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Baratza Virtuoso - Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
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- The Virtuoso lives up to its name by providing technical skill, classic style and a consistent, quality grind.
- Grinding for espresso? Let the Virtuoso’s professional-grade 40mm conical burrs perform their magic for a consistent, fine grind. How about a French Press? The Virtuoso can handle that too, with a particle size uniformity that gives you consistency from cup to cup.
- The Virtuoso is so consistent at both the coarse and fine ends of the grind range that we consider it to be in a class all by itself — and so do many of the micro- and specialty-roasters who swear by it.
- The secret to the Virtuoso’s consistent, smooth grind is two-fold: an efficient DC motor keeps your beans cool, even during extended grind times, while a combination of electric and gear speed reducers slow the burr to 450 RPM, ensuring a smooth bean feed and reducing noise, heat and static buildup.
- The Virtuoso’s exterior is just as finely tuned as its interior — a convenient front-mounted pulse button allows for grinding directly into an espresso filter basket, while a 60-second timer means that it’s easy to replicate the ideal grind time. With the Virtuoso, the look goes beyond merely functional. A sculptured metal top and base give this grinder an expensive, elegant image that adds a sense of class and quality to kitchen counters and coffee shop workspaces alike.
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|Sold By||Java Exotic Imports||Barista Lab||J.L. Hufford||Amazon.com||Amazon.com||aSavings|
|Item Dimensions||—||6.29 x 4.72 x 13.77 in||5.91 x 2.56 x 5.31 in||10.75 x 7.13 x 6 in||14.6 x 9.6 x 7.8 in||15.7 x 12.3 x 8.6 in|
|Item Weight||—||6.83 lbs||7.15 lbs||4.5 lbs||4 lbs||8 lbs|
|Material Type||—||Stainless Steel||Brushed satin metal, Black plastic||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel Grinder||—|
The Virtuoso is the grinder that will get you there with function, elegance, and style.
Burrs: Manufactured in Europe, the Virtuoso’s 40 mm conical burrs grind coffee at 1.5 to 2.4 g/sec. depending on the setting. But what really sets the Virtuoso burrs apart is that these burrs can do a very uniform grind, with a distinct lack of fines across its grinding range.
Gearbox: In 2012, Baratza introduced the second generation Gearbox (GB 2.0). With GB 2.0, Baratza has significantly increased the strength and durability of the drive transmission while decreasing noise.
Grind Adjustment: Turn the hopper and with 40 settings you can quickly adjust from fine for espresso to coarse for French Press. The grind range is from 250 to 1200 microns.
Grinds Left in Grinder: To maximize freshness, the Virtuoso minimizes the ground coffee left in the grinder.
Brewing Method: The Virtuoso is a great all around grinder, from manual brewing to espresso.
Motor: A powerful, high torque DC motor effortlessly drives the burrs. This motor turns slowly resulting in cool, quiet operation and permits long grinding duty-cycles. The circuitry is equipped with an automatically resetting thermal cutoff switch.
Calibration: An innovative burr calibration system ensures that each grinder has the full range of grind. If necessary, the grinders can be user calibrated.
Speed Control: With unique speed control, the Virtuoso uses a combination of gear and electronic speed reduction to control the rotation of the burr to 500 RPM. The electronic speed controller is adjustable from 405 to 495 RPM in the event that specific user conditions require modification of the speed.
Timer Switch: The Virtuoso has a 60-second timer with segmented graphics, for easily repeatable grind times.
Top customer reviews
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I already have a Baratza Encore, and when I ventured into espresso, I wanted to upgrade my grinder. I considered the Rancilio Rocky and this one - I eliminated the Preciso based on middling reviews (and I see that Baratza has actually removed it from their grinder comparison chart in favor of the new Sette). I ultimately went with the Virtuoso based on talking to a number of people- Amazon reviewers and Baratza customer service.
I used it for espresso with a non pressurized portafilter for a time, and it worked reasonably well; it does, however, lack the level of adjustability of a dedicated espresso grinder such as a Macap M4, a Baratza Vario, or Sette, which is necessary if you want to fine tune shot timing across a range of coffees. Something in that class, or very likely even better, is probably what the serious espresso aficionado will end up with. What I did not expect, and the reason I kept the grinder, was the difference it made to my pour over brew as compared to the Encore. The more consistent grind brought out flavors in a dark roast (Red Bird Blackbird blend) that my Encore completely failed to do. The finer control of grind size basically eliminates the bitter after taste. I like the consistency so much that I am now planning to upgrade my Encore with the Preciso burrs used on the Virtuoso.
Compared to the Rocky which I tried (and ultimately returned), it is more compact and has far less grounds retention. I weigh my beans before grinding and after using a scale with 0.1 gram resolution and I end up with 0.1-0.4 grams of grounds retention depending on the roast level. This is mostly chaff from the beans which is easily cleaned with a brush. It also makes less of a mess than other grinders I've used, see the addendum for more information on this topic. I have not had issues with static. Just recently, I ground 12 oz of beans for a friend, half using my Encore at work and half with the Virtuoso I had at home. The Encore was slower, I had chaff flying all over the place and a significant amount of clean up to do. The Virtuoso on the other hand, was both faster and had far less static, the grinds and chaff virtually all falling into the bin.
In terms of the design, I don't see serious flaws. The timer switch on the side does not have sufficient precision or resolution to be useful as anything other than an on/off switch; it does serve the function of allowing you to walk away from the grinder so long as you measure out your beans in advance. In three months of use, it has not ever fallen off, so either they must have fixed it, or perhaps I'm using it more gently than those that wrote the older reviews that pointed to problems with it falling off. Since the grinds drop vertically, it is really easy to put a portafilter in place of the grinds bin.
