Rocket Appartamento vs La Marzocco Linea Mini

The Rocket Appartamento and La Marzocco Linea Mini are both compact and capable home espresso machines, but they differ significantly in price and quality. While you’ll be happy with either, there are good reasons to upgrade with the La Marzocco Mini if it’s within your budget.

Overview

The Rocket Appartamento espresso machine is designed for small kitchens, where space is at a premium. Rocket has engineered the internal components to make this one of the perhaps the most compact machines that’s not actually portable.

Where to Purchase the Rocket Appartamento

The La Marzocco Linea Mini espresso machine brings commercial quality to the home kitchen. It’s essentially a smaller version of the Linea Classic, which you might see in your local cafe.

Where to Purchase the Linea Mini

Price Difference of ~$4,000

The price difference between the two models is no small amount, being approximately double the Rocket Appartamento’s total cost. The question at hand isn’t which machine is better, but rather is upgrading to the La Marzocco Linea Mini is worth another $4,000.

Purchasing an Appartamento espresso maker will set you back by $1,850 to $1,900 (US), with slight variance depending on where you purchase it from. Some retailers include free accessories (e.g. tamper, steaming pitcher, basket, portafilter) if you purchase from them. Accessories can run a couple hundred dollars, so it’s worth checking whether a  machine comes with any.

The Linea Mini is much more expensive, with a starting price of $5,900. That price can easily reach $6,500 or more if you customize it with wood or other accents (see Aesthetics). If you do spring for this machine, many retailers offer much faster shipping than La Marzocco’s typical three-week timeframe.

On the used market, Appartamentos get a slight discount but Linea Minis are sometimes available for significantly less. Expect to pay $1,100 to $1,500 for a used Appartamento. If you’re patient and wait for one to become available, a used Linea Mini usually runs for between $3,500 and $4,000. Additionally, a used Linea Mini could last as long or even longer than a new Appartamento (see Durability).

Note: If you don’t yet have an espresso grinder, purchasing a high-quality grinder is more important than spending more on the Linea Mini. The upgrade in machine will be moot if you can’t precisely dial in your grounds.

Home vs. Commercial Durability

Home espresso machines and commercial espresso machines generally have different build qualities, and the difference between these two machines is substantial.

Vibratory vs Rotary Pump

The pump type is an illustrative example of the difference in build quality. The Rocket Appartamento has a vibratory pump, which uses magnets to push water through and ensure it doesn’t flow backward. The La Marzocco Linea Mini has a rotary pump, which is akin to a paddle wheel.

Rocket uses a vibratory pump primarily because this type is somewhat smaller, but also because it costs less than a rotary. La Marzocco uses a rotary pump because it will last significantly longer. Just as the Linea Mini’s pump will probably last longer, so too should many of its other components.

Essentially, the Appartamento is a well-made home espresso machine. Expect it to last for years, but you could have difficulty servicing the machine when it does eventually wear out (and it will). 

The uniquely compact design could make parts hard to come by, as there aren’t as many of these machines in use. There will be fewer disabled machines from which you can pull parts, other machines’ parts won’t match, and fewer third-party companies will make aftermarket parts.

The Linea Mini is a compact version of La Marzocco’s commercial-grade Linea Classic. The Mini uses the same internal parts, which are built to last longer. You also shouldn’t have any trouble finding replacement parts when a component does need to be fixed. There are many Linea machines, so finding parts isn’t an issue. You can likely even find tutorials that show how to service/repair this model.

Compact Size

If you’re in a studio city apartment, the Rocket Appartamento isn’t just the better choice of these two. It’s among the smallest quality home espresso machines and likely the best you’ll find for a tiny kitchen. 

The Appartamento measures approximately 10.9 inches wide by 16.7 inches deep, and 14.25 inches high. The Linea Mini is slightly larger, at 14 inches wide, 21 inches deep and 14 inches tall. Both have a flat top with enough room for keeping a couple of mugs.

The Linea Mini’s dimensions will easily fit in most kitchens, and even smaller ones. The Apartamento’s slightly smaller size can occasionally make a big difference in certain settings, though.

Aesthetics

Both machines have modern looks and come in a few different color schemes, although the Linea Mini has more options and more fees.

The Rocket Appartamento comes in either black or stainless, and can have a grid of either white or copper accents. The accents have a modern flair if the machine is somewhat away from anything else on your counter. If you need this machine to save space and it’s right next to other items, however, those accents will be blocked from view. Notably, choosing any combination of black, stainless, white and copper doesn’t affect the machine’s price.

The Linea Mini has a white, black, red, yellow or blue exterior case, with the colors being fairly bright. The knobs and paddle (see Group Head) on the front have customizable black/stainless, maple and walnut options, and a matching portafilter handle can also be ordered. Changing all of the features to natural wood adds $700 to the initial price, and you’ll want all of them to match for a cohesive look. The exterior case’s colors don’t add anything to the price.

Other optional accents on the Linea Mini include a cup rail (stainless or black), and legs (black, aluminum, tall aluminum).

While you might have a preference between the machines’ looks, aesthetics isn’t really a deciding point between these two options.

Multiple Features Create Better Espresso

Most other considerations all contribute to the La Marzocco Linea Mini brewing better espresso. Whether these justify the higher price depends on your level of interest and skill. The machine’s shots do outshine those of the Rocket Appartamento (which is quite good itself).

