i'd been watching information on the Baratza Virtuoso grinder for some time and was interested in some of the technical and construction problems observed over time - I was fortunate enough to find out that the machine had been completely redesigned since its introduction, and decided to order one.
The George Howell Coffee Company (Terroir Coffee Co.), of Acton, MA, a dealer, went to work on some of the problems, and these folks at Howell apparently worked with Baratza to test various versions of the current production 40mm. commercial-grade conical burrs.
Ordering one from Terroir, the machine actually arrived the very next day by UPS! A small discount on the full price was applied (I found out they do this on most of what they sell).
At any rate, my benchmark of comparisons was not the more expensive and top-of-the-line machines purchased by some - :) but rather the more mundane machines many of us with limited budgets have used. In this case, various blade grinders with their obvious defects - too much heat; creating an unuseable powder slurry, etc.etc. - then "basic" burr grinders like the Capresso, used for some time here. In this latter case, the problems were lack of reproducibility of grind fine/coarse settings, eventually a freezing of the setting control to make it unuseable. Also most grinds would come through with completely mixed results.
So the object here was to try something not terribly expensive, yet with decent, reproduceable results. First, I went to look at other machines made by Baratza: at a certain very large national chain of coffee houses renowned for the "burned" taste to their brews, I noticed various grinders on sale; they sure looked very much like the "Virtuoso" but the similarity ended there. Very cheap, plasticky construction, and who knows what in the way of burr assembly construction! Talking with two friends who had actually bought these relatively inexpensive units, I decided to steer clear.
So the Baratza Virtuoso from Messrs. George Howell/Terroir Coffee Co. arrived here; after unpacking and setting up the Virtuoso, and then feeding it some of Howell's "La Minita" fresh beans, I was amazed first to notice how quiet the unit was compared to others tried here. Then, I had to get used to a longer grinding time: the design of this machine takes care not to elevate grinding temperatures which could have a deleterious effect on the grind; one way to do this is with slower burr RPM's, so that flavor is not "bruised" by the mechanical process. OK - now to the result.
The grind consistency was/is amazing. And this has remained absolutely consistent after six months of very heavy use. Regardless of the settings (I tend to favor more coarse settings, for use with my TechniVorm brewer) the result has proven totally reliable. The settings are calibrated from 0 to beyond 30, and I find the adjustments stays put with almost continuous use.
Some have noticed some clogging with "oily" beans. I have not noticed this although most all of what I get, the various beans, from Terroir do not have that oily surface. Various beans from other roasters do sometimes have that problem.
I was also advised by Terroir that a fix is under way to have the knobs replaced (on the grind timer side control) so new machines will have a new knob, and we older customers will get free replacement knobs.
With respect to the static "cling" of the bean and bean shell residue, this isn't really very offputting - I'm able to take the empty container over to the sink, rap it smartly with my hand, and have most of the residue just fall out. What's left inside can be wiped out with a couple of fingers, no biggie. Same for the small amount of residue that may fall into the container compartment. Incidentally the machine comes with a small brush to clear the innards if one does experience clogging, which I never have.
All told I expect a long service life for this fine little machine. It complements my TechniVorm quite nicely :)