Not counting the exhibits in my basement Museum of Failed Espresso Devices, I began using a series of burr grinders for espresso once I bought first my Capresso Ultima and then my Rancilio Silvia espresso machines: LaPavoni PGB (too staticky for direct grinding into portafilter, receptacle base warped from proximity to stove); Solis Maestro Plus (adequate grind but no God shots), and then Rocky. I had the experience of using a doser (BC/Briel, DeLonghi) with my old Krups and Saeco/Estro pumpers, and was frustrated by the fact that they would not accommodate the portafilters of these machines and thus required me to use their static-ridden receptacles instead. Thus, when I got the upgrade bug, I didn't want a doser, especially when reading about stale grinds left behind. A fellow CG'er posted his doserless Rocky on the forum for over $100 less than retail, and I jumped at the chance. I recently upgraded to a used Mazzer Mini (ironically, I'm back to a doser again!), but Rocky is still my grinder for decaf.
To say Rocky is solidly built is an understatement--it gives the impression of being carved from a solid block of steel. The only plastic parts seem to be the hopper, lid, spout and switches. It is stable and as quiet as any pro or prosumer grinder on the market.
It was easy (in terms of determining the setting) to dial Rocky in for first my Silvia and then my Livia--the adjustments are discrete steps and for most blends there are enough steps to fine-tune. But when adjusting the burrs toward a finer grind with beans in the hopper, it is a tad tricky for someone with small hands and short fingers (and a touch of arthritis): you have to run the grinder while adjusting; this necesssitates holding down the switch with your left hand while simultaneously pressing the hopper release button with your right ring finger while gripping the rim of the hopper between right forefinger/middle finger and thumb (and bracing with the palm) to keep the hopper from spinning all the way to coarse. This can be avoided by making sure the grinder is empty in order to adjust it without running it, in which case you can't store beans in the hopper. At first, I was using Rocky for decaf (because that was my primary bean) and the Solis for regular. But I eventually bought a bunch of canisters for bean storage and now weigh my beans on a gram scale and grind per shot. Now that I have a Mazzer, my regular beans are stored in its hopper, but I still use Rocky for decaf and still grind by the shot (using either my tamper or the ramekin in which I weigh the beans as a mini-lid to keep the beans from flying around as they grind and to guide them into the burrs).
The portafilter fork is a solid, thick stiff wire loop (shaped like a "W") that accommodates most commercial p.f.s, and it is removable for grinding into a receptacle should you wish to grind for non-espresso methods (I don't, because I use a separate grinder for that). Unfortunately, it is also asymmetrical, which causes the p.f. to rest lopsidedly on it and prevents rotating the p.f., making it impossible to follow the pro barista method of overdosing into a neat mound before leveling: no matter how much you grind, there will still be a part of the pf that does not fill all the way. For awhile, I was grinding into first a small glass cup for multiple sequential shots or then into a plastic ramekin that fit on the fork; but both methods were inexact and did not provide the same distribution pre-leveling as the pro barista method. I am back to grinding, removing the p.f. and shaking it to level, grinding more, shaking more and then finally leveling off with a finger, A second set of holes lower down on the chassis for the fork (see below) would also save a lot of grief and provide more variation; a more symmetrical fork shape (such as on the Mazzer's doser) would allow for p.f. rotation.
The grind is consistent across the board, with very little dust at any setting. But there is a bit of static, though it doesn't manifest itself in the usual home burr mill manner of spewing grounds all over the counter, Instead, the static causes grinds to clump together in little "boulders" (hence another meaning for "Rocky"). Also, the last little bit out of the chute will fall onto the bottom tray because the bottom of the spout intrudes a few mm into the pf basket; and there will be some grounds left behind in the chute no matter what. I have had to resort to pumping a "Click-Clack" container lid up and down on the hopper to clear the last grinds out of the burrs and fish them out at the other end with a sheaf of pipe cleaners. But periodic cleaning of the burrs is a relative breeze--the hopper comes off easily and the top burr lifts out for cleaning. You need to re-dial-in after reassembly, but you'd need to do that with most other grinders. I removed the finger guard, which does allow beans to hang up in the hopper; removing the guard allows use of a tamper as a lid when grinding by the shot (not storing beans in the hopper, of course). Should you choose to keep the finger guard on, beans could fall into the screw-hole recesses; but the CG'er who sold Rocky to me cleverly prevented that by inserting foam earplugs into the recesses.
Some report excessive "free play" in the hopper, and remove the "stop" screw and Teflon-tape the threads, but I did not encounter this phenomenon nor thus any necessity to correct it.
I didn't begin to pull God shots till I got Rocky, though they're less frequent than with the Mazzer. But for the price, you won't find a better grinder. If I stop using Rocky it won't be because it breaks--it'll probably outlast my machines.
Would I buy the dosered version had I to do it again? Probably--the Mazzer experience has taught me not to fear the doser.