Baratza’s Virtuoso and Encore are both iconic home burr grinders and staples of a specialty coffee home setup. Which grinder from this giant of the coffee industry is superior?
I prefer the Baratza Encore for the better value and solid performance over a range of brewing methods. For a little extra money, the Virtuoso provides some minor quality-of-life improvements and a slightly improved burr, but the Encore is still an excellent coffee grinder at a lower cost than the Virtuoso.
I’ll explain what extra features the Virtuoso brings and why I don’t think they make it a definite winner over the Encore. I’ll refer to the Virtuoso+ model, which includes time-based dosing that sets this grinder apart.
Baratza Virtuoso Review
Baratza Virtuoso highlights:
- Time-based doser
- M2 conical burrs
- 200 – 1200 micron adjustments
The Baratza Virtuoso is a sturdy, versatile, entry level coffee grinder. Its body is mostly plastic, but there’s a metal trim at high-impact points near the hopper and at its base. This adds protection in key places and improves the grinder’s longevity.
Note: I’m referring to the Virtuoso+ model in this article. The difference between the Baratza Virtuoso and Virtuoso+ is the addition of time-based dosing and LED lights inside the dosing bin.
The Virtuoso is a conical burr grinder featuring Baratza’s M2 stainless steel burrs (their premium conical burr set). The grinder has a simple construction with just two switches – a pulse button and a timed-grind switch. Grind adjustments are made by turning the 8 oz. hopper to choose one of Virtuoso’s 40 grind settings.
Because of its basic design, the Virtuoso doesn’t come with any extra features to simplify the user experience. The closest it gets is the time-based dosing switch. Even that is extremely basic, and there’s no visual aid to help deliver a consistent dose time for each use.
The Virtuoso is a premium home grinder despite its minimal features. The reason for the premium label is the grind consistency, whether for French press to pour-over settings, where the coffee the Virtuoso produces is balanced and clean.
The consistency declines on finer settings, so it isn’t great for espresso. There are also only about three usable espresso settings, which makes it unsuitable to dial in shots.
For filter and immersion brews, it’s an affordable, consistent burr grinder with a premium look and feels that’s built to last, letting you brew enjoyable coffee at home for years to come.
Limited use cases
Baratza Encore Review
Baratza Encore highlights:
- M3 conical burrs
- Minimalist design
- Simple two-button use
The Baratza Encore conical burr grinder is a home barista favorite because of its simplicity, functionality, and affordability. It cuts costs by opting for more basic construction and design without sacrificing important features.
All external elements are plastic but don’t feel flimsy or cheap. There are only two buttons: a pulse button and an on/off switch. This means that dosing has to be done manually, so even though the Encore can store 8 oz. of coffee beans in the hopper, it’s best used as a single-dose grinder.
Adjustments are made by turning the hopper to choose between 40 different settings. Like the Virtuoso, the Baratza Encore excels at pour-over and French press but loses consistency on espresso settings. The M3 conical stainless steel burrs deliver excellent consistency with minimal fines. The M3 conical burrs aren’t quite as precise as Baratza’s improved M2 burrs, but the M3 burrs keep the price of the Encore low without sacrificing cup quality.
As a budget-friendly grinder for brewing a daily pour-over, the Encore is perfect for balancing affordability and quality.
No dosing control
Design and Build
The Baratza Encore and Virtuoso are nearly identical in appearance and build. Each stands about a foot tall and 6 in. wide with an 8 oz. coffee bean hopper. Coffee beans are ground into a 5 oz. Coffee grounds bin using either the pulse button on the front of the grinder or the switch on the side.
One big difference between Encore and Virtuoso is manual versus time-based dosing. On the Encore, the side switch is a simple on/off button. You flip it to turn on the motor to grind coffee and flip it back when you want to stop the motor. On the Virtuoso, that same switch is a timer. How far you turn the side dial will control how long the motor stays on. t. The Baratza Virtuoso+ goes one big step further over the Virtuoso and adds a screen that shows the seconds of dose.
The timed dosing is a nice improvement as it makes your dose more consistent. However, time isn’t consistent because the same quantity of fine grounds will take longer than coarse grounds. You could get 30 grams in 20 seconds for a coarser French press grind but 20-25 grams for a finer V60 in the same amount of time. That’s a big difference to adjust for.
Weight is the more accurate way to dose, and you need a scale for that with either model (Baratza also has the advanced Sette 270wi for weight-based dosing).
