If brewing coffee were a Broadway play, one’s grinder would perform the lead role, and Baratza would be one of the most trusted talent agencies. Since 1999, Baratza has focused on high-quality grinders specifically for the specialty coffee community. Having received a number of SCA ‘Best New Product’ awards, and being a well-known name among coffee professionals and enthusiasts, Baratza is recognized as being innovative, quality-focused, and consistent.
In the same way that there are different levels of skills and abilities represented by any given talent agency, Baratza offers a number of grinders--Encore, Virtuoso, Sette 270, Sette 270W, Vario, Vario-W, Forte AP, and Forte BG. Some are more focused on espresso, and others are more focused on manual or automatic drip brewing. Some have time-based dosing, and others have weight-based dosing. Some only have macro adjustments, while others have micro and even stepless adjustments.
To aid in your decision, we’ve brought in Baratza’s entire line of grinders, some of the industry’s top talent. We put each of them on center stage to see where they shine, all the while paying attention to details, taking notes, and even bringing some back up on stage to reevaluate.
Below, you will find our consolidated notes, our perceptions of how we saw each of them perform. Whatever role you are looking to fill, whether for manual/automatic drip brewing or for espresso, there is a Baratza grinder for you.
Encore - $139.00
Prices here reflect current listings as of December, 2017.
The Encore, Baratza’s entry-level grinder, has come to be a staple in many home baristas’ kitchens. The reason for its popularity is its reliability, ease of use, and entry-level price point. With a powerful DC motor, and its second generation gearbox, the Encore is made to last a long time. And truly, if you are used to a blade grinder, or a grinder with fake burrs, or even pre-ground coffee, switching to the Encore will be like getting a glimpse of heaven.
It comes with 40mm steel M3 conical burrs that have a grind speed of about 0.8-1.1 grams of coffee per second. The Encore’s European manufactured burrs are easily adjustable: you simply have to turn the hopper on top of the grinder, which has 40 steps from fine to coarse allowing a grind range of 250 to 1200 microns.
The hopper is capable of holding about 8oz of beans, though you can purchase a hopper extender for this grinder, and all of Baratza’s grinders, that adds about 9oz. This extender is stackable, meaning you could potentially stack it to the ceiling, though we wouldn’t recommend that you do that.
Its intuitive design makes the Encore easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to repair. There is a simple on-off switch on the side, as well as a pulse button on the front. Access to the burrs is as simple as turning the hopper past 40 and lifting. It’s simplicity makes it quite easy to replace specific parts, rather than buying a new grinder every time something goes wrong. On top of this, the Encore is relatively easy to calibrate, allowing the grinder to be more focused on fine, medium, or coarse grinds.
The Encore especially shines when used for manual brewing or with an automatic drip brewer. Although Baratza says that the Encore is capable of grinding for anything from espresso to french press, we do not recommend that it be used for espresso, considering that the adjustment increments are too large for accurately dialing in. And while, it depended on grind-size, we noticed a grind retention of about 1-2g.
We recommend the Encore to the budget conscious, specialty coffee novice who wants a quality grinder for their home at a price that won’t hurt the wallet. While it doesn’t produce as consistent of a grind as the others on this list, it is a good grinder for the entry level user at an unbeatable price.
- Reliable and easy-to-use.
- Intuitive design, allowing easy cleaning and easy part replacement.
- Fantastic price point for an entry-level grinder designed for the specialty coffee community.
- Takes up very little space on your counter.
- Great entry level grinder.
- Chaff can get lodged inside the body and often comes out of the chute when the grounds bin is removed.
- While a medium grind was relatively consistent, finer and coarser grind sizes resulted in greater inconsistency.
- Much quieter than others of its type, but still pretty noisy.
Virtuoso - $229.00
The Virtuoso is Baratza’s sexier version of the Encore with a slightly better burr set and build quality. Although it is the same size, the Virtuoso’s plastic and metal casing makes this grinder feel a bit more sturdy.
Like the Encore, the Virtuoso was made to last a long time. It is powered by a DC motor and the second generation gearbox, both of which allow its 40mm steel M2 conical burrs to have a grind speed of about 1.5-2.4 grams per second.
It has 40 grind size settings, though it is capable of producing a larger grind range (200-1400 microns) than the Encore, as well as a much more consistent grind. Similar to the Encore, though, we did see a 1-2g grind retention, which depended on grind size.
Even though the burrs and the build quality are a step-up from the Encore’s, the intuitive design is nearly the same, making this grinder easy to use and easy to maintain: Adjusting the grind size is accomplished by simply turning the 8oz hopper to the right or to the left depending on the size of grind you desire; Access to the burrs is as easy as turning the hopper past 40 and lifting; Calibration is possible and relatively easy; And its simplicity allows for easy cleaning and easy replacement of parts. One thing that is different, though, is that the Virtuoso has a timer switch on the side, rather than the simple on-off switch.
