The Baratza Encore Review: The Perfect Balance of Quality vs Price?
Back when I was just a wee coffee padawan ('beginner' for all you non Star Wars fans) stumbling my way through each brew, there was nothing like the Baratza Encore.
If I could have gotten my hands on one of these wonderful gadgets, there wouldn’t be a large blade-grinder-shaped dent in the wall of my last apartment.
Luckily, you don’t have to endure the same frustration I did. You have options.
But because there are so many good options out there, here is my Baratza Encore Grinder Review to help you decide.
The Encore 'In A Nutshell'
THE BARATZA ENCORE
The Encore is Baratza’s answer for the newbie brewer. The newbie brewer who knows the importance of a good grind. You should be this kind of newbie, if you're going to be a newbie at all.
It is a straightforward device that offers great grind consistency and control.
It has 40 different grind settings that allow you to dial in the perfect espresso or pour-over, and its slow but powerful motor chews up your beans without overheating them.
It has a lower price tag than most other quality burr grinders without sacrificing longevity, and the internal components are made from a resilient thermoplastic that can hold up to extended use.
The Encore is a tough little beast, and a great introduction into the world of manual brewing.
Things To Consider Before Buying A Burr Grinder Like The Encore
Just to make sure we are the same page: the Encore is a beginner’s grinder.
However, this isn’t a bad thing. Compared to most other consumer grinders, the Encore can certainly hold its own, but its status is important to remember.
If you are new to the craft coffee scene, but hungry to learn and grow, then the Encore is a great place to start.
Think of it as the Squirtle to your coffee setup: not the best of all, but a strong starter.
Just because it is a “beginner’s” grinder doesn’t mean you shouldn’t critical.
The things you want to pay attention to when looking at any grinder (freshman or senior) are:
- The relative price
- The amount and accuracy of grind settings
- The strength of its parts (AKA lifespan)
- The ease/difficulty of use, and;
- The power of its motor
For someone who’s been homebrewing for a while, this may not be the best choice.
The Encore is much less expensive than many other burr grinders, and it puts out a solid performance, but it isn’t the best for the fine-tuning fanatic.
And finally, if you are someone just looking for a grinder to accompany your Hamilton Beach Brew station then stop right here, because all hope is already lost.
You chose the Bulbasaur and everyone knows that he is the worst. Come back when you are tired of the taste of burnt water.
The Baratza Encore Review
Not too long ago, Baratza offered their “Maestro” line of grinders. These were decent gadgets, but they had some serious faults.
The entry level Maestro was great for manual drip brews, but it could not handle the fine grind necessary for espresso.
Baratza scrapped these models and went back to the drawing board, taking consumer complaints with them, and we got a whole new line of improved grinders.
The Encore is the entry level machine of this new line, and it picks up where the Maestro left off.
The Encore has more settings and can easily handle espresso brews. It has simple controls that make precision grinding easy, and its low RPM won’t stress your beans.
Compared to the Baratza Virtuoso, the Encore is lacking in convenience and power.
But compared to all other grinders in this (low) price range, the Encore is a champion.
A highly skilled brewer might not be completely satisfied with the Encore, but a beginner-intermediate home brewer will find it to be a great launching board.
Let’s take a closer look at the features that set the Encore apart from the rest....
A Gearbox That Won’t Make You Go Deaf
When Baratza revamped their grinders, pulling the Maestro series and giving us the Encore (and others), they paid attention to the consumer complaints of older models.
The Encore has an updated gearbox that is sturdier and quieter than the Maestro’s.
Besides the burrs, most of the Encore’s internal parts are made from plastic. Many baristas would scoff at this, for a simple but good reason: plastic breaks easier than metal.
A fair point that you should be aware of.
However, the Encore’s internal components aren’t made from that cheap plastic off-brand action figures your estranged auntie always gave you for christmas (childhood was tough for me too).
The gears in the Encore are made from 15% glass-filled thermoplastic. Unlike cheap-toy plastic, these gears are both sturdy and shock resistant.
These thermoplastic gears also make the Encore extremely light and quiet. So quiet that you don’t have to limit your conversations to between grinds.
Carry on gloating about your fabulous Encore even while you grind!
Baratza calls this updated gearbox GB 2.0 (clever, I know), and though some may mock, it’s a great upgrade from the previous.
Strong, resilient, and quiet, the GB 2.0 can also recognize a jam and stop quickly enough without damaging any parts.
Slow and Steady
If you’ve been experimenting with different manual brew methods, like pour over, you’ve (hopefully) realized that coffee beans are delicate and fickle little creatures.
Like any fine southern woman, coffee takes careful planning, precision, and patience to get anywhere worth getting.
From bean to cup there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Some of these problems are obvious, but many aren’t.
Grinding fresh beans is obvious, but grinding at the right speed isn’t.
Grinding too fast builds up heat, causing your beans to prematurely release their tasty oils like a preteen boy after his first French kiss. Too slow and half of your batch could go stale before you finish grinding.
Baratza understands the importance of timing, which is why the Encore’s burrs spin at exactly 450 RPM.
Its strapping DC motor provides high torque, while an electronic speed reduction mechanism keeps it in check.
As soon as you flip the switch the Encore kicks straight into drive, but stays right at 450 RPM.
It is quick without the excess heat.
Your sensitive grounds will be primed and ready to deliver amazing flavor.
A Grinder Worth More Than the Price
For many of you price will be a big consideration, and there is nothing shallow about that. As a proud member of the 99%, my purchasing habits are a constant balance between cost and quality.
