One of the must-have tools in a coffee lover’s toolbox is a conical burr grinder. These grinders do an amazing job of grinding coffee beans for a variety of brewing techniques. Baratza makes some of the best conical burr coffee grinders on the market.
For the coffee lover looking for a higher quality conical burr grinder, Baratza offers their Encore and Virtuoso. Both of these grinders offer the coffee lover a simple-to-use and efficient burr coffee grinder. Despite being designed for the home, these two burr grinders are of professional quality and are made to last.
Though both are great, there are some differences between the two that may make one a better choice for your home than the other. In this article, we’ll consider the Baratza Encore vs Virtuoso grinders. We’ll show you how they compare and offer some pros and cons to help you make the perfect pick for your kitchen.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
If you’ve not purchased a conical burr coffee grinder previously, you’ll want to educate yourself on how they work and what makes them good for grinding coffee. Conical burr coffee grinders have the ability to take your coffee game to the next level.
In this section, we’ll provide you with some product considerations and features that you will want to consider when you’re shopping for a conical burr coffee grinder.
Even if you’re just comparing the Baratza Encore vs the Virtuoso, this list of buying features can help you make a great choice.
When you are considering a new conical burr grinder the most important thing you need to consider is the quality of the burr set. This is the primary operational part of a conical burr grinder.
These fairly simple parts have little teeth or “burrs” that work kind of like turning gears to pulverize coffee grounds. The rate at which these burrs wear out is a telltale sign of the build quality.
When shopping for a conical burr grinder you’ll want to do some research on the grind time before burrs wear out. A good grinder should last at least three years of normal use before the burrs are worn. Higher-quality burr grinders can last even longer.
The other question of build quality is if the burrs are replaceable. Many higher-end manufacturers will offer replacement burrs for their grinders as a set that can be purchased.
Besides wear and replaceability, a good set of burrs will grind consistently every time. A reliable grinder that makes the same quality and size of grounds will add to the enjoyment of your morning cup of joe.
If you know anything about coffee, you likely know that different size grounds are necessary for the best cup of coffee, depending on how you brew it. Coarse grinds are great for your french press while fine grounds are a must for espresso.
A good conical burr grinder will allow you to adjust the grind size for a variety of coffee brewing techniques.
Most conical burr grinders have one of two grind setting methods: stepless and stepped. Basic home grinders are generally stepped, meaning you select the grind using a range of numbers on an adjustable dial. There’s no in-between with stepped grinders. You pick the number that creates the ground closest to what you’re looking for.
Stepless grinders work similarly but are a bit different. With stepless grinders, you still have the numbers on a dial, but you can set your grinder to any point along the dial, even in between the numbers. This allows you to fine-tune the grind size to make your perfect cup of coffee. This is a great option for dedicated coffee lovers that are constantly in search of the perfect brew.
We’re not a fan of disposable appliances, so when considering a conical burr coffee grinder, you’ll want to select a quality product that will last you for a number of years.
The thing you need to know about the quality of a grinder is that they are rarely “cheap”. A good quality burr grinder will cost you at least $100. For this price, you can get a decent burr grinder. And at this price, a good burr grinder is accessible for most coffee lovers.
The Encore and Virtuoso lines from Baratza are the most affordable of their line, with the price tag starting around $165. For some people this may be a bit of a stretch, so look for used Baratza or refurbished options.
Because you can replace the burrs for your Baratza grinder, a used option with a lower price tag may be the best way to enjoy the benefits of a great grinder.
When we talk about dosage and conical burr coffee grinders, we’re really talking about a designated quantity of grounds. Some brands or lines of burr grinders have settings that will allow you to grind the same amount of coffee every day. This is the dose.
How a particular coffee maker gets to the desired dose has some variability. The method can be very simple or very complicated.
For instance, the most basic option out there uses a timer. You tell the grinder to run for a particular amount of time, and in theory, you should get the same amount of grinds each time. This however only works if you use the same type of bean every time.
Another option, similar to the timer, is to grind based on the number of cups of coffee you’re making. This is a timer as well, but it works under the theory that more cups require more grounds.
The other option that we’ve seen out there, particularly on higher-end burr grinders is an integrated scale. This is really the best way to grind the same amount every time. These grinders allow you to set a particular weight and they stop grinding when the scale reaches that value.
You are never going to find a perfectly clean burr grinder. A bit of a mess is pretty normal with coffee grinders in general. Oils and static will cause grounds to stick to parts of the grinder.
The amount of mess also has to do with factors that have nothing to do with the grinder. The type of coffee, the age of the beans, and the level of humidity in the room can all contribute to a messy grinder.
Many of the steps you can take to reduce the mess are pretty simple. You can wait a few minutes before removing the grounds from the collection bin. Or you can work over a sink or a towel. You may want to consider grinders that use bins that aren’t plastic. Some brands have bins made of glass or metal to reduce static.
And some grinders, no matter what you do, are just messy. You may just have to change your brewing process so that there’s a bit of clean-up time for those pesky grounds.
Baratza Encore vs Virtuoso
Despite the fancy name, Baratza which is known for its professional-grade grinders makes a couple of great entry-level conical burr grinders. The Encore and the Virtuoso. There are differences between the two grinders, but when it comes to the motor, burrs, and reliability of the two grinders, there is virtually no difference.
The Encore has been a part of the Baratza line since 2012. This affordably priced base-level burr grinder works great and is perfect for making a range of coffee drinks at home. It makes a consistent grind, is easy to use, and has a nice set of grinder burrs. This grinder has a plastic body, which is a bit of a bummer, but it works great so that can be overlooked.
The Virtuoso is almost the identical grinder. The big differences are the burr set and the housing material. The Virtuoso has a better-quality burr set that grinds faster and just a bit more consistently than the Encore burrs. The housing of the Virtuoso is plastic and stainless steel, which looks a little more sophisticated.
