Here’s a look at one rockstar of a grinder: The Baratza Encore. Beyond grinding your own coffee at home, improving your grind to make it more consistent is one of the first steps you can take toward making better coffee. There’s no point in investing in a high-end espresso machine or fancy pourover kit if you don’t have well-ground coffee.
The Encore is a conical burr grinder well-known for the high quality grind it delivers at a very attractive price. I’ve owned the Encore for nearly two years. This review is my perspective on why burr grinders are so important, what’s so special about this grinder, and my thoughts after having used it for so long.
Why use a conical burr grinder in the first place?
One of the most important factors in making a great cup of coffee is the grind: too coarse, and your brew will taste under-extracted. If it’s too fine, the resulting cup may taste bitter. Even worse is when you have something in between– an inconsistent mix of large and small grounds.
This is what you’ll end up with if you use a standard electric blade grinder. Since they really actually chop vs grind, you’re liable to have a final product ranging from large half-bean chunks to finely ground sand.
Instead of a spinning blade, the Baratza Encore has two 40mm steel burrs that slowly crush coffee beans into evenly-shaped particles. Even better, you can customize the size of the grind to fit your needs. French presses require a very coarse grind, for example, while espresso alls for a very fine grind. Blade grinders are “one size fits all” (or none, really) and do not let you customize the size of the grind.
Now that we know why burr grinders are so important, let’s jump into my Baratza Encore review.
Getting started with the Baratza Encore
When I bought my grinder, it came neatly packed in a retail box with the grinder, a manual, and a cleaning brush. There was also a quick-start guide for choosing the right settings. This included a note on settings for pourover coffee, French press, the Aeropress, espresso, and more. I thought this was a nice touch.
According to the official manual, you should carefully wipe down the inside of the grinder with a wet cloth before getting started. Baratza also recommends grinding 1/4 of a pound of coffee through the machine to remove rust residue and “season the burrs. A small amount of rust can naturally occur during manufacturing– this is perfectly harmless. I did neither of these things when setting up my grinder.
Grinding with the Baratza: Choosing the right settings
You can rotate the hopper on the top of the Encore to change the grind setting. You’ll notice the numbers 1 through 40 printed on the top of the grinder. These correspond to the grind. Lower numbers are smaller (finer). Higher numbers are larger (more coarse).
Here are the settings that Baratza recommends:
- Espresso: 2 – 6 (very fine)
- Aeropress: 8 – 11 (medium-fine)
- Normal drip coffee: 13-14 (medium)
- Hario V60 pourover: 13-14 (medium)
- Siphon: 14 (medium)
- Chemex: 20-21 (medium-coarse)
- French press: 30-32 (coarse)
Since dark roasts grind a bit more easily, aim for the upper-end of these ranges if you are grinding dark beans. Stick to the lower-end for lightly-roasted beans that are more difficult to grind. Anyone who has used a hand coffee grinder knows what I’m taking about.
Note that you should only adjust settings while the grinder is running. Otherwise coffee caught between the burrs may prevent them from tightening, possibly damaging the grinder. While I understand this is the nature of how conical burr grinders work, it’s frustrating from a usability perspective. I have no idea how many people have changed the grind setting with the unit off while I was out of the house– probably a few.
Once you’ve chosen the right settings, you can either press the “pulse” button on the front of the unit or turn the know on the botton-right side. The pulse button only grinds while pressed. This is useful for grinding espresso directly into a portafilter basket. Turning the on/off knob leaves the machine grinding until you turn it off, which is how I use the Baratza most of the time.
One nice feature of this switch is that it has four positions: two “On” positions and two “Off” positions. This means that can simply turn the switch to the next setting without looking to turn it on or off. It’s an intuitive addition that saves a lot of time.
Since the Baratza Encore does not dose coffee, you should measure or weight exactly the amount of coffee you want to grind. Don’t fill the hopper with beans and plan to measure later.
How well does the Encore grind? A quick look at consistency
Baratza claims the the Encore can grind fine espresso equally as well as drip coffee. There’s no doubt that this machine is a huge step-up from the blade grinders most people use, if they grind their own coffee at all. Given that this is an entry-level burr grinder and that higher-end models can cost $1,000 or more, how good of a job does this sub-$150 unit do?
Fine espresso grinds are the most difficult to reliably achieve. The Baratza had no trouble with either settings, though I found the resulting grinds to be excessively clumpy. That being said, the grind quality was by no means poor and much better than many other espresso grinders I have used. I don’t do a detailed grind comparison in this Encore review.
Later I tried the “11” setting for the Aeropress, the “14” setting for my Hario V60 and the “32” setting for French press coffee. The Encore excelled at putting out uniformly even grounds at these settings.
All-in-all, you can’t go wrong with the Encore. Baratza has found a way to give everyday coffee enthusiasts a much higher quality grind at a very low price.
