Expert Review: Rocket Espresso Boxer Timer 1 Group Espresso Machine

Published on 12/11/2023 · 7 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the espresso machine, which I purchased with my own money in July of 2020.
Derek Premenko, Coffee Expert
By Coffee Expert Derek Premenko

Coffee cart setup with Rocket Boxer. All photos by Derek Premenko

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the espresso machine, which I purchased with my own money in July of 2020.

My take

The Rocket Espresso Boxer is ideal for someone running a low-volume cafe or wanting a beast of a machine for entertaining at home. It can handle the average rush and steady pace of a smaller coffee shop, but it will check off just about every box a prosumer could have on their “dream machine” list for their home setup.

About the gear

  • Model: Rocket Boxer 1 Group (2018)
  • Boiler Type: HX
  • Pump Type: Rotary

About me

  • Experience: I have been making espresso for over five years. Additionally, I have worked in shops, trained at an SCAA-certified training campus, and ran a coffee cart for a few years.

Test conditions

  • When I bought it: July 2020
  • Days used: Once or twice a week
  • Cups per day: Between 50-150
  • Grinder used: Mazzer Super Jolly, 64mm
  • Coffee beans used: Mostly DoubleShot Ambergis, medium-dark espresso roast
  • Milk used: Cow, oat, almond
  • Drink made: Anything espresso-based

How it performs

Steam Wand
5/5
Ease of Use
4/5
Espresso Extraction
4/5
Heat Time
4/5
Versatility
4/5

What I was looking for

I was looking for a high-volume, portable machine for my mobile coffee cart that could handle some decent rushes with mobile events.

Why I chose this gear

There are so many options to choose from, but the Rocket Boxer just made sense. It was robust, programmable, had some really great features, and seemed very simple to use, which is a huge plus for training new baristas.

What I love about it

  • Durability: I love the build quality of the Rocket Boxer. I have put it through the wringer, too. It has been hauled up and down stairs, carried in a car long distances, and really maxed out when it comes to volume. To this day, I hold Rocket in high regard for its build quality because, while heavy, the machine puts up with far more than any espresso machine should have to and does so without “complaining.” I have no ill remarks in terms of durability. Some reviews I’ve read mention that hoses need to be replaced, but I haven’t had it long enough to run into anything like that.
  • Time to heat up: Give it about 30 minutes to come to temperature. After it fills with water, I can then turn the knob the rest of the way to engage the heating elements for the boiler. This dual-stage option is super handy when draining the boiler at the end of each night (for transportation purposes).
  • Efficiency: It’s more of a plug-and-play when it comes to efficiency. There aren’t any fancy bells and whistles there unless someone wants to talk about the efficiency of a standard heat exchange system.
  • Heat control: The Boxer has impressive temperature stability. It uses a thermosyphon for the group head, resulting in very consistent shots. It also has adjustable settings to hone in on the water spigot temperature (so one's Americano-water doesn’t come out boiling).
  • Size: This machine is pretty large. It can fit on a countertop if someone’s cabinets have some clearance and a good bit of depth, but it’s surprisingly compact for what it can do. The machine has to be plumbed, but it can be hooked up to a Flojet system with a braided line under it going into the Flojet with some SharkBite attachments.
  • Steam Wand: It has dual steam wands, and they employ cool touch technology, which makes a huge difference, but that isn’t to say it won’t get hot. It will. I am still conscious of how I handle the wands after steaming. Nevertheless, the cool touch technology is great in preventing burns, and since it’s not as hot, it doesn’t burn the milk onto the metal, giving me a bit more time to wipe it down before it requires some scrubbing.
  • Pre-infusion/Post-infusion: The machine is volumetric, but I can override the shot anytime. This allows for some custom pre/post-infusion as I’d like, but it takes several button pushes to do it right. I’ve used that to pre-infuse some shots but generally refrain to keep things simple. I would love to see something automatically programmed for a certain shot preset. I understand that one doesn’t always want that, but it’s handy enough to miss when I’ve had it on other units, and it’s no longer an option.
  • Ease of use: This machine is great for a first-time barista. It takes very little time to get acquainted with the standard usage. Programming the machine takes a little more thought, but I found it to be intuitive once I learned the ropes.
  • Features: The volumetric aspect makes this machine a winner. So many machines will give shot times, PID controls, and other fancy features but skimp on the volumetric programming. I’m glad the Rocket Boxer opted to keep that. It’s certainly ideal for quality and consistency, especially in a high-volume setting where I’m steaming milk for that same drink and taking another customer’s order simultaneously. I also love the cup warmer and the cool water mixer that lets water for Americanos come out at a reasonable temperature. The cold water mixing valve and volumetric programming make a big difference in quality, making the unit more efficient when dealing with higher volumes.
  • Home/Commercial: It’s probably overkill for most home users because it’s a lot of machine. But I used it at home (for business purposes, of course) and love it. It’s designed to be used in a commercial environment, and I think it would excel in a small/mid-volume shop, but this single group 8.3L tackled just about every kind of need I had, even the crazy rushes. I suppose one could train their staff and put this in the office for their use, but I’d be afraid to let any random person start using any high-quality espresso machine, let alone this one. But it’s easy enough to use that once they get the basics down, this wouldn’t take long to get the hang of.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Other: When we (the business) really push the limit on how many drinks we make, especially when steaming milk and making Americanos, there have been a few instances where the boiler couldn’t keep up, and we were dead in the water until it heated properly. On any normal day, this probably won’t be an issue.

Favorite moment with this machine

I have two fond memories of the Rocket Boxer. The machine sat on my counter while not in use for the coffee cart (I couldn’t reasonably leave this machinery in the trailer), so when I started dating a really pretty girl, absolutely out of my league, I brought her lattes before class every morning. (We went to the same college, but I was a year ahead.) To be able to bring her a coffee-shop-quality drink without spending coffee-shop money every day was lovely. She felt special and got to show off the fancy drink her boyfriend brought her.

Having a commercial-quality machine handy also helped me score some brownie points when her parents came to visit, and I treated them to better coffee than they were even able to get in their hometown. We’re now married with a 1.5-year-old boy and a little one on the way. I can’t say that was all due to the Boxer, but it sure helped.

Value for the money vs. other options

At about $4,800, one gets a decently priced commercial quality machine they can probably hand down to their grandkids if it’s properly cared for. Rocket is a bit newer to the game, but the company really knocked it out of the park with the Boxer. While we bought it for a mobile coffee cart use, we eventually swapped it for the Lucca A53 (direct plumb) because it was half the price and half the weight. I was glad not to have to lug the Boxer up and down several flights of stairs, but there were certainly times when that A53 didn’t hold up to the standards of performance I was used to with the Rocket Boxer. In the similar price range of about $5,000, one would be hard-pressed to find something built to match the quality and performance of the Rocket Boxer.

Final verdict

The Rocket Espresso Boxer is the perfect machine for any low-volume shop owner looking to invest in a quality machine without spending twice the cost on another machine that might perform just as well. For the prosumer looking to really show off with the best and most reliable machine they could plumb in at home, the Rocket Boxer will not disappoint.

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