When Gaggia had to replace the original, excellent Classic manual espresso machine, the Classic 2015 didn't quite live up to the quality of the original. Plastic spouts on the group handle and a cheaper-feeling build rather let the side down.
Fortunately, Gaggia UK has stepped in with its own revamp, the Gaggia Classic Deluxe Coffee Station. With this bundle, you get an overhauled Gaggia Classic 2015, with all-new metal components, a Gaggia MDF grinder, tamper, knock-out box, milk thermometer, chocolate shaker and frothing jug.
In other words, it's everything you need to be a complete home barista.
The first thing I noticed about the Gaggia Classic Deluxe Coffee Station is that the Classic coffee machine has all-new metal components. Gone is the poor-quality group handle with plastic spouts, to be replace by a professional-level group handle with metal spouts. In addition, the cheap-feeling plastic drip tray has been replaced with a metal one.
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While both may appear to be small changes, they're important. Moving to metal components gives the Gaggia Classic 2015 an air of quality that was missing from the original release.
There are still a few minor issues that can't be fixed so easily. The most notable is that the Gaggia Classic 2015 has slightly spongy push-in buttons, where the original Classic had chunky rocker switches. The newer buttons just don't feel as nice, although I did get used to them after a while and they worked reliably.
With the Gaggia Classic Deluxe Coffee Station bundle, you get a top-quality frothing jug, a neat milk thermometer and a metal tamper. Again, these items add a quality feel.
Using a manual coffee machine is as much about the quality of the grinder you use, so it's good to see the quality MDF grinder bundled. Sturdy and well built, this grinder wouldn't look out of place in a coffee shop. It has 34 grind settings, dosing control and a group handle holder so that you can dispense straight into the filter basket.
Rounding off the package is the knock-out drawer: a metal enclosure with a soft-touch roller inside, so you can quietly knock out your used coffee grounds.
Making coffee starts with the grind, and the bundled MDF grinder is one of the best. With 34 grind settings (1 is super-fine, 34 is coarse), it's important to choose the right grind: too coarse and you'll get a weak espresso; too fine and you get over-extracted coffee.
Turning the entire hopper sets the grind and, after some experimentation, I found that a grind setting between 6 and 9 seemed to work best.
Since the MDF is a dosing grinder, it first grinds coffee into a holding container. You then just pull the handle on the side to drop a measured dose of espresso into your filter basket.
It takes a while to get used to the way the grinder works: the ideal situation is that you grind enough coffee to get a full dose, without leaving too much coffee behind. Once you get used to the grinder, it's brilliant and much more capable than the cheap grinders you find in most high-street stores.
The Gaggia Classic 2015 is a simple product to use, as are most manual machines. It has just three buttons: "power" turns the machine on; "water" dispenses hot water; and "steam" raises the temperature of the single boiler to dispense steam.
A tap on the right of the coffee machine lets you control steam output via the pannarello wand. If you press the steam button and hot water button, then the tap dispenses hot water for topping up your drinks.
The 2.1-litre water reservoir is best filled in-situ, using a jug. It can't take a water filter, so using pre-filtered water can help the taste and reduce limescale.
A frothing jet device, which looks like a small plastic plug, sits between the filter basket and spouts. It's designed to improve the quality of your espresso, but I found that it can make the crema a little too frothy.
A combination of a finer grind and hard tamp improved matters, and the Classic 2015 espresso machine was soon dispensing high-quality coffee shots.
After pre-warming the cups, using the cup warmer on top of the machine, I measured the temperature of my double-espresso shot at 69oC, which is just about spot on.
The crema was a deep, burnished colour, with an oily texture to it. It was very slightly foamy, although that's a minor point. Coffee taste was excellent, with the pronounced acidity and caramel notes coming through.
The quality of your milk drinks depends on how well you can froth milk. Fortunately, the pannarello steam wand and steam function on the Classic 2015 are some of the best.
After quickly reaching temperature, the tap on the side of the coffee machine lets you control steam flow. I soon had my jug full of beautifully textured, frothy milk, all at the ideal temperature thanks to the bundled milk thermometer. Pouring a cappuccino after that was simple, and the results top-notch.
When you turn off the steam mode, the coffee machine doesn't automatically vent to cool down, so you'll need to turn on the pump for a few seconds if you want to make another coffee. If you don't do this, you'll burn the next shot.
Manual-pump machines are, generally, easy to care for – and the Classic 2015 espresso machine is no different. The drip tray will need regular emptying and cleaning with soapy water. There's no full indicator, but looking through the holes in the drip tray is no hardship.
From time-to-time, it's worth removing the group head shower inside and cleaning out embedded coffee grounds. I find that a cheap toothbrush works wonders, with the bristles able to fit through the shower's holes. You'll also need to descale, following the simple instructions in the manual.
As an overall package, the Gaggia Classic Deluxe Coffee Station is rather good value, and you get a top-quality grinder, too. If you went fully automatic, you'd need to spend closer to £800 on a machine such as the Melitta Caffeo Barista TS to achieve the same-quality results.
Gaggia UK has done a great job of replacing the most irritating bits of the Classic 2015, making it feel more like the premium machine it used to be.
If I'm to be very critical, I'd say that the original Classic is still a slightly superior espresso machine, with better buttons and no need for the frothing jet device. However, overall coffee quality is extremely close, and the Classic 2015 is capable of making excellent coffee.
If you want the joy of making coffee the traditional way, then this all-in-one kit is a great choice, giving you everything you need.
An excellent bundle that gives you everything you need to make brilliant coffee.