The construction is a mix of metal and plastic. Unlike many reviewers, I do not consider plastic to be a substandard material, rather I appreciate that it offers lower cost and weight as compared to metal. The material of construction must be chosen keeping typical customer usage in mind and, in my opinion, what they've used here is perfectly acceptable for a home use coffee grinder. My professional camera lenses all have plastic in their construction, and I subject them to a lot more abuse than this grinder is ever likely to experience, and they are none the worse for it.
Overall, if you are looking for excellent quality and performance for a variety of brewing techniques other than true espresso (i.e., non pressurized portafilter and ability to fine tune shot timing), it is hard to find a grinder better than this one. Highly recommended, and worth the upgrade from the Encore if you can afford it and appreciate good coffee. Baratza's customer service is great as well; you'll get someone knowledgeable to reply to your questions.
Update January 2017: I've been using it everyday (sometimes multiple times/day) for pourover and have been getting consistently excellent results with a variety of single origins and blends. I use a Bonavita variable temperature kettle to assure a repeatable brew temperature and brew on a scale so my water addition is consistent. While pourover is by far the most frequent brewing method I use, I have also used the grinder for French Press and the AeroPress. I will mention that the setting of 30 recommended by Baratza for French Press yields, to my taste, highly under extracted coffee. With both the Encore and Virtuoso, a setting of 24 works better for me. You will naturally have to experiment to find the setting that works best for your taste. Still no issues with the timer knob.
Addendum: As I mentioned in the review, messiness is subjective, and I do have a darker countertop which tends to be a little more forgiving. So, to illustrate this a little better, I ground 32 grams of a dark roast (Paradise Roasters Canoe and Cabin blend) with the grinder placed on a white sheet of paper. The first photograph attached shows the countertop and grinder immediately after I took the bin off. The second shows the grinds in the bin so you can get a sense of the level of static (indoor RH was 31%). In this particular case, I got 0.4 grams of retention; you can, of course, choose to leave this to clear out the next time you grind, but I prefer to clean the chute with a brush which gets nearly all of the retained grounds out. These pictures were taken before cleaning the chute with a brush. There will obviously be a little bit more mess on the counter if you do this cleaning. Of the five burr grinders I have used - the Capresso Infinity, the Encore, the Rocky, the Macap M4 and the Virtuoso, this one makes the least mess. The Macap does have less retention, but that's only because you can access the chute with a toothpick to get at the coffee that does not fall into the doser.
Please feel free to leave a comment if you have a question I have not addressed or notice something inaccurate. If you found this review (or any other) helpful, please take a moment to click "Yes". Aside from encouraging us to keep contributing, it results in a more representative overall rating for the product. Thank you for taking the time to read!
+ The entire unit has a very solid, well-built feel. As you turn the hopper to adjust the grind, you get a very solid, convincing click for feedback. Nothing feels loose or cheap.
+ Complaints about the timer knob being too loose seem to have been fixed. Additionally, the photo shows a plastic timer knob whereas mine is metal. Yes, even the knob is solid metal.
+ If you look at Baratza's website, it is obvious that they are focused on coffee grinders and obvious that they support their products. Even out of warranty, you can buy any replacement part. This contrasts with most companies which make throw-away grinders as one of their hundreds of unrelated products.
- Baratza's grounds bin is shaped such that it is a bit difficult to pour into a coffee press without spilling a small amount of coffee. The problem is worsened after having ground a large amount of coffee, which (as with many grinders) leads to a significant build-up of static electricity.
- Removing the ground coffee bin without spilling some grounds on the counter is difficult. A tiny amount of coffee nearly always falls from the ejector into the empty bin slot even if you give the grinder a stiff bump after usage.
- Using setting 30 (course grind for a coffee press), the grind results are not as consistent as I'd like. I get everything from dust to slabs nearly 1/2 the length of a whole bean. I have tried many types of beans (though not dark roast). This isn't to say I have come across a home grinder that does better, just that I hoped this would be better.
Consistency is reportedly important for flavor because fine particles with their very high surface area to coffee ratio get over-extracted leading to bitterness, while jumbo chunks may be under-extracted, which wastes bean. Consistency is the primary reason one would buy a burr grinder (the other being the short time between grind and extraction, though that applies for blade grinders as well), but I get slightly better results from grocery store grinders.
It is worth noting that I have *not* experienced coffee bitterness due to inconsistent grind.
- Cleaning isn't hard, but some design choices make it unintuitive. For example, the rubber gasket which you must remove and replace has two cutouts, but it's unclear what they are supposed to align against once pulled apart. There are matching cutouts on the plastic burr housing which look like good candidates, and two on the metal housing which are almost but not quite aligned with those previously mentioned. Finally, there are two plastic tabs that the cutouts look like they can fit in, but they are too wide so it awkwardly stretches the gasket.
Ideally, I wouldn't need to look in the manual but it is at least written by someone that knows proper technical writing so, once you read it, the correct choice (the last one) is clear.
Overall the Virtuoso feels like a genuine effort from the company but, assuming mine is representative, one that might see further refinement in the next generation.
Replacement parts after one year and a few months cost $59.14 shipped + my labor. Insane and won't happen. I'm definitely not going to spend that every year. If anyone knows of a suitable motor that is NOT this Intertek junk please let me know. It seems pretty clear that Baratza would be out of business if they had an 18 month warranty.