All Stock Gaggia Classic Pro And Commercially Available Coffee

Need help with equipment usage or want to share your latest discovery?

#1: Post by Coffeecomrade »

1. Anyone have an all stock (no mods what so ever) Gaggia Classic Pro 2019 and getting great espresso with a commercially available coffee?
I haven't been able to get a good espresso shot, however, these bitter shots have tasted great in cappuccinos and Americanos. Is that a normal thing?
That you have a bitter, overly strong espresso, that tastes great on a cappuccino or Americano? So far I've only tried 2 different commercially
available coffees from Costco. I've tried the Jose's Organic Mayan Blend, and Lavazza Caffe Espresso. But the Jose's was towards the end of the bag
and the espresso smelled like the beans, which was: past it's prime. The Lavazza tasted a lot better, but even though it was a new bag, the beans
also smelled a little too roasty-burnt and past their prime. I want to know if it's possible to get good espresso from a stock GCP with a commercially
available coffee. I know it's always good to know what grinder one is using, what methods for tamping, what dosage in and out, but I don't want to
bother you guys with all that, I've already done tons of research on most everything. I just want to know if it's possible.

2. Maybe I don't know what a good espresso shot is? I've only ever tasted the espresso I've had in cappuccinos, Americanos, macchiatos and the ones I've
brewed, but never an espresso by itself. And the commercial drinks I've had I would always judge by whether or not the drinks needed sugar, if they
didn't need it I would deem it a great drink. But I've seen the videos of people raving about how smooth a shot is, and how creamy it is, and how it
tastes like fruit or any other positive flavor. Shouldn't all espresso taste strong? After all, it is a concentrated drink. Or is that the challenge? To make
a concentrated drink taste smooth? I couldn't imagine a 16oz IPA beer being concentrated to 1oz and be drinkable or sip-able. Should I seek a local
coffee shop that has good reviews on their espresso and use that to compare?


#2: Post by Quirquincho »

I think it is posible to get a great espresso shot with the Gaggia Classic Pro, but I think it is difficult to do it consistently without any mods and with very little knowledge of how old your coffee beans are (a common issue with store-bought coffees). I have a 2019 Gaggia Classic Pro that I used for a year without upgrades. I had good results, but it took a lot of trial and error to get there. While I now mostly buy freshly roasted coffee, I used Lavazza coffees for most of that first year. On this point, I would suggest trying different freshly roasted coffees (7-10 days post roast) and see if you prefer them over the Lavazza. Let your taste preferences (and other preferences as a consumer) dictate what you do.

One of the main challenges with the Pro and the earlier versions is managing the brewing temp. As a SBDU machine without PID, the water temperature in the boiler will fluctuate, even when idle, as the thermostat kicks on and off. Pre-heating your machine with the PF loosely attached for at least 15 mins will help with temp stability. The other factor is trying to figure out at which point in the cool-heat cycle your coffee tastes best. If you catch it too hot, your coffee will likely taste bitter (especially if you are using a medium-dark or dark roast to begin with). If you catch it too cool, your coffee will likely taste sour.

People have found multiple ways to "temp surf" but make sure whatever technique you try out applies to the small 100ml boiler in the Gaggia, as other SBDU machines have larger boilers. I found the approach described in to work best for me. Make sure to also allow a few minutes of recovery time in between shots.

If you're not used to drinking espressos, the difference between sour and bitter can be hard to tell (look up the Salami shot on YouTube and try it out). Espresso is concentrated and therefore strong (note that people often use these terms differently). It will take some time of trying them undiluted to begin to discern the better ones from the not-so-good ones. Tasting your shots, even a couple of sips, before you pour milk over it will over time help develop that skill. You might even find yourself slowly preferring straight shots or less diluted milk-based drinks over time, which is what happened to me. Note that people often dial in their shots differently depending on how they will use it. A recipe for a straight shot might taste a bit watered down in milk. For milk-based drinks, it seems some people use ristrettos or other smaller brew ratios.

In sum, the bottom-line is to experiment and find what works best for your drinks and taste preferences. Yes, it is possible, if challenging to get good espresso with this machine without mods.

Edit: I should add that having a good grinder is important. Also, make sure to weigh your dose and your output with a 0.1g resolution scale, and to time your shots. This is key to repeatability.
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#3: Post by Jeff »

Good espresso should have a balance of sweet, bitter, and brightness (sour). Coffee "is" bitter, but so is chocolate! Think really high-end chocolate milk or hot cocoa.

Darker roasts tend to be dominated by roast-created flavors, "nuts and chocolate". If not high-quality greens and a high-quality roast, those flavors can get unpleasant, bitter, burnt, ashy. For my tastes, I try to avoid dark roasts, those that have a sheen to them or, even darker, look oily.

Another thing to be aware of is "robusta" coffee beans are often blended into classic espresso-intended blends. Some enjoy its body and flavor, others don't.

