Best Home Espresso Grinder – Rancilio Rocky vs Baratza Vario vs Gaggia MDF

Best Home Coffee Grinders Compared

Baratza Vario Large Closeup
Choosing a home espresso grinder for your daily brewing needs is not that complicated. If your budget is flexible, and you are trying to get the best bang for your buck, you might be stuck in a dilemma. We hope we can make it easier for you by showing what features are important in a grinder, and how having or missing these features can affect your espresso shot.

If you are looking to buy a new coffee grinder, you must already know the most trusted names in the industry. Traditionally, names like Rancilio, Baratza, Gaggia, Mazzer competed for this niche, but recently other companies have emerged as serious competitors and I wanted to mention here Breville. Our review lists some of the most popular grinders, from these manufacturers.

These grinders are the most sold and the best rated by consumers, so you can trust any of them, but take the time to dig deeper to understand which one works best for you.

Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder

Commercial Grade Conical Burrs Manufactured in Italy, with 40 steps grind size adjustment, will satisfy virtually any coffee enthusiast. This grinder has an anti-static grinds container, and your grinds will all come out of the container nicely.

Very precise calibration of the burrs will ensure you can grind the whole range of grind size from coarse to very fine espresso.

Very easy to clean, does not overheat coffee grinds so the aroma is perfectly preserved, the new gearbox on the 586 model is a plus for its reliability.

Cale Guthrie Weissman wrote a great article with a lot of geeky details, based on his research. The article concluded that in terms of consistency, Baratza Virtuoso can compete with the more expensive commercial grinder Mahlkonig EK43.


  • 40 grind settings
  • Slow grinding resulting in a silent machine, and coffee that is not overheated
  • Great burrs to last forever
  • Amazing consistency, matching commercial grinders

How Much to Spend for My Home Espresso Grinder

Blade vs Burr Coffee GrinderToo many times espresso beginners focus their troubleshooting routine on the extraction phase. I always ask them details about their grinder and almost invariably, the grinder plays a major role in their problems with pulling consistent shots. If you use a cheap grinder, you lower your chances to pull that perfect shot.

When budgeting for your espresso equipment, make sure you pair your espresso maker with an equally performant grinder, even if it’s only for your domestic use.

If you can only afford 200 to 300$ for the espresso machine, your budget will have to include a cheaper grinder, like the Capresso Infinity. But if you have the budget, and you can afford 700$ for an espresso machine, you should spend 400$ on a matching grinder.

Mark Prince, the Coffee Geek, in his “Espresso Machine Buying Guide“, recommends to “Spend the same amount on the grinder as you spend on the espresso machine.”

This is valid for inexpensive equipment up to around $200 a piece. So when you budget, count 200$ for the brewing machine, 200$ for the grinding machine.

As the espresso machine price goes higher, the price of the grinder can stay lower. For a 400$ espresso machine, a 250$ machine. For a 700$ machine, a 300-250$ grinder.

If spending 300$ on a grinder seems a little too much, consider your investment in the coffee machine. If you spend 700$ on an espresso maker, you can afford the 300 for a grinder. This will ensure consistent results, and great shots every time. As Mike Quinn has nicely put it in his article on, “Would you hook a $5000 pair B&M speakers up to a cassette tape deck?”

There are more reasons to buy a great grinder, check my tutorial on how to pull the perfect espresso shot for more details.

Gaggia 8002 MDF

This is a great grinder for its price. It features tempered-steel grinding burrs, 34 grind settings, a 120 Watt motor, and it is comparable other more expensive grinders on the market. The 8002 MDF is just a step above the Capresso Infinity line. It is a quiet machine, partly due to the gear reduction system, which reduces the grinding speed and increases the torque.  The low speed has also the advantage of maintaining the grounds cool during grinding.

The 34 grind settings are perfect for any coffee enthusiast, the only feature that is missed by some is the continuous adjustment of the grind size. Although with 34 settings, I personally don’t think this is an issue. The other small drawback is the dosing feature that is not perfect.  The doser dispenses 7 grams of coffee with every pull.

