Today I’m going to give you my 6-month in review of the Rocket Appartamento Espresso machine, specifically the Nera series with the matte black side panels which is exactly the same as the normal Appartamento aside from the cosmetic differences.
THE SPEC SHEET
Let’s get the most boring stuff out of the way - the stuff I call the spec sheet or details you can find online. The Rocket measures about 11 inches wide, 14 inches tall, and 17 inches deep and weighs in at nearly 50lbs. The Rocket is a heat-exchanger machine that can brew and steam simultaneously and uses the popular E61 grouphead. Most of the machine is made of either stainless steel or chrome plated brass. Something to note about the Nera version is that these matte black side panels have a unique feeling almost rubberized coat to it. With this machine you get a 28oz drip tray capacity and roughly 85oz reservoir capacity. On the machine itself you have an on/off switch, a pressurestat dial, a steam wand, and a hot water dispenser. Okay, with the spec sheet stuff out of the way, let’s continue.
Okay so starting off with the build quality, the Rocket Appartamento is an absolute tank. This machine weighs in at nearly 50lbs, so be sure you have a very sturdy counter, bar, or wherever you decide to put this machine. The build quality feels very premium and is made of premium materials, as it should, given its price tag of $1,750. Everything is built with metal other than the plastic knobs for the steam and hot water. Over the 6 months of owning the machine there of course have been a few times where I’ve accidentally dropped the portafilter or knocked it into the grouphead, but as you can see, it still looks pristine.
Something I particularly enjoy about the Rocket that might often be overlooked is this - the magnetic drip tray. It has a verys satisfying click when it slots in, similar to the satisfying snap of an Airpods case. Although I will say I have one super tiny but annoying gripe about the drip tray. I do wish that it was just a tiny bit longer, maybe a half inch or so. I find that when flushing water from the grouphead that it hits the very edge of the drip tray sometimes causing it to spill outside of it. Tiny complaint, but very annoying. A trick I’ve found to mitigate that is to hold the portafilter at an angle when flushing to let the water drip towards the center more.
One other tiny gripe I have with the build is the placement or I guess design of the hot water dispenser. I almost never use this thing, so generally I just keep it out of the way. But, for symmetry’s sake, I wish it was designed in a way so that it could be pointed directly above the opening in the drip tray similar to the steam wand when not in use. However with doing that, you can no longer operate the lever. Not a big deal since I just leave it in this position, but it would look better pointed right over that opening.
This thing is incredibly easy to set up, it's basically plug and play. On the back of the machine you’ve got the power cord, just make sure that’s plugged in, your water reservoir is filled, and you’re good to go. I’ve posted a lot of workflow videos at this point about this machine so go and check some of those out if you’re interested.
Pulling a shot of espresso is as simple as on any other E61 espresso machine. Prep your portafilter, lock it in, and pull the lever. But there are a few things to point out. First, the space between the portafilter and drip tray measures ____ inches. If you use the included double spout portafilter you have ____ inches, same with the single spout portafilter. So some things you’re going to want to keep in mind is your serving vessel of choice. Any shot glass will be fine even with a scale, but not all cups or mugs will fit. The scale I use is ___ thick and 90% of the time I’m going to be pulling the shot directly into the serving cup which is the notNeutral vero in the cappuccino size measuring ___ inches tall.
When operating the steam wand, always be careful as hot steam will hurt you. From pitchers as small as 3oz to as large as 14oz, I have had no issues with maneuverability to texture that silky milk, as long as there are no obstructions on the left side of the machine. The steam power here is excellent and while you can brew and steam at the same time, I always struggle with timing it and end up either overshooting the espresso shot or messing up the milk, so I do it one at a time anyway - but at least unlike a single boiler machine you don’t have to wait for steam to heat up after pulling the shot.
The guard rail for cups also came with the nice black finish that the Nera version of the Appartamento comes in, and you can definitely keep enough cups up here to serve a small group of friends. One thing to take note of are these holes and while I don’t know if it directly exposes any part of the machine that could malfunction in contact with water, I recommend still only putting completely dry glassware or mugs on top of the machine.
You’ll notice that I also keep this sheet of perforated shelf liner just to prevent the glass from scratching up the metal, not that it should, but the sound of glass hitting the metal top never sounds great. You definitely want to make sure you’re using a nice and perforated shelf liner like what I have here to allow the heat to pass through and warm the cups up. As will all machinery or electronics, you don’t want to insulate the heat. On top of my machine I keep 2 latte glasses, usually for iced drinks, 2 cappuccino sized glasses, and 3 espresso or demitasse glasses (with one being a spouted one to easily pour into a serving vessel).
With regards to espresso, I have had no issues getting consistently good shots. I’ll also quickly point out that I’m using the stock shower screen, but replaced the gasket with the silicone one from the pro upgrade kit that came with my machine (if you purchase from SCG), and also using a 20g VST basket in my portafilter. There are a lot of arguments about cooling flushes for heat exchanger machines, and I just know someone is going to say something about it in the comments so here’s my take on it - yes I do a little cooling flush at the start of making a drink, usually 3-5 seconds just until I don’t hear the loud gurgling sounds of the water anymore. Also, if you can really perceive and taste the difference in your shots from the difference in how long these cooling flushes are, you might either want to one, install a group thermometer or two, find a machine with PID like the Rancilio Silvia Pro or Lelit Mara X, or even a modded GCP.
