What grinder is best for me? This question has popped up more than a few times in this Support department, I hope that this blog will help inform and educate how to optimize your grinder selection for your caffeination needs.
(Note: Since the original publication of this blog, I have completed a new complementary YouTube video. Check it out here).
The first thing you need to decide is what kind of brew method(s) you plan on employing. Next, think about how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. Coffee, like all things, can be a basic pleasure, or a scientific art. Having expensive equipment definitely helps procure good extractions, but spending gobs of money is not going to guarantee you delicious shots, beautiful art or delicate flavors in your pourover. Those things come from practice, understanding, and appreciation of the process. Are you interested in drinking a tasty cup of coffee, and that is all? Do you want to find the perfect balance of complimentary notes in your manual extraction? Or, do you want to pull an exact 30 second, two ounce with crema shot (or whatever parameters you prefer) and have the ability to change the shot time in increments as small as one second?
We have two different families of grinder models- conical and flat burr grinders. The discussion of which is better between conical vs flat burrs could be compared to the argument of Ford vs Chevy; people will stick to their side of the argument tooth and nail depending on personal preference. I can only speak specifically to the pros and cons of Baratza conical and flat burr grinders. All of our grinders are designed to grind per dose, they are not intended for batch grinding- that is, they are not intended to grind a whole pound of coffee through in one shot.
The current conical lineup includes the Encore, Virtuoso, and Preciso. These grinders all have 40mm conical burrs made in Liechtenstein. We pride ourselves on having high carbon, hardened conical burrs excellent in quality that generally last for about five hundred pounds of coffee. The powerful DC motors are low revving compared to AC motors, spinning the burrs at ~450rpm and keeping heat transfer to the grounds down. The transmission gear layout, GB2.0, accurately meshes the helical worm shaft of the motor with the reduction gear for a smooth, direct drive transfer of power. The grind is adjusted in a cork screw type fashion, with the adjustment ring threads pulling the stationary upper burr closer or further from the rotating lower burr. Grounds retention in the machine is about a gram, which reduces the amount of purging coffee through needed. The 100+ gram capacity bin and the discharge chute are made of an anti-static plastic, which helps battle the inevitable static better than a coating.
The flat burr lineup includes the Vario, Vario W, Forté All Purpose (AP) and Forté Brew Grinder (BG). All four of these units use 54mm flat burrs, have a digital front panel capable of saving 3 preset functions, and the adjuster levers are easy to read and adjust. Grind size is adjusted by a milled metal camshaft. As you raise the adjustment lever, the lobe on the camshaft presses up against the bottom of the lower burr, decreasing the gap between the lower burr and the stationary upper burr. The same DC motor as used in the conicals powers the burr, but using a belt drive transmission that reduces noise.
Our entry level conical burr grinder is the Encore. At $129 USD, it has a 40 setting range that produces an espresso fine grind as well the ability to grind a coarse French press grind. The Encore has an intermittent pulse button on the front of the machine as well as an on/off knob on the side. I recommend the Encore for those who do not want to commit substantial time for brewing, but understand and appreciate the benefit of fresh consistently ground coffee at home. The Encore does grind the slowest of our models, at an average rate of about a gram a second.
The Virtuoso is a step up from the Encore with a price point of $229 USD. With a sharp looking cast zinc upper casing and base, this grinder immediately catches the eye. Besides being nice to look at, it excels at a consistent coarse grind, and readily produces an espresso fine grind. Like the Encore, the Virtuoso has an intermittent pulse button, and on the side of the machine it also has a 60 second timer switch that offers a distinct advantage over the on/off switch of the Encore. The timer allows the user to roughly dose the amount of beans ground, and winds down, powering the grinder off while you prepare your filter/water/brew equipment. With a max throughput of around 2 grams a second, the Virtuoso is very efficient and quick enough for impatient coffee connoisseurs. I highly recommend the Virtuoso, as I enjoy operating mine at home for assorted manual brew methods.
