The Coffee Grinder – we have discussed coffee grinders here in the past and defined what a weight measuring coffee grinder can do. Now I’m going to tell you a seldom revealed astonishing fact; the quality of the coffee grinder directly affects the taste and crema of the espresso!
For instance you can experiment starting with a very good espresso machine like the Gaggia Classic. Make espresso shots using grounds of the same coffee from various coffee grinders like a low end burr grinder, then go up in quality to a better home burr grinder, then to a prosumer-commercial burr grinder and on to a high end commercial conical burr grinder. You will actually notice how much better the espresso is using coffee grounds from each coffee grinder!
In keeping with the spirit of our espresso-as-science experiment and the ability to be consistent, we had talked about the very good Baratza Vario-W Coffee Grinder.
The next step up, in my opinion, would be a prosumer-commercial grade machine like the Ceado E37 Coffee Grinder, which is a programmable dosing grinder that has amazing burrs and will give you a better espresso because of the burrs and the design of the grinder. It also lets you program the dose electronically based on grind time. So again you can be consistent in the amount of coffee you use. Here is a link to learn more about this amazing grinder. Ceado E37 Coffee Grinder.
The next step up to a commercial grade machine may seem like a little much for home use; however, a great choice would be the Mazzer Kony as it has conical burrs and it is also available in an electronic version for producing consistent doses of coffee grounds. This coffee grinder or any commercial conical burr coffee grinder would permanently end any further need to upgrade your coffee grinder. A coffee grinder like this will absolutely give you the best chance of making a truly superior espresso.
Looking at the coffee grinder as one of the controllable variables in our espresso-as-science experimenting we find that selecting the best grinder we can afford is one thing we can change and get a predictable result. That is, if we keep everything else the same, tamp, amount and type of coffee, and the size of the shot, then adjusting the grind and tasting the shot results will determine what grinder and grind fineness will give us the best tasting results.
For most people the grinder and grind settings would be the variable that would give them very noticeable results quickly.
The Espresso Machine – So far we have looked at many of the variables involved in making great espresso. Another variable is the espresso machine. Many espresso aficionados consider the espresso machine to be the most important one. I do somewhat agree that the machine is an important part of producing quality espresso.
With the correct machine you have the potential to make a great tasting shot of espresso. I say potential because so many factors go into making a great espresso. Many of these factors are going to be based on the user’s knowledge and skill at crafting an espresso from what they have to work with. Again if we look at this as a science experiment one of the factors that can be controlled if you have the proper machine is the brewing water temperature.
Espresso coffee taste will vary considerably when brewed at different temperatures. I always tell people about wine and how to relate wine temperature and how it affects wine almost the same as coffee. Actually wine and coffee have many similarities as far as how they are cupped, tasted and have different characteristics based on where they are grown and even how good or bad the growing season was.
Back to temperature and wine; If you order a really good bottle of white wine somewhere and it is kept in the beer cooler at near freezing you know when you get that wine it will only taste cold. It is not at the proper temperature for the wine to let you in on all the nuances and flavors the vintner has worked so hard to get in that great bottle of wine. As the wine warms up and gets to the proper temperature for serving then you start to notice the flavors of the wine such as oaky, fruity, flowery, and all the other great descriptions of the wine.
Coffee is the same way. Temperature plays a very large roll in how exactly the espresso will taste. The whole idea of looking at this as a science experiment is to learn how you can control many of the variables in making espresso. Having a machine where you can control temperature is a huge advantage at being able to make an espresso that may be the best you have ever had.
Spending your money on the right equipment will give you the potential to make an espresso shot that is downright amazing. The ability to control temperature is going to let the espresso have different tastes. You may be able to pick out chocolate, berry, caramel, fruit and also something like currants. Notice the similarity to wine descriptions.
If you invest in a machine that allows you to control the brewing water temperature, like one of my favorites the Expobar Brewtus IV Espresso Machine, and you keep all the other variable parameters consistent, you will get to the point where you know exactly the temperature that will yield the best tasting espresso coffee.
Having an espresso machine that will brew at exact temperatures will certainly help us in our quest to make the perfect shot. Since our love of espresso coffee and our ability to be scientists should have a goal and a plan to get there I will discuss how this all ties together in part three of espresso as science and perhaps reveal what this all means!
I always applaud those manufacturers who stay close to their product consumers and listen to feedback and suggestions on how to improve or enhance their offerings and communicate with customers as if they are talking to a friend. Too many times I have witnessed products that seem to have a great promise or purpose fail in the marketplace because the maker doesn’t communicate with the user and follow-up and correct or remake the product to fit the needs of the consumer.
