The Encore ESP: Baratza’s Latest Grinder
Baratza just rolled out their latest grinder creation and it’s a new entry into the “budget” arena (yes, $200 is considered “budget” in the quality coffee and espresso world these days), and there’s reasons to be excited about the machine. […]
Baratza just rolled out their latest grinder creation and it’s a new entry into the “budget” arena (yes, $200 is considered “budget” in the quality coffee and espresso world these days), and there’s reasons to be excited about the machine.
I’m talking about the new Baratza Encore ESP. It’s what the ESP stands for that is going to cause a bit of stir. It stands for espresso.
CoffeeGeek has early production models of the Encore ESP and will be putting them through full testing for a Quickshot Review posting later this spring. This is our initial take on the grinder.
The Encore ESP
The new Encore ESP is based on the venerable Encore grinder, and was redesigned to address one of the Encore’s biggest complaints: that the grinder could not do adequate espresso grinds. The way Baratza overcame this criticism with the design is a bit revolutionary. In effect, they built two grinders inside the same container, by providing two distinct resolutions for the grind fineness setting.
The Encore ESP has 40 grind settings. The first 20 have a very high definition resolution between setting clicks, changing as little as 20 microns in burr spacing. This provides a usable range of 10 to 15 clicks to dial in almost any coffee for a fine tuned espresso grind.
The next 20 grind settings, from 21 to 40, have a much broader resolution in fineness settings, giving the owner a range between fine aeropress and coarse moka pot grinds, all the way up to chunky press pot grinds. The transition between the high resolution espresso grinding, and broader resolution for non-espresso brew methods is seamless.
That is the number one selling point of this grinder, and there’s nothing else like it on the market currently with this kind of approach to grind settings. This is not the only improvement over the Encore, however.
Encore ESP vs Encore
Baratza introduced a new burr set with the Encore ESP, they call the M2 burr set. Traditionally, conical burrs smaller than 58mm haven’t been great for espresso grinding, but the 40mm M2 burrs in the ESP have been specifically designed to work better on even particle sizes for espresso. When we do our full test of this grinder, we’ll be looking at that.
The most obvious visual change in this grinder vs the original Encore is the addition of a dosing cup (and TPV vulcanized stand for the dosing cup). Baratza designed the dosing cup to work with both 53/54mm portafilters (many Breville machines have this size) and 58mm portafilters. The grinder still comes with a proper grinds bin, but you have the option to grind into a dosing cup, something grinders like the Niche Zero made popular.
The Encore ESP is faster than the original Encore, by about 20% in our early testing, getting up to 2.4g a second in coarser grinds. Espresso grinding speed is around 1.2g/sec.
The body shape is changed slightly, though the Encore ESP can still take and use all the accessories, bean hoppers, grinds bins, etc that fit the older Encore. Baratza has made the outer body a bit more slim, and reduced the back size of the grinder, changing a full back “shoulder” into a “hump”. The branding on the new grinder is much more understated and looks really nice.
Inside, there’s a lot of changes in the Encore ESP vs. the original Encore. The aforementioned grind adjustment system is entirely new. Baratza also completely redesigned the burr housing area to make it vastly more easy to remove the burrs for a deep cleaning, or for adding shims (included in the box) to further adjust the Encore ESP’s grind settings. They even changed the silicone collar people had to manually install on the Encore (to prevent stray grinds from getting inside the grinder’s machinery) to a much easier (and pre-installed) system.
Lastly, as part of Baratza’s commitment to sustainability, the new Encore ESP follows the company’s new “Beautiful Brown Box” ethos. Everything (save for one plastic tiny envelope) in the packaging is fully and easily recyclable. The outer and inner boxes are brown and cardboard. There’s no more printed colour inks on the outer packaging. Even the bags used to protect the grinder during transport are compostable materials.
Available in both black and white models, I have to say the white one is very storm trooper pretty, in the same way Mazda and Honda have been trying to make their cars look like sexy storm troopers (weird, huh?). Mostly white, hard angles here and there with the occasional curve, and small black accents.
What I really like about this grinder is that it’s built for the type of specialty coffee consumer who wants a good product and a good cup of coffee or espresso, but thinks spending $500 on an espresso-specific grinder, and another $300 on a multipurpose grinder is beyond their acceptable range. In this package for $200, you get a true multipurpose grinder that specifically excels at giving you room to play with your espresso. There’s no frivolous bells and whistles. No timers, no digital readouts. No lights. The body’s all plastic (the frame and burr mounts are metal though!).
No, all the money in this grinder are in the most important things: a good burr set, a well engineered burr mount, an innovative grind selection ability, industry leading antistatic materials, a nicely designed dosing cup, a tight fitting grinds bin, decent sound insulation, a DC torque-ey motor, and a nice shape.
I put about 2kg of stale, old coffee through the grinder before even attempting my first test or shot pull. Then I lined it up with our standard testing coffee for espresso, Social Coffee’s People’s Daily. Baratza suggested, after an initial break in, a setting of 12 for an 18.5g dose, and they were actually spot on – setting the grinder to 12, dosing out 18.5g, gave me 45g output on an espresso double shot in 33 seconds (incl. 10sec preinfusion).
The grind output is very clumpy. Especially the last parts that make it into the dosing cup. Encores have always been clumpy, but it would have been nice, with the entire re-design of the burr mount and grinding area, if Baratza had done some work on the clump issues. A quick WDT took care of the clumps, and shots were pulled.
Bottom line: it produced a very drinkable, enjoyable espresso shot, even in this early seasoning stage of the grinder. Grinding time was about 15 seconds for 18.5g. It might seem slow (about 1.2g/sec) but compared to the speeds I was dealing with on the Wilfa Uniform recently, it’s fast enough.
I did notice the grinder is louder when using the dosing cup vs the grinds bin, and that makes sense – the grinds bin insulates some of the operational and bean cutting sounds. That said, it’s not a terribly loud grinder. I think the Virtuoso+ is quieter, but the Sette series is way louder. I’d compare the sound to the Breville Smart Grinder Pro.
I did some grinds for Chemex, which is between Hario V60 and Press Pot grinds. Again, a very acceptable result, especially since conical burrs are better in this range. Speed ramped up quite a bit, coming at around 2g a second; Doing a 700ml Chemex, grinding out 50g of coffee for it took only 24 seconds.
We’ll be testing the Baratza Encore ESP grinder for a full review posted in the next few months. For now, the very early take is, it’s everything the Encore was and is (which, for its price point is a very good thing) but overall improved, and in some cases, radically changed. Considering it’s only $30 than the Encore, to me it’s a no brainer that this is the model you go for.
The Baratza Encore ESP is now available for $200 in the USA, and $280 in Canada.
Mark has certified as a Canadian, USA, and World Barista Championship Judge in both sensory and technical fields, as well as working as an instructor in coffee and espresso training. He started CoffeeGeek in 2001.