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Hands-on Gear Review
OXO On Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder Review
Price: $200 List | $199.95 at Amazon
Pros: Makes an excellent cup, very simple and intuitive controls, precise dose-by-weight feature
Cons: Noisy, expensive
Bottom line: The OXO made the best coffee we tasted, literally with the push of a button. We recommend this item hands down, unless your situation calls for a quieter machine
Not only did the OXO produce the best tasting coffee of the 200 cups we brewed, but it did so more efficiently than any other grinder that we tested. The OXO features controls that are more sufficient than its competitors, yet it is so simple and intuitive to use that the OXO scored a perfect 10 for ease of use. With the top scores for both taste and ease of use, the OXO was an easy pick for the Editors' Choice award. It's not the quietest grinder we tested, but if your living situation isn't intolerant of a little grinding noise, then we definitely recommend the OXO above any other coffee grinder—it works like a dream. The OXO isn't the most expensive grinder but listing at $200 it's a bit on the pricey side. But considering that it performs at a standard higher than any other grinder we tested, breaking an extra bill for this item doesn't seem at all unreasonable.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The OXO has a similar footprint and height as other big name burr style coffee grinders but the unique aspect of this product is evident right off the bat—its simple interface. Even at first glance you get a feeling that the main control button/dial is where the magic happens… and it is. Out of the coffee grinders that we tested, the OXO was unmatched for its simplicity and intuitive controls. The OXO is also fitted with a built-in scale that allows the machine to dose out exact grams for your brew at the push of a button. If that wasn't enough the reason, this product stole the Editors' Choice award was because it also produced the best tasting coffee on our tasting table. One downside: it is a tad loud. The close first runner up was our Top Pick for Quietest Grinder, the Cuisinart Deluxe. The Deluxe was only one point below the OXO in a few categories and significantly better for quietness.
Quality of Taste
The OXO was an easy pick for best tasting grinder. We gave our team of professional and non-professional tasters guidelines of what to look for in each brew. We gave the OXO a 9 for quality of taste because there was unanimous recognition that its brew checked off every box on the list—rich silky body, resonant layers of nuance, depth and liveliness balancing together. The OXO turned a coffee that we enjoyed into an extraordinary tasting experience that expressed the coffee's greatest qualities in Hi-Def. We used the First Ascent blend from Refuge Coffee and this blend not only provided lots of flavor to work with, but also helped us understand how well each grinder was displaying its potential flavor quality. With a chocolaty, caramelly Brazil to provide a base, some complex, rustic, thick-bodied Sumatra, and a Guatemala that provided a juicy, clean highlight, we were able to discover how much definition each grinder transferred to the cup. The OXO nailed it. You can read more about our choice of coffee in our How We Test article.
Other grinders like the Breville Smart Grinder Pro or the Cuisinart Deluxe Grind scored well in quality of taste (each earning an 8) because they definitely made a cup of coffee that we were happy with, but each of them to strongly express some qualities of the coffee while other qualities remained quiet. For example, the Breville pronounced the deep, full, chocolaty aspect of the blend we used, but the liveliness and juicier flavors in it went unnoticed. The OXO took flavor up by a quantum leap, expressing every aspect of the coffee in each sip with incredible resonance and balance. The OXO also did this for both drip style and French press coffee, whereas the majority of grinders we tested performed slightly better when brewing drip versus French press. Check out our Buying Advice article to learn more about the differences between French press and drip coffee.
Ease of Use
On the OXO the central control dial/button is used to select how many cups you'd like to make and begin grinding. Once the grinder's scale detects that the specified amount has been ground it will stop grinding. When getting acquainted with a new coffee grinder there is always some learning curve, especially when it comes to using the grinder's controls to dose out your preferred amount of coffee. However, the OXO is a machine you can adapt to quickly; it literally takes only seconds to explain to someone else how to operate it.
Dosing is a little more intuitive with the OXO than with many others. The Bodum Bistro has a dial indicating how many seconds it will grind for, other grinders like the Baratza Virtuoso don't have any numbers on the dial. The OXO gives you the option of selecting the amount of "cups" that you want to brew, which is a big step toward more intuitive use that can make determining the right amount of coffee to grind a lot easier. Keep in mind, as we mention in our Buying Advice article, that when coffee equipment references "cups," it is not referring to eight-ounce American measuring cups.)
The Cuisinart Deluxe Grind also affords the "cups option" to the user, with a button that is pressed repeatedly to select how many cups to make. In fact the Deluxe makes the morning grind so simple and easy that it scored a well-deserved 9 for ease of use. However it uses a timer to determine when to start and stop grinding, whereas the OXO takes accuracy to the next level by using a scale and allowing the user a gram-specific dosing option. The OXO does this with one simple button. No cluttered controls that leave the user groping, like what we experienced with the Breville Smart Grinder Pro (a 6 for ease of use).
