Espresso at the touch of a button has it’s place. But, do you find yourself wanting total control of the brewing process, taking peace from the perfection of a seemingly simple process?
If so, a manual espresso machine is just for you. And this ROK Espresso GC review will show you why.
The ROK EspressoGC gives you a chance to perfect the art of your espresso by tweaking every aspect in the pursuit of espresso happiness. Plus, it is easily transportable for espresso on-the-go.
But are lever espresso machines better? Do we truly produce something more exciting by controlling all aspects of the brewing process including the pressure exerted?
Well, as you read on through this ROK espresso maker review we will list the benefits and drawbacks. You will find out if a lever espresso machine is actually better, or if it’s just a lot of effort for not very much reward.
We have scoured the internet for all the Espresso GC reviews to collate with our own. This means we have the most comprehensive ROK espresso review you can find. Whilst not all home coffee experts give numerical scores, we have averaged these out. Therefore, you can get a consensus opinion on how good ROK really is and know for sure if this is the right manual espresso maker for you.
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At a Glance: Rok GC Review
The Espresso GC is a very cool looking manual espresso maker. Using it allows you to control and perfect every possible parameter of the espresso pulling process.
The ability to make your espresso just how you want it means there’s a learning curve. So, it isn’t a quick or simple device to use.
But if you want to tinker and practice to get everything just as you like, it’s a very good budget option.
To get the best from the Espresso GC you really need to invest in a coffee grinder. This will allow you to have fresh ground beans, exactly how you want them, to pull your espresso.
- Great design
- Easy to clean
- 10 year warranty
- Total control over brewing process
- No electricity required
- Steep learning curve
- Getting pressure right is tricky
- Tamper is useless
- Heavy for a portable machine
1. Included Accessories
The Rok Espresso line spoils you with the included accessories. Just be sure to check what is included, as it does vary between retailers.
As standard with the Rok Espresso GC, you get a single spout portafilter and a detachable plastic double spout attachment. This allows you to choose to brew either one and two shots. Although the splitter is made from plastic which does leave a lot to be desired.
You also get a plastic measuring spoon which doubles as a tamper.
On Amazon, a milk frother and handy storage tin come included too, increasing the number of espresso drinks available to you.
2. Piston Pressure
Using the Rok EspressoGC is a bit of an arm workout:
It works by via an internal piston which you operate by pulling down the two levers. This generates 5 to 10 bars of pressure, depending on the strength you put into it.
When creating the Espresso GC, Rok upgraded the piston gasket. So, this machine produces much better pressure than the original ROK.
As the Rok Espresso GC is a manual machine, you can use it anywhere – even if there is no power.
This is great if you want to take it on vacation, camping, or during a power outage. As long as you can heat water, you can still enjoy a good quality espresso.
Weighing in at 4lbs, it’s hardly the lightest portable espresso maker available. So, it’s unlikely to be an option for backpacking or traveling to and from the office everyday. But it’s a lot more portable than even the smallest electric espresso machine.
4. Sturdy Design
Having a double-arm lever makes the ROK Espresso GC much more stable than other manual espresso machines.
Over the years, ROK has invested in the quality of these arms. In their first-generation model – the Presso – it was common for the arms to snap off. Now, they are durable aluminum construction making them very sturdy.
5. 10 Year Warranty
The metal parts come with a 10-year warranty. So, you can use your manual espresso maker safe in the knowledge that ROK has your back if anything goes wrong.
It’s got very few moving parts and everything seems incredibly straightforward on the face of it. Getting amazing espresso takes practice though, and a mastery of the basic steps which involves real attention to detail:
- Pre-Heat: The first thing you need to do is to pre-heat your Rok GC. Simply pour fill with boiling water, wait 30 seconds, then press through the portafilter.
- Add Coffee: Next, add 0.5oz of finely ground coffee to the portafilter and tamp down. The tamper provided is pretty rubbish, but they’re really cheap to buy.
- Add Water: With the arms down, add hot water to the upper chamber. Adding it to just above the metal rim gets the best pressure.
- Pre-Infuse: Lift the arms up then push down until you feel some resistance. This will pre-infuse your grounds, resulting in a better flavor. You only need to wait 2 or 3 seconds doing this.
- Pulling Your Espresso: Now push the arms down with significant force, this will take practice to get right. Initially, nothing will come out, then you’ll see the coffee start to drip through. After 10 seconds, lift the arms up and push down again to maintain pressure.
- Time Your Espresso Shot: You don’t want to push all the water through into your cup, you’ll get very bitter espresso. After 20-25 seconds remove your espresso and push the rest of the water through into another cup.
Whilst none of the steps are complex, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. To consistently get good espresso requires a lot of time and practice – so, not “easy to use”.
If you’re looking to buy a manual espresso machine, it’s generally for one of two reasons: either portability or to have complete control over the brewing process.
If portability is your priority, then there are much better portable espresso makers out there. For example, the Wacaco Nanopresso or the Handpresso Wild Hybrid are both better suited to being thrown in a bag or purse.
