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Introducing the Baratza Forte Coffee Grinder – one of the winners of the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) Best New Product of 2013 award at their Boston event. It has been capturing hearts as the “sexiest” burr mill at every SCAA show, and in homes and coffee shops everywhere since it first appeared.
Heeding the demands of “third wave” coffee bars and discriminating home users, Baratza has taken its classic Vario-W and made some significant upgrades in terms of styling, materials, and construction.
The new Forte’s appearance makes it one of the most attractive grinders on the market, and it should complement any décor thanks to its brushed stainless steel exterior.
Designed with commercial users and dedicated home espresso buffs in mind, this Baratza Forte Coffee Grinder packs power and performance in a compact machine, housed in a sleek metal exterior casing.
The Bottom Line
Achieve the exact espresso grind coarseness that you desire with the Baratza Forte Coffee Grinder. You can easily transition from drip grinds to fine espresso with ease.
This machine may be compact in size, but it packs enough power to take on medium to high consistency use. Everything can be controlled on the grinder with the machine’s digital touchscreen display.
Baratza Forte AP (All-Purpose) available on Amazon
Available in both an All Purpose (AP) or Brew Grind versions with a different set of burrs tailored for different purposes, the Baratza Forte has the ability to fill your requirements.
The AP version does exactly what it says – it can grind from Turkish and Espresso levels of fineness to about a medium level of coarseness, just reaching the levels needed for French Press.
The BG is designed for those who will not be grinding for espresso, and was specifically engineered for grinding for French presses, automatic drip, and pourover drip brewing devices (although it will grind a coarse espresso if you so desire).
It was primarily made for “third wave” brew bars looking for an upgrade from their metal burr equipped Vario and Vario-Ws, but it also works well in the home.
With 260 adjustments controlled by all-steel macro and micro levers, it is easy to create whatever grind you desire with this machine.
A brand new hopper design allows you to easily remove the hopper while it is still holding beans, with no spillage and no waste.
A beautiful LCD touchscreen controls grinding by weight, time, or via a manual mode (with stop/start button). If you are in the market for a compact machine that is robust enough for commercial use, yet simple enough for novice users to handle, then the Forte may be right for you.
Coffee prep has never been easier than with the Baratza Forte. Read actual customer reviews now!
I first had a chance to use and abuse this machine at the Coffee Fest 13 in Seattle, and to say I’m impressed is an understatement. However, there are a few minor quirks that I will cover in this review of the Baratza Forte that should be considered before purchasing.
Construction & Design
In the past, Baratza has been known for being the lead in the best-bang-for-the-dollar category of coffee grinders. The perception of some critics is that they have sacrificed material choice to keep costs, and thus prices, low for the consumer.
However, with the introduction of the Baratza Forte, the days of nearly all-plastic builds with light, mostly cosmetic touches of stainless steel, may be coming to an end.
The model features a robust one-piece thick stainless steel frame, which is complemented with a nice brushed finished.
Some would argue that a polished appearance would have better complemented many of the home and commercial espresso machines in the market.
However, this would have added greatly to the cost, as all of the rounded parts would have required multi-step hand finishing on buffing wheels.
Two Models For Two Brewing Styles
The Baratza Forte is available in two styles, and your choice will depend on your brewing style. The AP or “All Purpose” model features 54-millimeter ceramic flat burrs that are identical to those in the Vario, 14 millimeters larger than the burrs in Baratza’s cheaper conical burr models.
The AP is designed to grind from a fluffy espresso fineness to a medium coarse grind that just inches into the upper ranges of that which is required by French presses. It will even grind finally enough to achieve the which is required for Turkish extractions.
Baratza Forte AP (All-Purpose) available on Amazon
The Baratza Forte AP’s burrs are designed with performance and longevity in mind. The ceramic burrs will have a longer shelf life than metal burrs (upwards of 500 lbs. or more).
These flat-shaped burrs were designed to keep the grind consistent, and are specifically engineered to prevent issues with heat transfer. This is a problem that often occurs with smaller metal burrs that grind at espresso levels, and that in turn can damage the flavor of the beans.
As requested by many coffee bars that specialize in the pourover style of brewing, Baratza has released a second model – the Baratza Forte BG or Brew Grind.
This model features 54-millimeter stainless steel flat burrs designed to grind to an extreme press pot coarse to barely inching into espresso territory.
Baratza Forte BG (Brew Grinder) available on Amazon
Where it truly shines is dialing in the machine for pourover brewing using such drippers as the Kalita, Hario V-60, and the Chemex.
Which Model is Right For You?
If you had to choose one? Unless you are a hard core French press coffee drinker, the AP would be the best choice, as you will be able to dial it into almost all ranges and it will work great for espresso as well.
The grinds from the Forte AP, Vario, and Vario-W have all been compared to the Mazzer Super Jolly (they share the same burrs) so that is some statement.
Even if you don’t currently own an espresso machine and use an automatic drip or a pourover method, the AP would still be the best choice for home use, as you may delve into espresso brewing at a later point.
Many coffee fans start out with these simpler brewing styles and get “sucked” into the world of the espresso at home experience.
Parts & Pieces
Powerful Belt-Driven Motor
Although the Baratza Vario and the Forte share the same burr set, the rest of their internals are very different. The motor has been upgraded to a 2.3-amp low speed and high-torque belt drive unit, giving it similar properties to the old fashioned, large, Italian-made grinders.
