Shades of Coffee FAQs
These initial FAQs reflect questions that are asked of us, consider our organisation, our products, our delivery and our services:
Q. Does the price shown include VAT?
A. Currently Shades of Coffee does not have to be VAT registered in the UK, and hence VAT is not payable or charged.
If you are VAT exempt or VAT registered then (as we do not charge VAT) this will have no effect on our prices shown.
Q. Do you ship worldwide?
A. Yes, we aim to deliver worldwide. Please see our Delivery Information page for pricing. If it looks like we don't ship to you then please check with us.
Q. When will my order arrive?
A. UK orders are sent by Royal Mail 1st class post unless you choose an alternative Courier delivery option (if available) at the checkout. Overseas orders are sent with Royal Mail Standard or Tracked&Signed for standard delivery or if you need your purchase more quickly you may choose Courier express delivery (if available) at the checkout for a fast courier service within a few days. We ship larger shipments (such as PID kits via courier to some countries, due to cost/time factors - usually aiming to provide the best service at a reasonable price).
Whilst we will aim to ship all orders placed before midday on the same day, some circumstances may prevent or delay this (such as company holiday, Covid-19 pandemic social distancing, etc.). Please see our Delivery Information page for pricing.
Shades of Coffee Product FAQs
Q. Why do I want to or need to fit a PID, what does it do?
A. A standard Gaggia Classic has both the brew temperature and the steam temperature controlled by thermostats. These are simple devices that turn on and off at (approximately) specific non-adjustable temperatures. They allow power to be applied to the elements below that specific temperature and remove power to the elements above it. However, control like this would be very similar to you trying to drive a car at exactly 70mph - but trying to do so by having your foot to floor right until your speedo said 70 - and then just removing your foot completely (and trying to drive at a constant speed with your foot either to the floor, or completely off). Your car speed (much like the temperature of the Classic boiler) will still increase... way over 70mph, and then it'll eventually start to slow down on its own (and in a similar way, your boiler will eventually cool down). The Classic boiler behaves similarly when under thermostatic control, it cycles up and down - usually by +/- around 5C. So one shot you pull may using water that is 10C hotter or cooler than the next.... and the consistency and stability that we all aim for when trying to make good espresso goes out of the window. One shot is bitter, the next is sour, the next is just right - but we can't repeat that "just right" one as these taste variations are being caused by the temperature variations. Similarly, if I want to use brew water for different beans at different temperatures - so at 93.0c or 96.0c or 88.5c - and know and be sure that the water IS at that temperature then with a standard machine this is impossible.
However, a PID monitors and controls the temperature of the boiler using a very accurate RTD (resistance temperature device) sensor - to sense temperature changes within 0.1C/F. This then allows the PID controller, using a complex PID algorithm, to adjust how much power is applied to the heating elements and exactly when - so that the boiler can be specifically held at 93.0C or 93.5C or 88.7C or whatever you choose.
This massively aids temperature stability and hence extraction repeatability, and allows you to extract those great tasting espressos more often than not.
Brew temperature can be set to any (reasonable!) value - and the PID controller will monitor and hold the water temperature at that temperature for you. No temperature surfing required...
Steam temperature can also be adjusted, and set to any value you wish - again within reason - and as temperature is directly proportional to pressure, you can increase the steam temp and hence increase the steam pressure. This is great for owners who find the standard Classic steaming a little weak. Whilst steam temperature control isn't quite as tightly controlled as the brew temperature (it uses more of a thermostat type operation) the fact that the temperature of the steam can be changed is what matters and is where the benefit comes.
Q. Why do I want to or need to use an OPV kit to reduce pressure to 9 bar or even less?
A. For many years the maximum 'Industry Standard' espresso extraction pressure has been 9 bar. This is used in many home, prosumer and commercial machines today, and provides for great mouthfeel, good crema and good taste of the espresso.
Many home espresso machines are designed to cater for the use of coffeepods and/or pre-ground coffee (in pressurised filter baskets, and often comparatively stale 'supermarket' coffee that is much coarser ground than would otherwise be required for espresso) and both of these require significantly higher pressures in order to get an acceptable extraction - hence the 12+ bar often seen mentioned as being the standard pressure for a Classic; with many other machines going even higher to 14-16bar. Marketing people have convinced many espresso machine buyers that "more is better" and they often parade the "15bar of pressure" feature as being a great thing!
If you want to obtain espresso that is of coffee shop quality (or better) then you need to start with freshly roasted whole coffee beans, and grind them yourself with a quality burr (flat or conical) grinder capable of going to espresso levels of fineness. Many home coffee enthusiasts own Gaggia Classic machines, and absolutely want to get the best coffee they can from their machine, and they buy fresh coffee, use a good grinder, and use a standard filter basket rather than the pressurised one.
However - due to the 12+bars of pressure, using "proper" coffee in a non-pressurised basket, often results in a need to grind significantly more coarse than would normally be used for good espresso, and rather than being about to percolate evenly through the coffee puck, the high pressure often results in "channeling" - where water finds a path of least resistance through a hole in the puck, and then all of your water exits via this hole - overextracting a small amount of the puck, and leaving most of the puck untouched. The result often being poor, weak, gushing espresso.
