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Freshly ground coffee is one of the most important factors in making good coffee. While many people are perfectly satisfied with coffee ground in an inexpensive blade grinder, if you make espresso-based drinks in an espresso machine, you’ll quickly learn just how important a high-quality grinder is to making good espresso. A good cup of espresso requires coffee that is evenly ground to a fine powder – something that blade grinders just aren’t capable of achieving.
That’s why many coffee experts will recommend that you invest in a high quality burr grinder when you start brewing espresso. Once you taste the difference in espresso brewed with coffee that has been properly ground, you’ll never again be happy with the job a blade grinder does.
If you’re in the market for a high quality, precision grinder for home use, Baratza is the brand to know. Established in 1999, Baratza has focused on small, precision burr grinders for home and small office use. In 2005, Baratza introduced the Virtuoso, the first conical burr grinder that carried the company’s brand name. The Virtuoso quickly became one of the most highly regarded grinders for the home. In the years since, Baratza has continued to make improvements and introduce new precision features in their coffee grinders. In 2008, the company introduced the Vario, a flat ceramic burr grinder for light commercial use. Their 2010 offering, the Preciso, features macro/micro adjustments to grind fineness and in 2011, the Specialty Coffee Association of America named two new Baratza grinders as Best New Products. The Esatto and Vario-W offer unique weight-based grinding functionality.
If you’re used to the prices for cheap blade grinders, Baratza’s prices – starting at about $139 – may seem outrageous, but they’re actually quite competitive with other high quality coffee grinders. If you’re in the market for a high-end coffee grinder, consider one of these five top quality Baratza coffee grinders.
With a list price of $169, the Baratza Maestro Plus coffee grinder is generally considered to be the best all purpose coffee grinder for under $200. You can often find it available for less than $150, making it even more affordable. It features 40 different grind settings for precision grinding, anti-static design to cut down on the mess made by flyaway coffee grounds, and an easy-to-clean design.
With a list price of $199, the Baratza Virtuoso delivers quality that many higher-priced machines can’t match. The conical burr grinder has over 40 grind settings, and can be adjusted for even more precise grinding following directions found on the Baratza website. The Virtuoso is one of the few coffee grinders in this price range that are routinely capable of grinding beans fine enough to make Turkish coffee. The bean hopper holds up to 8 ounces of beans, and the grounds container holds 5 ounces of ground coffee. It’s also easy to grind the coffee directly into your filter basket and features a slow grind setting to reduce the risk of overheating and burning the beans while grinding them.
The Virtuoso Preciso is Baratza’s next step up from the original Virtuoso. It lists for $299, and for the extra $100 you get a world of new features. First, the Virtuoso Preciso sells with the Baratza portafilter holder, making it easier to grind coffee for espresso directly into the filter basket. That said, this machine really shines at optimizing for coarser grinds. It keeps the Virtuoso’s original 40 settings, and adds a second lever that allows you to adjust each of the 40 settings to 11 precision grind settings, for a total of 440 grind settings – enough to keep any coffee fanatic happy. The precision grinding allows you to experiment and find the perfect grind setting for every coffee and every brew method.
At $449, the Baratzo Vario is a significant step up in price from the Virtuoso line, but the difference in machine quality is a compelling argument in favor of spending the extra money. The Vario is a substantial, heavy machine with flat ceramic grinders that allow for extra fine precision grinding. It features macro and micro precision grind settings that allow 230 different settings so that you can dial in the perfect grind for any coffee and any brew method. The Vario also features a 54mm ceramic burr set manufactured by Mahlkonig in Germany for faster, accurate grind performance. The grind is uniform at any setting, including the coarsest grinds for French press. You can program the Vario to recall your favorite settings for one-touch dosing. Like the Preciso, the Vario includes a portafilter holder so that you can grind directly into the filter basket, hands free.
The upgraded Baratzo Vario-W was named as a Best New Product at the 2011 SCAA coffee convention, thanks to its innovative weight-based grinding and built-in electronic scale. Like the Vario, the Vario-W features 230 grind settings that can be adjusted with macro and micro grind levers and a presicion ceramic burr set for precise and even grinding at all grind levels. Rather than using time to measure grinding time, however, the Vario-W uses a built-in electronic scale to precisely measure the correct dose for your shot. At $549 list, the Vario-W is at the higher end of the home market, but the machine delivers commercial quality performance.