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Baratza Vario up close...REAL close

Postby IMAWriter on Mon May 18, 2009 1:22 am

Yesterday, a new Nashville friend (and new CG'er) brought his Baratza Vario (serial #189) over to dwell in my home for a couple of weeks, while he's gone.
He asked if we could clean her insides up and re-adjust the allen/hex screw together. I was glad to do so, if only to get a close look at the Vario inside and out.

He said he'd only ground a couple of #'s so far. Removing the hopper and upper burr (easy), I commented that it seemed relatively clean. Gently tapping the bottom of the Vario while held upside down produced the requisite old grind, a few chunks, an thankfully no metal shards...LOL
According to directions, we then grabbed a 2.5mm hex tool and loosened the screw, moved the screw/stainless sliding assembly FORWARD, to allow for a coarser grind.(it was unable to grind any coarser than drip at the coarsest setting.)

He had to leave, so I proceeded onward. replacing the upper burr and hopper, to my dismay I found resistance when trying to raise the Macro slider (with an empty hopper)
I removed the hopper and upper burr, and also the lower burr, just to see if there were deposits under. None to be seen.
I replaced the upper and hopper. Same problem. Again removing both the upper burr and hopper, I gently worked the Macro slider up and down. Note that the click stops were working, so I knew the mechanism itself was prolly OK.
My next thought was that it could be connected to the allen/ hex screw I adjusted.
I revisited that area, making sure it wasn't somehow bent or misaligned, and for grins, I tightened it till it wouldn't move.
Replaced the upper burr and hopper.
Voila!! No problem with the Macro slider, and a nice even espresso grind. In this case, macro set 2 clicks down from the top, the Micro setting 5 clicks from the top.
Still needs a bit more dialing in. This grinder, due to the lack of real tactile feedback ala a Mazzer SJ's adjustment system makes dialing in a bit more involved. No biggie, though.

What's interesting is though the grind feels slightly coarser between the fingers than my KyM, it pours beautifully. Having the timer is very cool, and programming is way easy.
Still determining my taste preference, as my mind was still on the mechanical, and I've recently lowered my boiler pressure to .8, so I'm getting used to that as well.
As this is an early model, the PF fork mod is not there, and the vibration causes my 49mm PF to slide off the fork. As it is bottomless, that is another problem as well. I'll try my double spouted tomorrow. Wish I had a single spout PF for my Cremina. I bet a couple of stick on rubber feet might keep the PF from sliding.(??)
Once I've dialed in the espresso setting, on to examining vac grind as well as Press Pot.
More in the next few days.
Sorry for the long intro post.

edit for paragraph breaks
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Postby IMAWriter on Tue May 19, 2009 6:50 pm

DAY 2
I am really enjoying Peter's Vario. No static whatsoever. I do not use the PF fork, as my PF is 49mm...I just stick my little yogurt cup in the basket(thanks JonR for reminding me, and John Weiss for the original thought), hold the PF under the spout. 12.1 seconds later, the perfect dose. I'll weigh the dose tonight, just for grins. It looks to be 14 grams.
Can't understand why anyone wouldn't love this timer, even without a flash memory chip.
NO WASTE. Wait, did I say NO WASTE? Minimal clumping, as well. I attribute this to the fact that my grind is appreciably less fine, yet my pours are nearly identical to my excellent KyM Manual grinder.
Even switching beans is easy. Just tip the dern thing over. They pretty much all come out intact..a quick 2 second purge, and you're back to square one.
I have not had to adjust my grind in 2 days, even though the blend is aging, and weather has changed. This is the same trait as the Cimbali Max Hybrid. My Mazzer SJ, on the other hand required re-dialing far more often.
Which brings me to my final, and perhaps MOST IMPORTANT POINT HERE:
Repeatability.
This is what good espresso should be about. Assuming the user to have good barista technique (not always a correct assumption, LOL) shot after shot can be excellent, again assuming temp, tamping/distro are all consistent.
Other than a messy doser, my biggest complaint with the excellent mazzer SJ (shared by some others more astute than I) is the difficulty for many of us home "baristi" to achieve back to back shot excellence.
At least so far, I'm having pretty luck getting 2, and even 3 shots with nearly identical taste and pour characteristics.
I also must say that doserless, with the Vario is just SO much fun, and a heck of a lot quieter.
Hey, I'm starting to like this thing. :lol:
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Postby HB on Tue May 19, 2009 9:01 pm

IMAWriter wrote:Other than a messy doser, my biggest complaint with the excellent mazzer SJ (shared by some others more astute than I) is the difficulty for many of us home "baristi" to achieve back to back shot excellence.

