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Baratza Virtuoso Plus vs Encore: Which is the Better Coffee Grinder?

Ditching the pre-ground coffee should be your first step towards a better cup of joe. And this is true even if you’re new to home brewing. And if you really want to taste the difference, skip the blade grinder and head straight for the burr kind. This is why we’ve given you a detailed rundown on two popular models: Baratza Encore vs Virtuoso Plus. 

With a close look at the quality, consistency, and ease of use, you can decide which of these two grinders will be finding a place in your kitchen. 

The Baratza Encore

The Encore might sit at the bottom of the line-up as far as Baratza grinders go, but don’t let that put you off. The Baratza brand is known for its professional-grade equipment, so what you’re getting here is one of the best entry-level grinders on the market. 

The main attraction is the steel M3 burr grinder, adjustable for 40 grind settings. With this many variations between coarse and fine, it’s suitable for experimenting with most home brewing methods. The Encore is powered by a DC motor that’s not only designed to be less noisy, but also more efficient. An efficient motor won’t produce excess heat that might affect the taste and aroma of your coffee beans.

The machine itself has been designed with the home user in mind. It has a suitable footprint for domestic kitchens rather than a cafe. At 13.8 inches high, it should fit neatly under most cabinets, and the generous 8oz hopper means it won’t need constant refilling. Using the grinder is intuitive, with a toggle on/off switch on the side and a front-mounted pulse button.

The Baratza Virtuoso Plus

The Virtuoso was introduced to the line-up in 2005. It was aimed at the home barista with a more precise grinder who wanted to get a little more serious about their coffee without buying something professional. 

The model remained unchanged until the release of the Virtuoso Plus in 2019, which replaced the original.

The upgrade adds some new features to make it more user-friendly. The first is the introduction of LED backlighting to the grounds bin. It does look cool, but it’s not actually about aesthetics. It’s there to help you see when the bin fills up. The second upgrade is the 40-second timer with a digital display rather than a manual dial. With the ability to adjust it within a tenth of a second, you’ve got much more precise grinding.

The interior workings remain the same as the original Virtuoso. The conical M2 burr grinder produces an incredibly consistent grind, with fewer fines ending up in your cup of coffee. Across 40 grind settings, you can get a range from 200-1200 microns, but the Virtuoso can also be manually calibrated (1).

The Comparison: Baratza Virtuoso Vs Encore

When comparing two models from the same brand, there will be a lot of similarities. So let’s look at the difference between the two grinders. The Virtuoso Plus has a few extra features, but are they worth the big jump in price?

Baratza Encore vs Virtuoso plus infographic

Build quality 

Good build quality is one of the greatest benefits of buying home appliances from a brand that also makes commercial equipment. While these grinders might not have all of the features of Baratza’s higher-end machines, you’re still going to get quality construction.

The Encore features an entirely plastic body, but this is a premium plastic resin that’s built to last. It also makes it light and easy to clean. The Virtuoso Plus uses the same premium plastic for some of the casing and incorporates a stainless steel base and front plate. This does give it a much sturdier feel but also adds a bit of heft. The steel and plastic Virtuoso weighs in at 8 pounds compared to the Encore’s 7 pounds. 

Both Encore and Virtuoso use a durable ABS plastic for the hopper, which is tinted to help shield your beans from harmful UV rays.

Baratza’s machines not only have a reputation for being highly durable but if they do happen to break down, almost all parts can be replaced or repaired. This is a rarity for small household appliances, which are often cheaper to trash than repair. Baratza specifically sets out to stop this buy-and-dump cycle with replaceable parts and online repair tutorials.

On the inside, both the Barzta Encore and Virtuoso feature stainless steel 40mm conical burrs. We know that burr grinders produce a far superior grind than blade grinders (which chop rather than grind), but what about the different types of burr grinders?

The two types you will see are conical grinders and flat grinders. As the name suggests, flat grinders have two flat rings that lie on top of each other, crushing the coffee beans between them. Conical burrs have a fixed outer ring and a rotating cone-shaped burr in the center, with the grinding happening vertically. If you’re looking purely at the consistency of your coffee grounds, a flat burr grinder will win every time, but they aren’t necessarily suitable for home use. Conical burrs produce less noise, less heat, and are much cheaper to make. 

Then there is the choice between ceramic and metal. Ceramic is known for being incredibly durable, staying sharp even after repeated use. But at the same time, it is more brittle and can crack if foreign objects such as stones enter the grinder. Metal grinders will wear down over time, but they tend to be sharper than ceramic as new. 

In reality, there is little difference between ceramic and metal burrs.

Perfect Daily Grind

So while you might have heard that a ceramic grinder is preferable, some of the best burr coffee grinders feature metal burrs. Even in commercial models, stainless steel is used, and it’s more than good enough to get the job done for home use. 

The grinder is driven in both models by a DC motor that turns the central burr. For the grinder’s longevity, the designers protected it by a thermal cutoff switch that will prevent the machine from overheating. 

Winner: Virtuoso Plus. This is a close one. You could argue that it’s a tie for the most important parts like the motor and grinder, but the addition of the metal body parts gives the additional Virtuoso sturdiness.

Grind settings and grinding speed

This is where we start to see the key differences between the two grinders. They might have similar construction and equipment, but the Virtuoso features an M2 grinder, compared to the Encore’s M3. Let’s see how that affects things.

