Rancilio Rocky Review | The Best Coffee Grinder of 2017

This Rancilio Rocky review takes you behind the scenes of the popular prosumer espresso grinder. Although it’s referred to as an espresso grinder, it can provide a broad range of consistencies from coarse to fine.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to this workhorse of a grinder. We’ll go over the grind quality, grind consistency, ease of use and durability. Although there are lots of reasons to love the Rocky, if you’re not sold on the product, we offer up some information on a suitable alternative.

Of course, we infuse the article with all of the research that we’ve done over the years as well as a bit of humor and fun. Our intention is to give you the information in easy-to-digest tidbits so that you can find the best coffee grinder for your needs.

Rancilio Rocky HSD-ROC-SD

Rancilio Rocky Review

No matter how expensive or high quality your brewing equipment is, you aren’t going to produce the best cup of coffee with shoddy grounds. Store-bought ground coffee is stale. Blade grinders hack up the grounds and heat them up, leaving you with an inconsistent taste. A high-quality grinder can really help you tweak the coffee that you already love to make it even more perfect. Once you try it, you may never go back.

Quick 1-minute breakdown


If you're in a hurry and just want to know whether or not you should purchase the Rancilio Rocky, let me give you a quick breakdown:

  • If you are looking for a grinder capable of producing both fine espresso grinds, as well as coarser grinds for drip and French press, the Rocky is your new best friend. Especially the espresso grind is of high consistency, a requirement for the perfect espresso.
  • If you are looking for a competitively priced grinder which has stand his ground for the last few years, the Rancilio Rocky won't let you down. This grinder has almost no negative reviews, which is quite unique for a coffee grinder. 
  • If you want a weight-based or time-based mechanism for dosing, than the Rocky unfortunately will let you down. Its operated with an on/ off switch, with no auto-shutoff. Check out our alternatives if that's what you're looking for.

Grind quality
Grind consistency
Ease of use
Durability
Price
Average


If you're still unsure, please keep reading. Hopefully, after reading this full and detailed Rancilio Rocky review, you can make a solid decision. If not, just let me know in the comments, where I am happy to answer any questions.


This article can be found under:

Brand(s): Rancilio
Budget: $250-500
Class: Prosumer
Type of coffee: Espresso, Drip coffee, French press

First published: 5/23/2017
Last update: 5/23/2017


How did we review the Rancilio Rocky HSD-ROC-SD?

The goal of each of the reviews on Let's Grind Some Coffee is to do an insane amount of research, so you don't have to anymore. We work with a number of talented and experienced writers, who know what they're talking about. Each writer is responsible for conducting his/her own research, so there's no miscommunication possible. When doing this review we didn't own the Rancilio Rocky. For the comparison I used product reviews, customers comments, and instruction videos and manuals. For more information, please have a look at the disclaimer at the end of this article.

Click to learn more about our review process


An Introduction to the Rancilio Rocky

Although the Rancilio Rocky SD is a consumer grinder, it uses the same burrs as entry-level commercial grinders. This provides you with long-lasting, consistent function.

At 50 mm, the burrs also have a larger grinding surface than many affordable consumer grinders. You can grind more in less time with bigger burrs. This machine lets you grind almost 8 pounds of coffee per hour. While we assume that you’re not drinking that much, it’s nice to know that it will hold up to heavy use.

That said, the grinder is not designed for use in a commercial setting. It just brings the same toughness to your home.

Coffee 101:
To Burr or not to Burr?

Burr grinders are far superior to blade grinders, as they allow for a more consistent grind. Two burr are rotated against each other to grind the coffee, with different grind setting to get the grind as fine or coarse as you need.
To Burr or not to Burr?

The Rancilio Rocky doserless model lets you manually select the amount of coffee that you use in your preferred brewing device. There is a doser model available, but many users say that it’s more cumbersome to use the dosing feature than to portion out your grounds manually.

The hopper holds about half a pound of beans at a time. You can fill it up and dispense the grounds as you go. The tinted plastic keeps the beans protected from UV light. However, many users recommend adding beans to the hopper each time you grind. If you store them in the machine, they can be adversely affected by temperature and humidity. Also, they can leave an oily residue in your grinder.

