Fellow Opus Grinder Review: Perfect for New At-Home Baristas
The $195 entry-level conical grinder packs a lot of value and utility in a stylish visage.
Patrick HollandManaging Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
The $195 Fellow Opus is a new coffee grinder aimed at people starting their at-home barista journey. Fellow, the 10-year-old San Francisco company behind an ever-growing line of posh coffee equipment and accessories, undertook quite a challenge bringing it to market. It sought to make an all-in-one grinder that can grind beans for everything from espresso to cold brew, all while being wallet-friendly, stylish and easy to use. And to my delight, the Opus delivers on all fronts. The curved, squat grinder handled grinding coffee for nine-bar espresso pulls and pour-overs extremely well during my six weeks of testing.
The all-in-one Opus is something of a rare bird. Typically if you want a great grinder that can handle espresso and drip coffee, you'd either pay close to a thousand dollars or buy separate grinders -- one for drip and the other for espresso. There are grinders like the Wilfa Uniform that cost around $300 and do a decent job as an all-in-one. But if you're relatively new to your coffee nerd-dom, a few hundred dollars can be a high barrier to entry.
Excellent value for the money
Robust burr set and motor
Easy to deep clean
Plastic body shows wear after 6 weeks
Adjustment tab too small
Fellow is known for its premium brew equipment and accessories that are largely aimed at the snobbiest of coffee nerds. So it is a welcome surprise to see the company bring its wisdom to the Opus, a simple, approachable stepped conical grinder, that looks good and can support your coffee explorations, whether you're pulling shots or making a French press. Fellow smartly balanced prioritizing the Opus' conical burr set and motor with sensible compromises, like using plastic for the body instead of metal, to keep the price low.
The Opus' design reflects other Fellow products. The base reminds me of the heating pad of the Fellow Stagg Kettle, while the height and minimalist design echo the company's more premium Ode Brew grinder. The Opus' grind chamber hovers over the catch cup, giving it a look that has more in common with the Guggenheim Museum than it does a coffee grinder. The Opus is unapologetically plastic. The body of the grinder, the lid and catch cup are all plastic. I imagine this approach helped Fellow keep the overall price so low. In my time with the Opus, I didn't mind the plastic build, especially since most at-home grinders in this price range are made of plastic, too. If I had to ding it at all, it would be that the base already shows signs of minor scuffs from inserting and removing the catch cup.
Despite the Opus' polycarbonate facade, it still looks slick and is thoughtfully made. For example, the hopper lid fits perfectly and doubles as a volumetric measuring cup.
The catch cup has a magnet that not only ensures it's aligned perfectly on the base under the grind chute, but is extremely gratifying to put back in place. Inside the cup is a spout for pouring. There's also an insert you can use when grinding espresso which fits both 58-millimeter and 54-millimeter portafilters. The insert also fits my single-cup Hario brewer making for a very clean workflow.
The Opus has what Fellow calls "antistatic technology" to reduce grind spray (think the ionizer on a hair dryer). In use, it works extremely well. I never had grounds scattering onto the base. In fact, the Opus is one of the tidiest grinders I've ever used.
On top is a wide adjustable ring that looks like a crown of numbers and definitely shares some resemblance with the Wilfa Uniform. The ring has hash marks that go from 1 to 11. (Clearly someone at Fellow is a fan of Spinal Tap.) In between each number are three increments, giving the Opus a 41-step adjustment range.
Above the ring is the hopper. The Opus is clearly designed for single portions, even though the hopper can hold up to 110 grams, which should be enough for a large batch of drip coffee. There is a button on the front of the base. Press it once for a 30-second grind, twice for a minute, or press and hold for a two-minute grind. You can let the grinder turn itself off or press the button while it's running to stop it.
At the core of the Opus is a 40-millimeter conical burr set with six blades, which Fellow dubs Burly Burrs. The Opus is powered by a motor that delivers six newton-meters of torque and 350 rpm. The combination of the burrs and robust motor lets the Opus punch well above its price point. It handled light roasted coffee without any struggle even at very fine settings.
When grinding, the Opus has a muffled yet high-pitched whine. It's not the quietest grinder I've used, but much more subdued than a blade grinder or cheap burr grinder.
Adjusting the grind is straightforward, though I wish the tab on the adjustment dial were larger or had a rubber or silicone covering. As it is now, moving the ring from one step to another takes a firm grip. I found it easier to grab the entire adjustment ring like the lid on a jar to turn it more precisely.
The Opus' range is impressive. In fact, when grinding for espresso I rarely went under 2 on the dial, which produces a very fine grind. What's great about the Opus, especially for people newer to grinding espresso, is the main adjustment ring provides a lot of room for dialing in a shot. But as your brewing knowledge grows, you might want even more flexibility, which Fellow has a clever remedy for. Under the hopper assembly is an easy-to-access inner dial that can be used for fine adjustments. If you decide to experiment with the inner ring, definitely take a look at Fellow's video that walks you through the process.
Coffee grinds from the Opus are uniform, and I'm very happy with the grounds it produced. Though I should note that a more expensive dedicated espresso or drip coffee grinder will produce grounds that are even more consistent.
Pour-over cups of coffee that I made with Opus grounds had a nice brightness and sweetness, and espresso shots had a smooth, syrupy body.
The Fellow Opus grinder is easy to use
I worked as a barista for 13 years, and my least favorite part was taking a grinder apart to clean it. I'd inevitably drop a screw, by accident, into the body and have to flip it over in hopes that it would fall out. The Opus is ridiculously easy to take apart and clean. You don't need a screwdriver, or any tool for that matter. It only takes a few seconds to pull apart the burr set.
One area where things do get a little sloppy is in the bean hopper. After a few uses, it accumulates a bit of chaff that's kicked back up while grinding. The Opus does retain some grounds. On average it was less than half a gram. I noticed that a simple tap on the hopper lid before removing the catch cup helped knock most of it out.
While I do think a lot of people would enjoy the Opus, it's definitely not for everyone. If you are someone who wants a cheap grinder and doesn't care about quality or an easy workflow, you might see the Opus as too expensive. But for someone who wants to explore different kinds of brewing at home, it's hard to find a grinder as affordable and versatile as the Opus. On the other hand, if you are already deeply invested in your home barista setup, the Opus might have too many compromises, especially if you're accustomed to a more expensive grinder like the Niche Zero.
Despite my years slinging coffee, the Opus is more than enough for me. It's built well, allows me to change up my brew methods easily, and looks great in my kitchen. I should acknowledge that one of the Opus' biggest competitors is the newly released $199 Baratza Encore ESP which I haven't used yet. (I'll update this review if I try it out.)