Update: The Baratza Virtuoso is upgraded to the newer Virtuoso+ with slight changes. Here is our updated review of the Virtuoso+.
For me, saying "I love coffee" is like saying "I love air." It's an essential part of my life. Without it, I wouldn't be long for this world.
I'm telling you this because I want you to understand how serious I am about my coffee. I'm not one of those people who just shrugs and accepts whatever swill that comes out of my coffee maker.
You see, there's a science to coffee beans.
Why Are Grinders Important?
If you've only ever had pre-ground coffee from grocery store brands, you're missing out. The good stuff comes from freshly-ground coffee beans.
There's actual science behind coffee bean freshness, but the short version is that they start to go stale as soon as they're ground. They might still be drinkable, and that's why grocery stores can leave coffee bags on their shelves for years, but they'll never be as good as that first five minutes when they were first ground.
So, if you're a coffee junkie, you buy a grinder and grind your own coffee beans.
The Baratza Virtuoso+ Review
I want to talk about one grinder in particular.
The Virtuoso+ is one of several coffee grinders available from the Baratza brand. It's a higher-end model that offers more functions and features than their basic ones, but it's still relatively simple to understand. I don't think it would be too tough for a newbie to get the hang of it.
The Virtuoso+ is pretty popular. It has hundreds of good reviews on sites like Amazon and eBay. When I was in the market for a new grinder, I decided to check it out and give it a review.
The Virtuoso+ uses conical burrs for its grinding. This makes it different from bladed grinders, but most people agree that burrs are better for getting smooth, even and uniform grounds.
Fortunately, the Virtuoso+ lives up to this expectation. It creates beautifully consistent grounds whether you're making them coarse, fine or somewhere in between. This means that you can use it for all kinds of drip coffees and espressos. It's a multi-functional machine.
The secret to the Virtuoso's grinding power lies in its DC motor. It's powerfully built and wastes no time in reaching its full potential, which I appreciate as a naturally impatient person. It has a grind range of 250 - 1200 microns and its speed controller can be adjusted between 405 - 495 rotations per minute (RPM).
If that sounds like Greek to you, it just means that the Virtuoso+ has a really good grinding motor.
The design of the Virtuoso+ is pretty straightforward.
There's a plastic hopper on top where you load your coffee beans, and a metal ring surrounds it with numbers cleanly printed on the sides. The range goes from 1 - 40 with 1 being "very fine" and 40 being "very coarse."
The front of the unit has a one-touch button that you press to start the grinding process.
Before you do that, however, you might want to check the side where there's a 60-second timer dial.
If you have particular preferences about the length of your grind, you'll want to adjust the dial accordingly.
That's about it for buttons. As for aesthetics, the Virtuoso is made of gray metal and plastic with a sculptured top that gives it a sophisticated sort of vibe.
It's not quite the sleek machine of an ultra-modern coffee shop, but it won't look terrible sitting on your countertop, either.
In terms of specs, it measures 5.9 x 2.6 x 5.3 inches and weighs 7.15 pounds. It holds eight ounces of coffee beans in the hopper and five ounces in the catch container for the grounds.
Ease of Use
As I said before, I don't think the Virtuoso is difficult to navigate. You can customize its rotations and grind times, but you can also ignore these options if you don't need them or aren't ready to deal with them. In theory, you only have to press a single button to prepare your coffee beans.
One thing that should be noted is that you'll have to open the gearbox to adjust the RPM. Its standard speed is 450, so if you want to take advantage of that full 405 - 495 range, it will require messing with somewhat advanced controls.
Its grind speed is 1.5 - 2.4 g/sec. This is higher than other Baratza grinders, so you'll be able to make more cups of coffee in less amounts of time.
The Virtuoso+ is very easy to maintain. I've owned it for about five weeks without any issues. There's nothing to wash, rinse, recycle or disassemble, so you can mostly just leave it alone until it's time to use it.
I've wiped some fingerprint smudges off the metal components, and I've wiped down the interior of the grinding cone so that particles from yesterday's fine grind don't mix with particles from today's coarse grind, but that's about it.
If you do want to clean the Virtuoso, I'd recommend wiping it down with a dry rag rather than involving any water. There's simply no need.
Just kidding! There's nothing ugly about the Virtuoso+. It's not the most attractive grinder on the market, but it's not a horrific eyesore that will shame you in front of your friends and colleagues. It just looks a bit plastic.
The Final Verdict
After five weeks of consistent use, I feel comfortable recommending the Virtuoso+ to others. It isn't a flawless machine, but it offers good features for the money and doesn't have any major, world-ending flaws.
It straddles the line between basic and advanced, so it's suitable for owners of all levels of experience. Use the standard settings while you're still getting used to it; graduate to the bigger and better controls when you're feeling brave.
Make all kinds of coffee with this machine. Personally, this is my favorite thing about the Virtuoso. I love being able to switch between drip coffee and espresso depending on the type of morning that I'm having.
What else? It's easy to clean. It comes with a year-long warranty from Baratza.
If you're looking for a good, newbie-friendly coffee grinder, consider the Virtuoso+.