And the winner is- the Baratza Virtuoso Precioso

Posted by    |  October 26, 2011  |  Filed under: Equipment, Home

Two weeks ago at the crack of dawn I found my way to my pantry.  I pressed the button on my electric coffee grinder, anticipating the nerve-addling crunching and whirring that precedes the beautiful fragrance of freshly ground Kenyan coffee beans hitting my nose.  I heard little more than a struggling grunt- the coffee grinder version of a car-engine turning over and over without starting.  

I tried in vain to figure out what the problem was for the next twenty minutes- neglecting the breakfast and lunches that needed making. However, I knew instinctively what the problem was- I was the owner of a mediocre coffee grinder that had just hit its expiration date.

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a totally cheap coffee grinder.  Rather, it was a $50 Capresso burr grinder.  Importantly, it was my second purchase of this same model.  Each one lasted 2-3 years of daily use before it crapped out on me.  Don’t tell me I should have cleaned it more often or shied away from oily beans or whatever.  I don’t want a grinder that I have to coddle.  I want one that works.  I learned this lesson in my epic pursuit of a great blender.  You gotta pony up the big bucks for appliances that work excellently and consistently.

So I set off to do some research.  I posed the question to my Facebook and Twitter friends and found out you all don’t know jack about grinders either.  So I’m gonna tell you what I’ve learned.

Your coffee grind is at least as important as your choice of beans and brewing technique.  This is often overlooked.  The ideal grind:

  1. Is absolutely uniform:  No boulders and sand in the same pot.
  2. Is accomplished with little heat:  Heat generated in the grinding process meaningfully alters the flavor of the coffee.  Think of it like defrosting meat in the microwave, you kind of ruin the meat because the process starts the cooking too soon.
  3. Gives you the perfect size for your brewing method:  I read online discussions about how people adjust their espresso grind fineness according to humidity readings.  I’m not getting that crazy, but I pay about $14/lb for my Kenyan beans, and I want to enjoy their flavor as much as possible.
[Pardon the odd spacing in the next few paragraphs.  WordPress keeps erasing my paragraph spacing in the following paragraphs every time I save. Done wasting time trying to fix it.]
There is a huge range of coffee grinders available to those who are ready to graduate from the mass-market stuff to something a little more serious. After an hour or so of research, I was confused and overwhelmed.  Do I really need a $600 coffee grinder?  Isn’t there something in-between?
A few more hours of research later, I figured out that the super-elites in the category- of which the Mazzer Mini, Pasquini Moka and Rancilio Rocky are the leaders- are all really made for espresso geeks.  That’s not me.  I’m a French press girl.  There is no reason for me to pay for a machine that makes a perfect espresso grind. Only the truly clueless or totally insecure buy a Ferrari to schlep their kids to and from school.
I stumbled upon a review for the Baratza machine at  It seemed like the perfect grinder for me.  It offers a consistent grind, low-heat, and lots of fineness settings.  It can deliver a great espresso grind should I ever get the bug for it, but its well-suited to my French press passion today.  Blessedly, its also not too ugly to look at on the countertop.
I called, whom I’d previously concluded was the best, most authoritative source for java junkies online. The sales guy thoughtfully consulted with me, seconded my decision and helped me order it then and there.  I am grateful to Whole Latte Love for having a knowledgable person available to talk this through with me.  I know its old-fashioned, but sometimes you do just have to work it out with an actual human being.
Its on its way.  In the meantime, I’m gonna finish up the coffee I had ground for me at Aroma this week.  There was a time when I actually was grinding coffee by hand in a mortar and pestle, but, well- I’m kinda over that now.



2 Responses to “And the winner is- the Baratza Virtuoso Precioso”
  1. Jill says:

    I am at Ready Prep Go on FB and @JillReadyPrepGo.

  2. Do you people have a facebook fan page? I searched for one on facebook or twitter but could not discover one, I’d really like to become a fan!
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