A massively important and often overlooked factor to making great coffee is using a quality grinder, specifically one equipped with burrs not blades. And for $200, the new Oxo Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder not only promises to bring precision grinding abilities home. The kitchen appliance goes one step further by also including an integrated scale for increased accuracy, a feature typically found in ultra-expensive commercial gear.
Design and features
The Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder cuts a convincing premium coffee grinder profile. A funnel-shaped hopper holds whole coffee beans up top. The hopper then feeds its contents into a grinding mechanism made from two pieces of steel.
The teeth-like gears face each other and have an adjustable gap between their twin grinding surfaces. You can also adjust the quality of the grind between 15 different settings, ranging, says Oxo, from fine enough for espresso or with the coarseness required for French press and siphon coffee. Oxo also says that the high-torque DC electric motor driving the grinder's burrs is strong enough to get the job done without overheating.
That all sounds great, but the slickest aspect of the machine looks to be its built-in scale. Weighing is by far the most accurate method to measure the volume of your grounds. Professional baristas, for example, tend to prefer scales over scoops. Many high-end products such as conical (and even pricier flat ceramic grinders) from Bellevue, Washington-based manufacturer Baratza can track weight while they grind. That said, you still need a scale to calibrate them. Baratza also sells a scale accessory, the Esatto, but it costs $169 extra.
To be completely fair, a cheap $20 digital kitchen scale can tackle the same measurement duties for a lot less if you pair it with an affordable burr grinder, . Even so there's a lot to be said for combining everything into one appliance, if not for convenience then at least for conserving countertop real estate.
If you'd like to snatch up an Oxo Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder, it's available now at premium retailer Williams-Sonoma for $200. Oxo also says that both the grinder and its new Barista Brain coffee brewers should eventually arrive on store shelves nationwide.