Living with the ECM Rocket Cellini Premium Plus

Espresso shots - beyond perfect with the ECM Cellini Rocket ProIn almost 15 years of writing about specialty coffee, I used to think that I would have been better off writing about something else; like expensive cars... or space travel... or 5-star hotels.
Because, the way I see it, for the last 10 years or so, there have been no shortage of equipment manufacturers (and resellers) lined up like so many eager ducks to have their wares profiled.

And wouldn't it be cool if... if you get my drift.

Alas, that was until companies like EspressoTec (and Whole Latte Love, Quality Coffee Systems...) started putting me in the drivers seat of some fabulously expensive and luxurious coffee machines.

Let's face it (if it is't obvious by now...) - You can spend a lot of money for the perfect coffee or espresso machine... a lot of money. And if you have deep pockets or are willing to give up something for something else, you can get some killer caffeine iron in your kitchen.

Fortunately for me, being the editor in chief at CoffeeCrew.Com, life has been one blank cheque after another when it comes to writing about and playing with... the Ferrari's of coffee world.

At $1950 Canadian, the ECM Rocket Cellini, clocks in as one of the true masters of the espresso shot - at least for me. It was a delight to use, easy to operate, utterly predictable and reliable as gravity  - and was as sexy as great espresso can be... when done right.

This is my review of the ECM Rocket Cellini. White gloves optional!

The ECM Rocket Cellini review began quite innocently enough - and on some level was never meant to be. It was a case of things going really badly for an espresso machine - and me being the beneficiary of a potential loan and review.

This particular ECM Rocket Cellini was destined for a buyer from Japan - but some things went seriously askew in the shipping. Let's put it this way: Without too many details, this machine fell off of a conveyor belt some 10 feet onto concrete. It was the equivalent of a head on collision between the Ferrari of coffee makers... with an overpass concrete pillar...

And guess who won?

Although the ECM Rocket Cellini Premium Plus had its drip tray pushed up at an uncomfortable angle (ostensibly absorbing the shot of hitting a brick wall) - the internals remained intact and stable - and essentially good to go for my thorough and exhaustive tests - So it passed the first critical test I rarely expose a machine to...

The crash test.

And although I am no dummy, actually being able to play with and examine a machine like this, post trauma, is valuable beyond priceless.

So. Let's talk about the ECM Rocket Cellini Premium Plus some shall we?

ECM Cellini Premium Plus Thermo-syphon heat exchangerAt a whopping 61 pounds, the ECM Rocket Cellini Premium Plus cuts no corners in construction. This baby is all steel. The back and sides of the Rocket Cellini is one piece of metal for a smoother look than it's father, the Giotto. It has a slightly smaller foot-print than the ECM Giotto - for those tight kitchens.

In use: My sample ECM Rocket Cellini was a pour-over with a very respectable 2.9 litre reservoir - enough water for 10 to 15 double shots of espresso using my brewing practices. The ECM Rocket Cellini is self-priming, so it is just a case of filling her up and switching her on. On first power up, of course, one needs to open the steam valve while the unit is boiler filling and priming - if memory serves me correctly, the Nuova Simonelli Oscar was the same - routine stuff, nothing to worry about.

The ECM Rocket Cellini has an "E61 Faema" brew head - and if you have never heard of this, let me explain. It is a heat-exchanging brew group assembly. The boiler, a 1.8 litre copper brute, keeps its water super-charged, that is - above the boiling point. That water is used for steam and hot water on demand. The heat exchanger that captures the water for brewing, in its simplest definition, is a coil of copper pipe that worms its way through the boiler from the reservoir and to the brew head - and it is a semi-closed system. Which means, that there is fresh water moving around in a circuit keeping it below the boiling point and at the critical brewing temperature - and in the ECM Cellini's case... within .0035 of a degree of ideal!

With the brew temperature locked down in this fashion, it takes a fair amount of the guess work out of the equation. Now it all comes down to you and the beans (and the grind).

When I first powered up and primed the ECM Rocket Cellini, I used the Rancilio Rocky and Baratza Virtuoso grinders to get a sense of the minimum requirement - at least where the grinders were concerned. Not surprising, both grinders handled the task well... and much to my surprise, my very first double-shot from the ECM Rocket Cellini was perfect.

The espresso, from the ECM Rocket Cellini, is more intense for a wide variety of reasons; the brew temperature is always perfect, a copper boiler with brass end plates to balance heat retention better and the classic 1961 Faema heat-exchanging brew head -- with improvements! 

The ECM Rocket Cellini also does pre-infusion with a half-travel position on the brew level (like the popular Synesso!) - and for those who do pro coffee prep (any barista), they know the importance of pre-infusion for perfect espresso. The ECM Rocket Cellini is an actual cafe grade pro machine suitable for back-up or specialized use in a busy cafe. At a factory rating of 40 espresso/hour or 25 drinks a day - and can be powered up 24/7 -  the ECM Rocket Cellini can pull some serious duty.

The ECM Rocket Cellini is not designed to be the primary espresso machine in a cafe! It would be suitable in most offices and in a cafe running special drinks - but not full on! For the home? There are few high-end pro-sumer machines at this price point that can do the work that the ECM Rocket Cellini can.