I bought this grinder to go with my Starbucks Barista Espresso Machine. I decided to get the most from my machine, and started buying fresh roasted coffee, bought a bottomless non-pressurized portafilter, and read a ton of articles on shot-pulling principles and techniques. One of those principles was GRINDER, GRINDER, GRINDER. So, I did a fair amount of research on $100-$200 grinders and landed on the Smart Grinder. I was torn between this and the Baratza Virtuoso. Most reviews said that when it came to grind quality and fine-ness, the two were very similar. So, I opted for the bells and whistles of the Smart Grinder. I have to say that given the same situation, I would still be torn, and might end up trying out the Virtuoso to see how I liked it. The big difference is that the Virtuoso has 40 grind settings to the Breville's 25.
I have owned this machine for almost a year now, and I have cleaned it out about 3-4 times. It has jammed on me twice in that year, and I think it's because I was trying to grind frozen beans. 8-( I know! Other than that, I have loved this grinder! It took only a few minutes to dial in the grind to my machine. I almost always weigh out my beans before I grind them, but when I have a ton of company, I just set the dosing timer and let it run it's course. It is actually pretty consistent on the dose.
Positives: I love that I can just set the portafilter in the holder and let it go. I do have to stir the grinds in the portafilter to get even distribution, but that takes about 3 seconds with a stiff wire or dissecting needle. When dialing in the grind, I do feel that some smaller adjusments might be beneficial. However, I can get a 25-30 second double shot pretty easily that has a good amount of tiger-striping and crema without channeling or super early blonding. As far as fineness, I was able to choke out my machine with about 6-7 finer steps available. Obviously, I do not have a commercial machine.
One very positive trait of this grinder is aesthetics. I LOVE the blue LED lit buttons and the LCD display. It is compact and sleek and quite handsome. Another positive trait is being able to remove the hopper without emptying it. This is a really nice feature, and works very well.
Negatives: The upper burr is easy to remove and clean. However, in order to clean the machine thoroughly, you have to unplug it, turn it over and hold it upside down and wiggle the brush around the lower burr. It's a good thing the machine doesn't weigh very much! Grinds tend to hang out under the lower burr after grinding. The result is that the next time you grind, those old, stale grinds are finally pushed out into your first shot. I noticed this and my remedy is to run about 8-10 beans through the grinder before grinding my first shot. This pushes the old stale grinds out.