A toe-to-toe, or, rather, a burr-to-burr grudge match is always fun, right? We must think so — we do them often enough!
Due to popular request, we decided to match up the Baratza Vario and the Rancilio Rocky coffee grinders. While these are in similar price ranges, they both have different pros and cons and folks are often torn on which to choose.
If you’re not sure which might best suit your needs, watch as we go through features, compare burr sets and then demonstrate their grind quality.
Today is the day when we look ourselves in the mirror and sternly pose the following question: If required to at gunpoint, would we be able to perform a side by side comparison of the Baratza grinders? Why we might be required to do so at gunpoint is neither here nor there, but we do believe that an unquestioned life is not worth living … so we ask the tough questions.
To get the answers, we turn to the beautiful Bunny Malaspino, who was more than happy to perform such a comparison (sans weaponry) for us in this video. Watch as she breaks down the current Baratza line-up — Encore, Virtuoso, Preciso, Vario and Vario-W — and shows us how they compare functionally. If you’ve been concerned about your own ability to perform such a comparison under such stressful circumstances, this video is for you.
We’re not quite sure why one would want to pull single shots, but we’ve been asked multiple times to experiment and provide our tips on how to get the job done. So we drafted Jess to take on the formidable task of dialing in a single shot. Off-camera, she worked on the Rocket Giotto Evoluzione and the Crossland CC1; while she had success on the former, the latter still proves to be a challenge.
Watch her pull a few shots on the Rocket, varying an element each time to dial it in. The singles she pulled did taste great, but, still … really? We’re triples all the way, friends.
We do love ourselves a grudge match over here at SCG, and today’s contest is between the Rancilio Rocky and Baratza Preciso grinders. While they’re both stepped grinders — meaning that they have a notch configuration on the burrs so you have referential numbers vs. an infinite grind (like you find on the Mazzer grinders, for example) — they each have different cases to make. The Rocky has commercial-grade components and a reputation as a solid, well-built machine, while the Preciso gives you more control over the grind (offering both macro and micro settings) as well as the ability to retrofit with the Esatto if you’re looking for simple, weight-based grinding.
Watch as Gail shows us the features between these two grinder — including a tour of their burr sets, functionality and grind quality.
Specifically, a double ristretto is a double shot that has been calibrated to use the same dosage of coffee, extract in the same 20 – 30 second window and produce a powerful, condensed shot with a total volume of 1 – 1.5 oz (depending on your tastes). If you have an espresso-grade grinder, you can do this with any non-pressurized espresso machine by altering your grind and tamp.
Professor Bunny in the house! We have often been asked about how grind, dose and tamp affect each other, so we posed a few questions to learn more about it. First, how does coffee dosage affect coffee grind? As you dose more, do you need to make the grind coarser or finer? How about when you dose less? Then we turned to tamping: When you tamp more lightly, how do you have to adjust your grind to still extract within the 20 – 30 second timeframe?
In these two videos, Bunny takes on these questions and a whole lot more! Watch her experiment with the Crossland CC1 and Baratza Vario-W and learn how to change your grind in order to meet your dose amount or tamp pressure.
When Baratza released their new Encore grinder, they made a point of talking about how the re-engineering of the burr set resulted in a lower cost burr grinder that could still go fine enough for traditional espresso machines. While the consistency isn’t quite as good as its Virtuoso, Preciso or Vario counterparts, it does do a fairly solid job grinding for espresso — as long as the 0-point is set accurately.
The first demo model we tested worked just fine from the factory and we were able to use it with the Rancilio Silvia without issue; however, subsequent models — and a few customer reports — led us down the path of re-calibration. In this video, Gail shows how to take apart, re-calibrate and then put back together the Encore, including a demonstration of the grind quality before and after the adjustment.
LCD screen lets you set grind (coarse to fine) volume (in cups and shots depending on fineness of grind) and dosage (weak to strong)
Timer or on/off switch
Timer and manual
Timer and manual setting
Time to grind double shot
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.
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?