Grinding your own coffee beans is probably the easiest and most affordable thing you can do to improve the freshness and quality of the coffee you drink at home.
When looking at what at-home grinders to get, Baratza is a very popular name that crops up a lot. But which one should you get?
The Baratza Encore vs Virtuoso, that is the heavyweight title fight for at-home grinders.
Let’s get started.
Note: The Virtuoso has since been replaced by the upgraded Virtuoso+, so we’ll be reviewing that instead.
A Summary Of The Encore And Virtuoso+
We begin with the Baratza Encore which has been around a lot longer than the Virtuoso. Baratza have had many years of feedback from customers to be able to refine their product. But even despite being ten years old, it’s loved by coffee lovers and for good reason.
It’s full of features, gives you a precise grind, is durable and has a smooth operation, all for a pretty affordable price.
Under the hood is a powerful DC motor which gives the Encore powerful grinding capabilities and offering 40 grind settings. This means you can create coarse grounds for your French press, or a fine grind for your espresso.
The large hopper that sits at the top of the grinder allows for a large capacity of beans. Fantastic for grinding large batches if you have a lot of coffee to make.
The Encore has a strong, reinforced-plastic gearbox where inside, the gears are made of 15% glass-filled thermoplastic. This makes for a durable build and a quiet grinding noise so you don’t have to worry about waking up the entire house.
Like the Encore, the Virtuoso+ is an incredibly reliable and durable machine. Honestly, the build quality is really good. Plus it produces commercial quality coffee grounds. To brew the best coffee you need uniformity in your coffee grind, as it’ll give you an even extraction rate, and the Virtuoso+ does just that.
The Virtuoso+ also has 40 grind settings so no matter what brew methods you want to explore, you can have freshly ground coffee every time.
It also comes with a few features like a 60-second timer and a pulse-grinding switch, giving you a lot of control in the dosage of coffee grind. This allows you to time each grinding session and work with the grinding duration you want.
There are a few major differences that separate these two impressively good grinders, but there are a ton of similarities too.
Some Important Questions
How’s The Quality?
As far as at home grinders go, you’re looking at the creme of the crop. Whichever one you go for, you’ll get a quality build and a quality grind.
The Encore is made out of strong and durable plastic, it’s not that cheap, flimsy plastic that makes you wonder if it’s going to snap. The body has a top-grade plastic resin, and the hopper is made of tinted ABS plastic. Not only is this high quality but also protects your coffee beans from UV rays if they’re sitting in the sun, which will help retain flavour and freshness.
There’s no holding back with the Virtuoso+ either. It’s made out of the same top quality materials for both the body and the hopper. The only difference is that it’s got some additional stainless steel on the base and top.
With the extra materials on the Virtuoso+, it weighs in slightly heavier. Bad if you’re having to lift it out of a cupboard for every use, but good as it’s more stable and won’t wear and tear as easy.
The quality of the ground coffee won’t disappoint either. They both produce an even grind which is precise every time. There are differences in the burrs and grind speed, but we’ll cover that in just a moment. There are no concerns when it comes to the quality of the ground coffee they produce.
Are They Easy To Use?
The Encore is considered an entry-level grinder so it doesn’t have a complicated design or user interface at all. It’s not the type of machine that you will walk away from all stressed out.
For people that have never ground their coffee up before, or have only had basic grinding experience with manual grinders for example, you’ll not struggle.
It has an ON/OFF switch located on the side of the grinder, and the 40 grind settings are easily chosen. You simply need to twist the hopper so the tally lands on whatever number you want to grind at. 1 being a really fine grind, and 40 being a coarse grind.
The Virtuoso+ is for the slightly more experienced coffee lover, it’s just the next level up from the Encore. It’s still easy to use, you just have more advanced settings that give you more control over the grinding process.
For example it offers both manual and timed options for grinding, with up to a 60 second timer. This eliminates any guesswork giving a very precise grinding process.
You can also change the rotations per minute to keep things cool and stop high amounts of heat coming from the motor. It’s probably best to grind small amounts frequently as the 60 second timer indicates it’s designed for smaller quantities.
What About Cleaning And Maintenance?
Both the Encore and the Virtuoso+ are pretty similar when it comes to cleaning and long term maintenance.