Gaggia Classic MDF Video Review

Gaggia Classic MDF Pack: What's Brewing #48

Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder

The Baratza Encore is a redesigned model with upgraded burrs, a redesigned gearbox, and newly added features. The incredibly low price makes it extremely attractive for any coffee enthusiast.

This coffee grinder features: 40 grind settings from fine to coarse, pulse button, 40 mm conical burrs, burr calibration ensures that your machine will cover the whole grind size range from fine to coarse, speed control to maintain your grinds cool, easy cleaning. One of the most praised features is the low noise of the machine.

These features come at a price, (which by the way, I personally, am willing to pay), the grinding is slower than other machines. And there is no doser, or timer to set the amount of ground coffee, but when you get used to the machine you will know how much to grind for your shot.

One of my favorite grinders for the budget, it has great burrs manufactured in Europe, it is very quiet in operation, cleaning is very easy, it is inexpensive. It is a great competitor for the Capresso Infinity machines.

Certainly, the 40 grind settings of the Baratza, are unmatched by the Capresso with only 16. Where the Capresso machines are slightly better is the consistency for espresso grind size. Baratza is better at every other size from drip to French press, though.

Rancilio HSD-ROC-SD Rocky

Rancilio Rocky is a bit more expensive for most of the coffee lovers, but this grinder is pretty awesome. With a powerful motor, 166 Watt, and commercial grade burrs, grinding espresso comes naturally.

For the espresso connoisseur, spending the around 350$ is perfectly justified, at the end of the day, the grinder is as important as your espresso machine.

This fantastic grinder is a sturdy, reliable machine, with two years warranty, (most of the manufacturers give only one year warranty). This tells something about the manufacturer’s confidence in their product.

Covering the whole range of grind size from coarse to Turkish, it provides a very consistent grind. It grinds Turkish, Yay!!! This is only possible because of the powerful motor, as Turkish grind needs a lot of torque.

Definitely worth the extra expense compared to the entry machines, like Capresso Infinity and Baratza Encore. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed if you buy it.

Rancilio Rocky Grinder – Video Review

Rancilio Rocky Grinder | Crew Review

Very easy to use, it is often utilized as a commercial grinder in small restaurants, or in an office setting. The 55 grind settings, will accommodate any grind size need possible. The only thing that it doesn’t have is a continuous adjustment for the grind size. The Rocky from Rancilio is one of the preferred grinders among coffee geeks. The great things about Rocky Rancilio are:

  • Very reliable
  • Grinds directly into port-filter
  • Extremely silent for a grinder
  • It can grind Turkish
  • It has 55 grind settings

How to Choose a Home Espresso Grinder

I mentioned at the start of our article that you need to spend some money on your espresso grinder even if it’s for domestic use. What is it that makes it so expensive though?

Firstly, don’t even think about a blade grinder, it is not an option. You probably know this, but I need to make it as clear as possible. Blade grinders are not all that bad, and I use them for other brewing methods, more in this article. However, they are not good for espresso brewing.

The most important thing at an espresso grinder is the consistency of the grind. The second important thing is the Blades that chop your beans — you want a conical burr grinder that crushes and pulverizes the coffee to the required fineness; (coarser for French press, the finest moondust for Turkish coffee, with espresso a few settings less fine).

Low speed trumps high speed, as high temperatures generated in the latter change the flavor and character of the resulting grind. If the machine has a strong enough motor to power through the beans, reduction gears are unnecessary — for a less powerful motor, gearing turns high RPM into low-speed torque.

$150 is a price point where the requisite specs come together to produce the fineness necessary, without tasting-spoiling temps. The exact cost and specs are up to you — but this list is a great place to start (and very possibly end) your search.

Baratza Vario Burr Grinder

As an anecdotal story, the engineers from Baratza wanted to dethrone the reigning Rocky by Rancilio, when they designed Vario. With a price tag well beyond their direct competitor, Baratza sells a lot of these units. What makes this product so successful, and why prosumer customers choose it over and over?

