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  • Baratza Virtuoso: Is it Better Than Ever?

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    One of the easiest and best ways to up your coffee brewing game is to invest in a good grinder. But with so many seemingly excellent models on the market, how are you supposed to know which one is the best for you? With this Baratza Virtuoso+ review, we’ll break down all the ins and outs of this popular machine to help you decide if it’s the right one for your kitchen counter. 

    Baratza Virtuoso

    Just so you know, if you click on a product on RoastyCoffee.com and decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission.

    Read on for a brand and product overview as well as an in-depth review, some helpful guidelines to keep in mind when buying, and some potential alternatives if this isn’e the one for you. 

    Why Should You Get a Grinder?

    If you’re wondering whether getting a grinder is worth the investment, rest assured, it definitely is. Regardless of whether you end up opting for the Vertuoso+ or something completely different, this advice remains the same. 

    The main reason you should invest in a grinder is for the sake of freshness. Just like it’s important to get freshly roasted beans, it’s equally important to have freshly ground coffee. Buying pre-ground coffee means your coffee will go stale much more quickly, so having a grinder is especially vital for people who like to buy in bulk. 

    Baratza Virtuoso+ Review

    If you don’t feel like reading the full descriptions and breakdowns of this review, just read here to get the big ideas and our more important takeaways on both the positives and negatives of this machine. 

    What We Like:

    What We Don’t:

    Features to Note

    The Updates

    The Virtuoso was first introduced in 2005, but recently received a much needed update with the Virtuoso+. After much user feedback, they we have updated the timer switch for a digital display, so now the 40 second digital timer allows you to set a repeatable dose.

    Other than that and a few more minor tweaks and updates (like a backlit grounds bin), this is still the same trust machine that customers know and love. 

    Grind Consistency

    As we mentioned, this machine has a pretty impressive 40 grind settings. But what matters more than the number of options is how good those options actually are. So let’s take a look at grind consistency. 

    At the higher end of grind scale (40–the coarsest setting), you are going to see a bit of inconsistency in your grind. That is pretty standard across the board because coarser grinds require bigger gaps in the burrs, so more chunks fall through the  cracks. 

    However, that isn’t going to ruin your French press or cold brew dreams. You can still get a coarse enough grind at a slightly lower setting that is adequately consistent. 

    Near the middle of the range, around the grind size you would use for drip methods, is where this machine is the most consistent. That’s around 20-30–no complaints there.

    At the lower, finest end, the grind remains consistent. However, it is not fine enough for a non-pressurized portafilter in our opinion. So if you are using a fancy semi-automatic machine, look for something with an even wider range or specifically designed for espresso brewing. 

    Ease of Use

    The great thing about the Baratza is that it will be as simple or as complex as you decide to make it. If you don’t want to tinker with the machine, you can use it on its basic 450 rpm speed with the 40 grind settings. It’ll work just fine.

    On the other hand, if you want to adjust rotation speed or grind time, you can pop open the gear box and do so. Instead go the standard 450 rpm, you can get from 405 to 495. Additionally, you can get the grind speed from 1.5-2.4 g/sec, which is pretty impressive. 

    Nevertheless, this is a super easy to use machine without all of that business. You can even use the handy pulse grinder to grind directly into a pressurized portafilter. 

    Build Quality

    There really isn’t anything negative to say here. On a surface level assessment, the Virtuoso+ gives you the sleek, stylish look that you should expect at this price point. The metal top and base give it the feel of a high-quality machine. 

    This machine has 40mm steel burrs manufactured in Europe with a DC motor. That means you can look forward to years of consistency and durability before even thinking about looking at replacement parts. Even then you won’t have to replace the whole machine. 

    In addition to their sturdy build, the Baratza products are all backed by some incredible customer service as well as a 1 year warranty.

    Maintenance

    Cleaning any electric grinder is going to be a bit of a process, and there are some mixed feelings going around regarding how easy or difficult this one is to handle. But here are our two cents on it. 

    Yes, if you’re wanting to get every single crevice of the inner workings of this machine clean, you might have to do some maneuvering and upending. However, that isn’t required to properly maintain your machine. 

    The parts you DO need to clean and check (namely the burrs, hopper, and grounds catcher) are easily accessible. So all you really need is a brush and a few minutes and you’re good to go.

    On a different note, as wear and tear eventually takes its toll on your machine (hopefully pretty far down the line), Baratza encourages customers to repair rather than replace their machines.

    About Baratza

    Baratza is an electric coffee grinder company based in the United States. They were founded in 1999 by Kyle Anderson and Kyra Kennedy and have been dedicated to making accessible grinders for the home brewing market. 

    Because they are exclusively focused on creating top-notch, consumer-level grinders, you know that you’re getting quality products. 

    Electric vs Manual Grinders

    We’ve discussed this before when reviewing grinders, but for those of you who aren’t completely caught up, here’s the low down. One of the first decisions you’ll need to make when buying a grinder is the whether you want to go with an electric or manual one. 