In sum, this grinder is durable and grinds your coffee quickly and quietly. We’ll go into more detail about the grind quality and consistency below.


Grind Quality

The Rancilio Rocky has 55 stepped grind settings. This allows you to generate coarse or fine grounds with the twist of the hopper. For those who are really in tune with their grind quality, the stepped settings could pose a limitation. You can’t do much tweaking in between each indicated step. However, the Rocky offers a fairly wide range for most consumers purchasing an entry-level grinder.

Many people find it easy to produce an espresso with or without pressure after grinding the beans with the Rocky. Although there are conflicting reviews about how the grinder performs for a coarse grind, you should be able to generate adequately coarse beans for a French press.

Some consumers say that the Rocky produces a uniform grind quality at finer grinds but doesn’t perform well for coarser grinds. It definitely doesn’t produce fine enough grounds for Turkish coffee, either. However, it delivers a great grind quality for espresso and drip coffee.

One of the other complaints about this product is that it doesn’t handle oily beans well. A dark-roasted bean with an oily finish may jam the machine if you’re processing it into a finer powder. Using oily beans can also result in clumpy grounds.


Grind Consistency

Espresso grind with clumps

Espresso grind with clumps

As for creating uniform grounds, the Rancilio Rocky does a great job. You can visually inspect the grounds for consistency. If you take apart the Rocky for cleaning, make sure to thread the burr on properly so that it continues to produce a uniform grind. The unit won’t let you turn the dial past 0. This prevents the burrs from grinding against each other and damaging themselves.

However, it also may leave you desiring a finer grind. Not that we’re advocating for messing with factory settings, but you can always remove the restricting screw inside the hopper that prevents you from turning it past 0. Once you do that, you can find the true 0 point, which is the setting at which the burrs just barely touch. This will help you produce a finer powder. There are a few settings to play around with on the coarse side of things. With these, you can produce a great cup of French press.

Some users mention that this grinder creates a dense, clumpy powder. For the price, that’s not the worst thing. It’s hard to find an entry-level grinder that will produce a more consistent grind. You just don’t see the brewing range from all-purpose grinders at this price point. Therefore, the decision of whether to buy a Rocky Rancilio may come down to your budget.

Ease of Use

It helps to read the manual when you receive the Rocky. There’s a bit of a learning curve, especially if you’ve never used an electric burr grinder. Adjusting the settings can be slightly frustrating. You may feel like you need four hands to change the configuration. If you don’t have your hand securely on the hopper and the hopper lock, you could lose the setting. This video by Seattle Coffee Gear shows you an easy workaround.

Quite a bit of leftover coffee remains in the chute after you’re done grinding. If you don’t get this out, it will mix with your next grind, affecting the quality of the grind. We would love it if there were a delay that allowed the remainder of the old coffee to shoot out.

At a coarser grind, you may experience static cling in the grounds. This can make a bit of a mess and get a little annoying, but it’s an issue with many grinders.

There’s no timer or weight mechanism. Therefore, you have to determine how much coffee to grind all by yourself. That shouldn’t require much effort once you’ve played around a bit, however. You do have to hold the power switch down the entire time that you’re grinding. You can’t just set it and walk away. These are all minor issues, however. 


Durability

The motor on the Rancilio Rocky is powerful and efficient. The motor itself weighs about 12 pounds. The burrs rotate at 1725 RPMs. With all of that power, you’d think that it would be loud. However, because it is so efficient, it tends to be quieter than other grinders at an equivalent price point. The large burrs also generate less heat, resulting in a better-tasting brew.

If the machine does jam or get clogged for some reason, it will automatically shut off to protect the motor and other components from heat damage. The device is also tested for quality before it’s sent out. The proof is in the coffee powder that you might see in the grinder when you open it.

The metal casing provides added durability. This grinder feels like a rock. Although some people don’t love the plastic hopper and would prefer metal or glass, we like the durability of the plastic and the fact that we can see the beans through it.


Alternatives to the Rancilio Rocky

Best Alternative: Baratza Sette 270 and 270W

The Contender for the #1 Best Coffee Grinder

Is there an equivalent to the Rancilio Rocky? Yes, there is! The new Baratza Sette is a great alternative at a slightly higher, but still mid-range price point. Both are prosumer appliances. They feature components and design that was intended for commercial equipment. However, they are sold at consumer prices.

