Why should you consider spending a decent stack of money on a burr grinder?
The fact that you have made it to this article means that you have probably at least thought about that question. And the most simple answer is that a good grinder is perhaps the most significant first step towards good coffee.
One of the very first rules of coffee is that the quality of your brew will never exceed the grind consistency of your beans. The elements of a delicious coffee are quality beans, a quality coffee maker, quality technique, and a quality grinder.
And that is why I am so excited to finally review the Rancilio Rocky SD burr grinder. We have owned this grinder for a number of years now and can honestly say that it has made a huge difference to the quality of our espresso.
If you are looking for a burr grinder that will last a lifetime, work like a packhorse, and grind with consistency, then the Rocky by Rancilio may just be the grinder for you.
Who is the Rancilio Rocky Grinder For?
This is a high quality grinder that is really designed for espresso. With 55 grind settings it can easily cater to most brewing methods with the possible exception of Turkish coffee. However, considering the price there are far cheaper reliable options for other brewing methods such as the Baratza Encore.
Because espresso requires greater precision and grind consistency, we use our Rocky exclusively for espresso and have found it superb for that function. For manual brewing methods such as pour over or Aeropress see our recommendations here and for grinders specifically for French Press see our article here.
The Rancilio Rocky is a great option for the espresso lover who is willing to spend the money to get a burr grinder that will last.
There are two different models of the Rancilio Rocky; the SD model which is doserless and which we are reviewing here, and the SS model which comes with a doser. We recommend that the SD model is best for normal home use.
Rancilio Rocky Burr Grinder Review
What’s To Love About The Rancilio Rocky?
The single most important factor in choosing a grinder is the consistency of the size of the coffee particles it produces. This is the reason that we always recommend buying a burr grinder over a blade grinder. Great tasting coffee is coffee that has been extracted evenly which is in large part governed by the consistency of the grind size. If you really want to understand coffee grinding then see our Coffee Grinding Guide and Grind Chart here.
Basically the Rocky grinder has excellent grind consistency especially for the finer grinds required for espresso. This is due to the commercial size and quality of the burrs, and the quality make of the machine. We have used this grinder along both an entry level (<$500) and a mid level (>$500) espresso machine and have found it to be more than capable for the task.
It is worth noting that as with many other grinders some users have found it to not deal so well with the exceptionally coarse grind size that some people use for French Press.
Design and Build Quality
Basically the Rancilio Rocky is a beast of a machine that is built specifically to be able to deal with a heavy volume of use. In design it is a bit of a brick and has a very industrial feel and look to it. It is a very heavy grinder at 7kg which is good in a grinder. Both the burrs and the motor are made to be able to deal with a light commercial load and so are more than capable of dealing with almost anything you chuck at them in a home setting.
If you do end up buying a Rancilio grinder one common surprise is that when it arrives it will come with traces of coffee dust on it. Every Rancilio grinder is factory tested with real beans to ensure consistent quality. This grinder also comes with a thermal overload shutoff which in the case of overheating will shut off the grinder. However, over a number of years our Rocky has never come even close to overheating.
The grinder also comes with a 300g blue plastic hopper. The idea of the blue plastic is that it is designed to prevent beans from being affected by UV light. However, the lid of the hopper is not airtight and so we recommend storing your beans in an external airtight container.
In terms of noise level it sits somewhere in the middle. It is definitely quieter than some grinders, but it is also a definite conversation killer if you are trying to talk and grind at the same time.
Ease of Use
In a sense both the strength and weakness of this grinder is its minimalistic design. It is all about grinding coffee well and that is pretty much all it does. It comes with a power switch on the side, a pulse grinding button on the front, and also a locking mechanism connected to the hooper. There is a removable portafilter cradle which you can either sit your portafilter into or remove and put a container underneath.
To set the grind setting the grinder has to be turned on and then you simply hold down the locking mechanism and turn clockwise for finer and anticlockwise for coarser. Some users have complained that this can be a hassle, but we have personally found it to be very simple and effective.
