The Reluctant Barista: A Tale of Three Rockets
Rocket Espresso makes highly polished stainless steel home espresso machines in Milan, Italy. And we really mean highly polished: You can actually see your reflection in their gleaming surfaces. We have a row of Rocket demo models standing at the ready in our store, which can sometimes give the visual affect of a row of funhouse mirrors.
My go-to Rocket machine is the Giotto Evoluzione, which sits next to the R58 Dual Boiler and the Cellini Premium Plus. While I'm often found crafting one of my favorite drinks on the Giotto Evo (a Shot in the Dark), I also occasionally experiment with the other models -- like firing up the R58 just to watch an espresso extraction with a bottomless portafilter (yes, that's what we do for fun around here). But I hadn't played much with Rocket's entry-level model, the Cellini Classic, so decided to find out how it stacked up against my other favorites.
First, a little background: The only difference between the Cellini series and the Giotto series is their case styles. The Cellini has straight sides and the Giotto has more angled, diamond-shaped sides. In accordance with its name, the Classic has a straight design like the other Cellinis, however the sides are brushed stainless steel and the top and front panels remain polished. Next, 'Premium Plus' refers to models with an internal water reservoir only, while 'Evoluzione' refers to models that have a convertible water source -- either the internal reservoir or plumbed to the main water supply. The Classic has an internal reservoir only and a few less features than the other models overall, but still sports the well-loved E61 brew group of its compatriots.
So I wondered, would I notice if a few Rocket Espresso features were left off? I gave the machine a chance to warm up and then I made Dori a latte. While the functionality was similar to the other Rocket models, the feel was different. The machine felt stiffer to use and the knobs were more plastic-y. Yes, I know espresso knobs are generally made of plastic, but this felt more plastic than usual, with sharper edges and none of the tactile luxury associated with other Rocket models. Looks aside, I felt like the performance was on par -- my shots were great! The Classic operated very intuitively on my first and subsequent attempts, and I did not miss having a PID nor did I mind that I had only a single manometer instead of two gauges. When things go so smoothly right out of the gate, I don't feel the need to fuss or fine tune.
For the price, I still prefer the slightly smaller stature and slightly larger boiler of the Nuova Simonelli Oscar, another heat exchanger model. Even though the Oscar case is all-plastic, oddly enough, it does not seem plastic-y (at least not to me). It is interesting how we each have our own notions about the look and feel of espresso machines! The taste of the espresso produced is usually the main qualifier, but price, quality -- and yes, even looks -- all play a part in the decision. The Cellini Classic will perform like a Rocket and that's what counts, right? And you can always sink the savings into a high quality burr grinder, like the Rocket Mazzer (for a sweet countertop set-up).