Rocket Appartamento Espresso Machine Review
What are your priorities when buying an espresso machine? If you replied, “delicious espresso, compact design, impeccable build quality, and stunning style,” keep reading.
In this Rocket Appartamento review, we’re talking about a machine with all of the above. It may be small, but it packs a big punch, both in flavor and aesthetics. It may well be exactly what you’re looking for!
Rocket Appartamento Espresso Machine
- Ultra-compact heat exchanger espresso machine designed for smaller homes
- A perfect introduction to prosumer grade espresso machines
- Attractive Rocket aesthetic with unique circular cut-outs on the sides
It is a whole other universe away from the kitchenware brands. I never feel a need to go out for a decent coffee anymore.– Jennifer M.
The Rocket Appartamento Review
Rocket Appartamento is a relatively new addition to the Rocket Espresso line. It was released in 2016, but it already proved very popular. As it turns out, there’s a hot market for a stylish prosumer-grade espresso machine with a compact footprint. No surprise, given how many of us live in smaller homes without much counter space (1).
But is this machine really all it’s cracked up to be? Or is it still riding high on the wave of initial hype? That’s what I set out to discover with this Rocket Appartamento review. So let’s dig deep into the details beneath that beautiful exterior to find out the actual value of the Rocket Appartamento and if it’s the suitable machine for you.
Brewing Capacity – 3.5/5
The Rocket Espresso Appartamento is technically the ENTRY-LEVEL MODEL of Rocket’s line. But when it comes to this brand, entry-level still refers to a very high-end piece of equipment.
If you’ve come to the end of the line with your appliance-grade espresso machine and are ready to make the jump to a prosumer model, this would be a fantastic introduction. Once you get it dialed in, you’ll be blown away by its quality and consistency.
They designed it to be ultra-compact, hence the name Appartamento. This is a machine built with apartment dwellers with limited counter space in mind. That said, Rocket designers made surprisingly few sacrifices to achieve the machine’s slender footprint.
Rocket Appartamento features the same 1.8-liter copper heat exchange boiler and vibratory pump as the larger and more expensive Cronometro Type V models.
So, you can steam and brew at the same time!
The only difference is that the boiler in the Rocket Appartamento is not insulated, so it’s less energy-efficient and maybe a tiny bit louder, though not so much that you would notice.
It also relies on the same E61 group head found on the rest of Rocket’s models — and indeed on most prosumer espresso machines. In an E61 group head, hot water is continually cycled from the boiler through the group head to the portafilter. This classic design ensures everything stays hot and, most importantly, stable (2).
What makes it stand out?
There is the main difference between the Rocket Appartamento and the more expensive Type V models. The Appartamento doesn’t use a PID for temperature control when brewing and steaming. Instead, it relies on a pressure stat. A pressure stat won’t offer quite as much control as a PID, and it’s not quite as long-lasting. Still, it’s common for most heat exchanger machines. It also keeps this one affordable without a significant impact on the quality of the espresso.
The Rocket Appartamento comes standard with Rocket’s innovative dual pre-infusion system, which claims to enhance the flavor of the coffee. It’s a mechanical system that uses a progressively working piston and static pre-infusion chamber.
There is a pressure gauge on the front panel that monitors steam boiler pressure, which is very useful. However, unlike some of the larger models, there is no separate gauge for pump pressure.
User Friendliness – 4/5
Any prosumer espresso machine will feel a bit intimidating if you’re upgrading from an appliance-style model. And heat exchanger boilers, in particular, take a little getting used to as you figure out cooling flushes. That said, the Rocket Appartamento has a relatively short learning curve that anyone can master. And that’s because it’s an entry-level model.
The initial set-up is about as simple as it gets. Just plug it in, and you’re pretty much good to go. Thanks to its compact design, it warms up relatively quickly. You’ll be ready to brew in 20 minutes, which I know sounds long compared to the 3-second heat-up time of cheaper thermoblock machines.
But trust me, it’s worth the wait.
And it’s very speedy compared to the more oversized dual boilers, which can take upwards of 45 minutes to achieve temperature stability.
