Baratza Vario grinder recalibration issue

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
chanty 77

#1: Post by chanty 77 »

Baratza sent me a refurbished Vario Baratza grinder because they were helping me with problems and decided to send me a year old refurb. They insisted, which was really kind of them. They said they would recalibrate it to what I was using---Macro 1, micro P (well calibrate it as close as they could). I started it at 2P & total choke, nothing came out forever, ended up moving it to Macro 3 finally. I have it on Macro 3, Micro U (only goes to W in coarseness) and it's choking to the point where I can't get the first drip out til 20 seconds after turning on the machine which would be totally undrinkable. I have also gone from my typical 17.8 grams of beans to 16.5g & still had 20 seconds before first drip.
The only thing I can think of is putting the Macro to 4 which please someone tell me this---that setup would be for DRiP, not espresso. I hate recalibrating it because I don't ever think I'm doing it properly.
Say Baratza recalibrated it to the place where it is now "espresso grind" on Macro 4, is it okay to use Macro 4 for espresso grind? Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh & thanks.

rainy_coffee

#2: Post by rainy_coffee »

I can feel the frustration coming off your post, and just wanted to add: don't panic!

I've had a Vario for about 6-ish months now and have re-calibrated it a few times. My understanding based on my usage & reading through the alignment threads on HB is basically: you should feel OK about using whatever macro/micro settings you need to, to get the coffee you want.

The numbers are just reference points for you to use, and the relationship between those reference points and the actual burr positions is different for each unit, depending on calibration. I doubt it'd hurt the machine if your particular unit grinds espresso a 4R, even if that corresponds to a V60 grind on my machine.

That said, using the calibration screw to bring the burrs closer or further apart for a given macro/micro setting will shift your grind range from unusably-fine-to-coarse to usably-fine-to-extremely coarse, so depending on how you use your machine you might want access to different ranges.
Evan

LMWDP #678

chanty 77

#3: Post by chanty 77 »

Thank you. I was told to have fun with this. I'm not at all. Fun is not bleeding through expensive beans & still not getting the "sweet spot" or even near it. According to the recalibration, the instruction booklet basically tells me recalibration is only to make finer, not coarser. At 3U, it was still taking 20 seconds to the first drip out of the espresso machine (basically a choke). So I went to 4M, and a gusher.... Then 4D, a choker, then 4J, a gusher, then 4G, about 11-15 seconds to first drip. I seriously was in tears, this is not any fun at all. I also went from 17g of beans to 16.5. On my older Varis was at 1P & 17.8g , 8-10 seconds to first drip.
I appreciate your kindness. I'm seriously ready to find another grinder.

rainy_coffee

#4: Post by rainy_coffee »

I hear you on the pain of not having good espresso come out of the beans that you paid for! I look forward to making a good coffee in the morning, and when you know you can do better it's a bummer. Also, what a bummer that Baratza didn't do a better job of calibrating that machine that they sent your way...

I'm going to assume that since you're posting on HB, you'd like someone to suggest potential things to try or potential solutions. I know sometimes it's best just to listen and empathize, but I think you posted because you want help!

