For most home brewers there’s a natural progression that often occurs from brewer to barista. There’s a point where some of us decide to graduate from brewing standard pour overs to home made espresso, but that can feel like a large leap and it may feel daunting to know where to start. In many cases home brewers just don’t have the budget to start pulling espresso at home so they never make the move at all. Thankfully, you don’t need to have thousands of dollars laying around to get into the espresso game anymore, as there are more cost effective options on the market - one of my favourites being the ROK Espresso Maker.
The ROK Espresso Maker was my first ever home espresso solution, and four years later I’m still brewing with it. I’ve since upgraded to a dual boiler machine, but something always pulls be back (pardon the pun) to this manual lever machine.
Just like anything that ROK Coffee manufactures, this thing is built tough. It’s shipped and delivered in a reusable tin that can be used for storing your random coffee accessories, or a handy container for travelling with the ROK when you’re on the go. Inside the tin you’ll find the ROK Espresso Maker, a 49.7mm portafilter, a plastic tamper that doubles as a dosing tool, and a milk frother.
Place the ROK on the counter and its minimal footprint is immediately apparent. It takes up much less space than most traditional machines, and it’s more portable than just about any other espresso maker. It doesn’t move too easily though, as it has a rubber base to keep it firmly in place while brewing.
I can still remember the first shot I ever pulled on the ROK. I hand ground some beans using a Porlex Mini, tamped my bed, locked, loaded, and pulled. As I watched steady streams of copper coloured coffee pour into my shot glass, I almost couldn’t believe what I had accomplished. Looking back (after many, many shots pulled) I can see that first shot wasn’t as great as I thought it was, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as I had expected.
The ROK has an incredible capability to brew proper espresso at home with little to no espresso experience. Built of engine grade steel and constructed to endure all kinds of abuse, this sturdy levered device can generate 5-10 bars of pressure, just enough to achieve adequate pressure for a perfect shot. That perfect shot doesn’t come without a little bit of dialing in, though. Good news is you’ll have years to dial your shots in with the 10 year warranty included on all metal parts.
A little trial and error go a long way with the ROK, as the margin for error is smaller than with an automatic commercial machine. Grind size is an imperative variable to get that perfect amount of pressure that you need to pull your shot. Preheating the glass brew chamber with an empty portafilter loaded is best practice to preheat the ROK and maintain temperature throughout your brew.
The included plastic tamper does a good enough job, but a proper tamper is a worthy investment to pair with your ROK. The milk frother is basically useless, and the lack of boiler system is one of the drawbacks of this brewer. You can pull a great espresso shot, sure, but you can’t pair it with silky steamed milk without an additional purchase.
I think that the ROK Espresso Maker is a great entry point to home espresso making, and as far as manual machines go I’m not sure if it can be rivalled. The price point is virtually unbeatable, and the results are truly impressive. If you’re a home brewer looking for an affordable solution for pulling crema topped shots at home, this just might be the solution for you.