This is a great grinder for its niche, one can get better, but you will have to pay more, and be seriously addicted to Barista quality espresso.
Positive Product Points
The Virtuoso's performance is as expected, specially for its price range. No issues in the first three months, but I will amend this review if any arise.
Negative Product Points
None at this point.
Since I have only had the Virtuoso for three months I will not discuss the long-term quality. Because I use it primarily for press pot, drip and small espresso batches I was not looking to get a solid consumer grinder, like the more expensive Rancilio Rocky or Mazzer Mini.
Previously I have owned a Starbucks Barista (the Solis verson, not the newer Saeco Titan verson) and the Capresso Infinity 560 Black. The Barista had a long and happy life, and after performing the hack, made great coffee and pretty good espresso. The Capresso was excellent for drip & press coffee, but only adequate for espresso. I would happily recommend each of these for people that just want a pretty solid cup of Joe, and do not mind it being slightly heated in the process. The Capresso was still running solidly, so do not infer it died early (it cheerfully grinds my wife's flax seeds very well now), I just wanted something better for my espresso shots.
After briefly considering the Gaggia MDF I looked at the Virtuoso, mainly for three, important, reasons.
First I was very happy with my Solis/Starbucks grinder, it lasted for over 10 years of heavy use. The hack allowed it to make good espresso. Baratza has been involved with selling the Solis products, and are the designers of the Maestro and Maestro Plus grinder (yes, thats right they are THEIR machines, not Solis). After talking to a few of the locally operated coffee shops, invaluable advice, I was able to learn more about the company.
Second, many of the negative reviews were early in the introduction of the product. What I appreciated, and what the shop owners told me about, is the serious approach to resolving any issues the product has and updating the product itself. Each issue has been addressed, burr design, machine rpm, cleanliness, fineness settings, etc. Important to me was that the later reviews, specially by some of the talking heads, were far better than the earlier versions of the Virtuoso.
Third the current version of the product, it is an affordable ($200 in some cases slightly less) grinder with a professional burr, over 40 settings (it can be easily hacked to allow for finer or coarser setting- something I have not needed to do yet. That information is posted in the FAQ of the Baratza website), and lower rpm motor (very important if you do not wish to heat the ground beans, or use a heavy French Roast as I do). It is easy to clean with the supplied brush, but hand wash and rinse well the washable parts. Absolutely do not wash the container in the dishwasher, unless you wish destroy the anti-static properties of the container, plus it isn't necessary.
After figuring out what settings work best for my three purposes, I am getting a coffee that is as good as I would get in even some of the better local establishments in Portland. My espresso is not quite as good, but then I do not have Mazzer's and a thousand dollar plus espresso machine. For my purposes the espresso is far better than I have made on my own in the past.
It may be only a perception, but it seems as though I am using fewer beans as I have in the past as well, important as coffee prices rise.
Stumptown Coffee is a very good local coffee roaster with a couple of company owned Barista establishments, the online location sells their coffee, not the equipment. At their Annex location they sell equipment, the price was close to most online vendors and the seller was very helpful. I have bought their coffee for some time now, though this is the first equipment purchase.
Three Month Followup
After 6 months I have raised the quality & usability to a 9. There is only one complaint and that is very minor, the timer knob does fall off from time to time, that will keep it from being a full 10 for a while. I broke the hopper and called Barazata to order a new one, because it was under warranty they replaced it for free. A nice touch, I would have happily paid for the replacement.
Cleaning is a breeze, specially with the supplied brush, there is no need for a product like Grindz. The bin has maintained its anti-static properties and there is no mess.
Still used mostly for drip & press coffee, but sometimes espresso. So I change settings often. Doing so is a breeze, and I brew the best coffee I have ever made. This is a great grinder for those that wish better than what is offered in the mid priced area of grinders, but can't, or are not willing to, spend $350+.