Close your eyes for a moment. Think back to the Winter of 2019. Grinding coffee with a $29 Hario Ceramic coffee grinder. Wanting to upgrade your coffee game, you search for the best budget coffee grinder.
The go-to budget filter coffee grinder recommendation for years now, sold at practically every specialty coffee shop, appliance store, and one of the most sold grinders at online outlets.
But they’ve got competition now in the form of the Fellow Opus. Also a $200 budget espresso focused yet do-it-all grinder.
Now both these grinders were sent to me by Baratza and Fellow for review however no money exchanged hands and all thoughts and opinions are my own. Review my ethics statement here.
At the time of this review, I've had these grinders for about 2 to 3 weeks and have been using it comparatively side by side.
Espresso grinders have historically been expensive, because of the need to grind very consistently at very fine grind sizes.
So, do these grinders live up to the task? Are these truly $200 electric grinder capable of grinding for espresso? And more importantly, which one is the right one for you?
Before I answer that question, let’s take a look at what they offer, starting with the build quality.
Firstly, both these grinders are almost entirely plastic, which makes sense at this price point.
In fact, the Encore ESP grinder is almost identical to the original Baratza Encore. From the outside, it’d be hard to tell them apart. And while the Opus looks to have a similar finish to the Ode, its also definitely not as everything here is plastic while the Ode is mostly metal.
Both also come with plastic grounds chambers. The encore has the original classic one as well as a new one designed to fit 54mm portafilters with a rubber ring that extends it to fit 58mm portafilters. However, the fitment of the ring isn’t the best and shaking the cup on a portafilter can still result in a little mess.
The Opus also has a uniquely designed solution in a plastic cup, similar but not quite the same to the Ode’s which is metal by the way. And an insert for the cup that also helps dose into a portafilter.
For using the grinders, you still have the button on the front of the Encore to activate the grinder as well as a knob on the side. The adjustment mechanism still seems to be the same as the original Encore by twisting the hopper.
The Opus uses the same front button placement as the Ode, but no longer has a knocker or an autostop function. Instead, it has timed functions which can be changed between 30 second increments depending on a specific set of button presses.
Overall, for $200, the builds of these grinders aren’t much to complain about nor praise.
Now let’s talk about these grinder’s performance. While mainly advertised as an espresso focused grinder, they both still advertise the capability to grind up to French Press.
The Encore uses 40mm conical M2 burrs and grinds at 550 RPM while the Opus uses C6-40 Burly Burrs which is also a 40mm conical burr set.
The Encore uses the same adjustment style that can be found on the original Encore by turning the hopper. There are 20 steps of adjustment for espresso that adjust in smaller increments compared to the steps at the larger grind sizes, making fine tuning for espresso easier.
The Opus on the other hand has an adjustment mechanism different from the Ode, as it should given its a conical burr set versus vertically mounted flat burrs. Instead, the Opus also has a
And yes, it does grind for espresso! I’ve been grinding just under about a 10 for Onyx Monarch espresso and have been getting very good results. The steps here have given me enough range for adjustment without too many issues.
Now visually, the grinds are very clumpy. So I would highly recommend WDT’ing here, though you probably should be doing that regardless of the grinder.
I’ve been doing a little WDT in the actual cup and again once dumped into the portafilter.
Retention is also not too bad. Generally I’m within 0.2g of my dose, but usually a good smack atop the grinder gets me closer to within 0.1g. Some kind of single dosing hopper and bellows system here would be a nice improvement.
In fact, my friend Gino from Mugshot NYC makes a nice single dosing hopper with bellows for the original Encore.
Alright, but how’s it taste?
The espresso here is - good! I certainly wouldn’t try to pull some ultra high clarity light roasts, but for medium roasts, milky based beverages, this grinder definitely hits the spot.
Shots have a touch of astringency and muddiness that are expected of a smaller 40mm conical burr set. Clarity isn’t super high but you can certainly taste some fruity notes in the shot.
Generally, I’ve pulled my shots a touch longer than I would on a large flat burr grinder and chocolatey flavors come through very well.
The shot quality will be very sufficient for anyone wanting to dip their toes into the realm of espresso without spending a ton on the grinder.
But what about other brewing options?
For filter it's also pretty good! It’s not going to get you the same level of clarity out of say a 64mm flat burr set, but its going to be more than capable for the audience of this grinder.
The brews I’ve been getting with this grinder for filter have had a richer full bodied mouthfeel, likely due to that smaller 40mm conical burr set, and with enough clarity where I haven’t felt things are too muddy.
WHO’S IT FOR?
So, who’s it for? The Baratza Encore ESP is a budget grinder. It’s capable of espresso with some limited range, but will definitely scratch that espresso itch.
I think Baratza has hit it out of the park with this one, especially at just $200. But it has some competition coming with the new Fellow Opus.
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