Once a wise guru stated to the confused and lost traveller, “You have got to first spend money to later save it”. These words of wisdom have never been truer for the coffee aficionado making their own travels towards purchasing their first burr grinder.
As we constantly search for ways to save money it’s rare that anyone thinks to spend money first. However, if you’re pinching pennies one might consider staying home, and brewing their own coffee in a thrifty effort.
Now we’re not insinuating that you should do so little as switch to instant coffee or goes as far as starting a business to fund your coffee habit. However, a new burr grinder will save you even if making a few drinks a day and want to make the most of your precious beans. So why not enter the realms of the best of the best grinders.
There are some considerations to make though.
We all know that the cheap blade grinder will steal from your wallet over time, not only will you find it’s going to waste the beans but will do the unthinkable to your flavor. If quality cafe coffee on the regular is the goal, you’ve got to spend a little extra to save in the long run.
Baratza, is known for introducing OCD-level grinding to domestic coffee lovers. The fact remains that they have a fanaticism unseen before in the coffee world as they are constantly putting grinders to the test and improving user experience. That’s why we’ve decided to have two classes of their grinders face off and find you the best bet for your money, situation and preference.
Forté VS Sette
Going for a home run with a home grinder will certainly be an investment, but it’s the best investments that make the biggest return.
So let’s talk about Baratza’s two series the Forté and the Sette. Baratza is obviously well known by now, they’ve been spoken of highly on the blog and many in the coffee world trust them to deliver fine results morning-to-morning. We’ve covered both the Sette and Forté a bit here and there, but it’s time to contrast them against one another.
First, the Forté is available in two configurations.
The Forté-AP, which means all purpose grinder, which can grind from coarse to fine and comes with a 54mm flat ceramic burr, a grounds bin for use when grinding by larger with it’s large capacity hopper, plus a portaholder for use when grinding directly to your portafilter (this means you’re left to tackle other tasks while the grinder doses the portafilter for your espresso).
The Forté-BG, oriented as a Brew Grinder, is designed for manual brewing and comes with a 54mm flat steel burr and a grounds bin. Though they both can handle a variety of jobs, your beverage preference will likely come into question when selecting between them.
If you’re going for a large batch grinder then it’s impressive hopper holds approximately 300 grams of coffee, and a hopper extension can be purchased to hold an additional 250 grams of bean capacity.
Secondly, the Sette comes in three versions:
The Sette 30 AP, the Sette 270 and 270 W all make up this talented family of grinder. The Sette 30 AP is a great entry level espresso bean grinder that was created as a novice level version of the next two steps up. The number thirty can be thought of as synonymous with it’s number of grind settings.
It’s got many of the same great functions as it’s parents, but after all, the devils in the details. We’ve discussed some of the finer points between the sette 30 and 270 models as well.
The Sette series is at it’s heart a series made for the espresso lover. Though the 270 and 270W are essentially going to offer similar products as the 30AP, they are much more efficient for espresso dosing and grinding, in addition to having all the bells and whistles a coffee czar like you deserves to wake up to.
So getting down to the aforementioned details, we’ve got to guide you through the murky waters (hopefully that’s coffee) to really understand what separates these two series apart.
Sette and Forté Espresso Dosing
We’ve touched on the Sette and it’s character ability to produce immaculate espresso dosing but the 30AP needs a little clarity. Italian for “seven” as the grinder is shaped like such, the Sette 30 features the large majority of espresso dosing features that coffee lovers are searching for, it also allows for timed dosing right into a portafilter, but doesn’t have the microstep adjustments, and that could be a hang up for some users.
The Sette 30 certainly does a quick grind, and has low retention of beans for much higher dosing accuracy.
While many espresso-centric grinders feature a set of grinding steps (that’s the level of grind setting) the upper Sette series has micro-adjustments, that flow freely in between steps, revealing an infinite number of settings. While the 30 AP only features macro adjustments, this is probably the defining characteristic that separates it from the 270 and 270W, it’s 30 steps are what you’re stuck with for grinding settings.
The Sette 30AP is truly the more basic and cost effective version of the 270s. As stated, it’s not equip with a stepless micro adjustment ring, which is the main difference. Many users report that the finer settings, around eight to ten are very good for espresso and that still leaves seven through one for finer grinders.
It should also be noted that the 30AP does not feature the adjustable portafilter arms, and multiple timed-dose settings unlike it’s parents. More on them:
The 270 and 270W differ for espresso dosing in few regards.
When Baratza introduced the Vario series, home grinders were floored. Though the brand moved forward and thus conceived, with the home espresso enthusiast in mind, the Baratza Forté, designed with more
Not too mention, with the future of coffee brewing moving ever-forward, the 270W will be able to do espresso dosing via an app on your phone. The app is designed to monitor; log and track grind sessions, weights and settings.
Imagine starting a grind without leaving your bed. Now that’s futuristic.
Burr Material and Design
It’s time to nerd out about burrs. Steel or ceramic burrs? This is another topic that’s heatedly debated in closed coffee circles.
Baratza Sette series are equipped with 40mm conical steel burrs that produce even particles and consistent grinds the conical burrs feature some tremendous engineering that have a pretty holistic affect on the grinding process.
Baratza uses some proprietary technology that is called Etzinger Mechanism, a novel take on the conical grinding process has been pioneered by Christian Etzinger, an aeronautical engineer, so there’s some jet-like design at work here. Though we’ve previously commented on the ingenuity of vertical grinding, this is on a whole other playing field. That’s because the inner burr is stationary while the outer burr spins around it.
This allows the beans to be pulled into the mechanism and thus feeds the grinder.
