Six Pearls Designs

Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder

2011 May 13

Over the last year or so, I've become a little obsessed with espresso. Last July one of my co-workers taught me how to pull good espresso with a professional grade, semi-automatic espresso machine. Although I no longer work with him, the espresso bug he gave me is still going strong. For a while I've been hunting for a good deal on a well made, fixable, and hackable espresso machine. When I finally found one, I realized I needed a grinder to go with it.

Since I was anxious to start making coffee again, I decided to go with something I could get off Amazon. I decided to go with the Baratza Virutoso, a good middle of the road grinder for two reasons. First, it was Prime eligible so when I ordered on Wednesday, I had it for the weekend to share espresso with friends. Second, the primary complaint against this grinder was the fineness of the grind which could be adjusted. Perfect! A hackable grinder to match the espresso machine.

I was actually pulling very delicious shots without modification, but for some reason I was a little anxious to take it apart and play with it. To my surprise, the instructions for this "hack" were on Baratza's website! Apparently when a hack is instructed by the manufacturer, it's called a "calibration." The instructions were straightforward and the calibration was uneventful. Here's some pictures:

  • assembled grinder
    The initially assembled grinder
  • hopper removed
    The grinder with the hopper removed.
  • stationary burrs
    The stationary burrs. The base has flanges that are used to lift the burrs to set the grind fineness.
  • mid-disassembly
    The grinder mid-disassembly.
  • factory calibration
    The factory calibration determined by the set screw position, which locks the calibration disk.
  • final calibration
    I decided to lock the disk in the position that would give me the finest grind. Luckily for me, the burrs on my unit do not grind each other at the finest setting.

During the disassembly, I was pretty impressed with this device. All of the functional components seemed to be cleverly designed and well built. There were also a few opportunities for further hacks to improve the grinder. Even better, the entire machine was made to be dis-assembled, re-assembled, and fixed. I don’t think I see many kitchen appliances that I can own or appreciate to this extent. Here are a few examples:

  • Stepping mechanism
    The stepping mechanism consists of a rack and a spring loaded ratchet. Could you get a stepless grinder by installing a lockable pinion gear?
  • calibration wheel
    The calibration wheel moves flanges on the base of stationary burr through threads, raising and lowering it.
  • sub-assembly mounting
    The motor-, gear box-, burr- sub-assembly is mounted by easily accessible screws.
  • power connector
    The power to the motor uses (a standard?) crimp connector, allowing it to be easily replaced.
  • chute
    Even the chute can be removed and replaced without destroying anything. Could a grounded sheet metal replacement reduce static cling of the ground coffee?
  • gearbox
    It looks like even the plastic gear box could even be disassembled (and upgraded).