The Rocket is very easy to clean. Again, there are arguments here on frequency but on the Rocket cleaning tabs that came with the machine it says to use a blind basket to do a backflush with these tablets fortnightly aka every 2 weeks. I simply follow the instructions on these tablets to do 5, 10 second pulls followed by a scrub with the included brush, then 5, 10 second pulls with just water. The drip tray is easy enough to clean although a little annoying with trying to dry out the underneath portion of the drip tray. The steam wand is what’s called a “no-burn” tip which I learned from Gail of Seattle Coffee Gear that that actually means that milk won’t stick and burn onto the tip if you don't wipe and purge immediately. Note, you will still be burned if you touch the tip while hot.
Despite the decent sized capacity of both the reservoir and drip tray, I found myself emptying out and refiling each of these things at least once a week, sometimes twice a week. More so the drip tray.
Like I mentioned before, the drip tray just needs to be a tiny bit further to avoid it spilling over the sides. The placement of the hot water dispenser could’ve been better too. But my biggest complaint is the water level indicator. It starts to blink when you don’t have enough water, but will only alert you to when you don’t have enough water when you actively use the machine. It would’ve been nice if it could’ve been designed so that when water reaches a certain level it alerts you prior to pulling a shot, maybe like a warning that you have maybe ___oz or 200ml of water left. But in the 6 months of owning this machine, it only tells you mid way through a shot when you start wondering why am I getting just a couple drops of espresso then it starts to go off.
Then you gotta go and grind new beans, prep a new puck, and pour in more water.
The reservoir is not easy to frequently check before use unless you don’t keep anything on top of the machine. For me this means every few days I’ll remove the glasses, pull the perforated sheet off and remove the lid to check on the water level. A small annoyance compared to being able to visually see the water level in the Gaggia Classic Pro.
Okay so just want to quickly add here that after filming my initial talking points, I ran another test by emptying out the water tank completely and turning on the machine and it does in fact blink to indicate it's out of water prior to use. However, realistically you wouldn’t ever achieve an empty tank unless you get really lucky and run out of water as soon as you finish pulling a shot.
Some other things to take note of are noise levels. Espresso machines in general are not quiet machines, and this is no different. But then again if you’re grinding your coffee fresh anyway, you’re already making a lot of noise. It's not like crazy enough to wake your neighbors loud unless they happen to live behind the wall behind your machine, but its definitely loud enough to wake your roommates sleeping next door. Then again who wouldn’t want to be woken up to freshly brewed coffee?
Love it or hate it, the Rocket is one of the most unique looking espresso machines on the market. I love it, and the matte black finish sold me. Yes, you can get cheaper machines with the same if not more functionality but most look like the generic chrome box E61 machines. I will say that the Lelit machines are pretty nice with the wood accents and red logo for that pop of color.
An espresso machine is big, you can’t really hide it. So get a machine you personally think looks good and not like an eyesore. I’ve put a lot of thought and consideration into my setup since I take loads of pictures and of course make these videos.
In the world of espresso, you can’t help but know immediately that the signature circle pattern on the sides of the machines means its an Appartamento.
Okay so for this portion of the review, after filming my initial talking points I decided to ask you guys for some questions about the machine over on my Instagram. Some of the questions I’ve chosen not to answer simply because it's easy enough to look for the answer with a quick google search.
Do you have any upgrades you would like to add to the Rocket?
I want to add a group thermostat at some point which should help the dialing process since I can’t alter the temp with PID but have to use cooling flushes instead.
Will this be a good machine to start a pop up coffee stand?
Honestly I don’t have commercial experience but if you told me to put this machine outside my apartment and start selling coffee to people I don’t see why not. It does have a small water tank though, so maybe not the best for that application.
How many drinks before the boiler starts to refill?
I’m not too sure how many but when the boiler does refill it takes all of like 5-10 seconds.
Type of water you use?
Biggest learning curve when using?
I wouldn’t say there were any learning curves coming from the Gaggia, in fact the Gaggia was more finicky than the Rocket is. If I had to pick, then probably steam power because I was used to the Gaggia’s weak steam versus this machines.
Is it suitable for beginners?
Is it good enough for light roasts? Reasoning being it doesn't have a PID, making it a challenge
Yep, I exclusively drink light roasts. I don't think the lack of PID is an issue.
Can you adjust the brew pressure and steam pressure?
Not that I am aware of.
Moving from lower scale coffee machines like the Delonghi, will this make a big difference in taste?
From something like a Delonghi, yeah. Delonghi is more of an appliance while this is more of a prosumer machine.
Is it worth as much as it is over the GCP?
Yes - check out my full comparison video between the 2 over here.
How long do you let it heat up before pulling a shot?
20-30mins or so
Max milk drinks you can make with the Rocket?
In a row? No idea. The most I’ve ever had to do was like 5 drinks maybe and it had no issues doing it back to back. Does take some time to get 5 drinks out with a single group head though.
What’s your dream machine after the Rocket?
Probably a Linea Mini or GS3
6 months later, do I have any regrets or wish I had gone with a different machine? No - this machine has all the features I want. Great looks, good steam power, good consistency, and most importantly good coffee. Is this the best espresso machine at this price point? No. But does it have the best combination of the features I want and prioritize for this price point? Yes.
So should you get this machine? If you’ve been eyeing it for a while, then yeah go ahead. This is a great machine that’ll serve you for years if properly maintained.
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