What they are, how they work, and what can go wrong.
No grinder is invincible, especially if the unexpected happens and you grind a stone or screw which surreptitiously slipped into your beans.
If you aren’t mechanically inclined, however – or if you’ve never worked on your Baratza grinder before, you might be intimidated by the idea of a home diagnosis and repair. That’s understandable, and a big part of why we offer a comprehensive flat-rate repair program to our customers in the United States.
If the repair program isn’t the best fit for you, that doesn’t mean it has to be hard to get back to grinding! Our extensive troubleshooting documentation and ace Support team can help you diagnose the problem. From there, all of our parts are available directly from us, or from our international importers.
Our machines are a lot simpler, mechanically, than you might think. That’s part great engineering and part user-friendly design. You can boil most of our grinders down to three systems: Electrical, Grind Adjustment, and Transmission.
A powered grinder needs power. That much is obvious, but it gets a little more complicated. Baratza grinders are equipped with Direct Current (DC) motors, which provide full torque immediately on start up which allows for a faster, more efficient grind. The problem is that power out of the wall is Alternating Current (AC). That AC has to be converted into DC on a circuit board. Our grinders do this, and add a few safety features: a thermal overload fuse and safety interlock switch.
If your grinder has problems with the electrical system, it’s usually pretty obvious: the machine will simply refuse to start, or will emit a low humming noise. The humming noise is that overload fuse tripping, which happens because something is making the motor draw too much current. This is almost always a clog, which will need clearing out.
A dead silent machine is usually due to a problem with the wiring, circuit board, or the motor itself. A wiring issue is as simple as plugging something back in, and the circuit board and motor can be replaced with just a few screws and our instructions!
One of the best features of a Baratza grinder is the adjustability it provides. Although designing an adjustment system can be a challenge, fixing one doesn’t have to be. At its heart, the grind adjustment system on a burr grinder simply regulates the distance between the two burrs. The wider the gap, the coarser the grind because bigger and bigger pieces of coffee can fit between each burr. A narrow gap, on the other hand, means coffee has to grind down finer and finer before it can pass through a burrset.
Damage to an adjustment system typically shows up in the grind itself: overly coarse or very inconsistent grinding. Adjustment trouble can also manifest in the form of extremely fine grinding, even at coarse settings.
Many of our grinders are equipped with a safety feature in the form of a sacrifice part. It’s an intentional weak-point that’s designed to fail in the event of sudden stress on the burrs. That, plus the fuses installed in our grinders, help ensure that our machines can roll with the punches.
The electrical system keeps your grinder’s motor turning, and the grind adjustment system keeps the burrs at the right distance for your brewing needs. Tying these two together is the transmission.
The transmission takes the force of a rotating motor and transfers it to a rotating burr. In the Encore, our most popular model, the transmission is a simple gear. Our motor turns the gear and that gear turns the lower burr, allowing for powered grinding at reduced RPM from what the motor would provide if we simply mounted a burr to a DC motor. This is great for a grinder because it allows the use of a powerful DC motor without RPM’s so high that the burrset won’t grab and grind coffee properly.
Other models use belt drives or planetary gears, and although they’re more complex in design the user experience is the same: smooth grinding of coffee.
Problems with the transmission are easy to see: the grinder runs but won’t grind coffee. This makes sense – the transmission connects the motor to the burrs and if that system is compromised, the machine powers up but the burrs are going nowhere.
Transmission issues are rarer thanks to sacrifice parts and overload fuses, but they can still happen. They typically require a lot more disassembly than problems with either of the other systems, but with proper instruction and regular tools, any user can get in and replace a damaged part.
Don’t feel intimidated (or mystified) by your Baratza grinder. A lot of engineering went and keeps going into making these machines as simple as one, two, three different systems. The Baratza formula is innovation plus support equals reliability.