Review // the ROK espresso maker

I like my drinks pretty hardcore - my red wine has to be full, my white wine dry, my gin dry and with not too much tonic. I'm the same with food too, I like the strongest cheese, the darkest chocolate. So it goes without saying I like my coffee strong. In fact I only drink it in the form of an espresso. I have tried so many espresso machines and I soon realised without spending big bucks I wasn't going to get something I was happy with. I turned to stove top coffee but it's not an ideal way to make coffee - the coffee is exposed to too much heat and so bitter. Plus a real faff. Then someone at the studio told me about the ROK, formerly the Presso. It's a manual machine, manufactured with aluminium that is powered only by the water pressure from the steam of boiled water hitting the beans, and your arms. From the ROK website: "Wrap your hands around the polished aluminium handles. Feel the experience. You drive the finely engineered gearing that lowers the piston to generate the pressure to extract the coffee oils to create the perfect espresso. Designed by one of the UK's leading product innovators, there's over 10 years of 'know-how' built into every ROK."

After a few weeks of reading many reviews (most positive) I made the plunge (groaaaaan) and ordered one. A few things really attracted me to it, firstly the price but also it's eco credentials, sure you still have to boil a kettle but it's much better than other coffee machines. But also because it's so portable. Travelling around a lot for shoots means I have to grab coffee on the go and coffee from service stations and most hotels just don't cut it.

I must say I was gutted to see I bought mine just before they released some new colours, that copper one is just gorgeous. My ROK arrived in a tin with the following things:

- maker itself

- stainless steel milk frother

- portafilter

- single espresso splitter

- tamper/spoon

- storage tin

- instruction booklet

The whole thing is pretty slick, it feels well made and sturdy.

Before I continue, let me disclaim that I'm no coffee expert, I realise there are certain temperatures and pressures to make a superior coffee, but I have drunk a lot of coffee from a lot of various places over the years and my opinions of the ROK are by taste and ease of use.

I must say the instruction booklet wasn't overly helpful, and I reallllllly struggled to get anything good from the ROK for the first few days. First I just got a watery mess, so then I tried a tighter tamp and coffee laden water spurted all over me (prob not the best idea to put a silk top on before road testing). I battled with all types of mess for a few days until I started to realise my blade grinder probably wasn't cutting it. So I went and got some fresh beans that I had ground for me on purchase and suddenly every clicked into place - the resulting coffee was creamy, dark and suddenly using the ROK was a dream. Coffee is always better freshly ground from good quality beans so if you're serious about buying a ROK you might want to consider that you will probably need to seek out a good grinder. I ended up buying a Sage Smart Heston's grinder which I think is the mutt's nuts. You can also get your local coffee dealer to grind for you, just buy small bags so it's fairly fresh.

I have tried lots and lots of different coffee brands and my opinion is this: Small Batch is where it's at. I've never tasted coffee as nice as theirs. In a close second is The Baytown Coffee Co.

Do I recommend the ROK espresso? ABSOLUTELY. I'm over the moon with it. It's possibly my favourite thing in my kitchen. It's the best espresso I've ever been able to make at home and with a bit of refinement you can really tailor it to how you like it.

I did find this video on making a good espresso from a ROK which I found to be the most helpful. I'm also going to talk you through how I made mine, I always seem to get a good crema each time.


And just a little about my grinder. As I said I love it and really recommend it. You can get different grinds and I really like that I have the option for filter and percolator coffee for when I have guests. The grind should be an espresso grind and I keep it on level 5 and choose 2 shots with a few notches less.

So tamp the coffee, don't tamp it too hard, I just give it one firm press. Lock the portafilter in place firmly and boil your kettle. I always pre-warm my cup by filling up with water half through the boil. Fill the chamber up with just off the boil water (it is important to use fresh water not previously boiled as the air will have gone from it) and I fill to about a centimetre from the top, this is more water than ROK recommend but it works for me like this.

So, lift the handles right up, then bring them back down until you feel a resistance. Then pause for 15 seconds to let the coffee swell a little.

Lift the handles back up right to the top and then very slowly push the handles down. If you push too quickly or hard the water and coffee may spurt out and cover you - be warned!

Then I repeat the process for more coffee.

And there you have it - a lovely espresso!

Formally Emma Gutteridge