When I was shopping for an entry level burr grinder, the most recommended one was the Baratza Encore. Over and over again this grinder was recommended for people starting off with brewed coffee. The Oxo Conical Burr Grinder was not as popular of a choice, but had some solid reviews and recommendations. For me, it came down to these two and I ended up getting the Oxo. You should really avoid starting off with a blade grinder as they chop the coffee beans into uneven bits like a food processor, where a burr grinder will provide much better results as the beans pass between two burrs at a set distance apart which offer much better evenness and taste profile.
I got my hands on a Baratza Encore and wanted to test the two side by side and see how they performed. Here are the results from some basic tests between the two. I ran this test using 30 grams of light roasted coffee:
- Grind Time: 19.49 seconds
- Grind Retention: .5 grams
- Decibels: 80
- Grind Time: 9.16 seconds
- Grind Retention: 1.6 grams
- Decibels: 84
In summary, the Oxo was a lot faster with grinding but retained more coffee. The decibel levels were pretty close, but the Oxo is and definitely sounds louder than. The Encore seemed to make a lower churn noise versus a higher pitched whirring noise from the Oxo which never bothered me in the mornings until I heard the Encore. Grind retention is an issue with my Oxo, I usually have to shake the machine around and give it a smack or two then hit the grind button again for a couple seconds and this can get the grind retention down to about .4 grams. Grind retention on the Encore is great, though it tends to popcorn with single dosing. Popcorning is when some coffee beans aren’t entering the burrs and pop around before going through the burrs. Grind retention was tested by giving a grinder a thorough cleaning with a brush and compressed air then seeing the difference between the starting and ending weight. Retention between grinds will be less than starting off with a clean grinder. To address stale grounds left in your grinder between brews you can use a few grams of coffee to purge the grinder of old grounds and discard. Low grind retention is a feature on much more expensive grinders, but the Encore performs very well for an entry level grinder.
I single dose my coffee, meaning every time I make coffee I measure the beans by weight and only put those in the hopper and grind until empty, for this reason I don’t care as much about the grinder operation. The Oxo has a timer function for grinder and the button turns the grinder on and off, I usually just leave it at the max time and use the button to operate it. The Encore only has a pulse button and on/off switch, so you can either press and hold the pulse button or just turn it on and off as needed. I recommend you single dose unless your grinder has a built in scale, single dosing keeps your beans fresher as they aren’t sitting in the hopper which is not air tight and also often not UV tinted.
It is really important for any grinder, but especially so with the Encore, to dial in your grind size. If you were to do a search of what grind setting to use for pour over on the Encore, most results say around 14, but every grinder is different, even between the exact same models, I found my ideal pour over grind setting on this Encore to be closer to 10. It was around to a 6-7 on the Oxo, which was closer to what the search results said. I use these just as a starting point and refine as I go. Keeping grinding finer until you start to taste bitterness and then adjust back coarser to hit that sweet spot for grind and extraction.
I don’t have a sieve to test the grind size distribution, however, I went off something more important which is flavor. The flavor profile between the two was too close to tell the difference for me, I did notice a little more clumping and static from the Encore though. There are a couple of tricks you can try to reduce static, you can wet the handle of a spoon and give the beans a quick stir before grinding or take a small spray bottle and lightly spray the grounds with some water before grinding. The Oxo is a pretty clean grinder where chaff and grounds stay mostly within the grounds bin.
One thing that makes the Baratza very attractive is the availability of parts and post purchase support. Oxo also has great support however you cannot buy replacement parts as easily, you will need to go through their customer support for your issues. For Bartaza you can go online and buy any replacement or upgrade part easily as Baratza doesn’t want you to throw any machine away, but rather wants to see you repair/maintain it for longevity. Also due to the popularity there is a lot of information and support you can find online.
Neither of these grinders will be ideal for making espresso and performs best when used for brewed/filter coffee. Learn more about brew methods here.
To me, there is no clear winner between these two grinders as they are both great choices. The Baratza definitely feels more solid and sturdy, it comes in at a higher price point and grinds slower, but that is something you could address through a burr upgrade.
The Oxo comes in at a lower price point, grinds faster but is louder with more retention. Oxo has great post purchase support as well, but replacement parts are harder to come by with no available upgrades. I recommend the Oxo as a great entry level grinder if you are on a budget, I also took a look at the Cuisinart DMB-8 Grinder for a value grinder, but it felt so cheap and I didn’t like the operation so I really can’t recommend going any lower than the Oxo Conical Burr Grinder. The Baratza Encore is also a great value with a slightly higher price point and you know you can buy it for life.