One of the most overlooked, yet most important, factors in the making of a great cup of coffee is the quality of the grind. The grind effects extraction more than most people realize. The smaller the grind, the higher the extraction. If a brew is overextracted it will be bitter. Underextracted coffee tastes thin and insipid. Being able to precisely control the grind size is important in dialing in any brew method.
Additionally, some brew methods like French Press require very consistent, coarse grinds. At the other end of the spectrum, espresso requires a highly consistent fine grind and is best when the burrs do such a good job with the grind that the coffee has a fluffy, velvety quality.
A blade grinder (you know, that whirly blade device you got at Walnart) doesn't do the job for several reasons. First, the grind isn't consistent at all. Some bits get ground into powder, while others are large. Dust and boulders, as they say. This greatly effects the flavor of your brew. Secondly, the blades on the grinders spin so fast that heat is generated and the beans can actually burn. Thirdly, the slicing action of a blade grinder creates fine dust that effects flavor in the cup.
A good burr grinder answers all of these problems. The burrs turn slowly, they crush instead of slice, and the particles are consistent. A good burr grinder will allow the user to adjust the grind level so that any brew method can be carefully dialed in for the perfect amount of extraction.
With all this in mind, I am of the opinion that the quality of the grinder is actually more important than the quality of the brewer. Because, I can compensate for a poorly made brewer with a good grinder. Even a cheap automatic drip brewer can be coaxed into behaving reasonably well, despite tepid water, with the right dose and grind combination. That's why I say that as soon as you get your roaster, start saving for a good grinder. It is, in my opinion, the next thing a coffee enthusiast should purchase.
Before the Encore came the popular Baratza Maestro Plus. Many of you may be familiar with that model. The Encore is an upgraded version of the Maestro Plus. Specifically, the Encore features upgraded conical burrs and an all new gearbox.
Featuring 40 individual grind settings, from fine to coarse, the Encore's specially designed burrs give a precise grind with minimal fines for a flavorful, balanced extraction when making any kind of coffee from a passable espresso grind to pour over to automatic drip and even french press. This grinder covers it all quite well in an inexpensive package.
The Encore is built with quality parts as well. Baratza has a world-wide reputation for quality and the Encore is no exception. The casing is made from fiberglass reinforced plastic, and the internal parts are heavy duty. I was amazed at how heavy the grinder was the first time I pulled one from the box.
The DC motor keeps your beans cool, even during extended grind sessions, while a combination of electric and gear speed reducers slow the burr to an ideal 450 RPM, ensuring a smooth bean feed and reducing noise, heat and static buildup. This will keep your beans from getting hot and losing that precious flavor.
A convenient, front-mounted pulse button makes it easy to grind on demand into your brew basket if you are making espresso and want to grind directly into your portafilter.
Additionally, all the pertinent parts are coated with an anti-static treatment that keeps the coffee moving through the grinder without mess. When you are finished grinding, there suprisingly little mess (if any) when you dump the ground coffee into your brewer.
Burrs: Manufactured in Europe, the Encore’s 40 mm conical burrs will grind for many styles of coffee. Conical burr grinders are exceptional at producing consistent grinds from very fine to very coarse as well as being durable and will remain sharp for many years.
Gearbox: In 2012, Baratza introduced the second generation Gearbox (GB 2.0). With GB 2.0, Baratza has significantly increased the strength and durability of the drive transmission while decreasing noise. In addition to a new drive shaft, motor mounting plate and bushings, this change includes a new drive gear made of 15% glass filled thermo plastic which is quieter than the prior metal gear, wears better and is more shock resistant. During the Encore’s rigorous testing process, stainless steel screws were thrown into the burrs, and in every case the motor/gear/burrs stopped immediately, the (automatically-resettable) thermal cutout was triggered, and the gears were fine.
Grind Adjustment: Turn the hopper and with 40 settings you can quickly adjust from fine for espresso to coarse for French Press. The grind range is from 250 to 1200 microns.
Grinds Left in Grinder: To maximize freshness, the Encore minimizes the ground coffee left in the grinder.
Brewing Methods: The Encore is a great grinder for pour over, aeropress, drip, french press and espresso. Yeah, it pretty much does it all well.
Motor: A powerful, high torque DC motor drives the burrs. This motor turns slowly resulting in cool, quiet operation and permits long grinding duty-cycles. The circuitry is equipped with an automatically resetting, thermal cutoff switch.
Calibration: An innovative burr calibration system ensures that each grinder has the full range of grind. If necessary, the grinders can be user calibrated.
Speed Control: With unique speed control, the Encore uses a combination of gear and electronic speed reduction to control the rotation of the burr to 450 RPM. The electronic speed controller is adjustable from 405 to 495 RPM in the event that specific user conditions require modification of the speed. This slow speed reduces heat, noise, and static generation in the grinder. It also ensures that the beans feed smoothly into the burrs.
On-off Switch: The Encore has an easy on-off switch.
Cleaning: Burrs are easily removable with no tools, making cleaning very easy.
Hopper: The hopper at the top of the grinder has a nice capacity, but you aren't actually storing your precious home roasted beans in that are you?
I use this grinder myself and I can say that I'm pretty impressed. It's quiet, well made, the grind quality is great and the price is right. Baratza is a trusted name, and their grinders are probably the most commonly recommended in the specialty coffee world. I'm excited to offer it here.
How does it compare to the Baratza Virtuoso grinder? The Virtuoso has an upgraded burr set which does a better job with the finer espresso grinds. It also grinds a bit faster, has a grind timer and has metal casing. If you are a regular espresso drinker, or would prefer a more robust and attractive grinder for your counter, consider the Virtuoso as an option.
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