Posted Mon Mar 5, 2012, 12:08am Subject: Re: Need advice on Gaggia machine purchase
And here it is mounted on the Classic. There are spaces in the cabinet right underneath the bottom edge so I simply fish the wire up through there and attach the bead to a location of your choosing on the side of the boiler. I already detailed where I like to put the bead - but feel free to try it in various locations. You aren't looking for an absolute temp, you will still rely on your taste to determine whether you want it a little hotter or a little colder - but the thermometer will help you find that starting temp and it will help you see when the boiler is about to kick on by itself. If you prevent the automatic cycle (once it starts, the heater stays on until it swings way too high) you can just kick the steam switch on for 3-4 seconds and then wait another 5-6 seconds and you'll see the temp has risen several degrees without going on the large rollercoaster temp swing it does when left alone.
When steaming, you can note the temp where the heater shuts off - once the steam thermostat has shut the heat off, it has to cool down way too much before it will come back on again. Once you know that temp, you can shut the steam switch off before it hits the trigger temp and then switch it back on before the steam looses power - you can keep switching it on and off as long as you don't hit the temp that triggers the Steam Thermostat. I've been able to keep strong steam going for minutes - until I had to blip the pump a few times to get some water back into the boiler.
Posted Mon Mar 5, 2012, 12:26am Subject: Re: Need advice on Gaggia machine purchase
Just wanted to add the note (since you are a new Gaggia Classic owner) that since the Classic has the 3-way valve, you cannot use the steam switch to kick the heat on during a shot. The cheaper models that don't have the 3-way valve are a little more simple in that you can use the steam switch to keep the temp up during a shot.
I got around this on the Classic by adding one more switch that allows me to kick the heat on without triggering the 3-way.
But I think that if you experiment a bit with the thermometer mounted you will find that you can get pretty consistent temps.
My own routine (if I didn't have the special switch) would be to get the machine nicely warmed up --- and make sure the boiler is full and my cup is warm by flushing a small amount of hot water from the boiler into my cup and then settle the boiler temp around 218-225F depending on beans and taste - (and the temp you see will totally depend on where and how you stick the thermocouple bead to the boiler) ---- when I'm about ready to pull the shot, I will kick the steam switch for 4 seconds (the temp on the thermometer will not change yet - it is delayed) and then start the shot. If I hadn't hit the steam switch first, I would have seen the temp start to fall really fast during the first few seconds --- but with the 4 second steam switch first the temp holds a little better as the shot starts.
Posted Mon Mar 5, 2012, 8:41am Subject: Re: Need advice on Gaggia machine purchase
If you watch the temp with a thermometer -- you'll see that a Gaggia cools down to about 195F before the heater kicks on then you see the heater kick off about 226F but the temp keeps climbing up to about 240F because the heating elements still had a lot of energy to transfer into the boiler after the t-stat switched the heat off.
As the machine gets up to temp (20-30 minutes if you leave it to run on its own) the swings will be less severe and less frequent. You can shorten the warmup time by getting it up to steam temp and then flushing that very hot water through the Portafilter to help warm up all the metal.
So if I were going to pull a shot with out using the thermometer (or if you have a thermometer, you can watch the temp so see how this technique works - and then you can improve on it using the thermometer), I'd grind the coffee, dose tamp (I might do this into the basket alone with the PF still locked and hot in the machine) and watch the light and wait for the boiler heat to cycle. Then insert the basket and lock the PF again and be ready to start the pull the instant the light tells me the heater has shut off.
===== Now using the thermometer, I would alter my technique as follows. Say that my target temp (depends on blend of beans and my tastes) is 226F on the boiler (gives me about 197F brew temp) .... I'd watch the boiler temp and if it were reading 220F I'd hit the steam switch for 2-3 seconds and then off and then wait. You should see the temp climbing several seconds after you flip the steam switch back off. DON'T leave the steam switch on until you see the temp climb - if you do, the temp will swing way higher than you intended - the heat change is always several seconds after the heaters were turned on.
And if I was busy grinding and the Gaggia did it's heat cycle on its own - I might see that the temp has swung way too high - say it's reading 235F - I will blip the brew switch a few times into my waiting cup to warm it up. Again - DON'T flush water until the temp reads what you want - the temp will change several seconds after you flush the water. So just flush a few short blips of water and then wait and you will see the temp drop several seconds later. A little practice and you will learn how to move the temp by 2 degrees up or down.
So the temp is now sitting right at my target temp - thermometer is reading 228F - I have my basket all dosed and tamped, my cup is warm and the PF is hot - I put the basket in the PF and lock it in the machine - then I hit the steam switch for 4 seconds and then steam switch off and start my shot immediately (don't wait or the temp will climb higher than your target). The temp should hold pretty steady for the first 10 seconds of the pull and then start to fall until the end of the shot (the brew temp doesn't fall as much as the boiler temp indicates - the hottest water is at the top of the boiler and that is what is being sent to the coffee puck).
===== There are two changes to that routine that I do with the two additional mods I have. I have a push button to reduce the pump pressure and a toggle to kick the heater on. I use the same technique as above but I hold the pump pressure low for the first 4-8 seconds to preinfuse then I let the pump go to 9 bars for the rest of the shot (I may go low pressure again at the end of the shot for a few seconds). And during the shot - depending on how fast the pour - I cycle the heat on for a second or two every so often. For a standard double my heat cycle looks like this: heat on for 4 seconds - heat off and start the pull - heat off for 3 seconds- on for 2 seconds - off for 3 seconds - on for 2 seconds - off for 3 - on for 2 and so on. When I get this right, the thermometer continues reading constant temp (plus/minus 1 degree) during the entire shot.
===== But even without those two additional mods --- I find that simply leaving everything stock and finding your surf routine - the Classic gives pretty great shots. More than anything, the thermometer will help you learn what the boiler's natural heat cycle is doing and you can learn to use it just watching the ready light and nothing else. All the rest of my routine (sounds more complicated than it is - it's very easy to get used to) is just fun for me (geek) and you don't need to fuss with it as much as I do unless you enjoy experimenting.
On paper, the Gaggia Twin looks great, and the reviews on this site do not indicate the performance problems you infer. Since you have access to Gaggia user forums, can you share with us why you think the Twin is so bad?
WLL carries a refurb Twin for $399. I assume the refurbisher would know about design fixes and bring them up to current standards. Otherwise, WLL would be damaging their reputation. Then again, you know the adage about ass-u-me...
SJM Senior Member Joined: 17 Nov 2004 Posts: 1,652 Location: CA Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: SAMA, Gaggia Classic Grinder: OE Pharos, Rancilio MD-50 Vac Pot: no Drip: no Roaster: Behmor
Posted Tue Mar 27, 2012, 9:34am Subject: Re: Need advice on Gaggia machine purchase
Access to the Gaggia Group is available to everyone who owns or plans to own a Gaggia -- not just to me. GUG exists so that members can share their information on using, modding, repairing their semi-automatic Gaggias. My job here really is just to let you know that that resource exists if you care to join and share. You can do your own research there.
I have not owned a Twin, but since I do read every post at the Gaggia Group, I have read enough to suggest that you look further than the specs and the promoters of that particular model before you buy.
I know there are some people who will defend the Twin. I am not going to argue with them, but my perspective is that they are problematic, and I am always sad to have people come to GUG and say "why didn't I know this before ....."
P.S. As to "refurbished"? Refurbishing does not mean fixing design flaws. All it means is putting the machine back in as-if-new condition. If the plan/design/execution is flawed to start with it will still be flawed when the machine is refurbished.
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