The Rocket R58 provides consistent, repeatable performance. I really have never pulled a bad shot. Since I use the triple, bottomless portafilter that Seattle Coffee Gear provides in the kit with the machine, I occasionally get a little spraying -but that is my fault. Otherwise, the shots are flawless. Definitely equal to the standard shots in top quality espresso shots (pulled from Syneso or La Marzocco machines), albeit the baristas in a shop are in production mode. Temperatures seem very stable after a 30 minute warm up. My grinder is a Mazzar Mini Electronic Type A.
Negative Product Points
It would be nice to have a 20 amp plug in option so both the steam and brew boilers could heat at the same time. The drip tray fits way too tight with the plastic protectors on the metal frame underneath. I keep the protectors in place to avoid metal-to-metal contact under the tray in the hopes of avoiding damage to the coating on the metal frame and rust. Steam knob came loose after about six weeks of use, but I popped off the "R" cap and tightened it down - so no problem.
This is my fourth espresso machine (not counting stove tops) purchased over the past 30 years. It is an awesome machine and maybe the last machine I will ever buy. The machine was purchased from Seattle Coffee Gear and I picked it up locally in their retail shop. (Because of reports of shipping damage, I did not have the machine shipped to me.)
The R58 was easy to set up and ran perfectly from the start. I run the machine on a 15 amp timer and set it to turn on everyday about 30 minutes before use. I typically pull my shot while I steam. Once I set my temperatures with the PID controls and dialed in my grinder, I have had no need to make major adjustments. The PID control is put away, and the machine is classically beautiful without the LED display. Occasionally, I make minor adjustments to my grind.
I use the R58's internal water tank, and use filtered water from an Everpure filter purchased from Espresso Parts. I pull two to four shots per day and empty the drip tray after the last shot. Due to the tight fit, emptying the tray is a bit of a pain.
I back flush once a week. The only time the drip tray seems small is when I pull a few shots and then back flush. Between the shots and the back flushing, the tray is as full as I want it to be, given how tight it is to remove. I have not yet descaled. Since the city water in Seattle is very soft, I don't plan to descale very often.
Seattle Coffee Gear provides the machine with three portafilters: single and double spouted portafilters, and a triple bottomless - which is the one I use. It has a large basket and I am dosing at about 23 grams or so. They also provide a blind basket for back flushing; a supply of tablets for cleaning and descaling; Grindz for cleaning the grinder; and an aluminum alloy tamper by Rocket. The only other things I needed to buy was a rubber tamping mat and a knock box.
I have my brew temp set at 203 F (using the offset in the Rocket Manual), and I set my steam boiler at 1.2 Bar as indicated on the gauge. We use Victrola Streamliner espresso roast beans. The PID can display temperatures in C of F degrees. I never run out of steam, although it gets a little weaker towards the end after pulling a shot and steaming together. Hence a 20 amp option would be nice. Still, the issue is very minor, as I can still steam pretty darn quickly.
The DVD provided by Rocket would not play on my American devices. Seattle Coffee Gear provided a DVD, but it is not updated for the R58 Double Boiler and is therefore of limited use. (Their DVD was developed around the Rocket HX machines.)
Overall, I am very happy with the R58. Since purchasing, our spending on espressos at shops has gone way down - as we now find more ways to make them at home. However, our spending on beans has gone way up!
I had to wait about four weeks, as SCG was out of stock. Otherwise, everything went fine. The machine was perfect out of the box.
Three Month Followup
I've had the Rocket R58 since late September, 2012, or about 4-1/2 months at this writing. Looking at the counter on my grinder, I've pulled about 500 triple shots at this point, steaming milk for lattes each time. I still love the R58 machine and get consistent good results.
As an update on my technique, I now typically begin my process by starting to steam my milk and then flip the shot lever to pull the shot at the same time. I've preloaded the portafilter when I begin steaming. Keeping an eye on the shot, I count to 25-30 to ensure the timing of the shot is right and then stop the shot and finish off the steaming. I find the R58 does just fine pulling a shot and steaming at the same time. I believe the PID pulses power to the steam and brew boilers when both are in use, so steam pressure is probably reduced a bit, but it is not an issue. I pull two triple shots back-to-back every day using this process and power seems to be just fine. I notice the pump never kicks on until I am done with the shot - I assumed programmed not too add water to the boiler except between shots.
I mentioned the issue of the plastic strips under the drip tray in my initial review. I glued those down with a 3M automotive door seal adhesive and they have stayed put. The drip tray is on the small side, but that is only an issue when pulling blind shots when I backflush the brewhead. The tray can get quite full after several back flushes.
As mentioned in my initial review, the steam knob works loose and it has done that twice now. I pop off the cap and tighten it back down - a minor inconvenience.
I've never gone back and adjusted my PID, as the temp and pressure seem good, and I always use the same coffee roast. My only adjustment is grind and dosage, depending on the age of the coffee. I usually use my coffee within 3 to 10 days of the roasting date.