We tackle the Baratza 586 Virtuoso vs Gaggia 8002 MDF coffee grinder conundrum in this article. These grinders are primarily used to grind fine coffee for espresso. When I first began to research these two burr coffee bean grinders, sticker shock immediately kicked in.
I’m well aware that there are few things in life that you can’t overpay for. Heck, when I was a less savvy shopper, naiveté and overzealousness lead me to overpay for a number of things unwittingly.
And I’m also aware that real value is subjective/intangible, and ultimately, a thing is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. But still, most people would ask, “how the heck can a coffee grinder be worth hundreds of dollars?” Especially, considering the modest $20 to $30 price tag of entry-level coffee grinders.
Within this post, I hope that you will find enough information to decide which one these coffee grinders is worth your money. Also, if you are like me, perhaps you will have a better understanding as to why people would spend hundreds of dollars on a coffee grinder.
What makes the Baratza Virtuoso and Gaggia MDF better (and more expensive) than their more budget friendly counterparts? Actually, there are a few things that make these coffee grinders better and more expensive: grind type (burr vs blade), burr material type (ceramic vs stainless steel), movement of burrs, and durability.
Understanding the value of an “expensive” coffee grinder
Both grinders in the Baratza Virtuoso vs Gaggia 8002 MDF debate, though several times more expensive than the cheap entry-level coffee grinders, are actually mid-level coffee grinders. A lot of the cheaper coffee grinders use blades to chop coffee beans into grounds.
But blades chop the beans into coffee grounds with an inconsistent texture. The size of the grounds will vary. Inconsistent coffee grounds results in coffee that is either under or over extracted.
On the other hand, there are burr coffee grinders. As it pertains to coffee grinders, burrs are a type of cutter that is made of two revolving abrasive surfaces. They do a better job than blades of grinding the beans into a more even consistency. Even still, there are levels to burr coffee grinders.
There are cheap $30 to $50 burr grinders out there. But they aren’t going to work well for very long, and while they are certainly better than the blade grinders, they still can’t compare to the more expensive burr grinders.
In the cheaper burr grinders, the burrs move up and down, left and right. This movement results in some inconsistency in coffee ground texture. The more expensive burr grinders move less side to side, resulting in a smoother consistency.
Steel vs Ceramic Burr
Then there’s the ceramic vs steel burr debate. Ceramic is harder and more heat resistant than steel, but steel is more durable. Both blade types are capable of grinding up coffee beans very well, but what about harder non-consumable stuff; like pebbles and little sticks.
Yes, little rocks show up in coffee beans every once in a while. It’s not that uncommon. So if or when you run into a pebble when grinding beans, the steel will hold up better. Both the Baratza Virtuoso and the Gaggia MDF have durable steel burrs. The Baratza Virtuoso, however, has hardened commercial-grade steel burrs, making it more durable than the Gaggia MDF.
Conical vs Flat burrs
So now that you understand the big differences between cheap and more costly coffee grinders, let’s consider another facet; conical vs flat burrs. There are so many subtleties in coffee.
The type of burr that you use can influence the flavor of your espresso. Some claim that conical burrs separate flavors more, and are excellent to use with the more complex exotic coffees from Africa, for example. While flat burrs will make the more basic coffees stand out more.
Of course, the more educated palette will have an easier time noticing these nuances. The Baratza Virtuoso has 40mm pro-grade steel conical burrs, while the Gaggia MDF has 50mm flat burrs. So, which is better? It’s simply a matter of opinion, and probably won’t influence your purchase decision.
Performance and Features
The Italian-made Gaggia MDF has 34 different grind settings, while the Baratza Virtuoso has 40 different grind settings. Both of these machines are capable of producing a fine grind for espresso and coarse grinds.
Coffee is susceptible to even the slightest changes in temperature. Both of these machines operate at low RPMs. This works to prevent heat build-up, which can negatively influence flavor.
The Baratza Virtuoso has a feature that sets it apart from the Gaggia MDF: a 60-second timer. As coffee loses freshness very quickly, it’s essential to get freshly ground coffee into your espresso machine as quickly as possible. The timer lets you more easily duplicate your results.
Appearance and Size
Looks are certainly crucial to the Baratza brand. Most people would agree, that the Baratza Virtuoso is a much more aesthetically pleasing piece of equipment than the Gaggia MDF. I typically prefer “small” small appliances, so the Baratza virtuoso wins this round easy. Its 5” x 6” x 14” size is dwarfed by the 14” x 20” x 14” Gaggia.
The Gaggia MDF will take up quite a bit of real estate on your countertop, and depending on the size of your espresso and or coffee machine(s), that’s a lot of space to dedicate to coffee. Despite the difference in size, the hoppers have the same capacity; 10 ounces.
Baratza 586 Virtuoso vs Gaggia 8002 MDF: Customers Weigh In
There are many users that sing praises for these two high-end coffee grinders. Some savvy coffee connoisseurs that experienced the performance of these machines have lots of advice to give. The reviews and questions and answers sections of popular retailer websites will certainly provide you with valuable information.
The Baratza 586 is said to be good at creating consistent grounds that produce good crema on the espresso. Other customers like that it’s nice and heavy; this heft means that the unit stays put in operation. This is good as you don’t want your machine dancing around while in use.
But there were some cons as well. The complaints that stood out to me were from the people claiming that their unit breaks down rather quickly. I came across a decent amount of feedback that made me question the long-term durability of this machine. Others, of course, have the complete opposite experience.
The Gaggia 8002 MDF has a lot of happy customers as well. The Gaggia 8002 gets praise for its great performance. It is said to produce consistent results.
I’ve come across many candid reviewers that offer an unbiased overview of this product. Some of these reviewers seem to have extremely high standards, remember these are highly educated coffee grinder owners(at least in the sense of coffee). Some might say these users are hard to please.
I’ve also come across a share of disappointed users. The most concerning and common issue reported was that the doser performance is poor. There were customers that said that the doser doesn’t consistently dose the same amount of coffee and the lever breaks after a short while.
There are even customers who have great things to say about this grinder but still complain about the doser. Overall, though, despite some concerns, I think that this is a good machine.
If I were in the market for a coffee grinder, I’d most certainly go with the Baratza Virtuoso over the Gaggia MDF. It seems to have a more durable burr, convenient features, and it looks better.