The Alicorn: Achieving Precision Alignment with the Baratza Forté/Vario - Page 28

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.

#271: Post by awolmartinez »

So after super aligning my forte with steels months ago, and getting great results, recently I have been struggling to get good in cup results, so I cleaned again and rechecked, and the alignment regressed alot! Less than 30% contact. Maybe it has to do with the grinder being brand new when I aligned it originally.

Anyways I don't have the time right now to re align, so instead, on a wild whim, I swapped out to the original ceramic burrs, used a bit of foil to shim, and holy cheesy potatoes batman! I would be lying if I didn't say the resulting shot (after dialing in of course) with shimmed ceramics compared to the aligned steels, for me, was life changing... Yes life changing, coffee is life.

There may be a few factors at play, that I won't get into here, but needless to say, this makes me want to realign the grinder once again, but I am sticking to ceramics, the body and texture and sweetness of the espresso from a forte with ceramics is other worldly!

pcrussell50 (original poster)

#272: Post by pcrussell50 (original poster) replying to awolmartinez »

Great post!

I had my Vario for ten years with ceramics before Jake figured out how to align it, and I went to steels and added the two key Forte bits.

I think the ceramics are under-appreciated. They do not have the latest narrow spectrum unimodal particle size that the people chasing the nth degree of EY at all costs. value so highly. Instead the ceramics are more versatile and good over a broad range of coffees, while sacrificing the former to some degree. But they sure to make beautiful fluffy grounds and pours and are much faster than the steels. Fluffy grounds, if you flip your flapper out of the way.

LMWDP #553


#273: Post by neohk »

i had the same problem, except it got misaligned much quicker haha


#274: Post by ETABLERT »

I've found that my calibration is constantly moving around and that it's becoming increasingly difficult to find that chirping noise. I've also noticed that if I adjust the grind coarser the lower burr seems to need encouragement to drop down but I am not sure if that is an issue.

I guess my concern is that I've messed something up whilst aligning the burrs! :( I'm planning to re-align on Monday so any tips or suggestions on things to check would be greatly appreciated.




#275: Post by sjp8175 »

Just echoing what everyone else is saying. Going to jump to ceramic burrs and see if that makes on the coffees I've been brewing. I've noticed that the alignment drifts slightly and every two or three-ish months I've got to re-align. I've got a vario with the forte chamber and whatnot but I'm guessing the vibration and usage slowly shift the alignment if you don't re-align every once in a while but I'm OK with that for the cost of the grinder and the quality once aligned. Excited to test out the ceramics for the first time from what everyone is saying!

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#276: Post by baldheadracing »

I find that the more developed the coffee used for espresso, the more I'll prefer the ceramics over the steels. However, the steel burrs are vastly better than the ceramics for anything coarser than espresso IMO.
ETABLERT wrote:... I've also noticed that if I adjust the grind coarser the lower burr seems to need encouragement to drop down but I am not sure if that is an issue. ...
That may be an indication that you may have too much belt tension for Alicorn-level alignment. I think that the Baratza spec/method for adjusting belt tension places too much side force on the lower burr. Here's what mine looks like:
Vario Grind Consistency or How I Learned to Stop Obsessing and Love the Coffee
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada


#277: Post by pham »

Regarding alignment shifts, as well as ceramics vs steels:

From my experience and thinking about how this process works (as well as examining Jake's diagram), the Alicorn alignment helps to correct the motor and belt misalignment with respect to the burr carriers. With a brand new Vario, perhaps shifting misalignment is incorrect management of belt tension during alignment, or the belt becoming slightly looser with time and necessitating the need to fix this portion of the tolerance stack again after a bit of stretching from the belt. I check my alignment when I open up the grind chamber to clean, and mine has held. However, I've re-aligned every time I upgraded a part, so my belt might've been stretched already when I did my final alignment. Just throwing guesses out there, I don't have a way to verify this guess.

In my experience, I vastly prefer the steels taste-wise for both espresso and brew for my roast preference, which has been shifting lighter and lighter. On a pourover, this grinder can hit 23% EY (perhaps 1-2% more even) with no signs of astringency and a quality coffee. For espresso, I actually do not recommend the steel burrs for traditional 9 bar profiles: I think they perform their best with flow-profilers, levers, and 6-bar OPV adjusted machines. In a shot, the steels start slow and accelerate quickly; this is normal and expected. Follow your taste-buds and your refractometer if you have one, and be meticulous about your puck preparation. The ceramics will be more forgiving and taste great as well; they offer greater puck resistance and a greater adjustment range for dial-in, but I found they tasted somewhat "dusty" or "chalky" with light and nordic roasts.


#278: Post by windycity1989 »

Thanks Jake for such an amazing post! I'm a new user on the forum and just got my Forte BG yesterday.

