Baratza and Fellow have changed the game with the Opus and Encore ESP. Offering multi-purpose electric grinders at a modest price point has leveled the playing field and made home espresso accessible to a whole new demographic.
Both grinders have their strengths and weaknesses but ultimately yield impressive results. Join us as we break down both grinders and compare them side-by-side in an effort to help you make the right choice for your home setup.
Hey there, it's Ragan from Prima Coffee, and this is a comparison of the Fellow Opus and Encore ESP. Fellow and Baratza have leveled the playing field by offering multipurpose electric grinders under $500. Both are capable of a full grind range from espresso to cold brew, but we will break it down even further, diving deeper into the strengths and weaknesses of each grinder.
When it comes to aesthetics, the Opus boasts the same geometric and sleek design that's evident in much of Fellow’s equipment, most notably the Ode. However, the Opus lacks the sturdy premium feel that you find in the Ode, and that's because the external pieces are made of plastic, but that does contribute to the modest price point. The grounds catch is very similar to the Ode as it is magnetic, although it too is made of plastic. It has the same lid, but because it caters to espresso, it has an espresso dosing cup that pops into the grounds catch, which makes it incredibly simple to transfer your grounds from the dosing cup to the portafilter. It can accommodate portafilters from 54 millimeters to 58 millimeters. You will see that the button is identical to that of the Ode, and it's equipped with a timed auto stop. One quick press grinds for 30 seconds, two quick presses is 60 seconds, three quick presses for 90 seconds and press and hold for 2 minutes of continuous grinding. Additionally, the hopper has a 110 gram capacity and a plastic hopper lid that also doubles as a container for weighing single doses of coffee. Most importantly, the color is labeled with 41 macro steps, each equaling 50 microns, and inside there's a dial for micro-step, but we'll get into that later.
If you're a fan of the body and style of the classic Encore, you will be pleased to see that the style of the ESP is nearly identical. It's available in both black and white and has a very similar user interface. It has the pulse button on the front and an on and off knob on the side for continuous grinding. Making our way down, you’ll see the collar is equipped with 40 grind settings. But you'll notice that 20 are micro-steps for high resolution espresso grinding equaling 20 microns per step or a 2 to 3 second change in shot time and a 20 macro steps for coarser brew grinding equaling 90 microns per step. It comes with the classic Encore grounds catch to accommodate larger doses, but it also is equipped with a dosing cup that's compatible with 54 to 58 millimeter portafilters and Baratza has provided a dosing cup tray that slips in and closes the distance between the chute and cup to reduce chaff.
There's a lot of cool things going on inside of these grinders, so let's take a closer look. The Opus is outfitted with C640 burly burrs, which are six blade 40 millimeter conical steel burrs that are incredibly simple to remove. There is a convenient little handle that pops up and all you have to do is twist and pull the outer burr and it pops right out. The office is also equipped with anti-static technology meant to reduce retention. However, our tests found that approximately one half to one gram of retention is present with each dose. Now, if you direct your attention to this little blue dial, you will see that the notch is lined up with the center line. This is how the grinder comes straight out of the box. And it is supposed to be calibrated to start grinding for espresso immediately. However, you will see that there is a plus sign on one side, which indicates courser and six tick marks and a minus sign indicating finer and six tick marks. Now, this is kind of tricky to explain, and it took a lot longer than I'd like to admit to fully grasp. Each of these little micro-steps equates 33 microns. So if you were trying to dial in espresso and wanted to go slightly finer, you would move the mark two ticks to the right to go finer, and then we would return to the outer ring and move it. One macro step coarser. This makes a change of 16 microns or about 2 to 3 seconds change in shot time. We will dive deeper into this in the Opus overview, but this is a basic look at the precision and quite honestly, the difficulty you face when utilizing this option in the Opus. And lastly, the motor runs at 350 RPMs.
The encore ESP is outfitted with 40 millimeter conical M2 burrs, like what you would find in the virtuoso plus. Like the Opus, Baratza thought of it all, including making the burrs quick release burrs, which means you can easily remove the burrs without any additional tools. The ESP comes calibrated to grind for home espresso and shouldn’t need to be calibrated further. But technically it can be user calibrated. The motor is a high torque DC motor that runs at 550 RPMs, but it should be noted that the noise level of the ESP is just as loud as the classic Encore. So this is what it sounds like to grind with the Encore ESP, and this is what it sounds like to grind with the Fellow Opus. You can obviously see that the Opus is the quieter of the two.
So if we take a look at what these grinders produce, you'll see that the particle uniformity is very similar. Right here we have the grounds that we used to brew a ground control, which is a batch brewer. Over here on the ESP that is 26 steps, and for the Opus, it's to number six and then three additional macro-steps. When we did a side by side comparison using the ground control, the results were mixed. We had three people who preferred the Opus and two that preferred the ESP. Needless to say, I think that's a matter of preference and the results were very, very similar. As for espresso, you can see from the grounds that ESP produces tons of clumps, so you are going to need a WDT tool if you plan on using this for espresso, and that is not the case with the Opus.
Now, as for the flavor, they were almost identical when comparing them side by side, unless you were really dissecting it, you can't taste the difference. If you are really dissecting it, you may say that the Opus was slightly sweeter, but they both produced beautiful shots. We will dive deeper into dialing in for espesso in different brew methods in the overview for the Opus and the Encore ESP. Both of these grinders are manufactured by reliable and well-respected brands, but in the case of the Opus, you're not going to find the quality of build or the premium feel that you find with the Ode. However, it is backed by a two year, three year if you register it warranty, which is phenomenal. The ESP is equipped with high quality bars and a motor that you expect to find in the Baratza grinders, and it's backed by a one year warranty. Additionally, Baratza support is phenomenal as well.
Both of these grinders are game changers, opening the door to espresso to a whole new demographic thanks to their functionality and most importantly, their price point. The Opus brings the esthetic that Fellow is so well known for and performs well in both the espresso and brew ranges. The micro adjustment can take some, getting used to, is not always consistent, and is necessary when dialing in for espresso. The ESP is everything home users have come to love about the classic encore, but it takes it to another level. Dialing in is very simple, but it is rather loud and still lacks the precision of a step-less grinder. It should be noted there are other ways to manipulate your shot other than grind size, and you can learn more about that in our Advanced Espresso Course in the Prima Coffee Community. Both of these grinders are fantastic options if you're looking for a multi-purpose grinder on a budget. The difference in taste for both espresso and filter is almost non-existent. They produced incredibly similar results. However, we found the ESP to be the most user friendly option, so that swayed our preference to the ESP, but only minimally. Additionally, if you're not limited to $200 and below, you will find more precision in a step less grinder. However, we would happily recommend either of these as a primary espresso grinder. You can find both the Encore ESP and the Fellow Opus online at primacoffee.com and thanks for watching.