Between the Fiat and the Ferrari, I’ll take the Fiat. I want the best of what I can afford, but what I can afford isn’t always “the best.”
Honestly speaking, the Encore isn’t the best burr grinder on the market, but for its cost it is a damn fine buy.
The saying “you get what you pay for” is often used to bad-mouth, but for the Encore it is a complement.
This grinder was designed to be a true beginner's tool. It’s not going to offer the fancy conveniences of the higher-priced barista favorites, but it’s not going to sacrifice quality like other inexpensive models will.
With this machine, Baratza has focused on the essentials, and made providing those essentials at a comfortable price their goal.
It’s best to think of the Encore as your first pair of converse high tops: they’re no Jordans, but but they’ll get you from half court to hoop without tripping over the laces.
Seattle coffee gear does a great job at comparing the various Baratza burr grinders in the following video.
Notice how the Encore has many of the same features at the higher priced Virtuoso?
You Have 40 Grind Options To Choose From
Can you guess what my Intro to Sociology professor and the Encore have in common?
At the end of every racial or cultural study, that tweed-coated grey-beard loved to declare in his uniquely authoritative croak: “diversity is vital!”
I wonder if he’d be happy or sad knowing I’m about to apply his mantra to coffee grinders…Regardless, when it comes to grinding coffee, diversity is what separates the great from the mediocre.
The Encore offers 40 different grind settings, and has a grind range from as small as 250 microns to as large 1200 microns.
This means that it can churn out an espresso grind just as easily as it can produce a French press grind. It can even handle the extra-coarse grind required for cold brew.
Compared to its late kin, the Maestro models, the Encore is a much more grind-capable machine.
The Maestro couldn’t quite reach the miniscule grind size needed for espresso. It could get close, but the Encore does much better than close.
The encore has a few espresso-worthy grind settings, allowing you to experiment and do a little fine tuning.
The lowest setting on the Encore is nearly fine enough to be a Turkish grind.
A quick note on the Encore’s fine grind: the lower the setting, the more clumping.
Clumping, if not properly tamped, can throw off a shot of espresso by slowing down the flow of water in certain areas.
However, for the majority of your espresso doses you won’t need that ultra-fine grind, so clumping shouldn’t be much of an issue. Just something to keep an eye out for.
Essential Features, Without the Clutter
Like I said earlier, the Encore doesn’t have all the nifty features that the higher end grinders have. Compared to those fancy machines, the Encore is bare bones.
However that isn’t purely a negative. This grinder is relatively simple, but simple is straightforward, and straightforward is uncomplicated.
On the side of the Encore is an on/off switch for extended grinding, and on the front is a button for quick grinds.
This system is intuitive, and you can quickly learn how to properly dose each grind.
With a little practice you can easily time the perfect amount for a pour-over or French press with the switch on the side, and for espresso you can grind right into your portafilter by holding down the front button.
This simplicity grants you immediate control over each grind, allowing you to play around and tailor each batch to your needs.
Don't Love The Encore? Here are a few Alternatives..
All you beginner brewers are lucky to be entering the world of craft coffee at this time. Five years ago there weren't nearly as many options as there are now.
The Encore is a great grinder but there are some other grinders you may want to consider as well, like the Baratza Virtuoso, the Capresso Infinity, and the Breville Dose Control.
The Baratza Virtuoso
The Baratza Virtuoso is essentially the bigger and better brother (clearly I am the eldest) of the Encore.
Compared to the Encore, the Virtuoso grinds a little faster, and features updated controls.
The on/off switch includes a timer, and the grounds catcher can be replaced with a portafilter holder for hands-free dosing.
It is roughly $100 more than the Encore, but offers a little more control over each grind, and produces a more consistent medium to medium-coarse grind.
Click here if you want to see a side by side comparison of the two.
The Capresso Infinity
In terms of low RPM, the Capresso Infinity is the clear winner.
It runs at very low 250 RPM, and can even be manually adjusted to run anywhere between 200-299 RPM.
Though the Infinity’s burrs spin slower than the Encore’s, it can churn out a batch of fresh grounds about 3x quicker. Its hopper can also hold roughly an ounce more.
Just like the Virtuoso, the Infinity features a timer on the on/off switch, but it is even less expensive than the Encore.
Yet the Infinity cannot hold a candle to the Encore’s range of settings.
Where the Encore offers 40 different grind settings, the Infinity only offers 16, and can only just pull off an espresso grind.
You can read more about the difference between these two grinders here.
The Breville Dose Control
For nearly the same price as the Encore, the Breville Dose Control is another good alternative.
It features Breville’s unique “Dose IQ” function, which automatically adjusts the dose amount when you switch between grinds.
Additionally, the Dose Control offers 20 more grind settings than the Encore, and a larger hopper that can hold up to 12 oz.
Unfortunately, the Dose Control suffers from a shorter lifespan and less grind consistency. You can read more about it and Breville’s other grinders here.
So if you don't love the Encore, there's a few more options for you. You have no excuses now, make a decision!
Craft coffee is not the easiest field to break into, but the Baratza Encore makes for an easy introduction.
The grind is one of the most important parts of manual brewing, and having a competent grinder is crucial.
As we learned in this Baratza Encore review, its various grind settings and simple features can promote you from trainee to veteran without breaking a sweat.
And the more-than-reasonable price makes this grinder hard to pass up on.
If you liked this Baratza Encore Grinder review, click here.