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noelweston

Another £3-400 upgrade thread...

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Not copying shinsplints thread, honest, although I have been reading the responses (and everything else I can find on here...).

 

I'm in a slightly different position - we've had a Gaggia Classic for a few years, initially with supermarket coffee, then moved on through Whittards etc. to a local roaster that we've been very happy with. We're using a Starbucks Barista burr grinder, and with this combination we've been very happy with the coffee we get - although good cappucinos are difficult if not impossible.

 

As I mentioned in my intro thread, the water thermostat on the Classic failed a couple of months ago. I replaced it, and since then the machine appears to be running hotter - there's more steam when we run hot water out of it, the case of the machine feels hotter, and the coffee doesn't taste nearly as good as we had been getting. The new thermostat is marked with the same rating as the old one - 107C - as I couldn't find where to source anything else. This may just be the machine being back to where it was originally - we can't remember - or the 'stat may be working at a higher temperature than the original.

 

Unfortunately, the more I read here, the more confused I get:confused:. I've never managed to get into 20+ second shots, and it would appear that we've also been massively over-extracting the espresso, getting 2 drinks of approx. double volume out of 20g of beans :exit:

 

Having said that, we've had some very drinkable espresso and americano out of this combo, and it's only recently that things don't taste right - since the 'stat change.

 

We should have a small amount of money available in the next couple of months, so I've been researching and trying to figure out what to do next.

 

Our coffee habit: we drink mainly espresso or americano, usually around 6 drinks a day each in total for us, plus occasional visitors. We're using reasonably fresh beans (supplies bought every 3-4 weeks as beans from the local roaster and kept in an airtight container), and generally have 3 or 4 different single origins and blends on the go at any one time. We occasionally use a cafetiere, generally when there's more than 2 of us here, and also have a couple of moka pots as backup for when the Classic stops working for one reason or another.

 

From what I've learned so far, our yield is being pushed much too far, so we need to sort that out. We should also be looking at a better grinder. We also need to either sort out the temperature on the Classic or replace it, as I'm getting fed up of pulling hot water out to try and cool things down just before making the coffee, forgetting, etc...

 

So, my questions (finally!) are:

1) What grinder do we need?

I know the MC2 gets recommended regularly, but what would we do about grinding for the cafetiere? Is it adjustable for this, or would we need to keep a second grinder in reserve for that? Are there any other reasonably priced grinders that are easily adjustable for espresso and brewed?

We only tend to grind the beans that we need for that drink, and as I said we have 3 or 4 different beans on the go concurrently. From this I conclude that we need a doserless grinder with a reasonably small capacity?

 

2) Fix the Classic?

a) If I can get a lower-rated thermostat, I'd be happy to do that and see what happens. We'd then also be looking at the Silvia steam wand upgrade.

b) Alternatively, I've considered the Auber PID kit. I wouldn't be confident with a DIY version, but would be OK with fitting this.

 

3) Or replace/upgrade?

There are Silvias around for the sort of money we have available, including a couple on here, but probably not if we also have to buy a better grinder. I'm aware that for some people this wouldn't necessarily be a step up from the Classic.

There are also other secondhand machines available that I know little about, mainly on ebay (e.g. an Isomac, a number of Europiccolas which look very nice, and a single head Iberital) within budget.

 

4) And if upgrading, are there any other machines out there in our budget that would happily make 2 good double espressos in one go, plus be reasonably good for steaming & frothing milk?

 

Our total budget would run to around a new MC2 + the PID kit and steam wand for the classic, so around the £300 mark - or we could stretch a little from there if necessary.

 

Suggestions / comments / thoughts welcomed - should I be concentrating on fixing/improving the classic and getting the better grinder, or would a step up to a better machine be worth it, plus the better grinder in either case?

 

Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

 

Noel


Gaggia Classic, RR55od, Aeropress, Rhino hand grinder, cold brewer...

Saxophones, clarinets, cameras & a lot of PCs

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My first suggestion is send a mail to gaggiamanualservice, he (Mark) will give you advice regarding the thermostat which could solve your major problem.

 

ian


Minima ma ma ma Eureka Zenith

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I agree with eyedee, get a cheap thermostat replacement and learn about temperature surfing if you aren't already familiar with it.

Then consider getting a MC2 for espresso and maybe a porlex hand grinder for brewed. I have had some pretty tasty brews from my porlex in the short time I've had it.

That would be the cheapest combination imo.

 

Save more money for your next upgrade...(should definitely include a Mazzer).

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If you happy with some simple DIY (not much more advanced than wiring a plug) then you could always PID your machine yourself.

Get something like this for £32 from ebay http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/UK-Shipping-Digital-PID-temperature-controler-SSR-K-Sensor-thermostats-/320869323753?pt=UK_Home_Garden_Hearing_Cooling_Air&hash=item4ab54d53e9 There are some good guides on the internet and several people here on the forums who have done it and are happy to help.

 

You could then get an MC2 for Espresso (£120) + Baratza Maestro Plus for Brewed (£120).

Alternately if you happy with fatboyslim suggestion for a porlex hand grinder for brewed then forget the MC2 & Maestro and splash out all your budget on a Mazzer!


Gaggia Classic (PID, OPV Mod & Silvia Wand), Acasco i2, Madebyknock Tamper, Baratza Encore, Clever Dripper, Aeropress

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Adding a PID control is a great upgrade to the Classic. The Auber PID works well and is very easy to fit and use.