The top acts as a cup warmer, so the 20-minute warm-up time is an excellent chance to get your mugs toasty while you wait.
If you’re used to pushing a button for espresso, you’ll find that using a prosumer-grade machine is a very satisfying tactile experience.
It feels and sounds like a high-performance commercial machine. The portafilters are weighty, and you pull a lever to start the shot. Again, there will be a bit of an adjustment period, but in the end, the user experience is far superior.
There are a few aspects of the Rocket Appartamento that detract from its user-friendliness. One is the relatively small water tank. Of course, this makes sense when a small footprint machine is a goal. But since you can’t plumb in the Rocket Appartamento, you will have to be alert about filling the water tank. Fortunately, it does have a handy warning system. The on/off light will start blinking when the tank is too low.
Pressure, pressure, pressure
As I mentioned before, there is no pressure gauge to monitor pump pressure. In general, this is no problem. But it can be if you are pulling a lot of shots in a row. So, it’d be nice to have the pressure monitored, so you see how quickly the machine recovers between drinks.
Another potential downside is the small 3.5-inch clearance between the spouted portafilter and the drip tray. This will only be an issue if you’re regularly making larger drinks, like an Americano or a latte, especially if you want to slip a scale in there as well. You’ll want to brew into an espresso pitcher first.
Interestingly, the larger and more expensive Rocket Timer models have an even lower clearance, so it’s hard to complain about 3.5 inches on such an overall compact machine.
Milk Frothing – 4/5
The milk frothing on the Rocket Appartamento is EXCELLENT. There’s no other word for it. Because it has the same boiler as the larger models, it has the same steam wand power, which comes as a surprise since it looks so much smaller.
In fact, if you’re new to milk-steaming on a prosumer machine like the Rocket Appartamento, it will probably be an overwhelming amount of steam pressure. At first, it’ll be somewhere between 1 to 1.5 bar. But once you’ve mastered it, you get to enjoy cafe-quality microfoam like never before — and in only a few seconds per drink.
One more thing, the steam wand is equipped with a two-hole tip. I certainly think this is nicely balanced with the steam pressure. But you can easily swap it for something more or less intense, depending on your skill.
Both the steam wand and the hot water wand are fully articulated, making them easy to position in any milk pitcher size. And both steam and hot water wands have double-wall designs (aka no burn), so their exterior never gets hot enough to scald you. More importantly, it doesn’t get hot enough for milk to burn to the outside of the steam wand, which, if you’ve ever experienced it, you’ll know it’s a huge hassle to clean
Build Quality – 5/5
Rocket espresso machines always stand out for their build quality and aesthetic appeal, and while you do pay a premium for this, I consider it money well spent (3).
To the former point, a well-built espresso machine will last longer and be easier and less expensive to maintain, saving you money and frustration in the long run.
And when it comes to aesthetics, remember that prosumer machines, even compact ones like the Appartamento, are big. The Rocket Appartamento is likely to become the focal point of your kitchen, so it’s well worth spending a little more on something that makes you happy to look at every day.
So, what’s it made of?
The Appartamento uses the same components as the higher-end Evoluzione line, including the copper boiler, stainless steel casing, magnetic drip tray, and 58 mm commercial grade portafilters. This makes it an excellent value. It even comes with an aluminum tamper, an excellent step up from the useless plastic tampers typically included with entry-level models.
Rocket stuck with what they do best and outfitted the Appartamento with professional grade materials.
This machine’s stand-out design features are the unique laser cut-outs on the side, which you won’t even find on other Rocket models. They immediately identify it as the Appartamento. The circular cut-outs come standard in black, white, and copper, but there is plenty of customization potential if you want to personalize your machine. And like all Rocket machines, the knobs for the steam wand and hot water wand are adorned with the iconic R logo.
More recently, Rocket has released the Serie Nera (aka Black Series) Appartamento, which costs less than $100 extra and ups the style ante. The sides are coated in a rubberized matte black coating, and a more durable metal cup rail is added to the top around the cup warmer. The Serie Nera also has an ECO mode for saving energy, quickly switched on and off with a button on the bottom (4).
