Published by MarkMay 1, 2013 9:00 am
The Rocket R58 espresso machine brought a lot of ooh’s and ah’s when it was announced last year. The joy was short-lived, as the first batch of machines had an extremely high damage rate in shipment. The problem was identified as weak welding joints on the front drip tray, causing the machine to buckle and warp when shipped via UPS ground. Rocket took the feedback and retooled the design of the drip tray, and I’m happy to report that the redesign has fixed these issues. The drip tray connection to the main housing is extremely rugged with no discernible flex.
A lot of prosumer espresso machine customers are carefully reading reviews of this machine and comparing it to the Izzo Duetto 3. These machines are very similar in features, quality, and price, and buyers that might Google “BMW 7 series versus Audi A8″ may find themselves with a similar list of small differences that nonetheless add up to one machine being more right than the other.
I spent some time pulling shots and steaming milk on the Rocket R58, and here’s my quick take and an overview of the few small differences:
The removable PID control module is a very clever feature as it completely removes any LED lights from the front of your machine, maintaining an analog purity that is not often found these days. The background of the module is almost midnight navy, with crisp white text shining through. It’s Apple-like in this way, but the user interface of this module needs improvement. I could not figure it out without referencing the manual, which is one key test for me. It’s still a good feature, but on future designs I hope Rocket invests the effort to make this UI completely intuitive for the non-techie to figure out.
As mentioned, the new drip tray design is extremely solid, and compared to the Izzo Duetto 3 it has a low profile, making it a subtle feature of the design when looking at it straight on. The Duetto has a very tall drip tray, giving it a heavy, solid appearance. Your personal tastes will determine which is more aesthetically pleasing, but keep in mind that this does carry through to capacity. If you’re like me and like to use the group head to rinse your portafilter and shot glasses, you might make 4 or 5 drinks before needing to empty the drip tray. The Duetto 3 has probably twice the capacity.
The R58 drip tray is similar to the Giotto – sheet metal with drilled out holes. The Duetto has a stainless sheet design, similar to cookie cooling trays. I prefer the Duetto design, but again this is personal preference.
The R58 has a unique welded metal cup guard. It looks hand formed, which is a nice contrast to the very clean, modern lines of the rest of the machine. I don’t mean hand-formed in a cutesie way, but just that you can see the slight imperfections in how it’s welded together. I like this a lot.
The Duetto uses the newly added “hand rails” for two purposes – as handles to lift the cup warmer and and as a cup guard.
There are other differences between these machines. The Duetto weighs 72 lbs while the Rocket checks in at 64 lbs. The heating elements in the R58 are both 1400 watts, while the Duetto steam boiler is powered at 1200 watts and 800 watts for the espresso boiler. The R58 is also only a 15amp machine, while the Duetto can be run in 15amp or 20amp. For most people, these differences will not noticeably impact performance. If you’re interested in more technical details or comparisons, give our espresso tech Ken a shout. He’s at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feel confident picking either machine based on a gut level instinct, or even a silly little issue like the drip tray design or PID controller. Either machine will deliver great espresso for years to come.
PS: I also tested out some new precision shower screens and portafilter baskets that will be available soon. Together they are a really nice upgrade at reasonable price. I found it much more forgiving to pull a bottomless shot that coalesces into a perfect inverted cyclone of mahogany espresso with zero spritzing.