For many of us, grinding coffee is an auto-pilot function of our morning routines, and we don’t put much thought into it.
The following is a common step-by-step guide to brewing coffee:
Step 1: Grind beans
WAIT! This is where most of your attention should go in your brewing process, and should be perfected in order to ensure the rest of the process goes smoothly.
The final result of ground beans should be a uniform grind done in the right amount of time and speed. This will in turn produce the best final product, depending on what type of coffee you are making.
If the particle size is inconsistent, some of the grounds may be over extracted, resulting in a bitter flavor. If the grounds are under-extracted, there may not be enough flavor in the final product.
Each type of brew requires a specific grind to give you an ideal cup of coffee. For instance, a French Press requires a coarse grind, whereas an espresso requires a fine grind.
There are many types of grinders on the market with a wide range of price tags. Today we’ll be exploring two highly rated grinders from the same company that also have some distinct differences.
Baratza is a company that started in 1999 and specializes in making coffee grinders. They quickly become a top-rated brand, as their focus and attention on innovation, quality and consistency. Their successes have validated in awards earned from the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
Today, we’ll be comparing two burr models of Baratza grinders and decide which is best for you.
The Virtuoso: – See product specs here.
The Virtuoso is a great choice for beginners and home brewers for many reasons.
The design of this grinder is simple and consists of a base, the hopper, and a few internal parts that grind the coffee to the desired texture. It’s very user friendly, and has a timer switch that doubles as it’s on/off switch.
With 40 different numbered grind size settings on the machine, it can make an espresso sized fine grind as well as a French press sized coarse grind.
Adjusting the grind is as easy as rotating the hopper either clockwise or counter-clockwise to align with the desired number.
The user manual shows general guidelines as to what the numbered grind size should be depending on your desired finished product.
Drip brewer: 13-14
French press: 30-32
Once the grind size has been adjusted and beans are in the hopper, it’s time to turn the machine on by rotating the timer switch clockwise. The rotating switch itself has 6 different segments that represent 10 seconds, meaning the machine can grind for a maximum of 60 seconds before needing to be turned on again. Also, the machine can also be turned off manually, by turning it counter clockwise until it stops.
The machine has a pulse button above the grounds bin that will allow you to manually grind your desired amount of beans in the amount of time that you choose.
This grinder uses conical burrs, meaning it uses a cone shaped burr fashioned in the center of the mechanism. In the conical burr system, it uses a serrated burr outside the cone-shaped burr. As the center burr spins, the sharp edges pull whole beans into the space between burrs, where they are broken down and ground into smaller and smaller pieces.
In reviews of the product, users give it high marks stating that the machine:
- Gives them a consistent grind
- With a weight of 8 pounds, the machine feels sturdy
- Produces crema
- Static free beans
- Produces little to no dust
- User friendly and high quality
The price point of this grinder is a bit higher than the average person is willing to spend on grinding coffee, but it is a fair price considering the 1-year warranty as well as the recommendation from companies who carry the Virtuoso. A couple examples of retailers who carry this particular grinder are Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel, both of which are specialty retailers.
On the Baratza website, replacement parts can be purchased at a reasonable price with the least expensive part being $0.50 most expensive part being the motor at $40.
For users who would like to take to add more flair to their Virtuoso, there are a couple additional accessories that can be purchased separately.
- Hopper extension – Adds an additional 9 ounce capacity to its existing 8 ounce hopper.
- Porta-holder – With the existing machine, the portafilter needs to be held and supported by the user. The portaholder accessory gives the portafilter a place to rest.
Overall, this machine receives high marks from home brewers who are upgrading their old blade grinders or burr grinders.
The Forte BG – See product specs here.
The next grinder we’ll be checking out is the Baratza Forte. This is an upgraded option in the world of coffee grinders, as it is considered to be a commercial grade product.
With an all-metal design and weight of 13 pounds, this grinder is solid and does a consistent job grinding beans for a press pot all the way to a fine espresso grind with ease.
What sets this grinder apart from others is its intuitive touch-screen digital interface that allows users to pre-set and pick their desired grind time and bean weight prior to grinding. It also has a built in scale for measuring finished grounds and a calibrating mechanism to ensure correct measurements.
Setting the grind is very simple, but precise. There is a sliding adjustment lever to the right of the display screen that allows users to pick a grind of 1-10. Additionally, a micro adjustment can be made using another sliding lever to the left of the display screen which has settings of A-Z. In total, there are 260 different grind sizes that can be made with the Forte. This gives the user the ability to zone-in on their perfect grind.
As the whole coffee beans grind, the digital screen displays the amount of coffee ground and the length of time the machine has left to grind. The machine also allows up to 3 pre-sets that can be programmed into the machine.
The coffee can be ground into a ground coffee bin (with a 4.5 ounce capacity) or directly into a portafilter rested on the portaholder, which is a complimentary accessory. The mechanism for weight the coffee is located below the ground coffee bin, and can be zeroed out with a simple touch of the “tare” button.
At only 14 inches tall, this stainless-steel machine has been seen at many coffee shops and has the strength to run all day without overheating, while still providing a consistent grind. Other reviews have stated this particular grinder is quieter than others in its class.
The mix of being a quiet machine with a low grind speed means that its end product has the chance to reach its full flavor potential without being burned by the grinding process or being wasted as a result of static. As an end result, it gives the end-user their perfect cup of coffee.
With a price tag well north of $500, it is significantly higher priced than the Virtuoso. However, there are reasons for this price difference.
The Forte-Virtuoso Comparison
Both grinders are part of the burr family, and many people swear by this type for a variety of reasons. The biggest reasons is that it produces the most even grind, which is important to the consistency in flavor.
It uses burrs (abrasive disks, balls or cones) to shave beans to an even consistency, versus smashing them like a blade grinder does. When the beans are shaved, they are sliced (versus smashed in a blade grinder), which contributes to ideal extraction yield.
The Virtuoso and Forte are both great options for home brewers, and produce consistent results if your goal is to make coffee for the household and to entertain from time to time.
In reviews, the two grinders are both quiet versions of their competitors and grind at the same speeds.
Replacement parts for both machines can be purchased on the Baratza website and the pricing is comparable.
Forte: 260 different grind sizes
Virtuoso: 40 different grind sizes
Forte: Ceramic flat burrs
Virtuoso: Metal conical burrs
- Note: Ceramic burrs stay harder and sharper longer and are less heat conductive than metal
Forte: Stainless steel casing
Virtuoso: Plastic casing
Forte: Best for office and commercial use
Virtuoso: Best for home use
Forte: Sleep mode turns off the machine after three minutes of non-use
Virtuoso: On-off switch is a simple rotating knob
The best option for you.
These are two products that share the same fundamental principals, but each have their own type of endurance.
If you are starting to dabble in the world of coffee, and are looking for consistency, quality and value, the Virtuoso is the way to go.
However, if you are opening a coffee shop, and are looking to brew coffee all day and all night, the Forte will be your new best friend.
Ether way, Baratza’s lineup of grinders have great reviews, and a one year warranty, in case you’d like to take a yummy and noncommittal risk.