The Virtuoso has similar brewing capabilities as the Encore, shining when used for manual or automatic drip brewing. Despite Baratza’s claim that the Virtuoso can be used for anything from espresso to french press, we do not recommend using it for espresso, considering its large adjustment increments.
We recommend the Virtuoso to the specialty coffee enthusiast who wants a higher quality grinder for manual and automatic drip brewing needs. In fact, The Coffee Compass recently ranked each of Baratza’s grinders and ranked the Virtuoso #1, being the best bang for the buck.
- Incredibly easy to use and reliable.
- Having the same build structure as the Encore, it is easy to clean and easy to replace broken parts.
- Metal casing increases durability.
- For manual brewing, the price and consistency make it exceptional.
- Broader grind range than the Encore
- Like the Encore, chaff can get lodged in the body and the chute, resulting in a messy counter space.
- The center burr doesn’t have a wingnut like newer Encores, which keeps beans from settling on top of the cone burr.
Sette 270 - $379.00 & Sette 270W - $499.00
The Sette, Baratza’s entry-level espresso grinder, comes in two different configurations: 270 and 270W. There are more similarities than differences, so let’s check those out first.
Both configurations were created for pulling shots of espresso right at your own home. They both come with a 10oz hopper with a bean shut-off collar, making it easy to change beans without spilling them everywhere. Furthermore, the Sette has a convertible device holder, allowing it to grind right into a portafilter or into the included anti-static grounds bin that holds about 5.5oz.
While the Sette comes with a DC motor like all Baratza grinders, they feature a unique gearbox and drive system that effectively aids in speed reduction, creating a cooler grinding process with a more consistent grind. In fact, the Sette has changed the game by using this unique gear drive system, allowing the inner burr to spin, rather than the outer burr, resulting in a unique straight-through path with very low grind retention.
Changing the grind size is as simple as twisting the adjustment assembly directly underneath the control panel. The Settes have 30 macro adjustments, and 9 stepless micro adjustments, leaving you with nearly an infinite amount of options, though Baratza estimates 270. This stepless micro adjustment feature is distinctive of the Settes, offering much benefit to the home-espresso user. Additionally, Baratza includes a couple of shims that can be inserted underneath the cone burr, allowing it to grind even finer. On top of this, both Settes have 3 programmable buttons, allowing you to get the same amount with just one-click.
The Sette features 40mm steel AP conical burrs, which are excellent performers for home espresso. With a grind range of 230-950 microns, Baratza says that the Sette is of grinding for anything from espresso to Chemex, we have found that using this grinder for anything other than espresso is not ideal. Straight out of the box and set to the coarsest grind was way too fine for a chemex. While it would be fine for a single-cup pour over or an AeroPress, we did notice that the coarser grinds were less consistent. And, due to their unique drive design, the Sette is not able to be calibrated for coarser grinds, though they do offer a second burr assembly (BG burrs) that is designed for coarser grind profiles; however, although it does help a little with drip brews, by reducing the issue of choking/stalling due to fines, it does not offer an enormous upgrade.
270 vs. 270W
The difference between the two Sette configurations, then, is that the 270 is a time-based grinder while the 270W is a weight-based grinder. To state the obvious, a time-based grinder is one that allows you to set the grinder to grind for a certain amount of time, while a weight-based grinder allows you to set a specific amount of weight.
The Sette 270W incorporates Acaia’s weighing technology, resulting in the ability to dose by weight. This innovative design led to its earning of the SCAA’s ‘2016 Best New Product’ award. The only difference from the 270, then, is its weight-based grinding capability.
Referring to the opening analogy, the Sette 270W was one of the grinders we had to bring back on stage. During the first performance, I had a lot of trouble with it, encountering a number of inconsistencies and errors. For example, when I set the dose-weight to 18g, I would get anything from 19-20.2g. On top of this, the built-in scale would often be a couple grams off of the actual weight, when compared to a stand-alone Acaia Pearl scale.
But, and this is a big but, its second performance was on a different stage. Moving the 270W from a less-stable brew cart to a sturdy countertop changed its behavior entirely. It was as if I were using a completely different grinder. Rather than the inconsistencies and scale errors, I was seeing near-flawless dosing and a scale that was spot on with the stand-alone Acaia Pearl. This time, then, with a dose-weight of 18g, I had a consistent 18.4 or 18.5g. And, with Baratza’s option for offset programming, I was able to compensate for the grounds fall-time, allowing a near perfect dose of 18-18.1g every time.
