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25 May 2014

Gaggia Classic. Steam wand upgrade.


You should not expect to have a great steam wand in entry level domestic espresso machine. Gaggia Classic is not an exception - it is coming with a plastic "Panarello" frother, which might be good for the customer who just wants to make "bubbly" milk foam quickly.

(image from http://coffeekind.com/gaggia/gaggia-classic-espresso-machine)
Anyone who likes cappuccino and knows what smooth microfoam is, regards this bubbly foam as a result of unprofessional work of barista, in addition to that, it is useless if you want to practice latte-art. In many cases, replacing steam wand is the top item in the upgrade list.

There are two known methods of upgrading steam wand on your Gaggia Classic. Both of them suggest replacement of existing one with the steam wand from Rancilio Silvia, a higher quality domestic coffee machine.

First approach is quite popular and easy, all you need to do is to buy steam wand from early generation Rancilio Silvia, it is called "Rancilio Silvia V2 steam wand" and available on the internet for the price of less than £20. In order to replace, you need to undo the bolt that attaches existing wand to brass pipe, remove the steam wand, replace the fitting nut on the new Rancilio one with the bolt from old one, insert the new steam wand in place, and fasten the bolt. You may find some manuals explaining how to do that in details, here is the one of them. I made this upgrade within first few weeks after purchase. Here is how my coffee machine looked like after upgrade.


Rancilio Silvia steam wand installed on Gaggia Classic does the job. It allows you to achieve the required consistency of the milk froth and practice latte-art skills. It is definitely better than original one, but missing some features of professional steam wands, in particular there is no way to move it up and down, e.g. to adjust the angle, and that bigger tip and hexagonal shape makes it more difficult to clean.

Alternative option you have is to fit Rancilio Silvia V3 steam wand that has all features of professional one. Fitting Rancilio Silvia V3 steam wand to Gaggia Classic is not popular. First, the steam wand itself is more expensive; second, you would need extra parts and more time. I did not manage to find the manual explaining how to do that, so here is my story.

Disclaimer: The modification experience is described for information only and could be used as reference by qualified person. Replacing steam wand on coffee machine will void its warranty. Anyone replacing steam wand using this publication is doing that at own risk and assumes full responsibility for all undertaken actions. Author of this publication will not be liable for any damage or injures caused to you or your property as a result of using information from this publication.

You will need "Rancilio Silvia V3 Steam Wand Kit" that includes steam wand, gaskets, spring and spring seat (do not mix it with expensive full V3 steam wand assembly, that includes valve that you will not need). There are not many places where you can buy it. I bought from here, there are few other places, just make sure it comes with all parts, not just the wand (or order other required parts separately). Another important part you will need is 1/8 male to 3/8 male brass adapter fitting. There are lots of them on eBay, but the trick here is to buy one with inner diameter at 3/8 end at least 12 mm, otherwise the spring will not fit in.


Now you need to lift the coffee machine top cover, remove the existing steam wand, and remove the brass pipe that goes from steam valve to the hole in the housing where steam wand was attached. Next step will be to fit together the pipe and the new steam wand, using adapter fitting and plumbing thread seal tape.


Because the steam wand nut require extra space inside the coffee machine (it will shift the bottom end up by about 2 cm), the brass pipe needs to be adjusted accordingly. The pipe is soft and can easily be bended, try to bend it at the locations where it is already bended, the idea it to make the length shorter. This is how the modified pipe looks like, it might need some more adjustment during installation.


Now it is time to install it. You might need to remove the rubber protective sleeve from the steam wand to make installation easier. The steam wand should be inserted through the hole in the housing from inside the machine, so that the big nut that attaches steam wand is resting on the bottom of the machine housing. Then, you might need to bend the pipe a bit more, but make sure it requires some further push down to attach the pipe to the steam valve, this will make it sit strongly and not moving inside when you are using steam wand.


Once the steam pipe is attached to the valve and the nut is fastened, you may test it for leaks by turning machine in the steam mode and opening the valve. If you were generous when applied thread sealing tape, you should not spot any leaks, otherwise you would need to remove the pipe again and tighten the connections (or reassemble them with more tape).