Baratza Vario is a step above  Virtuoso, and the direct competitor of the Rocky. Vario is about 25% more expensive than Rocky, and as a budget conscientious buyer, you might ask yourself why pay the extra 100$. It’s not an easy answer, but we’ll show you here the differences between the two, and let you decide if it’s worth the price or not.

Video Review – Baratza Vario

Baratza Vario Coffee Grinder

Baratza Vario and Rancilio Rocky displayed side by sideBaratza Vario vs Rancilio Rocky

  • Baratza Vario has 55mm ceramic burrs, this means they will grind longer without needing sharpening. For a home barista setting, this means a lifetime. Ceramic burrs will also heat less during operation, that means the flavor will not dissipate during grinding. They also tend to clog less than the steel burrs.
  • Another advantage over Rocky is the 230 grind size settings. Compare that to 55 settings for Rancilio. The adjustments are obtained through macro and micro adjustments. That means you don’t have to go through 200 settings from Percolator grind size to espresso. It is better than continuously adjusted grinding machines.
  • The burrs can also be fine calibrated for finer or coarser grinds, depending on your general needs.
  • Vario doser is controlled via a digital control panel which will allow you to change the dose with ease by pressing a button. It comes with both an adjustable portafilter holder and a container for the ground coffee.
  • Vario has a 240 Watt motor the most powerful in the bunch. This means it can use lower speeds to grind finer. Lower grinding speed results in uniform grounds, and low heat.
  • The motor is a DC motor, which is better with the start-up time. Faster start-up time s will result in less fines in your coffee.
  • Both Vario and Rocky are prosumers products, we often see them in commercial settings. Baratza and Rancilio do not recommend the use in commercial settings.
  • I love the ergonomy of this machine. It is so easy to operate, and so intuitive, that a kid could probably operate it. All the controls are easy to reach and conveniently placed.

Capresso 560.01 Infinity Grinder

We had to include the Infinity Capresso in our review. They are just great for the price. Sure we can’t compare them with Vario, or Rocky, but the price makes them very attractive for the beginner.

Some re-sellers used to advertise these grinding machines as commercial grade. A bit of a marketing overstatement, but you get the idea, they are very reliable.

However, if you look at the price and the features, this is a great contender in its class. It is probably the most affordable grinder in its class. It is very quiet, one of the most silent burr coffee grinders, the static is almost nonexistent, and delivers a great consistent and even grind. The slow grind ensures that coffee is not overheating when ground.

The Capresso Infinity grinder has a timer, so you can adjust your grinds quantity, and a pulse mode, so you can always grind just a bit more if needed.

The grinder is perfectly calibrated so you get the whole range grind size, unlike other machines on the market. The burrs are commercial grade, hence the marketing advertisement. The burrs will last you forever, especially in home use setting.

Great Feature – Turkish Grind

Although for many this is probably a feature that they will never use, for me it is one of the best features.

Capresso Infinity Conclusions

  • The grinder has a great, elegant look, that will look great in any kitchen.
  • The only minus with this grinder is the number of grind settings, only 16 settings, although these should be fine for most of us.
  • You only get around 4 espresso settings, and in reality, you only use 3 of them. For an espresso grinder is too frugal, but it works if your budget is tight.
  • The Capresso Infinity is great, but it lacks the precision of more expensive equipment.
  • If your budget is low, it’s definitely a good choice, but if you are buying an expensive espresso machine consider upgrading your grinder too.

For more detailed info, check my page about the Infinity series.

Photo of author

Dorian Bodnariuc

My name is Dorian and I am a former barista. I consume coffee in any form, as a beverage, in savory recipes and desserts. My favorite caffeinated beverage is the espresso. I love to share my coffee brewing knowledge and my geeky coffee research. This blog is one of the places I write about coffee. More about Dorian... If you want to learn more about this site and how I started it, check our About Me page, where I explain all about it.