The Baratza Encore has become a familiar name in specialty coffee circles. It is a name that has connotations of grind consistency, of manual brewing, and of affordability melded with quality.
It is now widely acclaimed as the go-to burr grinder for those seeking grind consistency especially in relation to soft brews (non-espresso). This acclaim can be traced back to a solid build quality, premium burrs, and a reliable motor.
So does it live up to it’s lofty reputation? In this article we will consider the Baratza Encore conical burr grinder and see whether it should still be considered the go to burr grinder.
Baratza Encore Review
The Baratza Encore is an exceptional grinder. For the price point it really cannot be beaten in the market at the present. It comes with 40 grind settings covering fine to coarse, has superb grind consistency, and is known to be a packhorse that deals well with heavy use.
Specifications of the Baratza Encore
Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder
Grind consistency of the Baratza Encore Conical Burr Grinder
The single most important consideration in purchasing a coffee grinder is grind consistency. To summarize a lot of technical theory, basically the more consistent the particle sizes of the ground coffee the more even the extraction and the nicer the taste. This is the reason that any coffee lover worth his or her salt will warn you that blade grinders are to be avoided at all costs. It’s not simply a matter of snobbery (although there may be traces of this), but instead it is because blade grinders cut the coffee beans rather haphazardly and thus produce highly inconsistent particle sizes.
This is general knowledge for most coffee lovers these days. What is less common knowledge is that many burr grinders are not actually much better. It is often thought especially by those beginning the foray into coffee, that any burr grinder is automatically quality. However, this is woefully inaccurate. Many entry level burr grinders are made of low quality components, sub-par burrs, and in reality perform little better than blade grinders. If you remember that burr grinders can cost anywhere from $50 to $5000, you will realize that the quality of burr grinders can range dramatically.
So where does the Baratza Encore fit in? And the answer is that the Baratza Encore is far superior than virtually anything else in this price range. Of course it will fall short if you are comparing it to a grinder worth $500-$800, but for the price this grinder is a steal! And this plays out in the grind consistency.
While some claim that the Baratza Encore can grind fine enough for espresso, it really shines in manual brewing methods. That means Aeropress, V60, Chemex, drip coffee, cold brew, and French Press. These all require grind particle sizes anywhere from medium-fine to coarse and in these the Baratza Encore excels. Of course it produces some fines (tiny dust-like coffee particles) like all grinders, but these are minimal especially considered to similarly priced grinders.
This grind consistency is in large part due to the high quality European made 40mm steel burrs used in the Baratza Encore grinder. These are the exact same burrs used in Baratza’s Virtuoso, and are of very high quality. So on grind consistency we give the Baratza Encore a big tick. It really is superb grind quality for the price point, especially in comparison to most other entry-level grinders.
Baratza Encore Grind Settings
This naturally flows on to how wide is the grind range of the Baratza Encore? So the Baratza Encore conical burr grinder has 40 different grinder adjustments that in technical terms range from 250 to 1200 microns. Basically, it has a wide enough range at least in theory to brew for virtually any brewing method. In fact, on their website Baratza claims that the Baratza Encore ‘provides consistent grinds for brew methods from espresso to French Press and everything in between.’
However, while this is true in a sense, it is also somewhat misleading. The general consensus for a while has been that the Baratza Encore should not be thought of as an espresso grinder and really struggles to pull off espresso. The reason is that espresso requires micro-adjustments that the Baratza Encore simply can’t provide. So while you might be able to use the Encore with a pressurized portafilter, it is best labelled as a burr grinder aimed for manual brewing methods. So if espresso is your main game, then we would suggest giving the Baratza Encore a miss and instead opting for the Rancilio Rocky.
The grind adjustment system is very easy and intuitive to use and does mean that you can easily switch between different grind sizes. It is also one of the few grinders in its price range that allows for calibration. Basically, this means that while you will always only have 40 grind settings, you can adjust how close the burrs sit to determine the grind range of the 40 settings. Basically, don’t worry if you are just beginning, but a nice feature for the experienced coffee brewer or barista.
Below we have put our recommended starting points for Baratza Encore settings for different brewing methods. These Baratza Encore grinder settings are good starting points which will put you in the ballpark and from which you can tweak depending on your preferences and the beans used.
Baratza Encore Settings
In particular, a lot of people wonder about the Baratza Encore French Press setting. French Press is understandably popular and we recommend anywhere from 24-30. The reason that it is not a good idea to go much more coarse than that is that at the coarsest settings the particle size consistency does degenerate. However, the Baratza Encore cold brew setting can be in the 30-40 range as there is such a long steeping time (the amount of time the ground coffee is in contact with the water).
Build Quality of the Baratza Encore Grinder
The Baratza Encore is widely regarded as a packhorse when it comes to performance. And this durability is in high part due to the quality of the components used. In addition to the burrs which we mentioned above, the gears that rotate the burrs are made of 15% glass-filled thermoplastic, which makes them more durable. This was an improvement from the previous all metal editions and leads to a reduction in noise, and improvement in durability and shock resistance.
The burrs are rotated by a high torque gearbox which rotates the burrs at a fairly slow 550 RPM (Rotations Per Minute). This low speed aids grind consistency with conical burrs and is actually a good thing. The gearbox has also been improved since the original was released and consequently can prevent jams from stopping quickly enough without causing damage to internal parts.
The Baratza Encore does come in a plastic casing which we don’t love but is fairly expected in this price range. And to be fair, we are happy Baratza made the wise decision of putting money into the interior rather than the exterior of the grinder.
Functionality of the Baratza Encore
The Baratza Encore grinder is fairly minimalistic in terms of both design and features. This of course comes with pros and cons. On the positive side it means less things that can malfunction and that it is very simple to use. However, on the negative side it does mean next to no extra features which may put some off.
The Baratza Encore is very simple to use. You simply place your beans in the hopper, ensure the grinder is turned on, and then either switch the on/off switch on the side or push the pulse button on the front of the machine. Then when the desired amount has been ground, simply switch the switch to the off position or take your finger off the pulse button. The grounds fall into the grounds bin from which you can transfer them to your preferred brewer and you are away laughing.
The hardest part of the functionality of the Baratza Encore is determining how much coffee to ground at a time. Because it doesn’t come with a timer, doser, or scale it can lead to grinding too much and so having more waste. However, our recommendation is that the Baratza Encore should basically be treated as a single dosing grinder. Basically, that means that instead of keeping all your beans in the hopper, you only put the exact amount of beans you want grinded each time into the hopper. This isn’t necessarily recommended for all grinders but works well on the Baratza Encore grinder as it has very low retention and a direct grind path.
As mentioned above, the Baratza Encore coffee grinder can be somewhat messy to use. This is a common complaint with many coffee grinders and is certainly true of the Encore. When you pull out the grinds bin typically some coffee dust and chaff will fall on the benchtop.
The other important consideration as regards to usability is cleaning and maintenance. Coffee grinders do need to be cleaned regularly for optimal performance. Thus how easy or hard it is to access the burrs is an important factor to consider. One of the strengths of the Baratza Encore is that it requires zero tools and about 15 seconds to open up the interior of the grinder for cleaning and maintenance.
Baratza Encore Cleaning
Baratza Encore Accessories
Another little known fact is that because Baratza has an entire range of burr grinders, of which the Encore is the entry level option, they offer some nice accessories. There are two different accessories that we want to highlight.
Baratza Single Dose Hopper
The first is the Baratza Single Dose Hopper. This is intended, as alluded above, for those who use the Baratza Encore as a single dosing grinder. This hopper easily connects to the grinder in the place of the larger hopper and both reduces the height considerably and makes single dosing a breeze. We highly recommend this addition.
Baratza Encore Accent Kit
The second accessory is a bit more of a fun option and is an accent kit to spruce up the look of the Baratza Encore. The accent kit consists of a switch and bottom casing that come in five different colors to either change things up or match a specific decor.
Baratza Encore: The Verdict
In summary, we think exceptionally highly of the Baratza Encore. For the price point it really cannot be beaten in the market at the present. It comes with 40 grind settings covering fine to coarse, has superb grind consistency, and is known to be a packhorse that deals well with heavy use.
If you are looking for a first grinder then this may be more than you envisioned paying but it is well worth the extra bucks. So we would conclude that the Baratza Encore conical burr grinder continues to be the go to entry level burr grinder. So if you are on the lookout for a grinder and are not specifically looking for an espresso grinder, chances are the Baratza Encore grinder is the one for you.