If you’re going to go through the trouble of making coffee at home rather than in a coffee shop, you should definitely be making it with fresh-ground coffee. We love and use our Baratza Encore grinder to do that most of the time, and we’d love to tell you why. So without further ado, let’s get to our *dun dun dun* Baratza Encore review.
Why We Got the Encore: Making Coffee at Home
The primary reasons to write this Baratza Encore conical burr grinder review is that we’ve had one now for about six months. And in that time, we’ve learned a lot about its good and bad qualities. So we want to share those lessons with you.
Before getting the Encore, we were using a manual burr grinder, called a JavaPresse. It was fine and functional, but by the time January rolled around, had gotten wickedly inconsistent in its grind size. Plus, we were just sick of sitting there and grinding coffee by hand every time we wanted a cup.
So we did a lot of shopping and comparing. And we ended up feeling like the Baratza Encore was the one for us. It was a fair price, a brand that lots of people we talked to trusted, and had the features we needed (grind-size setting as easy as numbers) and nothing we didn’t (lots of grinders have features like timers we couldn’t discern the use of).
But before we go any further on this particular grinder…
Why You Want a Burr, Not Blade, Electric Coffee Grinders
When you’re getting started in coffee making, most people make the chasm leap from buying ground coffee to grinding fresh with a blade grinder. These remain the most popular and best-selling coffee grinders, and for good reasons: they’re simple, they’re cheap, and they do the job well-enough.
That said, don’t let a coffee snob know you use a blade grinder. They take very seriously the burr coffee grinder vs blade debate. Snobs (like us, at times) look down their noses at blade grinders. The reason is simple: variability. Because of how a blade grinder works, it’s always going to “lose track” of individual beans and bits, and so it’ll make some into fine powder, while leaving other bits as big half-bean hunks. And if you keep grinding until you have no half-beans left, you’re likely to get a lot of fine powder.
Large variation in “bean-chunk size” or grounds is bad for brewing. Depending on how you’re brewing, it makes it very likely that you’ll get a too-fine or too-coarse amount of grounds, and end up with a muddy or flavorless cup. What’s worse, when you have both too-fine and too-coarse at the same time (which is the basic problem of blade grinders), this means you’ll never get a good cup.
So when it comes to burr grinder vs blade, always choose burr—regardless if electric or manual—if you actually want to make a good cup of coffee.
It’s All About Context: Not an Espresso Grinder
Espresso is generally the finest grind of coffee. You make espresso with a fancy machine which heats water perfectly, pressurizes it through a basket, and usually steams milk too. One point I need to make in this Baratza Encore review is that this isn’t really the grinder for that, according to every source I consulted. We repeat: Baratza Encore + Espresso don’t really go together.
That said, we’ve never *really* tried to make espresso with the Baratza Encore. Maybe it does work well. But from our experience, the grind size adjustments are more for the journey from AeroPress (approaching-espresso-fine) to french press (rather coarse). This grinder isn’t really for you to dial in the perfect and specific extraction for your precious latte, as the “Baratza Encore espresso setting” simply doesn’t exist.
We Make Pour Over, AeroPress, and Cold Brew Coffee
The idea that the Baratza Encore isn’t an espresso grinder posed no significant problem for us, though. We’re not making espresso. For us, espresso is rarely the thing we want to order, even at a coffee shop. I’ve got nothing against an espresso shot, but it’s too strong and intense a flavor for me to get really excited by it. I’ll take an American-style “watery” coffee over that any day.
For the coffee-types we make a home, the Baratza Encore is great. The grinder is easy to set with clear number-based markings. It conveniently clicks at every adjustment. And while there have been a few times I forgot to adjust it (and was dissatisfied, d’oh!), that’s more my fault than the machine’s.
If you’re curious, here are the Baratza Encore grind settings we use most frequently:
- 14, for AeroPress
- 23, for the Kalita Wave
- 30 for cold-brew or French Press (this size we’ve experimented with least)
What’s Great About the Baratza Encore: Review Goodies
The most important part of this review of the Baratza Encore is the reasons we love it. Some of these features are common across the Baratza range, some are very specific to this machine.
The Encore is Way Better Than Blade or Manual
First and foremost, every electric burr grinder is going to be better than a blade grinder (for reasons discussed above) and better than a manual system for the reasons of physical labor. While I concede that the physical labor of grinding some coffee beans is light when compared to, say, building the Egyptian pyramids, I’d rather not have to do that, especially first thing every morning.
If you buy the Baratza Encore, you’ll have access to all the things that you’d want an electric burr grinder to do, quickly and easily. And in doing that, it’s a huge upgrade from either a manual burr grinder or a blade grinder.
Affordable, the Bottom of the Baratza Range
A good electric grinder is expensive. First, the bottom of the electric range is the blades. They’re very cost effective. But as we covered more above, they’re also inconsistent and hard-to-do-right. Especially first thing in the morning, when must of us our grinding our coffee.
What’s nice about the Baratza Encore is that it’s got exactly what we wanted, without paying for features I have no use for, like…
Here’s the Baratza Encore features we wanted:
- An easy ability to control grind size. The manual grinder I used before the Encore didn’t have marking at all. So squinting at ground coffee was all I had to test size. Setting the Baratza to “14” is just 100 times easier.
- No need to hand-turn. Simple enough. I hit a switch, not sit there twirling a crank by hand.
