. Thanks for the question, because I didn’t covered this OPV issue in the review.

      Indeed, it’s not adjustable anymore, however, the bigger problem is WHERE it is located. Older US version had OPV near the group (like on this video), it was regulating pressure inside the group (that’s what you want from OPV). Now it’s mounted after the pump. So now it is just an emergency valve that drops the pressure if the boiler is stucked and it less affects the pressure _inside_ the group.

      Actually you can regulate this new OPV:
      1) Irreversible “Bulgarian” method: https://coffeeforums.bg/viewtopic.php?t=97#
      2) Buy some parts and make modification to convert unadjustable OPV into adjustable. “Polish” method: https://yirga.pl/adjustable-opv-gaggia-classic

      Regrettably, both methods doesn’t solve the location problem.

      On the other hand, I didn’t noticed any issues with unpressurized baskets. I didn’t measure the pressure, but I assume that now it’s adjusted more for unpressurized baskets, rather that pressurized. Because – as I mentioned in the review – with pressurized baskets New Classic/Classic Pro shows average results.

      P. S. In Europe the previous generation of Classic was already without adjustable OPV.

      Dmitriy

      5 Oct 19 at 9:58 am

      Reply

  4. Thank you!! You Rock.

    meron

    11 Oct 19 at 6:04 pm

    Reply

    • Thnaks, glad that you find this article useful!
      Will be be happy to read any additions to the aticle, if you will eventually choose the Classic Pro.

      Dmitriy

      11 Oct 19 at 6:34 pm

      Reply

  5. Thanks for this amazing review!
    I already own a Baratza Virtuoso grinder. Would you say it’s good enough for this machine or should I upgrade it?
    Thank you!
    Martin

    Martin

    20 Oct 19 at 2:02 pm

    Reply

    • Thank you, Martin. I _think_ that it is enough, however, I didn’t test Virtuoso with Classic 2019 tet-a-tet.

      In 2 or 3 weeks I will probably get one of Baratza’s grinders to test it with Classic. If it would be Virtuoso then I can give more details.

      Dmitriy

      20 Oct 19 at 4:23 pm

      Reply

Have some doubts which model to choose? Ask me!