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danar
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Joined: 23 Feb 2010
Posts: 43
Location: socal
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Jan 24, 2011, 12:57am
Subject: Baratza Virtuoso- durability problems?
 

I've been reading Mark Prince's reports and listening to his podcasts, and it seems like he's a big fan of the Baratza series after he put them through several tests. When I found a Virtuoso on sale, that was a big reason why I snatched it up when that opportunity arose.

But, after I bought it and checked the reviews on coffeegeek consumer reviews to verify if I made the right purchase, I'm scared off  by all these horror stories about the quality and durability of the Virtuoso's to the point that I'm seriously considering returning it even if I got a great deal on it.

Are the Virtuosos really that bad as the reviews suggest? And, why so bifurcation between what Prince has written about them vs. what his readers and listeners have encountered with their Virtuosos?

What's been your personal experience with the Virtuoso?
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BoldJava
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BoldJava
Joined: 2 Jun 2006
Posts: 1,547
Location: St Paul, MN
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: '82 Oly Cremina 67
Grinder: Macap MC4 Doserless Stepped
Vac Pot: Yamas
Drip: Hario, Beehouse, Cilio, Kone...
Roaster: RK Drum and Gene
Posted Mon Jan 24, 2011, 5:48am
Subject: Re: Baratza Virtuoso- durability problems?
 

danar Said:

I've been reading Mark Prince's reports and listening to his podcasts, and it seems like he's a big fan of the Baratza series after he put them through several tests. When I found a Virtuoso on sale, that was a big reason why I snatched it up when that opportunity arose.

But, after I bought it and checked the reviews on coffeegeek consumer reviews to verify if I made the right purchase, I'm scared off  by all these horror stories about the quality and durability of the Virtuoso's to the point that I'm seriously considering returning it even if I got a great deal on it.

Are the Virtuosos really that bad as the reviews suggest? And, why so bifurcation between what Prince has written about them vs. what his readers and listeners have encountered with their Virtuosos?

What's been your personal experience with the Virtuoso?

Posted January 24, 2011 link

Ah, you too found Wms Sonoma! I grabbed 11 of them and will price them to move and roll them out on eBay.  We got a good deal. (Edited, 1/27/11).

Differences in opinions will occur.  The Baratza Virtuoso receives a 7.4 rating overall from 48 folks.  That sounds about right in comparison to an 8.9 overall rating for the Macap I have.  It is the difference between a $200 grinder and a $490 grinder.  One has small burrs (40mm); one has 58mm burrs.  One has plastic burr carriers (known to wear out and wobble); one is anchored to heavy metal carriers.  The Virtuoso has 40 steps; my stepped Macap has 90+ or increments twice as fine as the Virtuoso.

Second, some folks buy the Virtuoso thinking they are going to use it for espresso (it is advertised for that).  There is no way it is an espresso grinder.  

Third, I am wondering if you are referring to MPrince's review of the Baratza Vario.  I am not aware of any review of the Bar Virtuoso by MPrince, though I could have missed it.

The Virtuoso is what it is.  A $200 grinder.  I have used my daughter's and that is what I based my snag on of a near dozen of these. It is a solid grinder made by a company that has some of the best customer service out there.  I would never consider using it for espresso preps but it is a fine, day-to-day grinder that will serve her for the next ten years with her light use.  I will change burrs on it for her in about 4 years.  If you want something that is going to last longer than that, suggest you step up to a Vario http://coffeegeek.com/proreviews/firstlook/baratzavario or a Macap MC4 stepped http://www.chriscoffee.com/products/home/grinders/mc4.

You got a heckuva deal.  Just decide how long a service life you want in a grinder and enjoy whatever is on the shelf.  I think you will be more than pleased with the Virtuoso and you can begin squirreling away $10 a month for buying the grinder of you dreams in a few years long before the wheels fall off the Virutoso.

B|Java

 
"On the trail for the goats' grail..."

Dave Borton
St Paul, MN
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Joel_B
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Joel_B
Joined: 9 Oct 2007
Posts: 1,826
Location: Pacific NW
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Astra Mega II
Grinder: Mazzer SJ, Virtuoso
Vac Pot: Yama 5 cup
Drip: nope, french press
Roaster: Behmor, WP, BBQ drum
Posted Mon Jan 24, 2011, 5:58am
Subject: Re: Baratza Virtuoso- durability problems?
 

