Let’s start as we always do, with the build quality, and design. These are two SOLIDLY build machines, that will both last you many MANY years if properly taken care of. Full stop. When it comes to comparing these two machines, it’s difficult to find any significant differences from a build and quality feel perspective.
They both have solid metal frames and shells, use the standard E61 brew group, and have almost identical layouts. One BIG exception to this is the cup rail, where for some odd reason Rocket decided to go completely plastic, which sticks out like a sore thumb next to the angular metal rail on the Profitec.
Apart from build quality, there are some notable differences from a form factor and design perspective. Although both machines are “compact” or “apartment” sized E61s, the Pro 400 is considerably smaller. When placed beside the Appartamento, you can see that it’s actually a pretty striking difference with the Rocket being almost 2 inches wider.
In terms of design, this is arguably the single reason why the Appartamento has been such a worldwide hit. It was one of the first heat exchangers to really step outside of the box, with a unique side panel design that can actually have the colored inserts swapped out.
In comparison, the Pro 400 is a less flashy design, but is absolutely not a bad looking machine by any means. The sides are brushed metal, with a black accent around the bottom, and polished metal on pretty much every other surface. Their touch of fun was including interchangeable disks of the steam and hot water knob. I think it’s a bit gimmicky, but your mileage may vary. Which one is your favourite will obviously be subjective, but overall I think I actually prefer the more simple look of the Profitec.
In terms of functional visual differences, the Profitec’s water tank is accessible by lifting off the entire top panel, while the Appartamentos is behind a smaller lid. Both machines have pressure gauges, but the Pro 400’s shows both brew pressure AND boiler pressure instead of just boiler pressure, which is important for one of the features it has.
However, due to the wider body, the Appartamento’s drip tray is quite a bit larger and deeper. Both, are pretty generously sized, and the Pro 400 has a clever storage compartment for the blind basket underneath.
The Profitec uses a 1.6L stainless boiler and a 1400W heating element, while the Rocket uses a 1.8L brass boiler with a 1300W element. People will argue the virtues of one material over the other all day, but the functional difference you’ll see is that the Profitec heats up marginally faster because of the smaller boiler and more powerful heating element.
Espresso quality and adjustability is where these machines begin to have some significant differences, and where the Appartamento starts to show its age a bit. The Appartamento is a very straightforward machine, which is a part of the charm, but it’s important to recognize that there are some features it is missing out on that can have a large impact on shot quality.
The Pro 400 has 3 adjustable temperatures. Meaning that you can adjust your recipe for different roast levels and different coffees. If you have a lighter roast, you’ll likely use the higher temperature mode to increase extraction a bit. Or when using a dark roast, you can use a lower temperature to take off a bit of the bitter edge.
On the Appartamento, you have one set temperature.
The Pro 400 also has an automatic pre-infusion, meaning it can start the shot with a few seconds of very low flow to pre-soak the puck. This allows the puck to swell, filling in any cracks, which helps avoid channeling and can improve overall sweetness of the shot.
The Appartamento has the natural pre-infusion offered by an E61 grouphead, but nothing as advanced or effective as the Profitec.
Finally, there is a difference in the pressures these machine brew at out of the box. For some unknown reason, the Rocket comes running at around 11bar. I highly recommend taking off the lid and adjusting the OPV back down to 9bar for much better results.
On the Profitec, not only is it running at 9bar straight out of the box, but it also has an external OPV adjustment right on the top of the machine. This makes it easy to experiment with lower or higher pressures without needing to unscrew body panels and reach inside a scalding hot machine.
In terms of steaming performance, these machines are very similar. They both have excellent steaming power, and can create beautiful latte art quality milk with ease.
Technically, due to the larger boiler size, the Appartamento will have a higher steaming capacity. This is good if you plan on serving back to back to back drinks, but in reality you’re unlikely to reach the capacity limit of either machine in a home setting.
The Pro 400 can also technically steam ever so slightly faster if you flip it into its higher temperature mode, however unless you’re steaming a VERY large volume of milk, it’s not really work doing as you’d then need to cool the boiler back down before pulling your next espresso shot.
Overall, the Rocket Appartamento is a beautiful, simple, and iconic machine. However, in terms of value for money, it may be reaching end of life.
Machines like the Pro 400 simply out do it in terms of feature set, while also being more compact, and less expensive. If you’re looking for the absolute best bang for your E61 buck, while also enjoying beautiful design that rivals the Appartamento, the Profitec Pro 400 is the clear choice for me.
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