Despite a few frustrating quirks, this grinder can grind - consistently and at a fair price. In the end, this is what a grinder needs to do. There are better grinders out there, but they also cost more. Simple as that.
Positive Product Points
- Grind consistency at all levels is superb. It can grind for an espresso beautifully. - Built like a tank, and will last for many years. What is great about this grinder is that the build quality is clear to see from the inside as well. The burrs are sharp and strong. Nothing skimped here. - Quiet
Negative Product Points
- Has a few frustrating quirks which slightly detract from the product, mainly relating to the doser & chute. - A fair amount of static sits around, which means the coffee grounds need to be "encouraged" to exit from the doser or doserless chute, and distributed in the basket manually. Coffee will be too "clingly" otherwise. - IMO, not a good looking beauty. But I guess it is there to grind, so who cares? - Instructions given are not comprehensive, and miss out on some needed detail.
After getting tired of my disappointing and underachieving Kitchen Aid ProLine grinder, I decided to take the plunge and go for the Rocky. It is pretty much unanimous in that there is no point having a great espresso machine if you have a grinder that cannot grind. From my research, the Rocky seemed to fit the bill, at a price significantly cheaper than the Mazzer or the Mecap.
And after 6 months, I can safely report that it has been a fine choice. My espresso grinds are always consistent, and the espresso from my Pavoni is the best ever. No more channelling on extraction. No more being spurted by streams of espresso, compared to the KitchenAid Proline. After all, the reason one buys a grinder is to get a perfect grind - nothing more, nothing less. And the Rocky delivers on this front. I've looked at the Rocky's cutting burrs. They are beautifully sharp and made from true heavy metal. Nothing plastic or cheap here whatsoever.
My points on operation which you may find useful:
- You will see research around the place of finding the Rocky's 'zero' point. This is the point where the burrs touch. It is fairly easy to do if you need to readjust the zero point. What you need to reconcile is that the zero point will often not be 'zero' on the scale. It really doesnt matter. You just need to experiment intially to establish what is the optimum point for grinding, and leaving it there. It will be different for every machine. I think the various forums, whilst undoubtedly a wonderful resource, can overcomplicate things.
- To get a good espresso grind, the burrs will need to touch just a fraction. You will hear a slight touching sound. This is ok, but don't make the burrs grate as this will damage the burrs.
- There are two choices of models - one with the doser and one without. I ordered the doserless one, and got the doser one instead. A lesson here is that if you are buying online, make it abundantly clear to your retailer what model you want. These beasts are not easy or cheap to ship back. I was going to send it back but decided to live with it. There are pros & cons for each (see below). My advice on balance is to go doserless if you just have 1 or 2 shots a day only. The doser might work in a commercial environment, but in a home environment it just encourages lots of grounded coffee which you won't use and will be wasted. Also, the doser has a few defficiencies which I will outline later.
- Maintenance/cleaning is straightforward. Just unscrew the screws from the top hopper, and brush out. Make sure machine is unplugged. The grinding burrs will take fingers off most certainly! In my experience, you need to do this far less often than say the Kitchen Aid. Say once every few months. Infact, Rocky's instructions give you no guidance on how to clean out the burrs. I dont know why this is. Maybe because in the manufacturers opinion there is no need to clean the burrs? A little presumptuous I feel.
- If you have a doser, before you grind a new batch, be sure that you click the doser a few times to remove old grinds in the doser. This is on the assumption that you have made the modification of adding tape to the doser wheel (see below). This is key.
There are some frustrating quirks which you should know. I will list them, and advise how I have got around them:
- Because the coffee is statically charged when grounded, a fair portion at the end of your grinding batch will not drop from the chute into the doser or PF (if you are using a doserless model). You will need a little brush to brush out the remaining grinds (after flicking the 'off' switch). Turn on the grinder on again for the machine to flick out any remaining grinds in the burrs themselves. Some of this will also need to be brushed out.
- The doser is generally a pain. It does not sweep out all the grinds, with the end result being old grinds remaining in the doser which is obviously not great for your new batch of fresh coffee. To improve this, you can easily remove the doser wheel via a wrench and place electrical tape on each spoke such that it forms a brush-like resistance against the doser floor. This will help sweep all grinds. I have done this at the start, and it is working fine after 6 months. Takes about 5 mins setup work.
- The automatic doser measuring lid (the shiny metal lid you see inside the doser) is useless and not needed, particularly in the home environment. You know how much beans you have put in and presumably that is what you want. Remove it.
- The one positive thing about a doser is that in 'clicking' the doser lever, it actually loosens up the grounded coffee before it gets to the exit chute and into your basket, and therefore removes the static charge. So in this regard it is not totally useless.
- I believe that with the doserless model only, you have to press a side button as well as flicking the on/off switch to start grinding. That sounds a little annoying I have to say, and something that you dont have to worry with the doser model. Once you flick the 'on' switch, it grinds.
So in summary, the Rocky has a number of rather frustrating quirks that you will need to work around and live with. There is a fair argument that if you pay this price for a grinder, it should just "work" seemlessly without the hassle. These issues that I have identified however are liveable and you do get used to it. What is not in any doubt is the quality of the grind, and that ladies and gentlemen, is the name of the game. Indeed there are grinders that give an excellent grind without the quirks, like the Mazzer Mini and Mecap, but they are significantly more expensive. Are they really worth it? I dont think they are.
In my view, as long as the grind is excellent, I can live with the rest. Nothing else matters. Spending £130 on Kitchen Aid Proline grinder that can't grind espresso taught me a lesson the hard way.
I got the order quickly and safely. The only problem is that I specifically asked from a doserless model and the doser one instead. Make sure you make this very clear to your retailer which model you are after when buying online.
Three Month Followup
See 1 year follow up below
One Year Followup
AUGUST 2009 UPDATE
I've had the Rocky for 2 years now, and I remain absolutely impressed with it. A number of people, especially on other coffee websites that contain the letters "HB" are on a downer with this grinder. It seems like it is fashionable to do so. After owning a Proline Grinder, and now an upgraded Macap M4 doserless model, I can re iterate what great value this grinder is. Yes grinds do get stuck in the doser - but that happens on the Mazzer Mini which is £180 more. Yes grinds do remain in the chute - but that happens on all grinders (with perhaps the exception of the Vario). And yes grinds are clumpy, but no more than on other more expensive models. It seems that all grinders do require some sort of home tyro modification of some sort. The Rocky is no exception, but the required mods are not difficult should you wish to do them,
Clear disadvantages are that settings are not stepped and supposedly the burrs should be changed after 75 kgs of grinding - which is about 2 years if you grind for a couple of espresso a day. I've changed the burrs recently and it was a straightforward job to do. Other more expensive grinders such as the Vario, Mazzers and the Macaps do have stronger burrs which should last a lot longer. For these reasons an upgrade is justified. But these grinders are more expensive.
At the end of the day the Rocky is a mid tier espresso grinder that gives you consistent grinds at a slow rpm. The required mods to get the best out of the machine are slightly annoying, but no big deal. And certainly no different from other required mods/workarounds required from other more expensive grinders. Yes there are better grinders, but they are significantly more expensive. I would confidently say that in a price to performance ratio, the Rocky would hold its own.