I am about to receive a Gaggia Classic to go with a new Vario grinder. Before I get around to adjusting the OPV pressure down from 12 bar (which I will do), I'd still like to work on getting a great shot. I'm wondering if someone can explain to me how the different brew pressures affect a shot. Is it just that the 9 bar pressure is more forgiving? Is it possible to achieve the same maximal shot quality on either a 12 or 9 bar outflow pressure?
The higher pressure will tend to make the pour run a little faster and the crema more bubbly ... you may need to grind a little finer until you adjust the pressure down ... and the shot may be more likely to channel. The higher pressure is more likely to find a shortcut - wormhole - through the path of least resistance in the puck.
But you should be able to make some great shots all the same --- even if you don't have a portafilter gauge, you can get into the ballpark by just backing off the OPV adjustment about 3/4 of a turn until you get a gauge to set it accurately.
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