Today we take a look at the Rocket Appartamento, a natural progression for those of you looking to dip your toes into the world of prosumer espresso machines or looking to take a step up from an appliance level unit such as a Breville.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the rocket Appartamento, see how it differs from appliance level machines and discover whether it’s the right time for you to make the upgrade.
Fit & Finish
The rocket Appartamento sits right at the entry-level position of the rocket’s renowned and notoriously stylish espresso machine lineup.
It packs in many of the same components found in rockets more expensive machines but fits them all into a compact form factor suited for apartment-sized kitchens.
Let’s not mince words; this is still a very large machine, but in the world of E6000 heat exchangers, this is about as small as they come.
Rocket is somewhat known for its styling, and this machine is certainly no exception. The steam and hot water knobs carry the signature rocket branding as well as front and back faceplates.
But it’s not until you turn this machine to the side that is steps away from the status quo.
Twelve circular cutouts from the stainless steel side reveal an interchangeable plate that is offered in several different colorways. This is a nice bit of a design to an otherwise classic-looking machine.
A two and a quarter-liter non-plumerville water reservoir is located at the back of the machine and feeds into a 1.8-liter copper boiler.
The machine also has a sensor that will indicate if the water level is too low and pause the functionality to avoid causing damage to the heating elements.
The boiler design is a typical heat exchanger with a famous E61 grouphead.
There is no PID, no pre-programmable modes, and no automatic steaming. Instead, it is just a straightforward and well-executed heat exchanger.
I often feel reviewers fail to properly represent the user experience of owning a machine like this.
Everything feels and sounds industrial. From flipping on the power, the pinging and tuning sounds of the large metal boilers as it heats, the heft of the solid metal 58-millimeter portafilters, the satisfying tactile feel of using a lever to initiate brewing instead of a button, and large variable knobs for steaming.
Even the sound an E61 group makes while cycling hot water or the fact that these groups are hot to the touch for hours after turning off the machine.
These things combine to create an ownership experience that is completely different from an entry-level machine from companies like Breville.
|Model Rocket Appartamento||Features|
|Optional Steam Tips||Yes|
|Steam Boiler Adjustment||Yes|
|Integrated Shot Timer||No|
|Built-In On/Off Timer||No|
|Cup warming tray||Yes|
|Portafilters Included||2 (single and double spouted)|
|Portafilter Size||58 mm|
|Baskets Included||Single, double, and backflush disk for cleaning|
|Group head type||E61, lever-activated|
|Recommended Brew Pressure||9 bar|
|Adjustable Brew Pressure||Yes|
|Water Pump Type||Vibratory pump|
We’ve determined that this machine has an appealing form factor and some killer good looks, but how does it perform?
If you are considering upgrading from a consumer machine such as the Breville, the improved steaming pressure is one of the first things you will notice, and it’s not a small step up; it’s a leap.
Another added benefit to rocket machines is that they used no burn steam wands, which stay cooler during steaming thanks to a dual wall design.
This is an advantage safety-wise, but the biggest advantage is that milk does not aggressively stick to the wand if not immediately wiped away, even though you should. I cannot explain how nice this feature is to have
Of course, being a heat exchanger machine, you can both steam and brew at the same time.
These three advantages result in your being able to pump out lattes like it’s nobody’s business for large groups, or even if you make two drinks back-to-back each morning for you and your partner.
So the steaming performance is a big step up for more consumer-focused machines, but what about the espresso experience itself?
Having used the Breville barista Express for the better part of three years, here’s what I noticed when I switched over.
The number one thing for me has been consistency. I know that if I douse grind and tamp the exact same way, the resulting shot of espresso will be exactly the same every time.
With the barista Express, I got pretty darn good at making coffee, but I never really got the feeling of being perfectly dialed in.
With the Appartamento, I can make tiny adjustments to grind size, taste the difference, and know that if I like it, the next hundred shots will be exactly the same.
I’m not sure if this has to do with having a stronger pump, the temperature stability of the E61 grouphead, or just a combination of all these higher-quality parts. But consistency is the main takeaway I want to give you over a lower-end appliance level unit.
Observation number two is the depth and evenness of flavor. Once dialed in, I can produce a shot with this machine containing less unpleasant notes while simultaneously giving me less harsh and bitter notes.
The flavors seem to be more dominantly straight up the middle and less so a mixed bag of under-extracted, properly extracted, and over-extracted like I sometimes saw from the Breville.
Again, pinpointing exactly which components allow for this isn’t easy. But a better water dispersion routing, shower screen, better pump, and the heavy E61 group in the portafilter all contribute to an overall more consistent and polished shot of espresso.
No machine is without fault, and there are certainly a couple of things that bother me about this machine.
The clearance between the spouts and drip tray is one of them. Measuring in at only three and a half inches, this machine is only designed to extract into a shot glass.
If you’re an Americano or long black drinker like myself, you’ll need to find a shorter mug or pull it into a shot glass and then transfer it into your hot water.
I also found myself emptying the drip tray more than I was used to due to the added cooling flushes and solenoid outlet constantly pouring water into it.
Of course, you can avoid this by running your cooling flushes into another glass instead of straight into the drip tray.
Still, in general, I found that using a machine like this, I ended up going through more water per drink, and therefore I was filling the water reservoir and emptying the drip tray more often.
Who Should Buy The Appartamento?
If you were like me and you feel like you’ve maxed out the capabilities of your existing espresso machine, this is a great unit to transition you into the world of prosumer machines.
It will offer you the ability to push your espresso quality further while also offering drastically better steaming performance and the ability to steam and pull shots at the same time.
Does this mean that you should avoid having this as your first espresso machine? No, as long as you understand that just because it is shiny and more expensive, it does not mean that it automatically makes better espresso or makes it easier to pull espresso.
One thing that all espresso machines have in common is that you need to learn the basics of pulling shots and dialing in before you can expect anything even remotely drinkable out of them.
The rocket Appartamento is a handsome-looking heat exchanger with a great compact footprint, great performance, and a reasonable price point.
|Model Rocket Appartamento||Specfication|
|Boiler Capacity||1.8 ltr|
|Reservoir or Plumbed||Reservoir 2.25 ltr|
|Size WxDxH in MM||274x425x360|
Where To Buy
One of my favorite suppliers of the rocket Appartamento is 1st for coffee. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are not happy and the prices are not bad either. Check them out for good customer service and the best price around.