Per some other members' advice, I should let the machine's driver belt break-in before I attempt the Alicorn alignment. I have a few minor questions, and would really appreciate anyone's help.

1. Which hex key to get: The Roundup guide specifies a "3mm hex key", which I do not possess. I intend to purchase one from Amazon. Does anyone have a suggestion? I might just buy the top result from Amazon. My question is: should I purchase a "metric hex" or "metric ball-end" key? Both results are returned when searching for "3mm hex key".
Example of ball-end: ... 902&sr=8-2

Example of hex: ... 902&sr=8-3

I believe the second one is the correct one to buy, but just want to double check. Perhaps they both work, and the "ball-end" one is slightly more flexible?
Here is another one, that is very cheap, and it appears to be a ball-end, and I worry that it would not work: ... 6H8CS8XHK6

2. What does "bouncing" mean? This post, as well as Roundup, were really well written. I am only confused by a single step (probably the most crucial one): how exactly does one "bounce" the levers to push the upper and lower burr carriers into alignment? For instance, should one raise and lower both macro and micro levers simultaneously? Should one keep the macro at 1, and only "bounce" the micro? Does one need to apply force, or this "bouncing" can be done gently and slowly?

3. Break-in period for driver belt. I believe it is generally advised on this forum to run 10 lbs sacrificial beans at the finest setting to break-in the burr. However, I cannot find any information on breaking-in the driver belt. In general, how long should I wait before attempting the Alicorn alignment to get lasting benefits?

4. How important are the spacers? Is it absolutely necessary to do the 3D printed spacers step? I have BG, so stainless steel burrs. If I can get clean ink pattern after Alicorn, then is it OK to skip the spacers step, as it indicates my specific copy does not suffer from TBS? I have very few tools at home. If I need to attempt this, I assume I need to buy shims and sandpapers. Any other tools required?


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#279: Post by baldheadracing »

Use a basic L hex key. The ones with handles that you linked to may have clearance issues.

Bouncing is shown in the videos that Jake has posted IIRC.

The drive belt and the bushings will be fine once you've ground whatever coffee or minute rice that you use to season the burrs.

I didn't use the spacers, but if you haven't done mechanical work to know the proper torque for the fasteners, and have the tools to set the proper torque for the fasteners, then you'll probably want a spacer to guide you as to how little to tighten the screws to avoid Taco Burr Syndrome. The spacers can't hurt.
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

pcrussell50 (original poster)

#280: Post by pcrussell50 (original poster) »

Sooo... Come clean moment. Until today, I had not actually done this alignment myself, even though I know Jake pretty well. So after I sold my Monolith Max this past October, I had been relying heavily on my Forte'fied, hyper-aligned, Vario. (Vario with metal Forte burr chamber). After stories of alignment drift, and full time use since my Monoliths were gone, I decided it was time to check alignment again. Glad I checked. My alignment had drifted.

1) Went to Jake's youtube channel and used his guide for removing the grinding assembly. The video takes about eight minutes to watch and none of it is sped up, so it should take you about that amount of time. Easy peasy.
2) I already had a drill battery and some alligator clip test leads (just a couple of $$ on eBay), HIGHLY recommended.
3) Checked my alignment half a dozen times with drill motor and dry erase, just to get the feel of things. This takes two minutes or less as seen in the video.
4) then loosened everything up to do the new alignment
5) BUT... instead of using the adjustment levers to press the lower burr up against the upper burr, I cribbed an idea from a mutual friend of Jake and myself, and used a squeeze-grip woodworking clamp like this one, with the metal lid to a glass jar on top, and a socket on the bottom, to squeeze the bottom burr against the top before tightening.
Andy's photo of how it looks with the clamp the socket, (his clamp was a different brand than mine, but technique was the same):

6) worked like a champ... achieved a clean wipe on the very first try. Did it a couple more times to verify, too

7) What I will do next time: The screws... They are almost all, metric M3 x 0.5 (diameter x threads per mm pitch). When my Forte comes in the mail this weekend, after disassembly, I'll go to the hardware store and get some M3 x 0.5 Allen headed cap screws, and a skinny hex head screw driver for them, and replace all the cheap Phillips heads. The Allen screws will be easier and stand up to more frequent loosening if one is going to spend the twenty minutes or so to do this job every few months as I plan too.

This procedure is straightforward enough for me, that I could probably do it in 20 minutes the next time. And that is acceptable to me for long term use.

EDIT to add: On a tip from a mate, after re-aligning, I put the Mahlkoenig ceramic burrs in. And oh my goodness what a sweet juicy fruit bomb the next shot was. I really need to lean on these some more to see what I can get out of them. They are also about twice as fast as the Dittings, if that matters.

LMWDP #553
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