They have detachable parts which are really convenient for taking over to the sink to wash. With them being made out of plastic and stainless steel, it’s also simple to wipe down and give the once over after every use.
Something that’s really important to keep an eye on with both grinders, are the burrs. The life-span isn’t so much measured in years as it has a lot to do with how much coffee you grind, how often, and the roast type ect.
Baratza recommends changing the burrs after grinding between 500 and 1000 pounds of coffee. However, you can keep an eye on your grind to determine whether or not it’s time to change the burrs.
If you keep having to adjust the grind level finer to get the desired grind size, or the ground coffee is coming out uneven or inconsistent, chances are you need new burrs.
The Main Differences Between The Baratza Encore And Virtuoso+
With the majority of the things we’ve covered so far both grinders are pretty similar. Here are where they differ.
The difference between the two is in the cutting edges. With the Encores M3 burrs, their cutting edges are flatter and is much wider as you move downwards from the top of the burr.
The M2 has a sharper cutting edge, which curves more steeply down from the top of the burr.
Although they are only subtle changes, the M2 burr on the Virtuoso+ delivers a slightly more uniform grind and is better suited for producing a finer grind used in espressos.
The difference in the burrs also makes another change in the performance of the grinders.
The Grind Speed
So with the Virtuoso+ using the M2 burrs, it’s therefore able to grind coffee beans quicker than the Encore due to the sharper edges.
Not only do the burrs make a difference to the grind speed, but the rotation of the M2 burrs in the Virtuoso are faster, at 500 RPM. The Encore sits slightly slower at 450 RPM.
These two factors means that the Encore produces 0.8-1.1g of ground coffee per second, whereas the Virtuoso+ produces 1.5-2.5g of ground coffee per second.
So what does this mean? Well, firstly you’re going to be spending less time in front of your grinder waiting for your ground coffee, but it also means there is less contact time with your burrs.
This is going to produce less heat. Less heat is good because too much heat can affect the flavours of your coffee. I mean, we are talking about a very small difference here as you’re not going to have your grinder on all day unlike in a cafe, but nevertheless, it’s still a positive.
The Encore is made with high quality thermoplastic. Obviously with Baratzas aim to create a grinder for the entry level at home barista, they wanted an affordable price but without sacrificing on quality. So you get a cheaper and lighter grinder than the Virtuoso+, but still with a solid build quality.
The Virtuoso+ differs in the fact the front and bottom panels are made with brushed stainless steel. This makes for a sturdier and better quality build material.
Don’t let this difference put you off the Encore. Even though it’s made out of plastic, it’s put together incredibly well.
A 60 Second Grind Timer
With you Encore you get a simple ON/OFF switch on the right hand side of the grinder. The difference with the Virtuoso is that it has a timer knob.
This gives you the option to choose how long you want to grind for, anywhere between 1-60 seconds.
Which One Should You Get?
I know you’re probably waiting for me to tell you which one is the best, and what grinder you should buy. But truth is, it depends what you are looking to use it for and what experience you have.
So i’ll do it another way.
Firstly, the Encore and the Virtuoso are designed for your at home barista. People that want to up their coffee game from the comfort of their own home. Both will certainly improve the freshness, flavour and quality of the coffee you’re going to be making.
Each grinder will produce quality ground coffee for any standard brewing method you want to use. French press, Aeropress, drip coffee, pour-over, whatever it is.
If you’re wanting to brew espresso, then the better grinder for you is going to be the Baratza Virtuoso+. It’s going to grind for all types of coffee drinks, without compromising on your espresso too.
If you’re not a huge espresso drinker, then go for the Baratza Encore. It’ll be perfect for however you want to make coffee, plus if you do fancy an espresso from time to time, no dramas the Encore will suffice.
If you haven’t grinded any coffee before, and don’t really know what you’re doing, go for the Baratza Encore. It’s super easy to use. Plus you don’t want to be paying extra for a grinder that has more options if you don’t know how to use them. Unless you’re going to learn.
In A Nutshell…
Both grinders are top quality machines. Both grinders will produce top quality ground coffee. If you want to spend an extra few dollars for extra features and more settings, go for the Virtuoso+.
If you’re wanting a coffee maker that has a built in grinder, lucky for you we have an entire article on the best ones you can buy!
Let us know in the comments which one you went for!