I’ll admit it. When it comes to coffee and grinding beans, I’m a complete rookie. When I started drinking coffee I was more swayed by TV marketing and the volume containers. Why buy a smaller bag of a niche flavor for the same price as a huge container of the cheap stuff?
Then as time went on my taste evolved. I say evolved because I feel like I outgrew the bargain brands and started to buy those often overlooked niche brands.
Maybe you’re like me.
Are you at a crossroads on continuing to buy the pre-ground flavors or have you started to price your own grinder but are confused on what to look for in the features? That’s where I’m at.
I’m looking for a mix of features and value because I don’t know which type of coffee I like best and I want that flexibility to experiment. Two grinders I’ve looked at are: the Baratza Virtuoso and the Breville Smart Grinder Pro.
The Baratza Virtuoso has a clean functional design that should fit stylistically in most kitchens. Whether you want a fine ground for espresso or a more coarse ground coffee for a French press, the Virtuoso has a different setting for each and a range of 40 middle settings for grinding that will do anything in-between.
The normal hopper will hold 8-ounces of beans which should cover a couple cups of coffee in the morning. If more is needed, you can add a hopper extension to add an additional 9-ounces of beans for a few extra cups of coffee.
One thing I have grown accustomed to with pre-ground beans is consistency of the grounds. By grinding your own beans, you can influence how well or not well the consistency is.
The Virtuoso gives you a pulse button on the front to control the time of grinding. One feature that I think would use more is the 60-second timer. After placing the beans in the hopper, set the timer for 60-seconds and let it do the work for you. Consistent grounds every time, and no need to worry about having a bad cup of coffee in the morning.
As I mentioned, one of the qualities I’m looking for in a coffee bean grinder is value. That means it needs to last. In 2012 Baratza upgraded the gearbox inside the Virtuoso to include a better DC motor for better long-term durability and a drive gear made from thermoplastic. The gear now runs quieter than the previous metal gear, and it also wears less over time. That will provide the user with a long-lasting coffee grinder.
The last thing I want in a grinder is going to be cleanliness after use. Thankfully the Virtuoso doesn’t leave much of the grounds in the machine, and it does have a removable basket that makes cleaning up pretty simple every day. I don’t have to worry about leaving a mess to clean up later if I’m running late.
Breville Smart Grinder Pro
The Breville Smart Grinder Pro is a direct competitor to the Baratza Virtuoso for price and features, but does have a few different details to mention. The design of the unit is a little flashier. The Smart Grinder has a few more buttons on the front and a digital display to inform you on the grinding setting and time allowed for the grind.
The Breville grinder has a digital counter that allows you to define how long the grinder will run. As the Baratza unit had a pulse or 60-second timer, the Breville unit allows you to define the time down to 0.2 seconds in length. That gives you more options for grind time to perfect the consistency to your liking.
The Grinder Pro also has a large 18-ounce hopper standard for fresh beans out of the bag. You can just grab the pull tab on the lid, pop open the hopper, put your beans in, and then allow the machine to do the work. The grinder will grind directly into a portafilter, grind container, filter basket or paper filter. That is one thing the Virtuoso doesn’t do beyond the portafilter.
You’ll have to transfer the fresh grounds to a filter there, but it can be hands-free on the Breville unit with more options. It also has a sealing container if you want to grind some for tomorrow and have them ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Cleanliness with the Breville unit is comparable to the Virtuoso. It comes with a brush to clean out the grinds left in the machine. The catching containers, whether a filter basket or paper, can be removed to allow for cleaning. The machine will be easy to keep clean after every use.
In most store you’ll find the Breville grinder to be cheaper than the Virtuoso so if price is a concern definitely look to the Smart Grinder Pro first or even consider trading down further to the even less expensive Baratza Encore.
You can see a good comparison of the Smart Grinder Pro and the Barazta Encore here if you are on the fence.
Both the Breville and Baratza units have a 1-year limited warranty for parts and workmanship, which is pretty standard. Based on their detailed assembly and designs for reliability, the 1-year is probably good enough. They both seem like they will go well beyond that timeframe without an issue.
Which would I choose between the Baratza and the Breville?
If I stick to my original search for features and value, I think the leader between these two options would be the Breville Smart Grinder Pro.
The Breville unit has a few more features like the timer function that allows me to choose the time instead of just a push button or 60-second option. It is also a little cheaper than the Baratza unit based on the suggested retail price.
Both do have great reviews online for consistent grind quality, so the biggest difference may just be in the visual design appeal to the buyer. The Breville with the dials and digital display exude technology a little more than the Breville with its simple elegance and classic design style.
The choice is yours, what would you choose?