The key to enjoying a flavorful, balanced cup of coffee isn’t using the most expensive beans. And it’s not having a high-tech coffee maker either.
The aspect that people tend to overlook when it comes to improving their coffee game is the grinder that they use because even the best quality beans in the world can taste horrible when they’re ground unevenly!
The key to getting consistent, balanced flavor from your brew is an even extraction of your beans. And the driver behind that? Evenly ground coffee!
When it comes to grinders, Baratza is a brand that’s literally turned itself into a household name in the coffee industry. And two of its major contributors for this reputation are the Encore and the Virtuoso.
Who Are Baratza?
Founders Kyle Anderson and Kyra Kennedy started Baratza in Seattle, Washington, back in 1999. A word that means “a place where locals gather to drink coffee” in Arabic and Swahili, Baratza wanted their presence to be felt wherever people were drinking coffee.
After over two decades, Baratza is now known throughout the specialty coffee community. Their conical burr grinders are some of the industry’s most high quality, innovative, and consistent grinders you’ll find on the market given the price point.
Of course, if you have the budget you can pick up some much better equipment, but at this ‘entry’ price point there isn’t much better than what Baratza offers.
I know this to be true because I use a Baratza Encore myself for grinding coffee at home! I made the switch a few years back, and my life hasn’t been the same since. And I can confidently say that neither has my coffee!
You’re here to level up your coffee experience with your grinder. So allow me to give you a hand. Let’s take a look at these two popular products, the Baratza Encore vs. Virtuoso, head-to-head. There’s a good chance one of them will suit your grinding needs, as these are some of the best grinders out there for home use.
The younger grinder between the two, the Baratza Encore, was introduced to the market back in 2012. It was created to become the ultimate entry-level coffee grinder. And that’s exactly what it’s known to be today!
- Precision grinding
- Straightforward controls
- Easy to maintain
- No dosing function
- No timer
- Not great for espresso
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a casual coffee drinker looking to improve your morning cup of joe, or simply looking to brew great coffee at home. The Baratza Encore is without question a great machine to own, given its price point. It will give you a consistent and even grind for every cup that you brew outside of espresso.
The Baratza Encore has 40 individual grind settings you can choose from. If you’re grinding coarse for French press, extra fine for espresso (ideally, you’ll need a pressurized portafilter to make it work well), or absolutely anything in between, you can bet the Encore can get the job done. And compared to most grinders, it’s relatively quiet and super easy to maintain.
The Encore is also built to last. The parts are easily replaceable, and the machine itself is easy to take apart and put together again. This makes any issue you might encounter with it easily fixable without having to replace it with a new one altogether. All in all, it’s just perfect for grinding coffee at home!
Check out our full Encore review for a more in-depth discussion on this mode.
Enter the Baratza Virtuoso+, the Encore’s overachieving older brother. It does everything the Encore can do, and more!
Baratza introduced the Virtuoso to the coffee world back in 2005. It was a way for home brewers to get café-quality coffee right from the comfort of their own kitchen. Today, its reputation has taken a step forward. It’s now known in coffee circles as your favorite barista’s home grinder!
- 550RPM Precision grinding
- Digital interface
- Sleek design
- Quite expensive
- Can create a bit of a mess
The Virtuoso was the first Baratza to use 40mm conical burrs for grinding coffee. This burr size is the same as the Encore. And it’s one of the reasons why coffee grounds from these grinders are incredibly even and consistent.
The feature of uniformity is essential if you want to achieve balanced flavors from your coffee beans. And the precision enabled by the 40 individual grind settings allowing you to power through any grind you need for manual brewing.
Lastly, the Virtuoso has a user-friendly digital interface that lets you control and replicate your coffee beans dose. This makes it extra friendly towards espresso machine users and people who don’t like having to measure their coffee every time their brew.
The Baratza Virtuoso is a high-quality grinder that’s as stylish as it is efficient. When it comes to grinding coffee, there aren’t many grinders that do it better. Read our full review of this grinder for a more detailed look.
Baratza Encore vs Virtuoso – The Showdown
At first glance, the Encore and Virtuoso seem to be more similar than they are different. Both grinders use 40mm stainless steel conical burrs, but the Encores burrs rotate at 450RPM, whereas the Virtuoso Plus reaches 550 RPM for grinding coffee beans.
So just how different are these two grinders from each other? And is the difference in their quality proportional to their difference in price?
Both the Baratza Encore and Virtuoso are extremely well-made products. They’re assembled and built-in Taiwan, using high-quality precision stainless steel conical burrs from Europe (specifically, Lichtenstein). These burrs are razor-sharp and will remain so even after years of regular use.
When it comes to grinding coffee, the end results of the two grinders are pretty much identical: consistently precise and even coffee grounds. The Virtuoso and the Encore are also both extremely durable machines that are built to last. So you can get a superior quality grind for a long time from these grinders.
In terms of overall quality, the winner is the Baratza Virtuoso. But the 2 reasons it edges out the Encore in this category for me is the increased RPM and craftsmanship behind this world-class grinder. Its sculpted metal top and base make it both more classy and more sturdy than the Encore.
And aesthetically, it can hang with the fanciest-looking coffee equipment out there. It can stand out not just on a home kitchen countertop but also at the bar of any high-end café.