Lowering the maximum extraction pressure to 9 bar means that you can and should use a finer espresso grind of your beans, providing for greater coffee surface area and much better extraction; as well as significantly less chance of channeling. Better mouthfeel, more crema and generally a "nicer" espresso typically results.
Whilst 9 bar is (or was!) the Industry Standard - many coffee shops today are using lower pressures to extract espresso.... 6 bar, 7 bar and sometimes even lower. These lower pressures need finer grinds again (usually the lower the pressure, the finer the grind required) but result in better/different extractions often sweeter and "tastier" than at higher pressures - but each person and each bean may be different.
So - if you have an older Gaggia Classic that has an adjustable brass OPV mounted on the rear of the boiler, then you can easily adjust it (with the use of simple workshop tools and a portafilter pressure gauge), and with the newer Gaggia Classic Pro / Classic 2019 with the pump mounted black-plastic valve then you can use our OPV mod kit to change the spring (and hence pressure) to either 9 bar, 6.5 bar or 5 bar.
Q. Why do I want to or need to change the power switch on my Classic 2019 (RI98480)?
A. The standard Classic 2019 (RI9480) uses a MOMENTARY power switch (ie a spring loaded rocker switch, that you push and it pops back up again). To operate, you press it once to turn the machine on, and press it again to turn the machine off.
This switch cannot be left "on" and the machine has an electronic power control board (located in the black box behind the pump) and it will automatically turn the machine off after 20 minutes of it being idle. This is in-line with EU energy regulations that give a blanket specification for "home coffee machines" and for espresso machines like the Classic, they must be provided by the manufacturer with a power-off timer set to no greater than 30 minutes. In the Classic the delay is 20 minutes - conveniently, this is approximately the time that it takes for a Classic to properly heat up from cold (so that all of the machine and group are sufficiently hot).... so just a it's getting ready to use, the EC regulation 1275/2008 (and later revisions) state that the machine must automatically turn off. Great!
Should you wish to use a WiFi smart powerswitch with most espresso machines (so that you can set it to turn your machine before you wake in the morning, and before you return from work in the evening) the it's a simple case of buying a Smartswitch, plugging the espresso machine into it, turning the espresso machine "on" and then setting up the smartswitch to actually turn power on and off to the machine as required.
This is a great idea, and you can do it with ANY Classic made before 2015.... but not the recent RI9480 models that have the momentary switch and timer module, as the machine cannot be left "on".
However, once you have bought the machine - you can do what you want with it - including modifying it yourself.
The Gaggia Classic Pro (RI9380) in the US doesn't have this momentary switch, and doesn't have the power control board and hence has no 20 minute timer. Sounds good!
So - by changing the power switch on your RI9480 to the same switch as is used on the RI9380 - and following our simple rewiring instructions, you can modify your machine yourself so that it behaves in the same way as the US model. It has an on/off rocker switch - that is either in the ON position or the OFF position. When you have it ON it will stay on... and when it is OFF it will stay off. The 20 minute timer doesn't function.
With a proper on/off switch you can hence leave it switched "on" and use it properly with a WiFi smartswitch, allowing the smartswitch to control power to the machine. When it turns on, the Classic turns on; when it turns off, the Classic turns off.
General Classic Troubleshooting
Q. I've recently noticed that water isn't coming from my showerscreen when I hit the "brew" switch.
A. With most problems like this, you'll find that it's either a filthy showerscreen / dispersion plate - that both need removing and properly cleaning, or more usually it's a blocked solenoid valve. (see below)
Q. I've just modded by machine, and now water isn't coming from my showerscreen when I hit the "brew" switch. It was fine beforehand, what's wrong?
The problem here is that the scale inside the boiler stays in the bottom of it, until you start messing around with the boiler to fit a PID or something else, and you disturb the scale - and if some small scale particles end up going into the water delivery tube (which is in the middle of the boiler) then it can block the very small pin-prick sized hole in the solenoid valve. So - it's the same problem as above, a blocked solenoid valve. (see below)
Q. How do I do a basic test and how do I clean a blocked solenoid valve?
A. Most Classics that end up in the dump, are thrown there due to a lack of water coming through the machine - which is usually the solenoid valve being blocked and simply requiring cleaning.
To Diagnose a blocked solenoid valve - if you open the steam valve, you can turn the brew switch on and pump water out of the wand... but if you have the steam wand closed then water won't come out (or dribbles out) of the showerscreen (and you may well see it going back into the tank via the tank return silicone rubber pipe - the shorter one in the water tank).
Have a look at these instructions which should help to clean it: https://wiki.wholelattelove.com/images/d/d4/BABIES-CLASSIC_3-Way_Solenoid_Cleaning.pdf
We may well do a video on this process soon, as a blocked solenoid valve is a regular problem on Classics and it's relatively easy to fix.
General Information and Web Resources
Q. Are there any good websites or forums that you can recommend for coffee discussion, espresso and especially Gaggia machines?
A. Absolutely, there are quite a few dotted around - try some of these:
- Coffee Forums UK - with a very active Gaggia Classic section, with some international members but many from the UK
- Home Barista - a popular US forum again with many international members
- Coffee Geek - a great Australian website with lots of good information and a popular forum
- Kaffee Netz - for our German speaking friends, a very popular forum from Germany
- Reddit - Gaggia Classic subreddit - again a US flavour, with many US members but a good mix of international members also
- Reddit - Espresso subreddit - as above; many US members but many international ones too