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Hands-on Gear Review
Baratza Encore ReviewPrice: $145 List | $136.00 at Amazon
Pros: Makes a good cup, looks rad, simple interface
Cons: Minimal features, messy, a little pricey
Bottom line: A simple and attractive design. Provides good taste but lacks ease of use features and creates consistent small messes
Doser type: digital display, timer, Cups, grams?: None
The Baratza Encore is a good grinder that gets the job done with a straightforward design. With only a central pulse button and an on/off switch, the Encore won't dose out your preferred amount of coffee, but using this grinder requires no guesswork. Similar to its higher priced companion, the Baratza Virtuoso, the Encore boasts a less-is-more theme with a sharp aesthetic. Just load this thing with good coffee and press the button. The resulting brew is a "good cup," ranking a 7. In comparison, the pricier Baratza, the Virtuoso, did give us a fuller range of flavor and scored an 8 for quality of taste. The Bodum Bistro and Capresso Infinity tied with the Encore for taste quality; and while they may not look as cool, these grinders do have dosing features, produce less mess, and offer a lower list price.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Baratza Encore is in many ways like its big brother the Baratza Virtuoso, but it is less expensive and has a different look. Instead of having the heavier, sleek, brushed stainless steel housing, the Encore has an angular matte black plastic body. Instead of a timer dial for dosing out your grounds the Encore has a simple on/off dial, which makes for one less point in its ease of use score (7). But appearances aren't the only difference. Our tests showed a one point difference in the cup as well, with the Virtuoso scoring 8 and the Encore a 7. It makes good coffee, but feels like there's a little something missing from the cup. Both of the Baratzas require some cleaning up after with their mess-free operation score a 6. Also, they're average when it comes to noise levels. The Encore is the less expensive of its brand, but that there are other competitors that offer similar quality of taste that are easier to use, less messy, and still less expensive, such as the Capresso Infinity and the Bodum Bistro.
Quality of Taste
The Baratza Encore makes a good cup, but it's not the best cup. The coffee we brewed scored a 7 for taste, one full point lower than the Baratza Virtuoso. Yet we found that the Baratzas were still similar in their flavor profile, highlighting the lively top notes of the blend and not so much the hefty bass notes. For example, using Refuge Coffee's First Ascent blend, we got more peanut brittle and juiciness in the body but didn't pick up much of the chewy milk chocolate notes. The Encore presented the coffee nicely but the range of flavors expressed left us wanting a bit more. It seemed that the cup wasn't much filled out, but the flavor we did experience was clear and vibrant. The Bodum Bistro tied with the Encore in quality, having muddled nuance, yet making a more balanced and assertive cup. The Capresso Infinity also tied, again with muddled flavor, but full, balanced, and more rounded than the Bodum. Lower scoring grinders yielded bitterness or mineral taste in the coffee and higher scoring competitors gave clear, strong expressions of some of the coffee's best qualities.
Baratza Virtuoso vs. Baratza Encore: Is There a $100 Difference?
The Baratza machines look like fraternal twins, but there is an obvious price difference: $100. Is it worth it? Is the Virtuoso just more expensive because of its stainless steel housing and dosing timer? Or is there a difference in taste as well? Well, there was a difference. The Virtuoso scored an 8 for quality of taste while the Encore took a 7. This is a notable difference, although not an extreme one. The Encore didn't display the full range of flavor that the Virtuoso did. It seemed to lack fullness and bottom notes, almost as if there was an airy gap in the flavor range. The Encore gave us a "good" cup, but the Virtuoso cup was "great." Both these grinders highlighted a similar flavor profile in the coffee we used. The only difference was that the Virtuoso showed a step up in quality. Are the aesthetic differences and taste difference worth the difference in cash? We'll leave that for you to decide.
Ease of Use
The Baratza Encore has one solitary button on its face, just inviting you to push it. You already know what it does, right? That's the grind button. The Encore keeps things simple, making coffee grinding really straightforward and simple. However, other grinders had some useful features that help you choose how much coffee you want to grind, whereas the Encore has you figure out measurements yourself. It's simple, but not entirely helpful, so it earns a 7 for ease of use. A perfect score of 10 is exemplified by the OXO On Barista Brain, which allows you to select the amount to grind and weighs it out to the gram with one simple button. The Encore doesn't come close to making coffee that easy, but we're still refreshed by the "push here" design after trying to decipher the crowded display of the Breville Smart Grinder Pro which scored an unimpressive 6 for ease of use. A final feature on the Encore is an on/off dial on the side, we assume for grinding larger amounts of coffee. The Virtuoso scores one point better than its little bro with a timer dial placement. This helps the user dose out their coffee and also prevents risk of overheating the motor.
In terms of noise, the Encore fits into the certainly not quiet, but also not quite annoying category, earning it a score of 6 out fo 10 in this metric. This puts it even with its sibling, the Virtuoso, and actually slightly better than the Editors' Choice Award winning OXO. Overall, if you're in a tiny apartment the Encore might wake up some light sleepers in the next room, but it definitely won't annoy your housemates that are already awake.
Unfortunately, the Encore isn't the tidiest of machines. It earned a fairly average 6 out of 10 in after our side-by-side messiness tests. this grinder had some issues keeping things clean when grinding more than a single serving, and when grinding roasts that tend to have a bit more chaff (on average this tends to be lighter roasts. In both instances it produces some fine coffee dust that clings to the grind compartment, which inevitably triggers a coffee avalanche when you pull the grind compartment out. The required cleanup isn't too onerous, just some wiping with a damp cloth, but it is a bit annoying nonetheless.
As you can see below, the Baratza grinders tend to collect chaff around the edge of the grind bin, which collects and scatters onto the counter after several uses.
Baratza's name is often seen on the online stores of specialty coffee companies so we looked forward to testing both the Encore and the Virtuoso. After weighing them out, the Baratzas are not the best in their class, but they do stand out as less-is-more grinders with striking aesthetics. The Encore provides a Baratza product at a lower price than the Virtuoso. And although it gives you Baratza style, the Encore is not a replica of the Virtuoso. It's more affordable, but it lacks a timer dial and the quality of taste is less impressive.
The Baratza Encore offers the appeal of giving you a Baratza brand product at a lower price, but considering how it stacks up with competitors that offer comparable scores, it's still a little pricey for what it gives you. A list price of $145 is pretty good for a burr grinder, but the Capresso and the Bodum give you matching quality of taste (perhaps slightly better), include ease of use features, and have a list price of $45 less. Or consider the Cuisinart Deluxe, which came only inches from toppling the Editors' Choice award winner and has a list price of only $4 more. Baratza is sometimes acclaimed as top-of-the-line home grinders. If that were the case, the $45 difference for the Baratza name might be well merited. But in our tests they stack up somewhere in the middle of the competition, not at the very top. The Encore in particular isn't terribly expensive, but considering the competition it isn't a bargain.
The Baratza Encore holds true to its Baratza heritage with a similar design and flavor profile as the Baratza Virtuoso. Although it scored one point less than the Virtuoso in quality of taste, it still gives you a good cup of coffee and it does it without the distraction of a fancy display or dosing feature. Although it doesn't have premier sound quality or mess-free operation, the Encore keeps it super simple and, to state the obvious, it looks pretty rad. Definitely a plus. It reminds us of something from Star Wars (maybe a good companion to the Uncanny Brands Darth Vader Toaster we reviewed).
— Jared Marquez
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