- Easy off-and-on. The Encore has both a button, for quick pulsing of coffee. And an “on” switch on the left side, where it’ll run until you turn it off.
Features the Baratza Encore doesn’t have we’re happy it’s missing:
- Grind timing. Most “dosing” grinders do so with a timer. You run it for “3.7 seconds” and calculate out that that’s 30g of coffee. If you store all your coffee beans above the grinder this is useful. We don’t, so it was a superfluous feature.
- Quick hopper-swapping. We measure then grind our beans. Always. 32 grams for a Kalita brew, 14 for the AeroPress, etc. So the most beans we ever put in the bean-feeder hopper is that amount. So the swapping of different collections of beans you keep in the hopper is a cool feature we didn’t want to pay for.
- Multi-adjustment grind-sizing. Many grinders have complex interfaces for dialing in exactly your perfect size. Think a coarse adjustment and a fine adjustment. This would be, I imagine, especially useful if you were trying to get a perfect espresso extraction. It all seemed too fiddly for us.
The Baratza Encore is Easy to Repair
Another big boon for why you should buy a Baratza Encore makes it very clear how and where to buy replacement parts. Not only have I heard almost exclusively good things about their phone and email support (I’ve not used it) but I found it trivially easy and reasonably priced to buy a replacement gasket for the machine that I ripped while cleaning.
Few items manufactured today have replacement parts available anywhere, but on the Baratza site, I ordered my part, paid a reasonable price on shipping, and had it in a few days. That’s a strong testament to their quality.
An Industry Standard, of Sorts
A final benefit (that I kind of expected because I’m a nerd, but you might not) is that you’ll see reference to Baratza’s Encore coffee grinder all over the coffee world. Lots of directions for different brewers (either online or with the included manual) will actually specify grind sizes for the Baratza Encore.
This is all kind of tribute to the fact that Baratza is selling and supports one of the best grinders on the market, and has for years. It’s been doing it for so long that lots of informational writing about coffee cites its grinder settings.
Baratza Encore: Review of the Downsides
The Static and Debris Problem of the Baratza Encore
One thing I think it’s necessary for any Baratza Encore grinder review to cover is that the grinder does have one significant downside: the amount of bean debris it produces, especially when used without sufficient care (read: often for me) is notable. ;(
What do we mean? A typical run with the Baratza for me is that I measure out 30 grams of coffee, dump them in the hopper, turn on the machine, let it run until it stops sounding like it’s grinding anything at all, and then turn it off. Especially if I immediately remove the grind basket (without waiting a bit, or rocking the machine) I’ll get about a half-gram of mostly bean paper (a fine, light-brown paper that most beans have in the middle) on the counter. What’s worse: because it’s so finely ground and naturally scatters, it’ll spread all over your counter and/or floor.
Other Baratza Encore reviews often note this issue, and trust us, this doesn’t mean we don’t highly recommend the Baratza Encore. As my first electric conical burr grinder, I think it’s possible that all do this. I’ve heard some testimony to the contrary, but not enough to be convinced. And there are things you can do. Common recommendations to reduce the chaff-spread from the Baratza Encore include:
- Lightly wet the beans, like a briefly patting them with a wetted-spoon of water.
- Let the machine sit ~15 seconds after you turn it off, for some of the static holding the chaff to dissipate.
- Rock the machine, to knock more of the bean-paper-flecks into the ground basket.
All of these have helped when I’ve tried. None has been easy and reliable for me that I can not-mention this topic in this Baratza Encore review.
Finally, it feels worth mentioning that Fort Collins, Colorado—where we live—is also a fairly-arid climate. 🤓 While the Nevada or Sahara desert is probably a bit drier, if you live in Florida, it’s likely that you have a much different experience of static cling than we do here.
The Baratza Encore is Still an Investment
We paid about $140 for the Baratza Encore that was refurbished. That’s no small amount, so we think mentioning it in our world famous (someday?) Baratza Encore conical burr coffee grinder review makes sense.
In the world of “nice burr electric coffee grinders,” $140 is a pretty low price. In the world of “general coffee grinders,” that’s pretty expensive. Electric blade grinders, manual burr grinders, heavily discounted second hand equipment, and even some used grinders all make this look overpriced. But for us, it made sense. And was the perfect Valentine’s Gift to each other. *Aw*
Buying a Baratza Encore is not something we’d recommend to someone who rarely drinks coffee. As an investment, especially when compared to driving to-and-from a nice coffee shop and paying retail prices for brewed coffee, it’s a bargain. But if you’re NOT committed to home-brewing great coffee, this is just too expensive. Buy a cheaper hand-grinder or blade-grinder for your guests and call it good.
Our Beloved Coffee Grinder: The Baratza Encore
To wrap up our Baratza Encore review, we’re very happy with our purchase. Our continued strongest misgiving about this grinder is the quantity of chaff or debris that it leaves behind. But a quick wet-rag wipe gets rid of that fine. As does a bit more patience after a grind.
On the whole, it’s hard to go wrong with the Baratza Encore. If you remember that it’s for non-espresso home brewing, it’ll put both blade and manual grinders to shame without skipping a beat. And at the affordable starting price of $140, it’s not a steal but it’s a very good deal. Baratza offers great warranty and out-of-warranty service, even for refurbished versions, and these grinders are an industry standard for a reason. Highly recommended! 🙂