In terms of then using it, you simply place your portafilter into the cradle underneath the spout, make sure the grinder is switched on, and then hold down the pulse grinding button at the front for as long as is needed. To be fair, this is a point at which a few extra features would be nice such as an interface which would tell you how much is being grinded. As it is for espresso, we simply place our portafilter onto our coffee scales, tare it, and then measure out our desired dose from there. It is also worth noting that it can be messy and some grinds can fall to the side of the grinder especially if you are doing a larger dose.
But overall it is remarkably easy to use and its lack of features does add to its durability as there are simply less parts or components that can break or malfunction.
Easy to Clean and Maintain
The overall minimalistic design also aids the cleaning process. This is a very simple grinder to clean and requires little everyday maintenance. So we will do an extensive clean of it every couple of months and that has been more than sufficient. However, the regularity and effort in cleaning this or any grinder will depend a lot on the roast profile of the beans you use. Dark roasted beans tend to be a lot more oily than lighter roasts and so will require more effort in cleaning.
Changing the burrs on this espresso grinder is also very simple and does not require professional assistance. We recommend changing the burrs every 1-2 years depending on how much coffee you are putting through your grinder each week. The video below shows the simple process of giving the grinder an extensive clean as well as changing the burrs.
What’s Not To Love About the Rancilio Rocky?
Probably the biggest obstacle to people purchasing the Rocky is its price. It is simply a lot of money to fork out for a home coffee setup. As mentioned earlier, we recommend that this is really an entry level espresso grinder. So if you are looking for a grinder for other types of coffee brewing then you would probably be better off with the far cheaper but still decent Baratza Encore.
So is it worth the money? Well we clearly think so as we bought one but it will depend on what you are looking for, how much you are willing to pay and how picky you are about grinders.
Lack of Features
As has been mentioned above this is a fairly bare bones grinder. It grinds exceptionally well but that is all that it will do. It won’t weigh out your coffee, it won’t time your dose, you have to do all of that manually. So for some this is a real weakness and if you love extra features and nice digital interfaces then maybe this isn’t for you and you might prefer the Breville Smart Grinder Pro.
Stepped Rather Than Stepless
All burr coffee grinders are either stepped or stepless. Basically a stepped grinder has a number of preset grind settings that you can alternate between. This is great for if you will be switching between brewing methods. It means you can just remember for example that say setting #7 is for espresso and #18 is for pour over and switch between them easily and quickly. However the downside is that you have a limited number of potential grind settings and so especially for espresso are limited in how precisely you can dial in your specific beans.
A stepless grinder is one with a far greater number of potential grind settings that aren’t pre-set but are often done with a dial or something like that. This is great for espresso as it means you can be very precise in dialing in your beans and can make very small grind adjustments. And so for those who are espresso nerds (a term of praise not disparagement!) and often use more high end espresso machines a stepless grinder is usually a better option.
So for a fairly small group of espresso coffee lovers the stepped nature of the Rocky may be an off putter. However, for most people using espresso machines we believe that the Rocky will more than meet your needs!
So Should You Buy It?
Well ultimately that is a question you have to answer for yourself. If you love and regularly make espresso coffee and are looking for a grinder that is high quality, reliable, and will last then there is a good chance that the Rancilio Rocky is for you. As I have mentioned throughout this article, my wife and I own this grinder and have used it literally every day for years. We have never had the slightest issue with it and have found that it has really helped us step up our espresso game.
However if you are not mainly thinking of grinding for espresso then this probably isn’t the machine for you and we would recommend thinking about the Baratza Encore. Similarly, if you are deeply zealous about espresso and love the process of micro-adjusting the grind setting to get it perfect then you will likely get frustrated with the stepped nature of the Rocky and we recommend either the Baratza Sette 270 or the Baratza Vario.
So overall we believe the Rancilio Rocky to be a superb grinder especially for entry to mid-level espresso. The Rocky is tough as nails, works like a packhorse, and does grind with an admirable consistency. This is a grinder for the serious coffee lover who is willing to invest into his coffee hobby/passion and is after quality.
We have loved our Rocky and don’t regret buying it for a second. We hope this article has been helpful and informative about whether this burr grinder might be for you.