Baratza Vario Grinder - Second Look - Page 5

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tristanstephenson

#41: Post by tristanstephenson »

zoomchick wrote:I am still tweaking what settings work best for my Salvatore One but my Vario sprays pretty wide. There are alot of grounds of either side of the grinder. After 14 seconds, its a mess and I have come to putting a flexible cutting board underneath to help with the clean up.
Any suggestions?
Try a different coffee.

I've had a Vario for about a month. I've found that the static jumping grounds can be attributed to the coffee that you are using. Lighter roasts fall beautifully into the PF, but I have had some darker roasts literally flying everywhere.

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another_jim
Team HB

#42: Post by another_jim »

There's been a longish thread over on CG about the result Dan (ddr) and I got comparing the Vario with the Compak and the Mini.

First off, I'd like to thank all those who had good words to say about my integrity as a coffee taster. My membership on CG has expired, so I'm saying thank you here.

Second I notice there's a good deal of skepticism about the test result. This is of course a good thing, all purported taste tests should be approached with extreme skepticism.

However, as usual, I think there is the usual fundamental misunderstanding about comparison tests -- you don't need a lot of tests if it's not close, and you need a huge number of it is very close. In short, the result against the Compak doesn't mean much, but the result against the Mini is meaningful.

But here's where the skepticism comes in. What exactly does the result mean? The Mini is also the only grinder that got blanked in the Can it Beat the Robur show; so maybe I just don't much like the way it tastes. Dan (the HB one) and I were talking about this yesterday. He pointed out I frequently use the word "angular" in conjunction with the Mini's taste. So here's a personal admission. I do not like Vivace's espresso, or any of the other "in your face" styles of making shots (although I admire Schomer's chutzpah calling the blend Dolce). I want espresso shots to be laid back, mellow and sweet. If they also have well defined flavors, so much the better.

So here it is, maybe the Vario I'm testing is a better grinder than the Mini; or maybe it's the more laid back grinder compared to the Mini's (to my palate) boom box style of overamped top and bottom flavors. But in either case, I have little doubt they are different tasting, easily distinguishable, grinders.
Jim Schulman

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another_jim
Team HB

#43: Post by another_jim »

A few bits after a week with the Vario:

Static:
I didn't notice any during the test. But over the next few days it got worse and worse, regardless of coffee or humidity. I removed the burr, emptied out the grind chamber, which held around 2.5 grams of coffee, reassembled, and the static was gone. By a few days later, it was back, and I had to repeat the procedure. So cleaning the burr chamber is a temporary fix.

Grind Retention
Bit of mystery here. The burr chamber had around 2.5 grams of grind in it when I cleaned it to control the static. Yet the very next time I used it, putting 15 grams in got me 15 grams out. So where is this waste coffee coming from? I'm guessing the grind area slowly, but progressively, gums up with ground coffee, and at some point the grinder's performance suffers. It may be that the grinder needs frequent cleaning to keep it at best performance levels people have observed, and that if one doesn't, the performance drops to the mediocre levels others have observed.

A Second Look at the Burrs
The Vario's burr set doesn't look particularly good. Here is a comparison against the Mini:



Using the measurement technique I used to for the Titan Grinder thread, the Mini's burr length is 7.1mm, already rather small, while the Vario's is 4.3mm, which is a miserable number, smaller than the tiniest peppermill or hand grinder. But in the taste test, the Vario beat the Mini, and this is a result I stand by. So what gives?

A second look at the burrs shows that the angle of the Vario's burrs is much more offset, while those on the Mini are much more along the radius. So while the Vario burrs only take up an annulus of 4.3mm, whereas the Mini's occupy 7.1mm, the longest Vario burr is 10.5mm in length, while the longest Mini burr is only 10.0mm in length.

Does this matter? I think so, and I think the measures I gave during the TGP may be inaccurate because of this. The beans are forced from the inside to the outside of the burr plate by the ridges. If the ridges are relatively straight, a small turn angle forces the bean from one end to the other. If the ridges are as oblique as the Vario's, a much larger turn angle is required to get the bean from inside to out. In other words, by putting the burrs at a very oblique angle, Mahlkoenig created a slightly longer grinding path than the Mini's while using a smaller burr.

I think this partly explains why the Vario performs as well as it does, despite the small burr size.
Jim Schulman

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Bluecold

#44: Post by Bluecold »

Maybe a thin layer of coffee grinds oils prohibits the grounding effect bare metal has in the grind chamber, thereby giving rise to static.
That would also maybe explain Tristan's issue because darker coffees are oilier* and therefore have stickier grinds.

*generally speaking.
LMWDP #232
"Though I Fly Through the Valley of Death I Shall Fear No Evil For I am at 80,000 Feet and Climbing."

jbeecham

#45: Post by jbeecham »

It's late and it has been a long day, so let me apologize up front and admit I have not read all the posts in this thread. I am very interested in Jim's evaluation and his thoughts on the Baratza Vario. I have had a Vario for a month more or less. I think the sn is less than 10. I have been using a Macap M4, so that is my reference.

Overall, I am very impressed with the Vario. The grind quality is silky smooth compared to the Macap and no clumping at all. As for the pf holder, I quit using it for the moment. Sometimes there is static cling and it gets messy. It is easy enough for me to grind into the bin. I have noticed a minute amount of wasted grinds. I wonder how profound the impact on the quality of espresso is from a minute amount of stale grinds retained in the vario compared to the greater quantity retained in the Macap. I can definitely see an improvement in quality when I pull a shot. I like the design, especially the micro and macro adjustments. Going from espresso to drip and back again is too easy. It is well engineered and nicely built.

