Manually grinding coffee at home is a lot of work, both in terms of time and energy. I can grind 14g of beans -- the amount I use to brew an Aeropress -- in less time than it takes to boil the requisite water, but there are other things I could do with that time, such as prepare my equipment (which I used to do before grinding).
In mid-December, I decided it was time to purchase an electric coffee grinder. As I noted in my recent post about electric grinders, my motivation was two-fold. I wanted the ability to easily adjust my grind setting, something not offered on my hand grinder, and I wanted a method to alleviate me of the physical labour involved with grinding coffee.
I decided to purchase the Baratza Encore, a grinder that has an excellent reputation in the world of speciality coffee. This grinder is positioned as a great entry-level electric grinder, priced reasonably at around 135 pounds. This grinder is positioned toward home brewers who would prefer to use an electric over a manual grinder. I find this price point perfectly reasonable considering some better manual grinders are priced at around 100 pounds.
The Baratza Encore grinder requires some assembly before use. The full assembly took me only a few minutes, but I first had to spend some time washing some parts of the grinder. Baratza recommends that you wash the hopper lid, the hopper, the grounds basket, and the rubber gasket that sits within the grinder before use. I erred on the side of caution and let these pieces dry thoroughly and so I had to wait some time before I could complete assembly.
I ran into a few issues with assembly, although none were serious. The first was a slight panic that the rubber gasket which fits onto the burrs was missing. This piece, and the cleaning brush for the grinder, sits in the grounds basket. Affixing the rubber gasket was another issue. It took me a few minutes to get the gasket attached to the grinder. I was concerned about ripping the gasket -- it is a tight fit -- but I managed to get it on after some work.
To assemble, I had to put the rubber gasket, the on-off dial, and the hopper onto the grinder. The dial went on with a push. The hopper was somewhat difficult to put on but once I got the hang of what I had to do it was no problem at all. The instructions provide additional advice on how to affix the hopper to the grinder. I resorted to this video by Baratza to make sure I was doing the right thing, which was confirmed when I successfully twisted the hopper onto the grinder.
The Baratza Encore is an intuitive device to use, even if you have never used an electric coffee grinder before.
To use the grinder, you can either twist a dial on the side or hold down a button on the front. I have used both methods but I prefer the button on the front as it is easier to let go of a button than to find the dial on the side of the device and switch it.
To change the setting of the grinder, all you have to do is twist the hopper. I have my grinder set at number 12, the setting Baratza recommends for an Aeropress. I have found this grind to be just right for my Aeropress. I encourage you to experiment with your grind size -- something I plan to do soon -- to get a better sense of what the grinder can deliver. Baratza recommends that you change your grind size while grinding coffee. I have not had any issues just changing the hopper to my desired grind size but this may change as I use the grinder a bit more.
The grind produced by this grinder looks much more consistent than that of my Hario Mini Mill. While both grinders are burr grinders, the Encore is a cut above in terms of quality. You can adjust the grinder from settings 0 to 40, in increments of one. Each increment marker on the grinder represents two steps. You can hear a click for every individual step. I have not tried an espresso-level grind so I cannot say whether or not this grinder would work for espresso. But, I can say this is an entry-level grinder and not all electric grinders are able to meet the range of grind sizes needed for espresso.
While the Encore looks like a big grinder, it is smaller than you may think. I was worried the grinder would not fit under my overhead kitchen cabinets but this turned out not to be an issue. The grinder is quite small, but that does not mean it cannot hold a good deal of coffee. The grinder would have no problem holding 250g of my coffee beans. I have not tried this but when I was pouring new beans in the grinder to wash out the burrs of my old coffee I noticed that the hopper is much bigger than the bag of coffee.
I have racked my mind and I am unable to come up with a single "con" for this grinder but that is probably because I meet the exact intended audience for this grinder: someone who wants an affordable electric grinder who is brewing coffee at home. I am unsure how this grinder would hold up with espresso.
One nit-pick I have is that I am sometimes concerned that the lid does not seal well on top of the grinder. I am able to grind beans without holding the lid down but I often feel like I should keep my hand on the lid just in case. I have not run into any issues but I would prefer if the hopper lid attached to the hopper with some kind of rubber seal or maybe a clip. This does not affect the usability of the grinder but it is something that has been on my mind.
The Bottom Line
The Baratza Encore is an excellent grinder for brewing coffee at home. The grinder provides a vast range of grind sizes and it is easy to switch between those grind sizes. Baratza handily includes some recommendations about which grind setting to use for your desired brew method. Not every brew method is covered and your usage may vary but I have found these numbers to be a good starting point for me. My Aeropress grind setting of 12 is just right.
Baratza recommends you clean your grinder every four to six weeks. The grinder comes with a cleaning brush you can use to clean the grinder. To do so, you will need to take the hopper off your grinder and remove the gasket. This is not difficult. To remove the hopper, twist your hopper to the coarsest grind setting and then pull the hopper up.
While electric grinders are more expensive than many hand-grinders, I have so far found having an electric grinder an excellent experience. I can grind coffee much faster, which means I can also prepare my equipment in the time it takes for the water in my kettle to boil. I can easily adjust the grind setting so I can try out multiple brew methods or different grinds for my Aeropress. If you are in the market for a home grinder -- or want to move from a manual to an electric grinder, like I did -- I cannot recommend the Encore enough.
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