When it comes to home coffee grinders, there is one Holy Grail. The white whale we’ve been chasing for years. One grinder to rule them all, and in the dark roast bind them. That coffee grinder, of course, is the Baratza Forté. With a touch screen, built-in scale, micro-adjust, and particle size distribution that puts a lot of more expensive commercial grinders to shame, the Forté has been the leading “prosumer” grinder in the industry since debuting at SCAA five years ago. You can see it on some of the best brew bars in the world. And after a few years of scheming and scrimping, we finally snagged one. And after putting it through its paces, we have some thoughts about this grinder and who’s it for.
Like the Vario-W before it, the Forté was a collaboration with Mahlkönig/Ditting. As such it features 54mm flat burrs, available in both steel and ceramic (we prefer steel). These are easily the biggest burrs you’ll see on a home grinder. Although the industry still debates the merits of flat versus conical burrs for espresso, the almost universal consensus is that flat burrs are better for filter coffee methods, thanks to the particle size distribution– a fancy way of say the grind quality is more consistent. A more even grind means you can extract more flavors from your coffee without as much bitterness.
Grind by Weight
It’s a little known fact that Baratza was the first company to bring a grind by weight grinder to market– several years before any of the big commercial companies even announced a prototype. What seems like a simple enough feature is actually a complicated piece of engineering, and one that makes our morning routine so much easier. In addition to time-based grinding, the Forte allows the user to program three different presets by weight: perfect for a single cup pour-over, a two cup pour-over, and batch brew. Since, like many consumers, I tend to brew through one bag of coffee at a time, it’s a breeze to keep the hopper full and just press a button when I’m ready to brew. What’s a nice, time saving feature at home is an absolute life saver in a catering environment, which eliminates the need to pre-weigh doses.
To be honest, this is the feature we use the least. For the most part, our microadjust stays on “A.” But if you’re the type of obsessive home brewer that wants to try every possible permutation when dialing in a coffee, the Forté will take you down a deep rabbit role.
There’s no getting around the fact that the Baratza Forte is expensive, far outside the budget of normal consumers to be sure. (We were lucky enough to pick up a lightly used one.) There’s lots of great entry level burr grinders that do an admirable job, like Baratza’s Encore and Virtuoso, or the Wilfa Svart. Although this grinder isn’t for everyone, we think it’s a great value for several scenarios.
In another life, I did a lot of grocery store demos for a coffee roaster, brewing mostly V60 02 and Chemex. Chemexes already have notoriously long brew times, thanks to the thick filters. Combined with the larger amount of fines from an entry-level grinder, and you have a perfect recipe for an awkward interaction with a customer as you stare at your stalled-out brew, praying it finishes brewing already. The Forté allows you to showcase your coffee in a catering setting, knowing you can optimize your brew just as well as you could in a shop. Just as importantly, the grind by weight feature means you can streamline your bar flow, and crush the queue. Trust me, once you work your first wedding reception or trade show with a Forté, you won’t be able to go back.
There’s never been more companies that want to upgrade the office coffee pot. Unfortunately, that expensive, specialty grade coffee often ends up not being any better because of improper preparation. The grind by weight feature of the Forté gives a simple and accurate way to deliver the right dose. Paired with a Bonavita 1900 and a good roaster and we’ll gladly submit our C.V. to your office.
Where would we be without home baristas? In many ways, it’s the people who explore coffee purely for the love of it that drive the industry forward. And there’s no question that nags a home barista more than “Could this coffee be better if I had better equipment?” While certainly not a necessity to brew a professional-quality cup, with a Baratza Forté on your counter you can rest confident your grind quality is up to industry standards. (Normal grinder maintenance not withstanding)
If you’re looking for the best home coffee grinder, there is no grinder we recommend more than the Baratza Forté. Although I’m sure Baratza, doesn’t recommend finding out, I’m happy to say the Forté also is capable of surviving a toddler filling up the hopper with water like a fishbowl.