The result of upgrade will look like on pictures below. After upgrade you have everything required to make smooth microfoam and surprise your friends with latte-art masterpieces.



48 comments:

  1. Than you very much for your post Ruslan. I have a question regarding the brass adapter, the only brass adapter that i was able to find, is this one:

    http://www.espressocare.com/search/results/226e1dcab254cfa2dc2ff42d56ac5109

    If i am correct, let me know. Thank you very much.

    Dario

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    1. I am glad that you found the post useful, Dario. The link you provided redirects to the main www.espressocare.com page for some reason, so I can't see which one you are asking about. But in fact the adapter is pretty standard and there are plenty of them on ebay, e.g. this one looks correct to me (according to size), but I would advise to contact seller and check that the inner diameter at least 12 mm on thicker end.

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  2. Dear Ruslan:

    Which one would you recommend me between this 2 parts:

    http://www.espressoparts.com/V_1422

    http://www.espressoparts.com/W23206

    Both are pretty much the same i think. Thats the closest i was able to find (i mean a company that is willing to ship to Peru).

    Thank you very much for your time

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    1. This one is correct: http://www.espressoparts.com/V_1422 (assuming the bigger end inner diameter is 12mm or more, otherwise the spring will not fit). Good luck with your Gaggia upgrade project ;)

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  3. I just have to ask if you've managed
    to fit the spring into th v_1422 fitting
    Deirio? And also Ruslan, does it really
    have to be at least 12 mm? 1/8" is somewhere around 9-10 mm, so that doesn't really add up.

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    1. Yes, it has to be 12mm at least (I bought wrong one first, its inner diameter was smaller and I was not able to fit the spring, so I had to buy another one).

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Its the inner diameter of the 3/8 side. Keep in mind on my latest post that the parts from Espresso Parts will not work as mentioned above. I also had a hard time finding it so my suggest is before you move forward with the project, buy this part first and make sure its what you need! Good luck

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  5. For those interested, a couple things I wanted to share;

    So first off the part V_1422 does not work from Espresso Parts. The Inside Diameter was not wide enough as mentioned in the post. I searched around the web and local pluming stores and found no luck. Luckily i was able to drill out the whole to make it wider to allow it to work. Close call however.

    2nd thing I found was that the bending of the pipe was a PITA. Unless you have experience with plumbing, or patience, this will get to you. I had to bend mine a whole lot more then i was thinking.

    3rd thing to point out was that the wand sits pretty low. I'm not sure how this compares to other models, but i find it a bit difficult to bend the full glass of liquid to fit under the wand. Option would be to higher the espresso machine on a stool or something, or pulling it out on the counter to allow you to have extra room below it.

    Lastly, the whole project took time as you see above. Getting the parts, finding the tools to fix the mistakes, and then putting it all together was a lot of effort. If this is what you're looking for, go for it. Not blaming the poster here in anyway, just sharing my experience. I do thank the poster for sharing this however. It does look nice once put together.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, I am sure it will be useful for someone!

      I must have been lucky enough to find fitting with 12mm inside pretty quickly, what I did is found several of them of correct size on ebay and sent message to each seller asking about inner diameter - some did not reply, some replied telling me that it is less than 12mm, one replied it is more than 12mm. I tried to find a link to that particular seller to mention it in the post, but was not able to do so, as ebay does not keep the history long enough.

      Regarding wand being too low... hmm, it never caused inconvenience to me, though I am using small (350ml) pitcher (on the a picture).

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I think thread pitch and thread length is critical, and it is BSPP I think.

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  7. Hello, do you happen to know if I can change the steaming wand on my Delonghi EC270? Thx.

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  8. Hello, I replaced the steamwand with the one ftom Rancillo, but the Milk doesn't foam. The only thing that happens is that the Milk will boil. Do you have any idea what could be the cause of this problemen?

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    1. I think you need to master your milk frothing technique. If you will just stick the wand into the milk and open the steam valve, it will not get frothed at all, you need to keep it just touching the surface and make the milk spinning in the pitcher. There are many articles and videos on the internet that explain how to do that properly. Good luck!

