Making espresso at home is a topic of great depth and complexity for folks who take their espresso seriously. Aside from the need for a quality burr grinder with the ability to make finite adjustment to particle size, the question that plagues most at one point or another is what machine to buy. You can easily drop thousands of dollars on a machine, and many folks don't drink spro enough to warrant such a meaty purchase. Thus for the espresso-phile of yore, if you weren't willing to invest the coin into a quality set-up, than you were usually ok either relying on your local coffeehouse (if you're fortunate to be near one) or putting more faith into your pourover.
But the past couple of years saw the advent of manual espresso machines that used simple physics to create the necessary pressure to extract espresso. Everyone knows of the Aeropress, and for all of it's wonderful aspects, the effort needed to create 130 psi in pressing down the plunger is quite herculean and somewhat risky, given that you're pressing that pressure additionally onto a ceramic mug. The other manual, non-electric machine out there is the Rok (formerly Presso) Espresso Machine. It's dual-levered construction allows for the necessary 9 bars of pressure, though all of that depends on how you use it. This video below is from the designer of the Rok, and aside from the recommendation to get your coffee pre-ground (c'mon folks, just shell out for a good grinder), it gives a decent overview on how to utilize it:
Recently, the fine people of Whole Latte Love sent me out a Rok to take for a spin and here's what I found. Overall, since the machine depends greatly on coffee grind size, water temperature and user skill, it's a machine that will take some practice. Aside from the wisdom in the video above, some quality tips I found were to:
- Keep it hot. To keep the portafilter and the water chamber heated to aid in better extraction, I had the portafilter resting in a saucepan of simmering water (do at your own risk; the handle is plastic so if you forget it there, you may need a new one) and by running off-boil water through the system prior to the first infusion.
- Use fresh, quality coffee. This is obvious, but it needs to be said as some folks will tell you that you can get great shots from a giant barrel of preground darker-than-charcoal espresso blend. Buy good beans.
- Get the fine grind right. You will need to tinker with this, and hence this is one of many reasons why you should have a quality burr grinder (the folks at Baratza make very affordable ones but check out the CoffeeGeek reviews if you want to see a larger breadth). As any barista will tell you, the process of dialing in will take time and practice, especially if you're new to the game.
- Don't be afraid to press down. The machine is greatly dependent on technique and hence, you determine the pressure per square inch. And while accidents are always possible no matter how unlikely, the Rok's construction makes it pretty hard to hurt yourself.
- Buy a tamper. The machine comes with plastic scoop/tamper but you really would do well to purchase a tamper; it will tamp better and look a lot cooler.
Thus, I found the Rok to be a great tool for making espresso. It's got a 10 year warranty and with it's simple construction, it's easy to maintain. The folks at Whole Latte Love have a great deal going on that includes a tamper and free shipping, so for $199 it's one of the best deals in the world of home espresso.
note: Rok was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.