Baratza Encore ESP vs Fellow Opus
Today we're launching two competing grinders from two well known and respected brands: The Baratza Encore ESP and the Fellow Opus. And when I say competing, I mean they're nearly exactly the same price ($199.95 vs $195), they are meant to fill the exact same role (a do-it-all grinder from espresso all the way to cold brew) and they are both manufactured by awesome brands. So how do you choose?!
Well first, you really can't go wrong with either of these grinders. In fact, you couldn't be blamed for choosing entirely based on looks. The Encore ESP has the same design as the entry level legend, the Encore.
But maybe you're like me and you've had an Encore on your counter for 8 years and you're ready for an aesthetic change. Enter the Opus with it's sleek commercial inspired design.
This was a breath of fresh air in our kitchen and I'll admit I chose the Opus for our home mostly based on this! Again, you really can't go wrong with either. While it's currently only available in matte black, the white version will be released later this year. So if you need a white grinder and you need it now, the ESP is your only option!
Other than aesthetics, how do these two grinders really differ? Mostly it's the grind adjustment. Remember that these two grinders are meant to fill a role in the entry level market that's never really been done well: do-it-all. That means as coarse as cold brew and french press to a level of fine adjustment required for espresso, so the grind size adjustment is really where the rubber meets the road. The ESP uses a revolutionary variable thread design that seems obvious and simple once you think about it. At the more coarse end of the grind options (#21-40) the threads are spread apart more for quick adjustment between larger grind sizes intended for filter/drip and immersion brewing. Once you hit #20 all the way to #1, the threads are spaced much closer together meaning you've got the finer adjustments necessary for dialing in full 9 bar espresso. And that's what we love about the ESP, it's SUPER intuitive and easy to use across the entire grind spectrum! There have been some additional upgrades such as an added single dose grinding bin for easy transfer to a 54 and 58 mm portafilter, but otherwise the ESP is nearly identical to it's time proven forebear. It's got the same gearbox and motor as the Encore along with the same upgraded M2 burrs as the Virtuoso+, so you know it's a safe choice.
So what don't we like about the ESP? It's. so. loud. This is a common issue among entry level electric grinders and Baratza is no exception. This is a grinder you're gonna be shy about running while the rest of the family is asleep early in the morning. My wife running our Encore grinder has been my alarm clock for years now, no joke! That is, until a few mornings ago after we brought the Opus home for testing and I almost overslept! It's easily half as loud as the Encore. If a quiet grinding experience is a big requirement for your home, I highly recommend the Opu.! I'll have to start setting an alarm...
So we prefer the quiet grinding and looks of the Opus, what don't we like about it? Well I think Baratza takes the cake on ease of grind adjustment. The Opus is super easy to adjust and has plenty of grind size options...for filter and immersion brewing. But once you get to espresso, it gets a little more convoluted. Settings 1 through 2 (with 5 clicks between them) are intended for espresso and that's just not enough to dial in a good shot. Fellow solved this problem by adding an inner grind adjustment right with finer settings. Located inside the bean hopper, this ring adds extra steps which allow you to have more granular control over the grind size. It essentially creates micro steps in between the outer rings macro steps and it also expands the ends of the grind spectrum giving you more like 10 to 12 steps between 1 and 2 rather than just 5. Plenty of granularity to dial in great espresso according to our tests, but just not as simple and straightforward as the ESP. Here's a video from Fellow's R&D that explains the inner ring better than I can:
I think for the budget, these two grinders are game changers. Is the Fellow Ode a better grinder for filter coffee? Sure, but it's $150 more and it won't do espresso. Are the Baratza Sette 270 a better grinder for espresso? Of course but you're looking at $200 more and I wouldn't use it for filter coffee. But for buyers on a budget? Holy cow it's hard to beat how much you get for the money with either of these two. If you've already got high end grinders, give these a pass, but if you're introducing a friend to brewing their own or you're upgrading from a hand grinder or maybe you want a 2nd grinder for the office, these are awesome. Here at our HQ we have an Ode and a Sette 270 to specialize in filter/immersion brewing and espresso respectively. But at home we've got an Opus (which just replaced an Encore). Which is better? I like the Opus because it's quiet, looks amazing and I don't mind the more complicated inner adjustment ring. If you want something more straightforward to adjust with best-in-the-biz customer service and don't mind the sound of a jet taking off in your kitchen every morning (I kid, I kid Baratza...), grab the ESP!