Baratza Vario Grinder - First Look

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
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shadowfax
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Postby shadowfax » Jan 23, 2009, 1:35 pm

Well, it's here, thanks to our sponsor PT's Coffee:

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Complete with 3 lbs. of PT's... I could get used to this.

My first impression, opening the box, was wow, that's a lot bigger than I'd expected. Perhaps I've forgotten the size of my first grinder, the Solis Maestro, but this is a lot bigger than I remember it being. I suppose my memory probably is skewed by the Robur, though... :mrgreen:

I am headed out of town for the weekend, in about an hour, in fact. They're doing some silly electrical work here at the apartment complex, and the power is out, so I can't even grind a first test shot yet. However, I do have more pictures:

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The first thing you do when you get a grinder, right?

The burrs are dramatically different from most other flat burr designs that I've seen, with the exception of the K30 (also designed by Mahlkönig)... maybe. I can't seem to find a picture of the latest burrs, and I could be having a brain fart.

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As we all know, the burrs are mounted in plastic, but it's an impressively snug fit, at least. It was a pain in the rear to get the top burr off. That's a good sign, one presumes. Still, my first impression looking at the burr mounting in person is still, this is as consistent/good as a Robur? Right..... Naturally, I'll be working hard to keep an open mind, and I'll be sure and work out some blind taste comparisons with it after I get used to it. I have a couple of coffee enthusiast friends who have pretty decent palates (certainly on par with my own), so that should be pretty easy to work out.

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3/4 View: A little metal goes a long way.

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Controls Closeup: Reminiscent of the K30 in terms of timer (minus the cool dial). I like.

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It's a cute grinder.

Closing comments. Please note this is a pre-production model and changes are expected soon. You can read more about the Vario in Mark Hoy's thread here and Coffeegeek's writeup here.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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sweaner
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Postby sweaner » Jan 23, 2009, 11:23 pm

Nick, why did they send a pre-production unit? The grinder does look nice. I hope it can live up to it's hype, or at least get close.
Scott
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edwa
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Postby edwa » Jan 24, 2009, 12:03 am

This looks to have many consumer friendly features, will patiently wait for you to get your power resumed and return from out of town. For crying out loud how can you leave town at a time like this! :lol:

I'd like to hear how the PTs taste, I've been thinking of giving them a try.

e

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Postby HB » Jan 24, 2009, 12:10 am

sweaner wrote:Nick, why did they send a pre-production unit?

As has been widely discussed on Coffeegeek, there are some minor issues that Baratza wants to iron out prior to public availability. PT's Coffee had a pre-production unit and agreed to loan it to us until the final version is available.
Dan Kehn

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Postby shadowfax » Jan 24, 2009, 12:20 am

Scott, Dan asked Bryan from PT's to send me the pre-production unit in order to get started with the review early. As I understand it, the last-minute issues that they're sorting out with the grinder should have no impact whatsoever on grind quality, so it won't be a problem to start checking it out early and giving HB members a further chance to read about the grinder prior to its eventual shipment. Later on, when they start shipping out the final ones, I believe I will be trading in this unit for a new one so I can discuss the improvements made to it.

I'm really excited about this opportunity, and really grateful to our sponsors for this review, PT's Coffee. It's going to be a lot of fun to get to know this grinder, and I hope I can give any of you guys that are "on the fence" about the grinder the feedback you're hoping for. Of course, All questions and suggestions are welcome. If you have anything in particular you want to know about that I miss, drop me a line and I'll give it a shot.

Ed, how true! I was blind-sided when I went down to pick up the box from the office and saw the PT's label on the side. NO! How can you tease me when I have to leave? Alas, Monday will be here soon. As far as the coffees, I have a 3-pack: 1 lb. each of La Bella Vita, Gizmo, and Ethiopia Sidamo. I've enjoyed La Bella Vita before, but I really didn't get a chance to explore it due to hectic holidays. I'm looking forward to that, but most of all to the Sidamo. Bryan dropped me a line today and said this of it:

Bryan Miller wrote:It is as sweet as can be, but seems to provide something different with almost every shot. Sometimes I got some great deep cabernet notes, while other times it was much more spicy.

Sounds like an ideal coffee for SO espresso to me. I really enjoy the fruity notes and that are typical of a lot of Ethiopians, so this blend sounds tailor-made for me.

Cheers.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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Postby another_jim » Jan 24, 2009, 9:54 am

Am I the only one thinking this? The burrs look surprisingly low grade. If it produces a high quality grind, the conventional wisdom on burr design, that is, a long grinding path is better than a short one, needs to be rethought.

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Postby shadowfax » Jan 24, 2009, 11:38 am

Are there any Mahlkönig K30 owners out there who'd be willing to snap a couple of pictures of their burrs for this thread? Preferably more recent K30s. I think they changed the style to something closer to this--a significant departure to the repetitive tapering cuts of the likes of your average Mazzer flat burrs. If I am right, this will be a handy frame of reference for viewing these burrs.
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Postby sweaner » Jan 24, 2009, 12:30 pm

another_jim wrote:Am I the only one thinking this? The burrs look surprisingly low grade. If it produces a high quality grind, the conventional wisdom on burr design, that is, a long grinding path is better than a short one, needs to be rethought.


Jim, just for my education, why do you feel they look low grade? I have no experience with ceramic blades.
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Postby shadowfax » Jan 24, 2009, 12:40 pm

Scott, you may want to have a look at this thread and the one(s) it references, as well as the Titan Grinder Project thread. The general wisdom from the extensive testing on this board is that longer cutting paths generally produce more consistent (shot to shot) and higher quality grinds.

Ceramic has less to do with it, as I understand it. The ceramic advantage is longer blade life.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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Postby RapidCoffee » Jan 24, 2009, 1:16 pm

another_jim wrote:Am I the only one thinking this? The burrs look surprisingly low grade.

+1. The burr design does not inspire confidence.

This grinder has generated an astonishing amount of buzz for a 54mm flat burr grinder. But I'm doing my best to withhold judgment until the preliminary reviews are complete.
John