This leaves the option of total control to make your espresso just how you want it. For this, ROK’s Espresso GC is perfect.
However, to get the best out of this espresso machine, you really need to be grinding your beans fresh. This does involve buying a separate coffee grinder, which isn’t overly cheap. But putting pre-ground coffee beans into this machine won’t yield particularly good results
Plus, using a lever espresso machine is a hell of a lot of effort to not be rewarded with great espresso.
With the ROK GC, you don’t have to worry about coffee filters or capsules. Nor do you need access to an electrical outlet. This makes it a very cost-effective coffee maker.
The arms are sturdier, made from durable metal, and the plastic water reservoir has been replaced with a composite glass version. ROK claims these changes remove issues of longevity which users complained about on the Presso and ROK Manual Espresso.
The Espresso GC is very small by espresso maker standards. It sizes up at 11.5 inches high by 5.3 inches deep by 8.7 inches wide.
Whilst it isn’t the lightest, at just over 4lbs, it’s certainly a lot easier to take with you than even the smallest of electric espresso machines. Although it’s not likely you’re going to chuck it in your backpack or purse to have on the go.
This machine looks great – kind of like a giant wine opener sat on your kitchen counter. Based purely on looks, I’d much rather have the Espresso GC out on display than most of the similarly priced electric espresso makers.
Plus, if you need to keep it in a cupboard, it’s easily storable.
As a bonus, all the metal parts come with a 10-year warranty. However, there have been reports of it being difficult to get replacement parts from ROK. But you do need to remember that they’re a small company.
Firstly, it’s much easier to apply a lot of pressure. Plus, it increases the espresso maker’s stability. As long as you’re on a flat surface, the EspressoGC is very unlikely to slip or move when pushing down.
The Espresso GC can produce great quality espresso – if you flawlessly execute everything.
It’s possible to get up to 10 bar of pressure (9 being the minimum amount needed to create espresso). And once you have everything “dialed in”, you’ll be pulling quality espresso shots with good crema, body, and depth.
The only issue we have with this espresso maker is that it takes a rather high number of attempts to get to the point of consistently creating a great product.
Having control over every aspect of the espresso brewing process means there is a lot of room for errors and thus sub-standard espresso. Using a lever espresso machine is definitely a labor of love. It takes practice to get to the point where everything is just right for you.
So, if you’re someone who will enjoy tinkering with every aspect, then this is fantastic. But, for those just looking for an espresso in the morning, it’s a bit much and there are other great espresso machines under $200 which may be more suitable.
We would be remiss if this ROK Espresso GC review didn’t mention the problems of it exerting less than 15 bar pressure:
If you’re using light or medium roast beans, then you won’t be able to extract the more nuanced flavors, resulting in a pretty underwhelming coffee. Although, we should point out that at this price point, it’s very difficult to find anything with the pressure required for those kinds of beans. But it’s still something to consider.
Also, the lack of a pressure gauge means you have to purely go by feel and results. This makes the Espresso GC slightly harder to master than the Flair Signature, for example, which offers this kind of feedback.
Surprisingly the Espresso GC comes with a little bonus – ROK’s own mini milk frother.
In terms of portability, the milk frother isn’t a whole lot of use on the go, particularly if you enjoy camping. You would need a way to heat the milk, as well as the water. Microwave is the easiest, but you can also heat the milk in a pan over a campfire or on an RV stove.
The frother itself works ok: you pour in your warm milk and pump the handle up and down a few times to create foam. It’s not the greatest, but it will froth a little milk for a macchiato. And it is more than you get with most manual espresso machines.
The good news is that ROK espresso machines are easy to clean:
The portafilter needs to be rinsed, which is easy to do. Plus, you can completely submerge the entire machine if you want to give it a deep clean.
As there aren’t any fiddly internal parts, descaling is much less of an issue than with electric machines, particularly those with thermoblocks.
All in all, a couple of minutes is the maximum you need to spend on a daily clean. Then, maybe 15 minutes to give the whole machine a thorough clean every few months. Which is pretty good.
If you keep on top of the cleaning, this machine will last indefinitely. The same can’t be said of automatic espresso machines where electrical components can stop working or become outdated.
The EspressoGC can take pride of place on your kitchen countertop due to it’s cool, stylish look.
Being a manual espresso machine, it’s not particularly fast or simple to use. Nor is it ideal for pulling a lot of espresssos – unless you are happy to wait. But, once you’ve got the process nailed down, you can pull quality espresso shots time and time again.
Overall, the ROK manual espresso maker isn’t expensive. And, if you want to get fully submerged in the world of espresso making, it will do you well.
For us, when it comes to ROK espresso vs Flair, the scales are tipped slightly in favor of the Flair Signature. Although this is really just for the pressure gauge. It is, however, considerably more expensive and doesn’t look quite as cool.
Don’t forget to Buy Your ROK Espresso GC Today
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