Choosing a grinder that can switch between espresso and drip - Page 2

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.

#11: Post by sbien »

i moved from a maestro + to a virtuoso after the former was not up to the task of serving my new silvia. Joe Meeks had refurbished virtuoso calibrated for espresso and turkish grinding, and i am very happy. easy to adjust, grinds efficiently with very little left in the machine, well made.
the vario is an intriguing development but i was a little spooked by the cost and the complicated electronics.
the virtuoso doesn't get many raves on this site but i think they have caressed the design a little bit since the original roll out and it is a better machine now.

lattelover (original poster)

#12: Post by lattelover (original poster) »

Dear Keepitsimple,

Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply and the time you put into it. I'm beginning to think something along those lines might be the solution. Actually, someone else outside the forum suggested that I buy an automatic espresso machine because it would be better coffee than the filter drip/French press and would come with a conical burr grinder and the milk steamer/foamer. I was planning to hold off getting an espresso machine and just use a high-end grinder plus auto milk steamer/foamer (by Cremina) with filter/French press for awhile, so any espresso capacity would be a bonus. An automatic espresso machine, such as by Spidem or Saeco, would cost the about the same price as a $200 grinder plus the Cremina, so I'd be getting those two components plus some espresso capability. I don't know how good the Spidem grinder is, though---does anyone know? Do they switch from coarse to fine?

Hope you're not all cringing at the thought of an automatic espresso machine, but no matter what, any thoughts would be welcome.

lattelover (original poster)

#13: Post by lattelover (original poster) »

Dear Sbien,

Thank you for adding weight to the Virtuoso Voices - next you'll be on "America's Got Talent" or "Britain's Got Talent" (just joking)!

So at the moment, after hearing your resonant "songs", I think I'm going to give up on the do-it-all grinder and now the choice is: 1) a Virtuoso dedicated to filter/French press plus the Cremina auto steamer/frother, with espresso machine in the wings for later when I have more money and more time to research; or 2) an automatic espresso machine with conical grinder and steamer/foamer. I'm big on the latte end of things, as you've probably guessed, so that steamer-frother function is important.

Again, thank you.


#14: Post by IMAWriter »

Ann....IMO, an Auto is a waste of money, when, having a semi-auto espresso machine such as an Anita/Vetrano, Astra, etc and just a little patience and practice you will make cappuccino's that will rival the best cafe's in America, and MUCH better than from an Auto. If an Auto goes bad, generally it must be shipped back, and with a combo you lose the (at best) mediocre grinder as well.
Assuming you take my advice on this, there are 2 grinder configurations (assuming you have a bit of counter room). These are not any particular order of preference.
#1)Mazzer SJ(used, $350-$450) for espresso, Solis(Baratza) Maestro ($63 refurb, as good as new)
#2)Baratza Vario (new, $395-$429)
The "bugs" mentioned by your "professional source" are not dissimilar to other higher performing grinders, such as a bit of spraying of grind, and occasionally a bit of static.
Either way, you can't go wrong. However, please read here and at about your myriad of choices regarding machines.
There's also the manual lever, which I currently empty. Real hands on espresso making.
Oh yeah, speaking of hands on, manual grinders can be had for $75 and do an awesome job for espresso.
Try here.

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#15: Post by JmanEspresso »

Yeah, ive got to totally agree with Rob, Skip the Superauto.

The grinders are rarely that great, and dont offer much adjustment. Plus, even with fresh coffee, the resulting beverage is anything but great. I think you will be disappointed with a SuperAuto machine.

Unless you were considering the Quickmill Superauto, which is considerably more then the models mentioned, go for the Vario, buy fresh coffee, and make french press and pour over coffee until you decide to buy a machine. There is no way what a superauto makes would be better then what you can make with a Vario, Freshly Roasted Coffee, and either a FrenchPress or Pour over. Yes, it is true that all of us here love espresso.. But most of us ALSO love our french presses, our Chemex/pour overs, and our Vacpot/Siphons. In the same way that I wont be without my espresso setup, I will neither be without my other brewing gear. The superautos in the 400-600 dollar range* will be a big disappointment compared to other options out there

This is just my opinion, but I think most, if not all, on this site would agree with Rob and I.

And FWIW, the Vario is probably the best "do-it-all" grinder out there for a nice, home friendly price. So, with that, you just might be able to have your cake, be able to eat it, AND get a second piece!

*Most superautos would be a disappointment compared to the other options, mainly, the one you are considering(Vario with FP/Pour-over, then buy a machine down the road)


#16: Post by Nik »

Note to IMAwriter.....

What a great link you provided. Check out the fantastic report on the Baratza Vario. ... &chapter=0


#17: Post by zin1953 »

Ann. STOP!
lattelover wrote: . . . someone else outside the forum suggested that I buy an automatic espresso machine because it would be better coffee than the filter drip/French press and would come with a conical burr grinder and the milk steamer/foamer . . . .
First, let's get the terminology straight -- the "someone outside the the forum" has not suggested that you "buy an automatic espresso machine." The suggestion was for you to buy a super-automatic machine. Granted we all know what you meant, but there is an important and significant distinction.

