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The Trouble With Grinders
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.
Enter the Baratza Virtuoso
Featuring 40 individual grind settings, from espresso fine to french press coarse, the Virtuoso's specially designed burrs give a precise grind with minimal fines for a flavorful, balanced extraction when making any kind of coffee from espresso to pour over to automatic drip and even french press. This grinder covers it all quite well.
The Virtuoso is built with quality parts as well. Baratza has a world-wide reputation for quality and the Virtuoso is no exception. The top and base is made from cast zinc metal, and the internal parts are heavy duty. The grinder weighs in at a sturdy 8 pounds.
The powerful 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 from espresso to french press. 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 Virtuoso’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 200 to 1400 microns.
Grinds Left in Grinder: To maximize freshness, the Virtuoso minimizes the ground coffee left in the grinder.
Brewing Methods: The Virtuoso 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 Virtuoso 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 Timer: The Virtuoso features a handy 60 second rotary timer that allows you to prep your brewer while the coffee grinds without leaving the grinder running after it's finished.
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?
Compared to the Baratza Encore
Before the Encore & Virtuoso grinders came the popular Baratza Maestro Plus. Many of you may be familiar with that model when it was available. The Encore is an upgraded version of the Maestro Plus. Specifically, the Encore features upgraded conical burrs and an all new gearbox. This Virtuoso model is an upgraded version of that popular Encore grinder.
The Virtuoso grinds faster than the Encore, the top and base is made of cast zinc metal instead of the fiberglass infused plastic of the Encore, and features a rotary timer instead of the simple on/off switch. The Virtuoso has an upgraded burr set that has a more course grind on one end as well as finer grind on the other. This makes the Virtuoso better suited for espresso grinds than the Encore and gives you a bit more flexibility on your course grinds. The gear box is the same in both models.
The additional weight and more powerful motor combine to make less noise, in my opinion. I haven't lab tested this theory, but I think the more solid construction makes the sound of the grinder at least less annoying.
The style of the Virtuoso is much more refined, in our opinion. It's good looking enough to keep out on the counter when guests come to visit, and you can't overestimate the WAF (Wife Approval Factor)!
I use these grinders myself and I can say that I'm pretty impressed. They are 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. As to whether or not you should by the Encore or the Virtuoso, it really depends on your budget and your preferred brew methods. If you are focussed primarily on espresso, go with the Virtuoso if you can afford it. It will do a nice espresso grind, but is versitile enough to handle other brew methods as needed. The Virtuoso looks better, is a little more robust in the casing, and grinds a little faster. The timer is also a nice touch that I miss on the Encore.
If budget is more of an issue for you, go with the Encore. It is a great all-purpose grinder and is still capable of a decent espresso grind.
If you are unsatisfied with your green coffee purchase, we will issue you a refund in the form of an in-store credit. Since coffee is a food item, we can't take it back once it leaves our control. We will work closely with you to insure you get the quality you expected at a price that is fair. This offer is good for 30 days from the date of shipment. We will faithfully adhere to this policy for every customer, unless that customer is repeatedly abusing it. We withold the right to deny refunds, in rare cases, where a customer is repeatedly ordering coffee and then asking for a refund.
Home Coffee Roasters
The Gene Cafe and Behmor 1600 Plus are covered by a 1 year warranty from the manufacturer. The Fresh Roast SR-300 and SR-500 come with a 1 year warranty on the base unit and a 6 month warranty on the chaff collector, top cap and basket. Since the roasters are UL certified, the manufacturers ask that we refer all warranty issues directly to them. Although we do not directly provide repair service, we'll help you through the process to get your roaster back up and running. Should you return an unused roaster to us, we will refund your purchase minus the original shipping cost. Once you've used your roaster, we really can't take it back.
Any item not covered by a manufacturer's warranty is warranted by The Captain's Coffee to meet or exceed your expectations. If you are dissatisfied with your purchase for any reason, you may return the item to The Captain's Coffee for a replacement or refund in the form of an in-store credit. This offer is good for 30 days from the date of shipment. If applicable, the manufacturer's warranty will supersede this warranty for items sold by The Captain's Coffee.
We currently ship to any location in the US with the notable exception that Note that Hawaii Department of Agriculture regulations won't allow us to ship raw coffee to Hawaii.
If you select the "Captain's Special" shipping method, please note that the choice of carrier and delivery method is then entirely at our discretion. For local pick-ups, please allow 24 hours for us to prepare your order before dropping by to pick it up. Shipping weight is calculated in US Pounds.