This is a rather strange review for me to do, as I no longer own a Rocky. Despite the fact that I just sold it a few weeks ago, I wanted to do a review to let people know that Rocky is a great grinder.
Before becoming an official CoffeeGeek, I started off with the usual whirlyblade “grinder” to grind my beans for my French press. My wife bought me an espresso machine (Starbucks Barista) and a Braun KM30 for Christmas several years ago, and while I enjoyed the cappuccinos I made at home, they were nowhere near as good as the cappas from real cafés. Also, straight espresso was almost undrinkable when made on the Barista. I stumbled upon CoffeeGeek last summer, and found out that the real Achilles’ heel on my Barista machine was its pressurized portafilter. Some forum members suggested that by buying a non-pressurized PF from Saeco (they manufacture the Barista for Starbucks) I could enjoy proper espresso at home. I found a local Saeco dealer who carried the non pressurized PF’s and came home to try my hand at making real espresso. My first shots were terrible. The 2 ounces were pushed out in about 10 seconds. I adjusted my Braun down a couple of notches – still terrible. At the lowest setting on the Braun, it took 12 seconds to produce 2 ounces.
After searching a few more posts in the forums, I discovered that the Braun was just not capable of grinding fine enough or consistently enough for espresso. I spent a lot of time reading reviews and forum topics on espresso grinders only to find that I was looking at spending a considerable amount of cash in order to make espresso. I decided that the pursuit of good espresso in my home was worth the investment, and found myself a Rocky.
My initial impression of Rocky was “wow – this is a big heavy machine”. My Braun probably weighs at most 5 lbs. The Rocky’s burrs alone probably outweigh the Braun! The next thing I noticed when I first turned it on was "wow - this is one quiet coffee grinder" I could actually have a conversation with someone when Rocky was doing his thinkg. Not so with the Braun. When the KM30 was switched on, all activity in the household came to a halt. Build quality is also very good although I was disappointed that the lids for the hopper and doser do not fit very well. They rattled around a lot when the grinder was on. This was easily rectified by putting thick rubber bands inside the lips of both lids, but you would think Rancillio would have made them fit better.
After getting Rocky home, it only took five minutes of fiddling with the grind adjustment setting before I was making 2oz doubles in 27 seconds. As mentioned above, consistency is one of Rocky’s strong suits. Some CoffeeGeeks criticize Rocky’s finite grind adjustment detents. They claim that other grinders with infinitely adjustable grind settings are much more suitable for espresso. To this, I can only say one thing: “phhhhhht”. In the 11 months that I owned Rocky, I never had a problem dialing in the perfect grind setting. If I switched beans and the flow was too fast, I could always get back to that 2 oz in 27 second zone by adjusting Rocky by one or two clicks. I now own a Mazzer Mini (more on that later), and I found that although it has a “micrometrical” adjustment that is not limited by detents, the change in grind is quite pronounced for a given amount of rotation of the collar compared to the Rocky. What this means is that even though there is a fair amount of room between clicks on the Rocky, the grind particle size changes by a very slight amount between these clicks.
In addition to Rocky’s consistency, the numbered detents on the collar also make it VERY easy to switch from espresso to a course French press grind. Other grinders have worm gear adjustment mechanisms that make this kind of radical adjustment a chore. Speaking of French press, I also wanted to state that a good quality grinder like Rocky is not just a necessity for espresso. I have also noticed marked improvement in taste when making press pot coffee. I have done taste tests with the same beans using the Rocky and my old Braun grinder, and the coffee made from Rocky’s grounds is MUCH better than the coffee made from the Braun's grounds.
OK – Rocky is great, but is he perfect? No – the two beefs I have both concern the doser. The springs and the little metal tab that ratchets the doser vanes are kind of cheap. Everyone touts this as a semi-commercial grinder, but with limited personal use, I managed to damage the doser mechanism. It was easily repaired, but there is no way the doser would stand up to “semi-commercial” use.
The second beef is the doser itself. It leaves a lot of coffee behind. I may be a little obsessive/compulsive, but everyone knows that the key to great coffee is freshly ground beans. If grinds get left in the doser for hours (or days), this is just not good. As many other Rocky reviews mention, if you do the modifications that Randy G developed, the leftover grounds will decrease, but there will always be some grounds left in the doser. I just got in the habit of using a soft bristle brush to sweep out the doser after every use. Not a really big deal, but it is kind of a pain. I considered doserless, but I don’t think that would have worked out for me. You will also note that the doser is listed in the “negative points” as well as the “positive points” section. How can a doser that is a pain to keep clean be a positive you might ask? Well, just invite a few friends over for espressos and you will see where the doser shines. It is great to be able to simply grind beans into the doser and hit the lever to fill up your filter basket. I guess the doser is a tradeoff between efficiency when making lots of drinks at once and being messy.
Given that I was extremely satisfied with my Rocky, some of you are probably wondering why I sold it and bought a Mazzer Mini. Well I can tell you it was not to rectify the doser problems. Although the Mazzer has a much beefier lever mechanism that can undoubtedly survive abuse in a true commercial environment, its doser is every bit as messy as Rocky (if not more so). Well, I am not proud to admit this, but the one reason I upgraded was aesthetics. You see, a few months ago, I purchased a new semi-commercial espresso machine to replace my aging Starbucks rig. My Rocky was the black and white (non-stainless) model, and although it was a perfect compliment to my old Barista, it looked seriously outclassed by the Wega with its shiny stainless steel body panels. So, as much as I don’t think of myself as a shallow person, it turns out I have become somewhat of a snob when it comes to my espresso setup. I considered just buying a stainless Rocky, but the Mazzer really is another step up in build quality, so I decided to fully deplete my bank account and get the Mini.