Really like the Classic now that it's paired with a Mazzer Mini!
Positive Product Points
Consistent shots (BIG improvement over Starbucks Athena and Krups Novo 2300). Good steaming power produces good microfoam. Large drip tray and water reservoir with easy reservoir filling through top. Goldtone version very attractive.
Negative Product Points
Solenoid drain tube doesn't line up with hole in drip tray (but can be worked around). Goldtone plating leached from around drain holes in filter basket. Steaming accessory not much help (but bare steam nozzle works very well).
I was looking for an espresso machine with (1) quick warmup, (2) ability to use ESE pods, and (3) semi-professional grouphead with 58mm filter and solenoid basket pressure relief. Choice was between Silvia, Classic, Isomac Venus.
The Gaggia Classic (in gold) seemed to fit the bill, and has done well. The small boiler heats up rapidly in the morning allowing an extra cup of wonderful espresso. Steam is available 30-45 sec after drawing the espresso. Cheating the boiler back down to brewing temperature takes a lot of water, but only about a minute.
Steaming is more than adequate. I must admit the plastic frothing attachment has be buffaloed; I don't see how it helps at all. Removing the plastic sleeve leaves a single hole steam tube that does a fine job (compared with my previous machines) making microfoam from whole milk. Using a temperature probe in the milk, I'm getting consistent microfoam with whole milk in about a minute. I use a 20 oz pitcher with about 6 oz. cold milk.
The Gaggia Classic as produced about 500 shots in the three months I've used the machine, and their consistency is impressive. When shot quality falters, its usually the freshness of the coffee (the last 250 gms of a 2 kg bag of Segafredo coffee beans), or an issue of fineness of grind. Although the machine is packed with a rubber crema enhancer, that device is more useful to backflush the solenoid drain pipe than as a aid to brewing.
The only fit and finish issue was the drain pipe for the solenoid grouphead pressure relief. It doesn't line up with the hole in the drip tray. The misalignment could cause splashing, although that hasn't been much of a problem for me. There is a workaround: install the drain pipe (it's held in by friction) and THEN tip and slide the drip tray assembly into the machine.
It's amazing to me how baristas in Italy can efforlessly hand me a cup of cappucino adorned with a white heart in a light brown background. I've been trying for several months to duplicate their artistry. Although its been a long (and delicious) journey, the well-steamed microfroth from the Gaggia Classic is beginning to create some latte art its rich, dense crema. So far, I've created some lovely white circles surrounded by tan haloes. :-( Once I got a very malformed heart. :-| But I'm trying . . . :-)
Other postings have complained that the chassis rusts. So far, no trouble with rust (and I live overlooking the ocean and EVERYTHING rusts around here). However, the gold plating on the portafilter doesn't appear very durable. It's already leached from around the holes where the espresso drips into the cup, and the inside of the filter holder is no longer gold. This is only a minor cosmetic detail so far and hasn't affected the quality of the coffee.
With all the buzz about rust, I suspect a newer model Gaggia Classic, which now comes with a stainless steel body, may have been a better choice, but the new model also includes an "improved" version of the crema enhancer. Reviews of the new frothing attachment have been unenthusiastic.
When I was shopping for my machine, I thought I'd be using ESE pods much of the time. Since then, I've started roasting my own coffee beans in a hot air popper. The freshly roasted beans make much better espresso, and I've left the Illy can of pods unopened. BTW I got a "God Shot" with some freshly home roasted green beans I brought back from Hawaii!!!
WLL sent the machine promptly. Seems like an expensive price though. There are several quality retailers on the net who participate in this forum. I've had a good experience will all of them
Three Month Followup
BIG upgrade when I replaced the Solis Maestro with a Mazzer Mini. "The Ritual" is a slam dunk now, with every shot a 25-28 sec. pull with lots of brown crema. Even grocery store coffee (Eight O'clock French Roast Whole Beans [all Arabica], gives excellent results. My steaming ability is also improving. Replaced Goldtone filter basket with pro model with more conventional spout (fit Mazzer portafilter fork better). A final note: Altho' I wanted a ESE pod capable machine, I still haven't opened my tin of Illy pods . . . :-}
One Year Followup
Still happy with my purchase. Makes great espresso. I'm forever impressed with the need for freshly roasted coffee, however. Let the beans sit for a while, and the espresso goes downhill. I'm finding that making more than two milk and coffee drinks at one time is a challenge. I see upgrade fever on the horizon!!!!