Coffeecomrade (original poster)

#4: Post by Coffeecomrade (original poster) »

Thank you for the post Quirquincho, you are very right about knowing how fresh a coffee is. I know I need to eliminate that factor by getting a good high quality fresh batch. And thanks for the info on the temperatures, I might have to go with a PID in the future. I'll look into the temp surf technique. I also checked out the Salami shot, I'll definitely try out the exercise.

Thank you Jeff, very good comparison of espresso to chocolate.

What do you guys think about buying coffee online considering that I live in Phoenix, AZ and right now temperatures are well over 100 F degrees, and shipping trucks are probably even hotter inside since they're not air conditioned. Do you guys think that heat exposure will mess up the beans during shipping?


#5: Post by mycatsnameisbernie »

Coffeecomrade wrote:What do you guys think about buying coffee online considering that I live in Phoenix
When trying new coffee, I recommend you buy locally. You can taste a shot as brewed by a professional and compare it to what you can do with your Classic. You can buy a small quantity to try without having to deal with shipping charges. I don't live in Phoenix, but a quick web search for "coffee roasters in Phoenix AZ" yields many good suggestions. I think you will find your local roasters to be a noticeable step up in quality from the Costco beans.
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Coffeecomrade (original poster)

#6: Post by Coffeecomrade (original poster) »

Hello mycatsnameisbernie I am definitely going to get some locally roasted coffee soon. I've had a few great coffee drinks here. There's a local crepe shop that also serves espresso drinks and their cappuccinos are always spectacular. I also once had a coffee that tasted as if someone had squeezed some juice from a freshly mowed lawn into the cup and was also spectacular. So I know there's some good stuff locally.

However, I definitely want to order some coffee. My friends and I went on a trip to Seattle and Portland a few years back and we also had some great experiences with those coffee shops. And I inquired and most ship coffee to anywhere in the US. What do you guys think about shipping in these hot temperatures?


#7: Post by Quirquincho »

Hey Coffeecomrade, I think you'll get more answers to this question in the "Coffees" page of the forums.

I don't know to what extent hot weather will affect the quality of properly packaged freshly roasted coffee beans, but I haven't had any issues despite buying coffees from roasters in other parts of the country. You'll also see that a lot of people in HB have their coffees shipped from other countries. Long treks in who knows what conditions, but coffee seems fine.

Of course, you should buy whatever you feel like having, but to emphasize mycatsnameisbernie's point, I think buying from a local roaster can be particularly useful for learning to differentiate a good from bad espresso shot and having a benchmark to compare the quality of what you're getting from your Gaggia with any given recipe and temp surfing routine. You can try what your local roaster thinks is a good shot of their coffee at their shop, ask them for their recipe, and try to emulate it at home.


#8: Post by rex »

I have an unmodified Gaggia Classic Pro 2019 exactly like you do, and I have been able to get excellent shots (to my taste, at least). When I got the machine seven months ago I was just like you, in that I only drank espresso in other drinks and not directly. But having this machine has given me a strong appreciation for drinking shots straight. So I would say definitely don't give up on the machine.

However, will also say I have never been able to get anything good from supermarket coffee. Every good shot has been from coffee that has been at most a few weeks off roast.

I'm very much a beginner w.r.t. espresso, but I wanted to tell you about my experience, since it sounds like you were exactly where I was a few months ago.


#9: Post by LA »

I've used a Gaggia Classic for several years and also had the experience that many espresssos didn't taste great, mostly sour, regardless of beans, and still were very good in cappuccinos (and I think that is expected and comes from the milk buffering the sourness).

I am now using a Decent machine and find that Trader Joe's Barista Espresso beans make a fairly good espresso. My guess is that if you don't get something you like with those beans, fancy beans also won't work.

Coffeecomrade (original poster)

#10: Post by Coffeecomrade (original poster) »

Hello Rex, thank you for your reply. It's nice and encouraging to hear about your experiences with a stock Gaggia. Have you considered making any mods on it yet? I've got the 9 bar OPV spring on the way.

I have made some progress the last few days! I was in a different part of town over the weekend and I was able to pick up locally roasted coffee from I got their Frutas Blend and man what a difference good coffee makes! I did my smell test on it and it smelled great and fresh. I didn't detect any old-beans-smell. Even the first few shots that weren't perfectly dialed in were a lot better than my other commercial-bean-perfectly-dialed-shots! The package mentions that the coffee tastes like yogurt, strawberries, dark chocolate, and berries. I mainly detected a faint strawberry-chocolate taste. After I dialed it in it was even better. So I'm definitely going to lean towards local roasts. I might still do commercial coffees if they pass my "smell" test.

Hello LA, thanks for your reply. You mention a "decent" machine, which machine are you referring to? I'm really glad to hear that it's ok for a "bad" espresso to be well suited for a cappuccino. That has been my experience in general. Thanks for mentioning Trader Joes. I've had their house blend brewed in a French press and I loved it. I'll definitely give their espresso blend a try.