Are you debating on whether or not to take the leap and purchase your first grown-up grinder?
Let me try to help you settle the inward argument.
We’re only going to talk about burr grinders, because quite simply, they’re the best.
If you want to read more about why you should junk your blade grinder from college, check out my previous piece on the anatomy of both.
Control of both grind and dose is the best step in the direction of having great coffee.
Because no matter if you are having a cappuccino in Italy, or grabbing a pick-me-up on the way to work, great coffee is defined by the drinker, not by prestige.
Now that may sound silly coming from a writer who is about to give you the run down on two high end personal coffee grinders, but numbers don’t lie.
Let’s talk budget. How Much do These Grinders Cost.
Every coffee addict in America has hung out in a Starbucks at one point or another. It’s easy to shell out $4.15 for a latte until you’ve realized how much it is racked up. According to the Consumerist, studies suggest that the average American adult spends upwards of $20 a week on coffee. That’s $80 a month. That’s close to a grand a year, and assuming that you only hit your local coffee shop once a day… on week days…
If this doesn’t exactly describe your routine, if you’re a smidge more intense in your commitment to the caffeine, a grinder is in your best interest.
The first one I’d recommend is Baratza Encore.
Hailed as the gateway drug to high end coffee appliances, the Baratza Encore is as intuitive as it is long-lasting, if well-kept.
The median online price of this user-friendly piece of machinery is twice that of entry-level burr grinders.
It sounds expensive until you compare it to the 7 weeks of Starbucks money, you’ll pocket by making your perfect cups of joe at home.
Though it could take some time getting to know what’s what, the Encore has 40 different grind settings. So no matter if you’re weapon of choice is a French Press, a Chemex, or an Espresso machine, this grinder can match each method perfectly. Although there is some argument about whether or not the fine setting is up to par with a grinder specific to espresso.
The Encore is made of hard plastic, this is both durable and light weight. But fret not, the burrs are still made of steel and have 40 mm teeth and full range of motion. It can grind from 250 to 1200 microns (millionth of a meter.) It is powered by a quiet DC motor with gears made of 15% glass filled plastic, making this model quieter than Baratza’s prior collection.
The burrs and tech work so well together, even stainless steel screws that were thrown in with beans during testing couldn’t break the system. Programmed to stop spinning automatically, if the internal temperature gets too high, the Encore will never over heat, and the burrs will never go dull.
Consistent with its instinctive design, the burrs are easily removable, and therefore simple to clean and calibrate.
No need to call in specialists when you have issues either. It’s easy to troubleshoot, since it is a pretty straightforward design and there are replacement pieces available online.
Now that you understand the simplicity of the structure, let’s talk about how easy it is to use.
Equipped with an 8 ounce hopper, you have the option of leaving the beans on deck. Of course, it is preferable for the beans to be separated, to avoid oils drying out, or old beans from within the burrs getting into a fresh batch. It’s just nice to have that small benefit, if you’re trying to save up some counter space.
So whether or not you choose to utilize the hopper, or load it up fresh, the coffee is quickly transformed from whole bean to grounds. It averages about 1 gram per minute. So make sure you have your scale ready to measure the right ratio for your brewing method. Check out our different coffee machines in our online shop here.
The rotating hopper controls the size of the grind. Clockwise makes the particles finer, and counter-clockwise grinds coarser, which makes sense. But if you’re sleepily making your morning mug, there are reference numbers etched into the base of the hopper.
The suggested grind settings are 2-4 for espresso, 13-21 for drips and pour overs, and 30-32 for French presses. But you have all the in-betweens to experiment with.
Once you’ve got the grind set for your personal coffee maker, there is a pulse button on the front. This gives you even more control. But if you’re like me and are constantly doing 4 things at once, there is an off/on switch on the side as well.
The grounds are caught in a 5 oz chamber that is easily popped out of place. So you can say sinoara to the days of hoping your grounds make it into your pot as you tip your blade grinder over into the reservoir.
Are you convinced that you need a more quality grinder yet?
Do you want to take it up a notch?
For just a little bit more money you can step up to the Breville Smart Grinder.
The initial investment is easily excused by the sleek set up and modern technology.
Don’t be fooled by grind settings. Even though there are only 25 available, the field tests have shown that the programmable burrs yield consistent break down of whole beans in all the settings.
It has a huge 1 pound, air tight hopper with handles on top so that it’s easy to pop off when you need to reload.
Also equipped with strong stainless steel conical burrs, you can remove the top one easily using the little handle so you can clean it out.
Now that we’ve talked about the bells and whistles, let’s put them to use.. Which one is better?
The LED screen reflects the three nobs on the front side of the stainless steel rig and allows the coffee maker to see the full range of grind settings, the amount of cups or shots prepared and the volume of coffee that goes into each dose, which controls the strength of each cup.
After you’ve chosen your grind, amount and strength, just click your portafilter into the cradle and push back onto the button of that concave area, so that you can dose right into the filter.
If you’re not making espresso, you can use the grounds catcher provided. It’s marked with typical measurements for the most common brewing methods.
Easy peasy, right?
Should things go awry, you have to call in a specialist since the internal mechanisms are so delicate. Have no fear; Breville has an incredible customer service and repair line. Some of the common problems come from overheating or electrical circuitry problems.
In the guidebook which comes in the package, the designers highly suggest that you have an outlet specifically for this grinder so as to prevent a shortage. They also recommend cooling for 2 minutes after each grind, so that they system doesn’t get overwhelmed and overheat.
To better aid you in your decision, let’s put the pros and cons of each head to head.
-easy to use
-easy to clean
-easy to repair
Breville Smart Grinder:
-doesn’t do well with espresso fine grinds
Breville Smart Grinder:
-cannot fix without a specialist
-can’t use extension cord, but has a short cord
So which is better?
As always, that’s up to your preferences, lifestyle and pocket book.