It's been a while since I've looked at the reviews, but I recall most of the issues being able to grind fine enough for espresso (but seems moot as I don't consider it an espresso grinder) and static.

The problems I've had have been the timer knob will pop off and the burr carrier has broken twice.  I don't know what wrong the first time, but the second time was my fault.  Those have been the issues I've had and I'd still buy the grinder again personally.  The timer knob is an annoyance, but nothing really causing problems per se and the burr carrier is cheap (I think $8) so the repair cost wasn't an issue.  I don't know if the timer knob issue has been fixed yet (it's a known issue) and I don't know how many others have had problems with the burr carrier.

The general consensus that I've read here is that people are happy with their Baratzas.  Is there a review in particular or some concerns you're having?  It's not going to have the same durability as a commercial grinder that you'll pass down to your grandchildren, nor does it cost $1K.  I've put a lot of coffee through mine in the 3+ years I've owned mine and I'm sure I'll get 3 more no problem.  If it breaks after a decade I'll feel I got my money's worth.
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randytsuch
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Joined: 11 Jun 2009
Posts: 578
Location: LA, Ca
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Expobar Office with...
Grinder: Baratza Vario
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Posted Mon Jan 24, 2011, 7:08am
Subject: Re: Baratza Virtuoso- durability problems?
 

I grabbed one last week to use at work.  It feels like a nice solid grinder.

It's a great bargain, for the price they sold at.  Not for espresso, but it should do everything else fine.  So far, I have just used mine for drip.

Randy
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MarkPrince
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Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 5,628
Location: Vancouver, BC
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: KvdW Speedster
Grinder: Versalab M3 Grinder
Vac Pot: A bit too many
Drip: Bonavita
Roaster: Hario Glass Retro Roaster
Posted Thu Jan 27, 2011, 5:02pm
Subject: Re: Baratza Virtuoso- durability problems?
 

Hi there.

I don't think I've formally reviewed the Virtuoso, save for the white paper I wrote on all of Baratza's products recently.

I did review the Vario and think it is probably the best grinder you can buy (new) under $500 because of its ability and versatility. I also think highly of the new Preciso grinder because of the micro adjustment and the new burr set that is 2x faster in grinding than the Virtuoso's and for the distinct lack of fines produced, compared to the Virtuoso and Maestro lines.

That said, there are two things I stand behind, regarding what I wrote on the Virtuoso.

a) it is capable of grinding for espresso. It can grind as fine as turkish in fact. Where it is more difficult is there is rather large "jumps" in grind fineness between settings for espresso, making it more difficult to dial in a shot, as compared to the Vario or Preciso.

b) I have a Virtuoso from around the time the grinder was launched - about 2004ish. It has been used off and on for 6 years. It's probably had about 300 lbs of coffee through it in that time (wild guess, but based on a lb being put through it more frequently than  bi weekly basis). There has been one problem with that grinder - the soft-switch on the front got pushed into the grinder, keeping it "on" unless I unplugged it. A call to Baratza and I was walked through disassembly to fix it and reseat the rubber switch. Other than that, the grinder lasts.

One thing that you'll see a lot of people talk about is that Baratza products aren't just about the product, but the after sales service. There is no other company in coffee or espresso machines that I know of that can match Baratza's service and support. It is, frankly, legendary. Even though the products carry a 1 year warranty (I have to check that), I've had direct confirmation of Baratza supporting five, seven year old grinders in some fashion. At most, people have to pay shipping postage on some issues.

To me, that doubles the value of the product, at least. Ever try to get support from Mazzer for a grinder? Vendors are the only "support" and some are hit (ie Chris Coffee), some are definitely miss. Baratza supports their products directly. I don't know of any other company in this specialist market that does that, at least to their level.

Mark

danar Said:

I've been reading Mark Prince's reports and listening to his podcasts, and it seems like he's a big fan of the Baratza series after he put them through several tests. When I found a Virtuoso on sale, that was a big reason why I snatched it up when that opportunity arose.

But, after I bought it and checked the reviews on coffeegeek consumer reviews to verify if I made the right purchase, I'm scared off  by all these horror stories about the quality and durability of the Virtuoso's to the point that I'm seriously considering returning it even if I got a great deal on it.

Are the Virtuosos really that bad as the reviews suggest? And, why so bifurcation between what Prince has written about them vs. what his readers and listeners have encountered with their Virtuosos?

