Rok Espresso Maker Review: Is This Budget Manual Machine Any Good?
If you thought that to get an espresso shot on holiday, you were condemned to rely on coffee shops or give up all control over the extraction process, we have exciting news for you: this manual espresso maker is designed to be portable and practical. Read our Rok Espresso maker review to find out all about this award-winning and budget-friendly lever coffee maker.
Summary: Rok EspressoGC
- Upgraded version of Rok Presso and Rok Manual Espresso Maker, with glass composite pressure chamber and piston gasket for high-pressure brewing
- Easier to operate than most manual espresso makers
- Lighter and more portable than most models
Whilst retaining the timeless classic design of the original, we’ve re-engineered the pressure chamber to deliver twice the performance using BPA-free glass composites.– ROK
The ROK Espresso Maker Review
Let’s break down the ROK and look at it in a little more detail.
Design – 4/5
The Rok EspressoGC is bound to turn your guests’ heads as soon as they walk into your kitchen thanks to its unique, modern design and sleek look. After all, this model has kept the award-winning design of the Rok Presso, the original version created in 2004 (1). Some might argue that it’s not as iconic and elegant as higher-end manual espresso makers such as the Elektra Micro Casa or the Pavoni, but that’s simply because it’s not intended to be: the ROK Espresso maker was created with functionality and portability in mind, and its design reflects both of them perfectly.
The ergonomic design of the two levers is very straightforward: you must simply push them down to create pressure.
It also has four rubber legs in its base, which do a great job at keeping it still as you press (the last thing you want is to spill your precious espresso!).
As for portability, this British company has been opening new horizons to manual espresso brewing. As it’s not tied to electric plugs and it’s relatively light and small (it weighs 3.5 pounds and it’s only 11.5 inches tall), the ROK Espresso maker will allow you to brew espresso on holiday. It even comes with a handy metal tin to store it and carry it with you.
Brewing Capability – 4/5
While it lacks the features of higher-end models (such as a milk frother or a large boiler), the ROK does exactly what it’s designed for: brew a tasty espresso through manual pressure.
You simply fill the small water reservoir, lift the levers, lock in the portafilter and plunge for 25-30 seconds.
You must also preheat the stainless steel portafilter by leaving it in boiling water for a minute before brewing, in order to avoid under-extraction. As with any manual espresso machine, there’s maximum customizability (yay!) which also means plenty of room for human error (uh-oh). Don’t be too harsh on yourself if you don’t get the tastiest shot of espresso on your first shot (pun intended): a steeper learning curve is normal with lever espresso makers, but that’s what makes them exciting! (2)
Visually, with a lever, the process inside the machine is reflected outside, and we love the physical aspect of controlling the process of extraction by literally pulling the lever.
You can craft a perfect espresso and achieve your favorite taste by tweaking the size of the ground coffee, the hot water temperature (don’t use boiling water, or you’ll burn the coffee!) and the pressure that you apply. The ROK espresso maker can reach between 5 and 10 bars of pressure, with 9 being the required standard for espresso brewing (3).
The smaller holes and the precision of the silicone shower screen result in a clean extraction and a thin layer of crema on top. The lack of a boiler means that you can only brew one shot at a time, but, thanks to the attachable double spout, you can split it between two cups whilst you prepare the second part of a double shot. It’s also a perfect start to create espresso-based frothy drinks if you own a milk frother.
We like the ROK EspressoGC because it allows you to be completely in control of the extraction process and is a very sustainable coffee maker since you don’t have to deal with stale coffee capsules and their terrible environmental footprint (4).
Cleaning – 3.5/5
It shouldn’t come as a shock that you can’t just press a button and let the descaling magic happen as you do with automatic machines, but the simple design of the ROK Espresso machine also means that cleaning is not too difficult once you get used to it.
You must disassemble it and use water and vinegar to descale its components manually every few months, depending on the hardness of the water that you use (5). It’s also a good idea to polish the aluminum body to keep it sleek and shining.
Build Quality – 4/5
Even though it’s built in China and is nowhere near as premium as higher-end models, ROK are very good at ensuring that their high standards are met. They’ve also been improving the build and design of their lever espresso machine throughout the years, from the Presso, to the Rok Manual Espresso maker that they launched in 2012, to this EspressoGC, the newest and most upgraded version. It’s made of durable metal and the aluminum arms are much sturdier than the previous models.
