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?
When Gail first met this sophisticated robot about 18 months ago, they had a brief and fleeting affair, enabling her to get just a minor taste of its capabilities. We brought in a demo model a few months ago and Gail has now had the time to get up close and personal with Rancilio’s commercial superautomatic masterpiece, the Egro — so we decided it was time for a redux!
While she’s definitely bummed that it still won’t do her laundry, take the cat for a walk or read to her, she does dig it’s programming functionality, one-touch features and flexibility in formats! Watch as she walks us through all the features and specs, then demonstrates making a few different drinks.
To clump or not to clump — that is the question! You know that we shoot from the hip very often around here at Seattle Coffee Gear HQ and the whole subject of clumping seemed to be a little bit mythical. After all, you’re pressing down the grounds with the tamper so why would any clumps beforehand matter?
We wanted to see if we could practically notice a difference between shots pulled with coffee ground directly from the Rocky doserless grinder and shots which were stirred up beforehand. Watch Gail experiment to determine whether or not clumping really is something worth considering.
While perhaps not totally at home in your kitchen, this commercial-class machine is an excellent choice for locations that will not be doing a ton of espresso drinks but still want to be able to whip up the drinks in a timely, expert manner.
The Epoca S1 comes with an internal water reservoir (no plumbing) and runs on 15 amp / 110 volts, so you don’t have to have special electric outlets installed. It’s not a super mobile machine, however, because it’s a bit unwieldy, so may not be the best choice for caterers, but if you’re staying in one spot this could be the solution for your small cafe.
Watch Gail take us through the features and show us how this little baby performs.
A public service announcement from our technical department regarding the care & feeding of your burr grinder:
Never adjust the grind finer without turning the grinder on. The motor needs to be on & spinning as you adjust the burrs more closely together to ensure that beans are not compacted in the burr teeth, clogging the burrs or carrying grinds into the grinding chamber threads, thus jamming the burr carrier. This can damage and/or break the grinder and is not something that is covered under any manufacturer or retailer warranty.
So if you’re going to tweak your grind to go a little finer, kick on the grinder first and, if you have beans in the hopper, make sure it’s grinding normally as you move the burrs closer together. This will ensure that you don’t clog/jam the burrs and potentially damage the grinder.
Got a spare $13k lying around that you’re just not sure what to do with? Of course you do! And the obvious expenditure is on a commercial-class superautomatic like the Rancilio Egro ONE.
OK, maybe it’s not up your alley for a home machine, but this fully programmable superautomatic would be right at home in a convenience store — you can program specific drinks and set it up to take payment — or a high capacity restaurant, cafe or drive-through espresso stand that requires extreme efficiency.
Watch Gail go through all the features and make us a few different drinks on this super fancy little number.
Another Rancilio-related FAQ is about the Rocky grinder. Over the last six months or so, we’ve seen an increase in customers contacting us with issues around the Rocky’s ability to effectively grind oilier dark-roasted beans. Gail talks to us about the issue and her theory about what’s going on.
Extend the life of your grinder and minimize re-calibration and changing grinder function by regularly taking it apart and thoroughly cleaning out the burrs. While the excellent cleaning product Grindz is really good at keeping the burrs free of caked-up coffee grounds, nothing beats a disassemble and reassemble.
In this video, Gail shows us how to take apart the Rancilio Rocky, clean it and then put it back together again.