After buying Silvia, it didn't take much time to figure out that my Russell Hobbs (also called the capresso or something like that) just wasn't up to the job. Firstly it wouldn't grind fine enough. After a modification, it would grind fine enough but the consistency of the grind was all over the place. Time to upgrade. I picked up my alt.coffee handbasket, gritted my teeth as this was costing me more than I'd originally planned to spend on a machine, and ordered him.
When he arrived, Rocky came well packaged in his retail box, then wrapped in coffee sacks and another outer box. I pulled it all out and unpacked him.
At first I thought I'd been cheated and sold a used machine as there were bits of beans in the hopper. However with a bit of googling on the matter my fears were relieved as this is just due to the product being tested. A good sign I thought so I plugged him in and dialed him in.
This is initially done by switching the machine on with no beans in, and with it running, adjusting the grind setting until you can just hear the burrs start to touch. From there, you make the grind about 6 ro 7 'stops' shorter.
I then ground some beans and poured a shot. It was from the Gods, I hadn't tasted such a good coffee in years. I noticed that the consistency of grind was excellent compared to the Russell Hobbs and the resulting coffee was packed with flavour.
Now as I'm sure has been said before, the chute going from the burrs to the hopper is horizontal. This traps a small but significant amount of coffee which is then left to get stale. This is only really relevant if you grind just the right amount for a shot, as I do. I used to get the back end of a chopstick and hook this out for each shot/grind, but I just don't bother anymore. I don't think it's worth it.
My biggest complaint with this machine is the same as most other people's. It's the doser. Firstly, there's no way to control the dose amount. it just gives you what it wants. However this doesn't affect me as like i said before, I grind for each shot. The second thing was that it just didn't clear the grinds out of the doser properly. this was fixed by pulling the doser mechanism apart and sticking insulation tape on the doser vanes so that it protruded about 2mm along the bottom edge of the vanes and scraped the bottom of the doser hopper. I think from memory that this technique was invented by randy g from alt coffee. If you need further clarification you can go to http://www.groups.google.com and search for 'rocky doser mod'.
As for the ongoing question of which to buy: doser/doserless? I don't think it matters that much. If you have the doser, the mod I described is simple, and it means you don't have to stand there with the portafilter while the beans are being ground.
What I think would be the best for me would be if the grounds would fall into a small hopper which would then be emptied in one go with the pull of a lever. As it is though, it doesn't bother me enough for me to actually implement such a modification.
Two years on, it's still delivering a great cup, an average of 3-4 doubles per day so that's 30kg or so of coffee. I have not had any desire to upgrade further.
All in all though, despite it's rather minor shortcomings, of which another is the rather inconvenient location of the on/off switch, this is a great grinder which will last a long time and substantially improve your espresso experience.