View Full Version : My coffee journey

13-12-10, 10:58
Hi all,

I found this forum because I recently upgraded to a Gaggia Classic and just wanted to find out more about pulling the perfect espresso shot.

Anyways, I'll share with you all, the coffee journey I have been on to present. It basically started off when I began going into coffee chain shops and simply just drinking their beverages and at home, drinking instant coffee (the instant latte's, cappuccino’s etc.).

After some time, I then decided that I wanted to drink my own coffee at home where it could be freshly made. At that time I didn't have any knowledge of coffee at all and just blindly used a steam espresso machine with pre-grounds. I thought that was good and was actually making proper coffee...

Subsequently, after a few weeks or so, I wanted to use something better. So I went into Argos and got one of the basic and cheap pump machines. Still using pre-grounds, I somewhat got excited when crema was appearing as I pulled shots of espresso; bearing in mind I never knew or wasn’t aware that the machine had pressurised filter baskets. This machine lasted me for about 6 months until the steam wand failed. So then I went for an upgrade.

I upgraded to a Delonghi machine (specifically, the BAR32 or EC200 machine) using the vouchers I had from my old pump machine in Argos. When I got the machine, I found out that it had a pressurised filter basket and thought it was a good thing... Again still using pre-grounds plus, I got myself a cheap Whittard of Chelsea stainless steel tamper which didn't fit well... (it was too small so had to do multiple tamps). After a while, I finally began grinding my own beans but with a blade grinder... the espresso the machine pulled seemed okay when I first used it. After a long period, I decided to upgrade my blade grinder to my current Delonghi burr grinder (model KG79). Shots did improve but not as much since the filter basket was pressurised. I had this machine for another six months and until very recently, it suddenly started to produce weak and frustrating shots of espresso... I sensed a time for an upgrade...

I returned it (under my insurance) and got myself a Gaggia Classic, which is currently on a bargain deal at the moment in Argos for £199!! Having my Gaggia Classic for about a week, I am fairly satisfied with it even though it has a pressurised filter basket... these things must have been haunting me... So I got myself a bottomless portafilter from Happy Donkey, as well as a 57mm wooden and chrome tamper from Drury Coffee (I live in London). However, the results haven't been so satisfying; squirting coffee and the shot flowing quickly. I went back to Drury Coffee and they provided me with a sample of fine grinded coffee. I went home and pulled a shot, I was gobsmacked. Though the shot was over extracted, but it came out really nicely; no channelling and it was centred. My Delonghi grinder looks like it cannot grind fine enough and I even thought it would just be okay. Have to get a new grinder now, as well as working on my tamping technique. The Iberital MC2 grinder could be an option for me since it is within my budget.

Saying all this... I now fully understand why coffee enthusiasts always stress the coffee grinder first then machine principle; I was the complete opposite.

The fun of espresso has only just begun.


13-12-10, 11:06
Hi VTG and welcome to a friendly forum. It sounds like you have had some bad luck with your machines, although they do need looking after with descaling and backflushing (the classic anyway).

The MC2 is a great grinder and most of us have one.

13-12-10, 11:18
Yeah, I wasn't very lucky with the machines I had in the past. For my first pump machine I only descaled it once after one or two months. Although I did descale my Delonghi regularly; it was just somehow it produced weak shots, such that when I made a latte I was literally drinking steamed milk with a hint of coffee. Hopefully my Classic will serve me well and for a good long time too.

13-12-10, 11:57
Welcome to Coffee Forums

14-12-10, 12:25
Welcome VTG

I'd also suggest changing the tamper for a 58mm version. You will notice the difference too as you'll get a better seal and well formed puck when knocked out

14-12-10, 09:56
Thanks everyone, this forum is surely a friendly one =)
Anyway, I went back to Drury Tea and Coffee and they were happy to exchange the 57mm tamper for a 58mm Concept Art one. Having used it for a few shots, the tamping process does seem a lot easier, as well as enjoyable and the puck does come straight out with a few knocks and well formed.
Now just have to wait until I can get hold of a new grinder, so at the moment I may have to use my pressurised filter basket for the time being with pre-grounds.

