The Gaggia Classic Pro is a well-made espresso machine, and has developed a large and loyal following. Many of its fans have modified their machines in ways that improve and/or personalize the model.
Some mods can be more complicated than others, without producing much difference to the end result of your espresso. But some are pretty simple, and don’t require much investment.
Here are the different mods and upgrades that you can make to the Gaggia Classic Pro, listed in order of importance. You’ll find something in our guide to suit your desired level of involvement and complexity when modding your Gaggia Classic Pro.
In This Guide:
All time estimates provided below are for someone following a tutorial, who isn’t familiar with the mechanics of the espresso machine. Actual time can vary substantially based on knowledge and experience.
1.OPV Spring Replacement
Cost: $10 – $20
Time: 30 minutes
The over-pressure valve (OPV) regulates brewing pressure when pulling shots. Espresso is most often pulled at around 8-9 bars of pressure, as this tends to yield the best results.
The Gaggia Classic Pro’s factory standard OPV has a 15-bar spring that’s much higher than what espresso should be pulled at. Many machines have high pressures like this as a marketing ploy. The added pressure negatively impacts shot quality, though.
You can replace the factory OPV with an aftermarket one that produces less pressure. OPV springs that generate 9, 6.5 and 5 bars of pressure are available for the Classic Pro, and you may see some springs with other pressures. Replacement springs can usually be purchased for around $10 – $20.
A spring that generates 9 bars of pressure will provide a good pressure profile throughout the process of pulling shots. If you’re using a standard coffee grinder rather than an espresso grinder, you might choose a lower 6.5- or 5-bar spring. The lower pressure helps compensate for the less precise (and usually coarser) grounds.
Replacing the OPV spring requires opening the espresso machine. You must then pull off the hose that connects to the spring’s housing, unscrew the housing, replace the spring, and reassemble. The project requires only a screwdriver and a small wrench. No electrical wiring is involved, and there are many video tutorials that show how to do this.
If you’re going to make only one change to your machine, the OPV spring will have the largest impact on shot quality. It’s also a cheap upgrade, and many people find the actual project less intimidating than they expected.
2. PID Switch Install
Cost: $50 – $150
Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
A PID switch uses an algorithm to maintain consistent temperature within the boiler. A standard boiler has only one heat setting, which it toggles on and off as the water reaches certain temperature ranges. A PID switch scales the amount of heat according to how close the water is to the target temperature, using less heat as the water nears the temperature. This results in the water temperature oscillating less and within a narrower range.
The Gaggia Classic Pro doesn’t come with a PID switch, but one can be installed. Since the switch manages water temperature within the boiler, you need to disassemble much of the machine in order to reach the boiler. The wiring will then have to be disconnected and reconnected, as you install an aftermarket PID switch.
Installing a PID switch is the most involved of all these upgrades and modifications. It’s doable thanks to video tutorials, though, and has a notable impact on espresso quality. You can spend anywhere from $50 to $150 for a PID, depending on how advanced the switch is and whether it has a display.
3. Bottomless (Naked) Portafilter Upgrade
Cost: $40 – $100
Time: 2 minutes
The Gaggia Classic Pro’s portafilter is surprisingly high-quality. It’s the same chrome-plated brass portafilter that’s standard in commercial settings, and included with Gaggia’s commercial machines. Compared to what’s included with many home espresso machines, this is larger (58mm rather than 54mm) and heavier (weighing 1 lb).
Nevertheless, the Classic Pro’s included portafilter has a bottom spout that restricts how deep its baskets can be. A basket that’s deeper than the portafilter won’t fit. This limits shot size and prevents overdosing (which is common among some home baristas).
Getting a bottomless (or naked) portafilter allows you to use baskets of any depth, for these portafilters don’t have a bottom spout. A portafilter might include the handle, or just be the ring that screws into the handle.
You can find bottomless portafilters for $30 to $100, depending on quality and design. Of course, this upgrade only makes sense if you also purchase a deeper grounds basket. Just make sure the bottomless portafilter you purchase is 58mm.
If you’re having trouble with grounds preparation, a bottomless portafilter will allow for a wider range of grams dosed. You might be able to compensate for other issues by dosing at higher amounts.
You also would upgrade to a bottomless portafilter if you want to pull larger shots or overdose shots. Finally, you may consider a bottomless portafilter if you’re replacing the portafilter handle anyway.
4. Competition Basket Upgrade
Cost: $30 – $50
Time: 2 minutes
All compatible espresso grounds baskets have identical basic dimensions, and they’ll look largely the same at first glance. A closer inspection of different baskets’ holes will reveal variance in the machining, though.
Competition baskets are machined within a narrower tolerance than what’s allowed for standard baskets. The more precise machining ensures all holes are identical, and thus don’t affect water flow or extraction. Small imperfections in standard baskets can disrupt water flow such that exactaction is impacted.
You can find competition-grade baskets for around $30 to $50. Any high-quality 58mm basket will work well, but the most recognized competition-grade baskets are IMS Competition baskets.
If you’re purchasing a deeper basket for use with a bottomless portafilter, competition baskets don’t cost much more than decent standard baskets. You should also consider a competition basket if you have a good espresso grinder, and carefully dial in espresso each day. A better basket can make a noticeable improvement in shot quality if you’re otherwise prepping grounds well.
