Coffee Grinder Review: Baratza Virtuoso
Baratza Virtuoso Burr Grinder
Ease of Use10.0/10
- Easy to use
- Easy to clean
- 40-step range, great for a variety of coffee methods (pourover, drip, french press)
- Holds its calibration well
- Relatively quiet
- Low grind retention
- Anti-static bin
- Compact size
- Long burr life
- Great customer service
- Not best suited for espresso
- A little messy (grounds get on counter)
This is a guest review by Margaret Fischer, an awesome coffee blogger who writes some of the best coffee reviews on the web. You can check out her blog at the coffeecantata.co
I've had my Baratza Virtuoso 586 grinder for about 18 months. Like any good coffee geek, I did a lot of internet research prior to acquiring this machine, and I think I can safely say at this point that I'm very happy with my purchase.
My previous grinder was a Capresso Infinity, and while it wasn't bad, my major objections to it were:
- It retained a LOT of coffee grounds every time I used it – I estimate for 25 grams of coffee, it easily retained between 4-7 grams. I was constantly thwacking the grinder to try and loosen the grounds so that I would not be doomed to drink stale coffee the next day.
- The Capresso created a lot of static, so when I would pull the little collection bin out to access the grounds, coffee grounds would fly everywhere and get all over the counter, as well as my hands, my face, etc.
- It was loud.
I find the Baratza Virtuoso to be very easy to use. There are 40 grind settings. I find the grind consistency to be very good, without much of a problem of “fines” like you would get with a blade grinder.
I have tried using this machine for espresso, and though the packaging may claim it's suitable for espresso, I opted to just use it for coffee because it was not really possible for me to find the exact correct setting for espresso. 7 was too coarse and I got gushers; 6 was too fine and it choked the machine. Buying an espresso grinder isn't simply about finding a grinder that can grind finely, but about buying a grinder that can grind very consistently-sized particles and make extremely fine-tuned adjustments. Thus, once I decided I was pretty serious about making quality espresso at home, I chose to get a Baratza Vario for that purpose, and keep the Virtuoso for my non-espresso needs.
The Virtuoso has conical steel burrs. I found the burr to be very easy to remove for cleaning; in fact, the whole unit cleans easily. Obviously, the actual burrs and interior of the grinder should NEVER see water; I do wash and hand-dry the collection bin and the hopper, but I clean the rest of the unit by running uncooked rice through the machine on a fine setting, and by brushing it clean with a little paintbrush I save for this purpose. Baratza does sell Full Circle cleaning tablets on their website, but I so far have found that rice works well enough for me.
The grinder will operate once you activate a timer knob on the side (which you can force quit anytime you want) or press the push button in front (best suited for very small quantities of coffee beans). Any time I've operated the grinder in front of friends, they've all commented on how quiet it is. I am pretty sure my Capresso was noticeably louder.
The collection bin has an anti-static coating which greatly minimizes the problem of flying coffee grounds. With that said, the grinder still can create a little bit of a mess on the counter, so I keep my grinders on a cookie sheet in the kitchen to help collect the mess.
Grind retention is pretty low with this machine. I still smack it to loosen trapped grounds, but I find the machine only retains between 0.2-0.8 grams depending on the grind size (coarser settings retain slightly more grounds).
For people who need to worry about a grinder fitting underneath a cabinet on a kitchen counter, the Virtuoso is pretty compact. With the hopper, it only stands 13 inches tall.
Baratza claims that their steel burrs should last between 500-1000 pounds of coffee. I go through about three pounds of coffee a month at most (usually less), so at that rate, I would go through 500 pounds of coffee in 13-14 years. Not bad!
This grinder worked perfectly straight out of the box, and I've never needed to contact Baratza with any problems. However, should the need arise, I hear that Baratza has a reputation for excellent customer service. The main criticisms I see of Baratza products from online posters is that 1) much of their grinders are made of plastic, which looks/feels flimsy compared to all-metal construction, and 2) they have excellent customer service because they HAVE TO – meaning, their grinders are not built to last, so they must keep fixing/replacing parts for their customers. As for me, I don't run a coffee shop and I don't particularly care what a grinder looks like as long as the result in the cup is delicious, and for that, I give Baratza top marks (plus, I don't think the Virtuoso is unattractive!). Regarding the customer service bit – again, I haven't had any issues with my equipment from Baratza, but if I ever do, I take comfort in the fact that they do their absolute best to do right by their customers. That just seems like an odd complaint. Is the Virtuoso an heirloom quality appliance that you can pass down to your grandchildren? Maybe not, but neither is it flimsy and disposable. At its price point, it does everything I want it to do, and does it well. My imaginary grandchildren can buy their own coffee grinders.
Many thanks to Benji for inviting me to write for The Coffee Concierge!