15-12-10, 12:22
Glad to hear Drury looked after you and that the new tamper has worked out well

Try a harder tamp without the pressurised basket and see if that works, before using the pressurised one - as these are prone to sending coffee all over the place

19-12-10, 03:51
After several days of using pregrounds, I received my new Iberital MC2 grinder from Happy Donkey on Friday (before the heavy snow) and found some time yesterday to use and dial it for my Classic. Have to say it did take a while to dial and almost have finished using all of my 250g beans, but in the end I did find a desired fineness setting. The grinds now come out finely and shots massively improved, with more crema and not as bitter as before.

Now just need to get more fresh beans.

19-12-10, 04:31
Aye, it does take a bit to dial things in but that woohoo moment when it all clicks is just great and you think "so this is what I have been waiting for" Is it worth it oh most definitely YES.

19-12-10, 05:09
Must agree totally. When I first decided that I wanted to make coffee at home, I thought I could get away with using cheap grinders and machines but after this I can ascertain I was definitely wrong. Likewise, I get what I pay for and can now enjoy decent coffee.

Now need to look into how I would clean my Classic... Descaling shouldn't be a problem but a bit concerned with backflushing because heard somewhere that Gaggia doesn't recommend it.

19-12-10, 05:30
Welcome VTG can't be sure about the classic but backflush my Baby Classic regularly using Puly Cafe. Which beans are you using as this can also make a huge difference

19-12-10, 05:44
Backflushing the Classic is a must do.

There are earlier Gaggia models with no solenoids that cannot be backflushed,

If you follow this handy guide (http://5mcoffee.com/how%20to%20backflush.pdf) you should be fine

19-12-10, 07:33
Thanks for the replies.
I guess I'll ignore what I've been hearing about Gaggia not recommend backflushing and just do it. Although, I'll probably just speak to them on how they see it.

I'm currently using the Colombian Decaf beans from Drury, they're not very oily so I don't think it'll clog up my machine if I don't backflush regularly.

20-12-10, 02:37
When you switch the brew switch off, if you hear a sort of pop and water from a pipe flushes into the drip tray, then you can backflush. It is amazing how much gunk that comes out.

20-12-10, 04:46
Just got off the phone with Philips. They don't seem to know what backflushing is... But anyhow, I'll backflush weekly and run clean water daily to keep my machine clean.

21-12-10, 10:31
It might also be worth investing in the Brita Maxtra Jug and cartridges to minimise limescale buildup.

21-12-10, 10:39
You'd be amazed how often I hear that from major companies (lack of working knowledge of products supported)
They probably think backflushing is some underground cult - and as it's in their best interest to sell (not support) machines they probably* hope they fall apart and can sell another

*complete hearsay but there's no profit in a working machine...

21-12-10, 11:45
Yep, at the moment I'm using Brita filtered water for my Classic. Always had one for family uses like boiling the kettle etc.

As for contacting Philips... I spoke to 3 people including a senior manager and had somewhat varied responses where one advisor said backflushing (after explaining what it is) would void my warranty, another said that it won't just as long as I don't open up my machine and finally the senior manager who only said to descale and that's it. It's interesting how they claim they are not technical but are called 'specialists' for consumer support...

But anyways, just a small matter, is it normal for the puck to stick to the group head after pulling a shot? I grounded my beans finely and tamped as usual but after removing the portafilter nothing was in it... The shot was fine though.

22-12-10, 07:17
Finally have backflushed my Classic and was actually quite exciting to see all that gunk come out. About the puck sticking to the group head, I think it might be due to me overdosing and somewhat becoming sticky...
Now it's just descaling and continuous coffee making.

Anyways, thank you guys for all the help and advice. Enjoy your holidays!

22-12-10, 07:58
Anyways, thank you guys for all the help and advice. Enjoy your holidays!
And you enjoy your coffee keep using the forum

23-12-10, 10:20
the reason gaggia did not recommend backflushing on the small manual machines was the blocking up of the solenoid valve that this regularly caused, it was recommended on the large commercial machines but not the small solenoid machines. regular descaling is still the best policy