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 into the body of the grinder beneath the output chute to keep any swirling bit of static-charged coffee neatly contained. No other machine in our report lineup controlled staticky bits as effectively. The nonessential but fun LED that illuminates the pile of ground coffee as it accumulates is also a nice touch.

The Virtuoso+’s smoke-tinted plastic hopper and mostly plastic exterior may not be to everyone’s liking, yet behind its modest facade hides an internal design that’s as efficient as it is impressively user-serviceable. The grinder’s efficiency is confirmed by exceedingly low grinds retention. The short grind path from the hopper through to the bin and the compact design of the burr chamber nets a grounds retention of only 1.5 grams when emptied for a cleaning — far less than average.

Its excellent serviceability is confirmed by its easy disassembly, the comprehensive selection of spare parts for sale on the company’s website, the many step-by-step repair guides also available online, and Baratza’s reputation for excellent customer service.

Particle-Size Consistency. Baratza introduced the original design of the Virtuoso in 2005, offering grind consistency that at that time was significantly ahead of the competition. Because Baratza machines are built so solidly and are so easy to repair and maintain, the Virtuoso’s reputation continued to grow, even as other manufacturers started catching up in terms of burr and motor quality, and therefore in grind consistency.

Today the Virtuoso+ remains a solid performer in regard to grind, although our tests revealed that in relative terms, it’s no longer leading the pack. Interpreting the laser particle analysis data provided by our friends at Horiba Instruments, we found that the Virtuoso+ came in a very close third in particle-size consistency among the four machines we tested for this report, about 6% less consistent than the top performer, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro. For detailed test results, see the bar chart at the end of this review.

Yet with results from three different grinders in the same class coming within surprisingly close range of one another, what the particle size analysis also revealed is the importance of details beyond grind consistency alone that point to a product worth owning, and the promise of a quality experience in the kitchen.

The Virtuoso+’s low grinds retention and well-designed bin are examples of such details, as are the generous and smooth forty clicks of adjustability for finding the sweet spot in an immersion or drip brew. For dialing in a finicky espresso, these clicks are relatively broad and can be limiting, but the Virtuoso+ is certainly capable of grinding finely and consistently enough to at least get you started down the espresso rabbit hole, if that’s where you’re headed.

Popcorning, Single-Dose Grinding, and Noise. Our only other real complaint regards single-dose grinding, which we recognize is a task for which the Virtuoso+ is not specifically designed. Nevertheless, its low grounds retention, respectable grind consistency and accessible, no-frills approach make the Virtuoso+ an attractive choice for aficionados who enjoy switching among a variety of coffees frequently enough to want to grind only a single dose of beans at a time.

The problem is that the Virtuoso+’s burrs and hopper together allow the final beans of a dose to bounce or “popcorn” around for some seconds before finally feeding down into the burrs. A few pulses at the end of a dose are sometimes needed to snag those final bouncy stragglers, which stretches out the grind time as well as the duration of the 90-95dB racket the machine makes in the morning (no louder than average, but still loud enough to penetrate a later sleeper’s last wisp of dream).

The Bottom Line. Judged by grind consistency alone, the Baratza Virtuoso+ may no longer be the superstar it once was, yet it remains one of the better options in its class, designed and engineered by a small, Bellevue, Washington-based company that makes nothing but coffee grinders and stands by its products. This single-minded pursuit of quality in one particular species of appliance is unique among the manufacturers whose products we’ve reviewed for this report, a dedication that radiates beyond the respectable grind consistency to other thoughtful features, making it an easy machine to recommend without hesitation.

Key Specifications:

Hopper Capacity: 8 ounces
Dimensions: H 13.8″, W 4.7″, x D 6.3″
Weight: 8 pounds
Burrs: 40mm stainless steel conical
Burr Speed: 550 RPM
Grind Settings: 40
MSRP: $269.00

Manufacturer website: Baratza.com

Grind size analysis of Baratza Virtuoso+ Burr GrinderGrind consistency test results for the Baratza Virtuoso+ grinder based on laser particle size distribution analysis by Horiba Instruments. Six samples were tested from each grinder representing various grind settings (coarse, medium, fine) and two degrees of roast (light and medium-dark). Like other grinders we tested, the Virtuoso+ was at its best producing fine grinds. For an explanation of how we determined our optimal range of particle sizes click here.

The post Equipment Review: Baratza Virtuoso+ Coffee Grinder appeared first on Coffee Review.

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