A bit pricier than some other entry level grinders, but about what you need to effectively and usefully grind consistent coffee.
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I’ve been using the Breville Smart Grinder Pro for a couple months now and am quite happy with it. It makes consistent grounds with few fines, is easy to use, and is packed with a ton of convenient features. I think what would give most people pause about the Breville Smart Grinder Pro is that, for an entry level grinder, it is relatively expensive with a $190 price tag. But, a few of the cheaper options that you might otherwise consider come up a bit short. Let me explain how I arrived at the Breville Smart Grinder Pro.
As we noted previously in our comprehensive grinding guide, a blade grinder will simply just not get the job done because it leads to a very poor extraction. Amongst electric burr grinders, a variety of other grinders available at much lower price points (for example, the Cuisinart DBM-8 and Secura Electric Burr) are widely reviewed as producing tons of fines. If you are going to be trying to brew great coffee, it is vital to have a machine that grinds consistently. I can’t say I’ve researched every inexpensive electric burr grinder, but users reported widespread problems with every one I looked at.
The other options that end up under consideration are by Baratza- specifically the Baratza Encore (currently available for $139) and the Baratza Virtuoso+ (currently available for $249). The Baratza Encore is a device generally received well, but does have a few drawbacks.
Initially, there are a few inconveniences. The Baratza Encore doesn’t have a grinding timer- instead you pulse grinds with a button on the front of the device. Simple- but you will end up weighing your grinds repeatedly every time you make coffee. In contrast, both the Breville Smart Grinder Pro and the Baratza Virtuoso+ feature a grinding timer. The advantage of this is that you only have to weigh your coffee out each time you change coffees because you can assume the same density. You weigh your coffee out the first time and make note of the grind time for that amount. The Breville Smart Grinder Pro even features the ability to have a variety of preset grinding times saved. While it may not initially seem like it, this is actually a tremendously convenient feature to have. An additional small contention is that it isn’t quite as easy to change grind sizes as it relies on an analog dial at the top.
And again we’ll come back to grinding consistency. While the Baratza Encore is generally reviewed to do a good job, many were still not satisfied with the grind consistency and actually sought to swap the grinding burr out with the one on the Virtuoso. While this may yield a better grind similar to that of the Virtuoso, you’ll end up spending extra and still won’t have the other features the Virtuoso has. I wouldn’t recommend this route.
The Virtuoso+ is, by all accounts, a great grinder. It has just enough convenience features to make it stand out over the Encore and features the more consistent grind that Encore owners seemed to desire. However, at $249, it is a bit all-in price wise for an entry level grinder. Additionally, it still isn’t quite as user friendly as the Breville Smart Grinder Pro. Like the Baratza Encore, it relies on the analog dial to change grind sizes and still doesn’t allow you to save numerous presets. There are a few quality control issues people mention as well, but not enough to believe its a real problem with the device.
The Breville Smart Grinder Pro ends up offering the most obvious blend of grind consistency, price, and user convenience. My grind is always very consistent and its simply very easy/seamless to use. As I noted previously, the digital display makes for easy use and adjustment of grind size with easily repeatable dosage. The airtight topper makes for great storage and the receptacle at the bottom has a smart design that makes it near impossible to misalign.
I will, however, note a couple of the complaints a few reviewers had just so that you are aware.
The most common complaint seems to be that the nylon impeller wears out. The impeller pushes the coffee out of the grinder after it's been ground. If the impeller wears out, the coffee beans don’t flow down. According to those noting this problem, this issue doesn't arise until after it's out of warranty by about 6 months and there isn’t a replacement part sold by Breville. Supposedly, you can buy 3d-printed impellers elsewhere online for the Breville Smart Grinder Pro. I can’t speak to this defect as it is much much too early in its usage to be encountering this issue, but certainly everything is fine thus far on my end.
It also sounds like people have had it jam on occasion- I have not had this problem yet- but other reviewers note that you should simply pause the grinder, clean out the hopper, re-load the hopper, and resume grinding.
Overall, every device is going to have a few negative reviews but the Breville is widely positively reviewed- it is a tad expensive but it ends up being, in my opinion, a pretty obvious choice for an electric burr grinder.