Forget the price of the grinder (don't let price cloud the debate). No matter what it costs, thus far, it performs brilliantly.

jerry

IMAWriter
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#46: Post by IMAWriter »

ddr wrote:Thanks for posting this Jim, and thanks for your hospitality. I was very glad to have my belief that the Vario is a great espresso grinder confirmed with blind testing.

Rob, I know you are waiting to hear about the Vario used for French Press; sorry, we were too wiped out after the 24 shots to do any more ;) I left the Vario with Jim for more testing as my press is packed up in a box and I will be out of town for a bit.
What!!!??? Wiped out after only 24 shots?
Pansy :lol:
Any new purchase brings with it some angst, occasionally buyers remorse, and in my case PANIC.
I pleased that you will not carry that burden into that long night.
I'm betting that Jim has long since become immune to copious amounts of espresso. This was a walk in the park for him. In defense of all equipment, it has been, and always will be the creature in front of the PF that most often makes or breaks the result. (I didn't make that up, but wish I had)
I will be taking as good look at the Vario in Atlanta while at the SCAA. Drinking as many shots as I can hold, as well.
Rob
LMWDP #187
www.robertjason.com

IMAWriter
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#47: Post by IMAWriter »

tinseljim wrote:It's interesting to hear that taste-wise there isn't much in it between good quality grinders wrt FP/drip. Would a possible test be to find the sweet spot for the Vario FP and then find the sweet spot for the SJ FP and compare them?
FWIW, I've owned two cherry SJ. and my Maestro did every bit as good a job at coarser setting. I'll bet mainly due to the fact that the Mazzer SJ was MEANT to be an espresso grinder, not the Maestro.
Rob
LMWDP #187
www.robertjason.com

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shadowfax (original poster)

#48: Post by shadowfax (original poster) »

Well, those of you who think Jim Schulman is crazy might need to throw a few more tasters into the bunch with him. This weekend, longtime CGer and HBer Jon Rosenthal invited Houston coffee folks to an old-fashioned grinder shoot-out. Jon provided 3 grinders--an older-model Mahlkönig K30, a Macap M7K, and a Super Jolly. I brought the Baratza Vario review unit, and Bill Giffen of Hopson Coffee provided the beans and a GS3 as the test machine. Since there's only so much coffee one can drink in an afternoon, we had a "final 4" style shoot-out, where it went (winner (winner A B) (winner C D)).

You can read all about the details of the test in Jon's write-up on CoffeeGeek. In short, the M7K smashed the K30 in a single round (luck?). Of course, it was just one round--we didn't really end up testing the K30 yesterday. In the second round, the Super Jolly and the Vario went neck and neck. 2 shots in a row where the shots were virtually identical. I know I refrained from picking a preference on at least one of the sets; both were very close. We advanced the Vario in the interest of giving it good testing.

The final round matched the M7K with the Vario, and though I think Jon mentioned only 2 tests, I believe we had 3 pairs; one of them we might not have officially voted on. Anyway, I recall the first pair being for me a confirmation of the conical stereotype. The better shot had more distinct flavors, and far superior sweetness. I preferred it, and guessed it was the M7K, and I was right. Then, next pair, it was the same again, except the winner, whose shot was virtually the same to my palate as the winner from the other round, ended up being the Vario. I believe the final pair was too close to call. Jon can correct me on this if he remembers better how this went.

I believe Jon felt that the Vario was somewhat more finicky than the M7K, but obviously it performed great at its best, certainly matching the best shots of the M7K.

It was an awesome, caffeinated afternoon, and I want to thank Jon, Bill, Mitchell, and Andrew for the great help in the Vario review. I think that's all from me for now; I have another shootout in mind in the near future (Vario vs. Super Jolly vs. Robur E on Synesso Cyncra), and hopefully even more interesting tests later in the month. Stay tuned...
Nicholas Lundgaard

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JonR10

#49: Post by JonR10 »

shadowfax wrote:The final round matched the M7K with the Vario, and though I think Jon mentioned only 2 tests, I believe we had 3 pairs; one of them we might not have officially voted on. Anyway, I recall the first pair being for me a confirmation of the conical stereotype. The better shot had more distinct flavors, and far superior sweetness. I preferred it, and guessed it was the M7K, and I was right. Then, next pair, it was the same again, except the winner, whose shot was virtually the same to my palate as the winner from the other round, ended up being the Vario. I believe the final pair was too close to call. Jon can correct me on this if he remembers better how this went.
One round not counted had a defect Vario shot (operator issue). Coincidentally, the Macap shot on that pair was the one that ALL of the judges raved about being the best of the day.

The final pair was the only set I personally tasted and I had no problem picking my favorite (the Macap). I am theorizing in hindsight that maybe you guys were experiencing espresso overload as the final pairs were in fairly rapid succession.
Jon Rosenthal
Houston, Texas

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another_jim
Team HB

#50: Post by another_jim »

Great test (and whew! I'm not nuts after all)

The David versus Goliath upsets in the TGP usually came at lower doses, which are more fault tolerant than higher dose shots. So the Vario being able to hold its own is perhaps more surprising in this test than in the one I did with shots in the 14 to 16 gram range.

One clear difference is that at 14 to 16 grams, we didn't need to WDT the baskets for any of the grinders, while at 20 grams Jon had to nurse the Vario's along. This is in line with my experience during the TGP shoot outs, where the smaller grinders needed primping and fluffing.

Jon's experience suggests a critique of both my and this test : When it comes to how good the average shot out of this grinder will be, how finicky it is at higher doses compared to the Mini, M4, Rocky and other direct competitors may be the more important than how the best shot from each is. At the lower doses Dan and I tested, the Vario is a well behaved grinder; but a large number of potential buyers will be using it at higher doses. I will check this against the Mini sometime this week, but I don't have access to the other competitive grinders
Jim Schulman