When you’re looking for a new coffee bean grinder, there are a lot on the market to choose from.
How do you choose between most of them?
What features matter the most?
Cost, durability, color, and size seem to be the things that most manufacturers advertise.
Two Italian brands are going head-to-head to see who offers something a little unique from their storied company’s past.
With 170 years combined in the global coffee business, Rancilio and Gaggia Milano offer something a little different than most of the grinders on the market.
The Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder vs The Gaggia MDF Grinder
Let’s take a look at how they stack up.
Rancilio is a company steeped deep in Italian history and they have been making coffee equipment for the last 90 years. After reading the historical timeline from their corporate website, you can sense their passion for coffee and why they first brought the Rocky model to market in 1990.
Over the last 27 years, the Rocky model has been continually upgraded and honed to provide a better grind for the everyday coffee enthusiast. The latest release in the Rocky model line features additional features and better control over the grind quality. One of the noted upgrades are 50mm grinding plates in tempered steel that can deliver 55 different types of grounds with just a touch of a button. It also has doser and doserless varieties to give the user more control over quantities depending on the equipment the grinds will be used in. You can choose between espresso, a simple filter, a carafe, or a portafilter for example.
Functional Features: Pros and Cons
• Commercial grinding burrs – The Rocky model feature commercial quality burrs that turn at a slow speed. The slower speed reduces heat during the grind, and that reduces any heat that is transferred to the beans and grounds. The electric motor is also well insulated to reduce transferred heat.
• Compact hopper – The Rocky model features a 8-oz hopper that will lift off for easy cleaning. An additional interesting feature is that it’s tinted blue for UV protection of the beans, but still clear enough to monitor the bean amount inside the hopper.
• Options for grinds – The dial on the machine allows you to choose between 55 levels of grinds. Whether you want a fine ground for an espresso, or something simple like a drip coffee, you can choose many different options.
• Quiet & Durable – Rancilio is known for commercial grade equipment, and the Rocky line is based on the principles of running quietly and staying durable in the hardest coffee environments: retail coffee locations. With that durability comes a protection system built into the machine that prevents overheating and damage due to a jam in the grinder. The machine is not advertised as a commercial grinder, but it is designed and built alongside the machines that are.
• Industrial design cues – The Rocky features stainless steel side panels to give it an industrial / commercial feel. It will fit well in a modern kitchen and can complement stainless steel appliances.
• Some owners that don’t drink a lot of coffee may find the Rocky machine to be too much machine for them. As it’s designed for high-output, it can easily handle a complete hopper or more in a day. If you don’t plan on more than a couple cups per day, the Rocky may be more machine than you need.
• The power switch can be cumbersome to use with a portafilter because the switch is in an awkward positon.
• The Rocky machine weighs in at 18 pounds. It’s a big machine, and will take up more counter space than a lesser machine. Be prepared for it to become a focal point in your kitchen.
Gaggia Milano is another Italian brand that has a storied history over the last 80 years. Gaggia started with an espresso machine that could make an espresso shot in one pump of a piston. It’s theorized that the original design was based on a Jeep engine. How crazy is that?
The Gaggia MDF is rated as a commercial grade burr grinder comparable to those found in European coffee bars. It features an automatic dosing between one or two cups of espresso, and has 34 settings for ground fineness. The housing is made of impact resistant plastic to reduce machine noise and increase durability. The machine does not have a selection knob to turn, instead a unique design allows you to turn the hopper to adjust the fineness setting.
Functional Features: Pros and Cons
• Commercial grinding burrs – The MDF model features 50mm tempered steel commercial grade burrs that do a great job and grinding your beans.
• Large hopper – The MDF model features a 10-oz hopper that will hold enough beans for many espresso cups. The hopper is molded in smoked plastic with a tight fitting lid to keep the freshness locked inside.
• Options for grinds – The machine has 34 variations for fineness of grinds. Most are tailored between an espresso coffee or a slow drip.
• Automatic dosing options – Pull the lever for one cup of espresso, or twice for two cups of espresso. It gives you flexibility to enjoy your cup your way.
• The dosing hopper will hold up to 7-oz of grounds
• The MDF is a bit slower than comparable units of the same size. This is attributed to the gear reduction system Gaggia uses in the grinder. This also reduces the heat generated by the burrs as it grinds.
• The MDF is listed as having commercial grade burrs, but the machine is great at just being in the home. For a large office, it probably won’t do well at such heavy usage.
• The weight of the machine is 10 pounds, and while that makes it easy to move around, it also makes it easy to have trouble when you’re dispensing coffee grounds.
Comparing the Rancilio Rocky and Gaggia MDF grinders, the two things that stand out the most are the different design styling and the purchase cost. The Rocky has a more industrial feel with the stainless steel look as opposed to the MDF with the molded plastic. Beyond the look, the Rocky is almost double the cost of the MDF. While it does have more grinding settings, 55 vs. 34, I have to question if the extra settings are enough to justify the cost difference. It may be a great purchase option for someone with a better taste palette for fine coffee, but for the average Joe I would bet the Gaggia MDF is more than capable of grinding well enough.