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Product Comparison | Fellow Ode and Baratza Virtuoso+ Coffee Grinders

Product Comparison | Fellow Ode and Baratza Virtuoso+ Coffee Grinders

Jan 1st 2021 Written by Meredith Langley

We know that choosing a home grinder can be a difficult and (given the number of high-quality models available) even daunting decision. Let us help make the choice a little easier. In this video, Ryan compares two of the best home grinders on the market—the Fellow Ode and the Baratza Virtuoso+—looking at every feature from hopper to grind quality to taste.

Transcript

Fellow Ode Brew Grinder

64 mm stainless steel burrs

Featured Product

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

40 mm steel conical burrs

Featured Product

Hey, all. Ryan, from Prima Coffee here. Today, we've got something pretty fun planned for you. We're going to compare and contrast two of the very best electronic home grinders in the market.: the Fellow Ode and the Baratza Virtuoso Plus. The Fellow Ode and the Virtuoso Plus are two of the biggest contenders in the homebrewing category. Both grinders offer exceptional grind and build quality, but they're functionally very different from each other. So today, we're going to help you figure out which one might be best for you. Let's jump right in and talk a little bit about fit and finish. Here's a pretty clear aesthetic difference between the Virtuoso Plus and the Ode. The Virtuoso Plus is closer to what we'd call a timeless look, because it will complement just about any space. It's constructed mainly of plastic, but with some heavy steel accents on the face and the sides. The Ode features a sleek and ultra-modern aesthetic and is constructed primarily of aluminum, and also includes steel parts and a relatively small number of plastic parts. The modern design may not be for everyone, but we think Fellow did a really great job with the aesthetic overall. And especially if you own other Fellow products, like the Stagg or the EKG Kettle, this grinder will complete that look.

Next, let's get right to the heart. The burr in the grinder is probably the most impactful part when it comes to the grind quality it's able to produce. It really comes down to these two little pieces. The Virtuoso Plus features a 40-millimeter steel conical burr set, which is relatively common in home grinders and in hand grinders as well. The Fellow Ode features a 64-millimeter flat steel burr set, which are more commonly found commercial grinders, but rarely used in home grinders. Conical and flat burr grinders do cut coffee in different ways. And a bit later in the video, we'll get into more specifics about what those differences translate to, in terms of performance and taste. Both the Ode and Virtuoso Plus are what we call brew or filter grinders at heart. Meaning, they work best for applications like an AeroPress, pour over, automatic brewer or an immersion, like a cold brew or a French press. Both grinders feature what we call stepped adjustment, meaning there is a predetermined number of available grind sizes.

The Virtuoso Plus hopper connects to an adjustment ring in the collar, and grind size can be adjusted by turning that hopper side-to-side. There are a total of 40 available grind settings. The Ode features a large, very prominent adjustment wheel on the face, and has much more substantial clicks between each of those settings. It has a total of 31 available grind size options. Both grinders are capable of dialing in for any filter method, though the Virtuoso Plus does have an advantage in that it has a broader grind size range and, like I mentioned, more steps of adjustment within that range. So that allows you to make minor tweaks to your grind size. The Ode's finest grind is somewhere in the 500 to 600 micron range, whereas the Virtuoso Plus is able to grind all the way down to 200 microns with proper calibration. And that's plenty fine enough for espresso. The process to calibrate the Virtuoso Plus for a fine grind is a bit of a pain. It involves removing the outer case of the grinder, resetting the adjustment ring, then removing and replacing a screw. It's not super fun to do, but you'll probably only need to do it once within the life of the grinder.

The Ode, on the other hand, cannot be calibrated any finer. You can calibrate it coarser, but, you know, it absolutely cannot achieve an espresso grind. It cannot be calibrated any finer out of the box. So overall, you're going to get more versatility with the Virtuoso Plus, a much broader range of available grind sizes than you can with the Ode, but that may or may not matter to you depending on what types of brewing devices you're using at home. The Ode and Virtuoso Plus grinders have very different approaches to dosing. The Ode features a shallow, 80-gram hopper designed for single dosing, which involves pre-weighing your beans by either weight or volume, then grinding as needed. You can't store several days for the beans in the Ode's hopper for on-demand grinding. The intention behind this is to encourage you to keep your coffee sealed up in a dark, airtight container, to extend the freshness of your coffee. The Ode features a smart PID-controlled motor that senses the resistance against the burrs, and automatically shuts the motor off when it determines that all of the coffee in the hopper has been ground. That means you only need to hit the power button once to turn the grinder on, and then the grinder will turn itself off automatically when the grind cycle is complete.

The Virtuoso Plus hopper holds approximately 360 grams of light roasted coffee, less if you're using a darker roast. And the bin holds about 200 grams of ground coffee. On the front of the grinder is a button and a click wheel for its integrated grind timer, which allows you to program a precise grind time in increments of one-tenth of a second. The grinder will maintain your program's grind time, and then all you need to do is press the button once, start the grind cycle, and the grinder will shut itself off automatically when the timer runs out. The large hopper and bin capacity, in combination with that built-in grind timer, makes the Virtuoso Plus ideal for on-demand grinding. You can have the hopper full, then simply set your preferred grind time. Press the button, and then let the grinder finish its job. It is worth noting that you'll get a more accurate coffee output by pre-weighing your beans, instead of using the Virtuoso Plus' timer function. The output with the timer function may vary by a couple grams, but if you pre-measure your beans in single-dose, you'll get out exactly what you put in.

