Exceptional construction, performance and value. Ideal for espresso but may not be best choice for those who grind for multiple brew methods on a regular basis.
Positive Product Points
Grind Quality & Consistency, VERY Quiet, Range of Grind, Good track record, service and parts readily available. Price.
Negative Product Points
Doser/Fork, Oily beans stick due to hopper design, pain to clean, no timer only on/off switch, pain if you switch grind types frequently
Many of you know the Rocky and its esteemed position with alt.coffee participants as well as the host of this site, Coffeekid. There is good reason for this as it‘s an excellent grinder and an exceptional value at the $200 USD price point.
Prior to purchasing the Rocky I used (and still use for Decaf) a Solis 166 which retails for about $125 USD. I generally grind for espresso so my comments are based primarily on this use. I own a Solis SL-90 espresso machine and found the 166 adequate. However, the Rocky offered a wider grind range and a better ability to fine tune the grind. In addition it produces a more consistent grind than the Solis all of which make grinding for espresso a more better thing with a Rocky.
The Solis 166 has some advantages over the Rocky in certain situations. Let me explain- the Solis 166 loads beans into a hopper like most grinders, the ground beans follow a short exit chute and are deposited into a plastic container. You remove the container and use a measuring spoon to dose into your desired brew device. The advantage to this set up is that you can easily change the grind from French press, to drip, to espresso without having to clean out a doser or exit chute of grinds. It also has a timer so you don‘t have to keep an eye on it- not a major point, but a nice convenience. The shape of the hopper on the 166 also helps to more consistently direct oily beans into the burrs than the hopper design on the Rocky. They can (and do) still stick on occasion but a light tap or a quick stir with a wood spoon usually dislodges any offending beans.
Unlike the Solis, the Rocky does not deposit grinds into a container, it has a doser/fork combination. This is generally considered an espresso only type set up. Some people prefer this arrangement but I am not one of them. I really don‘t think the doser/fork combination is worthwhile in a low volume home use set-up. The beans load into a hopper which feeds into the burrs, then out through a chute and into a doser chamber. You then flip a small lever which "doses" the grinds out. Below the doser is a fork to allow a portafilter to rest. Unfortunately, not all portafilters will fit onto this fork, mine does not (at least not very gracefully- I have to angle it just right at a slant). If you intend to make use of this feature you should check to see if your portafilter will fit. The fork itself can be removed (as I have done), it is held on by two screws and can easily be removed by the user (some dealers will remove the fork if requested before shipping, notably 1st Line). With the fork removed any size portafilter will now fit under the doser but you will not have a "rest" or guide and will have to hold it while dosing. So why do I dislike this fork/doser deal? I mean after all it looks just like a "real" commercial grinder set-up. Well, in many ways it is just that. However in a commercial establishment the grinder is usually only loaded with one type of bean for one type of grind. In a home setting you are much more likely to want/need to grind a variety of beans and quite possibly for multiple brew devices (espresso, French press, drip, etc). This is certainly not the Rocky‘s forte at least in terms of ease of use. In order to change grinds or beans you will have to clean both the hopper and chute of the previous grinds. This usually involves brushing out the chamber while flicking the doser to move the old grinds out. Not a huge hassle but this can become a real pain in the ass if you change grind/beans frequently. The doser "blades" contribute to this problem as they do not quite touch the bottom and sides of the chamber. Several people on alt.coffee have attempted to minimize this problem by modifying the blades with a small amount of tape (attached to each of the blades) to help sweep the majority of grinds out of the chamber. I have not yet done this but in theory it sounds like a good idea. Personally, I think the rocky is best as a dedicated espresso grinder. Besides, you don‘t really need a $200 Rocky to grind for French Press or drip.
One problem for dark oily bean lovers is that beans tend to stick and this often requires a whack on the side of the Rocky (be sure to whack the metal part not the plastic). Since the base of the hopper is more-or-less flat (due to the placement of the finger Guard) a stir with a wooden spoon does not always dislodge the beans. I find by cleaning the hopper with a damp towel after each use it helps cut down on the frequency of stuck beans. But I also don‘t use really oily beans very often. I‘ve been told that removing the finger guard solves this problem but i decided to leave mine on.
_________________________________________________________ Follow up posted 1.3.02
For some reason I can't seem to post this follow-up under the follow-up heading so here it is;
After about 14 months of use, exclusively for espresso, i would adjust my scoring as follows;
Quality=10 (unchanged) Usabilty=8 (espresso) 6 (as multi-purpose grinder due to doser set-up) Cost/Value=10 (unchanged) Aesthetics= 8 (10 for stainless version not available when i purchased) Overall=9 (-1 for sticking beans, doser)
My comments on the Solis 166 are now somewhat outdated after the introduction of the new Maestro Grinder at the same price point as the old 166 and the Solis Mulino (aprox $125 USD). There is also a new bad boy, the Innova Grinder available with either flat or conical burrs and w/ stepless adjusment and it's dubbed the "Rocky Killer". The jury is still out but at an almost identical price point you would be wise to compare the Innova models to the Rocky very closely. Hopefully we'll see a bunch of in-depth reviews shortly. You can see the Innova at <http://www.espressoparts.com/index.cfm/detail/13/157/1018/I-1D>
I still stand by most of what I wrote in my initial review. I still find the doser worthless for a home set up. I still have the forks removed and use a small glass bowl under the doser inspite of the fact that i now own a Silvia which has a portafilter that fits the Rocky's fork. I find it easier to dose into the bowl and then fill my basket with my Illy spoon. Less waste/over spill etc. My single biggest complaint about the Rocky remains the sticking beans issue. Oily beans tend to stick, and even beans which are not so oily can stick. I left the finger guard in place and try to keep the hooper as clean as possible. Despite this I still need to "whack" the Rocky more than i would like. Even with these mostly minor complaints, I would buy this grinder again in a heartbeat. It's the best in its class unless and until the Innova proves to be a true "Rocky Killer". The harder decision may be- do you get the Maestro at 130ish or spend the extra 80 bucks to get a Rocky. Since I have not used the Maestro, I can only go buy what others have reported, and suggest you strongly consider what usage the grinder will get. If you do mostly or exclusively espresso I would spend the extra money and get the Rocky. I see the Maestro as the ideal second grinder for decaf and grinding for other brew methods (although many report it does a very good job at espresso although maybe a notch or two below the Rocky). If budget were really tight I'm sure one could be quite happy with the Maestro.
I made mention that the Rocky is a pain to clean, but that may not be entirely fair. All grinders of this type are a bit of a PITA to clean. Mark's page on cleaning a Rocky proved invaluable and now that I've done it a bunch, it's not very hard at all. It's a PITA in the same way as having to do the dishes or mop the floor. You don't really *want* to do it, but you have to do it and you're always glad you did.
One last note: This is a very quiet grinder, much quieter than the 166 and almost silent w/o beans but motor running. A big plus in the AM.
1.28.02 Lack of timer follow-up: After using the Rocky I no longer feel the lack of a timer is an issue/downside. Maybe one just gets used to what one has, but I've grown to like the simple on/off switch.
Can't go wrong with 1st Line.
Three Month Followup
see comments above
One Year Followup
May 1, 2006---5 year follow-up. Yikes, has it really been 5 friggin' years since I bought this. No real change in opinion. Replaced burrs a year or so ago, figure I consume about a pound a week, so I guess that makes for about 1825 pounds of beans passing thru my Rocky. Still works like a charm. Doser still sucks and lost a spring which I never got around to fixing.
No regrets, no burning need to upgrade. A solid workhorse.