Next in our series of the crew’s favorite picks covers the world of traditional espresso machines. Find out which single, heat exchange and double boiler machines the team digs.
Single Boiler Espresso Machines
Heat Exchange Espresso Machines
Dual Boiler Espresso Machines
Ever wondered how an E61 brew head works? What makes it different from other brew heads? How it maintains temperature consistently or releases pressure at the brew head? Or maybe you just want to know what the heck an E61 even is! Well, your questions are about to be answered, darling, with help of our good friend Bill Crossland.
Not only is Bill a talented and knowledgeable mechanical engineer in his own right, he’s also been working on developing a wide array of espresso machines for both the commercial and home markets for the past twenty-odd years. So when it comes to breaking down how the mechanics of an espresso machine work, we were lucky enough that he provided us this lovely tutorial!
Using an E61 from a Rocket Espresso machine that has been cross-sectioned to show its internals, Bill walks us through the different components and functionality of this brew head. Watch to learn everything you wanted to know about E61′s — and possibly more! — in this mechanically-focused video.
As any good product developer knows, the key to keeping things real for their customers is to iterate, iterate, iterate! In Rocket’s newest version of their popular R58 dual boiler espresso machine, they’ve made a few adjustments to improve both the form and function of the machine.
Form-wise, they’ve strengthened the chassis, added nylon rails to improve the fit of the drip tray and implemented a magnetic drip tray closure. Function-wise, they’ve installed a new control board to optimize steaming and brewing and updated the firmware on the external PID.
Watch as Gail takes us through all the features and specs of the V2 R58, then makes a delicious cappuccino in a gorgeous Lino cup!
We’re not quite sure why one would want to pull single shots, but we’ve been asked multiple times to experiment and provide our tips on how to get the job done. So we drafted Jess to take on the formidable task of dialing in a single shot. Off-camera, she worked on the Rocket Giotto Evoluzione and the Crossland CC1; while she had success on the former, the latter still proves to be a challenge.
Watch her pull a few shots on the Rocket, varying an element each time to dial it in. The singles she pulled did taste great, but, still … really? We’re triples all the way, friends.
Decided to up your latte game and invite a ‘prosumer’ espresso machine into your home? I was interested in learning more about two of the the heat exchangers that we have in the store — the art deco inspired Nuova Simonelli Musica and the hand crafted Rocket Giotto Evoluzione — so I decided to take them each for a test drive. Now, if you’re into straight up features and spec comparisons, check out the table I’ve laid out below; but if you learn more from hands-on experiences, read on!
I started with the Musica and instantly fell in love with its portafilter. The smartly angled handle enables the filter basket to lie flat on the counter. Jessica held my hand as I dialed in the grind using the Mazzer Mini E – Type A grinder. After pulling a number of double shots, I came to appreciate the Musica’s automatic pre-infusion and programmable volumetric buttons, making this machine a breeze once you figure out the right grind and tamp for your bean. You can also steam milk extremely quickly using the standard three hole steam tip. I loved the paddle functionality to control the steam, allowing you to pulse or flip up for maximum power.
As I approached the Rocket, I could see my reflection in its highly polished casing. With a commercial-grade brew head, I was in store for consistent shots given the thermal stability provided by the E61. After inserting the portafilter, I flipped up the lever all the way to begin shot extraction. I was glued to a timer while pulling shots, and this would be best practice given there isn’t volumetric programming on this machine. Steaming was straightforward with a traditional steam knob and single hole tip, giving me a little more time to work up the microfoam.
In the end, there was no difference in shot or milk quality from these two exceptional machines, so it all boils down to a few essentials in your decision set. If you need a convertible water source, crave sleek steel lines and appreciate the ritual of classic espresso extraction, the Giotto Evo is a strong bet. If you need an NSF rated machine for a small cafe environment or dig modern conveniences like programmable volumetrics and disco lights, give the Musica a happy home.
Nuova Simonelli Musica
Rocket Giotto Evoluzione
|Dimensions||12.75 in W x 16 in D x 16.75 in||12 in W x 17 in D x 15 in (16.5 in w/ cup rails)|
|Reservoir Size||2.3 Liters||2.9 Liters|
|Water Source||Either reservoir or direct connect||Convertible|
|Case Design||Stainless steel with optional disco lights||Stainless steel and fancy like a race car|
|Steam Wand||Traditional, not insulated, 3 hole tip||Traditional, insulated, 2 hole tip|
|Pre-infusion||Automatic and programmable||Passive|
|Boiler Volume||2 Liter||1.8 Liter|
|Gauges||Boiler pressure||Steam boiler & brew head pressure|
We’re not sure if learning how to pull a shot is more or less frustrating than learning how to steam milk, but we do often hear complaints about the latter. It does take a little time and practice to produce microfoam, but what part will your tools play in the equation?
