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

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
pcrussell50

#1: Post by pcrussell50 » Mar 21, 2019, 4:05 pm

SOLVED: See post #11

Moderator Note:
Discussion split from Baratza Forte vs EK43: Which is Better?


Now, getting back to alignment and the Forte. Happy to start a new thread of mods think it's too OT...

The lower burr carrier is mounted on a spindle/axle, so it looks like it can be chucked up into a lathe and machined to as little runout as possible. the upper burr is held to the upper burr carrier by screws, and the upper burr carrier screws down into the metal frame of the machine. I am not a machinist, so I am asking what methods are available to true the upper burr/upper burr carrier versus the lower?

I treated this post as ON-topic because it's about the Forte with unimodal steel burrs and and it's about alignment, which were both hotly discussed in this thread.

-Peter
LMWDP #553

nuketopia

#2: Post by nuketopia » Mar 21, 2019, 6:25 pm

pcrussell50 wrote:Putting aside issues of alignment for a moment, and talking strictly about durability of the Vario, which has been speculated to be poor...

-Peter
I have a Vario of similar vintage, maybe a year newer than yours.

Unfortunately it did suffer the indignity of wobbly plastic over time. I've had to change the belt and cog. I had to install the correction kit and shims to keep the adjustment levers from walking during the grind. I put in the other upgrades as well over time, but it will not reliably grind espresso anymore. The burrs appear to be in excellent condition. So it would appear that it's problems relate to the overall structure and stability rather than burr condition.

I'm not upset about it. I got my money's worth from it.

I'd think the Forte would be far more durable, but I've not owned one.

pcrussell50

#3: Post by pcrussell50 » Mar 21, 2019, 7:45 pm

I have come to regard the lever shims as routine maintenance items. I inspect them every year, and replace every other year, whether they need it or not.

And I can grind light roasts fine enough to hopelessly choke a non-flow profiling or non-programmable pre infusion machine. Again this is with the ceramic burrs, so no idea about particle size distribution. Also, with the flapper out of the way, it is impossible not to use a funnel for 18.0g in an 18g VST because the grinds pile is so fluffy and tall, you can't get it down without risking spillage.

I realize that these characteristics may not be indicators of a grind that is uniform enough to kill a refractometer test. But they make flow profiling a must when pushed that fine.

-Peter
LMWDP #553

bytheway

#4: Post by bytheway » Apr 15, 2019, 9:19 pm

pcrussell50 wrote:Now, getting back to alignment and the Forte. Happy to start a new thread of mods think it's too OT...

The lower burr carrier is mounted on a spindle/axle, so it looks like it can be chucked up into a lathe and machined to as little runout as possible. the upper burr is held to the upper burr carrier by screws, and the upper burr carrier screws down into the metal frame of the machine. I am not a machinist, so I am asking what methods are available to true the upper burr/upper burr carrier versus the lower?

I treated this post as ON-topic because it's about the Forte with unimodal steel burrs and and it's about alignment, which were both hotly discussed in this thread.

-Peter
Did you ever find any info on improving alignment using machining processes? Would the sanding method work as described here (not conceived or developed here, just well summarised): https://www.scottrao.com/blog/2019/1/9/ ... ur-grinder

pcrussell50

#5: Post by pcrussell50 » Apr 15, 2019, 10:44 pm

Not sure. I don't have a Forté to experiment on or study.

Was hoping someone else had.

-Peter
LMWDP #553

bytheway

#6: Post by bytheway » replying to pcrussell50 » Apr 16, 2019, 12:38 am

OK, thanks...anyone tried to align the Forte better?

jevenator

#7: Post by jevenator » Jul 25, 2019, 2:41 am

bytheway wrote:OK, thanks...anyone tried to align the Forte better?
I have. I got the forté BG and was pretty unhappy with the alignment. Using the marker test I had one side much higher. I was chasing alignment and messaged baratza and this is their direct response
I'll be upfront with you: my personal perspective on this issue is that the machine is probably aligned well enough for most use, and that diving further into it will be a real hassle - as you have experienced.

That being said, I've spent a good amount of time aligning steel burrs on Forte's and can say from personal experience that you'd be very well served using loctite on the screws. The reason for this is that the ditting burrs have a narrow mating surface on the outer portion of the underside of the burr. The screws, however, mount closer to the middle of the burr. Fully tightening the screws can result in some "taco shell" bending that will send you chasing alignment all day. Use loctite so that you can secure the burrs without using significant torque while still keeping them secure and the result is a much easier process.