When it comes to grinding speed on the Baratza Encore vs Virtuoso, there is no comparison. The Encore will process your coffee beans at a speed of 0.8 – 1.1g per second, while the Virtuoso Plus is almost twice as fast at 1.5 – 2.4g per second. If it’s just you drinking coffee, the Encore should be fast enough, but you’ll be grateful for the Virtuoso’s added speed if you need to grind for multiple cups of coffee. 

Both Encore and Virtuoso Plus allow you to choose from 40 different grind settings. However, the range of fineness that each grinder can achieve differs. While you might be familiar with fine, medium, and coarse, if you want to get technical, you will need to measure in microns. To give you an idea of how this relates to types of coffee, the grind size for espresso should be around 200 microns, while 900 microns is great for making a filter coffee (2).

The Encore offers a grind range from 250 to 1200 microns, making it the perfect grinder for pour over coffee and other manual brewing methods like the AeroPress. The grind range on Virtuoso Plus runs from 200 to 1200 microns, making it slightly better at grinding for espresso and, at the other end of this scale, also better for coarse grinds for French press cold brew. 

The M2 grinder in Virtuoso Plus is also said to produce a much more consistent grind with fewer fines. Fines are the particles that end up being ground smaller than the grind size you’re after, often below 100 microns. Fines are generally considered alright when making espresso, but this can lead to over-extracted brews when making filter coffee (3). 

We’ve consistently found that even the casual coffee drinker notices the difference in taste between poorly ground and properly ground coffee.

Wirecutter

So while all these specs might not look so different on paper, minor variations can make a big difference to your grind and, ultimately, the taste of your coffee. 

Winner: Virtuoso Plus. Grind consistency is key to a good cup of coffee, so Virtuoso has to be the winner here.

User-friendliness

As an entry-level grinder, the Encore is designed to be incredibly user-friendly. There’s nothing to learn here – you turn the switch on the side to start the grinding process and turn it off to stop. If you need a short burst to get just that little bit extra or to grind into a portafilter, there’s a pulse button on the front. Grind size is adjusted by twisting the hopper, with the sizes from 1-40 marked. There’s no way of timing or measuring your grind, but this can be easily solved by weighing your beans before you add them. 

The Virtuoso Plus is designed to be a step up from the Encore, and as such, has a few more advanced features. Rather than simply switching the grinder on and off, the Virtuoso allows you to time your grind. This feature is different from Encore. This was a side-mounted dial for the 60-second timer on the original model, with timing marked into 10-second increments. The front panel featured the pulse button. 

With the revamped Virtuoso Plus, you get a digital timer front and center. It’s now more accurate. It can program in increments of a tenth of a second up to 40 seconds. As well as making it hands-free, it allows you to get a consistent dose from day today. The timer dial also works as the pulse button. You will need to press and hold it for a couple of seconds to access pulse mode, which could be argued as not as convenient as having a separate pulse button. 

Bean hopper capacity for both grinders is a good 8 ounces, while the grounds bin will fit 5 ounces. Although the bins are made from transparent plastic, some customers reported having trouble knowing when it was full. This led to Baratza adding LED backlighting on the bin for the revamped Virtuoso Plus. While this might not seem like a big deal, overfilling can lead to coffee grounds being pushed back up the chute where they can clog the grinder. 

Winner: Virtuoso Plus. While the Encore’s controls are more straightforward, the extra features of the Virtuoso Plus make it more convenient on a day-to-day basis.

The Verdict

Our Baratza Encore vs Virtuoso rundown has shown that both grinders provide impressive build quality, capable of grinding coffee for a host of brewing methods and coffee drinkers. The Virtuoso Plus has some extra features that will improve both the taste of your coffee and the ease of use, but whether you think they’re worth the price increase is up to you. 

Use the Baratza Encore if:

  • You’re on a budget
  • You use manual brewing methods
  • This is your first grinder

Use the Baratza Virtuoso Plus if:

  • You need a more uniform grind
  • You want precision timing
  • You need faster grind speed

FAQs

You should clean your coffee grinder around once a week if you use it every day. You’ll also need to do a more intensive clean using grinder pellets every few weeks or at least once a month.

The Baratza Preciso has been discontinued by the company (4). The Preciso was considered a step up from the Virtuoso, with the ability for macro and micro grind adjustments. This feature is now offered on the Baratza Sette 270 coffee grinder (5).

You should not use rice to clean your grinder. Although this has become known as a popular cleaning tip, it is not recommended. Rice is harder than coffee and may cause undue stress on the motor, plus the loose starch from the rice may lead to your grinder clogging. Baratza also notes that they will not cover any damage caused by cleaning this way under warranty (6).

References
  1. Recalibration of a Conical Burr Grinder. Baratza. (2015, March 25). Retrieved from https://baratza.com/recalibration-of-a-conical-burr-grinder/.
  2. Grinding: Particle Size and Extraction. COFFEE IQ. (2019, May 6). Retrieved from https://www.coffeeiq.co/en/grinding-particle-size-and-extraction/.
  3. Scott Rao. (2018, December 28). Fines: Fine for Espresso, Not So Fine For Filter. Scott Rao. Retrieved from https://www.scottrao.com/blog/2017/8/27/fines-fine-for-espresso-not-so-fine-for-filter.
  4. Baratza Preciso Coffee Grinder. 1st in Coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.1stincoffee.com/baratza-preciso.htm.
  5. Baratza Sette 270 Coffee Grinder. 1st in Coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.1stincoffee.com/baratza-sette.htm.
  6. Rice, It’s Just Not a Good Idea (for cleaning!). Baratza. (2014, February 17). Retrieved from https://baratza.com/rice-its-just-not-a-good-idea-for-cleaning/.

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