Why Another Manual Espresso Maker Review?

When I reviewed the flair espresso maker a few of you left a comment asking about reviewing the ROK Espresso Maker. Now, before we even published the flair review, coincidently Patrick, who is the man behind the ROK espresso maker got in-touch. based in London office here. Asking if I want to come by, maybe look at the unit, maybe we will review one.

So I did.

I went by the office, we had a chat. I agreed to take away or review a unit on the condition that I would get to say, the truth, how I honestly felt about it. And that's what we are doing.

I haven't paid for this. It is on loan. But it is super interesting.

Now,

The ROK has been around for a while, like 20 plus years and this is the first really big update. Patrick did say something that I thought was just fantastic. Which is the updates to this maker can be retrofitted as a kit on to the first generation ROK espresso makers. So, from the beginning, I have to admit he had me on the side. That can approach a manufacturer I really have a love and respect for. So I thought that was super cool.

This is called the GC, which is short for Glass Composite, this refers to the new materials you see on the top of the maker here.

ROK GC Cylinder

That's the part they change.

They've also changed the piston piece and they've made the actual piston narrower.

ROK Portafilter

Meaning, you drive much higher pressures through that piston.

Now, along with that, he did also let me have a look and a play with the new hand grinder that they have coming out.  

Note: This is an update to their existing grinder. (I had never used or seen the previous model)

Which is really quite interesting. This is a hand grinder built for espresso and there is something about it that I think that is actually very clever when it comes to grinding for espresso.

I'll start here, so what you get here, you get a little cup for weighing the beans and then for grinding into with a little start for dispensing into your portafilter.

ROK Grinder GC Cup

And then underneath here, at the bottom here you can see, this is where you adjust the grind. So you will twist these with little clicks these grind settings and again it is built to alongside this so it is built to go really pretty fine.

ROK Grinder GC Adjustment Dial

Now if you tried to grind for espresso on a hand grinder, you'll know that grinding like that is incredibly hard work and the solution is actually just to have a much longer lever arm to allow more lever force to be able to do that. So, this is actually really quite nice designed to have the lever on the side, a table mounted unit and you really have like a lot of travel here.

ROK Grinder GC Handle

So actually grinding for espresso is physically not that demanding at all. So this is a very simple gear here to allow a vertical drive shaft to drive a metal chronicle burr set here. And I know a lot of espresso people that really prefer flat profiles. But chronicle burrs just allow you a much larger cutting area in a smaller footprint.

Which is why they are so popular in things like hand grinders.

ROK Grinder GC

Just really gives you a lot more cutting surface in that small space.   

ROK Grinder GC Burrs

So, the flow of using this thing is, you're gonna grind here, you're gonna weigh your beans and grind them. We will do that in a sec and then into the little portafilter in here. Pour your water on the top, lift the arms up, push it down, and then you're making coffee. So, as a workflow. Not too fiddly.

Let's go on making shots.

ROK Espresso GC and Grinder GC in use

And now we grind.

ROK Grinder GC in use

Grind time - 45 seconds (But I was going Slowly)

So even if I'm sat at what isn't a great angle for doing this, that actually physically wasn't particularly difficult to do and I wasn't working super quick. But it felt pretty easy. And, actually in the unit, if you look inside, there is a little sort of metal finger to help kind of feed and push beans down into the burr set acting almost like an ogre. Just the sort of keep it nice, even and uniform.

ROK Grinder GC

The grounds out of this thing are surprisingly fluffy and uniform looking. I was actually really pretty impressed by the grounds coming out of this thing.

ROK Grinder GC Grounds

You can use it for filter coffee if you want to. It will grind much faster. You just need to move the burr adjuster I think. But 1 and a half full rotation cursor to get like a filter coffee ground. But I haven't tested it. That's what Patrick told me that it would have some success with. However, the espresso I'm pretty impressed.

Now, Unto the ROK espresso maker. Now you can get standard portafilter. The little plastic portafilter spouse that comes with this that fit on the handle. They just clip on very easily. Which is good, I think they know most people would probably just want to brew doubles so they are not gonna use them and they do feel just a little bit delicate, I can break them quite easily. But, they clip it very easily. So, I guess, a nice little extra I guess.  

ROK Espresso GC Extraction

They do naked portafilters as well if you want that in your life. Which is kind of fun.

ROK Naked portafilter

So the challenge of any espresso machines that doesn't have a heating element in it where you gonna add hot water to it, is making sure that the machine doesn't steal that heat before the water hits the coffee. And it's true for anyone of this kind of units. And that is true here:

- So you really really really want to make sure that you preheated you portafilter as well as the unit itself. That's probably easiest to do things together,

- Dont put water on this and lift the arms up without a portafilter being in placed otherwise you just make a mess.  

So what I would typically do, is, get some hot water into this and kind of pull a blank shot to try to get some heat into the unit before I add my coffee and before I pull a shot.

Now, If you are used to using an espresso machine a lot. There is one little thing that may throw you.

Most Espresso machines lock-in from left to center. This doesn't, this lock-in from right to center.

So that will catch you out the first time if you are not used to it this way.

So, right now let's just do a little preheat, Put some boiling water in.

ROK Espresso GC in use

So now were rinsed, preheated you could get this hotter probably if you soaked in a little hot water but that would be a bad thing to get it maximum temperature. I guess 1 complain I have is this cup can be a little messy in dispensing grounds into the portafilter. They are very fluffy, which is good. But it just means it quite easy to be messy. With some grinders like the EK43  and cafes, they are using some kind of dozing tool or I guess something like that. This could be quite useful. Let's temper it with this, It is quite heavy for its size which is quite impressive. It is for me just a little bit small if I'm honest. I could do with a little more width. So you have to do like an kind of additional sidewall tamps, just to catch everything.

