Baratza Grinders swept the coffee world by storm when the company was founded in 1999, offering reasonably priced, high quality coffee grinders.
They offer an array of coffee grinders from the $129 Encore model to the top of the line $899 commercial-quality Forte. However, this wide selection may lead to confusion as to which Baratza Grinder is best for your needs.
The most important thing to consider when purchasing any grinder is to decide what kind of brewing method(s) you will be using, now and in the future.
Do you just want better coffee?
Will you stick with simple brewing systems, like an automatic drip machines such as the Behmor Brazen Plus, pour overs such as Chemex, or French presses like the Espro Press?
Or will you be delving into the world of espresso, which requires consistency and the ability to precisely “dial in” grind size, coffee weight, etc.?
Sometimes you do get what you pay for, and in the coffee world this definitely holds true. The better (and generally more expensive) the equipment, the easier it is to dial in great espresso shots, or even influence the nuances of your pour overs.
Without further ado, we’ll delve into all the Baratza Coffee Grinder models and discuss their pros and cons, capabilities, and most importantly, “best suited for” categories, giving you our recommendations for the best use for each model.
Baratza Grinders fall into two categories – those with conical burrs, and those with flat burrs. Determining which type of burr is better has consumed many thousands of posts on various internet forums, so we’ll leave those arguments where they are best debated.
Conical Burr Grinders
Baratza’s conical grinders include the Encore, Virtuoso, and Preciso, with all three having 40 mm. conical burrs made in Liechtenstein that are good for around 500 lbs. of coffee grinding before needing replacement (an easy task with no tools required).
The three primarily differ in motor power, the construction of the case, adjustability to be able to “dial in” a grind, and additional timing features. The Virtuoso and Preciso also have better burr sets than the encore with closer tolerances.
All three of these Baratza grinders feature new 160 watt DC motors that are low revving (compared to AC motors used in older models) and they rotate the burrs at 450 rps, resulting in less heat transfer to the beans and the grinds.
In 2012, Baratza introduced a second generation Gearbox. The redesign significantly increased the strength and durability of the drive transmission while decreasing noise.
Baratza’s entry level conical burr grinder is the $129 Encore. Boasting 40 settings, it has the ability to grind anything from a coarse French press grind to a fine espresso grind. The settings are adjustable by turning the hopper.
The only timing controls that this model possesses are an intermittent pulse button on the front of the machine, and an on/off knob on the side.
The slowest of the conical burr grinders, the Encore is able to grind about 1 gram per second, which translates up to two minutes of grinding time for a 12 cup automatic drip pot. The Encore does not have a portafilter holder for espresso.
Recommended For: Those who brew small automatic drip or pour over pots, use a single serve system (such as refillable Keurig capsules), use small French presses, or are on a low budget.
Not recommended for those who currently brew espresso or believe they may in the future, as there are not enough settings to dial in within the range required for espresso. Read Foodal’s Complete Baratza Encore Review or see it Amazon.
A step up from the Encore is the $229 Virtuoso. A cast zinc upper casing and base adds structural strength and greatly enhances the beauty over the plasticy Encore.
This Baratza grinder also gives a more consistent grind at both ends of the spectrum. It has a more powerful motor and is able to grind around 2 grams per second, double the speed of the Encore.
The Virtuoso also offers timing options. Besides the intermittent pulse button, this grinder has a 60-second time switch and can be set in increments for grinding by the dose (useful when grinding for all brewing methods but almost necessary for espresso).
The Virtuoso is our most highly recommended machine for new coffee connoisseurs, and unless bitten deep by the espresso bug, is the best all-around grinder for the average household.
Recommended For: Those who brew regular-sized automatic drip or pour over pots, or for those who are just getting into home espresso and want to minimize initial costs. Read Foodal’s in depth review or take a gander at real world customer comments on Amazon.
The Preciso is our number one recommendation for those looking to get into home espresso with a limited budget (and it excels at other brewing methods as well).
At $299, the Preciso brings much needed extra steps, via a micro adjustment that allows users to find a grind setting in between the 40 macro steps.
These extra steps are crucial to allowing the home barista to dial in their espresso shots. Where the Encore and Virtuoso may have only 2 or 3 of the 40 steps at the finest grind level required, the Preciso expands this to 6 or 7 settings, which is crucial to getting espresso shots “just right.”
Different beans and different roasts require small adjustments to their grind levels, and this is really the cheapest decent quality Baratza grinder that allows for these adjustments.
The Preciso comes with the “portaholder,” which allows for hands-free grinding into an espresso portafilter, and makes clean up easy. The regular 5 oz. grounds bin is also included.
Recommended For: Those who are just getting into home espresso and want a decent quality grinder that is adjustable enough to be dialed in for espresso shots, and that doesn’t “break the bank” in terms of cost.
The Preciso also works well for all forms of coffee grinding to include automatic drip, pour over, and French press pots, and the micro steps can be used for “dialing in” these types of brew processes as well. See Foodal’s in-depth review for more details or check it out on Amazon.