One other issue that we encountered, though, was an issue with the built-in scale. When we would use a portafilter that comes standard with La Marzocco Linea Minis, which weighs about 600g, the scale would seem to bounce up to the target rate right after turning on. After reaching out to Baratza, they assured us that they are in the middle of investigating this right now. Baratza said, “Most stock professional portafilters range in the 450-550g range, and the 270W was designed specifically with these in mind. However, portafilters that get above about 600g, especially ones with particularly heavy handles, can, at this point, confuse the grinder and lead to errors.” Baratza then assured us that though they are working on improving this, most users will not be affected, because the majority of home espresso portafilters weigh much less than 600g.
However, while there are some unreliable outcomes if conditions are subpar, we definitely recommend the 270W. If you have a commercial espresso machine at home, it may be wise to weigh your portafilter before purchasing, at least until the issue is fix. And if you don’t have a sturdy counter-space, you may want to stick with the 270.
Nevertheless, dosing by weight is something that offers much more consistency than dosing by time. However, that benefit does come with a higher price tag. Therefore, we recommend both configurations of the Sette, the 270 and the 270W, to the entry-level user who makes espresso at home.
- Good price for a quality, entry-level home espresso grinder.
- The outer burr spins, resulting in nearly zero grind retention.
- Time- or weight-based grinding (one or the other, considering configuration).
- Macro and micro adjustment capabilities.
- Quick grind time.
- Though touted as a wide-range grinder, the Sette does not get very coarse and is less consistent the coarser it gets.
- It is quieter than others of its type, but it is a pretty noisy grinder.
- The Sette is not calibratable.
- Specific to the 270W, grinding by weight can be unreliable if conditions are not ideal.
Like the Sette, the Vario comes in two different configurations as well: Vario and Vario-W. Both have a digital control panel with an easy-to-read LED display, three programmable buttons, two grind time adjustment buttons, a start/stop button, and a button for manual dosing.
Both configurations use the same high-torque DC motor alongside a belt drive transmission that helps with temperature regulation and smoothness of grind, producing a grind speed of 1.6-2.2 grams per second.
The Vario comes with 54mm flat ceramic burrs (steel burrs can be purchased separately), the largest burr-set that Baratza offers. The included Swiss manufactured ceramic burrs reduce grind retention and offer better uniformity than many other ceramic burrs on the market, while holding true to the longevity that is characteristic of ceramic burrs. With a little bit of force, and the included tools, the ceramic burrs are quite easy to remove for cleaning and for calibration. However, there are no instructions included regarding tool use, so if you are unfamiliar, give us a shout or look online for a tutorial video.
Adjusting the grind is very simply: there are 10 macro adjustments on the right side of the body, indicated numerically from fine to coarse, 1-10. On the left side, then, you will find 23 micro adjustments, indicated alphabetically from finer to coarser, A-W. With 10 macro and 23 micro adjustments, the Varios have 230 different grind sizes. We found that the Varios had a grind retention of about 1g.
Although the grind range of the Varios is quite large, 230-1150, the ceramic burrs make this grinder much better at grinding for espresso. Of course, the steel burrs (purchased separately) would make using the Varios at coarser grinds more consistent and better for manual or automatic drip brewing.
Vario vs. Vario-W
Like the Sette, the difference between the two configurations is that the Vario is a time-based dosing grinder, while the Vario-W is a weight-based dosing grinder. Where the Vario excels, as compared to the Sette, is when it comes to grind consistency, as well as the ability to have a larger grind range.
Another distinguishing feature is that the Vario has an 8oz hopper and a 6.4oz grounds bin, while the Vario-W comes with a 10oz hopper that has a bean shut-off collar and a 6oz grounds bin. Regarding the Vario, the hopper can be a little difficult to push down. In fact, personally, I felt a little nervous about how much force I was having to use. But rest assured, once it’s in place it’s super secure.
Compared to the Sette 270W, the grind-by-weight function was a little less dependent upon conditions. While it had a few moments of erratic behavior, we consistently were able to get within 0.5g of the desired amount. And, when we compared the weight from the built-in scale to a stand-alone Acaia Pearl, it would be within 0.1g every time.
While the Vario comes with a portafilter holder, the Vario-W does not. Notably, though, the portafilter holder will fit on either, though it will render the Vario-W a manual dosing grinder.
Although the Vario is primarily for espresso, it has a large grind range, making it capable of producing grind sizes for manual and automatic drip brewing. Of course, with the ceramic burrs, you will see less consistency with coarser grinds. Therefore, we recommend the Vario to the espresso lover, who might want the ability to use it for manual or automatic drip brewing as well. And while it chiefly is a home grinder, it would also make a great light-use cafe grinder, especially one that is dedicated to atypical coffees like decaf or a certain single origin.
- Intuitive design, making it quite easy to use and easy to clean.
- Much quieter than the Encore, Virtuoso, and the Settes.
