Tag Archives: Forte-BG

Choosing the Best Baratza Grinder for YOU (revised)


What grinder is best for me? This question has popped up more than a few times in this Support department, I hope that this blog will help inform and educate how to optimize your grinder selection for your caffeination needs.
The first thing you need to decide is what kind of brew method(s) you plan on employing. Next, think about how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. Coffee, like all things, can be a basic pleasure, or a scientific art. Having expensive equipment definitely helps procure good extractions, but spending gobs of money is not going to guarantee you delicious shots, beautiful art or delicate flavors in your pourover. Those things come from practice, understanding, and appreciation of the process. Are you interested in drinking a tasty cup of coffee, and that is all? Do you want to find the perfect balance of complimentary notes in your manual extraction? Or, do you want to pull an exact 30 second, two ounce with crema shot (or whatever parameters you prefer) and have the ability to change the shot time in increments as small as one second?
We have two different families of grinder models- conical and flat burr grinders. The discussion of which is better between conical vs flat burrs could be compared to the argument of Ford vs Chevy; people will stick to their side of the argument tooth and nail depending on personal preference. I can only speak specifically to the pros and cons of Baratza conical and flat burr grinders. All of our grinders are designed to grind per dose, they are not intended for batch grinding- that is, they are not intended to grind a whole pound of coffee through in one shot.
The current conical lineup includes the Encore, Virtuoso, and Preciso. These grinders all have 40mm conical burrs made in Liechtenstein. We pride ourselves on having high carbon, hardened conical burrs excellent in quality that generally last for about five hundred pounds of coffee. The powerful DC motors are low revving compared to AC motors, spinning the burrs at ~450rpm and keeping heat transfer to the grounds down. The transmission gear layout, GB2.0, accurately meshes the helical worm shaft of the motor with the reduction gear for a smooth, direct drive transfer of power. The grind is adjusted in a cork screw type fashion, with the adjustment ring threads pulling the stationary upper burr closer or further from the rotating lower burr. Grounds retention in the machine is about a gram, which reduces the amount of purging coffee through needed. The 100+ gram capacity bin and the discharge chute are made of an anti-static plastic, which helps battle the inevitable static better than a coating.
The flat burr lineup includes the Vario, Vario W, Forté All Purpose (AP) and Forté Brew Grinder (BG). All four of these units use 54mm flat burrs, have a digital front panel capable of saving 3 preset functions, and the adjuster levers are easy to read and adjust. Grind size is adjusted by a milled metal camshaft. As you raise the adjustment lever, the lobe on the camshaft presses up against the bottom of the lower burr, decreasing the gap between the lower burr and the stationary upper burr. The same DC motor as used in the conicals powers the burr, but using a belt drive transmission that reduces noise.

