Gaggia Classic espresso machine basket modification…

Let me say upfront that, with the supplied crema-enhancing gadget, my new Classic makes excellent coffee now we’re used to each other. However, when I opened the box and found I was stuck with the gadget (much reviled online, but in my view, after using it for a few weeks, needlessly so), the first thing I did was go to http://www.espressoservices.co.uk/ and order a standard double basket.

Which didn’t fit the group head. The dispersion plate holder’s diameter was just a tad too big to allow the basket to fit over it

Cue a helpful exchange of emails and my fears were confirmed. Phillips, who now own Gaggia, have, I was told, redesigned the group head and it’s just a tiny bit bigger than it was, so the existing range of baskets no longer fit. However, my nominal 58mm tamper didn’t fit either, which made me suspicious, so I dug out my vernier calliper and discovered that the difference was just a fraction of a millimetre, hardly worth the cost of re-tooling – still, that was enough to screw things up. Importantly, I also discovered that the stamped ridge ridge just below the basket’s rim, to engage with the portafilter’s retaining spring (not really necessary), was a little out of round, and that might well have been the main cause of the problem. So I proposed to do something about it, and, even though I still didn’t know which component was really at fault, modifying the basket was the easiest course of action.

I didn’t have the necessary tools so I bought a Dremel-style rotary tool from Amazon, plus a set of accessories and set about waiting for a good day to machine a sliver of metal from the ridge in the basket. That day was today.

In reality, it needed very little metal to be removed, the out-of-round factor turned out to be the bigger problem, and the basket now fits the group perfectly.

I suggest doing this in 2 or 3 stages, washing it then testing the fit between them, so as not to remove too much metal. It also needs testing both hot and cold, in case the basket and shower plate holder expand at different rates when hot. I’ve just done the hot test – it’s fine. It then got a good scrub in hot, soapy, water to ensure all traces of steel dust were gone – I really didn’t want it in my coffee.

To machine the basket I first tried a small grindstone, which proved difficult to control and painfully slow so I switched to a coarse abrasive band mounted on a rubber mandrel which gave me much more control, as the rubber absorbed any vibration, and was very much faster – the job took just about 3 minutes, in three stages, washing the basket clean and checking the fit at each stage. I clamped the basket to a folding workbench, using the rubber inserts to avoid damaging the basket.

So that’s it. I have Gaggia’s crema-enhancing gizmo, with which I’m now happy, but I also have the choice of going back to basics and having full control over the process. Using the gadget with its double basket, I use 16g of Old Brown Java beans, ground almost powder-fine and gently tamped after a touch of the WDT, and it takes 65 seconds to pull a 200ml caffè crema which, finally, gives me the advertised chocolate and vanilla hits. So that will be the starting point when I use the plain basket. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Update, August 31: After using both the crema-enhancing gadget and the standard double basket, all else being equal I can detect no difference between them. The gadget does nothing – the crema from the double basket is just as thick, and the same colour.

I’ve also noticed something else this past couple of weeks. After 2 years of being as weak as a kitten (the effects of anorexia, a symptom of my Addison’s Disease in 2012-13), I’m finally regaining some strength. Not before time!

And essential too, as I’ve lost a good friend who used to take me out in her car (she simply walked out of here about 10 weeks ago, perfectly fine as far as I could tell, and disappeared; no idea why).

So if I’m to ever get out of here again it’ll have to be under my own steam. Regaining strength, if it happens, is just one factor – dealing with the pain of this, my leg ulcer, is the biggie, and it’s getting bigger and more painful by the day (this is yesterday’s pic). I increasingly favour amputation but my nurses don’t agree and the consultant I need is still missing.

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Watch this space…

Oh, and can I just say that honey (see here re Manuka), has been proven to have no effect on leg ulcers. Honey is bactericidal, that is it works on infections. Ulcers are caused by a breakdown in circulation, either blood, lymphatic fluid, or both. There is nothing there for honey to work on. True, ulcers can become infected, but that’s a symptom, not a cause. Curing the infection doesn’t cure the ulcer.

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