A competitively priced doserless grinder - and among the best of its kind
Positive Product Points
- Sturdy build - Easy to adjust and switch between settings - Good “industrial” looks - Compact size
Negative Product Points
- Ground coffee retained in chute (see detailed commentary) - Stuck beans (see detailed commentary)
CHOOSING MY GRINDER
I had difficulties choosing a grinder to pair up with my Andreja Premium. I knew I wanted a quality grinder that I could live with in the long run. I considered the Mazzer Mini (including the Mini E), the Macap M4 (both doser and doserless models), the Rocky doserless, the Demoka M203 and the Isomac Granmacinino.
I had the doser vs doserless dilemma but in the end I decided to go doserless. Why? Because I usually prepare just two consecutive double shots in a session and in this type of use I did not see any benefit in having a doser. With the doserless I also know my coffee will always be fresh as I will be grinding per shot.
The Macap was very tempting and almost went with it. However, the doserless Macap is not suitable for home use (it is meant to be used as a bulk grinder). The Mazzer Mini E was too tall for my liking even with a shorter hopper and more importantly to me, too expensive. The Isomac and Demoka somehow seemed too “lightweight” for my liking.
So I chose the Rocky doserless. I do like its "industrial” looks, it has been around for a long time and also has its fair share of positive reviews. Plus it is quite compact.
FINDING THE ZERO POINT
I picked up my Rocky from my local roaster. The box wasn’t too big but as soon as I was out of the shop I realized how hefty the Rocky actually is. You do not want to be carrying it around. When home, I lifted it out of the box and onto the counter. It is compact for a grinder of this calibre but definitely has professional air about it.
Once in place, I started by zeroing it in. With the burrs stationary and the Rocky unplugged, I turned the bean hopper counter clockwise (for a finer grind) until I felt some resistance from the burrs making contact. It appeared as if the zero point was at hmm... zero.
However, before the first grind I double-checked this. I turned the hopper clockwise (for a coarser grind) for a setting at 10. I plugged in the grinder, flipped on the main switch and pressed the grind switch very briefly. As the burrs were winding down, I delicately turned the grind setting one notch lower/finer. I repeated this until I heard the burrs touching.
With each consecutive adjustment towards a finer setting, i.e. the zero point, I let the burrs wind down closer to a stop before turning the hopper. This way, when the burrs would make contact they'd be doing it at a lower speed and not be damaged. The actual zero point on my Rocky turned out to be at 2, i.e. with the setting at 1 the burrs just start touching.
DIALING IN THE ROCKY
Once I felt somewhat comfortable with the consistency my dosing and tamping, it was time to look into the grind settings. I had the zero point figured and I started with at 15.
With this setting I had a problem with the shot going blonde too early at about 15 seconds into the pull. Also, the pour started just a couple of seconds after I switched the pump on. I started adjusting the grind finer incrementally. Things improved the finer I went. With the setting at 9 (the brew pressure on my Andreja Premium limited to 9.5 bar) the pull stalled and all I got was a few drops. I dialed the Rocky back to 11 and this seemed to work well.
The pour now started at approximately 6-7 seconds after hitting the brew lever, blonding started to occur at approximately 25 seconds and the brew pressure is generally at around 9 bar. This sounds just about ideal for the two approximately 35 ml (just over 1 oz) shots that come out.
I did realize that I may need to adjust this depending on the beans I use, how fresh they are and possibly even when the weather changes but at least I knew where I stood.
The beans I used for dialing in were not the ones I normally use and they weren’t exactly fresh either. Once I had my favorite beans (freshly roasted) I had another go with the same settings. The shot stalled. Two clicks coarser to 13 and I was good. As the beans get a couple of days older I turn the setting one notch finer (I usually use my beans within a maximum of 5 days of the roast date). I am now happy working within this range and it is good to know that there is "headroom" in case I want to grind finer for some reason.
It is easy to move up or down a click in the settings. I find that I rarely use my moka pot anymore, but should I want to, again it is easy to move to a setting suitable for this (I have my setting at 20 for my Bialetti moka pot).
SOME PRACTICAL ISSUES
The Rocky does retained some ground coffee in the chute (as do all grinders to some extent). With the Rocky, the amount is not huge but still noticeable. In my experience just knocking the grinder or "pulsing" it is not enough to clear these grounds.
What I have ended up doing is that each time I start a new session, I throw out the first few grams of coffee coming into the portafilter. These are the stale grounds left in from the previous session. I then swipe the portafilter clean, start over and grind my dose. I try and do all this quickly to minimize the time that the portafilter is out of the grouphead (i.e. to minimize the heat loss).
I have also experienced beans getting stuck in the hopper - the finger guard prevents larger beans from falling into the throat of the grinder. This happened with beans that I do not regularly use (no problem with my usual beans), I initially opted to leave the finger guard in place. However, the finger guard also had other downsides. Firstly, you do have beans lodging in the screw holes where the finger guard attaches. Secondly, it prevents easy access for cleaning the throat of the grinder. So off it went.
These were the reasons I only rated the Rocky at 8 for usability.
