… well, sandpaper anyway.
After long and faithful use, I was finally sufficiently fed-up with the shower plate in my Gaggia Espresso to do the unthinkable. I hauled it out and within moments had filed down the exaggerated ridge that surrounds the shower screen, using some fine sandpaper and a filter mask (didn’t feel like breathing in aluminum dust, though the procedure was pretty clean — it doesn’t hurt to be cautious). While more than a mm of ridge remains – well more than enough to hold the screen in place – this ridge is no longer lower than the center screw and my Espresso is no longer cross-purposed as a trenching machine.
For those that may not be familiar with the otherwise wonderful Gaggia domestic espresso machines, one of their sometimes frustrating features is a pronounced ridge surrounding the shower screen that is in fact much lower than the center screw. This feature has the disadvantage of digging a ditch in the side of your puck if you do not compensate for this in your dosing.
For everyday dosing where you want some distance between the shower screen and the puck surface, this isn’t so much of a problem. It enforces a stricter gap than you might otherwise use, since the ridge hangs lower than the screen. Dosing in the high end of normal, dosing normally (or even low) with coffee exhibiting high expansion, or updosing is trickier. I am becoming convinced that the depth of this ridge may contribute to channelling mid-brew, even though the contact occurs during coffee expansion and not when locking in the dry puck. I’ve seen too many circular cracks along this impression on pucks that otherwise were OCD-distributed and nowhere near the screen to begin with.
To be fair, the Gaggia basket consumes a lot of coffee and not all coffees will react favourably to higher dosing. However, they won’t all react favourably to lower dosing, either. This tiny project was not initiated to change dosing, so much as to try and prevent increased channeling that may in some cases have something to do with this ridge.
Initial results seem favourable, but insufficient to draw any conclusions. A screen and ridge impression is a common feature in spent espresso pucks. When occurring after the coffee has expanded during the brew cycle, this is completely normal and often desired. Channelling can also occur for many reasons, and is likely most often caused by user error. We often warn users that espresso problems are often “on the other end of the portafilter,” so to speak. However, the overly deep ridge on this enthusiast’s Gaggia Espresso has worn out its welcome, and I’m giving this slight modification a go to see if it benefits my results.