The other design difference between the Baratza Encore and Virtuoso is the casing material on the outside. The Encore is entirely plastic, but the Virtuoso has metal on the top, bottom, and inside, near the motor. Even though both the Encore and Virtuoso have a plastic hopper and coffee grounds bin, the Virtuoso is sturdier with the metal trim. This also makes the Virtuoso quieter than the Encore.
Grind Settings and Use Cases
Both the Encore and the Virtuoso have 40 grind settings that range from French press to espresso. Both are very similar, with good grind quality for medium-fine to coarse grind settings, but they struggle with fine settings.
The Baratza Virtuoso can produce slightly more fines with a range of 200-1200 microns compared to 250-1200 microns. You have an extra 50 microns of fine settings on the Virtuoso, which is about the width of a human hair. This means the Virtuoso has a slightly more functional espresso range, but neither grinder is for espresso.
They were both designed to be pour-over or French press grinders. The filter and immersion coffee that these two grinders produce is clean, balanced, and full-bodied. I’ve found the Virtuoso to produce a more complex cup, but I wouldn’t say it’s noticeably superior to the Encore.
Burr Material and Grind Quality
The biggest difference between Baratza Encore and the Baratza Virtuoso is in the burr set. The Encore uses Baratza’s M3 conical burr, and the Virtuoso uses the upgraded M2 burr.
The M2 has a sharper cutting edge on the spiral teeth than the M3. This improvement produces fewer fines and a more consistent grind, although this difference is subtle. The Encore still creates consistent grinds and produces enjoyable coffee. Both coffee grinders also have low grind retention – usually less than 0.5g.
The biggest difference the improved burrs have is grind speed. The Encore grinds about 1g per second, while the Virtuoso averages between 1.5g – 2g per second, making the Virtuoso almost twice as fast as the Encore.
While the other improvements of the M2 burr are minute, the quicker grind speed is a significant step up.
Ease of Use and Noise Level
The Baratza Encore and Virtuoso have a simple design, meaning they take some extra user input to use well. They aren’t intuitive at first glance.
Each grinder has a hopper for storing coffee but no way of dosing coffee consistently. The Virtuoso has a rudimentary timer for time-based dosing, but you need the Virtuoso+ model to see the exact time. As I said earlier, time-based dosing isn’t true precision when brewing coffee; weight is.
For this reason, both grinders work best as single-dose grinders. I recommend using a scale to pre-weigh coffee.
Adjusting the grind setting is the same on each grinder. You rotate the hopper, and the arrow lines up with numbers encircling the hopper to indicate the current setting. It’s equally easy to adjust on both models.
The Virtuoso does have an advantage when it comes to noise. The metal casing and internal hardware provide some insulation that makes it quieter than the Encore. The Virtuoso is not a quiet grinder per se, but it is an improvement over the Encore.
Both the Encore and the Virtuoso are great value for a high-quality, consistent home grinder. Both are under $300, but the Encore is cheaper than the Virtuoso. The higher price of the Virtuoso goes toward its sturdier, metal build and improved M2 burr. In fact, the Virtuoso feels like a premium version of the Encore.
Even so, budget-friendly burr grinders. The improvements of the Virtuoso are more valuable than the cost suggests, so it and the Encore are good value for the money.
Which Should You Buy: The Baratza Encore vs Virtuoso
Full disclosure: I’ve owned a Baratza Encore for years and absolutely love it. I drink coffee as a pour-over most days, so I’ve used the Baratza Encore nearly every day for going on five years. I consistently enjoy the coffee I can make with it.
The Virtuoso feels to me like an Encore+. It has a sturdier, stainless steel body, an improved set of M2 burrs, and a timer for rudimentary dosing. All of these are subtle quality-of-life improvements over the Encore, but the two grinders function almost exactly the same. They both deliver great medium-ground coffee while also having a limited espresso range.
In a vacuum, I’d choose the Virtuoso over the Encore because none of the improvements change the core function of the Encore. If cost is a major concern, the Encore is more inexpensive than the Virtuoso but isn’t any less capable of making great coffee.
You can’t go wrong with either grinder. The only consideration worth making, to me, is cost. Do you want to spend a little more for a grinder that performs slightly better and may last a little longer? Either way, both the Encore and Virtuoso are excellent choices for daily home brewing.
To see how the improved Encore ESP stacks up to another popular grinder, read our head-to-head comparison of the Fellow Opus vs Baratza Encore ESP.