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    Published on March 4th, 2011 | by Greg

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    Baratza’s Sterling Virtuoso Grinder

    Ask cof­fee ex­perts, and most will agree: grind­ing is prob­a­bly one of the most cru­cial and oft-over­looked fac­tors in a great cup of cof­fee at home. We’ve tried roast­ing, and would just as soon leave it up to the pro­fes­sion­als, but buy­ing pre-ground cof­fee is a bad idea. The fresh­ness of the cof­fee de­grades quick­ly post-grind, so tak­ing those beans and churn­ing them to pieces should be done at the last pos­si­ble mo­ment. That leaves most folks in a bind- they’ve al­ready spent some mon­ey on the brew­er, whether it be a French press or drip pot, and now need an­oth­er piece of equip­ment as well. Be­sides, a good grinder should be small and light and like­ly in­ex­pen­sive, right?

    Bad news- they’re fair­ly big, bulky, heavy, and ex­pen­sive. That’s be­cause any of the de­cent ones use con­i­cal burrs, en­sur­ing both an even and pre­cise grind and avoid­ing heat­ing up the fair­ly del­i­cate beans dur­ing the grind­ing pro­cess. It’s like good speak­ers- you can on­ly bend the laws of physics so much. Baratza has been mak­ing grinders for a long time, and it’s just about all they do- which is prob­a­bly why the Vir­tu­oso is one of the most high­ly-ac­claimed grinders, and prob­a­bly the best un­der $200.

    We ad­mit- it’s just been su­per­seded by a new sib­ling, the Pre­ciso, which costs about one-third more but adds some nifty fea­tures. Even with­out them though, the Vir­tu­oso shines. For starters, it’s pret­ty qui­et for a burr grinder and the sound is sta­ble and steady, not high-pitched, whiny, or jar­ring. It looks sharp on a counter, black and sil­ver, with the frost­ed plas­tic bins for both beans and grounds. We liked that it of­fered two meth­ods for grind­ing- a front-but­ton in­stant grind that you hold down, or a timer on the side.

    As cof­fee geeks, we gen­er­al­ly avoid the old drip ma­chines- good for larg­er quan­ti­ties, they’re not so hot for mak­ing the re­al­ly good stuff. In­stead, we tried us­ing one of our fa­vorite lo­cal­ly-roast­ed cof­fees, Sight­glass, and set the ma­chine at about 38 for a french press, 20 for use in a Chemex fil­ter, and low­er than that for use in our Aero­press. This might not get you quite the per­fect espres­so-fine grounds you want, but we loved it for any­thing else. There are 40 set­tings to­tal, of­fer­ing a pret­ty wide va­ri­ety, and grind seemed con­sis­tent- we had one or two larg­er chunks than we like to see dur­ing the first six or sev­en grinds but none since then.

    Our on­ly re­al is­sue was the grind catch­er, which fits fair­ly well but still al­lows some grinds to get be­hind and around it. We’ve seen oth­ers that were far worse, but we still no­ticed some build up over time, and it re­quired some at­ten­tion and clean­ing. Over­all, you re­al­ly can’t beat this grinder’s ad­justa­bil­i­ty and con­sis­ten­cy, and val­ue for the mon­ey. At $200, it’s a per­fect way to in­stant­ly im­prove your cof­fee qual­i­ty, and al­lows plen­ty of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion to find set­tings that you like. Avail­able wide­ly on­line and in stores.

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    About the Author

    Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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