 

If you are not getting extraction times of longer than 20 seconds then the problem is your grinder. The MC2 is an excellent grinder for espresso but, as you are aware, it is impractical to use for brewed coffee too (you would spend all your time readjusting the grinder). If you make cafetiere coffee, an inexpensive burr grinder will do the job (I use a £40 Delonghi grinder for this very purpose).

 

I would suggest a Classic with a PID control and a Siivia steam wand will suit your purpose more than a Rancilio Silvia (but Silvia fans may disagree). Isomacs do not have a great reputation for reliability but they look like good value for money, Iberitals like Expobars are Spanish made and, although they are never as pretty as the Italians, Spanish machines tend to be solidly made and excellent value. The Pavoni Europiccola can produce great coffee (I am a fan of lever machines) but they need a lot of skill and patience to get consistent shots.

Edited by RoloD

Londinium I, Mazzer Mini E, Claris Everpure, Aeropress, Cafétière.

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Sadly good grinders don't come cheap. Fact!

 

The Vario will do both but some say it's not the best for brewed. I personally find it great. But it's not cheap.

 

Getting an MC2 for the espresso and keeping your starbucks one for brewed would be a good option. If you're worried your classic has bit the big one, then you could always buy a new one within your budget. Whack a new steam wand on it and you're away.


Rocket Appartamento | Mahlkonig Vario | 58mm Rocket tamper | AeroPress | VST 18g basket | HappyDonkey Bottomless PortaFilter

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Thanks for all the replies - all helpful, and helping me clarify things.

 

I have been in touch with Mark, but he only has the same temperature rating of thermostat, which may or may not be a dead end - depending whether I've just got an odd 'stat, or it is how the machine was 3-4 years ago. I still don't think there's anything *major* wrong with the Classic - everything was fine and happy until the 'stat died.

 

I'm thinking that the combination of the MC2 for espresso and keep the starbucks grinder for the odd brewed would be a good combo - the starbucks grinder basically works fine, but may not be grinding fine enough for espresso.

 

Then it's back to whether to PID and steam wand the Classic - total around £180 - or upgrade. I'm thinking that the Silvia isn't that much of an upgrade from here, and that would be double the amount of money - either for a second-hand upgraded one or a brand new machine. As far as I can see, any significant machine upgrade is going to take me well over our available budget unless I take a chance on one of the other brands on ebay or somewhere similar, in unknown condition.

 

I'm leaning towards upgrading the Classic at the moment - I'll have another read on the DIY PID solutions today and see where I get to.

 

Also, being cheeky, are there any members on here in the East Yorks / Hull area who would like to show me what I'm missing?

 

As always, comments appreciated!

 

Noel


Gaggia Classic, RR55od, Aeropress, Rhino hand grinder, cold brewer...

Saxophones, clarinets, cameras & a lot of PCs

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IMO that is the right choice. You can get so much out of a Classic with mods and upgrades that to really see a major upgrade from it would set you back over £1000. Yes there are better machines at around £600 but to spend that would be foolish rather than saving up for a shiny Rocket/Izzo/Expobar. That's what i'm telling myself anyway :act-up:

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Jusr wanted to post an update on this, as I'm now settling down with an MC2 grinder (thanks Chris!).

 

The first thing to admit is that you were all right - we've had better tasting coffee with the new grinder, even though we didn't think there was anything wrong with the old one...

 

It's been interesting trying to un-learn 2+ years of coffee making habits - dropped back on the dosing and tamping, and still trying not to choke the Gaggia, but I'm getting there. I've about got the grind and timing right now.

 

The one bit I'm struggling with is the mess - grinding straight into the portafilter ends up with coffee everywhere, so we're trying to find something to gring into with an easy/clean transfer into the portafilter. As always, any suggestions gratefully received.


Gaggia Classic, RR55od, Aeropress, Rhino hand grinder, cold brewer...

Saxophones, clarinets, cameras & a lot of PCs

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You could try cutting up the bottom off a yoghurt pot which you can use as a funnel between the chute of a grinder and the portafilter. That's what I do, a cheap and cheerful homemade remedy!


Fracino Piccino - Eureka Mignon - 17g LM basket - 58.35mm Madebyknock tamper - Aeropress - Bodum FP

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This is what you need

IMG_20121124_115907.jpg

A styrofoam cup cut in half. Cost ~ 2p


Rocket Appartamento | Mahlkonig Vario | 58mm Rocket tamper | AeroPress | VST 18g basket | HappyDonkey Bottomless PortaFilter

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Thanks for the ideas - I'm amazed to see 2 suggestions that are cheap, and no-one saying I need to upgrade to a £400 gold plated specialist coffee funnel... ;)

 

I'll see what I can find in the morning.


Gaggia Classic, RR55od, Aeropress, Rhino hand grinder, cold brewer...

Saxophones, clarinets, cameras & a lot of PCs

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Don't sound so disappointed:act-up: I'm sure with a bit of effort someone could find you a solid gold funnel with platinum trim


Ron 

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Regards the MC2 getting coffee everywhere when grinding directly in to the Portafilter you're right. When I had mine I used to grind in to the plastic "cup" from my old Duallit grinder.

 

As an alternative to the paper cup I used to does in to a Phillips baby food storage jar that I had lying around and then fill the portafilter from that; I liked that setup because the jar was plastic and flexible and as such I could fill the portafilter with no mess at all. Also the jar I used had a plastic lid which I occasionally used if I'd ground way too much and didn't want to waste.

 

I upgraded my MC2 to a Mazzer Super Jolly but it was fantastic while I had it. Oh as an aside I now use another Phillips jar with the bottom cut off as a mini hopper for the SJ which works superbly well :))

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