Baratza Coffee Grinder revisited: DIY repairs; really? (Cool!)

NOTE: The focus of this blog has changed exclusively to photography. This archived article was one of my most popular, and remains here for reference.

In the summer of 2016, I bought a Baratza Encore coffee grinder, and wrote about it while this blog was still under its previous name. Unfortunately, my love affair with the grinder waned a bit last month when my beloved grinder crapped-out; it just wouldn’t run anymore unless I nudged the burr a little (thereby rotating the motor shaft a bit). Hmmm; curious.

I immediately sought troubleshooting information from Baratza’s web site, and it was there that I discovered something quite peculiar: detailed information — on diagnosing, and repairing the grinder. Repairing? Really?

There was printed information. There were videos. There was even a way to order parts. I didn’t even know what to think. Repairing small appliances is a lost art. Heck, it’s hard to find anyone willing to do repairs, let alone find someone who can do them cost-effectively. That’s ultimately why most people discard dead small appliances instead of having them repaired. But even given the popularity of the maker subculture these days, it’s unheard of to come across appliance makers who provide information and parts for consumers to do repairs themselves. Instead, there’s a label that cautions not to open things up, that there are no user-serviceable parts inside, there’s a risk of electric shock, electrocution, serious injury, death — or worse. Not Baratza.

Baratza lays it all out. About the only cautions are things like “do this only if you’re comfortable with it,” which for me, doesn’t stop me from much.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised; even my original post talks about servicing the unit. But I didn’t know just how much information they provided to do it, and after viewing it all and printing-out some documents, I set about getting to it.

Getting the cover off was the biggest challenge; a decent set of spudgers made that easier than the videos showed (but still a pain). Following their detailed electrical test instructions, I quickly determined that the motor is what had the problem; a bad pole their instructions indicated. I broke the power knob playing around with everything disassembled, and the switch itself seemed a little clunky and chunky. So I ordered a new knob, a new switch (both cheap) and a new motor ($40). Less than a week later, the parts showed-up from Baratza.

As you can see in the featured image, I set everything out, and got it put back together with (relative) ease. I managed to leave a replaceable screwdriver bit in the unit the first time, but once I heard the rattle, I opened it up, got that out, put the cover back on yet again, stumbled a bit getting the hopper onto it, but eventually had everything reassembled. I started it up, and voila, the Encore was running just as good (or better) than new.

I suppose $45 in parts would have gone a ways toward buying a new, crappy burr grinder, but I bought a Baratza for a number of reasons, and they were all still quite valid. So, I was more than happy to get this one back in working order.

I could make a case that the motor should have lasted longer than one year of household use, but stuff happens. I’m just amazed — and impressed — that Baratza has chosen to empower (and trust) their customers to maintain their own equipment. Not everyone’s going to be comfortable doing it, but if you’re a tinkerer with a basic set of tools, and know how to avoid doing stupid things that could result in an electric shock, it’s just one more reason to choose a Baratza grinder if you’re in the market.