Coffee Grinder Review: OXO On “Barista Brain” Conical Burr Grinder
OXO On Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder
Ease of Use3.8/10
- Built-in Scale
- Small footprint
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Consistent drip grind
- Good grind range for comparable grinders
- 3 grinding modes
- Convenient dosing system
- Coffee strength adjustment notch
- Not very intuitive - instruction manual required
- Over-grinds by ~1-2 grams
- Some ground coffee retention
- Inconsistent grind in coarser settings
- Not suitable for espresso in non-pressurized baskets
- No quick way to tare the scale
- A little bit messy at times
It's always nice when a new coffee grinder hits the market, particularly because most home coffee grinders are far behind when it comes to their performance, price, and accessibility.
OXO's relatively new Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder looks to address all of these things so home coffee enthusiasts can finally have an all-in-one grinding and dosing solution for multiple brew methods.
Full disclosure: OXO kindly sent me a sample unit upon request so I could review this grinder for ya'll. The fact that it was sent to me for free did not impact this review, but please be aware that I did receive this product for free and that I did send it back upon completion of the review.
What makes the OXO On Barista Brain Unique?
If you came upon this review somewhat arbitrarily you may be curious to know what exactly makes the OXO Barista Brain unique from other electric burr grinders in the same price range.
Basically, it's the built-in scale.
To me, having a built-in scale in your grinder is a huge draw because theoretically, it obviates the need for a separate gram scale.
OK, well this isn't entirely true for those who make pour over coffee or weigh the yield of their espresso shots, but it is certainly helpful to those who brew with auto drip coffee makers.
By and large, this grinder was made to accompany the OXO Barista Brain Coffeemaker for super-easy dosing. Having used the grinder in conjunction with the OXO On Barista Brain 9-cup Coffeemaker, it certainly delivers in this department.
But what if you want to use this grinder with another coffee maker? After all, this will probably be the large majority of people reading this review…
3 Dosing Options
First, let's talk about the dosing options you have with the Barista Brain.
Option 1: Select # of Cups
If you don't like to weigh out your coffee in grams, don't despair, because this is the setting for you! Simply select how many cups of coffee you'd like to grind and the Barista Brain will take care of the rest.
Each “cup” is defined as 8 grams of coffee, but there is a “strength adjuster” switch underneath the main dial that allows you to add or subtract an additional 4 grams per notch.
Of course, the LED interface won't mention anything about grams on this setting.
Option 2: Select # of Grams (i.e. weigh your dose)
To me, this is what really makes this grinder unique.
Sure, there are other grinders out there with built-in gram scales, but not many. In fact, the only one that comes to mind is the Baratza Vario, which retails for more than twice the price.
You can grind anywhere between 1 and 125 grams of coffee using this setting.
Option 3: Portafilter Mode
This option is for when you simply want to grind whatever coffee is in your hopper.
Press the button, the grinder will grind. Press the button again, the grinder will stop grinding.
This is probably the option you'd choose if you are grinding directly into a portafilter, hence, the portafilter icon that illuminates when this mode is selected.
Let's take a look at the scores I gave the OXO On Conical Burr Grinder across the different rating categories I use.
To learn more about how I rate coffee grinders, click here.
This isn't quite an entry-level grinder. I can actually see this as the second burr grinder many people would end up purchasing, and this is mostly attributed to its price.
Still, it's a fair price for comparable grinders with this kind of grind versatility for the different brew methods out there. So the value of it all depends on how many different brew methods you use to make your coffee.
If you're making everything from French Press to espresso, it's a great value. Only drip? Not so much.
There's a good amount of stainless steel construction to go along with the plastic, so it's definitely not low quality.
The grind is pretty consistent for everything in the drip to espresso range. However, for the coarser settings there are so many fines mixed in there that it makes these settings virtually useless without a sieve to filter out the coarse grinds you actually want.
There is actually decent range on this grinder considering its 15 official grind settings (steps).
While it falls just short of “fine enough” for espresso from a non-pressurized basket, the fact that you can grind up coffee for most brewing devices speaks well for this grinder's range when compared to similarly priced units.
Ease of Use
In my opinion, this is the first category where the Barista Brain really fell short.
Despite only having one button, this is not a grinder that I expect anybody to know how to use right out of the box. Taring the scale, for example, is a tedious process that requires you to hold down the button for what seems to be at least 10 seconds (including the 3-2-1 countdown).
While I did find that ground coffee eludes the grounds basket at times, I didn't think there was anything particularly difficult about cleaning this grinder.
The scale's silver tray is removable. The hopper is removable with a locking valve for changing out beans. And the upper burr can be easily removed for low-maintenance cleaning.
It does not come with a grinder brush like some other coffee grinders, but this doesn't really make it any more difficult to clean.
I love the small footprint and the dark and silver colors. The LED interface is also super-slick to add to this coffee grinder's modern look.
I can't rate the durability of this grinder really, as I've only used it for a month or so. Having said that, I didn't run into any issues with it in terms of the grinder's performance.
At the time of this review, there were only a few reports of faulty units that stopped working in a very short period of time. I will likely update with a score in the future, but for now, this grinder is too new to report on its durability.
The grinder has high torque and low speed at only 400rpm to ensure that beans are not overheated during the grinding process. I still found it to be a quick grind, definitely comparable to grinders in the same price range.
This is the other big shortcoming of the OXO Conical Burr Grinder. It's simply too loud.
Of course, grinder noise is relative. So, for the sake of comparison it is quite a bit louder than a Krups electric blade grinder, but pretty comparable to the Capresso Infinity in terms of noise.
If you're looking for the quietest burr grinder on the market, the Barista Brain definitely isn't it.
Is the OXO On Barista Brain Grinder for you?
Personally, the OXO On Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder isn't for me, but this is simply because I like to make espresso using a non-pressurized filter basket. While this was a grinder that comes really close in terms of grinding fine enough for authentic espresso, it just barely missed the mark.
Now, if I only brewed automatic drip coffee or with a Moka Pot, this could very easily be my go-to grinder given how convenient it is to dose with the built-in scale.
It is a dream to use this grinder in conjunction with the Barista Brain coffee maker because you can simply select the number of cups of coffee you want to grind for on the LED interface, pour the water using the clearly marked reservoir on the coffee maker, press a button, and you'll have consistent coffee day-to-day.
Similarly, if you are making espresso with a pressurized filter basket this is a great grinder for quick and easy dosing (although you will need to under-compensate given the 1-2 gram difference from what you intend to grind and what is actually ground).
For pour over and non-pressurized filter basket espresso, you should check out the Breville Smart Grinder Pro if you're looking for something that is a comparable price.
To add the OXO On Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder to your Amazon.com shopping cart, click here.
To add both the OXO On Grinder and 9 cup coffee maker to your Amazon.com shopping cart, click here.
Do you own the OXO On Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder? If so, what do you think?
Please share in the comments below.
Have questions about this grinder? Feel free to ask below and I will do my best to answer promptly!