I’ve been the happy owner of a Gaggia Classic espresso machine for more than 2 years. It’s a stout, shining beast of a machine that sits proudly in my kitchen and provides 3 or 4 excellent cups of espresso that make my daily website programming much more pleasant. So pleased have I been with the machine that I persuaded my parents to buy one too… and they haven’t managed to get a good espresso out of it! Wouldn’t a Nespresso machine be so much easier they asked me? Anyway, all of this has prompted me to write the simple guide to good espresso with a Gaggia Classic.
1 – Coffee grind (vital)
This is far and away the most important factor to make a good espresso. If your coffee grind is too coarse the water flows through too quickly, giving a kind of americano coffee that can taste a bit burnt. If the grind is too fine very little water passes through the coffee and you get a ristretto of extreme potency. Experiment with different coffee grinds until you get a small cup of espresso coffee with a rich brown crema on top in 20-30 seconds. Good espresso coffee should be adequately finely groud to mean the individual grains are hard to make out with the naked eye and the coffee can be almost moulded with the coffee scoop.
2 – Coffee (important)
Get some espresso coffee – simple as that. Should be 100% arabica beans as cheaper robusta beans can make your espresso bitter. Lavazza Qualità Rossa will do the job just fine. Monmouth Coffee Company Organic Espresso Blend is a favourite of mine. Even the espresso beans at my local Delhaize in Brussels are perfectly fine. Essentially don’t go for bargain basement, but you don’t have to pay over the odds.
3 – Heating the machine (medium importance)
The Gaggia manual states that the machine should be left on for at least 6 minutes before making an espresso. Out of experience I’ve found that 2-3 minutes is perfectly adequate. A Gaggia Classic is rated at 1200W (about half as powerful as a kettle), so don’t leave it on unnecessarily long. Just make sure that you make the coffee as soon as you’ve put the coffee in the coffee filter, and also make sure you make your espresso first before frothing any milk.
4 – Other factors
A few other things to bear in mind:
- Use the 2 cup filter, even if you’re making just 1 cup of espresso, and half-fill it. It’s much easier to fill than the 1 cup filter.
- Avoid water with too much limescale in it – filter water before putting it in the machine
- If you want to grind your own beans (highly recommended) then get a burr grinder – my Krups Expert GVX231 has done a fine job