Rocket Espresso offers a set of four different tips for their steam wand, which feature different configurations of smaller diameter holes. We wanted to find out how these different styles affected our mad steaming skillz, so Bunny and Kat took them for a ride! Watch as we compare different techniques and the different tip styles to learn how they measure up.
If you’ve ever wondered who’s behind the gorgeous machines of Rocket Espresso, meet Andrew Meo. With a background as a coffee roaster and connoisseur in New Zealand, he started selling the home machines of now-defunct ECM, eventually joining forces with a couple of business partners to spin off Rocket Espresso in 2007. Since then, he’s developed the machines into some of the most beautiful examples of form meeting function. Learn about Rocket’s approach to product design, how they’ve developed the machines since taking them on and future plans.
I had an ‘Aha! Moment’ this morning and it changed my whole relationship with espresso prep. Very reluctantly, and only because I was on a deadline, did I approach the Rocket Espresso R58 Dual Boiler. Kat asked me why I was more reluctant than usual to pull shots on this machine and I didn’t have a good answer. Shiami encouraged me and told me that I would love the quality shots an E61 brew group produces.
To start, I frothed a pitcher of milk, which I do regularly on the Rocket Giotto, and the difference between a heat exchanger and a dual boiler became apparent. In the same time it takes me to get a nice velvety microfoam at 150 degrees on the Rocket Giotto, I found the Rocket R58 had gotten up to 170 degrees! There was foam but the higher temperature killed the creaminess. The powerful steam cut frothing time almost in half and I had not adjusted for that fact.
Next, I enlisted Fillmore from the repair department to expertly dial in the grinder. I watched him grind into the portafilter from a Mazzer Mini. He pulled a shot and it was too quick. He adjusted the grind a tick finer, pulled another shot and it was still a little fast. He re-adjusted, then felt the espresso grounds in his hand and they were fine like ground pepper. On the third extraction the shot pulled evenly and within 22 seconds we each grabbed a shot and tasted it. Zoka Organic Espresso Quatro — yum!
As I stared at the shiny stainless steel Rocket R58 with its 58mm portafilter, I was still reluctant to pull my own shots. I recounted all of the variables Gail recommends for a perfect espresso shot: filtered water, the right grind, the correct tamp and a deluxe hand-built Italian espresso machine (just kidding! Kind of…). Finally the answer was clear to me: While I understand how to make espresso, my problem is I can’t tamp!
I love it when Kaylie makes me a latte, I use E.S.E. pods at home and I will occasionally use the new Francis Francis capsule machine for an afternoon pick-me-up. As a result, I have avoided the tamping issue altogether. Aha!
There are benefits to having the entire SCG demonstration arsenal at my disposal. I lined up a tamping mat, a tamper and a knock box. Long overdue tamping practice began and continued until both the Rocket R58 drip tray was full (twice!) from pulling shots and the knock box was full of spent pucks. From this experience I found out the following:
- The R58 brew head warning sticker states, ‘Caution Hot Surface,’ and that’s the truth
- Pre-warming your portafilter in the brew head yields great results, however it also makes it hot to touch when you tamp
- Fillmore’s Pro-Tip: A half flip of the lever allows for a mellow pre-infusion using passive boiler pressure
- It is hard to get espresso grounds out from under your fingernails
Many people go through a coffee preparation progression as their taste, budget or skills change. I went from French press to stovetop espresso maker to a small single boiler machine. How do you know when you are ready for the next step, in this case a dual boiler? Identify your comfort level and your ultimate goal. My comfort level had me afraid to tamp, but my goal was a fresher shot. So it turns out that I am ready to upgrade. For now, a heat exchanger model is my next step.
There is a machine for every person though, so who does need a dual boiler espresso machine? For me, the styling of the Rocket line is what an espresso machine ‘should’ look like — I would love to see one on my counter top. Like a heat exchanger, a dual boiler saves time if your preferred drink is milk-based since you can froth and pull shots simultaneously. The R58 in particular can be used with the internal reservoir or plumbed-in for even more convenience. Finally, espresso is all about consistency; with commercial grade parts, dual pressure gauges, a rotary pump and an external PID, the Rocket R58 uses current technology to allow you to pull the best shots you are capable of every time.
Where will your preparation progression lead you? The Rocket R58 Dual Boiler is not a starter machine. When you are ready to take things to the next level though, this espresso machine is one of the very best. Don’t be reluctant to try it!
