The Reluctant Barista: Tackling the Rocket R58 Dual Boiler
This entry was posted on January 23, 2013.
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!