We ask Pierce Jens of Baratza what are some ways to make these home and café-grade grinders last forever.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
We’re asking coffee equipment manufacturers of all sizes and styles what their advice is for making great-tasting coffee, all while maintaining flawless quality of their products. If any of this intrigues you, you may even be inspired to become a coffee technician yourself—in which case you can read all about what it takes in our latest issue of Barista Magazine. Today, we’re chatting with Pierce Jens, customer support manager and systems admin at Baratza. The grinder manufacturer’s wide range of models are used by both baristas and coffee consumers, but sometimes we don’t have coffee tools on hand if we run into an issue grinding with our Baratzas at home. Today, Pierce gives some feedback on easy fixes anybody can do on their own.
About Pierce, as told by Baratza: “Pierce joined our support team in 2011 where he used his innate mechanical ability, knowledge of Baratza grinders, concise written communication and quirky personality to solve customers’ problems. In addition he has repaired and serviced all our current & legacy grinders. He also shines as our resident Baratza Support video star!
Pierce’s deep product knowledge and team leading skills have led him to the role of customer support manager. He manages our growing support team as well as our Grinder Repair and Grinder Refurbish programs. Pierce has brought great process to our customer support approach, enabling us to maximize the various team member skills to provide faster and improved service. While working, he also completed his business degree at University of Washington.”
Barista Magazine: What is the most common problem that home users have with their grinders that they call support for troubleshooting? And how do they solve it?
The number-one issue we run into at Baratza support is a broken or improperly installed upper burr holder on the Encore. The Encore and Virtuoso grinders both have a collar on the upper burr that is designed to break if a rock fragment, unroasted bean or something else really dense passes through or gets caught between the burrs. Having a designed part in the grinder to relieve the pressure of grinding something too hard saves the burrs, motor, and gearing from being damaged. Those are more expensive and/or difficult bits to replace! When designing the upper burr holder, we took care to ensure that it is both cheap ($4) and easy (five minutes) to replace. And can be done by people at home!
How often should you actually replace those burrs and why?
Ah, when to replace burrs. A good question to which the answer is, it depends. Burr life can vary quite a bit based on use; bean density, roast profile, and fineness of grind are all impacting variables.
When burrs are worn, they lose the edge that cleanly breaks beans into coarse chunks. This can show up as a reduction in grind speed or as an increase in fines. But more fines or a slower grind by itself doesn’t necessarily mean the burrs are worn—bean density, roast profile, and age of the beans affect particle distribution as well!
So how do you know if replacement burrs are needed? The best way to know if worn burrs are the culprit behind an issue is, well, to replace them and see if it fixes the problem. Before going out and getting a new set of burrs, I advise doing a bit of thinking. Baratza’s steel burrs are generally good for around 500 pounds of grinding, and the ceramics 750. Has your grinder had anywhere near that much coffee through it? Could there be something else that is driving the results?
What is one tip for daily maintenance that goes a long way?
Just one tip? Use it daily! Grinding fresh before each brew makes a huge impact on your results in the cup. It also means you aren’t batch grinding, which our grinders aren’t designed to do and might get you stuck with some cleaning duties you didn’t want to sign up for.