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Manual espresso makers are one way to make barista-quality espresso in your own home, without plugging into the mains. Read our review of the ROK GC machine.
It’s easy to make a bad shot with the ROK. But practice makes perfect, and even beginners can produce great coffee with this machine if they're willing to work at it.
For coffee lovers looking for a hands-on experience, the ROK offers both personalisation and experimentation when it comes to drawing your ideal espresso. With a bit of practice, you can create strong shots with a rich crema.
For an extra £40, the 'Explorer Edition' of the ROK GC machine includes:
'GC' stands for glass-composite, which is the latest upgrade to the re-engineered brewing chamber. Essentially, that means a superior mechanical system for forcing hot water through compacted grounds.
For us, the 'naked' portafilter gave the best results – it was easy to tamper the espresso without denting the counter-top, unlike the other portafilters included in the box. It wouldn't be a major deciding factor, but the more evenly compacted the grounds, the more pressure you can achieve and that had an impact on the quality of the espresso pulled.
Because of its cast-aluminium construction, this espresso machine is both robust and lightweight – but greedy in stealing heat from hot water. It could do with some non-slip feet to help secure it to the worktop, although the downwards pressure you create to force the coffee through the portafilter combined with the round base means it’s not unstable. An upgrade kit is available if you own the original ROK espresso maker and want to update its pressure chamber to the reengineered GC edition.
A low brew temperature results in a poor extraction, so start by pre-heating the portafilter, the cup and pressure chamber. You need one hand on the machine to tightly lock in the empty portafilter. Then, fill the chamber with freshly boiled water and lift the handles once a cup has been added beneath. The space is tall so can accommodate a mug. Water will start moving through the machine and be emptied once the handles are lowered.
You need to be quick at this stage to keep the heat locked in. Dry the filter, load it with fine-ground espresso, tamper with the pressure and repeat the process. Lifting the handle pre-infuses the coffee – we found the best results came following 15 seconds of pre-infusion. Press firmly and evenly on both handles to start pulling your espresso.
There was quite a bit of dripping from the portafilter and pressure chamber once the espresso was pulled, so it’s worth popping another cup below to catch drips. Or have a cloth to hand, as there's no handy drip tray.
30 seconds of pressing combined with a 15-second pre-infusion produced a dark espresso topped with rich crema (we used the 'naked' portafilter, because it produces the best flavour). Our favourite accessory? The manual milk frother, which is a joy to use. It's perfect for foaming milk for hot chocolate as well as coffee, and would make a great gift for coffee lovers on its own.
The ROK takes getting used to, but the process feels rewarding. The espresso needs to be evenly tampered, and the machine needs to be thoroughly pre-heated (which can require a couple of kettle boils). But it’s a rich experience. It looks good.
It’s robust and lightweight – ideal if you want to take it on staycations with you – and it comes with a 10-year guarantee on metal parts. For those who enjoy experimenting with coffee and are looking for a sustainable option, the ROK Espresso GC is good value for money.
ROK GC specifications
Product weight: 2.35kg
Ground capacity: standard portafilter 16-19g, naked portafilter 16-18g
Average pressure: 5-10 bars
Dimensions: 180 x 180 x 320mm
Material: cast aluminium
Warranty: 10 year warranty on metal parts
This review was last updated in February 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at email@example.com.