Coffee grinders are serious business. If you ask a barista, chances are they’ll tell you that the secret to making good coffee is all in the grind. Grinders are one of their most valuable assets and only second to the actual espresso machine.
So it follows that when it comes to grinders, comparing and making decisions can be just as hard as it is with coffee machines. After all, there are quite a lot of different grinders on the market, and their specs can be even more undecipherable than those of espresso machines.
In this article, we’re comparing two of the most popular grinders right now: the Baratza Encore and the Baratza Virtuoso.
Baratza has been in the business for a long time and it’s safe to say that their grinders have been some of the most popular for a decade.
This is a fair, experience-driven baratza encore vs virtuoso comparison. Let’s go.
What is Baratza Encore?
The Encore was a great hallmark for Baratza. It would mean the end of their first-line of grinders, the Maestro, and it would usher in a whole new era for them. It was released in 2012, and since then it has become arguably the most popular entry-level grinders out there.
The encore has all the makings of a good grinder. It has semi-professional specs and it works flawlessly to create consistent grind sizes.
What is Baratza Virtuoso?
A legendary name in the world of grinders. The Virtuoso has been around since 2005, one of the first grinders that the company crafted, and it became the blueprint for everything that you want in a grinder. Most grinders nowadays have a similar look and feel as the Virtuoso.
Because of its relatively low price and high functionality, the Virtuoso really made a name for Baratza and today they are probably the most recognizable brand name for grinders- even though they were purchased by Breville in 2020.
Baratza Encore VS Virtuoso: Comparison
Quality comes first and foremost when talking about grinders. A bad quality grind is, to most baristas, unusable. Bad quality means unredeemable, bad coffee.
Luckily, both grinders have high-quality burrs and motors that will always result in a very consistent, high-quality grind.
The Virtuoso has a 500 RPM motor, which is more or less the standard. The Encore, however, has a 550 RPM which might seem like an inconsequential upgrade, but it is actually very important.
These extra 50 revolutions per minute will yield more consistency. This is why the Encore is listed as a better choice for espresso drinkers—espresso needs a lot of consistency, so the Encore tends to be a better choice.
As for the motor itself, the Encore’s power rating is higher, which leads us to believe it is slightly more powerful. They do both have a thermal cut-off switch and noise levels fall within the same range with the two machines.
As for quality—at least regarding raw power and motor—the Encore does come out slightly on top.
Grind settings and functions
Both grinders have similar functions: both the Virtuoso and the Encore have 40 different grind settings, ranging from 200 to 1200 microns. Encore copied Virtuoso’s settings, which are already plenty and more than enough for preparing any drink you can think of.
Where they do differ, however, is in speed. The Encore is almost twice as fast in speed to grind as the Virtuoso. This doesn’t just mean saving a couple of seconds when grinding your coffee—grind speed is also thought to be one of the main factors in producing more even grinds.
The Virtuoso has retained more or less the same speed to grind as grinders have had for a long time: 1.5g/sec–2.4g/sec. This used to be the gold standard for grinders more than a decade ago and was considered professional.
However, times have changed and grinders are more modern nowadays: speed to grind has since doubled. The Encore, for example, has a speed to grind of 0.8g/sec–1.1g/sec. This is considered fast even when compared to professional machines.
When it comes to price, there can be quite a difference. Baratza doesn’t sell directly but has a myriad of different, independent providers. Thus, prices vary a lot depending on the particular seller you’re getting it from.
The Encore can range from $160 to $200, which is a little bit lower than the Virtuoso, which goes above the $200 mark.
Either way, there isn’t a significant enough difference between these two grinders for it to make a real difference when comparing the two.
Ease of use
Here, there’s really no way to tell the difference. Both machines are designed to work the same exact way, and the controls are identical. It really isn’t a surprise, seeing as they are from the same maker and based on the same models (the Maestro).
So, when it comes to ease of use, both are the same. They are both very easy to use and function more on dials than on digital displays (which seems to be the trend nowadays), which makes them more intuitive. Some people prefer the analog feel, which Baratza definitely provides.
