There comes a point when some people move on from just caring about getting their caffeine fix to wanting more involvement in the coffee itself. This leads many to branch out from just drinking drip coffee to experimenting with other methods.
I didn’t use a grinder for a long time, and I did not see anything wrong with that. When I first started brewing my own coffee, I was in college and just looking to get my caffeine fix for the day.
That led to some lazy coffee making on my part, ranging from instant coffee to the cheapest bag of off-brand beans I could find at the store. I also didn’t understand why people buy whole beans, when the ground beans are the same price and save you an extra step.
It wasn’t until I was gifted an espresso maker that I learned coffee takes a lot of precision and consistency. I tried to use my lazy ways to brew a quick americano or latte in the morning, only to have to dump it out on my way to school and buy some drip from the market.
Once I figured out the espresso maker, I found myself the new owner of a French press. I went through the same learning curve as my espresso days, this time because my bag of ground coffee just wouldn’t cut it. I got a grinder, and that single addition has changed the course of my coffee making for years to come.
If you’re looking to make an excellent cup of coffee, as fresh and bold as possible, a grinder is a good place to start. Coffee can easily be under or over extracted when the beans are the wrong level of consistency for the brew method. Using coarsely-ground beans for espresso would result in a weak brew, and finely-ground beans for French press would over extract and taste terrible.
You can usually get away with using a small grinder for most purposes, but many eventually move on to the best grinders to really lock in the flavor and get the most out of their coffee. If you’re working in a cafe or somewhere a lot of coffee is served, a bigger grinder is a logical step to take to ensure maximum efficiency.
Choosing the right grinder to purchase next can be difficult, as there are so many different varieties out there. As a general rule, I stick to grinders with burrs instead of blades to achieve an even and consistent grind.
If you’re wanting to graduate to a bigger grinder with higher capabilities, it’s important to do the necessary research before paying for something that might not meet all of your needs, or paying too much for features you don’t use.
Main Features of the Baratza Virtuoso
The first thing I noticed about this grinder is its minimal design. The machine is rather bare, and from a first look, could be mistaken for not having many functions as it does. I like how clean and sophisticated this grinder is, and think it would fit in well with most kitchen gear.
The Baratza Virtuoso packs 40 different grind settings, grinding at twice the speed of other similar grinders. The bean hopper can hold eight ounces of coffee at a time, which is a decent amount for getting through the morning on a few cups.
An advanced burr is also included in the grinder, allowing for the finest grind needed for brewing espresso. You can easily remove the container for the grounds and put a portafilter under to catch the fresh grounds and put them straight in your espresso maker.
This grinder also has a 60-second grind timer, which means you can turn it on and walk away while it grinds and shuts itself back off. Once you’ve figured out the right setting to grind for 60 seconds, you can always set it to that number and get a consistent grind each time.
The machine is very easy to use, elegant, and sophisticated. I really enjoy the look of the metal base and top, and find it would look nice next to most items in my kitchen.
Main Features of Breville Smart Grinder
In contrast to the simplistic style of the Baratza Virtuoso, the Breville Smart Grinder looks a quite a bit more extravagant. All of the separate functions are more defined and clear, with a silver body and lit screen, but the look still isn’t too flashy.
It has 60 different grind settings, and you can adjust the timer by .2 second increments, allowing for extreme accuracy. This is great for someone who is serious about precision in their coffee.
The grinder has a carefully-crafted set of steel, conical burrs that achieve consistent grinds without generating excess heat, which can affect the flavor of the brew.
What I find most fascinating about this grinder is the smart features it’s equipped with. It can automatically adjust the dose of whenever the grind consistency changes, which means it will grab just the right amount of coffee for whatever brew method you’re using.
The smart-dosing capabilities mean I wouldn’t have to worry about how much I use, because the machine will know if I’m grinding coarse beans, I need less overall because I’m making myself a French press. If I was grinding extra fine beans, it would know the right amount for my espresso shots to be perfect.
The bean hopper can hold up to a pound of whole beans at a time, and it can grind all levels of consistency, from fine espresso to coarse French press. Like the Baratza Virtuoso, it also has a 60-second timer setting for grinding.
The Main Differences
The Baratza Virtuoso shares plenty of common features with the Breville Smart Grinder, but the two have some obvious differences worth considering.
The most apparent difference can be seen upon looking at the two, as they each have their own unique style. The Baratza Vario appears very modest, with just a visible button and the settings knob on the side, and a black body with a sleek metal top and base. All of the parts are seamlessly together, and the grinder itself appears as a single unit.
The Breville Smart Grinder is a bit more eye-catching, with a light-up screen and multiple knobs on the front. There is more of a definition on each separate part, where the bean hopper, grinder, and collector all have their own shape.
A bigger aspect than appearance that sets the two apart is the functionality. Both can do a timed grind for sixty seconds, and employ strong, conical burrs to grind. But the Breville Smart Grinder can go a lot further than that.
It has more grind settings than the Baratza Virtuoso, and allows you to adjust in
fraction-of-a-second increments. The innovative dosing technology helps you get each cup right, whether you’re making a French press, drip, espresso, or other brew method.
Choosing between the two grinders wasn’t as difficult for me as I initially expected. After careful research on the capabilities of each grinder, my top choice became clear.
It’s important to take some time to carefully consider your options before investing in a bigger grinder. If you feel you don’t need many settings or functions, it may be in your best interest to stick to a small electric burr grinder
I would go for the Breville Smart Grinder between the two options. For the extra smart features it offers, it still is a little bit cheaper than the Baratza Virtuoso. Prices do fluctuate though, so be sure to check out the current listings for the Breville Smart Grinder here and the Baratza Virtuoso here.
