HB wrote:...in the end, the Robur bested the Vario easily. Comments about the Vario's espresso's were not flattering (e.g., "dull" and "flat"). For those familiar with SCAA espresso scoring, they were 1.5 to 2.0's. That said, the Robur didn't blow off the roof either, as most of the espressos it produced were 3.0's.
In discussing this offline with Nicholas, he suggested a more interesting comparison might be the Vario and Mazzer Mini since they're closer to the same price point.
Also... Mark Prince of coffee-geek reviewed it and added many comments on cg forums. On thing that find a significant POSITIVE is the consistency of the grind while looking under a microscope, which would help maximize optimum extraction.woodchuck wrote:3) Fine/fluffy uni-dimensional grind. Seemed finer, less dense and more uniform than the Robur grind.
6) Dialing in was a little more difficult than the Robur or my Macap. Seemed the window for a good pour or a runaway was narrower - a little less forgiving on the grind.
7) Flat. There was a definite difference in body and taste between the Robur and the Vario. The Vario body was noticeably lighter and the taste not nearly as intense for the same 25 second ~ 1.5 oz pour. I think you have to pull these shots a little tighter and with more coffee to get the body but you give up some of the more subtle flavors when you do this.
Without having tried the Vario yet, I'd like to throw in a few insights, and questions:
In the process of roasting, grind, and extraction, the delicate polyunsaturate oils in the bean can easily become oxidized from exposure to air. Metal contact accelerates this oxidization, and in my opinion adds a slight metallic oxidized taste to the coffee. During the roasting process the exterior of the been will have a slightly extra roast, possibly giving a bit of scorch (esp. if too much high heat in the final moments of the roast). (I also do no metal contact roasting.) Most of the damage, however, occurs during grinding when all molecules of the coffee grinds are in contact with metal and air. This is why ceramic burrs are highly welcome because they would reduce this metal oxidization effect. As a side example of what I'm talking about, consider what happens when you cut a head of romain lettuce with a metallic knife... the cut ends go brown within a minute... which doesn't occur if you use a lettuce plastic knife or pro chef ceramic knife. If you want to maximize extraction of delicate flavors in your coffee, to me it would be a must to remove the metallic burr element in the process. Unfortunately, the level of dosage in modern day equipment is optimized for metallic roasters, metallic grinder burrs, and metallic espresso machine parts. By changing the grinder burrs to ceramic, you through off the equation some (according to me). One way I'm played with this is with the Aerobie coffee maker that is a mix of french-press and espresso, that produces a 1.5oz extract like a double espresso. Because the extraction process has no metal, the end result is a more smooth coffee that is less acidic and less bitter. The effect is also a more "thin" coffee. The only two solutions to strengthen the coffee is to increase the dosage, or use a more coarse filter (mesh, non-metallic).
As for the Vario, my expectations are similar to what the Aerobie produces: a slightly less acidic and less bitter coffee. I would expect the Vario to bring up the quality of the final coffee, given very consistent grind, and no-metal oxidization. Note the final espresso flavor is not what an experience quality espresso barista would "expect" after years of pulling shots with one set of technologies.
Regarding the comments from Dan and Ian (in italics above), I bring up the questions...
"Are you sure that the shots are inferior, or are the properties of the shots now different (than entrained expectation), requiring some getting use to?"
In making my Aerobie shots, I increase the dosage by about 15% to bring up the flavor. "Would you consider testing shots with a higher dosage, say 16 grams, to compare the shots to other machines, with coffee of about equal strength?"
Lastly, oxygen significantly enhances the flavor of coffee when milk wet froth (micro bubbles, not foam) is added to make a cappuccino. It seems oxygen can add benefits to coffee, but in my take (so far), it is best added at the very end of preparation, as opposed to earlier processes. If I'm correct on this, then slightly higher dosed Vario grind double shot cappuccino would taste better than with another metallic grinder. "Would anyone like to test that?" (I assume that the weaker acidity will not show negatively after micro-bubbles are added.)
By the way, with my espresso equipment I'm not able to increase the dose in my portafilter. I have a three-shot basket, but 16 grams won't work as the top level won't be right. "Can anyone clue me in how to do a 16 gram double shot?"
Sorry if this has been lengthy. I think that ceramic burrs is a new technology and changes the whole coffee process equation and some experimentation and discussion is required to draw the proper conclusions. Anyone with me on this? Many thanks for your inputs!!