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Baratza Maestro Grinder - Douglas Herring's Review
Posted: August 17, 2007, 11:11am
review rating: 8.0
feedback: (1) comments | read | write
Baratza Maestro Grinder
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More About This Product
Arrow The Baratza Maestro Grinder has 90 Reviews
Arrow The Baratza Maestro Grinder has been rated 7.40 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Baratza Maestro Grinder reviews have been viewed 476,241 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Jim Pellegrini 8.38
Bill Womack 8.33
Robert Kugel 8.00
Douglas Herring 8.00
T. Guilbert 7.91

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 7.0
Manufacturer: Baratza Quality: 5
Average Price: $100.00 Usability: 7
Price Paid: $140.00 Cost vs. Value 6
Where Bought: don't remember Aesthetics 10
Owned for: 3 years Overall 7
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: No
Similar Items Owned: Capresso Infinity
Bottom Line: For the same money, the Capresso Infinity is a better machine
Positive Product Points

Very attractive design; choice of timer or manual operation; large grounds bin opening

Negative Product Points

Not terribly durable; grind varies; difficult to get repeatable results when switching from one grind to another

Detailed Commentary

This review is essentially the mirror image of my review of the Capresso Infinity, which I wrote primarily to provide a comparison with this similarly-priced machine, which I owned for 3 or 4 years (I paid $140 for both).  I benefited a lot from the reviews on this site (particularly on my purchase of a Macap M4 grinder for my espresso) and wanted to add my two-cents' worth for future shoppers.  The Solis Maestro was my first step up from a rotary blade grinder, and it provided a huge improvement over my Braun and Waring blade grinders.  Over time, I got to know some of its flaws, however, and I had to have it repaired twice while I owned it.  Having used the Capresso Infinity for two months now, I find the it markedly superior in performance to the Maestro in most respects, although I do think the aesthetics of the Maestro are much nicer.  I have the Infinity model with the brushed metal casing, which is much more substantial than the plastic Maestro body, and also adds to its aesthetics (which arenít bad, in my opinion, but not as nice as the Maestro).

I have to offer the following disclosure:  I changed (infrequently) from drip to espresso or French press grinds on the Maestro, but I have purchased the Infinity as a dedicated drip grinder (though I may occasionally grind for French press), in large part because of things I have read on this site.  That said, the Infinity appears to be superior in allowing you to switch from one grind back to another and have the same results you previously had on that setting.  The Maestro does an extremely poor job of this, and even when I left the grind setting alone for months, the grind would vary from day to day.  The evenness of the grind (i.e., limited range in particle size) was pretty good on the Maestro, but is better on the Infinity.  The Infinity also is definitely quieter than the Maestro.

Now here is where the Infinity totally kicks the Maestro's butt:  much of the coffee I buy (such as from Peet's) is dark roasted to an oily sheen (yes, I know the arguments against this, but I know what my taste buds like).  These beans simply would not feed automatically in the Maestro.  I had to stand there with the hopper lid off (adding to the noise) and, using an appropriate implement (the plastic handle of an old, cheap coffee scoop), I would have to continually jam the beans down into the grinder while grinding.  (It also required a degree of finesse:  if I didn't cram hard enough, the beans wouldn't feed; if I crammed too hard, I ended up grinding some plastic, which is why I didn't use a metal implement!)  If I stopped doing this, the beans would immediately stop feeding and the burrs would just whine while grinding air.  I talked to Solis about this and they said it was just inherent in the grinder for certain types of beans.  My work-around ensured that I got a cup of coffee, but it was pretty labor-intensive, and did not allow for any multi-tasking.  By comparison, I have never once had to coax the Infinity.  The beans feed automatically without fail, whether I am grinding medium-roast beans or dark, oily beans.  That alone leads me to rate the Infinity considerably higher than the Maestro.

The Maestro does trump the Infinity on two counts.  It has a pulse button on the front, allowing you to manually time your grind.  I grind my coffee one cup at a time (unless I have company), and prefer to eyeball the dose, and this button made it easier than it is on the Infinity.  Although you can nudge the Infinity timer dial from 0 toward 1 to achieve the same effect, I found the recessed button on the Maestro more convenient.  

The second issue is with the grounds bin and chute design.  I use a one-cup drip method (that is, when I'm not slurping delicious espresso) with unbleached paper filters.  It was easy with the Maestro to pull out the grinds bin and hold the open paper filter under the spout, with every ground dropping into the filter.  I could also stick a jam jar under there if I wanted to grind a larger amount and forego the static cling headache that comes with the plastic bins.  Unfortunately, the former is quite difficult and the latter is impossible on the Infinity.  The shorter grounds hopper leaves little room to fit the paper filter into the recessed area.  The grounds chute is set back, making it even harder.  By bending over so that I can look up and under to the chute, I can carefully position the paper filter to capture the grind as it emerges.  However, the placement of the filter has to be just right or I get a little (or a lot) of the grounds falling down the sides, missing the filter.  For my method, this feature of the Infinity is a pain.  I am so accustomed to eyeballing my dose that I am reluctant to just use the bin that comes with the machine, and then I'd have to deal with the mess created by static electricity, in addition to having a much harder time eyeballing my dose.

Although I miss the few advantages of the Maestro over the Infinity, I am thus far much happier with the Infinity, and I think it is much better value for the same money.

Buying Experience

Not relevant, since I can't remember where I bought it.  However, the repair facility referenced in the owner's manual was good to deal with, and returned the unit promptly both times, having repaired it for a very reasonable fee.

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Posted: August 17, 2007, 11:11am
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