That is why I am genuinely happy that Whole Latte Love carries the outstanding line of coffee grinders from the Baratza Company of Bellevue, Washington. This American design and engineering company is focused on making affordable coffee grinders for home-baristas that have professional grade characteristics. Kyra Kennedy and Kyle Anderson, co-founders, have surrounded themselves with a team of employees that is an extension of their collective vision of continuous product improvement and innovation, world-class service, and focus on listening to customers. They have created a socially responsible company that fulfills its corporate citizenship role passionately.
While providing outstanding product support, they have continued to listen to users and have enjoyed phenomenal success as a result. For example, they introduced an affordable home-use burr grinder, the Maestro in 2001. They continuously analyzed customer feedback, and made changes and improvements to the Maestro grinders in 2003, 2007 and 2010. This pattern of continuous improvement and listening to users is the rock-solid key to product success and market dominance.
This month Whole Latte Love is participating in launching the Baratza Encore which is the next generation of coffee grinder replacing the Maestro series. It is very apparent that they have retained all of the best operating characteristics of the Maestro series, while introducing improvements in under-the-hood design, engineered materials and precision manufacturing methods from around the globe. The grinder is designed and engineered in USA, the burrs are precision machined in Liechtenstein, and more parts are manufactured in Taiwan along with final assembly of the grinder.
The major changes included in the Encore include:
The shape and appearance of the Encore is barely changed from the Maestro, and the popular existing accessory enhancements like the Baratza Portafilter holder and the Baratza Esatto grind control scales will also fit the Encore.
Important features that migrated to the new design unchanged include a weighted base, 40-step grind settings (although they grind finer at the low end), and an efficient DC motor that still rotates the burrs at a slow 450 RPM for cool static-free grinding. Perhaps the aspect that will be most appreciated is that even with all of the changes and enhancements the price of the Encore is still the same as the Maestro.
I am confident that those who purchase the new Encore will be very satisifed with the performance of the grinder, and pleased with the Baratza company culture and customer interface.
It’s time for the fourth, and final, installment of the “Best Bang for Your Buck” blog series. This time around, I’m highlighting the grinders I believe offer the best value for your money. I’ll sort our grinders into three categories: drip, espresso and universal.
Judging criteria will include: price, ease of use, build quality, overall durability, and access to after-sale parts and service. I know you’ve probably read this elsewhere, but remember not to short change your grinder. It is actually half of the equation to brewing a solid shot of espresso. Even for drip coffee, you’ll need to spend more than $20 for a blade grinder. Blade grinders, as you may have read, simply spin around two blades at high speed and chop the beans into smaller pieces. Chopping the beans can burn and actually change the flavor structure of the coffee, which is why we tend to recommend burr grinders, here at Whole Latte Love. Burr grinders produce more consistent grinds and help eliminate heat transfer to preserve the flavor of your beans. With that in mind, let’s get right into it…
For drip-coffee drinkers, I’m going to go with the Jura Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder. It’s under $100, unless you go for the stainless steel body, and is a solid little grinder. Sporting a pair of conical burrs, 16 grind settings, a gear-reduction system, and running at a low RPM rate of 420, the Infinity is a great companion for drip coffee makers. While it won’t deliver grounds exact enough for commercial portafilter baskets, you could argue that this grinder can produce results good enough for espresso machines with pressurized portafilter systems. Overall, the Jura Capresso Infinity is an excellent grinder for under $100.
For espresso lovers, once you factor in price, the Baratza Virtuoso and Virtuoso Preciso are incredible grinders that can cater to almost any espresso machine, all the way up to Prosumer-level units. The Virtuoso has a hardened burr set, a beefy, 480-watt motor, a metal retaining collar on the top burr( to eliminate the flex that results in different-sized coffee particles) and 40 grind settings. This grinder can accommodate any of the Gaggia semi-autos, with their exacting commercial portafilters, and deliver the grinds needed to produce great shots. The Virtuoso Preciso is basically the Virtuoso evolved. It is $100 more but has an additional 11 micro adjustments per grinder setting, giving you a total of 440 grind settings. You’ll be able to fine-tune your espresso grind to accommodate machines as finicky as the Rancilio Silvia. The Silvia is one of the most demanding semi-automatic machines we carry. It’s a great feat for any grinder to keep up with Miss Silvia.
Lastly, the Baratza Vario gets my vote as the “Best Bang for your Buck” in the combo or all-purpose grinder category. If you brew multiple types of coffee, there is nothing else that compares or even comes close to the Vario. Other grinders may have more settings, bigger motors and hoppers, but none pulls it all together like the Vario. Within its compact frame lies a pair of Mahlkonig 54mm ceramic burrs, 230 grinder settings, and a digital timer for hands-free operation. The ceramic burrs last twice as long as their steel counterparts and Mahlkonig is the leading ceramic-burr manufacturer. There are two dials on each side of the grinder, one with 10 macro and 23 micro settings. Switching between the settings is as easy as sliding the dials up or down and, unlike infinite grinders, you can duplicate the grind setting every time. Regardless of whether you’re using an espresso machine, French press, stovetop or drip coffee maker, the versatile Vario can keep up with all your needs.