What's been your personal experience with the Virtuoso?

Posted January 24, 2011 link


 
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sweaner
Senior Member
sweaner
Joined: 16 Nov 2007
Posts: 1,141
Location: Yardley, PA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Vetrano, Arrarex Caravel, La...
Grinder: Mazzer SJ, OE Pharos
Drip: Bunn Trifecta MB
Roaster: Poppery II
Posted Thu Jan 27, 2011, 6:27pm
Subject: Re: Baratza Virtuoso- durability problems?
 

I also picked up one of the WS clearance grinders, and I am impressed.  The plan is for it to be my travel grinder.  Mine is really not calibrated for espresso, but I plan on using it for drip, french press, etc.  It is nice and solid, works well, and is fairly neat.

 
-Scott
“Coffee - the favorite drink of the civilized world.”
Thomas Jefferson
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danar
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Joined: 23 Feb 2010
Posts: 43
Location: socal
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed Feb 9, 2011, 12:53am
Subject: Re: Baratza Virtuoso- durability problems?
 

Joel_B Said:

It's been a while since I've looked at the reviews, but I recall most of the issues being able to grind fine enough for espresso (but seems moot as I don't consider it an espresso grinder) and static.

The general consensus that I've read here is that people are happy with their Baratzas.  Is there a review in particular or some concerns you're having?  It's not going to have the same durability as a commercial grinder that you'll pass down to your grandchildren, nor does it cost $1K.  I

Posted January 24, 2011 link

I would not use it for espresso so that criticism doesn't concern me.

But, there's some reviews that criticize the Virtuoso's durability which do concern me. The timer knob seems like such a basic thing that if the company didn't have the quality control systems in place to catch that, how can I be confident in their other quality control systems?  

When I looked at Coffeegeek reviews, I saw things like:

Extremely poor durability for a product in this price range

I guess the one-year only warranty should have been warning enough... As noted, I've owned the grinder for two years.  It's seen moderate usage in a two-person household --- a morning grind and maybe an extra espresso drink on weekends.

The white plastic that covers the guts is cracking.  The ring where the bean bin mounts is falling apart.  It's still usable, but I expect the ring to fail completely soon.  In the meantime, I'll be getting plastic bits with my morning grind.  I'm disappointed that a simple part that sees a lot of wear is failing so soon.  I'd expect something like this to turn up in engineering testing before the product is released to manufacture.



I had it for a year, but I stopped using it a few months ago. The original one I bought I had to send it back because it would not change the grind settings, The second one kept stopping until it stopped grinding. I got a third one because I could not get my money back. It's been sitting in the pantry since I bought it.



And, on Amazon, you see similar complaints:


I bought this grinder about 6 months ago and have been trying to make it work properly and justify it's price ever since. The first thing to break was the instant-on button on the front, then the knob on the side slid off and never has stayed on once turned or moved, the alignment indicators for the burr are not right and so the grinding is inconsistent, and now the french press settings(35 to 40) are inoperable.



Well, the first one was broken right out of the box. The outer shell slid off to show the detached motor. Company was great about replacing. Unfortunately that one only ran for two weeks then stopped running.

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danar
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Joined: 23 Feb 2010
Posts: 43
Location: socal
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed Feb 9, 2011, 1:01am
Subject: Re: Baratza Virtuoso- durability problems?
 

I know darker roasted coffee beans are not fashionable these days, but I like them and I'm concerned how well the Virtuoso will last if I choose to grind those beans after reading the following reviews on Amazon:

But if you like dark roast beans this grinder is not for you. I've tried all the recommendations suggested by the manufacturer but to no avail. It takes several minutes of grinding using a utensil to get this grinder to produce enough ground coffee.

A small irritation is the knob falls off on almost every grind. I could live with this if the machine could actually grind beans.



This grinder will not work for dark to medium dark roast beans. Period. The beans simply fail to feed into the burr grinder. Like me, if you purchase this product, you will end up looking for various items around the house to push the beans into the grinder. I've tried spoon, wooden skewer, finger, cleaning brush, and a toothbrush, all with lackluster results. Its all rather comical, until I realize that there's beans all over the floor, the stupid metal timer knob has fallen off, very little grounds, and I spent 200 bucks on this thing.

It is fair to say that this has been one of the top five purchasing blunders in my life.


