Dual grinder combo: Niche Zero (espresso) & Baratza Vario+ Steel Burr (filter) - thoughts?

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

#1: Post by dsc106 »

I know there are a lot of ways to go here - one grinder to rule them all (a Monolith or Weber, or Lagom, etc.). There's the DF64, the Ode with SSP, etc.

Right now, I have a Niche Zero that I have really liked. Not that I have compared it to much else for espresso, but it's been good to me - super simple and easy to use, dial in, repeatable. I have not loved it for drip though, only had a couple really great cups with it. I compared it against a Virtuoso and have had much better results with the Virtuoso for my filter coffee - maybe I am just doing something wrong on the Niche (I did add a white piece of tape, and have gone well past setting 50 into the equivalent of 60-70 range.

Decided I would be better off with a dedicated espresso grinder and a dedicated drip grinder. It's convenient to not have to swap settings back and forth.

Thoughts on the Niche Zero & Vario+ (steel burr) as a dual grinder pair? I'd add the single dosing hopper on the Vario+, and maybe a year in, check out the hyper alignment. I hear the Vario+ Steel Burr blows doors on the Niche for filter coffee. I could go for the Fellow Ode w/SSP, but the Vario+ also works for espresso, which would let me dabble with unimodal espresso extractions too. Baratza Vario also has a great reputation with grinders running well over a decade, and very easy repairs - Ode, maybe not so much.

So, what do you think of this setup? Will it serve me well, or are there better dual grinder setups? Or better to just go for a single grinder?

One other consideration, this past year+ has been quiet with COVID. Busyness is going to pick up again, and I just won't have the same amount of time to sit and dabble with coffee all the time. Or the desire. It's been a fun at home hobby, but when things get busy again I know I will want things that are simple, repeatable, no fuss. The Niche with it's conicals are very repeatable with a large sweet spot for espresso, and the Vario w/steel for filter only seems like it will be a workhorse.

For espresso, I do drink everything - though mostly medium to medium light roast. Maybe I'll dabble in really light roasts eventually. Sometimes I will drink espresso straight or diluted as a very small Americano, but mostly I enjoy espresso with milk (cortado) and filter as black. As such, the complexity of the conical burrs with a richer flavor to push through the milk, and the sharpness/clarity for black filter coffee via the steel burrs, seems like a nice pairing. I assume I can still get great, bright clarity for straight espresso with the Niche, though I haven't explored that as much (yet).

Anyway, Christmas is almost here, so just trying to weigh the options and make sure I will be well suited by adding a Vario+ to sit next to the Niche Zero. Easy to get analysis paralysis thinking of every combination out there. Is this a killer pairing, or could I be doing better?


#2: Post by randytsuch »

I have a vario with steel burrs I use for drip, and I think it works well. I use a Kinu hand grinder for espresso, it does a better job than my vario (with ceramic burrs) for espresso.

I can't use my vario with steel burrs at all for espresso. I only made gushers when I tried. I have not hyper aligned mine, its on my list of future projects. Going to change to a steel chamber at the same time.

So a warning that you might not be able to use a steel burr vario for espresso. I know people have been able to use steel burrs and make espresso. My guess is if I hyper align then it would work. If you don't, its a crapshoot.


dsc106 (original poster)

#3: Post by dsc106 (original poster) »

Thanks for the good input Randy! Yeah, any Vario use for espresso would just be "bonus" category for me - basically I want an awesome dedicated brew grinder, and thought that the fact I purpotedly might m be able to do espresso with it too (after hyper alignment) was a nice feature to let me dip my toes into unimodal espresso.

Outside of the option for future experimentation, my plan would be Vario drop, niche espresso.


#4: Post by dbdnt »

Funny enough I'm in the same situation. I got good shots using my Vario with the ceramic burrs, but now that I have a Niche, the Vario is outfitted with steel burrs again just for filter brews. I'd like to hyperalign it at some point, but figured it'd be best to replace it with the Forte parts while I do it too.

dsc106 (original poster)

#5: Post by dsc106 (original poster) »

Ah dbdnt, so you're running my possible future setup then? How do you like it with the niche for espresso and the Vario steel burr for drip?