You’ll notice right away that both models are strikingly similar to each other. There are, however, important decisions in this respect that we can tell apart.
The Virtuoso aesthetic is undoubtedly a little bit more old-fashioned. It’s got the classic stainless steel finish in several parts of it, but it’s mostly plastic. Black plastic and see-through where it matters.
The Encore is much more fashionable, modern. One particular model is a fusion of black and white plastic that is quite frankly much better looking than not just the Virtuoso, but arguably most other grinders.
The Virtuoso+ (a newer take) also has a small digital display, which tries to achieve that modern look. Nevertheless, it fails to do this and simply looks like an old model, slightly upgraded. It does not compare to the Encore look.
Another important aspect that we look for in a grinder is its capacity. The amount of beans they can hold in the bean hopper is important for us to know just how much coffee we are able to crank out without having to refill it again—and the bin tells us how much ground coffee the machine can hold before overflowing.
The machines are identical in this respect:
|Bean Hopper Capacity||8oz (227g)|
|Grounds Bin Capacity||5oz (142g)|
A 200+ grams hopper is considered a medium-sized one and holds enough coffee to make more than 20 cups of coffee a day. That should be enough to power a small office through a workday!
The bin will hold just about over half of the hopper’s capacity, which is actually above the standard when it comes to grinders.
Both machines have 40mm conical burrs, which is the norm and perfect size for achieving high-quality ground coffee.
These are stainless steel burrs, which are the preferred material in the industry. Of course, not all steel is made equal, and even though some brands disclose exactly the alloy used to make their burrs, Baratza does not.
We can sum it up, given that Baratza grinders have a very long life expectancy, that the quality of the steel is very good, and since both grinders are roughly in the same price range, that the same type of steel is used in both.
Although this is purely speculation, the most probable scenario is that no one machine is superior in terms of steel to the other machine. Or at least we hope that’s the case.
Grinders are pesky machines. You will have lots of loose particles, coffee oils that come loose when grinding, and annoying static that makes particles reject gravity and stick to the most surprising places. This is why cleaning is a big part of maintaining a grinder in top condition.
If you read up on reviews and similar texts, you’ll soon discover horror stories like bugs making a nest in coffee machines—and grinders are no exception.
Luckily, Baratza grinders have most of their parts outside, meaning that you can easily reach all the places that get dirty. The hopper, the box, and the burrs can easily be swiped, brushed, and wiped. And you better do it if you intend to keep your coffee bug-free.
Although, on second thought, you could be adding valuable protein content to your coffee if you don’t!
As for maintaining your machines in proper condition if anything should happen, Baratza’s long career is your ally. There are countless guides online on how to replace certain parts, how to clean them, and tutorials and guidelines of all sorts.
Baratza grinders are also famously refurbishable, meaning that even if they break down there’s a good chance that they can be repaired and back on your counter, grinding coffee in no time. And of course, you are able to buy refurbished machines which are a tad cheaper than their brand-new counterparts!
If you’re interested in more features, check out the Virtuoso+. It has a digital display and, in general, it is closer to the Encore than the original Virtuoso grinder.
…But just a little bit. It has slightly better specs, which is why it wins, but they are really quite identical. Given that they are virtually the same price, the Encore makes much more sense since it is just a tad above the Virtuoso.
In general, however, these are both great entry-level grinders that will perform to perfection and give you the coffee you deserve. The differences are so small that you probably won’t notice if you’re not an experienced barista.
The takeaway here is that Baratza is a great manufacturer of coffee grinders, and if you ever should see about buying an entry-level grinder, your best bet would be on any of these two grinders; they provide ample room for experimenting, with 40 different settings, whereas other inexpensive grinders may have 10 or less.
They are also really easy to use and, most importantly, very easy to repair and replace. In other words, the perfect entry-level grinder that you could dream of.
Marcelo is a filmmaker and passionate barista on the side. He spends his free time cooking up new and exciting recipes – and drinking too much coffee in the process.