The $145 Baratza Encore burr coffee grinder (equivalent to £116, AU$192) might strike you as a pricey luxury. It costs more than entry-level burr grinders that start as low as $40 and $20 bladed spice grinders. The Encore can, however, process whole coffee beans into high-grade grounds of uniform size and texture -- essential for making coffee that's consistently good. This plus the Encore's many coarseness settings make the machine perfect for coffee enthusiasts who'd like to up their home grinding game.
There's always a downside, and in the case of the Encore, that's slow grind speed. The grinder's bare-bones construction and lack of extras such as a scale, screen or basic timer won't impress those who crave a user-friendly or flashy device either. For that you're better off buying the sophisticated $200. While the Oxo's grind quality and coarseness settings can't quite match the Encore's, it's fast and weighs its own grounds.
Design and features
Standing 13.3 inches tall by 5.5 inches wide and reaching back to a depth of 6.3 inches, the Baratza Encore is slightly more compact than the Oxo's Barista Brain grinder (14 by 5.5 by 9 inches). Despite its smaller footprint, the Encore is almost half a pound heavier. The extra weight, combined with a tough plastic chassis, gives the whole machine a durable, almost bulletproof look and feel.
Other than its sturdy construction, the Encore shares a profile common to many powered coffee grinders. On top is a transparent bean hopper that feeds whole beans toward a pair of conical burrs that rotate closely though with a small gap between them. Made from heavy steel and driven by a strong DC motor, these burrs also have grooves with sharp edges to assist with grinding.
As beans fall within the space between burrs, the mechanism breaks them apart. These grounds then land within the Encore's plastic collection bin. To adjust the grind size (fine or coarse) you swivel the bean hopper left or right, which causes the gap between burrs to contract or expand. The Encore boasts a total of 40 of these coarseness settings, highlighted by graduated positions along the bean hopper base.
With this degree of control, the Baratza Encore can grind coffee fine enough for espresso or coarse enough for traditional French press, plus everything in between. It certainly provides more flexibility than the Oxo Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder, which tops out at 15 coarseness settings.
That said, the Barista Brain's most exciting feature is its built-in scale that allows the machine to grind accurately by weight and in real time. Baratza does offer a hardware accessory called the Esatto that gives the Encore similar abilities, but it costs an extra $169.
I also found the Oxo grinder easier to clean manually since its top burr has a thin handle that makes it a snap to remove. The Encore's removable burr by contrast has no handle, so you must manipulate the part by its tiny plastic tabs. It's a far more frustrating setup since the tabs are often made slippery and tough to grip from a coating of coffee oils released while grinding.