The Sette produces an even more consistent grind than the Rocky. You don’t have to compromise by sticking to mid-level settings. You can get consistency for a French press to a fine espresso. You may not notice the difference if you’re just starting to get more familiar with coffee. However, a connoisseur can taste the slight variation.

Why does grind consistency matter? If you’re making one cup of coffee from several sizes of grounds, you’ll have some grounds that make the perfect coffee. Some will be too weak. Some will be too strong. Those notes end up in your final brew too, tainting it just a little. 

If your grounds are uniform, every one of them delivers coffee perfection.The Sette offers a more progressive modification of the coarseness settings. It doesn’t have a stepped grind adjustment. Therefore, you have a virtually infinite range of grind levels. It can produce finer powder than the Rocky. However, it still doesn’t grind fine enough for Turkish coffee.

What else differs between the two machines? The Sette’s chute is vertical. The Rocky’s is horizontal. With the Sette, you don’t have to deal with leftover grounds in the chute. If you’re switching from a coarse to a fine grind or vice versa, you don’t have to throw out the initial discharge because it contains grounds from the previous use. Therefore, the Sette is easier to clean. In fact, you don’t have to do much to keep it free of debris. With the Rocky, you may have to devise a method to get those pesky grounds out of the chute. Although that’s not absolutely necessary, it can result in less wasted coffee.

Both grinders have large burrs and high speeds. However, the Sette grinds more espresso per second.The Sette has several automatic features, which the Rocky doesn’t offer. This isn’t a huge issue for beginners. In fact, some say that the manual operation of the Rocky helps novices get a feel for everything that goes into creating a great grind.

One of the most convenient features of the Sette is its weight mechanism, which is found on the Sette 270W. The forks that hold the portafilter are calibrated to sense the weight of the coffee. Therefore, you can grind several equal doses without putting much thought into the process. Three programmable buttons let you save your favorite settings. The regular Sette 270 (without the W) doesn't have this functionality (which adds about $130 to the price), putting it in the same price class as the Rancilio Rocky. 

One of the biggest disadvantages of the Baratza is that it hasn’t been around for nearly as long as the Rocky. The Rocky has a reputation for being robust and reliable. You know that you’re paying for what you get. The Baratza doesn’t have the same history. It doesn’t have a bad history; it just doesn’t have much history at all. However, the manufacturer is dependable and has created durable equipment in the past. There’s no reason to believe that anything would change.

It’s just that some of the newer features of the Baratza, such as the weight mechanism in the portafilter fork, have never been seen before. It also offers Bluetooth capability, which lets you keep track of some of your settings. We’ve heard that the Bluetooth isn’t as user-friendly as you might think. These newer benefits may require some more years of testing before we can make a confident claim as to their strength.

Best Budget Alternative: Breville Smart Grinder Pro

Smart dosing features, less consistency and grind quality.

The Breville Smart Grinder Pro is a perfect alternative if you're looking for more control over your dosing. The "Smart" part of the Smart Grinder Pro involves an auto-shutoff based on number of cups, along with an specified amount of coffee grind per cup. 

The LED display shows your grind setting (coarse to fine), along with the number of cups, and the grind time. Tweaking these settings give you the right amount of grounds for any type of coffee. This works very convenient, just keep in mind that you need to keep adjusting as beans get older.

The downside of the Smart Grinder Pro is that it's coffee grind is less consistent than that of the Rocky. Also, the Rocky is capable of producing finer grind, as its settings range is more on the "espresso-side" than the Smart Grinder. However, as the latter is quite a bit cheaper than the Rocky, that's the budget decision you need to make.


Rounding up the Rancilio Rocky Review

That’s our analysis of the Rancilio Rocky espresso grinder. It’s such a great value for the price. It offers superior performance and durability. You will keep it around for years unless you upgrade as you get even more obsessed with coffee, as we are.

The best alternative is the Sette, which has a slightly higher price point and more automatic features. Both would look great in your kitchen.

As always, thanks for reading. If you end up purchasing one of these grinders, will you let us know in the comments? We’re always interested in hearing what our readers have to say.


Resources used for this review