In the market for a heat exchange espresso machine but not prepared to drop a cool $2k on the endeavor? The Oscar by Nuova Simonelli and the Cellini Classic by Rocket Espresso are two excellent machines that feature commercial-grade components and performance for a relatively modest budget. And by ‘relatively modest’ we mean you’re still willing to sink at least a grand into your home espresso setup, love.
Check out how the two machines stack up against each other in Gail’s comparison video! We talk about their features, show off their innards and demonstrate their performance in this side-by-side review.
Even if you don’t buy into New Year’s resolutions, there’s nothing wrong with thinking about little ways to improve your quality of life and that of those around you. (We know what you’re like without your morning coffee. It’s okay, this is a safe place.) Why not start with a commitment to make better coffee in 2013? Here’s a list our best selling gear from last year to help you get started!
Saeco Aroma Black – $229 Stainless Steel – $259
Compact and durable, the Aroma is a great entry-level espresso machine. It’s extremely easy to use, and the pressurized portafilter and included pod adapter will have you brewing with E.S.E. pods, pre-ground espresso, or freshly ground beans with ease.
Saeco Via Venezia Black – $299 Stainless Steel – $349
The Via Venezia and Aroma share the same internals therefore they function almost identically, but the Via Venezia offers some slight improvements: larger capacity water reservoir (98 oz), steam wand with more mobility, and more clearance between the drip tray and brew head so you can brew into larger cups. This little workhorse will keep you caffeinated with no problems.
Breville Infuser BES840XL – $499.95
The Infuser is the only espresso machine in this price range to offer an internal PID, and while it’s not programmable, it stabilizes the brew temperature for perfect shot extraction. With built-in pre-infusion, commercial style steam wand, and compact stainless casing, you’ll be proud to have this on your counter top.
Rancilio Silvia – $629 with PID – $879
Simple, reliable, durable. The Silvia is one of the best sellers in the home espresso market and it’s a great machine on which to hone your craft since you’ll need to be precise with your grind and tamp. Upgrade to the installed PID version for programmable temperature control.
Saeco Syntia SS Superautomatic – $849
The Syntia is a compact and stylish superauto that offers the convenience of automatic espresso brewing paired with manual milk steaming – perfect for folks who order extra-hot lattes. With Saeco’s removable brew group and Intenza water filter system, it’s also easy to maintain and a great option for those who need a little extra help in the morning. ☺
Crossland CC1 – $699 (now 10% off!)
A PID comes standard with this single boiler, which let’s you customize brew and steam temperature, pre-infusion time, and volume. We love the stainless steel casing, thermo-block enhanced steam to switch quickly between brewing and steaming, and the programmability for this price point.
Breville Double Boiler – $1199.95
When you’re ready to brew and steam simultaneously, you’re ready for this bad boy. With an easy to use interface, you can program the electronic PID with extraction temperatures, volumetric control, and pre-infusion duration.
Nuova Simonelli Oscar – $1050
If you think you need a dual boiler for simultaneous brewing and steaming, think again. Heat exchangers like the Oscar provide similar benefits at a lower price point. This machine has great steam pressure, a large water reservoir, and is also available as a direct connect machine. It’s available in a sexy metallic red as well – vroom vroom.
DeLonghi 23450SL -$1499.95
This is one of DeLonghi’s newer superautomatics on the market, and if you are a bleary eyed zombie before your morning java, you will appreciate its one-touch functionality. It produces some of the hottest coffee we’ve seen from superautos.
Saeco Exprelia -$1899
This one-touch dual boiler is streamlined and compact, and we love that if offers both one-touch functionality for auto-frothing milk or manual steaming with a stainless steel steam wand – no panarellos here. Right now we are offering a year’s supply of coffee with the purchase of a new Exprelia!
Rocket Cellini Premium Plus – $1799 Giotto Premium Plus – $1899
Hand craftsmanship, a commercial grade E61 brew head and high polished stainless steel seduce many an espresso lover to bring the Cellini or Giotto Premium Plus into their lives. You’ll be extracting delicious shots and impressing all your friends with this one.
Sky’s the Limit
Rocket R58 – $2699
You’re ready to take it to the next level with this powerhouse. The dual boilers work independently to stabilize the espresso boiler, and maximize steam pressure without compromising shot quality.
Saeco Xelsis – $2999 or Xelsis ID – $3199
The only thing missing from these superautomatics is the ability for them to read your mind…coming in 2015 (Just kidding!) Right now you’ll have to be satisfied with the ID’s fingerprint recognition technology to access your drink profile and create beverages at the touch of a button.
Izzo Alex Duetto II – $2250 Duetto III – $2495
This dual boiler has commercial quality components, electronic PID control, and the option to plumb into your water line. It’s new older brother, the Duetto III offers an upgraded fit and finish, larger drip tray, and stainless steel cup rails. Both solid performers can take your java to the next level.