We really like that the controls that you would use on the daily are front and center. But the OXO also takes care of everything else you would need to think about. There's an automatic shutoff if the grinder is ever running on empty, you can adjust cup strength with a discrete switch in the front of the machine, and you can zero the scale by long-pressing the central button.
The central control button can be long-pressed to reveal some other user options. You can select which grinding mode you'd like to use—whether to use the central button as a start/stop control and measure out the coffee yourself, if you would like to use the central dial to select how many cups to brew, or use it to select the specific number of grams you would like to grind. The OXO does it all, very simply and intuitively with a clean easy-to-read LED display.
As you can see below, the OXO also has an easy-remove hopper which allows you to store or swap out whole bean coffee without lifting the entire unit to dump it out.
While the OXO has top scores in every other category, it is only an average for noise level. The volume and pitch of motor noise are usually what separates the average grinders from the more peaceful ones. Grinders like the Cuisinart Deluxe (scoring a 9 in quietness) and the Capresso Infinity (which scored an 8) help keep a relaxed setting amidst the crushing of coffee beans by having a low-frequency, white noise kind of motor sound. The OXO was scored at a 5, not as quiet as the "white noise machines" that we tested, but it's a point better than the Krups Fast Touch and Epica Electric blade grinders and significantly more tolerable than the excessive, high pitch motor noises produced by the Kitchenaid Burr, which tested out to a 2 for quietness.
However, when we took this machine out of the box and were grinding for multiple brews, we were so happy with its functions and taste quality and we didn't even think about it as a loud machine. While only focusing on the coffee making process we were really stoked on the OXO. However once we were in the lab intentionally comparing noise levels between machines, it became apparent that the OXO wasn't in the top tier for quietness. If you're grinding coffee in a setting that isn't very noise sensitive then there shouldn't be anything keeping you from enjoying the OXO's top scoring features. But if you're in tight quarters and nervous about disturbing a sleeping roommate, you'll definitely want to weigh out whether a few seconds of 5-point noise rating will be too great an inconvenience.
While it's difficult to find a machine that is perfectly mess-free, the OXO comes pretty close, scoring a 9 in this category. The grind chamber is positioned so that it catches the ground coffee without spillage. Any grounds that might escape are easy to clean up by removing the plate under the chamber and wiping it off. Other grinders need to be wiped off and moved around to get your counters nice and clean. Or, like the Capresso (pictured below left), they may even have features under the chamber that catch a bit of grounds.
The OXO is that it's a top scorer for both taste and ease of use. It saves you having to choose between convenient coffee making and a cup of coffee that you can be stoked on. We gave this machine a 10 for ease of use because the dose-by-weight feature is so accurate and quick that it helps the user skip fussing with measurements or guessing and get straight to coffee making within seconds.
Because the OXO is not especially quiet it's more ideal for someone who doesn't feel like they're walking on eggshells to prevent waking a light sleeper. We also recommend this grinder to a user who doesn't feel the need to rotate their choice of coffee on a daily basis. Sticking with one type of coffee helps you get the most out of the OXO's efficiency—just load up the hopper and grind away with the push of a button. The OXO retains a bit of coffee among the burrs after grinding; if you want to grind a different coffee every day without any mixture you would need to grind a little extra to clear out the previous grounds each time.
Listed at $200, the OXO is pricey, above the average price of burr grinders that we tested, but it's a darn good value for the price. This product is top notch and yet it's less expensive than grinders that require more effort from the user and produce a less compelling cup of coffee like the Baratza Virtuoso and the Breville. The OXO only runs around $50 more than other grinders like the Baratza Encore and the Cuisinart Deluxe but it doesn't seem like an unreasonable leap in price being that the OXO came out of our rigorous testing with the proverbial gold medal—the Editors' Choice Award.
The OXO didn't make top scores by an inch; it made them by a mile. When coffee time rolls around we find ourselves reaching for this coffee grinder before any others. The quality of taste and ease of use pull us right in, every time. The OXO made the best coffee of the 200+ cups that we brewed and did it more efficiently and intuitively than any other grinder we tested. The OXO isn't the quietest grinder, but we were so impressed with its performance that noise was the last thing we noticed. If noise quality is an issue for your brewing situation, then keep in mind that the Cuisinart Deluxe followed close behind the OXO in multiple categories, costs a touch less, and also stole the Top Pick for Quietest Grinder. If you don't have a particularly noise sensitive living situation, then we absolutely recommend the OXO.
— Jared Marquez
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