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Our entry level conical burr grinder is the Encore. At $129 USD, it has a 40 setting range that produces an espresso fine grind as well the ability to grind a coarse French press grind. The Encore has an intermittent pulse button on the front of the machine as well as an on/off knob on the side. I recommend the Encore for those who do not want to commit substantial time for brewing, but understand and appreciate the benefit of fresh consistently ground coffee at home. The Encore does grind the slowest of our models, at an average rate of about a gram a second.
The Virtuoso is a step up from the Encore with a price point of $229 USD. With a sharp looking cast zinc upper casing and base, this grinder immediately catches the eye. Besides being nice to look at, it excels at a consistent coarse grind, and readily produces an espresso fine grind. Like the Encore, the Virtuoso has an intermittent pulse button, and on the side of the machine it also has a 60 second timer switch that offers a distinct advantage over the on/off switch of the Encore. The timer allows the user to roughly dose the amount of beans ground, and winds down, powering the grinder off while you prepare your filter/water/brew equipment. With a max throughput of around 2 grams a second, the Virtuoso is very efficient and quick enough for impatient coffee connoisseurs. I highly recommend the Virtuoso, as I enjoy operating mine at home for assorted manual brew methods.
The next step up in our model line, the Preciso, is directed for users who are seriously making espresso, along with manual extractions, and desire more control than the 40 step adjustment. Although the Virtuoso and Encore models will grind fine enough for espresso, a user may find it difficult to procure an exact shot time. The Preciso, at $299 USD, addresses this issue with the addition of a micro adjustment which allows users to find a grind setting in between the 40 macro steps, giving a total of 400 steps of adjustment. When pulling espresso shots the micro adjustment function can be used to adjust the shot time by as little as one second (all other variables remaining the same). I recommend the Preciso for users who are pulling shots and are controlling the other variables such as dosage, water weight, shot time, temperature, tamp pressure, and of course having fresh beans (preferably less than two weeks from the roast date).
The Vario is our ceramic flat burr grinder at $479 USD that grinds based on a time input (10.3 seconds, 15.8 seconds, etc). With macro and micro adjustment options, the Vario with the stock ceramic burrs is superb at grinding for espresso. We also offer a set of steel burrs that are designed for manual brew grinding. The digital display holds three preset times that are programmable by the user. A metal Porta Holder with dosing funnel is included with the Vario, allowing users to grind hands-free into the espresso basket with minimal mess from static spray. The regular grounds bin has a 140+ gram capacity and is made of static dissipating plastic. I recommend the Vario for espresso fanatics, and encourage heavy users to buy the Vario over the Preciso.
Mechanically speaking, the Vario-W is identical to the Vario. However, rather than grinding based on a time input, the Vario-W grinds based on a desired weight input and will grind the dose within 0.2 grams of the desired input. This allows users to control another variable in the brewing equation without additional equipment/steps. With a 300 gram maximum capacity of the load cell, the user cannot grind by weight directly into an espresso porta filter- only into the 120+ gram capacity grounds bin provided. A hopper with shutoff valve is included with the Vario-W, making it easy to remove the hopper without dumping the beans out or falling out the bottom when the hopper is removed. The Vario-W is priced at $559 USD.
At $129 USD, the Esatto is an attachment for our conical burr grinders that allows the users to grind by weight directly into the 60 gram capacity grounds bin provided, saving the user the extra step of weighing the dose on a separate scale. The Esatto has a 300 gram max cap for the scale and cannot grind by weight directly into an espresso porta filter. The Esatto fits the Encore, Virtuoso, Preciso, as well as our superseded models Maestro Plus and Baratza Starbucks Barista P/N 1MP1SP.
The Forté AP retails for $899 USD and is a more rugged version of the Vario. A perfect fit for low-volume, single origin or decaf espresso coffee grinder, we recommend it for grinding up to five pounds (2.25kg) of coffee in a day. Utilizing the same theory of operation as the Vario, the Forté has stronger transmission components, a metal grind chamber and metal levers. The metal components noticeably improve the dialing in process of extracting espresso shots.
Operationally, the Forté has both grind-by-time and grind-by-weight in one unit. Although dosing directly into the porta filter with the included metal PortaHolder can only be accomplished with grind-by-time, the Forte has a software conversion (Smart Dosing) allowing the user to most accurately dose directly into your porta filter. The Mahlkoenig ceramic burrs of the AP have a throughput rate of 2.0g/s to 3.5g/s. Designed to optimize espresso grinding, they are still capable of producing an acceptable French press coarse grind.
The Forté BG, at $919 USD, is identical to the Forté AP except the burr set. The Forté BG comes equipped with a steel burr set that was designed specifically to reduce the amount of fines found in the coarse grind. The throughput rate is 1.2 to 2.4 g/s. Although the Forté BG does not include a metal PortaHolder, the part can be purchased separately and used with the BG. With a small footprint and splendid coarse grind, the BG is an ideal match for your manual brew bar.

If you are looking for a grinder for Turkish
No Baratza grinders are designed for Turkish coffee grinding. Although our grinders are capable of producing a Turkish fine grind, the demands on the machine are high. Our grinders have a thermal overload protection circuit that will cut power to the motor if it draws a large amount. Power consumption for Turkish is great, which will cause the machine to shut down into protect mode until it has cooled down for 15 or 20 minutes- perhaps before even grinding a full dose. I have helped several customers with Baratza grinders and the intention of Turkish over the years; none in my experience have been satisfied. I recommend a hand grinder for home Turkish grinding.