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  9. Hello, Thank you for sharing your experience! One question: When you extend the V3 wand outward and rotate it to its "fully upright position" what is the distance between the steam wand tip and the surface the machine is resting on? It's difficult to determine from he pics if it's greater or less than that with the stock Classic panarello.

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    1. Hello, thanks for your comment! The distance is 10cm (~4 inches), I guess it is less than in case of original panarello.

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    2. why is that important? waste of a question.

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  10. Hello Ruslan! Thanks very much for answering my question. That's very kind of you. As a matter of fact my Gaggia classic's panarello is 9cm from the counter top so the V3 mod would be an improvement. I'm ready to take the plunge.
    Best wishes!

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  11. Hi, I've successfully changed my Gaggia Baby steam wand to the Silvia v2 wand, as in your picture above, but as you say the hexagonal nozzle is difficult to easily clean. I see the V3 nozzle is cylindrical, but photos on accessory sites don't show if this has a male thread as the V2 nozzle. Can you please advise if this is a straight swap item?

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    1. Hello, no you can't swap the nozzle, otherwise it would be little sense explaining the whole process above how to fit V3 steam wand on Gaggia ;) V3 steam wand is nearly 2 times thicker in diameter, and it is similar to ones you normally see on commercial coffee machines.

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    2. Hi Ruslan, thanks for the info. I did not realise that the V3 wand was a different diameter than the V2 wand. There are no specs I could find on the web that mentions this, and it's difficult to tell from photos.

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    3. Ciao Ruslan. Thought I would provide this input in case it might help others in North america.
      I obtained the V3 wand kit and threaded fitting from Stefano's Espresso Service website. He's based in Oregon and sells the BPS threaded brass fitting which is not readily available in the US. However the fitting hole is undersized and will not accept the spring. I'm going to have a machinist friend open the hole diameter so not a problem for me but I am not sure of the hole depth. Do you recall about how much the spring needs to be preloaded when the nut us fully tightened? This seems critical as it will determine the friction on the ball joint and whether the wand droops or stays where positioned.



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    4. @Grinds, in my case the depth of fitting hole was equal to threaded part of the fitting length, which was 10mm. I think the nut on the steam wand can accommodate more length in fact. If you will make the hole depth equal to threaded part of the fitting length, it should be fine to keep the wand in required position.

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  12. Hi Ruslan, great article! I have been using the wand off my old dead Breville 800 machine on my Gaggia for about a year now, and it works great as a replacement for the terrible panarrello that came supplied. But I have a problem that I cannot actually remove the water reservoir with it installed as it sits too low.
    So I am considering my next move and the Silvia V3 wand looks great, but does the wand still allow for removing the reservoir? I am fortunate enough to have a metalwork lathe and can make the adapter myself, so I assume all I will need is a standard Silvia V3 replacement parts kit? I noticed on one of the links provided above the adapter comes with a spring so I wasn't sure if the spring supplied with the V3 wand is suitable or not?

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    1. Hi Jared! There are no problems with water reservoir removing after upgrade, you just need to turn wand to the right angle to let the reservoir pass it. You need Silvia V3 replacement kit (without valve). I know at some places it is sold without spring and plastic parts, it is better to ask seller first. Yeah, the spring I used was the one supplied with the kit.

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  13. If I may chime in with my recent experience... the spring comes with the V3 wand kit and nests inside the brass adaptor to apply a preload against the acetal ball seat (which also comes with the kit) once the wand nut us fully tightened onto the adaptor. This applies load enough to the ball at the end of the wand to keep the wand in the adjusted position. The adaptor ID was too small so I had a machinist friend bore out the hole 12mm deep and large enough for the spring OD. After I tested it I did go back and add 1mm thick stainless washer behind the spring to increase the force. The wand held position okay without the washer, but I though it needed a litle more holding force. Since you have access to doing it on a lathe yourself you may want to sneak up on the right depth. Try 11mn first and see how it feels. You can always go deeper, and if you go too far the stainless washers are not a problem either. I also machined a delrin spacer that raises the wand another 5mm and have no problem removing the water reservoir. I think even without this spacer the V3 wand will not be an obstruction. Like others have noted bending the copper tubing was the unpleasant part of this project but doable. I filled it first with fine salt and taped it closed before attempting to bend it. This I believe prevented kinks. I also set some 3/8" and 1" wood dowels in a scrap piece of wood and used it as a tool to help bend the copper. I did this only after hitting a wall trying to bend it by hand. Next time I would start first with the wood bending tool. This project is very doable especially by someone with a lathe. Also of note: I temporarily removed the rubber insulator from the wand and with a couple pieces of wood and bench vise opened up the bend angle a little. This gives a little more clearance height to get a pitcher under the wand and doesn't seem to have any drawbacks. Hope this helps.