The machine’s ability to dose out the correct amount of coffee I’ll need for whatever grind level I choose is extremely convenient.
At first, this concept seemed a bit over the top, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would help me a lot. I often habitually scoop the same amount of coffee to grind each morning, whether I’m making a cup of French press coffee or a larger pot of drip coffee. This often results in coffee that is too strong or weak.
If it weren’t for those reasons, I would go for the Baratza Virtuoso as I favor its design. I tend to learn towards items that are less flashy, and more sleek and classy in my kitchen.
Whatever you decide, you’ll end up with a high quality grinder and some delicious, fresh coffee. The two don’t differ drastically in price, and both offer useful features like a timer and many settings.
Hopefully this article will help you sort out what you want out of your next grinder, and narrow down your decision.
The Baratza Virtuoso vs Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro: Which Coffee Grinder is Better?
I’ll admit it. When it comes to coffee and grinding beans, I’m a complete rookie. When I started drinking coffee I was more swayed by TV marketing and the volume containers. Why buy a smaller bag of a niche flavor for the same price as a huge container of the cheap stuff?
Then as time went on my taste evolved. I say evolved because I feel like I outgrew the bargain brands and started to buy those often overlooked niche brands.
Maybe you’re like me.
Are you at a crossroads on continuing to buy the pre-ground flavors or have you started to price your own grinder but are confused on what to look for in the features? That’s where I’m at.
I’m looking for a mix of features and value because I don’t know which type of coffee I like best and I want that flexibility to experiment. Two grinders I’ve looked at are: the Baratza Virtuoso and the Breville Smart Grinder Pro.
The Baratza Virtuoso has a clean functional design that should fit stylistically in most kitchens. Whether you want a fine ground for espresso or a more coarse ground coffee for a French press, the Virtuoso has a different setting for each and a range of 40 middle settings for grinding that will do anything in-between.
The normal hopper will hold 8-ounces of beans which should cover a couple cups of coffee in the morning. If more is needed, you can add a hopper extension to add an additional 9-ounces of beans for a few extra cups of coffee.
One thing I have grown accustomed to with pre-ground beans is consistency of the grounds. By grinding your own beans, you can influence how well or not well the consistency is.
The Virtuoso gives you a pulse button on the front to control the time of grinding. One feature that I think would use more is the 60-second timer. After placing the beans in the hopper, set the timer for 60-seconds and let it do the work for you. Consistent grounds every time, and no need to worry about having a bad cup of coffee in the morning.
As I mentioned, one of the qualities I’m looking for in a coffee bean grinder is value. That means it needs to last. In 2012 Baratza upgraded the gearbox inside the Virtuoso to include a better DC motor for better long-term durability and a drive gear made from thermoplastic. The gear now runs quieter than the previous metal gear, and it also wears less over time. That will provide the user with a long-lasting coffee grinder.
The last thing I want in a grinder is going to be cleanliness after use. Thankfully the Virtuoso doesn’t leave much of the grounds in the machine, and it does have a removable basket that makes cleaning up pretty simple every day. I don’t have to worry about leaving a mess to clean up later if I’m running late.
Breville Smart Grinder Pro
The Breville Smart Grinder Pro is a direct competitor to the Baratza Virtuoso for price and features, but does have a few different details to mention. The design of the unit is a little flashier. The Smart Grinder has a few more buttons on the front and a digital display to inform you on the grinding setting and time allowed for the grind.
The Breville grinder has a digital counter that allows you to define how long the grinder will run. As the Baratza unit had a pulse or 60-second timer, the Breville unit allows you to define the time down to 0.2 seconds in length. That gives you more options for grind time to perfect the consistency to your liking.
The Grinder Pro also has a large 18-ounce hopper standard for fresh beans out of the bag. You can just grab the pull tab on the lid, pop open the hopper, put your beans in, and then allow the machine to do the work. The grinder will grind directly into a portafilter, grind container, filter basket or paper filter. That is one thing the Virtuoso doesn’t do beyond the portafilter.
You’ll have to transfer the fresh grounds to a filter there, but it can be hands-free on the Breville unit with more options. It also has a sealing container if you want to grind some for tomorrow and have them ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Cleanliness with the Breville unit is comparable to the Virtuoso. It comes with a brush to clean out the grinds left in the machine. The catching containers, whether a filter basket or paper, can be removed to allow for cleaning. The machine will be easy to keep clean after every use.
In most store you’ll find the Breville grinder to be cheaper than the Virtuoso so if price is a concern definitely look to the Smart Grinder Pro first or even consider trading down further to the even less expensive Baratza Encore.
You can see a good comparison of the Smart Grinder Pro and the Barazta Encore here if you are on the fence.
Both the Breville and Baratza units have a 1-year limited warranty for parts and workmanship, which is pretty standard. Based on their detailed assembly and designs for reliability, the 1-year is probably good enough. They both seem like they will go well beyond that timeframe without an issue.
Which would I choose between the Baratza and the Breville?
If I stick to my original search for features and value, I think the leader between these two options would be the Breville Smart Grinder Pro.
The Breville unit has a few more features like the timer function that allows me to choose the time instead of just a push button or 60-second option. It is also a little cheaper than the Baratza unit based on the suggested retail price.
Both do have great reviews online for consistent grind quality, so the biggest difference may just be in the visual design appeal to the buyer. The Breville with the dials and digital display exude technology a little more than the Breville with its simple elegance and classic design style.
The choice is yours, what would you choose?