An Expert Guide to Rocket Espresso Machines
Looking for an espresso machine but aren't quite sure which one's right for you? Look no further! Here's a full breakdown of Rocket Espresso's top five machines!
Rocket Espresso began as a collaboration across the world between Italian Daniele Berenbruch and New Zealander Andrew Meo to create some of the finest espresso machines available on the planet. They began with the idea of “fatto a mano,” translated to English as “made by hand,” and took it to a whole new level. Founded in 2007, the company doesn’t have a long and storied history like many other Italian-made espresso brands, but they have been making waves with their production of such high-quality products.
All Rocket Espresso machines are produced in their Milan factory by a small team of craftsmen, with meticulous care to ensure that everything that leaves the factory is of the highest quality possible. All of the Rocket machines that are designed for the home can be considered prosumer machines, meaning that they use the same quality parts for both their domestic and commercial units. Let's take a deeper dive into some of the designs by Rocket Espresso that could become the favorite piece of equipment in your kitchen for both its beauty and the quality product that it produces.
The Appartamento is the entry-level semi-automatic espresso machine option for the home consumer. However, this is not your average entry-level machine by any means. Everything that Rocket Espresso produces is created with quality in mind. The Appartamento is a basic machine that is faced with a group head that brings water from the boiler into your portafilter and separate valves for steam and hot water. The valves are controlled by easy-to-use large knobs, with the steam control marked by the brand’s R logo.
The machine comes standard with an E61 group head which is the industry standard for quality. E61 group heads were originally created in 1961 by Ernesto Valente and were first used in the Faema E61 espresso machine. Many high-end and prosumer machines from a multitude of companies either still use the E61 group head or a variation built upon this design to this day.
The Appartamento comes equipped with a heat exchange boiler system that allows for simultaneous extraction and use of the steam wand. The heat exchange system keeps water at a high enough temperature internally to produce steam pressure. It is necessary to purge these systems when they sit idle for a long time, but that only necessitates running water through the group head for a few seconds.
The machine itself is designed with simplicity and beauty in mind. The stainless-steel design, along with high-quality parts throughout, create an espresso machine that is as much a piece of art as a tool to make amazing shots of your favorite coffee. The Rocket Espresso Appartamento has a relatively small footprint for a high-powered machine, but it is by no means dainty. It weighs in at around 50 pounds, so a sturdy countertop or kitchen island is essential.
Another overlooked but important feature of the Appartamento is the anti-burn steam arm. This is designed so that the entire arm stays cool except for the tip of the wand that expels the steam. The idea is not only to avoid burning yourself but also to keep milk from sticking to the steel arm. The lack of hot milk stuck to the arm makes cleaning a much easier affair. The Appartamento’s drip tray also has a magnetic closing so you know everything is locked in place. To top off the machine is a large area designed as a cup warmer.
Moving along the Rocket Espresso lineup, we get to the Giotto and the Mozzafiato Evoluzione R espresso machines. I have grouped these machines together because, internally, these machines are identical. All of the high-quality features of the Appartamento—like the E61 group head, the heat exchange boiler system, and the anti-burn steam wand—are all included in these machines. Some ideas have been added to take these machines a little further, however.
The boiler that is used internally has been given an insulation wrap, which allows the boiler to maintain a more stable and consistent temperature at all times. Another important feature to the person trying to dial in a perfect shot is the included PID controller. PID stands for proportional-integral-derivative. That’s a bit of a mouthful, but it's worth understanding what it means. Espresso machines without a controllable PID regulate the temperature of the internal water by using a thermometer. With a thermometer, a heating element will kick on when it's too cold and turn off when it reaches its optimal temperature. This creates variation and won’t always be exactly at the temperature you want. A PID system uses an algorithm to always keep the temperature at the desired degree. Both the Giotto and the Mozzafiato have a controllable PID that is accessed by removing the drip tray.
Another smaller, but no less important feature of these machines is a built-in shot timer. This is key to determining how long an extraction is taking, so you can be sure to dial in the perfect shot. Of course, you can always put an external timer onto any unit, but when it's assimilated into the machine it adds to the aesthetics as well.
Rocket Espresso enters the world of two-boiler prosumer machines with the Cinquantotto. For those of you who aren’t fluent in Italian, Cinquantotto means 58. This beauty brings you the classic look of Rocket machines that the world has come to love, along with all the newest bells and whistles.
The unit has the ability to use a built-in reservoir for water or it can be pumped into the unit from a direct line in your kitchen. The R58 is made of AISI (American Iron and Steel Institute) stainless steel that is known for its quality and ability to look new for years.
A dual-boiler machine means that one internal boiler is set for the espresso extraction and the other is independently set up for the steaming features. This is the industry standard for commercial espresso machines. The two copper boilers can be monitored by pressure gauges that measure each one independently. This is key if you are producing many drinks at a time or if you want to make your drinks more consistent and precise. The commercial-grade rotary pump included internally in the machine includes external pressure control, making sure that water is where you need it at the perfect time.
A really nice feature that has also been added to the R58 is that the PID temperature controller that handles both of the boilers is externally located. The controller can be operated by a touch-screen digital display and now features an automated on and off function. The small unit can be attached to the side of the machine or hidden away if that’s desired.
One of the more seldom-seen features on an espresso machine is the pre-infusion system that uses a piston to push water into a pre-infusion chamber before entering the portafilter. This creates a system that allows the user to pull the extraction lever halfway to manually engage pre-infusion and allow water to slowly enter the espresso puck in your portafilter for any given amount of time. If the user wants to use the programmed pre-infusion option, then lifting the lever completely at the start will engage a preset time for pre-infusion. Another special feature is the nine-pound commercial group head. This large commercial quality group head provides heat stability that will ensure consistent quality in all shots pulled.
With the RV60, Rocket Espresso introduces programmable pre-infusion that allows for multiple types of coffee to be extracted to their peak with a selected amount of time that water will enter the portafilter before reaching its 9-bar optimum pressure. They use a unique pressure profiling system to fine-tune pump pressure throughout the extraction process. The pressure profiling system allows for the fine-tuning of pressure that is applied to the espresso puck over the entire period of extraction. This allows for control of all aspects of the extraction instead of the constant 9 bars of pressure that is applied by most other espresso machines. The variation in control will allow for subtle changes to be made leading into post-infusion where some unwanted flavors can occur. Other than this elite technological addition, the RV60 includes all of the features of the previous Rocket Espresso models discussed.
R Nine One Espresso Machine
The R Nine One Espresso machine is Rocket Espresso’s attempt to bring all the technology from their commercial units into something that is suitable to use in a house or small commercial space. It has a fully saturated group system coupled with digital PID controls, pre and post-infusion control that comes programmed but can also be manually adjusted, and a touch screen built into the front of the unit for control. This machine can make any drink that you get at your local cafe—only a little better.
Rocket Espresso machines aren’t for everyone. If you are looking for a cheap and easy way to get a cup of coffee, then you are barking up the wrong tree. However, if you are a beginner that wants to learn the intricacies of pulling espresso shots or a world-class barista perfecting their light roast extractions, Rocket makes an espresso machine that will fit perfectly into your life.