The (not so) Beginners Guide to Great Coffee – Part 4: The Rok

The Rok.

This is hands down my favourite coffee machine. By a mile.

Every time I post a picture of this thing on social I get a ton of “Whoa, what is that?!”, “It looks amazing!!”, “I bet the coffee tastes incredible!” (Spoiler… it does), and “WE. MUST. KNOW. MORE!”

Hold up“, I say.

You do realize that this coffee maker doesn’t even make regular coffee, just espresso? Oh, and it has no way to steam milk for a latte? And it also costs more than a fully automated entry level countertop espresso machine does?

Seriously, who would buy this thing?

Still, this coffee maker always seems to generate a ton of questions and interest for some reason, probably just because it looks so absolutely outrageous.

Before you read any further, let me say that this coffee maker is the single most ridiculous coffee maker I have ever seen, let alone owned.

I’m guessing that none of you own one, and in all likelihood, never will own one.

So if you have no idea what this thing is, and also no interest, feel free to opt out right here – no guilt. 🙌🏼

Truthfully, I think that I would NOT recommend this coffee maker to pretty much anyone. (Except for maybe a crazy few – you know who you are).

So if you love coffee – I mean really love it – or if you’re just inexplicably curious about this chrome-plated spaceship that I keep telling you is a coffee maker, keep reading and join me in my self-indulgence! 😂🤷🏻‍♂️🤦🏻‍♂️

The Rok is an espresso machine that uses no electricity.

It’s powered with levers and whatever brute force you can find deep inside yourself to muster.

Honestly, hitting the gym before you use it might not be too bad of an idea.

It’s quirky, expensive, messy, takes up a lot of space on the counter, is difficult to clean, requires regular maintenance, takes premium coffee beans, is a pain to get parts for, needs a specific grinder, and is dang-hard to use.

It also requires a good amount of coffee research, perseverance, and borderline masochistic tendencies to even pull a half decent shot.

Yes, it really is that bad.

But – once you get everything dialed in, it makes a dreamy shot of espresso that seems to have descended on wings from the heavenly realms.

Yes, it really is THAT good.

Disclaimer. I owned this coffee maker for almost 10 YEARS before I made a single really great cup of coffee with it.

I was gifted it from my wonderful father. It was my second coffee maker ever, after a French press.

When it fell into my hands like a sparkling polished aluminum idol in my early 20s, I had absolutely no idea how to use it.

Or even make espresso, period.

And boy, when I tried, did I fail more spectacularly than pretty much any poor soul who’s graced a Gordon Ramsay cooking show.

I blew steam and boiling water into my face, sprayed scalding coffee grounds all over the kitchen, always got water everywhere, and had no good coffee in sight.

Sad.

The Rok spent its first couple years in my possession cycling between making bad espresso shots (that I desperately tried to convince myself were good), and gleaming on a shelf unused as a trendy and obscure piece of decor.

Whenever I pulled it out to use it, failure came after failure – and yet I kept crawling back to it like some kind of sick animal.

I KNEW that this thing could do something incredible, and I consistently failed at producing the elusive holy grail that I was so sure lurked just out of reach.

After years of reading, steam burns and acrid coffee, I was eventually learned how to coax this wild streamlined chrome stallion into making me a great cup of espresso.

Compared to the Aeropress, which is probably the most forgiving manual coffee maker I’ve used, the Rok is hands down the most UNforgiving.

So, if for some twisted reason you’re curious of how to make coffee with it – and some are, I get asked for tutorials regularly – here is how it happens.

1. Grind up the goods.

Firstly, you better be using premium beans if you want anything tastier than a pack of liquid cigarettes out of this. Buy whole bean, and grind it right before you make it. Use exactly 18 grams. We use Pilot Coffee.

Oh, and you also need to use a nice burr coffee grinder. If you’re willing to part with enough cash to buy an espresso machine that doesn’t even use electricity – at least get yourself a great grinder.

2. Preheat EVERYTHING.

And I mean everything. If you’re using something, fill it with boiling water to warm it up.

And boy, is there a lot to preheat. Let’s start with the machine, which needs a solid two minutes filled with boiling water before you can even get started.

This bad boy is made of enough solid aluminum to knock any potential home invader unconscious, so if it’s cold, it’s going to suck the life right out of your espresso.

Preheat the main chamber and the portafilter. Preheat the espresso glass (2 if you’re pulling two single shots), as well as your serving glasses if you’re making an americano or other drink beyond a basic shot.

Then you may as well fill up and boil your kettle again because you just used up all your hot water preheating your equipment. 🤦🏻‍♂️

I warned you. 🤷🏻‍♂️

3. Load the Portafiler.

This is the little basket that the ground beans go in. You want to put the coffee in and tamp (compress) it a little bit at a time. Once all the coffee is loaded give it a firm tamp down.

By the way, the portafilter is a non-standard size. So if you go and buy a nice tamper from pretty much anywhere, it won’t fit. Sorry.

And if you tamp it wrong, or get your grind wrong, it won’t pull right and your coffee will be bad.

Also, you better finish up before your portafilter gets cold….

Chop, chop.

4. Pull Your Shot.

Ok, this is where it should get fun, right?

Attach the portafilter on the underbelly of the beast.

Make sure you really crank it on there because if you don’t you’re going to have steaming hot coffee grounds blasted all over your crotch and kitchen.

Now fill the top chamber with boiling water.

And I mean like really full.

You know when you learned about water surface tension in school and you had to put enough water into a cup that it made a bubble on the top?

Put that much in.

Just don’t spill it on yourself, that water is jacked up to 212 degrees.

Now you need to raise the arms, which lifts up a valve inside the chamber.

But watch out, that chamber is so full that if you do it too fast you’ll pull all that boiling water out of the chamber and all over yourself. Too slow and you’ll over extract your coffee – which is bad.

So, good luck.

Immediately apply firm pressure downward on the arms. Like Hulk firm.

If you weigh less than 160 pounds, just go right ahead and lift yourself clear off the ground so that your whole body weight is pushing down on the arms.

If you’ve done everything right – and you probably haven’t – you’ll be rewarded with two glorious ounces of espresso in about 23 seconds.

20 seconds or less? The coffee will be bad. 25 seconds or more? The coffee will be bad.

Too much pressure and the right timing… womp, womp.

Too little pressure and the right timing? Two thumbs down….

But…

If you get it in that sweet spot, you will have reached Valhalla, Heaven, Nirvana, enlightenment – call it what you will, it’s a pinnacle of home espresso greatness.

Now, reward your fine self, add some hot water and enjoy an americano that would make your local barista swoon.

Oh, and if you want that drink with steamed milk, like 90% of espresso drinks out there… you’re on your own.

Now, for the tutorial you will never use for the coffee maker you will never buy….

You’re welcome. 😂

And if you want a great cup of coffee, just come over! 🙌🏼

PS. I LOVE my Rok. Seriously. It’s a fantastic coffee maker. Just took me a while to figure out how to use it. 😂

Justin

Justin according to Sarah – thrives at almost anything he applies his head and heart to. He never stops learning, and loves dreaming up new challenges to grow himself. His introvert ways give him incredible insight into life’s obstacles, of which he’s had his share. But best of all, Justin fully engages in his relationship with God, our marriage and the beginning of parenthood. Oh, and he spoils us with great coffee and cooking!

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