As I’ve mentioned, both the Virtuoso and the Encore use 40mm stainless steel conical burrs for grinding coffee. That means you can expect an accurate, precise, and uniform grind from both of these grinders whenever you’re brewing a cup of most types of coffee.
Regardless of how coarse or fine you want your grounds to be, the grind size you expect is exactly what you’ll get from both the Virtuoso and the Encore. Although there is a caveat, the Encore does tend to struggle for the uniformity required when making espresso.
So which grinder has the better burr size? The answer is: it’s a tie! You can expect the same quality and precision when using the same grind sizes on both machines.
Up next, we have grind speed. This feature is essential especially if you like to brew big batches of coffee at a time. After all, nobody likes waiting around too long for their cup of coffee. But there is an asterisk that comes with high-speed grinding.
High RPM is often accompanied by high levels of heat in your coffee grounds. Pushing too much heat from grinding is similar to the effect of “pre-cooking” your beans. This heat can throw your extraction all out of whack, and you can quickly end up with an over-extracted cup of coffee.
The Encore can turn at 450RPM, whereas the Virtuoso achieves 550 RPM. While the Encore is a little slow, this is well within the acceptable range for grinding beans, without preemptively extracting your grounds and releasing some of the aromas and flavors before you even start brewing.
With higher speed comes a faster grind. The Virtuoso can grind coffee much faster than the Encore. At 1.5 to 2.4 grams per second, the Virtuoso’s grinding speed is almost twice as fast as the Encore’s speed of 0.8 to 1.1 grams per second.
And the secret lies in the sharpness of the Virtuoso’s burrs and higher RPM.
While the burrs of both machines have the same size, the burrs of the Virtuoso are sharper and inverted, resulting in a grind that’s twice as fast.
So the winner here is: the Baratza Virtuoso. It grinds coffee at double the rate of the Encore, albeit with a 22% increase in RPM.
This means that it doesn’t generate any additional heat despite the faster grinding time. So there’s no need to worry about this feature messing with the extraction of your coffee!
Both the Virtuoso and the Encore have 40 individual grind settings for you to choose from, ranging from extremely coarse to fine. These allow you to use uniformly ground beans for nearly any type of brew, be it cold brew, French press, or the Moka Pot.
However, the Encore doesn’t shine when it comes to espresso, and that’s because the grinder has to work much harder to achieve such a fine grind.
Seven main grind sizes encompass all types of brews. So the fact that there are 40 individual settings means that you can achieve great precision most of the time with either Baratza coffee grinder.
When it comes to the number of grind settings, it’s a tie once again between these two grinders.
Where the two differ a little more, is in grind range. Particle size is measured in microns, a unit of measurement equivalent to a millionth of a meter.
The Encore can grind coffee anywhere between 250 and 1,200 microns, while the Virtuoso has a slightly more comprehensive range at 200 to 1,200 microns.
This means that the Virtuoso can grind up to 20% finer than the finest setting on the Encore. So in terms of grind range, the winner is the Virtuoso Baratza grinder.
This feature makes it more ideal than the Encore for coffee drinkers who like brewing methods that utilize finer particle sizes. These include espresso, and Turkish coffee.
Extra Useful Features
When it comes to extra features that may come in handy, the Virtuoso grinder wins out over the Encore. The digital timer that allows you to control your dose is convenient for people who use an espresso machine. And this goes for home brewers and coffee shop owners alike!
That’s about it, though as far as extra features go. Other than that, the Baratza Encore and Virtuoso are both no-nonsense, hands-off, and incredibly effective burr grinders. Both can give you precise, excellent quality grinds any day of the week, even years into regular use.
Here’s the real deciding factor. Because more often than not, the best grinder for you will be the one that best fits your budget.
When it comes to price, the Virtuoso is almost twice as expensive as the Encore. Baratza endorses it as the higher end model, and this is reflected by the price difference between the two. This makes sense at face value since the Encore is an “entry-level grinder”.
But the Encore isn’t just any ordinary entry-level grinder. In fact, it’s a grinder that many new coffee aficionados own for personal use. While the Virtuoso has appealing extra features, these are really only handy if you plan on using it alongside an espresso machine.
Other than that, the Baratza Encore is a grinder that can hold its own against the Virtuoso in terms of the quality of your resulting grounds (excluding espresso), at roughly half the price!
The Final Verdict
When comparing the Baratza Encore vs. Virtuoso feature-for-feature, the latter comes out as a better overall grinder. Especially if espresso is your preferred way of brewing coffee, the Baratza Virtuoso is a large but more-than-worthy investment to make.
This is a grinder you’ll be able to use regularly for years. It comes with a warranty, the parts are easily replaceable, and Baratza is known to have excellent customer support. The Virtuoso is quite an investment, but it could potentially be the only grinder you’ll ever have to buy. Just replace the burrs when they start to become dull!
And the same can be said for the Encore. So if you’re just looking for a grinder that can consistently give you evenly ground coffee without the flash and fancy features (and at a considerably low price), it’s also a competent grinder that can serve you for years.
Either way, you’ll be taking your coffee to the next level with either of these Baratza grinders!