Back to the grind, cannot believe that is the first time I’ve made that pun. Last week I reviewed the Secura Electric, a bladed build that I was very taken with. Today I got my hands on the Baratza, a build that could not be any different from the Secura. For one thing it is a burr grinder, and if you have been following my series of reviews you should know by now that, on the whole, they are better than bladed.
Burr grinders have an edge on the bladed builds, for all kinds of coffee. While I prefer bladed for their versatility, they aren’t too good beyond a fine grind. A burr grinder can do all grains of grind well, from extra coarse to fine and dandy. I haven’t got to use an electric burr grinder in a few weeks, manual burrs are very in vogue right now, so the lack of arm strength required to operate this one is fantastic.
So, my usual disclaimer. I do not drink coffee. I make coffee, and I think I’m pretty good at it, but I never acquired a taste for it. I worked for a number of years as a barista, and in an effort to get good at it I bought a stove top espresso machine, for practice. My partner is the coffee drinker in my house, she will be tasting the results of the grind, and providing the feedback we are looking for.
I usually have a section on spices in these reviews too, but I shy away from trying to make a rub in a burr grinder. Burr grinders are harder to clean, and are far more specialized as coffee grinders than bladed grinders. If you want to give it a shot be my guest, but the two times I tried I was less than happy with the end result.
So, I do three kinds of grind in my reviews. A coarse, a medium and a fine. In the past all I had to test out the flavor was my trusty moka pot, and honestly, it wasn’t too good in the coarse department. A little over two weeks ago I branched out my brewing methods with a french press. These things make short work of coarse grinds, and the two reviews where I used them made some fine coffee.
So now we have to look at the build, how the thing feels to use, and the design of the product before we can go into the flavor.
Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder Design and Build Quality
I have seen so many burr grinders over the last few months, and almost none of them have appealed to me from an aesthetic stand point. I don’t particularly like the hour glass looking builds, never have, but the Baratza does something just a little different. Take a look at it, it has that large half an hourglass looking top section, same as the other builds I disliked, but it works here. I can’t quite put my finger on why I like it. Maybe it’s the matte black body, and the sleek drawer section. The hopper can fit around 8 oz of beans in it, but there are reasons one should not grind a full load which I’ll go into later.
Using it is super easy, just set the time, set the burr and let it grind. I love simplicity in terms of end user experience. There is a level of confusion in terms of motor speed, and I recommend you watch the provided videos to get to grips with it, but the most important thing to remember when you are making a fine grind is to set it to the slowest setting, it helps prevent static build up.
So, I mentioned that burr grinders are considered better than bladed grinders. The reason is simple. The uniformity of the grind. Bladed grinders, assuming you’re not going for an extra fine grind, leaves you with particles that are randomly sized. When you brew coffee, no matter the method, the grind releases its flavor and chemicals at a rate dependant on size. When the grind is uniform you can brew for the right amount of time and get a perfect flavor, when they are random you end up with a drink that is either over brewed or under brewed. Neither of those are palatable, either bitter or weak. Burr grinders, for the most part, leaves us with a uniform grind of any level of coarseness.
The Baratza is an expensive grinder, but it earns its price with its high build quality and excellent end game grind. Now we have to figure out how it tastes, so on to the brew.
Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder Testing
I am by no means an expert coffee maker. I have been making espresso, and espresso derivative drinks, for a fair few years at this point, but I know there are others far better at it than I am. The moka pot is my tool of choice. The stove top espresso machine is such a cool device, and if you don’t have one I highly recommend you get one if you like espresso. Real espresso machines, with the proper steam pressure, are very expensive. You want around 9 bar machines, and they will cost you several hundred dollars. Don’t be fooled by the cheaper ones, they have a steam pressure on par with a moka pot, usually around 1 bar.
The reason I recommend the moka pot over other brewing methods is the crema layer. The crema layer is unique to espresso and the moka brew. It is another flavor, another mouth feel, and more importantly it is another visual aesthetic to the drink. My other brewing method is the french press, a plunger pot perfect for getting the best out of coarse beans. The french press will give you a strong black coffee, for when you really need to wake up in the morning.
So now we hit the taste test. I made three grinds, loaded up the french press with the coarse grind and plunged. Right off the bat I was impressed. The grind was damn near perfect, and the drink was smooth, strong and full bodied. If you want a great grinder for the coarse grind this is a fantastic one. My moka pot coffee is a vanilla latte, low calorie. I make the milk with a stove top foamer. The medium grind in this thing was fairly good, but the fine was extra so, and amazing as a result. Remember to make your coffee as soon as it is ground, and you will end up with a drink fit for the gods. In this case, I had to reduce the speed of the motor, so as to not get static clogging the grinder. My partner told me that no other drink I have made tasted quite as good as the end result of this one, and were it not for the price I would name it the number one on the market.
All that said, I have heard of other people having a less than stellar experience with the Baratza. Everything from clogging to poor build quality. Either I got lucky or the company has stepped up their game. The clogging issue does seem to be a design flaw though. I have seen that if you over fill the bottom section, grinding too much at once, it will clog your burr. There are videos online that let you know how to clean it, an action that takes near a half an hour.
Now we get to the point of the article where a lot of folk will be turned right the way off. Usually you are going to be stuck paying a little over $150 for the grinder, however you can sometimes find it for a better price at Amazon.com here.
That said if you have to pay over $150 there are grinders out there that are as good at doing the coarse grind at a better value. There are also grinders that are as good as the Baratza in the fine grind at a fraction of the price, but you will be hard pressed to find a grinder that can do it all to the degree that the Baratza can. So if you can get it for under $140 it’s a pretty good choice.
Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder Conclusion
The Baratza does everything that I want a grinder to do. It has 40 settings for the grain, though you can get away with half of that, so you are able to find the perfect setting for you. No matter how you brew, from Turkish classic to french press to the elegant espresso, this grinder can do it all, and do it well. The look of the build is one of my favorites, and the build quality, of the one I got was fantastic.
The only sticking point is that price. There is no doubt in my mind that this product is worth the cash, but in this market there are other options. There are even more expensive options out there, true, but if you want a grinder that does it all you needn’t look any further than the Baratza.