The ROK espresso maker is an entry-level manual espresso maker at an affordable price. There are no bells and whistles, but simply a well-built espresso maker that can produce authentic espresso powered by yours truly.
Why Buy A Manual Espresso Machine?
So you may be wondering, with all the advanced technology around, why would anyone want to go back to brewing espresso manually? In recent years, manual espresso machines have seen a rise in popularity, with espresso enthusiasts wishing for more control over their brew. Manual espresso machines offer complete control over espresso taste, and a good technique can culminate in some pretty tasty shots. However, this is at the expense of convenience. Manual espresso machines require a steep learning curve, and it can be challenging to produce consistent results.
The other benefit of opting for a manual espresso machine is that they offer a better price to value ratio. Manual espresso machines are often more affordable than their automatic counterparts and are far more durable and even portable. So if you love the process of brewing coffee and tinkering with different aspects of brewing, a manual espresso machine may be for you!
ROK Espresso was founded by Patrick Hunt, a product designer who also designed the ROK espresso machine. His goal was to find a simple way to make good coffee at home. And so the ROK espresso machine was born (or the Presso as it was first named). The ROK espresso maker has undergone several revisions over the years, with the latest being the ROK espresso GC which was released in 2019. While being a relatively small company, ROK Espresso offers good customer service and continually tries to improve upon its design.
The ROK espresso maker is a beautiful piece of kit that does not look anything like your traditional espresso machine-the unique design is somewhat reminiscent of a nutcracker. The ROK Espresso GC comes in two colors: aluminum with a black chamber or a black body and chamber with aluminum arms. Both designs are pretty sweet and are sure to turn heads. The ROK has two levers that you push down to produce the pressure required for espresso (it can reach 5-10 bars of pressure).
While the ROK espresso machine has struggled with the build quality in the past, they have been improving the design over the years, and the latest ROK Espresso GC model is pretty durable. It is constructed of cast Aluminium, steel, and glass composite (hence the GC). ROK Espresso has also backed their design with a ten-year warranty on all metal parts- pretty impressive! The unit comes with a portafilter, a plastic tamper/spoon (we recommend upgrading this!), and a 2-cup splitter. Overall the ROK Espresso GC has a beautiful and functional design with excellent build quality.
One of the benefits of investing in a manual espresso machine is that they are often portable. The ROK Espresso GC is not as portable as some of its competitors (the Flair), but it is still doable. It weighs 3.5kg and measures 30.9cm x 26.9 x 20.1, so it has a pretty small footprint, allowing you to pack it with you on holiday.
So now for the most crucial question- how does the ROK Espresso GC fair when brewing espresso? When it comes to usability, the ROK is pretty simple to use but hard to master. Like a lot of manual espresso machines, it struggles with temperature stability, so you have to preheat both the water reservoir and the portafilter well before you use the machine; otherwise, you will get an under-extracted, luke-warm shot- yuk! The workflow to prepare and brew a shot is similar to a traditional espresso machine, given that the ROK uses a portafilter.
Brewing with a ROK Espresso GC:
- Preheat the water reservoir and portafilter by filling the chamber with boiling water and running it through the empty portafilter.
- Fill the portafilter with freshly ground coffee, then tamp and lock it in place.
- Add hot water to the water reservoir.
- Raise the arms and leave for a few seconds to pre-infuse.
- Push the arms down slowly and steadily. A good shot will take around 25-30 seconds to extract.
You will find it takes a bit of tweaking of grind size, dose, water temperature, and pressure exerted to achieve the best-tasting espresso. The ROK Espresso GC also doesn’t have a pressure gauge, so it is hard to know how much pressure you need to apply. The ROK is capable of producing high-quality espresso. However, for whatever reason, many users have found the espresso produced is not on a par with its competitors. It often struggles to create a thick layer of crema on top.
The ROK Espresso GC is pretty easy to clean. The used puck is easy to knock out of the portafilter, and then you simply need to rinse the portafilter and wipe down the unit. If required, the whole base can be rinsed in water.
Value For Money
The ROK Espresso GC offers excellent value for money. The ROK Espresso GC offers excellent value for money. You get a beautiful and durable espresso machine that allows you to control the extraction rate for an affordable price. However, it doesn’t come with a steam wand, so this is not the machine for you if you are after milk-based drinks.
What Are The Alternatives?
As we mentioned above, the ROK Espresso GC has several competitors that are favored in the specialty coffee world.
Flair Espresso Maker
The first of these is the Flair Espresso maker. The Flair Espresso maker uses a single lever to force water through a compressed puck and produce espresso, and it can make some excellent espresso! The Flair is one of the most affordable manual espresso machines on the market and a perfect choice for a beginner. There are also a lot of upgrades and accessories available so the machine can grow with you. See our full review here.
The Cafelat Robot is another contender for a spot in the espresso lovers’ coffee kit. It has a combination of beautiful aesthetics and functionality. The design makes it quick and easy to brew with, producing some delicious espresso shots. The Cafelat Robot does not require preheating, so it is slightly easier to use than the Flair or the ROK. It does, however, have a higher price tag, so the decision will ultimately come down to how deep your pockets are! See our full review here.
The ROK Espresso GC does what it was designed to do; it brews a simple shot of espresso. There are no fancy features or programs. It is a basic but well-built manual espresso machine that will last the distance. If you are just beginning your espresso journey or wanting to brew on a budget, the ROK Espresso GC may be the machine for you.