This post is part of our 'This Is Fire' series, where our editors and writers tell you about the products they can't live without in the kitchen.
Though some folks might call me a coffee snob, I like to refer to myself more as a coffee enthusiast. I’m the sort of the guy that actually reads the tasting notes on a bag of fresh roasted coffee beans at a local coffee shop and then tries to taste said notes while I sip the coffee I purchased from them. I have strong opinions about the roast of my coffee, preferring a medium to light roast. And I almost always brew my coffee a little bit stronger than most folks do, drinking it black without sugar or cream. I do this because I want to taste the nuance and flavor of the coffee and enjoy it without any distractions. And the best way to get the most flavor out of the coffee beans is by grinding them in my Baratza Encore burr grinder.
Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
Stainless steel blades
Consistent, even grind
I'm a big proponent of grinding coffee beans fresh before brewing a cup. Coffee beans have over 1,000 different volatile flavor compounds in them. And one of the biggest enemies of all those compounds is oxygen. The longer coffee stays in contact with oxygen, the more it loses flavor. It’s why coffee bought from a small roaster often comes in a vacuum bag that has a one-way air valve. The valve allows gasses that the coffee bean produces after roasting to exit, while preventing ambient air from entering the bag. Once opened, whole beans stay fresher when sealed in an airtight or vacuum-sealed container to minimize oxygen contact.
However, if you buy pre-ground whole beans, the coffee grounds have been broken down into small particles, which means more surface area. The more surface area available, the more opportunity for the coffee to lose flavor to the oxygen and air around it. Freshly ground beans that are used right away means the oxygen hasn’t had time to compromise those flavor compounds. More flavor compounds means a more complex, flavorful and nuanced cup of coffee.
Yet the Baratza Encore, with its stainless conical burr grinders, does an excellent job of creating consistent ground coffee, from coarse grinds suitable for French press to medium ground for pour over and fine ground for espresso or Turkish coffee.
The Baratza Encore is a mid-priced burr grinder, cheaper than higher-end burr grinders that an extreme coffee person would most likely desire. But it’s significantly more expensive than blade grinders. Yet the Baratza Encore, with its stainless conical burr grinders, does an excellent job of creating consistent ground coffee, from coarse grinds suitable for French press to medium ground for pour over and fine ground for espresso or Turkish coffee.
More importantly, as with all burr grinders, the grind is consistent and even, unlike blade grinders that just chop the beans into big chunks and fine powder. Inconsistently chopped coffee beans from a blade grinder means your coffee both under extracts (from the large chunks) and over extracts (from the fine powder). Under-extracted coffee is often weak, sour and lacks flavor, while over-extracted coffee can be bitter and astringent. Finding the right grind for your coffee is key to bringing out all flavor and nuances of the coffee, and a burr grinder like the Encore can achieve the proper consistent grind to do that.
Baratza is a well-respected brand, one that focuses just on coffee burr grinders. It's known not just for its burr grinders but for its extensive parts catalog, with nearly every part available for any grinder it currently makes or has made in the past. This means the Baratza grinder I own will last me as long as I can use it, with the ability to replace a part that may wear down or break. Of course, it also helps that the handsome black device (it also comes in white) looks great on my countertop, with my other appliances like my gooseneck kettle, kitchen scale and Sodastream. A device that is beautiful to look at, useful on a daily basis, and does a great job is the whole triumvirate of kitchen appliances.
Price at time of publish: $170
Capacity: 8 ounces | Dimensions: 6.3 x 4.7 x 13.78 inches | Weight: 7 pounds | Warranty: One-year limited
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Irvin Lin is a writer, recipe developer and photographer based in San Francisco. He spent his post-collegiate years as a barista in a bookstore coffee shop. His cookbook “Marbled, Swirled and Layered” was picked as one of the best baking cookbooks of 2016 by the New York Times. He writes the nationally recognized blog Eat the Love and his work has been featured in the Washington Post; O, The Oprah Magazine; Serious Eats; Simply Recipes; and more.