    Electric grinders are generally preferred in commercial settings because they are faster and more convenient. Also, you can grind in higher volumes. You can find them with any of the variations we discuss below. However, conical steel burr grinders are the most common.

    Nevertheless, people do use electrical grinders at home. In fact, some, such as the Vertuoso+, are specifically intended for that purpose. This is also for their speed and convenience. 

    On the other hand, manual burr grinders are preferred by those who want to grind in smaller batches or need their grinder to be portable

    Burr Type

    Now that you have an idea of some of the basics that separate different kinds of burr grinders, we’re going to go over some of the more nitty-gritty factors.

    Ceramic vs Steel

    Firstly, let’s talk a little bit about the difference between ceramic and stainless steel grinders. The Vertuoso has a stainless steel grinder, which is pretty standard for electric grinders. This is because steel grinders tend to start sharper and are more durable than ceramic.

    But what’s on the other side of the fence? While ceramic grinders may not be able to achieve the same initial sharpness as steel, they take much longer to dull out.

    Additionally, many proponents claim that they are less likely to overheat. However, most electric grinders are programmed to grind slowly to avoid this issue regardless of the grinder material. 

    Overall, chances are you won’t really notice much difference in your grind between the two types if you’re getting them from around the same price point (though stainless steel does tend to be a tad cheaper). 

    Flat vs Conical

    While the previous variation has to do with build materials, this one has to do with the shape of the grinder. It may sound a bit inconsequential, but the shape does actually matter. 

    For the Vertuoso, Baratza opted for a conical burr grinder. That means there is a cone shaped ring situated inside another hollow ring. They rotate at a lower rate than flat burr grinders and as a result produce less heat, so they are typically preferred in commercial settings.

    Alternatively, flat burr has two rings that are placed horizontally, making them function more like grinding teeth. While some prefer the grind of a flat burr, they have a few mechanical inferiorities. 

    They tend to clog when grinding in large quantities, so they would not be ideal for an electric grinder of this size. Second, the grinding process produces more heat, which can distort the flavor of your beans if you grind too quickly. 

    Also, you will have more issues with static. This makes flat burrs more difficult to clean and contributes to the clogging issue. So, it’s best that Baratza went with conical for this machine. 

    Who’s it for?

    The Vertuoso is a great mid-level machine. It’s great for semi-experienced baristas who need the grind range and consistency but can’t invest in a $1000+ machine with 100s of grind sizes. 

    The 40 options should be plenty to get you from a press to a near-espresso with adequate room for experimentation in between. So if you’re someone who has several different brew tools that you like to trade out, this machine is a great choice. 

    Who should look elsewhere

    While this is likely the perfect grinder for some, like every coffee product, it isn’t for everyone. Here are a few conditions under which you should probably be looking at different options:

    First, if you are in search of a borderline silent grinder. While the Virtuoso isn’t incredibly loud, all electric grinders do make a good bit of unavoidable noise due to their motors and…well…the grinding. If this is the case for you, try looking at some manual options. 

    Next, if you really need or want a HUGE grind range, there are other grinders with significantly more options than the Virtuoso. Lastly, on the reverse end of the experience spectrum, this grinder might not be the best choice for someone just entering the specialty coffee scene or is only grinding for one new method. 

    Potential Alternatives

    Expert Option

    If you need a machine that can handle grinds for your high-quality espresso machine or your Greek briki, check out the Breville Smart Grinder Pro. This machine beats out the Virtuoso models on a few fronts, but the most notable one is the price. You’re investing in the same price range, but you get more features and grind settings with the Smart Grinder. 

    It has 60 preset settings and manual adjustment on the burrs to allow for up to 600 option. Plus it has a similar build quality, so it’s a great machine for the true experimenters out there. 

    Beginner Option

    On the other hand, if you are a complete beginner and the $200 price point looks a little steep for your first grinder, look into the Bodum Bistro Premium Burr Grinder. You get less grind settings, but it’s about half the price and still has enough to try multiple brew methods.

    Also, the bean hopper is about the same size and anti-static technology that makes it a breeze to clean. So if you’re just looking for the simple and easy option, this is the one for you. You can read our full review on it here.  

    Manual Option

    Whether you’re on a budget or just need something extra quiet, this manual grinder is one of our absolute favorites. The JavaPresse has 18 click settings, which is pretty expansive for a manual grinder. Plus it’s durable, affordable, portable, and quiet. So you might not have the same number of grind settings, but your wallet and light sleepers will thank you.

    The Verdict 

    The Vertuoso is advertised as being the “perfect [machine] for your manual brewing journey.” And it definitely does it’s job as far as giving you a good amount of grind options and a few bells and whistles to make you feel like a professional. 

    This machine falls somewhere between the very popular entry-level machines (such as the Baratza Encore, Capresso Infinity and Bodum Bistro) and the more feature packed, versatile expert-level machines. 

    Overall, this is a solid, respectable machine. However, we do think that for most people, going for something with a few more or less bells and whistles around the same or lower price point might serve you just as well or better. 

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