I hope you’ve found this blog helpful in finding the Baratza grinder that best suits your needs and budget!

Grinding for Espresso – Metal vs Ceramic Burrs

by Sarah Dooley and Pierce Jens

Forte ceramic burr_TSH4472lrSince the introduction of the Forte AP and BG grinders, the team at Baratza has been doing a lot of taste testing on both grinders. With regards to tasting espresso specifically, we have noticed that the ceramic burrs produce a traditional espresso flavor profile. They are great for blends and particularly coffees roasted for espresso. The cup flavors are complex, and usually have more body and mouth feel in comparison to the steel burrs (depending on the coffee).

The steel burrs have been engineered to produce a more even particle distribution and less fines. These burrs are ideal for pourover, batch, or home brewers and what we have termed, a “modern style espresso”.

FORTE holding steel burr_TSH4540 hiTo expand a little on the term “modern style espresso” – we feel that espresso with our steel burrs tastes different, due to the lack of fines (or the very small grind particles) in the particle grouping. Overall, the ground coffee is more similar in size, especially in comparison to our ceramic burrs. The results in flavor profile are more simple flavors and a clean mouth feel. We like this burr set for single origin coffees not necessarily limited to coffees roasted for espresso or called espresso roast.

Which set is best for you? Oddly when we did a side-by-side taste test our test audience was split down the middle on preferences. The biggest differences really came into play for taste when we separated coffees roasted for espresso and coffees not roasted for espresso. With that isolated variable the ceramic had more sweetness for coffees roasted for espresso and the steel burrs clarity of flavor seemed better for espresso, with coffees at production or non-espresso roasts.

In the end, it’s what tastes best to you. We don’t even pretend to know how to tell you how to taste and are just sharing our taste experiences thus far. We hope our opinion has been of assistance!

Baratza Supports Street Bean – Guest Blog

Baratza recently donated grinders to Street Bean to support the important work they are doing – getting youth off the streets and giving them real skills, and an opportunity to improve their lives. Ben Blake, a long time Baratza friend and supporter, manages the Street Bean Cafe and we asked him to share about their program.

by Ben Blake, Cafe Manager, Street Bean Espresso, Seattle WA

Before I start, I’d like to thank the folks at Baratza for their kindness. They’ve been helpful and extremely supportive over the last few years. Over the summer, they donated a set of Forte grinders to our cafe that have drastically improved the quality of our pourover bar, increased training opportunities, and allowed us to bring on a guest roaster as espresso.

When I first took over the Cafe Manager position at Street Bean, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. While the idea of combining my love for coffee with something meaningful was always appealing to me, I could never quite grasp what that would actually look like. I knew I’d be working for a non-profit in Seattle that dealt mainly with homeless and at-risk youth, and I knew we’d be serving coffee, but that’s about it. Through the first couple months here, I’ve seen just how important coffee can be in someone’s life, and just how meaningful it really is.

Let me explain a little bit.

We’re a non-profit that provides opportunities for street kids and at-risk youth to get on their feet, learn valuable career skills, and obtain a self-efficacy that doesn’t stop in the workplace.

We operate under the umbrella of New Horizons—a fantastic organization that provides all the resources for these kids. Food, clothes, shelter, case workers, counseling, coaching, community, etc. etc. Through the New Horizons Program they’re able to apply for internships in order to gain work experience and learn just what it means to have a job and be “employable.” Ultimately, Street Bean was created to compliment the New Horizons program and to provide a supportive employment component for the youth that were being served. We currently operate two “apprenticeship” slots where we not only train folks to become great baristas, but to help them move them beyond homelessness and abandonment into confidence, security, and successful future employment.

After successfully completing the apprenticeship, we have the opportunity to hire them on as a barista at Street Bean.

Over the last five years, we’ve seen an incredible success rate, and as of right now, we have four full-time baristas who are living on their own, completely off the streets.

I guess that all sounds nice, and it’s great to be able to say all of that, but even within the first month here, I’ve seen what that actually means. These “kids” have been completely transformed because of Street Bean. They’re grown men and women that have not only escaped life on the streets, but that have completely taken hold of their own lives through the medium of a cafe.