Cleaning and Maintenance – 3.5/5
As long as you treat your Rocket Espresso machine well, it should last a very long time. For example, always opt for filtered water, and add a softener if you live in a hard-water region. This avoids the build-up of scale and another crud in the steam boiler and plumbing. A little bit of preventative work will save you a lot of frustration in the long run.
The Appartamento is sold with a supply of cleaning tablets, a blind basket, and a set of instructions, and your best bet is to use them as prescribed.
Admittedly, managing water can be a bit of a hassle with this machine, but this is a natural trade-off for its small stature. Both the water tank and drip tray are a bit smaller than standard. The drip tray holds 28 ounces, and the reservoir tops out at 2.25 liters.
When combined with the cooling flushes needed for HX espresso machines and the overpressure valve that releases excess hot water into the drip tray, you’ll need to be pretty vigilant about emptying the drip tray and filling the water reservoir. If possible, you’ll want to position the Rocket Appartamento near a sink if you plan to use it frequently.
A potential downside?
One thing worth keeping in mind with the Appartamento is that its compact design makes it more difficult to service yourself. It’s pretty cramped inside. If things go wrong, I suggest hiring a technician with experience with these models or sending it back to the dealer you bought it from.
Luckily, there isn’t a whole lot to go wrong. Heat exchanger espresso machines have fewer parts than double boilers and are thus a bit more reliable. Because the E61 brew head is so standard and has been around for so long, it is much easier to find skilled technicians and spare parts should you have a problem. And as I’ve already said, Rocket’s build quality is top-notch.
Don’t Buy the Rocket Appartamento If…
You’re not looking to save space: The main selling point of the Appartamento is its unique compact design. If you have room to spare, check out the larger Giotto or Mozzafiato Cronometro models, which add a PID for temperature control. Conversely, if you want something even more compact, check out the innovative portable Porta Via.
You want a double boiler: If you plan on making a lot of back-to-back drinks, or even if you’re just unsure about the workflow of a heat exchanger machine, you might prefer a double boiler. The Bianca model by Lelit is an affordable choice which adds the exciting option of flow control (5). Or if you want to stick with the Rocket aesthetic, check out our R58 review.
You don’t care about the Rocket aesthetic: When you buy a Rocket espresso machine, you pay a bit of a premium for its very cool look. If it’s going to be the focal point of your home or business, that’s money well spent. But if looks don’t matter to you, there are better value choices. Consider the Lelit Mara, which is actually even smaller than the Rocket Appartamento, or Profitec Pro 500.
Suppose you’re looking for a prosumer espresso machine that manages to have a small footprint without making any sacrifices in terms of quality. In that case, the Rocket Espresso Appartamento has your name on it.
By keeping the full-size 1.8L heat exchange copper boiler of the more expensive models, this little powerhouse can keep up with its big brothers while still fitting comfortably in an apartment kitchen. Add to that the unique style of the laser cut-outs, and you’ve got something pretty special!
- Williams, C. (2017, October 20). Millions Of Americans Are Still Sharing Apartments And You’re Worried About A Bubble? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bisnow/2017/10/20/millions-of-americans-are-still-sharing-apartments-and-youre-worried-about-a-bubble/?sh=3905b1d24ef4
- Burton, G. (2011, January 11). The E61 Group Head: An Oldie but a Goodie. Retrieved from https://www.fivesenses.com.au/blog/the-e61-group-head-an-oldie-but-a-goodie/
- Velits, M. (2017, July 18). Andrew Meo founder of Rocket Espresso Interview. Retrieved from https://isadore.com/blog/article/andrew-meo-founder-of-rocket-espresso-interview
- Ellis, V. (2015, January 2). Perky new EU efficiency rules for coffee machines and energy labels. Retrieved from https://www.energylivenews.com/2015/01/02/perky-new-eu-efficiency-rules-for-coffee-machines-and-energy-labels/
- Grant, T. (2020, July 29). How Flow Profiling Affects Espresso Extraction. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/07/how-flow-profiling-impacts-espresso-coffee-extraction/