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    1. Thanks for sharing experience, I am sure someone will find it useful. I have to admit, I bended the tube by hand, just carefully and slow, with a number of short adjustments and testing after each if it needs more bending.

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  14. One additional comment about the adaptors. The one I purchased from Stefano's was a little longer than what is pictured here. 12mm instead of the 10mm. Also, I'm not sure where your from but as noted above the Gaggia and V3 wand and these adaptors are all BSP thread.

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  15. Thanks Grinds! That's great info, I understand exactly what you mean in regards to the spring and I don't think it will be too much of a challenge. I can adjust the dimensions of the part until it works just right. So long as the final result is a good steam wand which allows for the removal of the water reservoir I will be more than happy.
    In regards to the threads they won't be an issue, I have thread gauges to measure exactly which threads are involved and also my lathe has a thread cutting gearbox and change gears, so I can cut any thread I like no matter the standard or pitch. BSP will be a breeze.
    The other thing that crossed my mind which involves the Gaggia and the lathe is that I could make a nice custom brass steam knob. I have always thought that could be an area for improvement. And is it just me or is the steam knob on the wrong side of the machine? I really wish they had placed it on the left side and then it would feel so much more natural holding the milk in my right hand and adjusting the steam with my left.

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  16. Sounds like you're very well equipped to do this mod Jared. My lathe skulls aren't quite there, but I'm spoiled by having some very talented colleagues. Interesting comment about the location of the stream wand. For me it's quite the oposite. My kitchen is tight so my Gaggia and a grinder are nestled onto an 18inch wide counter top with a wall to the left. So the right side steam wand is preferable. Would likely be even better if I was a lefty.
    I agree the plastic steam knob is a little cheesy but I'll live with it. I am starting to think about a pid for the next upgrade, but still have some to learn to make the most of the v3 wand. I still can't foam milk worth a snot. First time must have been dumb beginners luck and haven't yet been able to duplicate. Think I viewed all the YouTubes on streaming milk. I swore I wouldn't become obsessed with coffee like some colleagues, but my search and viewing history would likely indicate otherwise. :-) Good luck with your v3 wand project!

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  17. Install the v2 and save yourself a ton of time and effort. The v3 is not mildly compatible with the Gaggia Classic and will require modification and lots of time to install. Opt for the v2 and save hours of tedious install work. One 12mm box wrench and you are done.

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    1. I am surprised you have not provided a link for recommended place where to buy V2 :)

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  18. I'm lazy. Thanks for the article. The V3 does provide great foam. Very good shit! I haven't used the V2, so I can only say with authority that the V2 is a much easier install, but isn't nearly as sexy as the V3, which is far better looking. On that note, I'm off to make a cortado.

    Addendum. Be patient. Bore out your 1/8 - 3/8 adaptor to fit the spring and use stainless washers to lift the spring/increase spring tension as was mentioned earlier in the thread. Also, be very careful when you bend that copper… one kink and it's kaput.

    Someone's thoughts on the performance of the V2 might also be helpful so Rusian, as a user of both, do you see a profound difference between the two. Thanks!

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    1. The difference between V2 and V3 is that the latter one is easier to use and clean, from milk frothing perspective same result can be achieved with any of those two.