Now, that being said, also check comparative contact: that is to say the rub you see in the photos you sent compared to the amount you see if you push the burrs one micro step closer.

If at the closer step, you see considerably better contact, then you might have hit a point of diminishing returns as the difference between these two settings will be in the neighborhood of 3 microns. In my opinion, if your burrs are only 3 or 6 microns out of parallel, that's pretty darned good for most human palates in terms of extraction balance!

Hope that helps!
I spent about 5 hours chasing alignment on my own for the reason mentioned by baratza. I was experiencing that taco shelling and it was frustrating. Once reading this I was able to get pretty much the burrs all touching after the "one micro-step close" at the first 1st micro-step it's touching 180° across from each other. Hitting that one extra step rubs it all. I decided to stop messing with it after that point. I used around 12-15 folds of aluminum foil for one side and secured with copper foil tape. I did not use Loctite and did just tighten it only slightly.

The reason why I even looked into this is that their recommended setting is 3 for V60 but it was super muddy. I've noticed a lot of excess fines that my Lido 3 did not even produce when I had it. After alignment, the fines decreased significantly, but I still went much coarser for my V60 brews and now I'm at the lower end of 8 for my Origami brews with Kalita filter and Melodrip. (~4:30minute brew times).

I had a Gaggia classic for 2 days only where I found a set of 3A to be good to be getting a 16g:32g shot in ~28 seconds. Now I got the Cafelat Robot and I'm still trying to figure out the proper dose/grind setting because I've been getting some funky extractions. Although I blame my technique for that as well because I'm really new to the whole lever thing. However, I did pull 1 good shot that I enjoyed. Friday I have a modded BDB coming so I'll be able to put it to some tests with that paired with the FortéBG.

All my filter brews and espresso are with light roasts only. Currently, I bought a San Diego's local Monkey Bite espresso from Birdrock which tastes like apricots and has a brown sugar sweetness to it. I tried it in the shop and what I was getting through the Robot was pretty spot on although a bit underextracted. I also bought the Onyx Roasters Choice sample pack which included the Colombia Jairo Alban, Ethiopia Gedeb Beriti Natural, Kenya Mutheka Kiaguri, and Ethiopia Hambela Buku. It was roasted 2 days ago so I am waiting a bit for it to degas before I try any for Espresso.

The Steel Burr Forte definitely works for espresso but it does need to be aligned. Which now that I have done it once think I can do it over in about an hour rather than the 5-6 I spent the first time because I kinda had a very small idea of what I was doing. (Bending tiny foil pieces in halves over and over is frustrating).

Last note is that going from filter to espresso is easy but the other way is not. What I have been doing is taking off the top burr, cleaning it up, vacuuming with handheld Dyson on max suction and then purging leftover fines that may be in the chamber. That can take 3-5 minutes. So not to bad for a machine that can do both things. Sometime I will not take off the top burr and vacuum if I only ran 1-2 doses for espresso. Otherwise, since I use the Virtuoso hopper for single dosing, it leaves this small gap where little parts fly off into the area of the top burr carrier rather than all into the burr chamber.

Let me know if there are any specific things you guys want me to test.
No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.
― C.S. Lewis

pcrussell50

#8: Post by pcrussell50 » Jul 25, 2019, 11:27 am

Have you tried removing the rubber flapper at the end of the chute and re installing it upside down, so the flapper is flipped up and out of the way and no longer in the exit path?

With this, I get 0 to 0.1 g retention. Of course, in all grinders, low retention grinding means increased tendency to static (which is why Monoliths come with spritzers for RDT). I do RDT all the time every time, every bean, every grinder, no matter what. For the ease of RDT, zero static is better than the risk of "just a little". Opinions vary here. Many people would rather put up with a little static than RDT. It's just that I'm not one of them.

-Peter
LMWDP #553

jevenator

#9: Post by jevenator » Jul 25, 2019, 3:13 pm

pcrussell50 wrote:Have you tried removing the rubber flapper at the end of the chute and re installing it upside down, so the flapper is flipped up and out of the way and no longer in the exit path?

-Peter
I have not. I haven't seen it before people doing it for the Forte's. Only the Vario. Is there a guide to do it. I just stuck my pinky up here and out came some dust/fines from previous coffees.

I always RDT.
No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.
― C.S. Lewis

baldheadracing
Supporter ♡

#10: Post by baldheadracing » Jul 25, 2019, 5:24 pm

Interesting about the Loctite - I'll have to try that on my Vario-Forte the next time I wash the burrs.
What I'm interested in is my worst espresso being fantastic - James Hoffmann