A conversation I had with our newest apprentice said it best. As I was chatting with him about his weekend, and about some upcoming challenges in his life, he stopped and looked at me with a big grin on his face.

“I love this place, man. I feel like it’s mine.”

That statement alone brought to life exactly what I was involved in, and it had nothing to do with homelessness, street life, or life problems. It transcends all of that. The community of a coffee shop is unique. It’s hard not to be engulfed by it. When you work behind the bar at a cafe, it’s your space. You want people to enjoy being there, so you put your best foot forward, and no matter what your past looks like, you take ownership of it.

Ownership is important for all of us. It gives us something to hold onto and something to call our own. Street Bean is actively doing that—not only for the youth in our program and the ones that have made it through—but for me, too.

Beyond having a good cause, though, we really strive to be a great cafe, and we’re only really able to do that through outside support. There’s no way we could offer up quality products without quality equipment, and as a non-profit that can be difficult at times.

When companies like Baratza partner with us, they’re not just giving a donation or a discount to a non-profit. They’re giving people the opportunity to get back on their feet through the coffee industry, to take hold of something and to own it, and to truly discover their identities.

It’s an amazing thing really, and we’re thrilled to be surrounded and supported by such amazing people. People who are willing to help us make Street Bean one of the best cafes in Seattle while also supporting our vision of empowering youth to get off the streets and onto a path that ends with a successful future. The coffee community is the perfect place for someone to turn their life around, and we’re really thankful for all of you.

Forté-BG on Bar at TED2014

Only 3 days left before TED2014 kicks off! This year Canada is the location and “World Coffee Events (WCE) has partnered with TED, to design and execute a coffee and tea program for TED2014 in Vancouver and TEDActive in Whistler”. The program is focused on Specialty Coffee, enriching the attendee experience and a offering a time of coffee discovery for many!

Peter Guiliano, Director of SCAA’s Symposium says about TEDCoffee “we are once again planning a paradigm-busting coffee service for the conference. Extraordinary representatives of the Barista Guild will craft coffees at a network of coffee bars, featuring special coffees from Canada and other exciting coffees from around the world. We continue to be committed to collaboration, exploration, and excellence, and to spreading the word of specialty coffee among the unique TED audience.”
Laila at TED using Vario-W
This is Baratza’s third year of partnership with the coffee program, through providing grinders for the brew bars. For the last couple of years the Vario-W was on bar and this year we’re thrilled to be able to offer the Forté-BG (Brew Grinder) commercial weight-based grinders to be the workhorses for the event. We’re confident they’ll provide accurate, consistent grinding for the huge volume of delicious coffee that will be brewed!

Sharing their coffee knowledge and expertise, as well as putting 12 Forté-BG’s through their paces this week, will be an awesome team of baristas, from Canada and the US. Not only can they make great coffee but they also have in-depth coffee knowledge and a deep commitment to providing exemplary customer service.

Sarah Dooley, our Education and Quality Manager, worked TED for the last two years and was the team lead for TED Active in San Diego. When we talked about her experience there, she said “attendees craved one-on-one conversations, asking where the coffee was from, who was the farmer/roaster, and barista’s favorite coffee? Having the Baratza Vario-W’s with the ability to grind by weight allowed us to interact over the beverage rather than focusing on building the beverage. In the early TED conferences we had to pre-weigh everything, and we couldn’t keep up, weighing into anything we could get our hands on! The Vario-W made a big difference for us Baristas. The grinders made it super easy to dial in a new coffee, for accurate and consistent grinding, allowing more time to interact about the coffee and further that experience with our guests at the counter. We didn’t have to focus on the equipment. TED is so inspirational for all the baristas. Brewing side by side with peers, or with people that you know through social media, while presenting amazing coffees, confirmed that we were very much a part of the TED experience.”

We wish all the baristas and WCE organizers a very successful week, and thank them in advance for volunteering their time and for creating this enriching coffee experience for the TED Attendees.

Other sources for info on the event: