Dec 15, 2023

Fellow Opus Review: An All

By Gerald Ortiz

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Fellow's well-designed products have made their way into aesthetically conscious homes, not unlike Aesop's line of hand soaps and lotions. From pour-over setups to electric kettles (possibly the brand's best invention ever), Fellow has become the go-to brand for coffee nerds, the design-obsessed and otherwise. In 2019, Fellow finally released a coffee grinder, the Fellow Ode, which was good but not great. The Fellow Ode 2 improved upon the first generation model with better static reduction and a more capable burr set, but the sequel to the OG Ode was a letdown for coffee enthusiasts who’d hoped that it would bring espresso capabilities to the table. Not long after the Ode 2's warm reception, however, Fellow teased an all-new coffee grinder: the Fellow Opus.

The Opus is designed to be an all-around grinder capable of brewing the entire spectrum of coffee styles, from the pebbly coarse grinds required of a stiff batch of cold brew all the way down to the superfine powder of a traditional Turkish coffee—espresso included. We got Fellow's hotly anticipated grinder to review, brewing everything from espresso to Aeropress to French press, which requires grounds to be super fine to super coarse, respectively. We found out if this is the grinder every coffee lover has been waiting for—and if not, who actually needs this.

Design has long been Fellow's strong suit, the Opus notwithstanding. The new addition to its product lineup maintains the same design language its fanbase has been accustomed to, namely clean lines, a matte black finish, and a general nod toward the Dieter Rams aesthetic. Its physical footprint is nice and tidy which makes it great for those with and limited counter space or short cabinets.

But the Opus' small package and scant design belie its long list of features. Like the Fellow Ode Gen 2 and its predecessor, the grind catch is magnetic and slots in perfectly beneath the grind chute. This time, the Opus' catch also features a modular design comprised of a larger canister for most brew methods and an inset espresso catch, which fits inside the canister and can then more easily, and cleanly, get the grounds into both 58 millimeter and 54 millimeter portafilters, the two most common sizes of portafilters.

The hopper lid is great. It's so simple that you wouldn't guess that it does so much. Like any lid, it covers the hopper and prevents dust (base line stuff). Like some lids, it also doubles as dosing cup with compartments for both 20 and 40 gram doses (approximately), or fill it up all the way to its 100 gram capacity (again, approximately). Unlike any other lid, the tight tolerance of the lid to hopper allows it to pull triple duty as a bellows, forcing air to blow through the machine to dislodge grinds and chaff stuck inside due to static. Looking underneath the lid, the hopper of the Opus, like the Ode, is meant for single-serving dosages rather than being used as bean storage, à la our favorite coffee grinder, the Baratza Encore. It means the Opus is short and can better fit under kitchen cabinets, while making it easier to alternate between different beans without having to finish off one bag before you can move onto the next.

The mostly plastic chassis is a major departure from Fellow's other products, which have a more premium, all-metal design, and makes the Fellow Opus feather light; that's great for when you're cleaning the counter and need to move it out of the way. The downside is that because it's so light, you have to use both hands when you want to adjust your grind setting—one hand to adjust the grind ring and the other to hold the grinder in place. And though the plastic itself is high-quality and not at all flimsy, a metal chassis would inspire more confidence in the grinder's longevity.

Fellow calls the Opus a low-retention grinder, which for the uninitiated, means you won't lose a few grams of beans in the machine after it goes through the grinder. In our testing, we found that grind retention hovered anywhere between .4 and .6 grams, a minimal amount of loss. (As a general tip, coffee enthusiasts recommend giving beans a spritz of water before grinding to help reduce static and further reduce the amount of grounds lost.) After some firm head taps and a few pumps of the hopper lid, however, most of the leftover grinds were mitigated.

The Opus comes with 41 grind settings, which is a good, wide swath, and it's 10 more settings than the Ode. But we would've been seriously impressed if the Opus was a stepless grinder, allowing users to dial in their grind settings infinitesimally—the downside to such a great price point. And while it is certainly capable of producing espresso-fine grinds, we found the intervals between each notch to be a little too wide. Which leads us to the big question:

Yes—but there's a caveat. In our testing, dialing in certain espresso beans resulted in shots that would come out extremely fast on one setting but nearly choke just one notch over—that is, we'd get either over-extracted or under-extracted shots on two adjacent grind settings with seemingly no way to get the right ground size. (Side note: there's a handy grind adjustment guide on the inside of the hopper lid, but it's more of a tip sheet than a strict rule book.) Fear not! In order to get in the sweet spot, Fellow built a microadjustment ring underneath the hopper that can adjust the grind settings with more granularity. It's a clever touch and it gets us where we need to go. But the process of removing and reinstalling the hopper between every shot is a bit more cumbersome than we would like. For folks who like to swap out their beans frequently—as different beans might need minor adjustments to get the desired flavor out of the coffee—you might be annoyed by this even more.

The Fellow Opus is a very good coffee grinder for most people, especially those looking to step up from bottom-tier electric options and the more serious coffee enthusiasts whose forearms just can't take any more hand grinding. If you enjoy using a variety of brew methods and/or rotate your coffee beans frequently, the Opus can accommodate easily. And though it might not have the most streamlined process for dialing in your espresso, it's absolutely capable of getting you to cafe-quality brews. There aren't many self-proclaimed all-in-one coffee grinders that actually deliver on their promise. The Fellow Opus does. And at just under $200 (before tax), few other options can stand shoulder to shoulder.