With 70% greater power than the Vario, the grinding speed has significantly increased. This also allows the machine to remain in near continuous operation at busy coffee shops without becoming too hot.
Due to the lower speed of the motor, this grinder operates at quieter levels, meaning it won’t be loud or overwhelming while it’s in use.
Even though the motor is more powerful than others in its class, the blades rotate more slowly to prevent issues with heat transfer, helping to keep the sound output low.
Grind Chamber & Control Levers
Another set of upgrades the Baratza Forte has over the Vario features all-metal construction in virtually all of its components. This includes the grinding chamber and the two sliding levers that control the 260 macro and micro grind settings (while the Vario has just 230 settings).
One of the most often discussed but minor annoyances with the Vario is that the control levers were a little too loose and flexible. The metal versions produce nice solid clicks, they are much more firm, and adjustments stay put.
Although the highly effective static electricity-reducing coffee bin has been retained from previous models, various other elements of the grinder have been upgraded.
The portaholder has been improved, and is now a heavy, solid chunk of metal that securely holds portafilters of all sizes (including 49 millimeters) with no issues. This portaholder is available as a separate part directly from Baratza, and some espresso enthusiasts have reported successful integration with it and the Vario (although it was not designed for this purpose).
Upgraded Bean Hopper
Another major upgrade involves the bean hopper. The new device, called the Shut Off Hopper, has a valve-actuated stopper that prevents the beans from falling out when it is removed.
No more turning the grinder topsy-turvy or spilling beans when you wish to switch roasts or varieties – this hopper is designed to be backwards compatible with all of Baratza’s grinders, and it is available for retrofit.
The Shut Off Hopper comes stock with the Baratza Forte Coffee Grinder.
The star of the show is definitely the large and gorgeous touchscreen control system. This touchscreen is both easy to read, and easy to program.
Nearly all of the features of this machine can be accessed from the backlit LCD display. Here, you will be able to access three different user-programmable settings based on both weight and time, or manual settings.
Grinding by Weight or Time, or Both
With the touchscreen interface, you are able to choose from three options to include time-based grinding, weight-based grinding, or a manual mode.
By pressing the TIME function on the touchscreen,n you can specify the grind time. Once the TIME function is initiated, the screen shows arrow keys that allow you adjust the time up or down in seconds, or you can simply select one of three pre-programmed amounts that are also shown.
Then, simply press START and the grinder will do the rest. The pre-programmed times can easily be adjusted, should you wish to change them.
Unlike the Vario-W, the Baratza Forte’s weight-based grinding works with the portaholder and a portafilter in place.
Weight Based Grinding
To operate, just press the WEIGHT key on the touchscreen and choose the number of grams that you wish to have ground, via the arrow keys or modifiable presets. Press START and the grinder will measure the correct weight within 0.2 grams as they fall into the bin.
One of the more unique aspects of the Baratza Forte is the ability to record your desired grind weight for various coffee beans, and store this in the memory. The machine will automatically calculate the time required to grind this weight, and you are able to retrieve this time as a stored option.
Manual Mode Grinding
This model also includes a simple on/off manual mode, and displays either weight or time based on your desires. Just press the STOP button when you’ve reached the required amount of ground coffee.
Speed & Retention
At a fine setting, such as that which you would use for espresso, the Forte AP is able to process just under 2 grams a second, and grind this amount repeatedly without heat buildup. A coarser setting results in a much faster output.
Folks, this is a very fast grinder, especially considering its smaller footprint and smaller burrs than that of a titan-class machine.
Retention is equally as good, with as little as 10% of the coffee grounds being retained at the finest settings, and no grounds being retained at medium or coarse. The anti-static features of the machine are similar to the brand’s other grinders, which means almost no static issues.
Moreover, there is no clunky doser to contend with, or an ill-conceived doserless setup “re-engineered” off a model that was originally designed to work with a doser. No work-arounds, such as removing finger guards, are needed.
The Baratza Forte simply works as it is advertised.
To say I’m in love with the Baratza Forte is an understatement. I like this model so much that I acquired one for my own home use.
Here’s the thing:
It simply outshines all other grinders in its price class, and it meets the wife’s standards of eye appeal for our countertops.
At a diminutive 5x 7” and 13 lbs, it is not a huge hulking titan-class battleship hogging our counterspace. It’s pretty easy to move around, should it be in the way (which is only very rarely – the Vitamix gets moved first).
Will it grind espresso at the level of a Mazzer Robur? No, but it’s significantly less expensive, much smaller, and it has the ability to switch quickly to French press (albeit not the coarsest) or an automatic drip coffeemaker grind (it really shines here) or an espresso grind (again, an area where it shines) with a flick of some levers.
We use the Behmor Brazen Coffee Brewer quite a bit at home when we want copious amounts of coffee in the morning, and don’t have the time or energy to fire up our Quick Mill Vetrano 2B.
All in all, considering the price, size, ability to grind by weight or time + weight, and Baratza’s legendary customer service, I can wholeheartedly recommend this grinder to virtually anyone without a hint of hesitation.
- Grind Speed
- Warranty/Parts Availability/Support
- Price for Performance
About Mike Quinn
Mike Quinn 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.