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Baratza Virtuoso - Donald Varona's Review
Posted: June 20, 2007, 3:38pm
review rating: 7.8
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Baratza Virtuoso Grinder
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More About This Product
Arrow The Baratza Virtuoso has 62 Reviews
Arrow The Baratza Virtuoso has been rated 7.22 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since February 20, 2006.
Arrow Baratza Virtuoso reviews have been viewed 376,665 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Eero Simoncelli 9.08
Gone Gone 9.00
Aubrei Merrill 9.00
Joel Bristol 9.00
Yves Feder 8.83

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.0
Manufacturer: Baratza Quality: 8
Average Price: $229.00 Usability: 9
Price Paid: $199.00 Cost vs. Value 6
Where Bought: 1stincoffee.com Aesthetics 9
Owned for: 6 months Overall 8
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned:
Bottom Line: A very good grinder for non-espresso coffee, if you don't mind its quirks.
Positive Product Points

Relatively quiet operation.  Sturdy construction.  Helpful staff.  Wide range of non-espresso grinds.  Consistent size of grounds.  Conical burr grinder runs at low speed.  Chute design causes few grinds to get trapped.  Both pulse and timer grinding.  Overall a very good grinder, and a step up from the $80 "burr" grinders found in kitchen and department stores.

Negative Product Points

Can produce staticky grind.  Timer knob does not stay attached.  Occasionally beans will get caught in burrs without grinding.  Lower burr cannot be removed and some parts of it are hard to clean.  Some design decisions are questionable.  Not recommended for good espresso.

Detailed Commentary

Buying the grinder through 1stincoffee was a painless operation.  I received it without a hitch, although it has been my only purchase from them; almost all of my other coffee-related purchases have been through Sweet Marias.

When I first started with the Virtuoso, I had a few problems:

  • Staticky grind:  especially since I started roast my own, the grinder had a tendency to produce a partial-flyaway grind; a finer grind produced more jumpy grounds.  It also appeared that any chaff clinging to the beans had the most static, so that less chaffy coffees would have less static.  The amount of static was also affected by the bean; some beans and roasts (perhaps related to moisture content) had more static than others.
  • Timer knob:  it is not really attached at all, but sits on a long shaft, about 1.0 inches.  Vibration from grinding often caused the knob to fall off.
  • Peeking insulation:  in the grinds chute, between the parts of construction, is a square-shaped bit of fibrous insulation with a hole in it for grinds to come through.  The insulation was either for sound or static; I'm not sure which.  It became clear that the insulation sticking out into the chute was becoming stained because of the grounds, and because of my attempts to clean it.
    I contacted Baratza for help with these problems.  Their response was quick and courteous.  He explained that a new bin was available to reduce static, and also provided a new knob that "had a better retention mechanism".  They were sent to me quickly.  With the insulation, he suggested I "push it back in".

The bin did help, but not completely.  The knob I received is just like the old one, and still falls off about once out of every four grinds.  And instead of pushing the insulation back in, I pulled it out and haven't missed it since; maybe it's louder but I haven't noticed.

My solution for static is to lay a folded strip of aluminum foil over the front of the bin and across the bottom, so that the grounds hit it when they come out of the chute; this solves most of the problem and is not really that hard to deal with.  I haven't tried it without the foil lately, so that may have changed as my roasting techniques have gotten better.

Despite all of these problems, the Virtuoso has been a very good, if quirky, grinder.  I am pleased with the consistency of the grind and its workhorse nature and have used it almost daily for six months now.  Cleaning it is fairly easy, except for one point (mentioned below).  Not many grounds get trapped in the apparatus.

Other minor nits:

  • A small ring of fine grounds gets stuck on the collar of the lower burr; the best way to clean this is probably with a cotton swab; you might need more than one.  Otherwise it is very difficult to remove.
  • Despite claims otherwise, this is not an espresso grinder.  The range for fine grounds is too short, and the output probably has too many fines in it; almost everyone here who gives it a negative review is because their espresso grinder expectations were not met.  The grinding range uses notches from 0 to 40, but the notches are not precise.  If you want good espresso, pay for a really good grinder as it is much more essential in that case.
  • The hopper has a silicone ring between it and the burrs to guide the beans to their demise.  I thought this might be fragile, and is kind of weird, but it works and I haven't had a problem with it.  The upper burr also has a hand-marked ink mark to show how to line up the burrs properly; this seems as if design changes and feedback were being made last-minute.
Buying Experience

Absolutely no problems with 1stincoffee.com.

Three Month Followup

The grinder is still working great.  My settings haven't drifted, at least from what I can tell.  It works just as well as the day I've bought it, about 9 months ago.  It's low maintenance, and like anything, requires an occasional cleaning.  Please remember this with yours.

I increased my ratings from 7 to 8 for the quality, and 7 to 8 for the overall rating.  Whatever quirks this has, the grinding part of it works well.  And with the static electricity issue going away... well just read the next paragraph.

Baratza has been "beta" testing some new catchbins for the grinder, and I agreed to test them.  They sent me two bins, which produce similar results.  The grinds don't jump out of the bin like before, at least not that I've been able to reproduce.  There is still small static issues with some of the grounds clinging to the sides of the bin, just that last little bit, but I don't need to keep an aluminum foil drape over the bin front to dissipate static.  When the new bins come out publicly, I'd recommend that you get one if you have had any static issues at all.

One Year Followup

I still have minor static issues with the new bins, but this is evident only on dry winter days.  The worst is only that some small amount of the grounds cling to the sides of the bin, or tend to go where they should not.  Summertime shows no problems whatsoever, unlike before when there was always some static.

I accidentally turned the hopper the wrong direction when replacing it after cleaning once, and this seems to have changed my settings slightly by making it finer by about two notches.  I can't tell if this damaged it or not, but in general it's working okay.  Baratza pointed me to directions to reset the calibration if necessary, but I've been living without it.  The most recent two times or so that I've ground for vacpot, I keep choking the pot, and I can't tell if it's because the grind is too fine (fixable) or too dusty (not fixable).  If there were a way to separate grounds by size and do a size distribution comparison, my problems would be solved!

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review rating: 7.8
Posted: June 20, 2007, 3:38pm
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
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