EXCITING NEWS, java enthusiasts!
The one and only Baratza has recently launched their most eagerly anticipated coffee grinder: the Encore ESP. A re-take of their universally beloved Encore to better grind for espresso.
Thirsting to know more, CoffeeRoast Co. put the Baratza Encore ESP through its paces - - how it stacks up against the original Encore as well as back-to-back with other grinders, plus pointers to get the best grind from the ESP.
WHO ARE BARATZA, EXACTLY?
Based in the US, Baratza has long been a staple of the specialty coffee community. Earning a name in particular thanks to their unending drive for improvement and innovation, and second-to-none product support and customer care.
Trusted by coffee pros the world over, Baratza grinders are renowned for their sturdy construction, easy operation, and grind consistency. All started nearly two decades ago with the Baratza Virtuoso and forward to today with their hottest new coffee mill, the Encore ESP.
SO WHAT’S NEW IN THE BARATZA ENCORE ESP?
Versus the Encore, the ESP welcomes quite an array of new features with benefits to boost the grinder’s performance and usability.
Design & Build
At first glance, the Encore ESP does bear a striking resemblance to its predecessor.
On closer inspection though, the branding is rather more subtle and elegant. The body is slimmer, giving the grinder a more compact footprint. Despite the updates to the casing, it’s compatible with all the accessories made for the Encore.
The controls are as intuitive as before. A flick of the side-mounted on/off lever makes for continuous grinding. Just right to grind larger quantities of coffee beans. Whereas a press of the front-positioned pulse button provides grinding on demand. Useful for topping off a dose of coffee grounds or to get rid of any coffee remains from the grinder when switching between beans.
Reasonable to expect at the price point, the ESP is still constructed mainly of plastic. Though not without its metallic components. More so than the Encore, as it happens, and where it really counts. Not least the solid cast-metal base which keeps the grinder rock steady on the counter-top.
Otherwise, the ESP’s pretty much the same dimensions and weight specs as in the Encore. Not to mention, packaged in Baratza’s fully recyclable ‘Beautiful Brown Box’ as part of their commitment to environmental sustainability.
M2 Burr Set
For crushing the coffee beans, the ESP is equipped with the same diameter, material, and shape of burrs as the earlier Encore. Namely, 40mm hardened alloy steel burrs manufacturer by Etzinger.
Gone are the Encore’s M3 type burrs though. Instead, the ESP has been upgraded with M2 burrs. Having a much sharper and steeper cutting edge, the new burrs produce a more superior grind quality. Ever consistent grounds, but with far fewer fines ('coffee dust') when grinding for espresso.
Although powered by the identical high-torque gear reduction DC motor as the Encore, the better burrs of the ESP make for a much faster output of grinds.
The motor’s relatively low speed also means less heat builds up during grinding; helping to prevent the precious coffee oils in the beans from burning. At the same time, while not the quietest grinder around, the ESP is less noisy than the Encore.
What’s more, the grinder now stars thermal cut-off protection so the motor never overheats or stalls. Therefore can cope with grinding even denser light roasted beans all day long.
Quick-release Conical Burr
With the Encore, the conical burr usually had to be prised off.
A first in a Baratza grinder, the cone burr of the ESP is capped with a quick release knob. A simple twist and the burr lifts out. The ring burr too is easily unlockable. Making removal of the burrs an absolute breeze if clogged up with grinds or if either need to be replaced.
Together with the detachable bean hopper and a more accessible burr housing area, this make cleaning and maintenance of the grinder a lot more efficient. Helped along with the complimentary cleaning brush.
Grind Adjustment System
No longer plastic, the Encore ESP sports a shiny new all-metal grind adjustment collar for setting the grind size.
Under the hood, and the most major change over the Encore, Baratza has ingeniously reconfigured the grind adjustment mechanism. Sure, both models have 40 stepped grind settings. Except those of the ESP have been separated out into two distinct grind ranges or ‘resolutions’.
Steps 1 through 20 are now micro adjustments specially for espresso. With each click of the adjustment collar moving the burrs a mere 20 microns (or 0.02 millimeters). Meaning much finer tuning of the grind size when dialling in a shot.
Grind settings 21 to 40, on the other hand, are macro adjustments for all other coffee styles. Compared to the Encore, however, the spacing between each adjustment is wider; shifting the burrs by 90 microns at a time. Admittedly, this does cause a slight loss of precision when grinding coarsely.
The jump between the dual resolutions, at least, is completely seamless.
Espresso Dosing Cup
Considering its greater emphasis on espresso grinding, the Encore ESP comes bundled with its very own 0.85oz dosing cup. Held in place in the grinder by a tight-fitting stand.
For brewing espresso, simply grind straight into the dosing cup. Then transfer the grounds to the portafilter of just about any home espresso machine. Out of the box, the dosing cup connects to 54mm portafilters. Else using the supplied adapter ring, 58mm filter baskets.
Neatly, the dosing cup’s anti-static. Resulting in next to no mess on the work surface when dispensing the espresso grounds into a portafilter. Better yet, doing so mixes and distributes the grinds evenly so the espresso puck's immediately ready to be tamped down within the portafilter.
When in the mood to grind coarser for regular brews, just change out the dosing cup and stand for the equally static-free grounds catch bin.
HOW DOES THE ENCORE ESP COMPARE TO OTHER COFFEE GRINDERS?
Here’s how the Encore ESP charts going head-to-head with Baratza’s other best selling household electric grinders:
GRINDING TIPS FOR THE BARATZA ENCORE ESP
With any coffee grinder, it normally takes a little time to break in the equipment. Besides some experimenting to achieve a grind that satisfies your taste preference and brewing method.
As a guide to which of the ESP’s grind settings to use to start off:
French press/Cold brew: 31
Chemex (pour-over): 30
Automatic brewer (drip): 28
Hario V60 (pour-over): 25
Espresso (medium roast with a dose of 0.6 ounces): 15†
*For bigger doses or darker roasts, the grind setting should be higher than 15. Lower with smaller doses or lighter roasts.
Not forgetting that the shims (thin metal washers) included with the Encore ESP can also be used to move the two burrs closer together or further apart. For coarser grinds, take off shims. Insert them for finer grounds. Each shim added/removed will change the grind resolution by roughly five settings.
If switching between different brew methods frequently, better to measure out a small batch of beans each time as opposed to keeping the hopper full. Even handier, substitute the standard hopper for the Single Dose Hopper (in either of black or white).
An add-on that holds up to 2.12oz of beans and, the current trend, allows for single dosing only the type of brew you want to prepare. So fresh beans are used every time and waste is kept to a minimum. As a bonus, the hopper’s integrated bellows force out any left-over grounds, all but eliminating the problem of grind retention.
As Baratza’s Encores can be a bit clumpy, use a Weiss Distribution Technique [WDT] tool to break down any clumps and fluff up the grinds.
THE FINAL VERDICT
The ESP’s inherited the classic Encore’s modern looks, user friendliness, and trademark durability.
Amongst the host of thoughtful advances and niceties: upgraded burrs, a dosing cup for espresso, and unique dual-range grind adjustability. Fine grind settings for pulling near-café quality espresso shots, along with coarse adjustments delivering very drinkable filter coffees.
At under 200 dollars, no matter the ESP’s few niggles, astonishing value. Finally, a true all-purpose coffee bean grinder perfectly suited to entry-level baristas who want to keep their brew options open. Even for more experienced coffee lovers after a no-nonsense grinder.
Of course, you’ll need a worthy espresso maker to pair with the Encore ESP or other Baratza grinders. Plus the opportunity to finesse your grinding technique with the CoffeeRoast Co. grind like a pro how-to!