The next step up in our model line, the Preciso, is directed for users who are seriously making espresso, along with manual extractions, and desire more control than the 40 step adjustment. Although the Virtuoso and Encore models will grind fine enough for espresso, a user may find it difficult to procure an exact shot time. The Preciso, at $299 USD, addresses this issue with the addition of a micro adjustment which allows users to find a grind setting in between the 40 macro steps, giving a total of 400 steps of adjustment. When pulling espresso shots the micro adjustment function can be used to adjust the shot time by as little as one second (all other variables remaining the same). I recommend the Preciso for users who are pulling shots and are controlling the other variables such as dosage, water weight, shot time, temperature, tamp pressure, and of course having fresh beans (preferably less than two weeks from the roast date).
The Vario is our ceramic flat burr grinder at $479 USD that grinds based on a time input (10.3 seconds, 15.8 seconds, etc). With macro and micro adjustment options, the Vario with the stock ceramic burrs is superb at grinding for espresso. We also offer a set of steel burrs that are designed for manual brew grinding. The digital display holds three preset times that are programmable by the user. A metal Porta Holder with dosing funnel is included with the Vario, allowing users to grind hands-free into the espresso basket with minimal mess from static spray. The regular grounds bin has a 140+ gram capacity and is made of static dissipating plastic. I recommend the Vario for espresso fanatics, and encourage heavy users to buy the Vario over the Preciso.
Mechanically speaking, the Vario-W is identical to the Vario. However, rather than grinding based on a time input, the Vario-W grinds based on a desired weight input and will grind the dose within 0.2 grams of the desired input. This allows users to control another variable in the brewing equation without additional equipment/steps. With a 300 gram maximum capacity of the load cell, the user cannot grind by weight directly into an espresso porta filter- only into the 120+ gram capacity grounds bin provided. A hopper with shutoff valve is included with the Vario-W, making it easy to remove the hopper without dumping the beans out or falling out the bottom when the hopper is removed. The Vario-W is priced at $559 USD.
At $129 USD, the Esatto is an attachment for our conical burr grinders that allows the users to grind by weight directly into the 60 gram capacity grounds bin provided, saving the user the extra step of weighing the dose on a separate scale. The Esatto has a 300 gram max cap for the scale and cannot grind by weight directly into an espresso porta filter. The Esatto fits the Encore, Virtuoso, Preciso, as well as our superseded models Maestro Plus and Baratza Starbucks Barista P/N 1MP1SP.
The Forté AP retails for $899 USD and is a more rugged version of the Vario. A perfect fit for low-volume, single origin or decaf espresso coffee grinder, we recommend it for grinding up to five pounds (2.25kg) of coffee in a day. Utilizing the same theory of operation as the Vario, the Forté has stronger transmission components, a metal grind chamber and metal levers. The metal components noticeably improve the dialing in process of extracting espresso shots.
Operationally, the Forté has both grind-by-time and grind-by-weight in one unit. Although dosing directly into the porta filter with the included metal PortaHolder can only be accomplished with grind-by-time, the Forte has a software conversion (Smart Dosing) allowing the user to most accurately dose directly into your porta filter. The Mahlkoenig ceramic burrs of the AP have a throughput rate of 2.0g/s to 3.5g/s. Designed to optimize espresso grinding, they are still capable of producing an acceptable French press coarse grind.
The Forté BG, at $919 USD, is identical to the Forté AP except the burr set. The Forté BG comes equipped with a steel burr set that was designed specifically to reduce the amount of fines found in the coarse grind. The throughput rate is 1.2 to 2.4 g/s. Although the Forté BG does not include a metal PortaHolder, the part can be purchased separately and used with the BG. With a small footprint and splendid coarse grind, the BG is an ideal match for your manual brew bar.
If you are looking for a grinder for Turkish
No Baratza grinders are designed for Turkish coffee grinding. Although our grinders are capable of producing a Turkish fine grind, the demands on the machine are high. Our grinders have a thermal overload protection circuit that will cut power to the motor if it draws a large amount. Power consumption for Turkish is great, which will cause the machine to shut down into protect mode until it has cooled down for 15 or 20 minutes- perhaps before even grinding a full dose. I have helped several customers with Baratza grinders and the intention of Turkish over the years; none in my experience have been satisfied. I recommend a hand grinder for home Turkish grinding.
I hope you've found this blog helpful in finding the Baratza grinder that best suits your needs and budget!