Update: The Virtuoso model is upgraded to the new Virtuoso+ model (with minor changes) and the former is no longer available.
It's not just about the quality of the beans or the consistency of the brew. There's another factor, too: the grind.
If you're buying pre-ground coffee, you're sacrificing a lot of freshness and flavor.
For starters, the oxidation process begins as soon as coffee beans are ground, and this means that older grounds have a staler taste. You also can't control the uniformity of your grind when someone else is doing it.
Some of it might be lumpy and coarse; some of it might be fine and powdery; all of it might be mixed together to create a terribly uneven cup of coffee.
Long story short, you'll get a much better cup if you buy whole coffee beans and grind them at home.
But what if you aren't sure which grinder to purchase? What if you need a little help choosing between different models?
Baratza Encore Versus Baratza Virtuoso+
Daily Max. Grind Capacity
Fines (Course Grind Setting)
Grind Speed (per 12g)
40mm conical burrs
40mm conical burrs
Built-in 60 sec timer
Here's an in-depth look at just two of your options.
The Baratza brand makes several different grinders. In this guide, we'll be comparing and contrasting the Encore and the Virtuoso+.
The Encore is a simple, easy-to-use grinder without a lot of bells and whistles. It's one of the cheapest products of the Baratza line, and it doesn't require advanced coffee knowledge to own, operate, clean or repair.
While it does contain impressive technology under its plastic molding, it's operated through very basic controls like an on/off switch and a one-touch pulse button.
The Virtuoso+ is a bit more complicated. It has special features that the Encore doesn't, and it's quicker in grinding speed and heavier as a countertop appliance. It's also more expensive as an initial purchase.
Both the Encore and the Virtuoso+ use 40mm conical burrs for their grinding. Generally speaking, burr grinders are better than blade grinders because of the uniformity issue.
You want the size, quality and coarseness of your grounds to be the exact same all around, and burrs deliver this result more consistently than blades.
Another great thing about these Baratza grinders is that they come with identical DC motors.
No matter which product that you wind up purchasing, you'll enjoy the same powerful motor with a rotation average of 450 PM and a grind range of 250 - 1200 microns.
The two grinders start to differ when it comes to features:
The Encore has a simple on/off switch located on the side of the grinder body. It also has a front-mounted pulse button to grind your beans directly into an espresso filter basket.
The Virtuoso+ has the same front-mounted pulse button, but its side switch is actually a 60-second wind-up timer with a customizable range. You'll need to adjust its settings depending on what you're trying to brew. For example, a French press will require a different grind than a standard drip-brew coffeemaker.
The Encore has a grind speed of .8 - 1.1 g/sec, so it'll take you about 30 seconds to grind 70 grams of coffee. Depending on the size of your mug or travel thermos, this means that you can make anywhere from 3 - 6 cups of coffee with a full minute of grinding.
The Encore offers 40 individual grind settings. They're all clearly visible on the hopper with white tally marks against black plastic, so it's not difficult to change them.
The lower settings make a fine grind while the higher settings evolve from medium-coarse to fully coarse.
The very best thing about the Encore is its versatility with its grind settings.
Do you like creamy cappuccinos where every sip delivers a smooth, velvety feeling? Make your grounds nice and fine.
Do you prefer cold brew coffee that you steep for hours at a time? Make your grounds extra coarse.
The Encore can help you prepare all kinds of coffee beverages from the comfort of your own home.
The Virtuoso offers a grind speed of 1.5 - 2.4 g/sec. This is higher than the Encore, so you can brew more coffee in less amounts of time. It'll be mighty convenient for office break rooms or large families with lots of coffee addicts.
On the flip side, you'll want to be careful when it comes to overheating. You can burn your coffee beans if your grinder gets too warm or too fast, and that'll impact the taste of your eventual brew.
The good news is that the Virtuoso has adjustable settings for its electronic speed controller. You'll need to break open the gearbox of the unit and fiddle with its controls, but you can modify its RPM between 405 and 495 rotations per minute.
The Virtuoso offers the same grind range as the Encore: 250 - 1200 microns.
Whether you're aiming for grounds that are fine, coarse or a medium level in between, the Virtuoso can get it done.
Ease of Use
The Encore is an "entry-level" grinder, so it doesn't have an overly complicated design that will leave you scratching your head as you try to make your morning cuppa. It's meant for people who want to step up their coffee game without jumping too far ahead of their personal learning curve.