Huh? I don't recall any threads starting with a complaint about the difficulty/consistency of the Mazzer Super Jolly. What difficulty are you referring to?
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Postby IMAWriter on Wed May 20, 2009 2:05 am

HB wrote:Huh? I don't recall any threads starting with a complaint about the difficulty/consistency of the Mazzer Super Jolly. What difficulty are you referring to?

Dan, I read this in a few different online sources, and just comments here and there. I believe Jim Schulman mentioned in his scoring of the SJ in the "Can It Beat The Robur" monster thread how up the SJ could be, 4.0 worthy on one pull, and less than so on a subsequent pull.
As a 5 year owner of the Same SJ, I can testify to this myself. No explanation.
I'm not saying this is true of all SJ's ...I love that grinder a whole lot.
I was just mentioning the fact that my preliminary results so far seem promising as to consistency.
Maybe I'm getting better, who knows?
If I've misrepresented Jim here, I'd fully expect him to correct my possible misrepresentations of his comments.

BTW...I have NO stake in the Vario, just started out helping a new CG'er, sharing some coffee at my home.
Whatever warts may happen to manifest themselves, I will dutifully report to the best of my ability.
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Postby HB on Wed May 20, 2009 8:25 am

IMAWriter wrote:Dan, I read this in a few different online sources, and just comments here and there. I believe Jim Schulman mentioned in his scoring of the SJ in the "Can It Beat The Robur" monster thread how up the SJ could be, 4.0 worthy on one pull, and less than so on a subsequent pull.
As a 5 year owner of the Same SJ, I can testify to this myself. No explanation.

For those who want to read the details, see Titan Grinder Project: Can it Beat the Mazzer Robur? Below is an excerpt of Jim's introduction for the Super Jolly matchup:

another_jim wrote:The Mazzer Super Jolly is either the most common commercial espresso grinder on the planet, or a close second to the Rossi RR45. 64mm flat burr grinders are the automatic choice to accompany two group espresso machines, and the Super Jolly has an even more bullet proof reputation than other Mazzers. I could easily see why; this grinder is a no frills tank that does its job without drawing attention to itself.

In these tests, it's been a surprise -- a bit like getting a Chevy and finding out it's not just utilitarian, but fun to drive as well. Almost all the testers so far personally preferred it to the Kony and Max, and some even to the Macap. I played with the grinder yesterday and this morning, prior to testing; and I also found it very impressive. It's currently sporting the duranium burrs, which are very nice for hopperless use, since they seem to suck in the loose beans without much popcorning. The grinder is faster and the quietest, by a ways, of all tested. My test shots weren't quite as easy and solid pouring as from the conicals, but it was noticeably more consistent than the Mini.

I was among the reviewers that scored the Super Jolly as "different but equal" to the Robur, though the Jolly demands more attention to dosing and grind setting. I certainly don't consider it finicky.
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Postby IMAWriter on Wed May 20, 2009 12:55 pm

OK then.
Maybe "finicky" is the wrong word. In fact, I'd love to have my Rio SJ back in my greedy hands even now.OK Then lets compare a few other subjects. The SJ doserless mod was a PITA, huge static, and nearly impossible to clean the chute properly. Not so with the Vario.
From that standpoint alone, those who would PREFER a doserless grinder would be IMO better served with the B-Vario, as (at this point in time) I consider the grind to be pretty much equal in the taste department to that of the SJ, though admittedly not nearly as adjustment friendly (for espresso)
What I'm also getting is the taste profile is more SJ-like than KyM manual-like. Meaning, more brooding darker fruit, caramel, less citrus than my manual. They are both delightful in there own way.

