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:
- An improved conical burr that produces a greater degree of fineness for brewing espresso while still being adjustable in 40 increments all the way to a coarse French press grind
- A simpler on/off switch vs. a timer switch and a pulse button on the front,
- And a revamped gearbox that has a drive transmission with decreased noise and significantly increased strength and durability. In addition to a new drive shaft, motor mounting plate and bushings, the gearbox includes a new drive gear made of 15% glass-filled thermo plastic which is quieter than the prior metal gear, wears better and is more shock resistant.
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.