Here’s the deal, when beans have more space in between them it allows static to build up and that creates a slew of problems like retention in the grinder or simply put, static-infused grinds! Back pressure, from a constant feed of beans, means that you’ll experience a cleaner grind that’s dosed to your specifications every time.
This is what allows the consistent Sette 270W to offer real-time grind-by-weight capability.
Burrs, found in the Forté work as follows:
The Forté AP design features a unique grinding assembly section which has a threaded burr holder. This piece screws firmly into an all metal grinding chamber for a more accurate grind.
The DC motor itself features a larger gear to belt ratio, this means a more efficient grind cycle via an increase in speed.
The Forté BG has a hulking 54mm flat steel burr for it’s mainstay of batch brewing. steel burrs that produce an accurate and consistent grind for a variety of manual and small batch brews. The burrs are specifically designed to reduce the fines, for flavor optimization.
The Forté AP on the other hand, has the same burrs but is configured for a slightly larger spectrum of grind, thus lending to it’s name All Purpose.
A side note about burrs though. Using steel burrs can create more friction and heat, which can cause the beans to heat up and potentially burn.
Although many prefer ceramic burrs and there are plenty out there, these steel burrs are less likely to promote burning as the grind is totally optimized by the use of the Etzinger design.
With over 270 steps in your grind, the Baratza Sette 270 has earned its name. The Sette 270 features 31 stepped adjustments from fine to coarse markers and a second adjustment that’s actually stepless.
Baratza is well aware that coffee lovers like to work with a slew of different beverage styles so it’s been the mission of the 270s to gear up and offer varying grinds that can be honed in by preference with the infinite step adjustments. The Baratza Sette 270’s new designs have two adjustable arms for the grind and a third arm to steady your portafilter.
The Sette’s (think seven again) has that unique shape which is pretty feng shui for large containers and leaves space on the countertop. Let’s be honest, if you’re like me and have two brewers, a grinder, and an espresso maker at home, it makes counter top space just that precious.
It’s important to understand that the grinders burrs will take some breaking in when operated the first time. With two-piece lapping, a process that is very important to your grinders health and cannot be rush by running grains through, the grind distribution will settle down and the burr set will eventually start to produce a cleaner and more differentiated cup via a prominent particle distribution.
Think of putting brand new brakes on your car, they need to be worn in properly or they’ll start to squeal. Although the burrs won’t squeal on you, it’s important to give new burrs their due before quickly rushing to judgment about the quality of the grinder.
The Forté series really takes center stage in this regard. The durable metal enclosure houses a digital interface for programming doses and grinds, and really hones in the grinds. The touch-screen interface navigates the 260 stepped grind adjustments, so you’ve got fully intuitive control and, thereby, coffee extraction and flavor. Time- and weight-based programmable dosing allow for quick, repeatable results. This is the kind of unit that could even work fast in a commercial setting.
The interfaces in the high end models of Sette feature the weight dosing as we discussed earlier. This comes back around as it is easily programmable and accurate.
That’s thanks to the low grind retention.
Grind retention is the amount of coffee that remains in the burrs after grinding is completed and the burrs have stopped turning. The coffee the remains in the burrs will end up in your next cup unless you purge the grinder for a few seconds to remove this retained coffee. The reason you don’t want retention is that grinds start going stale almost immediately after being ground, altering the flavor in the cup.
Better Grind Range?
The Sette grinders come as a big improvement over the other series, Encore and Virtuoso, more range in espresso sized grind. This probably speaks volumes about the burrs used, more on that later. It’s a stepped grinder like the others, but has 270 steps vs the 40 on the Encore and the Virtuoso. It has a macro and micro adjustment mechanism that allows for precise adjustment between grind sizes. It can do a range of coffees, but does best with espresso. The quality for the other methods is similar to the Encore and Virtuoso. The burrs are conical.
The Forté grinders, on the other hand, feature ceramic flat burr grinder that is a step up from the Vario grinders. It has a faster motor and faster burr speed. The Vario is rated at 1350 RPM versus the Forté that is rated at 1950 RPM. The Forté is 240 watts vs the Vario that is 180 watts.
The Forté has the same size burrs as the Vario, but they are more robust Ditting burrs. The Forté can dose by weight or time. Like the other Baratza grinders, the FortéAP is also a stepped adjustment grinder. With 260 steps, it has more precision than the Vario does. The Forte is robust enough to be used as a decaf or single source grinder in commercial coffee shop environments.
The Sette 30 AP is an inexpensive grinder to get started on an espresso journey, suitable for basic and advanced espresso machines. A high speed, low retention grind setup (perfect for single dosing), easily removable/cleanable burr set, and timed dosing lets you skip the setup and get right to your morning grind. Unless you’re willing to spend the extra money to get picky, then thirty different grind settings should give you plenty of shots to choose from. It will be even easier to dial in and to repeat for a second cup.
The Sette series has few cons, but among them is that the 30AP, just like the 270 and 270W, is known to be louder and the pitch of the burrs and motor probably won’t coo you to sleep. That’s not a bad thing however, because it’s morning and you’re trying to wake up with a fresh coffee.
The Forté is overall quite impressive, but if we’re talking cons, then the price tag might be the first item on the list. But that list is not very populated and might sway you to stop considering and start purchasing.
However, if you’re trying to grind without incurring the wrath of housemates than perhaps you’ll pay particular attention to that detail.
In conclusion, all of these grinders produce some incredible results. The ideal grinder for you should match the jobs you intend to do with it, and if you’re willing to save on the price tag slightly then the lower tier models of wither of these series will still produce an impressive grind.
So throw out that blade grinder that’s starving your pocket book and your appetite for great coffee.