Equipment Review: Breville Smart Grinder Pro

Overall Rating: 9.0

Pros: The Smart Grinder Pro’s grind consistency is best among the four grinders we review for this report. It is also relatively quiet, and its capacity for supporting espresso brewing is particularly impressive for a machine offered at so reasonable a price.

Cons: The stubbornly convoluted user interface takes either patience or a workaround to overcome.

MSRP: $199.95

How to Interpret Equipment Ratings    |   Read complete report: Four Mid-Range Burr Coffee Grinders Tested & Reviewed

Reviewer’s Take:

Excellent performance and many clever details contribute to the brainy design of the Breville Smart Grinder Pro, although there are moments when the device might just be a little too smart for its own good.

User Interface. The digital LCD screen is helpful for choosing and returning to one of the Breville’s generous 60 grind adjustments (many of which are fine enough for espresso brewing). Beans feed smoothly, and the … Read more

Equipment Review: Baratza Virtuoso+ Coffee Grinder

Overall Rating: 8.5

Pros: A smart design, simple operation and excellent serviceability make this machine both a reassuring long-term investment and a pleasure to use.

Cons: Beans tend to popcorn around as the hopper empties, and its once class-leading grind consistency has been overtaken by competitors.

MSRP: $269.00

How to Interpret Equipment Ratings    |   Read complete report: Four Mid-Range Burr Coffee Grinders Tested & Reviewed

Reviewer’s Take:

The Baratza Virtuoso+ is an unassuming workhorse you can trust to break your beans with reasonable precision and with refreshing attention to detail and design.

Build, Static and Serviceability. The sharp corners of its sturdy plastic grounds bin make it easier to pour grounds directly into smaller single-cup brewers or filters, an appreciable bump in convenience over the wide-mouthed grounds containers of many other machines, from which users are expected to scoop rather than pour.

The bin also nests snugly and completely enough … Read more

The Fate of a Classic: Washed Central America Coffees

Road leading to coffee farms in the highlands of western Honduras near Santa Barbara National Park.

For decades, the classic washed or wet-processed coffees of Central America and Mexico have constituted one of the world’s great go-to coffee types. Usually clean-tasting, usually sweetly-tart, with a shifting array of fruit notes – always stone fruit, typically some citrus and flowers, always notes ranging from nut and caramel to full-on dark chocolate depending on the coffee and roast. And most likely some aromatic wood, from the sweet-pungent odor of fresh-cut cedar to scorchy pine in darker roasts. The details might differ by farm or origin — Panama was particularly known for clean, soft versions of the type, Costa Rica for equally clean but brighter, more forceful versions, Guatemala for more depth and intrigue, not always so clean, perhaps, but with unexpected sensory surprises arising from less predictable coffee varieties and local variations Read more

Minding the Grinds: Our Approach to Sampling and Judging Grind Consistency

Closeup of coffee grinder burrs. Photo by Howard Bryman.

There were a number of ways we could have approached the evaluation of the four grinders reviewed this month with regard to producing consistent particle size. We could have judged the machines based on the results of brewing with the grounds they put out, or simply through visual inspection of the grounds, or by manually sieving each sample to separate particles by size.

Instead, we decided to send samples of coffee ground by each machine to our friends at the Horiba Instruments particle science lab in Irvine, California, for particle size distribution analysis using laser diffraction equipment, because that appeared to represent the clearest, most objective route to evaluating the grind consistency of the four machines reviewed in this report.

Yet even with that decision made, there remained a number of ways we could have gone about selecting the samples, as … Read more

Equipment Report: Four Mid-Range Burr Coffee Grinders Tested & Reviewed

Four burr coffee grinders, from left to right: Oxo Conical Burr Grinder With Integrated Scale, Baratza Virtuoso+, Breville Smart Grinder Pro, and KitchenAid Burr Grinder. Photo by Howard Bryman.

Grinding whole beans immediately before brewing is one of the single most powerful upgrades you can make to the quality of the cup you brew at home. No matter what grinder you own, it’s better than owning no grinder at all. Yet when examining the differences from one coffee grinder to the next, and contemplating the sheer variety of products available on the market, it quickly becomes clear that what we ask grinders to do, and evaluating how well they do it, is neither simple nor easy.

For this report, Coffee Review thoroughly tested four popular burr coffee grinders: the Baratza Virtuoso+, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro, the KitchenAid Burr Grinder, and the Oxo Conical Burr Grinder With Read more