For a few days, the new one worked fine ... but now, in every grind, I have to stir the beans and keep turning the little knob until I can estimate that I have enough ground to brew a good cup of coffee. I'm going to go in and readjust the speed of the motor, like I did on the other one, but now I agree with the Baratza rep: "I'm not optimistic."

They blame it on the beans! "Some dark roast beans just don't feed in to the burrs well." Despite the rather ridiculous nature of that assertion, I tried medium-roast beans and find them to be no better. Good grief! LOTS of coffee drinkers grind dark roast beans. Why market this piece of work as it is? How about looking for the obvious design flaw and fix them? In the meantime, why not pull it from the shelves?

I would not recommend this product at all. And I wouldn't guess that other Baratza products could be much better. Those of you who gave this a positive review ... are you grinding light roast beans? Still searching for my coffee grinder ....

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Joel_B
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Joel_B
Joined: 9 Oct 2007
Posts: 1,826
Location: Pacific NW
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Astra Mega II
Grinder: Mazzer SJ, Virtuoso
Vac Pot: Yama 5 cup
Drip: nope, french press
Roaster: Behmor, WP, BBQ drum
Posted Wed Feb 9, 2011, 6:01am
Subject: Re: Baratza Virtuoso- durability problems?
 

danar Said:

But, there's some reviews that criticize the Virtuoso's durability which do concern me. The timer knob seems like such a basic thing that if the company didn't have the quality control systems in place to catch that, how can I be confident in their other quality control systems?  

Posted February 9, 2011 link

I don't know if the timer knob and on/off button issues have been fixed or not.  I agree that this should have been taken care of by now if it hasn't.  The issues I've had and the issues I've seen for most have been things like the timer knob, upper burr carrier, on/off pulse button.  While those "basic" things shouldn't be happening at this point, the grinder itself has been known to last.  I understand your concern based on these issues but there's been so minor feedback of these grinders not lasting.  Only speaking for myself, I would personally buy one again even with those issues.  For $200 there's not a lot out there.

I personally take most reviews (including the ones here) with some skepticism.  I just checked the reviews here and there seems to be 15 good reviews for every one bad one.  Do the good ones hold any value to you?

danar Said:

I know darker roasted coffee beans are not fashionable these days, but I like them and I'm concerned how well the Virtuoso will last if I choose to grind those beans after reading the following reviews on Amazon:

Posted February 9, 2011 link

I don't know that darker beans will make the grinder not last as long.  I would keep up on the cleaning though because of oily beans.  I've ran plenty of dark beans through my grinder (starbucks); I have not had the problems I've seen others complain about.  They don't feed quite as smoothly as say a city+ roast but you would be hard pressed to notice the difference.  One cause for poor feeding is if the motor speed is set too high (it is adjustable); it's been shown that having it set too fast will lead to feeding problems.  Also, the very early models did not have adjustable speed and were set pretty fast.

Here's one of several threads regarding this:  "Virtuoso driving me nuts!"?LastView=1297173533&Page=1

I know I'm probably coming off as a "fanboy" of baratza, but that really isn't my intent.  At $200, I'm willing to accept some flaws as the grinder overall I feel to be a solid value in the price range.  Should it cost $300, $400, more?  i'd certainly have some higher standards.
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Joel_B
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Joel_B
Joined: 9 Oct 2007
Posts: 1,826
Location: Pacific NW
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Astra Mega II
Grinder: Mazzer SJ, Virtuoso
Vac Pot: Yama 5 cup
Drip: nope, french press
Roaster: Behmor, WP, BBQ drum
Posted Wed Feb 9, 2011, 6:02am
Subject: Re: Baratza Virtuoso- durability problems?
 

MarkPrince Said:

One thing that you'll see a lot of people talk about is that Baratza products aren't just about the product, but the after sales service. There is no other company in coffee or espresso machines that I know of that can match Baratza's service and support. It is, frankly, legendary. Even though the products carry a 1 year warranty (I have to check that), I've had direct confirmation of Baratza supporting five, seven year old grinders in some fashion. At most, people have to pay shipping postage on some issues.

To me, that doubles the value of the product, at least. Ever try to get support from Mazzer for a grinder? Vendors are the only "support" and some are hit (ie Chris Coffee), some are definitely miss. Baratza supports their products directly. I don't know of any other company in this specialist market that does that, at least to their level.

Posted January 27, 2011 link

From my experience, I'd put Astra at a close 2nd.
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