So again, the Virtuoso Plus does offer a bit more versatility in dosing category as well, but this may or may not be important to you, depending on your grinding and brewing routine at home. We did two types of grounds retention tests with these grinders. In the first test, we took them apart, did an air blast to clear out all the grounds from the burr chamber and the chute. Then we ground 20 grams of fine setting and measured the difference between the input and the output by weight. The Ode had an average retention of 0.8 grams, and the Virtuous Plus had an average retention of 0.6 grams. In the second test, we measured the output dose variance in consecutive cycles. In other words, we didn't clean the grinder out between each cycle, we just measured the difference between input and output for a series of grind cycles. In these tests, the Ode had a variance of about 0.3 to 0.5 grams per cycle. The Virtuoso Plus had a variance of about 0 to 0.1 grams per cycle, which is almost no variance at all.

This is another small win for the Virtuoso Plus, but I will also mention that nearly every time we single-dosed with the Virtuoso Plus, there was a stubborn stray bean left popcorning up and down, refusing to grind through, at least for the last several seconds after the rest of the coffee was ground. This isn't a big deal, but maybe a slight annoyance for those of you who like to single-dose. Set right in the middle of the grind size range, the Ode will grind 50 grams of coffee in about 8 to 10 seconds, though it does take an extra 4 seconds or so for the PID to sense that your coffee has been ground and shut the motor off. The Virtuoso Plus will grind 50 grams at a similar setting in about 20 to 25 seconds. So there is a substantial difference in grind speed between the two machines. Some mess is unavoidable with any coffee grinder. The combination of static electricity, papery chaff, and tiny particles of coffee will result in the need for a light clean-up after every grind cycle. When you pull the bin from the Virtuoso Plus, some chaff and maybe a few grounds will fall from the chute, on to the grounds bin platform, and on your counter, and there's really nothing you can do about it.

The Ode features a grinds knocker on the side which is there to loosen any particles stuck in the chute after a grind cycle, so that they fall into the grounds catch. This is a really neat feature that normally we only see in commercial grinders. So we're pretty excited to see it in a home grinder. The Ode's grounds catch also includes a plastic chaff shield that sits between the grounds catch and chute to help prevent those papery bits from catching some air and floating off into your counter, and it directs the majority of those particles directly into your grounds catch. It's a very thoughtful design from Fellow, and this results in a lighter clean-up in the Virtuoso Plus. Grind quality is very difficult to evaluate objectively, and it requires some serious scientific equipment to get it right. What we normally do is find a grinder's sweet spot, or it usually what's one step coarser than the point at which the coffee begins tasting bitter or over-extracted. Then we can compare the results between two grinders by taste. The majority of our team members consistently pointed to the Ode samples in blind taste tests when asked which cup they preferred when the coffees were brewed consecutively by the same person, tasted blindly, and evaluated on a, "I like this better. Here's why" basis.

We can also back this up in a simple visual comparison of the grind at comparable settings. I also want to mention that the differences in taste between these grinders aren't exactly significant. In fact, if you're not experienced tasting coffee, you might not be able to tell the difference between these cups. Solid reliability and product support is one thing you don't want to be left without after spending a lot of money on a home grinder. But lucky for you, both Fellow and Baratza have very good reputations when it comes to after-sales support and parts availability. In fact, Baratza's tech support team is one of the best in the entire coffee industry. And take that from somebody who spent seven years in Prima sales and customer service department. Baratza's Bellevue, Washington team is very responsive, either by phone or email, and they have lots of articles, PDF downloads, and videos online to help with troubleshooting, calibration and repair. Baratza has a "No grinder goes in the trash" policy, and their team will do everything they can to keep your grinder in working condition throughout the years, often, even sending parts free of charge. The bottom line is you can try, but you can't really beat the depth of experience and thorough product support offered by Baratza.

Fellow also has maintained a great reputation, historically, for product support. We have worked with them for product support with items like kettles over the years, but they are new to the grinder game, and we're just going to have to see how parts availability and support plays out over the next few years. We do appreciate how few plastic components the Ode is constructed with internally. It's seemingly very solid. There's no obvious flaws that seem like they would cause a problem down the road, but it's just too early to tell. So we're going to have to wait it out. So which grinder is better? Well, while you get a little more clarity in the cup with the Ode, you definitely get more versatility out of the Virtuoso Plus. The Ode's design encourages you to keep your coffee fresh with its single-dose hopper. And the Virtuoso Plus is just a little more convenient for folks with busy routines who prefer an on-demand grinder. What do you guys think? Sound off in the comments and let us know which do you think is the best grinder. For us, it's a really hard pick. It depends on how you prefer to use a grinder, and what your brewing routine is like. That's it for today, folks. Thanks for watching.

Jan 1st 2021 Meredith Langley

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