Looking for an entry-level espresso-grade grinder and not sure where to start? Well, we like a grudge match around here, so you may have seen the previous stand-offs between the Breville Smart Grinder vs the Rancilio Rocky and the Baratza Virtuoso vs Breville Smart Grinder. Those may have left you wondering: How do all three stack up against each other? Being the mind readers that we are at SCG, Kat and I used a Breville BES900XL and Velton’s Bonsai Blend to put these grinders through the paces.
Let’s compare them side-by-side:
|Baratza Virtuoso||Breville Smart Grinder||Rancilio Rocky|
|Burr Type||Conical steel||Conical steel||Flat steel|
|Case Material||Plastic||Brushed stainless steel||Stainless steel|
|Height||13 inches||14 inches||14 inches|
|Hopper Capacity||8 oz.||1 lb and hopper is removable!||8 oz.|
|Weight||16 lbs||5.6 lbs||18 lbs|
|Programmability||None||LCD screen lets you set grind (coarse to fine) volume (in cups and shots depending on fineness of grind) and dosage (weak to strong)||None|
|Timer or on/off switch||Timer and manual||Timer and manual setting||Manual only|
|Time to grind double shot||12 sec||22 sec||20-30 sec|
|Dosing||Only with timer, not by weight/volume||Automatically adjusts with grind; from coarser (dose in cups) to fine (dose in shots)||Doser avail for +$10, otherwise chute only|
|Grind consistency (1-5 scale, 5=most consistent)||40 individual step settingsFinest setting: 3
Coarsest setting: 1
|25 settingsFinest setting: 4
Coarsest setting: 2
|55 settingsFinest setting: 5, like talc
Coarsest setting: 3
|Shot performance (scale of 1-5, 5=strongest)||3: Overall, a solid shot, with the depth you’d expect from a fresh grind and proper dial-in.||4: A solid shot with great flavor and slightly more complex notes using the 2nd finest setting.||5: Shot has a great mouth feel, and you can taste more complexity and richness to the shot.|
|Notes||No frills, no fuss, easy to use, it’s a strong performer for espresso and other coffee applications. No electric panel makes trouble shooting a breeze as your grinder ages.||The lightest of the pack, this grinder is extremely versatile and a great value. It’s all about the features and accessories: portafilter holders, ground coffee canister, removable hopper to switch out beans.||Commercial quality for home use and it shows. Largest footprint of all grinders, a big commitment to your counter top, but with definite benefits in shot quality.|
The Rocky is a literal heavyweight coming in at 18 pounds and a hundred dollar heftier price tag, but there’s no doubt that the commercial quality burrs make a difference when it comes to tasting the complexity of your shot. I love the Virtuoso’s ease of use and inherent versatility, so it’s often my go-to for testing espresso, pour overs and french press. But like an ostrich, I am drawn to shiny objects and I wish it had more stainless in the casing. The Smart Grinder fulfills this need, and weighing in under six pounds means it doesn’t need to be a permanent fixture on your countertop – but it could be because it’s great for households with multiple coffee drinkers with different bean preferences. What would you choose?
We often talk about the importance of grinders and how investing in a good burr grinder will positively impact your shot, so we thought we’d demonstrate it for you!
Watch Gail pull shots on the Rocket Giotto Evoluzione using the Baratza Preciso, Baratza Vario, Mazzer Mini E and Mahlkonig Pro M Espresso. We taste each shot and give our practical assessment and comparison of each of them. Yum!
One of the darlings of both the home and commercial espresso communities, Baratza produces several different types of coffee grinders designed to suit pretty much any coffee need. With the majority of them clocking in at under $500, they provide excellent functionality for the price.
To break down the differences between their offerings, Gail lines them up and knocks them down! Okay, she doesn’t really knock them down … but she does show off their burr sets, compare functionality and demonstrates grind consistency on the Encore, Virtuoso, Preciso and Vario.
You know how serious we are about coffee grinders! If you haven’t heard us rant before about how they’re really the most important element of your coffee setup, remind us to break it down for you sometime.
Today’s video addresses a different aspect of coffee grinders: If you’re not planning to ever make espresso at home, how do the entry level grinders compare? Even if you’re just budget-conscious and aren’t making espresso right now, picking up one of these grinders in the short term isn’t a bad idea.
We asked Gail to discuss a few different grinders (Capresso Cool Grind, Capresso Burr Coffee Grinder, Capresso Infinity and Baratza Encore), many of which don’t go fine enough for a standard espresso extraction. She shows us their features and specs, then compares their grind consistency. Finally, she prepares an Aeropress brew with each of them to see how they practically compare in a side-by-side taste-off.
Coffee grinder maintenance is essential. Period. End of story. Reasons for doing so include better tasting coffee and increased equipment longevity, but we generally prefer to lean on good ol’ peer pressure: Do you really want your friends and family to see you using a grinder encrusted with months of coffee residue? Really? We didn’t think so.
For the Baratza owners in the house, Gail has kindly walked us through the finer points of their care and feeding, including how to take them apart, tips on cleaning and then — most importantly! — how to get them back together again. Watch her walk us through the fundamentals.
Introducing Baratza’s newest entry-level grinder, the Encore! Featuring their Gear Box 2.0 upgrade — which will provide for greater strength and durability throughout the grinder’s life — it otherwise looks almost identical to their former entry-level Maestro series. But looks can be deceiving! While its predecessors worked only for espresso machines that featured pressurized baskets or portafilters, the Encore tested well even with one of the hardest to please ladies on the block: The Rancilio Silvia.
Watch as Gail takes us through features and functionality, shows off grind consistency and demonstrates extraction on the Silvia. This is a heckuva lot of grinder for a really great price!
For entry level espresso-grade grinders, the Baratza Virtuoso and the Breville Smart Grinder have a lot of features one might want to cuddle and caress (with the finger guards in place, of course!). At similar price points, how do their features and grind performance compare?
We asked Gail to take these out for a stroll and show them off for you. Watch her go through their features and functionality, then grind at three different settings (finest, medium, coarsest) to compare how the burrs practically perform.
Watch as she talks us through the different features of the Maestro Plus, Virtuoso, Preciso, Vario, Vario-W and the Esatto retrofit accessory. Then we demonstrate grind differences between the Maestro burrs, the Preciso burrs (used in the Virtuoso and the Preciso) and the Vario burrs (used in the Vario and Vario-W) to see how they compare at their finest and their coarsest.
Leave it to Baratza to take a good thing and make it better, right? Their well-loved Virtuoso has just been souped up with burrs that previously were included with the Preciso model. Why did they do this? Because they love you — of course! And also because it improves the overall consistency in the grind.
Watch Gail compare the older 585 model with the new 586.