BARATZA FORTE VS EK43: WHICH IS BETTER?
Disclaimer: While I don’t take requests for equipment recommendations on social media, occasionally I like to share my experiences with various coffee equipment. I do not have a financial relationship with Baratza or Mahlkonig, but Baratza was once kind enough to upgrade a grinder for me because the first model I bought wasn’t quite right for my needs (I bought a Sette, which is designed for espresso, but I wanted a grinder that would be equally good for espresso and filter brewing.)
For the past few months I’ve been using a Baratza Forté at home. I chose the Forté because I wanted a grinder that would do a good job grinding for both drip coffee and espresso. In addition, I needed a grinder capable of producing extremely fine grinds to pull “blooming espresso” shots on the DE1PRO. (A blooming espresso shot involves a 30-second pause after preinfusion, and requires an extremely fine grind.) Neither an EK43 nor most professional or consumer grinders can grind fine enough to pull a good blooming espresso shot. Perhaps an EK43 with perfectly aligned burrs could do it, but such an EK43 is virtually a unicorn.)
I had expected the Forté to do an adequate job, and to eventually want to replace it with a professional grinder, but I dreaded putting a large machine on my small kitchen counter. Much to my surprise, the Forté has not only performed better than any pro grinder I have ever owned, but I have been making the best v60’s of my life using the DE1PRO + Forté. (More on the DE1PRO as the world’s best drip brewer in a future post.)
For reference, I’ve owned well over forty professional grinders and I was the first person in specialty to use an EK43 and recognize its ability to achieve exceptionally high extractions. (Note: Mahlkonig did not design the EK43 for coffee and the machine’s success was a lucky accident.) I used to be fond of the EK43 but now avoid it whenever possible.
While the first EK43 I owned happened to produce impressive results, I’ve since used about one hundred EK’s and I’ve realized that I was lucky: that first machine happened to have been well aligned. Only about 10% of the Ek43’s I’ve used since then have had such good alignment. Poorly aligned Ek43’s are the norm, a problem Mahlkonig has chosen not to resolve, and a problem that has caused their quality-oriented users endless grief and wasted time, as users have had to personally realign the burrs both out of the box and upon each burr change, a frustrating process. There is no excuse for selling such an expensive grinder that usually underperforms right out of the box. Nor should customers have to spend so much precious time bringing the grinder’s performance up to a reasonable standard.
Because of the Ek43’s alignment issue, I desperately wanted to avoid overpaying for a machine that would give me fits. I’m pleased to report that the Forté extracts higher than any EK43 I have ever used, makes tastier coffee than any EK43 I have ever used, and can grind much finer than most EK43’s.
The Forté also has a few clever features such as a built-in scale for accurate grinding by weight, an anti-static receptacle (EK43’s produce so much static that their exit chutes look like chia pets), and the option to grind by time or by weight, with multiple programmable presets for each. I can’t say whether most Fortés are well-aligned straight from the factory. I can only report on my experience.
Sure, I probably wouldn’t grind 100 lbs/day in a Forté in a busy café, but if you’re looking for a great home grinder, just know you don’t have to buy a commercial machine or convince your spouse that it’s reasonable to have an enormous, $3000 grinder on the kitchen counter.
Thanks for reading.
NB: Please do not ask for equipment recommendations in the comments section. I don’t claim to know much about Baratza’s product line, competitors’ offerings, etc. Also, I have the Forté AP but also have both burr sets and both receptacle styles (portafilter holder and plastic bin). Sorry for the confusion about those details.