CLEANING THE ROCKY
Occasionally (usually once a week), but not after each session, I use a brush and a vacuum cleaner to clean the Rocky more thoroughly. With the finger guard removed this is a relatively thorough clean. I am yet to take off the burrs for a more complete cleaning but I think this is something that is only necessary maybe twice a year. I will elaborate more on this on my 3 month followup.
I am very happy with my Rocky doserless. I have found only two weaknesses but neither is what I would consider an irritation (as I have found a fix or a way of working around the "problem"). I really prefer a doserless grinder and I honestly do not think that Mazzer Mini E is worth over twice the price of the Rocky. So what I have here in my opinion the best value for money grinder for home use.
I bought mine from Risteriet in Copenhagen, Denmark. Friendly service and atmosphere. I always feel welcome and I have since become a regular. This is the place where I also get my freshly roasted beans.
The price was a bit steep at $400 but then again everything is relatively expensive here in Denmark (a Mazzer Mini E is around $900). I could have bought online for a lower price but the saving would have been approximately $75 minus the shipping costs. Not significant enough for me to justify not buying locally.
Three Month Followup
After having spent three months with the Rocky, my opinion of it has slightly deteriorated. Let me explain:
1) Cleaning the Rocky is more difficult than it needs to be. The most annoying feature is the spout which prevents access for cleaning the chute area. You need to remove the two screws to do this and while it does not take too much time, it is an annoyance. Furthermore, the spout is made of relatively brittle plastic and you have to be careful not to tighten the screws too much when reattaching the spout - otherwise you will break it (I actually ended up with a hairline of a crack in the spout because of this and I did not even use much force). More on cleaning the Rocky on my blog via this link: Click Here (www.temesblog.blogspot.com)
2) Despite the fact that I had removed the finger guard from the hopper, I did experience beans getting stuck in the hopper and therefore not entering the throat of the grinder. One has to remove the hopper lid and stir the beans to resume grind. Now this is really annoying as it usually happens mid-grind and because both of your hands are occupied when using the Rocky. In other words, you will need to put the partly filled portafilter on your counter, stir the beans, pick up the PF and continue the grind. I must also point out that the beans I use are not even that oily so I assume this problem is even worse if you prefer darker roasts.
3) The above point naturally flows into my next complaint. The fact that when grinding with the Rocky, you hold the portafilter in one hand and press the grind activation switch with the other means that you need to stand next to the grinder all through the grinding process. This seems like time wasted as you could be doing something more productive in the meantime (doing the cooling flush on your machine, pre-heating your cups or even frothing your milk). When preparing multiple consecutive shots this gets really annoying and you will be having the portafilter out of the grouphead, cooling down for extended periods of time.
4) The doserless Rocky makes a mess. There is no grounds catch tray to speak of and even if there was, the grinds spray from the spout in a way that you cannot avoid having them end up on your counter. Doserless grinders do have their merits but cleanliness is not one of them.
5) The Rocky suffers from static problems. The above mentioned messiness may partly be a result of this, and that is annoying enough in its own right, but these static problems also result in clumpiness of the grind. This makes proper distribution of the coffee more difficult to achieve.
Because of the above observations, I have actually lowered the scores on the Rocky in almost all areas, but especially on the category of usability. This may sound harsh after the very positive review I wrote back in April. For the sake clarity, please note that I still think that Rocky is a good grinder. All grinders available today have their weaknesses - some have more of them than others. Since writing my original review of the Rocky I have upgraded to a Mazzer Mini with a doser. I have found that while it surpassed the doserless Rocky in all of the areas I have pointed out above, there is not much difference in the cup. In other words, the Rocky is able to generate great results in the cup and that is what matters the most. The stepped adjustment on the Rocky does not allow for fine-tuning your grind to the extent that the stepless adjustment on my Mazzer Mini, but it can actually be a benefit if you also use the grinder for french press or moka-pot. More on how I think the Rocky doserless compares to the Mazzer Mini on my blog via this link: http://temesblog.blogspot.com/2005/07/mazzer-vs-rocky.html
In my original review I also noted that I'd take a look into cleaning the burrs. Well, I did that and it is an easy operation in the Rocky. It is also something that I will be doing occasionally with the Mazzer to ensure that there isn't too much coffee packed around or on the burrs. More on Rocky burr-cleaning on my blog via think link: Click Here (temesblog.blogspot.com)
Finally, I have also changed my opinion regarding buying again. Now that I have upgraded, I have also realised that I should have gone for the Mazzer Mini in the first place. This is also my recommendation (provided that you can afford it), i.e. go for the best grinder you can afford in the first place.
One Year Followup
I seem to be going through grinders at a fairly high pace. I mentioned that after the Rocky I moved on to the Mazzer Mini. After that I have actually moved on to the Mazzer Mini-E, which I am again in the process of upgrading. What I have learned from this process is to not skimp on the grinder - absolutely get the best you can afford in the first place (even if you have to make a slight compromise on the espresso machine).
I think that the additional comments I wrote for my 3 month follow-up on the Rocky still ring true to what my experience on the grinder is.