Here are some of the ways that the Encore makes it easy to grind your coffee beans:
The Virtuoso+ is the next step above the Encore. While it's still a relatively simple machine, it has more advanced settings, and you can customize the grinding process in more precise ways:
The flip side of the Virtuoso's expert-level grinding technology is that you'll need to be familiar with things like overheating warning signs. If you don't recognize them or aren't willing to learn, you'll be buying a fancy machine for nothing.
The Encore and the Virtuoso are pretty much the same in terms of long-term maintenance.
They're easy to wipe down, so cleanliness won't be an issue. Their parts are made of steel and plastic, so they won't retain odors or debris. Almost everything can be detached or adjusted in some way.
Both grinders are safe to use, too. Even if you have no idea how grinding technology works, there are built-in safety features in all Baratza products to keep them steady and reliable.
For example, there's a thermal cutoff switch in both the Encore and the Virtuoso+ that automatically resets if the motor runs too ragged.
You'll also enjoy a decent warranty from the Baratza brand.
It lasts for a year and covers all kinds of defects and mishaps as long as you make a good-faith effort to regularly clean and maintain your machine.
As long as you don't break your grinder on, say, a non-food item, you can send the whole thing back to Baratza for repairs.
Baratza does recommend replacing their burrs after grinding 500 - 1,000 pounds of coffee, but you shouldn't reach this milestone for awhile, and it won't be difficult to replace them even when the time comes.
All replacement parts are available for ordering on Baratza's website.
The Encore has a top-loaded design where you deposit the coffee beans into its hopper from directly overhead.
The grinder body is located below, and it's made with reinforced thermo-plastic that won't stain, crack or collapse.
The burrs themselves are stainless steel. Everything is designed with coffee freshness in mind, so it will protect against the usual suspects of heat, light and moisture.
The Encore hopper can hold eight ounces of coffee beams.
The Virtuoso measures 6.7 x 6.7 x 12.6 inches and weighs 7.05 pounds.
It's a bit bigger than the Encore, and it's heavier, too.
A lot of this additional weight comes from a metal plate at the bottom of the grinder body. It's a sturdier model than the Encore, but the trade-off is that it's even less portable.
In terms of design, it's made the exact same way as the Encore.
The hopper is on top; the buttons are on the side and front of the grinder body; the cabinet is down below. However, many of the Virtuoso's parts are made with shiny steel as opposed to hard black plastic, so you might value this gleaming aesthetic a little more in terms of style.
Like the Encore, the Virtuoso also holds eight ounces of coffee beans in its hopper. Just remember that it grinds faster, so you'll go through coffee faster, too.
The exact prices of these grinders will fluctuate depending on the market, so it isn't worth quoting them directly. Broadly speaking, however, the Virtuoso is going to be anywhere from $50 - $100 more than the Encore.
Its advanced settings and special features make it a higher class of grinder, and you have to be willing to pay for its increased speed, power and convenience.
Life expectancy can also make a difference in your long-term costs. While the Virtuoso might be a higher-quality machine overall, it's not going to last as long as the Encore.
This is because the Encore is a slower machine that grinds less coffee than its counterpart, so it probably won't reach that 500 - 1,000 replacement standard as quickly.
You won't have to worry about paying for replacement parts anytime soon.
Should you buy the Encore or the Virtuoso? It depends on what you need from a coffee grinder.
If you're looking for an entry-level grinder, buy the Encore.
It has a very basic design that won't confuse you when it's 5AM and higher brain functions are a struggle. It doesn't have much in the way of advanced settings, but that can be a good thing for people who are new to the world of homemade grinding systems.
If you want to test the whole idea before committing a lot of time and money to it, the Encore is an easy and inexpensive option.
If you want a grinder that's a little more advanced, consider the Virtuoso+.
It isn't the biggest, flashiest machine on the market, but it's a step or two above the Encore.
It comes with more options for coffee customization and has more advanced circuitry under its hood.
You'll have to pay a higher price upfront, but it might be worth the investment if you're a regular java drinker.
All things considered, the Virtuoso+ is perfect for people who are somewhere between "beginner" and "expert" on the home-brewer scale.
At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter if you buy the Encore or the Virtuoso+ they're both great products from the Baratza line, and they'll both get the job done. You'll just need to compare and contrast them side-by-side to determine which is truly right for you.
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