How is the Baratza different from more expensive grinders?
Given how well the Baratza grinds, one might wonder why you would even a more expensive coffee grinder in the first place. The Baratza is perfectly fine for home use. If paired with a high-end espresso machine or used in a commercial setting, however, the limitations become apparent:
It isn’t the best for high-end espresso machines: The Encore is a good choice for a budget home espresso setup. One rule of thumb is to spend half as much on a grinder as you would an espresso machine. Once you move into the mid-level and high-end spectrum of espresso makers, you’ll want a grinder like the Rancilio Rocky or Mazzer Super Jolly that is more capable of grinding espresso.
Note that very fine grinding puts a heavy load on the motor. For that reason Baratza does not recommend using the Encore for Turkish coffee, which is a “1-2” setting.
There’s no dose control: You have to plan how much you grind in advance with the Encore.
Other grinders are more faster and more precise: Move up the ladder, and you’ll encounter grinders that have faster motors and more precise burrs. This is perfect if you want to do a lot of grinding and do it well. Other models also have more grind customization options
My Encore has lasted nearly two years and is still running strong. That being said, higher-end machines will have more durable parts.
And of course, there are no fancy bells and whistles with the grinder. This is generally what I prefer. There are options like the Breville Smart Grinder Pro that have an electronic display and memory functions. The Encore produces a better grind at half the price of this machine.
Baratza Encore vs. Virtuoso
The Encore is Baratza’s entry-level grinder. For about $100 more, the Virtuoso offers slightly more precise grind. The design features more metal and less plastic, but has the same one-year warranty as the Encore.
The Virtuoso is a good step-up from the Encore if you have a little more cash to burn, but the improved features won’t blow you away.
Baratza Encore vs Bodum Bistro
Bodum makes excellent French presses and other coffee makers. With that in mind their Bistro grinder uses a blade and thus is not a good alternative to the Encore. I would only recommend the Bistro if you want to grind coffee for a French press and are on a budget.
The Bistro is simply no substitute for the Encore.
Baratza Encore vs Capresso Infinity
Another popular grinder in the budget category is the Capresso Infinity. This is also a very good choice for beginners on a budget. It’s also $30- $40 less expensive. The Infinity has only 12 grind settings instead of the Encore’s 40, and is also a bit less consistent. It’s a solid choice, but I prefer the Encore.
If you’re on a tight budget, Baratza sometimes sells refurbished Encore grinders for $99.00. You can also find used Encores for sale. I would be skeptical of the latter route, however, because you never know how the previous owner treated the grinder.
Cleaning the Baratza Encore & Disassembly
It’s important to regularly clean any burr coffee grinder. You should periodically disassemble the Encore and clean the insides, which can get clogged over time and shorten the life of the grinder. This killed my previous burr grinder, a more cheaply-constructed Rommelsbacher EKM 200.
Here are the steps for disassembling the Encore:
- Turn the grind-adjustment ring toward the “1” position and lift off the hopper
- Lift the tabs on the white silicone seal to pull it away
- Lift the tabs on the metal burr to pull it away as well
You can clean the bin, hopper, and cover with warm soapy water and a wet cloth. The Encore is not dishwasher safe. No portion of the grinder should be immersed in water. Do not clean the burrs with water. Instead, scrub this with the included wire brush.
Besides extending the life of your grinder, regular cleaning helps remove excess oils and helps the Encore maintain a consistent grind. Baratza recommends cleaning the Encore every few months. I have not been very good about this.
Special cleaning tablets that you ca grind through your machine are also available. Since I haven’t been very good about cleaning my grinder, I naturally have not tried these.
Calibrating the Baratza Encore
The Encore comes pre-calibrated from the factory. If the grind settings are frequently changed or if you accidentally adjust the grind with the machine turned off, it’s a good idea to recalibrate the machine. Seattle Coffee Gear has produced an excellent video (above) demonstrating this.
You can also recalibrate if you don’t trust the factory and are obsessed with perfection.
Baratza Encore Review: Final thoughts
When Baratza released the Encore, it promised high-quality burr grinding at an affordable price. They’ve clearly hit the nail on the head. The Encore beats many more expensive grinders with its very consistent grind, ease of use, and variety of settings.
While good, the grind consistency still isn’t as good as the more expensive Virtuoso or Vario. The Encore can still grind espresso very well, but it’s not an ideal choice for those obsessed with pulling the perfect shot.
That being said, you can’t go wrong with its $129 price-point. I use the Encore every day as my go-to grinder for my Hario pourever and Aeropress, and it’s never disappointed me. This is a rockstar grinder at a rockstar price.
The Baratza is one of the best conical burr grinders for the money. Unless you’re running a high-end espresso machine, this is the grinder for you.