It comes with a barista-style stainless steel portafilter and the pressure chamber is now made from BPA free glass composite (hence the GC in the name) with improved insulation, while the piston gasket is perfect for high-pressure brewing. Bottom line? This espresso maker is built to last for years!
Value for Money – 4.5/5
The ROK espresso maker is proof that you don’t necessarily need to spend over a grand in order to have full control over the extraction process through manual brewing. We think it’s an incredibly good value for money. While it doesn’t come with a steam wand and you won’t get the premium feel of a higher-end machine, the EspressoGC can make delicious espresso shots once you perfect your technique. Since you won’t have to worry about consuming electricity or using single-use filters or coffee capsules, it’s a very cheap and easy coffee maker to maintain and it will guarantee you rich espresso for years, if you descale it regularly: it’s extremely durable and it comes with a 10 year warranty on its metal parts.
The portability adds to its value and we think it’s the best budget choice for manual machines: no wonder it was voted Most Innovative Product at the London Coffee Festival (6).
Things we liked:
- High-quality espresso for a low price
- Ergonomic design is easy to use
- Durable build and 10-year warranty
Things we didn’t like:
- No pressure gauge
- Not as aesthetic as its competition
Do Not Buy If…
You want a premium Italian experience – The ROK EspressoGC is a fantastic budget pick, but if, when thinking of manual espresso machines, you envision an elegant Italian coffee maker… say no more! With the large capacity of 32 espresso shots, a steam wand and an elegand finish, the La Pavoni Professional Espresso Maker has a charming steampunk feel that will take you back to the Milanese cafés of the early 20th century. Another model, the La Pavoni Europiccola, is also worth checking out!
You need something more portable – The ROK Espresso maker is incredibly portable compared to most lever espresso machines, but it’s certainly not something that you can chuck in your backpack to enjoy a coffee while you’re in the middle of a hike. If that’s more your type of thing, then we think you’d love the small and practical Wacaco Minipresso.
The Verdict On The ROK Espresso Maker
The ROK EspressoGC is one of our favorite manual machines, as it gives you full control over the extraction process at an incredibly good price. We also love its iconic design and appreciate the fact that ROK have constantly been working on their components to upgrade it and offer you the very best brewing experience, without straying away from the initial ideas of practicality and portability. If you’re after a manual espresso maker with a relatively small footprint that won’t break the bank, this will ROK your coffee world!
To descale a ROK Espresso maker you must unscrew the top bolt and remove its components. Place the silicone filter and O-ring in soapy water and leave the reservoir in a 1:3 vinegar and hot water solution for 30 minutes. Then wash everything with soapy water and reassemble your coffee maker.
You should use a fine grind with your ROK espresso maker, as espresso brewing happens in only 20-30 seconds and coarse ground coffee would let the water flow too quickly, resulting in under-extracted coffee. We recommend grinding the coffee beans yourself to obtain the best flavor. If you need a grinder and want something that can complement your new ROK Espresso maker, the company sells a similarly-shaped grinder.
Lever espresso machines are better if you want full control over the extraction process and manually feel the pressure needed to brew espresso. They are often preferred by purists and coffee aficionados due to the fact they offer a more traditional, hands-on approach to making espresso.
- Learn More About ROK. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rok.coffee/about-us
- The fall & rise of the lever espresso machine. (2018, January 4). Retrieved from https://www.caffeinemag.com/articles/the-fall-rise-of-the-lever-espresso-machine
- Kilbride, D. (2017, June 8). How Does Pressure Affect Espresso Quality?. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2017/06/how-does-pressure-affect-espresso-quality/
- Miller, P. (2019, March 28). The problem with coffee pods and the eco-friendly alternatives to use instead. Retrieved from https://inhabitat.com/the-problem-with-coffee-pods-and-the-eco-friendly-alternatives-to-use-instead/
- Freedman, L. (2019, May 30). How To Descale a Coffee Maker. Retrieved From https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-descale-a-coffee-maker-248197
- 17 June: The London Coffee Festival Visitor Awards. (2013, June). Retrieved From https://www.londoncoffeefestival.com/Journal/June-2013/17-June-The-London-Coffee-Festival-Visitor-Awa-(1)