Double Boiler vs. Single Boiler

The La Marzocco Linea Mini contains a double boiler, which is larger and more temperature-stable than the Rocket Appartamento’s single boiler system.

The Appartamento obviously has only a single boiler in order to save space, but Rocket isn’t out of line with this choice. Most home espresso machines have a single boiler that must be manually filled. In the Appartamento’s case, the single boiler is high-quality with a pressure gauge that makes it possible to adjust the heat-exchange boiler’s output. 

PID Switch

The Linea Mini features a double boiler that’s integrated with a PID switch. A proportional integral derivative controller (PID) uses an algorithm to adjust the amount of heat as water approaches the desired temperature. This and the double boiler system result in more stable temperature control than a standard switch that heats at only one rate (such as the Appartamento has) can provide.

La Marzocco further enhances control with a temperature wheel that can adjust the PID’s target temperature, and dual pressure gauges. One gauge is for the boiler and one measures pressure at the group head (see Group Head).

The Linea can also be converted to a direct line machine if you want to run pipes to it. This draws water directly from your plumbing, so you don’t have to worry about filling the boiler. Its boiler is spec’d at 3.5 liters, but some users complain of having to fill the water more often than they would expect to.

Both machines have a low water level alert. See Durability if interested in the Appartamento’s vibratory pump vs. the Linea’s rotary pump.

Grouphead: Paddle vs. Lever

One of the La Marzocco Linea Mini’s most innovative features is its integrated paddle group head. The paddle is an unconventional design, and integrated group heads aren’t common on home espresso machines.

The Rocket Appartamento has a pretty standard home espresso machine group head. It’s operated with a lever, and has an optional passive preinfusion that can soak through the puck of grounds. Water is circulated through the group head for some temperature stability, but any group head like this will have more temperature variance at the group head than an integrated design will. Additionally, circulating water means that you’ll need to purge the screen before pulling shots.

The Linnea Mini’s integrated group head is connected directly to the boiler. Much less heat is lost as water travels the short distance between the boiler and group head. The boiler also acts as a heatsink for the group head,. The boiler warms up the group head when the machine turns on, and keeps the group head from overheating when pulling multiple shots. A 2-second preinfusion at low pressure is automatically programmed into the machine.

The Linea’s design ensures a much more consistent temperature in the brewing chamber, and you can adjust that temperature by fiddling with the PID setting. Such a setup is common in commercial machines but rare in home ones. 

Because of the temperature stability, you can pull shots on this machine all day long without the group head overheating and causing bitterness (especially if you switch the machine to direct line).

Instead of a lever or switch that controls water flow through the group head, the Linea Mini uses a paddle that slides horizontally. Although this is a highly unconventional design, it functions just as well as any lever or button control does.

A pressure gauge on the Linea’s group head makes it easy to check your shots, and adjust dosing, grind or tamping if the brew pressure is off.

Like almost all home espresso machines, both of these models have a single group head. Double group heads are useful in commercial settings where successive drinks must be made quickly. Without a streamlined workflow like cafes have, the benefits of a double group head would be lost. Most home baristas aren’t set up to work quickly enough that they can actually use two.

If you invest in a Linea Mini, consider purchasing a separate tamper and group head screen. A 58.5 mm tamper works slightly better with the portafilter than the machine’s factory 58 mm one does. The stock screen occasionally channels. Slayer’s group head screen is designed so that it almost never channels, and it’s compatible with the Linea.

Faster Steaming and Smaller Microfoam

The La Marzocco Linea Mini also steams better than the Rocket Appartamento. This too is largely due to the boiler design.

With regard to steaming, the Appartamento is once again like most home espresso machines. Its single boiler does double-duty, as it feeds both the group head and the steam wand. The wand has decent power but isn’t anything special. It does have insulation that prevents the wand’s exterior from becoming hot enough to burn, which is great if you have young children.

The Linea Mini is again like commercial machines, this time in that it has a separate boiler that’s specific to the steam wand. The separate boiler provides more force, which results in faster steaming and somewhat tighter microfoam.

The Mini’s standard steam wand does get hot to the touch. A “performance touch” wand that’s double-walled and stays cooler on the exterior is available — for $700, which is more than ⅓ of the Appartamento’s total price.

Both machines have a separate hot water spout. If you like americanos or someone prefers tea, such a feature keeps you from having to heat water separately in a kettle.

Miscellaneous Notes

App Connectivity

The La Marzocco Linea Mini has optional app connectivity, which works with either iOS or Android devices. Installing the La Marzocco Home app allows you to remotely turn the machine on/off (which is convenient when waking), and it also makes adjusting the PID target temperature more convenient. If you’re a coffee addict, you can see just how many shots the machine has pulled over the course of its lifetime.

Rocket doesn’t have an app for the Appartamento, although such a feature certainly isn’t necessary for good espresso.

Group Head Lights

The Linea Mini also has LED lights around the group head. Termed “barista lights,” these theoretically make it easier to see your shot when pulling. They might be helpful if you have a single kitchen light positioned behind you, but some users find the LEDs obnoxiously bright.

Conclusion: Upgrade If Your Budget Allows

If you have a moderate budget or are extremely tight on kitchen space, the Rocket Appartamento will serve you well. You won’t be disappointed with it. If your budget allows for a commercial-grade machine, the La Marzocco Linea Mini is an excellent choice.