Flat Burr Ceramic Grinders
The flat burr lineup includes the Vario, Vario W, and the Forte. All three have 54 mm. flat Swiss-made ceramic burrs that are long lasting, with the estimated life being around 750 lbs. of coffee before replacement is needed (again, no tools required and the replacement is easy).
All three have digital displays, with the Forte’s being more advanced. A 160-watt motor powers both the Vario and the Vario-W, and all three use a belt drive transmission to reduce noise.
The three vary on how they dose coffee, and while the Vario models are good for anything up to light restaurant use, the Forte is designed for heavier commercial work.
The Vario, at $449, provides a great step up from the Preciso. The digital front panel is capable of saving three presets with digital control dosing timing, and the machine features macro and micro control levelers that are easy to read and adjust.
The adjustment levers are connected to milled metal camshafts. As a lever is moved, a lobe on the camshaft presses against the bottom of the lower burr, resulting in a small gap between the lower burr and fixed upper burr.
The micro and macro adjustment levers allow for 230 distinct and easily repeatable grind settings that make it ideal for adjusting for espresso shots. Both the hopper and the grounds bin are capable of holding 8 ounces of beans.
Like the Preciso, the Vario includes a portaholder that allows for hands-free dosing directly into an espresso portafilter.
Recommended For: Heavy home users, those a little more serious about home espresso, and light commercial use. Learn more about the Baratza Vario. Read Foodal’s detailed review or check out all of the customer comments on Amazon.
At $549, the Vario-W brings a lot to the table for $100 more than its sister the Vario. Instead of time-based grinding, the Vario-W utilizes a desired grind weight and will grind a dose within 0.2 grams of the selected amount.
This gives the barista a better method in controlling the brew variables, rather than depending on extra steps and scales for weighing.
The only downside is that the portaholder feature that is available on the regular Vario cannot be used with the Vario-W, and the grinds are captured in the 120 gram bin.
Recommended For: Heavy home users, those wanting to control all variables in brewing espresso, and light commercial users. Read Foodal’s review and learn more about the Vario-W or you can see what the consensus is on Amazon.
At $899, the Forte is the tank of the Bartaza grinder series. Featuring all aluminum construction and innovative features such as the “shut off” hopper, despite a small footprint, the Forte was designed for heavy use within commercial coffee shops or for dedicated home espresso buffs.
This machine gives the barista the choice of weight dosing accurate to .02 grams, time based dosing, and it can even calculate a weight preset into a time value that is accurate within +/- .5 grams of the set point, allowing easy and repeatable dosing for espresso.
Thanks to a large motor and larger gear to belt ratio, the Forte grinds at an extremely fast 2.0 grams per second for espresso, and 3.5 to 3.7 grams per second for French press or a drip grind.
Similar to the Vario, the Forte features all metal macro adjustment levers that give 10 macro choices for the grind size.
Instead of the 10 micro adjustments found on the Vario line, the Forte has 26 micro settings, allowing for complete finessing of the grind and making this machine perfect for a café or a dedicated home espresso fan.
The Forte comes standard with the new “shut off” hopper.
Recommended For: Those wanting to control absolutely all variables in brewing espresso, and heavy commercial use at busy cafes and coffee houses. Read Foodal’s in depth review and learn more about the Forte or see what the buzz is about on Amazon.
Shut Off Hopper
The new “shut off” hopper holds 300 grams of coffee (and a 250-gram hopper extension is available). This hopper is vastly improved and is unique in comparison to anything that has come before it.
It allows for a valve to be closed prior to the removal of the hopper, trapping the beans inside of the hopper while it is being removed. With an average of only 10 grams of bean loss, this feature minimizes costs, waste, and cleanup.
Although it comes stock with the Forte model, the “shut off” hopper is also available for purchase separately, and can be retrofitted onto any of the other Bartaza grinder models. Learn more about the Baratza Shut Off Hopper.
The Esatto Coffee Scale attaches to the bottom of an Encore, Virtuoso, or Preciso, and converts them to weight-based grinding similar to that of the Vario-W.
Simply set the weight of the grind that you want, and the Esatto takes over to weigh the ground coffee within .10 of gram and stop automatically.
Three programmable buttons store desired weight settings and allow for repeatable and accurate one-touch grinding.
This is a highly recommended upgrade to any of Baratza’s conical burr coffee grinders. Learn more about the Baratza Esatto Scale.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article and that it has assisted you in deciding which Baratza grinder you should purchase to fit your needs. If you need more assistance, please do not hesitate to comment below and I will be happy to answer your questions.
About Mike Quinn
Mike GIllispie spent 20 years in the US Army and traveled extensively all over the world. As part of his military service, Mike sampled coffee and tea from all virtually every geographic region, from the beans from the plantation of an El Salvadorian Army Colonel to "Chi" in Iraq to Turkish Coffee in the Turkish Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He spent nearly a decade in the Republic of Korea where he was exposed to all forms of traditional teas. Mike formerly owned and operated Cup And Brew, an online espresso and coffee equipment retail operation.