I hope you enjoyed this blog. Feel free to leave a comment and weigh in on my top picks.
One of the things I enjoy the most about the coffee industry is the variety. I really like all the different types of people who are involved with the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). It truly is a diverse group of passionate people who really love what they are doing. I am always quite impressed by the fact that everyone shares a common goal–make better coffee.
Trade shows, such as the one recently hosted by the SCAA, and new products are so important to keep the industry going. Many of the most exciting new products are being made by established brands represented by Whole Latte Love. For example, one of the biggest hits at this year’s SCAA show was the weight-driven grinder produced by our good friends, Kyle and Kyra from Baratza. It is the only grinder that will actually grind the amount of coffee you need, based on weight and not time. I could see this grinder being used at home or in a commercial application to grind accurate and consistent doses of coffee. Baratza’s weight-driven grinder also has a great set of conical burrs from MAHLKÖNIG. This innovative grinder made Baratza’s booth very busy at the SCAA show. I think the company has hit a home run with this grinder. Baratza has always made great products and its technology keeps improving. Whole Latte Love will be carrying the new Baratza grinder shortly, so if you’re interested in this grinder be sure to check back to our site.
Also at the Baratza booth was Bill Crossland, previously of La Marzocco fame. Bill, not one to be out done, also unveiled a new product. It was the Crossland Espresso machine. The machine has many features including a PID-controlled boiler for precise brew temperatures. It also has a digital display for brewing temperature as well as volumetric controls. The Crossland Espresso machine even comes outfitted with an integrated shot timer as well as programmable pre-infusion, a two-liter water reservoir and a thermo enhanced steam outlet. I really think this machine will create a lot of buzz; we will be getting it as soon as it is available. I look forward to doing a video on this machine.
Bill is also coming out with a great line of precise water dispensing devices. They are uniquely designed and can actually not only deliver water at a specific temperature, but also pour it in a fashion that mimics the circular motion that would be used by someone using one of the pour over coffee devices such as a Melittta or Chemex coffee brewer.
Another one of my show favorites was the Espro booth. They are very passionate about what they are doing and it shows in the enthusiasm they have for all of their products. Espro has a new stainless steel French press that brews a little differently than the norm. It actually keeps the grounds in a neat little basket and has a unique way of extracting coffee that is a lot less messy than the average French press. I also really like one of Espro’s tampers. It actually lets you know when you have hit 30 pounds of pressure. Again, you should be seeing Espro products on our site in the near future.
I really enjoyed the show, the classes as well all the cool things I was able to look at and try. If you have any questions about these products or the SCAA show, feel free to leave me a comment.
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In this video I'll go over the difference between a french press grind and an espresso grind and show you what each looks like. I also discuss the difference between a blade grinder and a burr grinder. Hope you enjoy the video. Happy brewing!
Two great machines unite—the Rancilio Silvia and the Baratza Virtuoso Preciso. These machines have been paired together to offer excellent value and superior results. In our video, Mark and I will give you an overview of the components and capabilities of this grinder and semi-automatic espresso machine combo. We’ll also brew a shot of espresso and give you a look at the final product, so you can see exactly what this package is capable of…Enjoy!
The coffee community has been anxiously awaiting the Baratza Virtuoso Preciso for over a year. Now that the Preciso has arrived, it certainly will not disappoint.
The Virtuoso has been a wildly popular home grinder for quite some time, garnering high praise for its reliability, efficient operation and compact frame. But if espresso lovers had one gripe, it would be the grinder's lack of micro adjustments. While the 40 standard grind settings are more than adequate for most people, there are some people who desire greater control over their grind. The Virtuoso Preciso is made to cater to them. Along with the 40 macro settings, the Preciso offers an additional 11 micro settings. Each micro range is equal to one macro setting, so you'll be able to fine-tune your grind to get exactly what you need, coarser for French Press or finer for espresso.