- 54mm flat burrs produce a very consistent grind, especially for espresso.
- Fine-tune adjustment.
- Regarding the Vario-W, weight-dosing grinder with a reliable scale, and a upgraded hopper with a shut-off collar.
- While the grind retention rate was less than that of the Encore and Virtuosos, it still retained more than the Settes, considering the grinding chamber and chute length.
- Adjusting the portafilter holder is not as easy as with the Sette.
- Both configurations come with ceramic burrs, though steel are a possible upgrade.
- Concerning the Vario-W, grind-by-weight is not possible with portafilter holder.
For BG, add to cart and change burr option.
Like most material goods, the more you pay for something, the better it will be. The Forte, Baratza’s commercial-grade grinder, holds true to this principle. And just like the Sette and the Vario, the Forte is available in two configurations: Forte-AP and Forte-BG.
What is most notable about the configurations is that they both can grind by time or by weight, and they have the unique ability to convert between the two effortlessly. Like the Vario-W, the only caveat to their ability to dose into a portafilter holder is that weight-dosing is not an option; it then becomes a time-dosing, or manual-dosing, grinder.
Both configurations are also incredibly nice to look at, some might say, “Eye candy.” They have a 10oz hopper, which has a bean shut-off feature, and a 6oz grounds bin, as well as 3 programmable buttons. Other than about an inch at the base, the Forte features an all metal construction. Keeping the small footprint, characteristic of Baratzas, and adding a touch screen and more micro-adjustment capabilities, Baratza took the Vario-W and upscaled it for commercial use, with a 2kg maximum grind limitation per day.
The Forte uses a large gear-to-belt ratio, alongside an improved DC motor, greatly affecting the speed and smoothness of the burr rotation, as well as durability. They have 54mm burrs, which are easily calibratable, with a grind range of 230-1150 microns. The grind size is especially easy to adjust. Similar to the Vario, on the right-hand side, you will find 10 macro adjustment options, defined numerically from 1-10. And on the left-hand side, you will find 26 micro adjustment options, notated alphabetically from A-Z. 10 macro and 26 micro gives you 260 options for adjusting your grind.
As this is the top-of-the-line Baratza grinder, consistency is unparalleled when compared to the other grinders on this list. To the naked-eye, it was hard to find much to complain about. Grind retention, however, was similar to that of the Varios, being about 1g. Of course, while it varied between doses, more was withheld when we were grinding on finer settings, as opposed to hardly any being retained with coarser grind sizes.
AP vs. BG
The primary difference between these two options comes down to the type of burrs they use. While they both have 54mm flat burrs, the AP uses ceramic burrs, and the BG uses steel burrs. As a result of this, the AP and BG differ in two other ways: grind speed and the AP’s inclusion of a portafilter holder. The Forte AP has a grind speed of 2.0-3.7 grams per second, while the BG has a grind speed of 1.2-2.1.
The reason that Baratza has both of these options is that ceramic and steel burrs grind a little differently. Steel burrs seek to effectively reduce fines, resulting in a cleaner cup. Ceramic burrs, conversely, create more fines than steel burrs, resulting in the full-bodied, “traditional” espresso taste. So, depending on your preference, the AP or the BG may be better for you.
So, choosing between the AP and the BG ultimately comes down to preference. While we suggest the AP to those who prefer the “traditional” espresso taste, we suggest the BG, with steel burrs, to the cafe looking to brew by way of manual or automatic drip brewing or that desires a more “modern” espresso taste. While the AP is just as capable of grinding for manual brew methods, the BG and its steel burr set shine especially bright in this context.
- Compared to the other grinders on this list, consistency is unparalleled.
- The ability to dose by weight or by time, and to switch effortlessly.
- Intuitive, touch-screen control panel.
- Two configurations: ceramic burrs help produce a more “traditional” espresso taste, or steel burrs, which help eliminate fines, resulting in a more “modern” taste.
- Upgraded shut-off hopper, just like the Vario W’s.
- Incredibly accurate scale.
- Great price for a commercial grinder.
- Like the Varios, grind retention was much better than the Encore or the Virtuoso, but it still was an issue.
- Weight-based dosing is not possible when using the included portafilter holder.
- Hopper lip withholds beans from grinding.
- Specifical to the BG, it does not come with a portafilter holder.
Now it’s your turn!
As you can tell, there are many things to consider when you’re in the market for a grinder. That’s why we have sought to give each of Baratza’s grinders their fair share of stage time, so that you can make an informed decision when casting the leading role in your brewing setup. Baratza is a trustworthy talent agency, and each of their grinders have their own strengths and weakness, but we are positive that you can cast well for this role. Yet, if you find yourself with questions, concerns or comments, feel free to hit us up, and we can help with finding the best fit for you.