Team HB

#6: Post by baldheadracing »

I have a hyper-aligned Vario with Forte grind chamber and steel burrs. I no longer use it for pourover as I prefer my ghost burr grinders (Orphan Espresso Apex and Fuji Royal). I have the Vario modified for single dosing - a "single dosing hopper" does not in and of itself make the Vario a single dosing grinder. IMO you have to flip the flapper, seal the hopper/grind chamber joint, and add (big) bellows.

I wouldn't buy a Vario+ today; in this market segment I'd buy a grinder that takes "standard" 64mm burrs like the Ode, DF-64, etc. With the Vario, you only have a few choices besides the ceramics that the Vario+ comes with. AFAIK:
- the Dittings for the Vario;
- the Mahlkoenig X54's "all-around" burrs; and
- the Ditting combo burrs for the Franke.
Only the Dittings for the Vario were designed for drip. In contrast, SSP has multiple burrsets, and have teased a new brew burrset that looks very interesting. Mazzer and Italmill have 64mm burrs. The 64mm market is much larger, so new burr developments will be more likely to happen there.

On the other hand, if you intend to run a full hopper, then the Vario-W+ is hard to beat for convenience.
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada


#7: Post by dbdnt »

Much prefer it to the dance I was doing between grind settings before, though I have considered ditching it for an Ode or DF-64 as baldheadracing mentioned. It's served me well and continues to do so, but I'm not a huge fan of the adjustment levers on it or the noise level, especially now that I have the Niche :D

dsc106 (original poster)

#8: Post by dsc106 (original poster) »

The Ode with SSP vs the Vario w/Steel has been a back and forth for me.

I had been leaning Vario based on the belief it would last longer and be more serviceable than what fellow it making, and that the motor itself is superior as grind size moves finer. As well people have had enough success with espresso on it that I suspect an alignment would allow that bonus metric to be of use.

From what I saw on prima coffee video comparison, the taste in cup between ode/Vario was insignificant - but I suppose that wasn't an ode with SSP.

Rao's strong endorsement of the forte, and seeing how very similar the Vario+ is to the forte, was and is very compelling to me. I don't mind doing the mods (ie the flapper mod). The ode is more aesthetically pleasing and likely set up a bit better for single dosing, at least out of the box.

I was pretty set on the Vario+, but now you've got me waffling again lol.

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Team HB

#9: Post by another_jim »

FWIW, over the years, for cupping and brewing, I've used a Bunnzilla, a Vario with brew burrs, and now the Fuji Royal with ghost burrs. There is not much between them: the flats have a slight edge on body, and the ghost burrs on clarity (I've gone to a 12:1 brew ratio for anything except ultra-light cupping or third wave roasts with the Fuji.). I use the Fuji because in cupping I need all the clarity I can get. But I also slightly prefer the Fuji over the Vario for its simplicity and robustness, while the Bunn is somewhat of a PITA compared to either of the other two.

SSP makes a Red Speed 60.5mm flat burr for this style grinder (i.e. the Fuji and all the Chinese clones), and there are several other premium flat burr sets for them; but I haven't experimented with any of them.
Jim Schulman

Team HB

#10: Post by baldheadracing »

dsc106 wrote:... As well people have had enough success with espresso on it that I suspect an alignment would allow that bonus metric to be of use..
I've been using my Vario for lighter roasts for espresso while I'm waiting for my "end game" :roll: grinder to arrive. IMO, the hyper-alignment is needed, as is the Forte grind chamber - which you get on the "+" models I believe.

The Ode is a moving target as the user experiences with the v2 burrs are not yet known. As such, it isn't be clear whether a change to SSP burrs is even needed or desirable.

Also note that the Acaia 64mm grinder is coming, but at an unknown price point. I assume that it will be lower than the Lagom P64 - which sounds to me like a grinder that you might want to consider :P.

As for Rao, Baratza knew it was him when they sent out the grinder. Also, keep in mind that Rao ran the Forte with a full hopper, which changes the grind distribution.
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada