The Fellow Opus is Fellow’s newest offering to the specialty coffee community. Unlike its elder brother the Ode (or Ode v2), the Opus is not a brew grinder but is intentionally designed to be a multi-purpose grinder.
The Fellow Opus grinder claims to be able to grind anywhere from espresso to cold brew and all at an accessible price point. Lofty claims, but does the Opus live up to it?
The Fellow Opus is a conical burr grinder armed with fairly aggressive 40mm ‘Burly’ conical burrs. It is single dosing, simple to use, and comes with 41 grinding settings plus a clever additional range for espresso in particular. Unlike almost any other Fellow products it is almost entirely cased in plastic which brings the price down but feels less premium than their other products.
Fellow Opus Review
Many readers will be aware that over the last few years, Fellow has released their Fellow Ode grinder (plus their new and improved version). The Ode was a specifically designed brew grinder made for filter coffee. As such it boasted ‘ghost burrs’ and intentionally couldn’t reach the fineness required for dialing in espresso.
The Fellow Opus by contrast is a multi-purpose grinder. That is, in theory, it can grind for any brew method from the fine grind required for espresso to the extremely coarse grind required for cold brew.
The positive aspect of multi-brew grinders is that they are ideal for those like myself who dabble in both espresso and soft brews like pour-over. It means that you only need one grinder to meet all your grinding needs. Multi-purpose grinders tend to have a relatively simple grind adjustment mechanism so that it can easily be changed, they are also often single-dosing and have low retention.
The negative aspect to multi-dosing grinders is that they can tend, as the old saying goes, to be the jack of all trades but master of none.
So it seems the specific niche that Fellow was targeting in the Fellow Opus coffee grinder was a grinder that can do espresso (unlike the Ode) and filter and that comes at an accessible price point. I do wonder if they also quite intentionally tried to design a coffee grinder for the less clued-in coffee lover. While this can be used for fine-tuning espresso by the expert, it still has rough grind size guides and a coffee scoop function that is more tied to the less attuned coffee lover.
The use of plastic and low price point also makes me think that this isn’t trying to compete with the best of the best like the Niche Zero or DF83. Rather it is cheap enough that it can be used as a beginning coffee grinder, but with enough grunt and finesse that it could also be used by the espresso enthusiast on a budget.
At an initial glance, the Fellow Opus coffee grinder looks basically what we have come to expect from any Fellow product; refined elegance and gentle curves. In fact, in an interesting way aesthetically it seems like the opposite of the Ode; where the Ode is curved it is straight, and where the Ode is straight it is curved.
However, come a little closer and you note a distinct difference. And that is that the Fellow Opus is plastic. And not just a little bit of plastic but all plastic. Plastic casing, plastic hopper lid, plastic catch cup. Nice looking plastic, but plastic nonetheless.
And so certainly it does still look good, but in my opinion, it simply doesn’t look as good or feel as premium as other Fellow products. I suspect this design choice helped keep the price low, but the trade-off is the premium feel that we have come to associate with Fellow. So personally I am still in two minds about the plastic.
In terms of actual build quality itself, however, the Fellow Opus seems to live up to Fellow standards. The burrs are well made and will last, the motor is powerful and so won’t have any problems with choking. The motor is 350rpm and so won’t struggle even with lighter roasts.
Further, the design is simple enough that there are minimal mechanical or electrical components that can break down. There is only one button for controlling the grinder and no LCD screen. This simplicity makes for a grinder that is likely to last. It further means that if there are issues or malfunctioning components they are easier to replace.
The build quality is further evidenced in the small details, like the way that the hopper lid fits so snugly and tightly into the hopper (to the extent that you could almost use it like a bellows!).
So while the casing is plastic, this is nonetheless a well-made grinder that is likely to last (as opposed to some of the junk that you will find at this price point).
As mentioned this is a very simple grinder to operate. There is a single button on the bottom right. This controls the grinding time; tap once for 30 seconds, twice for 60 seconds, three times for 90 seconds, and one long hold for a full two minutes.
To operate, you simply add your beans to the hopper, put the lid on, and push the button for the required time. From there the grinds are ground into the catch cup. There is an anti-static mechanism that pulls the static from the grinds as they fall. From the catch cup the coffee grinds can either be poured into the given brewer (it even has a nice little spout in the catch cup for easy pouring), or else there is a portafilter insert so that it can be immediately transferred to either a 54mm or 58mm portafilter.
There are a few nice wee additions that add to the pleasure of actually using the Fellow Opus. The hopper lip doubles as a bean scoop. It has two compartments, the smaller holds approximately 20g of beans, the larger 40g, and the full lid holds around 100-110g or the amount required for a 12-cup batch brew. While coffee scoops are rightly anathema to the specialty coffee lover, it is a nice feature for those who may just be beginning their forage into coffee.
In terms of speed, the Fellow Opus grinder is somewhere in the middle to slow. Not super slow, but certainly not fast. It is certainly markedly slower than its older brother the Fellow Ode, but at this price point, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Similarly, it is really not that big of a deal for most people. In terms of noise, it is also somewhere around the middle. Again not the loudest coffee grinder around, but neither the quietest.
The anti-static mechanism is a nice feature and does make it a relatively clean coffee grinder to use.
However, the retention on the Fellow Opus is relatively high, especially for a single dosing grinder. Some have found the retention to be as high as 1g, and it really does need to be tapped on the side and some form of bellows used to get as much out as you put in. Again, literally, all burr grinders have some retention, this is just a bit higher than usual for a single-doser.
The Fellow Opus coffee grinder has an easy-to-move dial for changing the grind settings. This dial is located at the top of the grinder and has 11 numbers along with 4 ticks between each number. This gives a total of 41 grind settings. The grind is changed by using the grind adjuster which makes noticeable clicks between each tick.
41 grind settings are more than sufficient for filter coffee and work very well for dialing in pour-over or Aeropress (for comparison the Comandante hand grinder only has 40 grind settings). However, it is not nearly precise enough to do any more than very basic entry-level espresso.
Normal espresso requires micro-adjustments that these 41 settings simply cannot cater for.
However, Fellow really did think of everything. Enter the secondary adjustment ring. Basically, take off the hopper and you will see a blue collar with numbers on it. This secondary ring or macro step means that you can extend your grind size range to either coarser or finer. There are six steps on each side of the collar and you simply push the collar down and click the desired way to extend your grind range.
This is an ingenious way to allow for the sort of adjustments required for espresso. It really does mean that the Opus can cater to the needs of espresso enthusiasts and the most precise dialing-in. However, it is a bit of a finicky system as the video below shows. It also seems to nullify its use as a multipurpose grinder somewhat.
The Fellow Opus grinder utilizes a 40mm burr set that Fellow calls ‘Burly burrs.’ These are conical burrs with 6 aggressive blades. By all accounts, these seem to be very good burrs and again the fact that they are conical rather than flat like the Fellow Ode helps bring the price down.
Working alongside the 350 rpm motor these burrs really punch above the price point and seem to work well for both filter and espresso. Tests done by various people have shown that there is no doubt that the Opus can grind for superb espresso and for a well-balanced and well-extracted filter.
Put simply this is a very good burr set that can make delicious filter or espresso coffee.
Who is the Fellow Opus Grinder For?
So before we get into who SHOULD buy the Opus grinder, it is worth noting who SHOULDN’T buy it.
You shouldn’t buy this grinder if you want the best and money isn’t an issue. While there is a lot to love about the Fellow Opus, it is plastic and is made to be affordable. So while I like it a lot, I would personally take our Niche Zero or something like the DF83 over it any day. But the price of these reflects this. So budget does play a major role.
You also shouldn’t buy this if you are really into both espresso and filter coffee. While the grind range is impressive, the use of the secondary adjustment ring is finicky and not ideal if you are regularly swapping between espresso and filter. If you have taken the time to use both adjustment systems to dial in your espresso perfectly, then the last thing you want is to do is to muck it up. Just my opinion.
So who should buy it?
You should buy the Fellow Opus grinder if you want a high-quality burr grinder at an affordable price. Simply put, lots of us love to dream. If you are anything like me then your desires probably outrun your means. I mean who wouldn’t love a Mahlkonig EK43?
However, sometimes the dreams need to end and you have to pick a realistic option. The Fellow Opus is a realistic option. It is eminently affordable (and I wouldn’t recommend trying to spend less than this on an electric burr grinder). And put simply it is a good option. The burrs are high quality and work well in conjunction with the motor, the grind range is impressive, and it is Fellow which is always a safe option for specialty coffee products.
You should also buy the Fellow Opus grinder if you are just starting out on your specialty coffee journey. The Fellow Opus is going to crush any Krups, Kitchenaid, or other entry-level grinders at this price point. If you are starting your specialty coffee journey and looking for a grinder that you won’t have to upgrade from in 6 months then this is a very good option.
A Good Alternative to the Fellow Opus Coffee Grinder?
So if the Fellow Opus isn’t for you, what is a comparable grinder that may be of interest?
Well, we would certainly be remiss to fail to mention the newly released Encore ESP by Baratza. The Encore ESP is basically the tried and true Encore but now tweaked so that it can grind for espresso. If you know coffee grinders then you know that this is big! The Encore is really the go-to affordable burr grinder for filter coffee, but up to now, it hasn’t been able to grind fine enough for espresso.
Enter the Baratza Encore ESP. It looks, sounds, and feels like the classic, but now it comes with micro and macro adjustments to all for the fine-tuning required for espresso.
The similarities between the Fellow Opus and Encore ESP are significant. They are very similarly priced, they both have unique grind adjustment settings to allow a filter-like grinder to grind for espresso, they are both mostly plastic, and to be blunt they are both good options.
The major difference between them is that the Encore ESP is a grinder with a hopper, while the Fellow Opus is designed to be a single-dosing grinder. So this may be enough to push you over the edge one way or the other.
However as mentioned both are very good, in fact superb, options at the given price point.
Fellow Opus- The Verdict
In summary, the Fellow Opus is an intentionally affordable grinder that can capably grind for either espresso or filter coffee. It comes armed with 40mm aggressive conical burrs, 41 standard adjustments plus the secondary adjustment system, the standard elegance of Fellow, and all at a price point that even a few years ago would have left you buying utter junk.
So while I don’t love everything about it (particularly the plastic), this is a solid option for those in the market for a new grinder. It is reliable, grinds well, is very flexible in what it is able to grind for, and is just an overall good grinder.