Some Gaggia Classic espresso machine tips for Spoonies…

This is an addendum to my previous post and is aimed, for the most part, at Spoonies. (If you’re not a Spoonie,** and/or want to know more, please click through.)

**In a nutshell, a Spoonie is a disabled person whose illness is not immediately apparent to a casual observer – think MS, Crohn’s, or ME, or my heart/lung/Addison’s problems.

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Noise abatement.

First, some background. I live in a sheltered flat (I’m disabled, and a Spoonie, for the newbies among you). The place was purpose-built but you could be forgiven for thinking it was a conversion as the build quality is crap.

Each flat is a brick box, but all the internal walls are hollow stud and plasterboard abominations. In the kitchen, the worktops are mounted on these hollow walls, turning it into a huge, reverberating, drum.

Because of this, all my noisy small appliances are mounted on rafts of shock-absorbing foam to keep the noise down. The Classic, as I said previously, was mounted on expanded polyurethane, because espresso machines can do a pretty good impression of a jackhammer (the Classic is mid-range in my opinion – neither psychopathically loud, like my Dualit Espressivo, nor especially quiet). However, overnight the foam compressed unevenly, so that it was impossible to get the machine to sit level. We’re talking millimetres, so it probably doesn’t matter a hell of a lot, but I firmly believe that if you’re going to do something, you do it right.

So out with the polyurethane and in with a 4-layer stack of panels cut from a camping mat, topped with a polyethylene chopping board so the weight is evenly distributed – more or less. Problem solved.

Sort of – it’s now just 1mm out in the opposite direction but – flash of inspiration – I checked the worktop and so is that! So sod it, it’s good enough. Trying to correct1mm with shims is a good way to go quietly mad!

The entire assembly, raft and machine, slides easily so, in use, it can be tucked away under the overhanging, wall-mounted, cupboard but, for refilling with water, it can be slid out for easy access. So, even if noise isn’t an issue for you, this is worth doing as it makes it much easier to move if you’re disabled.

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Classic weirdness.

The Classic comes with Gaggia’s crema-enhancing gizmo, which most users don’t want (the whole point of espresso at home is that it’s exactly as you want it, not as some engineer a thousand miles away thinks you should have it). Nor do I, so I ordered a standard Gaggia filter basket and guess what – it doesn’t fit the grouphead, it’s too small to fit over the dispersion plate holder (or shower disc holder in Gaggia-speak, item 16 on their exploded diagram).

At the moment I don’t know whether the filter basket is third-party rubbish, or whether Gaggia have modified the Classic to prevent users binning the crema-enhancing nonsense. I shall be seriously pissed off if it’s the latter.

If/when I get an answer to this question, I’ll post it here.

Oh, and Gaggia had superglued a double spout to the portafilter. Why, ffs? I had a hell of a job getting it off, to replace it with a single spout, but it makes me think I might be right about them having modded it. (Tip – to break loose a locked thread like this, first tighten it a little – it will make it much easier to unscrew. Just don’t strip the thread.)

Build quality and quality control appear to leave something to be desired, too. Of the 4 bolts holding the grouphead, only one has a serrated locking washer, and that’s really not good enough. Makes me wonder what the innards are like, tucked away out of sight.

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The water tank.

This design sucks. I’ve already mentioned the fact that it’s almost impossible to see the water level through the smoked plastic, but don’t ever think of moving the machine with a full, or almost full, tank. Why? Because the back of the tank is substantially lower than the front, and while it looks like you have a lot of leeway before it spills, you actually have almost none at all – and it will slop out, not least because Gaggia have omitted to provide any means of getting a solid grip on the buggerdly thing**. Luckily, all the electrical bits are in the top of the machine out of the way, but I still had to mop the floor and dry the inside of the machine.

**Which, of course, you’ll discover when getting it out of the box!

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Descaling and cleaning.

Unless you’re in a soft water area, your espresso machine, like your kettle, will fur up sooner or later. Stock advice is to avoid vinegar for descaling as the Classic has an aluminium boiler, but the people who say that will most likely go on to recommend other acid-based descalers. Give me a break! If acetic acid (vinegar), is going to harm the boiler, so will other acids. In fact, most descalers (possibly all), are likely to be acidic – usually citric – to some degree – you can’t dissolve limescale, which is essentially stone – by being nice to it.

My gripe with vinegar is not that it will harm the boiler, but that it’s almost impossible to get the smell out. Bad enough used in a kettle, where you can manually scrub the damn thing, but in the bowels of a Classic it’s inaccessible. Gaggia sell their own brand of descaler, as well as several others. Check them out then have a look at Amazon where the Puly sachets are a lot cheaper.

Better yet, avoid the problem by using filtered water. I already have a Brita Maxtra jug (Maxtra is the type of filter), so using that is a no-brainer. Just remember that you’re also removing the chlorine and whatever other antibacterials and/or antivirals your water company puts into your water supply, so it will become a breeding ground for bugs if you keep it hanging around for too long – so don’t. For the same reason I periodically clean my jug with Milton, usually when I change the filter, even though it spends most of its life in the fridge.

For general cleaning, and back-flushing I use Urnex Cafiza powder. Mysteriously, this comes without the slightest hint as to what you are supposed to do with it (so what are those who aren’t online supposed to do?), but you can get details from the Urnex website for most forms of coffee-making device.

NB: For those, like me, with respiratory problems, Cafiza doesn’t give off harmful fumes (vinegar does, when it gets hot), nor does Phillips’ citric-acid descaler** (sold for the Senseo but I’ve used it on my La Pavoni Euro and Dualit Espressivo). True, Milton smells like bleach – naturally – but is a mere shadow of, say, the intensity of Domestos.

**It’s allegedly harmful to chrome plate – all I can say is that the plating on my La Pav survived unscathed, as did the brass boiler. I kept it out of the grouphead, allegedly  chromed internally, just in case.

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