Aside from expanded grind adjustments the Preciso also comes with upgraded 40mm conical burrs. Designed for precision, these burrs deliver uniform coffee as well as very precise espresso grinds. With the improved burrs, the Preciso has seen remarkable speed improvements as well. Depending on the grind, you're looking at producing 1.8-2.5 grams per seconds—pretty impressive speeds for a home grinder. Though the first series of the Preciso grinders did not come equipped with these upgraded burrs, Baratza will be happy to replace your burrs if you have purchased one of these units. If your grinder was purchased before November 15, 2010, chances are it was equipped with the old set of burrs and is now eligible for an upgrade. (Be sure to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)
Expanded grind adjustments and enhanced burrs are sure to make the Preciso a highly sought after grinder, but this model has not strayed too far from the winning Baratza formula. It retains a small, kitchen-counter friendly footprint and easy-to-use controls—attributes that have made previous Baratza grinders so popular with home users. The 480-watt gear reduction motor is powerful enough for most users and the Preciso is relatively quiet for its class. The burrs operate at only 450rpm to reduce heat transfer to your coffee and help preserve flavor and aroma. As an added bonus, the Preciso comes with a hands-free portaholder. Use it in conjunction with the integrated timer and you'll be able to set your portafilter in place, program the grinder to deliver the exact amount of coffee needed and walk away. At under $300, the Preciso is a great investment for espresso lovers looking for a precise, utilitarian burr grinder.
I love the Baratza Vario because it is a great little grinder with all of the bells and whistles of the expensive commercial coffee grinders at a fraction of the price. Given its programmable features and ability to alternate easily among different grind settings, the Vario is the perfect grinder for anyone who brews different coffee styles like I do.
There are only a few days left before October 31 and our 5th Annual Halloween Contest is in full swing. This year, coffee lovers have to guess how much candy corn we have stashed in the bean hoppers of five different grinders: the Gaggia MDF, Rancilio Rocky, Baratza Vario, and Ceado E7. The Whole Latte Love member with a guess closest to the actual count will take home the Gaggia MDF. The second-place prize is a $100 Whole Latte Love Gift Certificate.
If you’re serious about winning one of these great prizes, I’ve got a few tips to help you out. First, a little research goes a long way. Check out our product descriptions for these grinders, chances are you’ll be able to find the bean hopper capacity of each model. Determine the total capacity and you’ll have a rough idea of how much volume we’re working with. Also, keep in mind that candy corn is bigger and denser than coffee beans. For example, if a hopper can hold 500 beans, it won’t be able to hold nearly as much candy corn. Last but not least, make sure you watch Tracy and Darren’s video. It will give you a live-action visual of what we’re talking about and may be able to help you eyeball the count.
Remember, you have to be a Whole Latte Love member, 18+ and located in the continental US to win. Good luck and Happy Halloween!
A few weeks ago, in anticipation of the arrival of Kona beans and my desire to brew it as espresso, drip and French press, I decided that it would be a great time to put a Baratza Vario to the test. Given its programmable features and ability to alternate among different grind settings, I figured that it would be the perfect grinder for the job.
The Vario is amazingly well designed with a small footprint. It is the patriarch of the Baratza line which includes the Virtuoso, Maestro Plus and Maestro. It measures 14.5" high by 4.5" wide by 7.25" deep and weighs in at 10 pounds. One of the nicest features is that all of the controls and functions are on the front of the grinder.
The Vario delivers an incredibly wide range of grinds with 230 possible settings to choose from ranging from 250 micrometers to 1200 micrometers. It uses macro and micro adjustments, where one macro setting is equal to a full range of the micro settings. This makes it easy to fine tune and dial in the right grind, and, makes it simple to duplicate previous settings.
Ceramic 54mm burrs, developed in collaboration with Mahlkonig, help to reduce friction during the grind process, keeping the beans cooler helping to retain the intended flavor characteristics from roasting. One of the advantages to having ceramic burrs is that they are resistant to having coffee oils stick to them, keeping them cleaner. Another key benefit to ceramic burrs is that they have twice the lifespan of stainless steel burrs.
The Vario has simple and easy programmability. There are separate programmable buttons for espresso, drip and press, so you simply press your preset button and push the start button. The timers can adjust down to 1/10th of a second for precise grind amounts. This latest version of the Vario features a battery back-up in case power fails so that you will not lose any of your programmed settings.
There are two dosing options on this feature filled grinder. For drip, press or cold brew it uses a simple, removable bin to catch your grounds. Baratza has included their PortaHolder accessory for grinding directly into your portafilter if that is what you prefer. It can be adjusted to accommodate different sized portafilters. This is a very convenient feature, but, as with most doserless grinders, it does require more clean up afterwards.
The Baratza Vario made it very simple to enjoy my Kona beans in all three styles of brewing, with very little time between adjustments. The programmed buttons made the dosing easy with very little waste of quality beans. Overall, the Vario is a great little grinder, with all of the bells and whistles of the expensive commercial coffee grinders at a fraction of the price.
How many different brewing styles do you use to make coffee?
What do you think of having all of these features in one grinder?