Alright, we are locked in.

Now, you really wanna get your water straight off the boil. Don't let it sit around you gonna lose temperature. Hot as you can possibly get. It gave me the best results.

ROK Espresso GC Coffee Maker

now you can put different levels, depending on how much you want. This much water definitely was more than I would need.

So if you raise this up now. you begin pre-infusion and I had best results with at least 15 seconds of pre-infusion.

Using the ROK Coffee Maker

Just to help up the extraction a little bit. And then, we press!

ROK Coffee maker Review

Now, this point I dont want necessarily more liquid in the cup. But there's still some liquid in the brewer itself. And, I learned the hard way that you dont wanna do is just take the portafilter right now because it will be messy. So, if your espresso is in the size that you want it, and typically I was brewing 16 grams of coffee to about 40 grams liquid espresso. So, a reasonably long shot but that way I can hit the extractions that I want too. Once you have enjoyed your coffee, either bring the cup back and give the final squeeze through just to make sure you pushed all the liquid out and it will just make a knocking out the pack afterwards. Much much cleaner and easier. If you pushed all the water, what you left is a really very dry cake, very easy to clean up, knock out! So that's definitely worth making sure we're done completely.

So how's the coffee? You asked.

Well, the coffee I have here have been pretty good.

Getting your extraction up is definitely a key to this.

That heat management first and foremost.

You can grind really pretty fine with this thing getting everything as hot as you can possibly can with this is definitely my number 1 priority. I mean typically the second or third shot out of it would be probably better than the very first. But often you only wanna make one first thing in the morning. So, spend the time getting it as hot as you can.

Now, I would recommend brewing on scales if you can. How you brew most espresso in most places and I feel like getting an accurate idea of how much liquid produced is definitely useful. There shape and design of this make that pretty easy to fit scales underneath here and that was definitely not a problem to me in using it.

ROK Coffee maker Puck

So how's the coffee? You asked.

Well, the coffee I have here have been pretty good.

Getting your extraction up is definitely a key to this.

That heat management first and foremost.

You can grind really pretty fine with this thing getting everything as hot as you can possibly can with this is definitely my number 1 priority. I mean typically the second or third shot out of it would be probably better than the very first. But often you only wanna make one first thing in the morning. So, spend the time getting it as hot as you can.

Now, I would recommend brewing on scales if you can. How you brew most espresso in most places and I feel like getting an accurate idea of how much liquid produced is definitely useful. There shape and design of this make that pretty easy to fit scales underneath here and that was definitely not a problem to me in using it.

 ROK GC Coffee Maker

In Summary,

Let's wrap this up with maybe what I like and what I like less. The pros and the cons.

Let's start with the grinder.

- I think the design is great for an espresso hand grinder. It's definitely grinding fine enough, the grind is really quiet even, the long lever arm on here is a good thing. It's good to use, It's pretty easy to use. I have no real complains about it. It is in the world of hand grinders, expensive but not absurdly expensive. I think it about £159 - £169 it's actually a little bit more than this espresso maker. But it is well built, it is steady and they thought it through from a usability perspective for grinding very fine. So, that I think is good. I don't love the little cup, for dozing out off but there's probably another solution to that.  Anyway,

As for the espresso maker, Things I like:

- It's compact

- It works well, you definitely hitting hard pressure by having a narrower blue chamber than normal. It means that force exerted per square inch. Means that actually pushing with only 16 or 17 kilos force will give you 9 bass of pressure inside the brew chamber. so that's kind of smart nice thing.

ROK GC Espresso Maker base

- It does make good tasting coffee on the condition that you manage the heat of this unit. You definitely get it as hot as you can before using it. Especially if you like a slightly lighter roast in your espresso. With the darker roast, that maybe just less of an issue.

- you can use this for much larger espresso than I have done, though, I don't particularly enjoy those. It's just kinda my thing. I really prefer shots that are about 1 full piston of water. Which was usually about just about 40 grams out depending on how long you left it to pre-infuse.   

Note: I typically dosed in 16-17g of coffee

In the end, pre-infusion is definitely useful and having total manual control of that is a good thing.

I'd like some more guidance in the inside of this to know where my fill level is. So that if I have preferred a water amount I can sort of dial in that rather than filling it completely or fill it. So it's about a centimetre from the Top. A Little extra here would be nicer.

ROK GC Components and Materials

Though I do like this new material that you are using here. I think it is a great improvement on the existing maker.

ROK Coffee Maker Parts

I think it's £149 pounds

I think it's well built from start to finish

It can be a little messy but actually, you can just pick this thing up or run it under the tap if you want to. So you know the single unit construction is nice.

- It's well designed. It's thoughtful

- It can make a nice espresso

Again like most of this type of unit is a little bit of extra work and it's up to you if that's something you are willing to incorporate to your morning routine. That's most people are or actually if you like the convenience of an element of a pump or the extras that come with a good herm espresso machine.

ROK Coffee

Or actually, if you just want something easy, convenient oddly it kind of Zen to use. It's quite satisfying to push this thing down. There is no doubt that's kind of pleasurable.

But that's it! That's the rock! That's how I feel about that. I think its broadly available about now. I think it's just about to release now.

Again if you have questions. If you have comments. If you got one of the old ones.

If you got one of the new ones too, let me know.

Are you using it to make Espresso at home still?

How are your shots?

What's your best technique?

What works for you?

I'd be really interested to hear it.

As always, Thank you so much for watching and hope you have a great day.