The ROK Espresso maker is probably better known by its previous name, the Presso. However, this isn’t just a simple re-branding; the new name also reflects a number of improvements and add-ons:

  • The metal alloy has “35% higher tensile strength” (apparently some of the older ones were snapping)
  • The arm links have been beefed up with 65g of additional mass
  • The plunger has been strengthened
  • The base now has rubber feet to keep it from sliding around
  • It comes with a 10 year warranty
  • It comes in a nice metal storage tin.

 See the full package contents below:

Hands On Review

The proposition is attractive – real espresso (none of that stale and wasteful plastic-pod stuff) without the fuss of a big, temperamental, expensive machine. Just grind, tamp, pour boiling water into the chamber, and use the levers to build up enough pressure – like an Aeropress on steroids. Technically, this could work, but before you go grab your credit card, there are a few things to be aware of.

The first is that you’ll have to pre-heat to keep everything as hot as possible. That means flushing boiling water through the chamber and the portafilter, perhaps even keeping the portafilter submerged in a cup with boiled water, and then quickly dose, tamp, and brew. With practice this isn’t really that cumbersome, but it’ll take a bit of getting used to before you can do it all quickly. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with under-extracted coffee (remember that over-extraction is associated with unpleasant bitterness, and under-extraction is associated with tart sourness).

The second thing to be aware of is that you’ll want to over-fill the chamber with water to maintain pressure (if you don’t, your shot peters out with a rush of air). It seems likely that you can get between 5-10 bar of pressure depending on how hard you squeeze the handles down, but I think it’s better to gently ramp up the pressure, as the silicone ‘dispersion screen’ is fairly loose and seems like it lets water go around the sides, causing a less even extraction. The extra water means you’ll have to eyeball the shot volume and then pull the handles up to create a vacuum and stop the shot, which works pretty well.

A third thing that should go without mentioning, but I’ll just say it for those of you tuning in late in the game: you need a good burr grinder that will give you a consistent espresso grind. I like the Baratza Preciso, or Encore, but you can also get away with using a Hario Slim hand grinder if you want to go almost fully manual (and cheap).

Those points aside, I really like the timeless design. The ROK looks attractive on the counter and it doesn’t take up much space – you could store it in a cupboard if needed (or in the tin container it comes in). The build quality feels very nice too, with a decently weighty portafilter and solid feeling lever action. I’ve read on the forums over at Home Barista that some of the old models had issues with handles breaking, so hopefully the upgraded design solves that – and if not, the 10 year warranty should have you covered. The new rubber feet also keep it stable, and it has just enough heft to keep everything planted while you press.

A quick tip: dosing is a lot easier if you use an Aeropress funnel – it fits in the portafilter. You’ll also do well to get an aftermarket 49mm tamper. The plastic scoop tamper is convenient, but difficult to get an even & smooth tamp.

 

Bottom Line:

Pleasant, slightly above average espresso on a budget, off the grid, and with an attractive form. The design creates a tendency toward under-extraction, so you’ll have to keep everything hot for best results.

When I kept everything piping hot I did get a pretty nice shot! Was it exceptionally good? I wouldn’t go that far, but it was pleasant, tasty, and pretty simple to prepare. With milk, this will really please a lot of people (the package does come with a manual pump milk frother).

How much?
The ROK Espresso maker will run you $199 at Amazon, but I’d recommend picking it up at Whole Latte Love as they  have a nice deal that includes a metal tamper for the same price with free shipping.

Other options?

At this price, there’s not much competition for the quality of espresso it can make – except perhaps from the Mypressi Twist, which creates pressure using N2O cartridges (resulting in higher cost over the long run, but perhaps better shot consistency). If you have any additional questions or tips, hit the comments section below!

 

 

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