Today is the litmus test. If I have to adjust the grind finer after my 1st shot today, I will leave the timer setting as is, and ONLY adjust the grind 1 click finer on the Micro setting. I want to know what that does to the timing of my shot.
I will do a grind sample comparison by "touch", before and after the adjustment, which might further grant me some insight as to what a click produces in the way of fineness change.
I didn't mean to start a bruhaha over the SJ. However, I'm not blind, and HAVE read where someone had mentioned that their SJ (or one they were evaluating) produced variable shots.
Again, this is not to say it does. I was only using that as a way to mention that I believed the Vario to be a pretty consistent performer.
My 'evaluation" is NOT meant to be official, or even technically specific. I'm most definitely not capable of deep technical thoughts. :lol: Just a home user's impression of a $450 grinder that is intended for picky home users, some who are willing to pay twice that.
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Postby HB on Wed May 20, 2009 1:57 pm

IMAWriter wrote:The SJ doserless mod was a PITA, huge static, and nearly impossible to clean the chute properly.

Understandably, as that was a homegrown solution, not Mazzer's OEM doserless solution. I don't get your comment about the chute either. It takes a few seconds to sweep the chute clean; I know because that's what I do every morning. And before you remind me, I realize that this step is unnecessary with the Vario. :wink:
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Postby IMAWriter on Wed May 20, 2009 6:46 pm

HB wrote:Understandably, as that was a homegrown solution, not Mazzer's OEM doserless solution. I don't get your comment about the chute either. It takes a few seconds to sweep the chute clean; I know because that's what I do every morning. And before you remind me, I realize that this step is unnecessary with the Vario. :wink:

Dan, I had the OEM Mazzer version, purchased from Owen (Phaelon Coffee). You must have me confused with a much or technically adept person here, someone who could actually design a non OEM doser-less solution. :lol:
I also had the static/clump screen installed, which made it more difficult to clean the throat. Cleaning the throat is not necessary on any grinder, IF you are planning to grind for another shot in the next little bit, assuming there are no grind adjustments. If adjusting, I just tossed out the 3-4 grams and moved on.
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Postby IMAWriter on Wed May 20, 2009 7:04 pm

Bumping myself, which seems to be an ongoing thing lately, a few comments before I brew up a vac pot with the Vario.
There was a wee bit of clumping, as my blend is aging. (I keep it in the hopper, but only enough to last a couple of days, maybe 100 grams. It's also a bit dry today.
I decided to NOT stir, but just tap down as always, do my light 5# leveling tamp, then the 15# final tamp I've been doing with the Vario.
RESULT
No squirts or other anomalies.
for grins, I ground 5 seconds on my present grind setting, then ground a second to adjust one click finer. I tossed the adjustment grind, then ground another 5 seconds with the new setting.
Running both examples between my fingers and thumb, there was a barely discernible difference. I mean barely. Maybe even a psychologically induced difference, like it's supposed to be finer, so it must be.
Anyhow, I pulled another shot with the new finer setting. (all these shots are pulled on my Cremina, stock double basket, with as close to the same group temp as possible.
The new setting took 2 seconds longer for the same volume (I marked the shot glass)
The pull needed just a wee bit more downward force, but nothing really troublesome.
The taste was just slightly less acidic, perhaps due to the more concentrated pull?
I actually liked the old setting better, meaning I haven't had to change or adjust timing or dosage for 3 days.

What would put this grinder over the top for me would be the MAHLKONIG sort of delivery system. That is, straight down into a perfectly neat little pile! I would love to ditch the cup, if only for the "semi-pro" sort of vibe. (no offense to John Weiss, who is still one of my heroes.)
If I'm digging the vac grind, it will be on to a Press pot grind. I believe I've adjusted the "allen/hex" screw in such a way as to facilitate a proper press pot grind.
I don't like boulders, but it has to be appreciably larger particles, and as little dust as possible.
I also want to see how much of the Press grind infiltrates my espresso grind when I switch back.
Done for now, as I've already taken up too much of HB's bandwidth. :oops:


edit for clarity(somewhat)
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Postby dsc on Thu May 21, 2009 8:38 am

Hi Robert,

I'm curious how well the Vario performs as a French Press / drip grinder. I'm guessing it's not awesome as it produces too many fines (enough for espresso), but I might be wrong. It might be interesting to sift the grinds through a tea strainer or something similar and see how many fines you can get. Of course taste will give you the definitive answer.

Regards,
dsc.
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