After owning my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine for a month, I made the decision she just had to be married to a Rancilio Rocky grinder, so I plunked down $200 to www.1st-line.com, and bought the puppy.
About a week later (UPS ground from the east coast to the wet coast), Rocky commeth, and Rocky was a heavy beast. The box was heavy, and when I pulled the grinder out, it was heavy, as in around 20 lbs worth of machinery. Kinda puts the Braun KMM30 and the Starbucks Barista Grinder (my other two grinders in the house at the time) to shame when it comes to beef.
I unpacked everything, glanced at the (thankfully English) manual, wiped off some packing lint and plugged Rocky in. I heard a very faint hummm from the machine, and it took me a few seconds to hear it. I thought, "cool! It has an internal fan to keep everything cool inside! ... but why hasn't anyone mentioned this online?". Then I grabbed some of my garbage beans to test with, dumped them in and whoa!!! Noise! Grinding! Coffee being ground!!!
At first I thought that the Rocky had some sort of auto sensing, grind when beans are in mechanism, but I quickly realized two things - a) the auto sensing didn't make sense, and b) the Rocky was actually "on" when I plugged it in! That's how little noise the engine inside makes!! Amazing!
There is a caveat with that. I've seen and been demo'ed some commercial grinders in the $600-$1000 range that are (relatively) quiet even when grinding. I think it has to do with sound dampers and insulators around the grinding chamber... something the Rocky doesn't have... so when grinding, it can get loud, but with no beans in the machine and it turned on, you'd be hard pressed to guess it was on by the sound of it.
But let's get to the meat of the Rocky. It is essentially a stripped down MD40 grinder. The motor and grinding aparatus inside are identical. Rancilio shaved off the bux on this grinder by going low cost on the exterior components and the doser chamber. Where the MD40 has a great doser with variable dose selectors, good tight construction that leaves little coffee behind, the Rocky's doser is pretty basic. The fork on the Rocky... sigh, the fork. In a word? Sucks. Plain jane cheapo plastic. At the very least they could have put in some kind of "lock in place" plastic ring or something you could snap your portafilter into, but nooooo... that would have cost another $2 in materials!
And the lids! They flop around - no tight machined fit at all! I had to put rubber bands around the lips of both the hopper lid and the doser lid to get them to fit a bit better. Round out the cheapo plastic base (really a departure from the rest of the Rocky's outer skin - a porcelain covered metal) and you can see that Rancilio really went low budget on the exteriors.
But, these are really aesthetics. Where a grinder is worth it's salt is in the grind and its performance. In these two areas, you really do have a commercial grinder in your kitchen. The Rocky has improved my espresso by a significant amount, but more importantly, it has helped to make my espresso consistently good. It has helped make my espresso occasionally great. And it has helped make my espresso perfect on many occasions. The grind is about as even as you can get, and this machine can go from making the finest powdery turkish grind to huge pebbles much larger than any press pot might need. With around 80 grind settings, I believe it offers more variances in grind than any other machine in its class and price range.
The Rocky (along with my Silvia) was probably one of the best purchases I've made in years. This machine will probably outlast me, which is either saying a lot or not (if you look at my family history :-)). I am a very satisfied customer, though I hope Rocky II has an improved doser and fork.