After 6 years with my Quickmill Alexia, I decided to move up to an HX machine. My wife always drinks latte, and I have found my taste heading towards more milk drinks (cappuccino mainly) as I get older, so I wanted an HX or double-boiler for the better steaming ability than the single boiler Alexia.
I looked at Nuova Simonelli's Oscar, and all of the Quickmill HX's and DB machines, mainly the Andreja, Anita, and Silvano. The quality and durability of my Alexia was great, so I thought that I would go with a Quickmill again. The Oscar was the right price, but I couldn't convince myself to drop that kind of money on a plastic machine, no matter how good it is.
My budget is kind of tight, so I was waiting for a good deal to pop up on any of these machines. Finally, while surfing Chriscoffee.com "buyers remorse" page, the Rocket Cellini was available. I checked out the specs and endlessly compared it to the Quickmill machines. For the price and features of the Rocket, I thought that it couldn't be beat, so I finally pulled the trigger and called Chris' and ordered it.
The Rocket Cellini is a no-nonsense HX machine. It is fully mechanical with a Sirai pressurestat and a lever operated E61 brew head. The boiler is uninsulated, and the Sirai gives a reassuring click when it turns on and off. After using a silent PID'd Alexia every day for 6+ years, this is a whole new experience.
The uninsulated boiler actually allows the cups to warm on the the nicely designed cup warming surface. My Alexia had an insulated boiler, so the cups would just get lukewarm. An uninsulated boiler probably saves some labor cost and building cost, but most likely at the expense of increased heat in the kitchen and increased electricity usage. The $500+ difference in cost of the insulated Quickmill machines is a pretty long electric bill payoff though, so I think the Cellini will be just fine. I may add some insulation in the future, but it is not my priority right now.
After the initial warm up, I noticed that the boiler pressure would fluctuate between 0.6 and 1 bar. The "green" area is between 1 bar and 1.4 bar. So I disassembled the Cellini to get to the pressurestat and adjust it to the proper range. Access to the guts requires removing the water tank, 2 allen-head screws, and 2 hex-head screws. Once access is gained, everything is right there. I had to turn the Sirai spring up about 15-20 turns (I lost count) to get it to have a deadband of 1.0 to 1.3 bar. Now it stays there no matter how much I use the machine or let it sit idle.
The Cellini does not have a brew pressure gauge, just a boiler pressure gauge. So while I was inside the machine, I used my portafilter mounted pressure gauge to check the brew pressure, and it was spot-on at 9.5 bar. From my experience with the Alexia, I learned that 9.5-10 bar with no water flowing translates into 8.4-9.2 bar through the coffee, so I left the OPV alone and closed up the Cellini so that I could pull a proper shot and try the steam for real.
After waiting for the "water dance" to finish, I locked and loaded the portafilter and pulled my first shot with the Cellini. At first I though that I stalled the machine with too fine of a grind. It took about 10 seconds for the espresso to start flowing. When it started, it was beautiful! I had read that the Cellini has a "pre-infusion" chamber, and boy does it ever. The 10 second delay was the pre-infusion, which I verified with the blank backflush disk.
The other thing that I had to get used to was steaming the milk while the shot was brewing. This is impossible with a single boiler like my Alexia, so I have to get used to a completely different routine. The steam was dry and very easy to do. Chris includes his 4-hole steam tip with the Cellini, and it makes great micro foam, very easily. The valves for the steam and hot water are the "non-compression" type valves. They feel very nice, and only take a few short turns to operate instead of the long turns of my Alexia. I consider them a plus. These valves are only available as add-ons on the Quickmill machines or they come standard on the very expensive ones, so for the cost of the Cellini, they are a nice touch.
Needless to say, the cappuccino was delicious, and I was very excited. I have drank waaayyy too much coffee lately so that I can experience this new wonder in my kitchen.
My one major gripe with the Cellini is the minuscule drip tray. The tray on the Alexia was enormous, so I was spoiled. I have to drain the Cellini's tray after every brew session. If we have company, I am sure that I will have to drain the tray after 3 or 4 shots, depending on how much water I have to waste. Eventually, I am sure that I will get used to this, but keep it in mind if you are looking at HX machines. The drip tray dimensions are also too small, i.e. it does not protrude far enough away from the machine to effectively catch all of the drips and overspray from the grouphead.
Also, the bottom frame members of the Cellini are painted (maybe powder coated?) metal instead of a completely stainless steel frame like the Quickmill machines. Again, for a machine that is $500-$1000 less, I think I can live with this, but I will have to keep an eye on it and watch for corrosion.
From what I have been able to research online, this model of the Cellini line is the lowest available, and is most likely not even made or sold any longer, except for the inventory that is still left over. This model may be available for some discounted prices like mine was, so keep your eyes open and your internet browsers busy. The newer models and higher end models seem to have insulated boilers and brew gauges included, but at similar prices to the Quickmill and Vibiemme machines.
So far, after 2 months of use, I still like this machine. The low cost compared to some very nice features is a big plus in my book. The simple design and mechanical operation will be easy to work on and repair should the time come. I would recommend this machine to anyone that wants to buy a low cost HX machine but still have the high dollar features and a stainless steel shell. If you need a large drip dray, or if you are concerned about having a machine that does not have a 100% stainless steel frame, I would look elsewhere. For me, the price vs. the features of the Rocket Cellini are acceptable.
Botom line: For the price, I recommend it, as long as you can accept some of the shortcomings.
Stay tuned for the long-term follow ups to see if the Cellini can stand the test of time.