Baratza's "no money-back guaranteee" isn't worth the paper it's printed on.
Positive Product Points
Inexpensive, consistent grind, easy to clean, nice quality of burrs, no static so far, quiet compared to Kitchenaid pro, smaller footprint than Kitchenaid pro.
Negative Product Points
Much plastic details, tend to clump the grounds in the chute
I have loved espresso for 30+ years. I am picky about my coffee and I am often disappointed when I go to coffee shops. I have been a home roaster for 7 + years now. I know that a good grinder is the most important tool in the home of a coffee-geek. I settled for a kitchen aid pro for the last few years, but lately it has been giving me some bad inconsistent grind and I bought a virtuoso by Baratza. I wanted the preciso, but economy was the deciding point.
My espresso is now very nice with a ton of crema. I could hardly believe the change! I can now experience citrus in my espresso, something I have never experienced before. I make consistent 23-25 sek shots without blonding much. I hope that my virtuoso will hold up. I read a bunch of reviews here on coffee-geek about problems with the grinder. I can see that there could be problems due to plastic parts worn. It seems to often come back to failure to put the grinder back together correctly after cleaning. I have to say that I would not buy it unless I had read about the fantastic customer service that the Baratza company is known for.
After listening to a podcast by Mark Prince from coffee-geek where he gave the Baratza grinders good reviews for the very small amount of ground coffee left in the grinder after use, I was more convinced about the quality. The Baratza grinders could compete with much more expensive grinders if they started using other materials than plastic for the burr adjustment. I have noticed that the hopper moves slightly when I am grinding which worries me some. The hopper is what keeps the upper burr in place.
I will only use the grinder for espresso and avoid a lot of changing the settings so I hope the grinder will hold up. The grinder was model 586 with new burrs (same as preciso) and new improved gearbox (GB 2.0).
Many reviewers complain about the factory setting being to coarse, I could easily grind for espresso without any adjustments. I am using #2-3 setting for espresso and on the first setting I choke the machine. So far I am very pleased, but I guess I will have to write: to be continued...
Now a month later: no negative thing to say. I have cleaned the grinder a few times and I find it very easy to do. I do believe that it is important to run the grinder while changing the hopper setting. Beans can stick otherwise and make it hard to twist the hopper. My espresso has improved after I bought this grinder. If money had not been an issue I would have bought the next model up: the preciso. I have a feeling the Preciso is better for espresso due to the fine-tuning function. I still worry about the flimsy plastic parts. It is important to seat the upper burr correctly after cleaning and removing the hopper. I have never experienced sticking beans in the hopper, something that happened all the time with Kitchenaid pro. I sometimes use very oily beans (home-roasted) The footprint is quite small and the grinder, although described as quite heavy by many reviewers, is a little tippy when using the front button. I fixed the loose side switch the way Baratza website described and never had issues with it since.
I was right to worry about flimsy plastic parts; two months after purchase the white burr holder broke and got stuck. I was going to clean the grinder when I saw the problem. I contacted the company and expected a new grinder considering how new it was. I was told by a tech that they would send me a replacement burr holder. The burr holder ring is made to brake if by accident a stone or un-roasted bean are in the grinder. This is to save more expensive repair. The tech described it as a fuse. I roast my beans in a skillet and I sort out bad beans carefully. I wasn't happy about having to replace parts when the grinder only had been used for 2 Months. The part arrived 14 days later (one of the business days was Martin Luther King day) in an envelope without any padding at all. I was surprised that the part wasn't broken considering the messy look of the envelope. I put in the part and now the grinder works again. I am now worried that this will happen often. I don't think as highly of the customer service by Baratza as has been described by many.
Very straightforward without any problems. Wayfair company through Amazon. Box came intact and on time. Company answered a question in one day after being emailed. Shipped by UPS with tracking number. Baratza's own staff helped to package the grinder for the company.
Three Month Followup
Well, it is holding up after the repair of the upper burr ring that broke. I still worry about the plastic parts braking again. Every time I grind, the plastic hopper moves. I am almost 100% sure there was no stone or un-roasted bean to cause the damage to the burr holder. I wish that the company at least could have sent a spare plastic burr holder so I wouldn't have to wait another 14 days if it happens again. I wonder if their more expensive grinders also have the flimsy plastic adjustment parts? If I could do this again, I would not have bought the Virtuoso.
4Months after purchase: OK, now I am beyond unhappy. The settings have changed (grind was more coarse), so I had to take off the outer plastic cover and change the adjustment ring as described on the Baratza website. I placed the tiny screw in the middle window and the grind was fine enough for espresso again. Now 2 weeks later it needs to be adjusted again due to some change. This morning I thought I should clean the burr and the chute and I found (not surprisingly) that the upper burr holder has cracked again. I am very tired of this grinder now and not at all happy. I sent an email to Baratza support and I hope that something good comes out of it. My advice: Buy something else! Support offered a new plastic burr holder, as before. I guess if you own a 3d printer you could print burr holders every time they break, and not have to wait for 14 days for a replacement, nor be subject to their snarky remarks.
It is now May and the burr holders have broken again. The last time Baratza sent me 3 plastic burr holders and I have one left now. I emailed the support but didn't get any response. Now a new problem has come up; the grinder "grinds" to a halt. It stops and I have to empty the hopper and clean it and then it works for a while again before it stops. I am now so mad that I can barely keep myself from throwing the grinder. This is not a good grinder by any means! One shouldn't have to be so frustrated. Customer service is in the habit of belittling people who are having issues with this, stating that it is suppose to break if you accidentally have a pebble in your beans. Give me a break! I had the kitchen-aid grinder for years and the only problem was dull burrs. I was drinking espresso when a barista was a friendly fat man in a train station in Italy and not a snarky tattoo-sporting skater kid. I have done this for 30+ years, I know how to roast beans and I know about espresso equipment. I had a La Pavoni for years that I did complete overhaul on. It was 40 years old and still running for crying out loud!! I am not stupid when it comes to mechanical stuff and engineering. My major pet peeve is bad engineering with cheap parts, and the Baratza grinder is now another example of bad engineering. It is so bad, that I am now taking my losses and getting another grinder. Baratza's "no money-back guaranteee" isn't worth the paper it's printed on. This isn't fun anymore!!
One Year Followup
I did finally receive a new grinder in the warranty after my wife stated some facts about the whole deal. It doesn't say anywhere that the grinder can't handle home roasted beans, so don't give us that when the grinder craps out. I sold the new grinder and will never buy another one. I wonder if Baratza's other grinders are as poorly engineered?