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The Baratza Virtuoso and the Baratza Esatto: perfect together (some assembly required). The Essatto will also work with the maestro (recently discontinued) and the Maestro Plus.

The Problem

One of the most frequently dispensed pieces of coffee brewing advice around our roastery is “weigh your coffee” to achieve the correct dose.  For some reason, however, Americans seem to have a resistance to many sensible things in the kitchen, chief among them weighing things, preferring instead to dispense based on a completely antiquated system of volume measures (I dare you to find a “tablespoon” outside the US or UK).

Why is it important to weigh your coffee instead of measuring by the scoop?  Take it on faith that the amount of coffee you use to brew a cup matters.  Given that, here are two reasons to switch to weight-based dosing:

  1. Different roasts will have different densities, with light roasts being more dense.  Imagine it this way: scoop an equal volume of light and dark roast beans.  Because the dark roast are slightly larger, and have less moisture (as a result of being dried longer in the roasting process), there will be slightly less beans in your dark roast scoop, and they will collectively weigh less than the same size scoop of light roast.  When brewed, this will result in different extractions and total dissolved solids in the cup.
  2. You probably use a couple different scoops in your kitchen, each one of them being a slightly different volume, and/or, even with the same scoop you are not likely to be consistent.

Despite these good reasons to weigh your dose, volume-based dosing is still the norm, because for most people it’s inconvenient (or impossible, if they don’t have a good kitchen scale) to weigh their coffee every time they brew.  Enter the Baratza Esatto as a possible solution to weight-based dosing.

What is the Baratza Esatto?

Esatto, in Italian, means exact, or precise.  The Baratza Essatto, simply put, is an automatic weighing device designed to interface with certain Baratza grinders to dispense a pre-determined amount of coffee, ground on-demand at the time of use.

Image of the assembled system, from Baratza's website. I wish their site contained more information about the system, but surprisingly, it is almost completely silent on the system.

Essentially, the system consists of a base (think of something about the size of a shoe), the front of which contains a programmable interface to set the desired output of ground coffee.  The heart of the system is a load cell positioned to rest in the bottom of the grinder once it’s installed.  A special – smaller – coffee receptacle then replaces the one that came with the grinder.  A short, slotted “arm” holds the grinder’s rotary timer switch in the “on” position so the programmable interface can control the on/off of the grinder to deliver the desired mass.

The unit has three buttons that can be programmed to output the desired mass when the Start button is pressed.  I tested it with doses ranging from 7 grams to 60 grams output; I don’t know exactly what the lower or upper limits are.

Here's the unit out of the box. It measures 12 x 5.5 x 2 inches (approximately). Box content includes the weighing unit, the arm to hold the time switch, and the receptacle for ground coffee.

Grinders that work with the Esatto

Several grinders in the Baratza lineup work with the Esatto accessory: the Maestro (discontinued), Maestro Plus, Virtuoso and Preciso.  The Vario will NOT work with the Esatto.

How to assemble the Esatto to a grinder

The procedure is pretty straightforward and simple, as the following photos illustrate.

Start by removing the screw at the back of the unit and removing half the die cast cover.

Next, remove the rubber feet from the grinder. Pry gently, and/or use a pair of pliers.

Insert the grinder into the Esatto. The load cell goes above the frame of the grinder.

Plug the grinder into the socket inside the Esatto and coil up the cord.

Replace the cover.

Rotate the switch to 12:00 and insert the arm to hold the switch in the on position.

Insert the receptacle onto the load cell. The unit is now ready to use.

Using the Esatto

The Esatto is easy to use, as shown on the following photos.

The Esatto has three programmable doses. Simply press the desired memory location, set the dose with up and down arrows, and hold the memory location till it's stored. The press the Start button to grind the desired dose.

The Esatto is right at home on my home coffee bar.

The Results

So at the end of the day, the real question is, how accurate is it?  The short answer is, very accurate.  I ground approximately 100 samples, of doses ranging from 7 grams to 60 grams, and weighed them on an Ohaus Navigator balance (the Navigator is a laboratory-quality instrument with resolution of 0.1g).  Every observation was was -0.1 g from the setpoint.

The $64,000 question then becomes: do I recommend the Esatto?  Well, it depends.  For sure a good kitchen scale is more versatile.  But if you don’t have and won’t obtain a kitchen scale, this is a super way of dosing your coffee by weight.

http://www.muddydogcoffee.com

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