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  19. OK so here is a little write-up on my Silvia V3 install. There is one thing that nobody seems to have pointed out about doing this mod, which is that the Silvia V3 wand doesn't actually fit that well where the wand comes out from the bottom of the machine. It just sort of sits there and rattles around a bit, and I was not at all happy with that situation so here is what happened. I made the first brass adapter with matching threads so that the wand could be installed no problem, and then being unhappy about how it sat in the machine I decided to cut a small recess on the bottom of the Silvia fitting so that it located snugly in the hole. Well I found out that the Silvia fitting is rather thinly made, and as soon as I took about a 1.5mm cut on the bottom of the fitting that was enough to cut through and ruin it!
    So now I had to also fabricate a new fitting for the wand swivel ball to go in, which wasn't especially hard I just measured and copied the old one, with the exception of making the bottom wider and cutting the recess I wanted so that it located nicely in the bottom of the machine. I also reamed the original hole out larger to 19mm which meant I had plenty of leeway with the recess cut (and no danger of cutting through as the original did). I transferred the plastic swivel ball seats and spring over and machined everything so it was a perfect fit.
    The bending of the copper pipe was a royal pain in the ass too, I bent it so many times trying to get it perfect I don't know how I didn't snap it!

    But I am rather pleased with the end result, it fits nice and tight and works perfectly, and most importantly it moves out of the way enough to remove the water reservoir.

    Here are some pics of the brass adapter and new wand fitting I made, and how it sits in the machine. Thanks!
    https://goo.gl/photos/vboacu8nSHpMXf6fA

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    1. Thanks a lot, Jared, for sharing your experience. The adjustments you have done to make it sit better look impressive!

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    2. Hi Jared, great stuff - may I ask: can you produce the two parts again for me and send them to me?

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    3. Hi manne01,
      As much as I would love to help out, the problem really is time. I'm not a trained machinist just a hobby operator, and those parts took me many hours of careful work over the course of a week getting time where I could find it.. And the cost would probably be quite unreasonable too..
      I would suggest an easier route would be to purchase the threaded adaptor piece from espressoparts.com as per the link above, and then just use a bit of silicone on the V3 wand fitting so it doesn't rattle around.
      It's certainly a worthwhile mod, we love the V3 wand at my house, and we also now use a bottomless porta-filter which gives fantastic creamy coffee.
      Cheers!

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  20. Thank you very much for this post. I never like to do things the easy way, so decided to try this out instead of just installing a v2 wand. I got the "Steam Wand Kit Rancilio Silvia for Gaggia," which consisted of the correct size adaptor and spring, along with the wand itself from Stefano's Espresso Care. The adaptor in the kit is significantly taller (looks like an extra 1cm or so) than the one in your photos. This meant I had to shorten the copper pipe A LOT. I started Friday evening and wasn't able to finish until I picked it back up Saturday evening. I ended up having to wrap the pipe in a towel, stick it in the "hole" of a closed pair of pliers, put the plier handles into a vice, make a bend or 2, put it back into the machine to check my progress, repeat 1000 times. My hands are still sore the next day. I did manage to wedge it into the opening in such a way that it's solid and the swiveling motion isn't blocked. Now that it's done I'm glad I have it, but it was more of an undertaking than I anticipated. Now to go practice my steaming technique!

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  21. Hey everybody, can anyone please post a link to the right brass fitting reducer 3/8 to 1/8 inch with the right inner diameter?

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  22. Great post, I followed the instructions/pictures and my upgrade came out great! Thank You, Ruslan

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    1. No probs, I am glad the guide was useful for you.

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  23. I think this modification might work on my Coffee Gaggia, the predecessor to the Classic. The bends in the copper tube would not match what I need so I would have to bend my own tube and buy those two nut fittings.

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  24. Hi Ruslan. I successfully replaced Steam Wand Rancilio silva for New Baby Gaggia. But I can't make microfoam, boiled milk only.Have you got any advice for me?

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    1. Are you putting the nozzle right under the top of the surface to allow air to enter the milk? Don't stick it all the way under the milk.

      BTW I use the Gaggia Classic, so not sure if it's different for the Baby model, but make sure you're allowing the steam to build up enough pressure.

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