If you don’t have a good espresso-specific grinder, any improvement that a competition basket provides will be lost. You won’t notice a difference because the grounds aren’t completely uniform and perfectly dialed in.
5. Tamper Upgrade
Cost: $40 – $100
Time: 2 minutes
Most espresso machines come with inexpensive tampers, and the Gaggia Classic Pro isn’t an exception. The included plastic tamper is lightweight and somewhat unsightly. It’s alright but not anything special.
You can easily upgrade the tamper by purchasing a different one. The Classic Pro’s 58 mm group head is the most standard size, so you’ll find no shortage of compatible tampers. Choose one that has a metal base (so it’s heavier) and a handle you like (e.g. wood). You can find many beautiful ones in the $40 to $100 price range.
Replacing the tamper could minorly impact shot quality, as you might find that the added weight makes tamping evenly a little easier. A different tamper could also look much better – especially if you pair it with a matching portafilter handle, steam knob, knock box, sugar dish, etc.
6. Single-Hole Wand Tip Replacement
Cost: $15 – $25
Time: 5 minutes
The steam wand pressure of most home espresso machines is lower than what commercial machines’ wands output. The lower pressure makes steaming milk take longer, and it can also be more difficult to create microfoam at lower pressure.
One way to increase the Gaggia Classic Pro’s steam wand pressure is by replacing the wand’s tip. The standard tip has two nozzles that steam shoots out of. An aftermarket single-hole tip forces all steam out through one opening, and thereby increases the steam’s pressure. The tip works much like covering part of a garden hose’s opening.
You can find a replacement steam tip for around $15 to $25, but you must order one that’s made specifically for the Classic Pro. A non-standard thread prevents generic tips from going on the steam wand. Shades of Coffee is usually the most reliable place to find the specialized single-hold tip. Once you have the tip, simply unscrew the stock one and screw on the replacement.
Consider replacing the steam wand tip if you regularly make cortados, cappuccinos, lattes or hot chocolates. A better tip will speed up your process, and better set you up for designing latte art.
7. Grouphead Gasket Replacement
Cost: $2 – $10
Time: 30 minutes
Some new Gaggia Classic Pro owners are motivated to replace the group head gasket. While an aftermarket silicone gasket may last longer than the standard rubber one, there’s little reason to do this on a new machine. It won’t impact shot quality or aesthetics.
All gaskets wear out over time, however, so you might need to replace the group head gasket if you have an older Classic Pro. Replace the gasket if you notice uneven water flow when pulling a shot without any grounds in the basket.
Accessing the gasket requires removing the face of the machine and part of the group head. You then can remove the old gasket, put in the new one, and put everything back into place. You might as well deep clean the group head’s screen while the group head is disassembled. A new gasket usually costs only a few dollars.
8. Knob & Handle Upgrades
Cost: $90 – $300
Time: 15 minutes
Most knobs and handles on espresso machines can be changed out. This is a purely aesthetic change, but it can have a remarkable effect on how a machine looks. A machine that has matching knobs and handles looks sharp, especially if those knobs and handles match other accessories or the room’s decor.
On the Gaggia Classic Pro, you can replace the steam knob, portafilter handle and tamper handle. The steam knob takes a few minutes to unscrew from the machine, but it’s fairly straightforward and just requires a screwdriver. The portafilter handle will screw into the portafilter. Some tampers have removable handles, but you’ll have to replace the entire tamper since the standard one is one plastic piece.
Most of these accessories cost anywhere from $30 to $100. Expect to pay between $90 and $300 if you’re going to replace all three with matching pieces. Most people choose wood replacements, but there are a few metal and plastic options.
9. LED Lights Install
Cost: $100 – $250
Time: 1.5 – 3 hours
A growing number of new espresso machines have LED lights installed around the group head. The Gaggia Classic Pro doesn’t offer this feature, but you can install LED lights if you have the requisite wiring knowledge.
The Classic Pro’s water tank placement makes it the most common place to install LED lights. Lighting up the tank creates a striking effect, especially if using color. The lights also illuminate the workspace around the group head, where shots are prepped and pulled.
This project requires a full LED lighting kit with waterproof lights and connections. Even though the connections and lights can be located at the top of the water tank, everything should be waterproof in case there’s a splash or spill. Most suitable kits cost between $100 and $300.
You’ll also need at least basic wiring knowledge to do this successfully. There are few video tutorials, and they each use a slightly different kit. You’ll have to know how to adapt the tutorial for your particular LED lighting kit, and you probably need to know a few details that aren’t mentioned in the short videos. This is one of the more detailed video tutorials:
Few Classic Pro owners install LED lights, because doing so requires expertise and doesn’t result in better shots. Lights are an option if you want a fully tricked-out machine, though.
Make Your Gaggia Classic Pro Your Own
These upgrades and modifications for the Gaggia Classic Pro allow you to change the espresso machine in many different ways. Whether you want better shots, a different look, or both, you can make your Classic Pro truly your own machine with some of these changes.
Scott M. Brodie covers coffee, theology and boring subjects that pay the bills. When not writing, he can usually be found roasting a new African single origin or composing a fictional work. To see one of Scott’s personal projects, check out seminariesandbiblecolleges.com.