Articles From Whole Latte Love

The Weigh-In: Rocket Espresso Giotto, 46 lbs

Posted: 04/20/08

Rocket Espresso GiottoYou could end up with a right hook if you phrase things wrong in Oscar de la Hoya's household – especially if you're talking about weigh-ins. But if you keep the conversation above the belt when you mention the Rocket Espresso Giotto and its 46 pounds of power – you should be able to go the distance.

The Rocket Espresso was designed by a commercial company, so expect commercial quality features- noticeably an E61 brew group and a double boiler for simultaneous brewing and steaming. What's more, the machine is large. But bigger doesn't always mean better, just ask Floyd Mayweather. What does weight have to do with it? In terms of heat retention and stability (the key components for a great-tasting shot of espresso) a bigger brew group sometimes really is better.

Rocket Espresso is an offshoot of Espresso Company Milano, when ECM decided to start focusing on commercial machines rather than home products, the Giotto and Cellini were given a new lease on life – call it a comeback if you will.

No Cover-ups here

When you open the shipping box, the first thing you'll find is a small box on top. Open it up – inside is the drip tray cover, a single shot portafilter, and a double shot portafilter. These portafilters each weigh over a pound (1 lb 4 oz to be exact). What does the weight matter? Again, the additional mass means that once the portafilter is heated, it stays at a stable temperature so your espresso is brewed consistently.

You'll also find a coffee measuring scoop and a plastic tamper. In all honesty, I wasn't sure how often you'd use the measuring scoop and as for the included plastic tamper, you're really better off using something more heavy-duty, like the Reg Barber tamper.

pressure gaugeWhen I plugged the Giotto in and flipped on the power switch located on the front of the machine, I was excited. I knew I was in for a real treat – like ringside seats at Mandalay Bay. The front panel of the Rocket Espresso Giotto is for the home barista who always wants to know what's going on inside their machine, and isn't afraid of multitasking. There's a steam pressure gauge, a separate steam wand and hot water nozzle (remember, you can brew and steam simultaneously thanks to the double boiler and heat exchanger boiler system), and an oversized drip tray in front, so you have plenty of room for frothing and steaming without worrying about a mess.

Which brings me to my next point. The Rocket Espresso Giotto combines the best features of a commercial machine with the convenient, practical features that you need for home use. Having friends over? You'll be able to brew and steam simultaneously, drink after drink. Making yourself a latte in the morning? Through your caffeine-deprived haze, you won't have to worry about splashing some milk on the counter thanks to the oversized drip tray. The kids want oatmeal for breakfast? Open the hot water nozzle and make some instant oatmeal without having to move from your brewing station. It's all laid out for you right there, and it's all of the highest quality.

Fancy footwork

Brewing espresso means you need the proper heat and the proper pressure. The Giotto doesn't just use a double boiler system – it uses a copper boiler with a lead-free brass endplate to provide additional heat retention. The boiler holds 1.8 liters of water, more than some home espresso machines hold in their water reservoir! An electronic sensor monitors the internal water level.

Water circulates continuously from the boiler to the E61 brew group through channels cut into the brew group. The brew group is positioned really closely to the boiler, so it just absorbs heat from the boiler anyway, but these channels provide additional heat stability and retention. Once the machine is warmed up, the E61 brew group will be hot to the touch – espresso brews at over 200ºF, and since the brew group has to maintain that temperature, be careful not to burn yourself.

group head and leverAnd since more than half of the Giotto is made of pure metal, you'll need to give it a little bit of time to warm up. Think of it as more than a machine – it's crafted to brew the ultimate espresso when treated with the right touch. So just take a few minutes punching at your speedball and you- and your machine will be ready for anything. Once it warms up, you can brew shot after shot, or brew and steam simultaneously. It's old world espresso in a new world environment.

Brewing on an E61 brew group also seems old world since you're using a lever rather than a button or a switch. Really, it's simple – pull the lever up to dispense espresso, and then pull the lever completely down to stop the coffee and release excess pressure. Pulling the lever all the way down is important, as this is what releases the pressure from the group head. Just pulling it down until the coffee stops and the pump stops working isn't enough. Leave the lever in this position when you're not using the machine, and remember that the brew group and portafilter are made of chrome-plated brass. There's a reason why the lever's handle is insulated!

The E61 brew group and double boiler system is really what allows the Rocket Espresso Giotto to straddle two worlds – the old world and the new world of espresso. On one hand, you have the lever-operated system and incredible materials for top-notch heat retention, so you can enjoy a straightforward, pure shot of espresso. On the other hand, if you are used to drinking triple shot cappuccinos with extra foam (and a shot of sugar-free vanilla) those same heating elements are what allow you to use dry steam to create that great micro-froth, while brewing your triple shots at the same time. No matter if you fit into one or neither of those categories, the Rocket Espresso Giotto will allow you to perfect your brewing and steaming methods.
steam wand

Bling baby, bling

The Rocket Espresso Giotto is housed in stainless steel – a lot of it – including upturned side panels. Besides giving the Giotto an even more commanding presence, these panels provide additional heat retention.

Like most prosumer machines, the Giotto finds a balance between style and performance through its classic good looks. Centered on the machine is the E61 brew group. To the left of the brew group is the 2-hole steam wand, which swivels easily because it's mounted on a ball joint. To the right is the hot water dispenser.

It's easy to let your imagination run wild while you're using this machine. You'll quickly forget the cramped east-side kitchen you're brewing espresso in and be transported to the serene countryside - where enjoying thick, rich espresso was a hallowed ritual and boxing was the sport of kings.