There are three types of pump-driven machines: semi-automatic, automatic, and super-automatic. In brief, a semi-automatic (the most common type) relies on you, the operator, to start AND STOP the flow of water through the portafilter with an on/off switch. An automatic machine features VOLUMETRIC DOSING -- you start the flow of water by turning on the pump and after a pre-programmed volume of water (you do the programming) is dispensed through the coffee grounds, it shuts off automatically -- thus, the name. They are also referred to as "volumetric machines" or "volumetrically dosed" machines. Also, automatics can always be operated as a semi-automatic. A super-automatic does EVERYTHING for you -- it grinds the beans, it loads the dose of coffee into position, it starts the flow of water, it stops the flow of water, it steams the milk . . . think wanting to make a cake, and having one machine mix the cake, bake it, and frost it -- all by itself. THAT is a superauto . . .
lattelover wrote:Hope you're not all cringing at the thought of an automatic espresso machine, but no matter what, any thoughts would be welcome.
While most of us will admit that there are times when a super-auto is the right choice, trust me: we are all cringing at the thought.

In a spectrum that ranges from "Outstanding" to "Gawd-Awful," I have never had a drink from a superauto that I thought was any better than "Good." I believe that is true for most of us here. What you gain in convenience, you lose in quality. For most of us, it's a trade-off we choose not to make.

General rule: the more things one device does, the less well it does each individual thing. (Think of the Office "All-in-One" -- sure, it prints, copies, scans, and faxes; but individual machines do each of these tasks better.) This is also true for grinders. Grinders that are designed for espresso rarely are the best option for other types of coffee preparation. This is one reason why the Baratza Vario is so exciting. So far, it seems the one grinder that works equally well for such different tasks as espresso and press pot.

A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

lattelover (original poster)

#18: Post by lattelover (original poster) »

Hi to Everyone,

First of all, let me say what a bounty of generous assistance you've given. For me, a priceless treasure. Now let me see if I can do justice to your replies.

I want to thank Jason for your patient discussion on the differences between automatic, semi- and super-automatic, in spite of your cringing! An invaluable intro. And thanks as well to JmanEspresso, Rob and Bluegrod for explaining to me why the super-automatics are not a good choice.

Rob, I was very glad to have your suggestions about semi-automatic brands to consider. I have to say I don't have the gumption for manual grinding, though it was delightful to read the link.

And I finally had time to read most of the links Jason provided on the Vario. I LOVED the "Texas Grinder Shootout" link (AKA Vario vs the big boys)---it was hilarious as well as a substantive in-depth comparison. The Vario turned out to be a sharpshooter for sure!

The link on recalibrating the Vario was terrific; the author called Baratza and spoke with Kyle, the developer of the Vario, who was forthright enough to say he thinks the set point was set too fine and then he gave suggestions for fixing it. That might be one of the bugs you asked about, Chipman. And it reminded me that I too can call Baratza.

Nik, your Vario link was super (not automatic)---I was amazed at the detail!

JmanEspresso, I was so glad to have your comments on loving your pour-overs and French press. Made me feel good to hear that those methods have their own value. Of course, Espresso is the Next Dimension---I'll just have to work up to it, given time to research, and money.

So, by virtue of the accumulated help from everyone who wrote in to the forum, I've settled on getting the Maver Cremina so I can have my "latte", working up to getting an espresso machine later, and I've come down to a decision between the Vario and Virtuoso. I have two questions about that:

1) the Virtuoso has commercial-grade conical burrs; the Vario has ceramic flat burrs. Who can tell me the Virtues of conical Vs ceramic flat? (a lot of "v's here!)

2) With the ceramic flat burr, somewhere I heard that it has associated plastic parts and that these may not be reliable or burn out early on. Does anyone know anything about that?

I plan to call Baratza on Monday about the Vario vs Virtuoso, as well as my professional barista source. I may be able to get more detail on the bugs in the Vario, which Chipman asked about.

On a different topic, does anyone know about the Maver Cremina (automatic steamer/frother) ? Maybe I should write that as a separate forum question. If so, feel free to ignore.

This is my first forum experience ever and I have to say it's been an incredibly rich cup, beyond compare. Thank you all!


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#19: Post by mhoy »

As a biased owner of a first generation Baratza Vario, I can say (after many months of use) that I see absolutely no reason to upgrade from it. However, I only use it to grind espresso.


lattelover (original poster)

#20: Post by lattelover (original poster) »

Mark, thank you. It's great to hear from someone who's been using a Vario for an extended period of time. If it works well for espresso, I would think it would be fine for the coarser grinds. Can I ask: Did you have to recalibrate? Is it easy to clean? How much residual coffee is left behind in the trough of the exit chute?

also, I want to add one clarification to my previous lengthy reply: if I buy the Virtuoso it would be with the idea of getting a separate dedicated espresso grinder later, to go with the espresso machine. If it's a new Virtuoso, the difference would be around $250 dollars between the two options (1) Vario=$429; 2) Virtuoso=$200 new plus the cost of the espresso grinder, so around $650 total).