The great thing about these two models is that the Encore and Virtuoso are so nearly identical that you can use the same parts in the Encore that are in the Virtuoso. If you don’t want to upgrade from the Encore to the Virtuoso, just buy the burr set for the Virtuoso and install it in the Encore.
Here are some other pros and cons of the Encore and Virtuoso grinders from Baratza.
- You get the same compact and well-made housings for both. Both machines take up minimal counter space and look great in your kitchen.
- The front-mounted pulse button on both machines gives you the option for grinding directly into your coffee maker’s filter basket.
- With 40 grind settings, both of these machines are great at making a wide range of ground sizes.
- The Encore does not have the 60-second timer on the pulse button. This is on the Virtuoso only and it’s a really handy feature.
- Despite the minimal differences between the two grinders, the Virtuoso is quite a bit more expensive than the Encore.
- Both grinders have a 40mm stainless steel burr set. However, they aren’t the same burr set. The Encore uses the M3 burr, while the Virtuoso uses an M2 burr.
Features & Benefits of Baratza Encore vs Virtuoso
Design and Construction
Both grinders were designed with a compact yet efficient appliance in mind. While both of the machines have a similar size footprint, there are slight differences in the looks and functionality of the two grinders.
The Virtuoso has some nice stainless steel details that add to the aesthetics of the machine. The Virtuoso is further enhanced with a burr set that is also used in one of the higher-level grinders in the Baratza line.
Both the Encore and Virtuoso are great machines and they both work fantastically. However, the Encore is really intended to be a budget or starter-level conical burr grinder. The all-plastic housing and lower-grade burrs work great, which is a testament to the design and construction of the product, and a great value for a coffee lover on a budget.
Between the two grinders, the Virtuoso’s M2 burrs with a grind rate of 2 grams/second are the better option for a more consistent grind size.
The 40-step grind selector allows you to really pinpoint the perfect grind size for your favorite coffee brew. One of the selling points of the Virtuoso is that it has what the industry considers to be a perfect medium size grind.
This grind is ideal for pour-over, Aeropress-style, and french press coffee makers.
Neither the Encore nor Virtuoso offers a dosage setting. Considering the price tag of both this is a surprise. We’ve seen lower levels but still good grinders that offer even a rudimentary way to select dosage.
Easy to Use
One of the best things about both of these grinders is that they are so easy to use. The simple controls, easy set-up, and intuitive operation make both models great options for the coffee lover that just wants to keep life simple.
The simplicity of these machines also means that cleaning them is fairly easy, so you can keep the mess to a minimum.
Both of these grinders are considered base-level or entry-level grinders. You’ll be able to enjoy a wide range of grind sizes for everything from espresso to your basic drip coffee. We like the price for both of these grinders as an entry-level option.
The Virtuoso comes in about $100 more than the Encore. With the only significant difference between the two grinders being the addition of stainless steel details on the Virtuoso, you aren’t really getting much for the extra cash.
Alternatives to the Baratza Encore Vs Virtuoso
OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
OXO is making a stand as a great option for an affordable conical burr grinder. This highly affordable (less than $100) has some of the convenience features that the Baratza Encore and Virtuoso are missing.
The stainless steel housing and dose setting are some of the highlights. The anti-static grounds bin is another great feature of the OXO Brew conical burr coffee grinder.
Though the price is great, the burr quality here is a little lower, and you only get 15 grind size options. However, for the price, this is a good entry-level grinder if you aren’t ready to spend over $100 for a coffee grinder.
Breville Smart Grinder Pro Coffee Bean Grinder
- Stainless steel conical burrs designed to minimize grinding heat and protect the essential oils in the coffee bean
- 60 precise grind settings from the finest Espresso to the coarsest French Press Grind. Voltage: 110 120 Volts. Power: 165 Watts
- Precision Electronic Timer allows users to adjust grind time in 0.2 second increments and consistent dose every time
- 18 ounce coffee bean capacity with locking system for easy removal, storage, and transfer of the bean hopper
- Grind directly into portafilter, grinds container, gold tone filter basket or paper filter
The Breville Smart Grinder Pro is a nice step above the Virtuoso when it comes to features and convenience. This grinder is fully programmable with a wide range of dose amounts, and grind coarseness that’s all done digitally.
The Breville offers 60 unique settings, and you can choose how you dose your grinds, select the time, coffee type, or the number of cups.
One of the stand-out features of the Breville Smart Grinder Pro is the ability to grind directly into your espresso machine’s portafilter. This is a huge win for people that hate the mess of spooning or pouring grounds into the portafilter.
KitchenAid Burr Coffee Grinder
The KitchenAid burr coffee grinder is another fully programmable coffee grinder that comes in at a very affordable price. If you want more bells and whistles than the Baratza lines offer, KitchenAid is a well-known brand with a great reputation for quality.
This coffee grinder has 70 precise grind settings for coarse grounds for a cold brew to extra fine grounds for that bold espresso. This is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of coffee grinder. The KitchenAid burr grinder has an automatic start dosing technology, so it will grind the perfect amount when you tell it to start.
It is also able to grind directly into your espresso machine portafilter for less mess and more convenience. This grinder is also a bit shorter than other options, allowing it to fit nicely under your kitchen cabinets.
Final Thoughts on Baratza Encore vs Virtuoso
A great conical burr coffee grinder doesn’t have to cost a bunch of money. The Baratza Encore and Virtuoso are two great examples of outstanding entry-level grinders that perform well and are highly reliable despite their lower price and basic operation.
With replaceable burrs and 40-grind settings, these two burr grinders are perfect options for a conical burr grinder that will last you years and provide you with many delicious cups of coffee.