Written on: 06/04/2013 by diffenthal (4 reviews written)
Once I became more interested in coffee, I started looking for advice about the kind of equipment that I should use to make it at home. There are plenty of answers to the general question, but one thing is clear - if you have a budget of less than £500 to spend on coffee making, more than half the budget should go on the grinder.
There are two basic control mechanisms for serious grinders - stepless and stepped. Stepless offers ultimate control but can be more difficult to reproduce good results when moving from one grind type to another. Stepped moves the burrs a relatively fixed amount so is more predictable and quick to set up.
The Virtuoso Preciso has 40 major steps, each of which is divided into a further 10 steps on a separate control. The main steps allow you to produce anything from very fine grind (Turkish and fine espresso; range 1-14), medium grind (filter / drip machines; range 16-32) and coarse (press; range 34-40).
I bought the grinder from an office that was closing down and I wasn't entirely happy with the consistency of the grind. Taking out the upper burr, I noticed that the plastic burr holder was split vertically. I contacted Baratza (who are based in Washington state USA) and described the problem. Apparently the burr holder is designed to break if there is a stone or something in the coffee so I bought a couple (only $4 each) and they were delivered by airmail post in about a week. The grind is now excellent with a very good control of fines.
Bulletin boards rave about Baratza's customer service and I've got to echo the comments - it is very good indeed. The website is informative, with a good range of spares and 'how to' papers which give illustrated instructions on things that you might normally contact a service engineer to do for you.
The grinder is terrific, and some reviews claim that it compares favourably against conical grinders priced at over $1000. I can't claim that from my direct experience, but it is certainly a significant improvement on my previous conical burr grinder both in terms of the fineness of its espresso grinds and its consistency. I've had the machine only a month so this isn't an extended test by any means, but so far I'm delighted. It also comes with a portafilter holder so that you can grind straight into the portafilter if you wish.