Couple of thoughts:
  • I think the calibration screw can go both ways, to adjust burrs finer or coarser for a given setting. Baratza's examples don't show that, but I think it'd just be a matter of turning the calibration tool the opposite direction. I was initially confused by the fact that the manual says you're supposed to start hearing burrs touch at 1M, but most other sources like Baratza's own calibration troubleshooting videos indicate 2Q. Hopefully the video helps you like it helped me understand what I was hearing on my machine.
  • If you change Macro settings while dialing in an espresso, you may not actually be getting a coarser/finer grind as you'd expect. I used to assume that 1Z would be finer than 2A. I assumed that the Macro/Micro levers made a continuous and linear set of steps. This is not true: there's some overlap at the coarser settings of 1 with the finer settings of 2. I think this is true across all Macro settings, but I don't know if the overlap is the same across the range. There was recently a thread where someone tried to quantify the overlap. I don't think my machine lines up exactly like that example, but the behavior is there.
  • Keeping some variables constant - like dose - helps me dial in espresso. Matt Perger on Barista Hustle has put together a video that walks through a potential dialing in scenario, and he systematically locks in the amount of coffee (dose), then how much coffee he lets the machine produce (yield), and adjusts grind to get time & flavor into the place he wants. I noticed you mentioned changing the dose - when I'm dialing in a coffee I try to keep the dose constant to within .1 or .2g and just vary the grind. James Hoffmann also has a series of excellent videos where he breaks down the dialing process bit by bit. Really recommend them.
  • Try to reduce other variables like grounds distribution! I first tried pouring grounds from the Vario grounds bin into my portafilter and found it fussy. I then tried the Vario portafilter holder, grinding directly into the PF. This too sometimes ended up with a mess, and I got inconsistent channeling and coffee spray out of my bottomless portafilter. Where I've settled on is: I grind into the Vario bin, dump that into a small kids cup, and invert my basket onto that cup, flip it right-side-up, swirl a few times to distribute grounds, then work from there. I don't have a proper rake / hog tool, but I've found a cake tester is narrow enough that if I swirl it around my kids cup to break up clumps, transfer grounds to the basket, and re-rake the top half of the grounds lightly, it seems to help give a really even distribution that reduces the channeling & spraying I used to get.
Evan

LMWDP #678

rainy_coffee

#5: Post by rainy_coffee »

I forgot one other thing:

Milk drinks are super forgiving, milk masks mistakes. If you have someone you can give a latte to that isn't particularly picky, that can help take the sting off of an imperfect shot. I'm fortunate that my wife loves when I make her coffee, and we've only had maybe one or two coffees she's sent back as completely undrinkable 8) And I've definitely had my fair share of shots that run in 15 seconds or take 45-60 seconds to come through as I'm chasing a grind setting with a new bean.
Evan

LMWDP #678

chanty 77

#6: Post by chanty 77 »

Thanks so much for your help rainy_coffee. i so appreciate the time spent, very kind & helpful.

rainy_coffee

#7: Post by rainy_coffee »

I hope something in there helps! Let us know if anything helps and hope you start seeing some success soon.
Evan

LMWDP #678

rainy_coffee

#8: Post by rainy_coffee »

Something else crossed my mind - I seem to recall James Hoffmann saying something about Gaggia Classics tending to run higher pressures than are necessarily helpful. Think that was around 14 mins in this video. I don't know what's involved in modifying the Gaggia to lower the pressure, but I'd speculate the higher pressure might only give you a very narrow window between gushers and a totally pressure-compacted puck.
Evan

LMWDP #678

chanty 77

#9: Post by chanty 77 »

I do try to temp. surf on my Gaggia. Right now I think the problem seems to be that Baratza recalibrated the refurb too fine. Should never get a choked espresso machine at Macro 3 on a Vario--especially when you are almost to the end of the Micro coarse wise going from 17.8 to 16.5g of beans. I mean, on my older Vario, I was up to 1 Macro to P& Q on the Micro at first drop anywhere from 8-10 seconds with about 17.8g of beans using same blend of beans which is more forgiving as it is a darker medium roast.
I ended up putting the Macro to 4M, 17 g beans--gusher at 1-2 seconds first drop, then 4D---choked, 4J gusher again 17g, 4G 11 seconds to first drop, 17g. Eleven seconds to first drop is getting closer but that is also going up the "finer" micro scale. On the 3 Macro, I am way down to just about the coarsest I can go & still getting choked, on the 4 Macro, I am getting close to the finest I can go with not a lot of room to play with.
Thing is (probably Gaggia issue), once I start doing more than 2 shots at a time, It gets all wonky. The last shot at 4G was the 7th double & only 2 were salvageable of the seven.

rainy_coffee

#10: Post by rainy_coffee »

Another thought: do you keep your hopper filled with beans, or are you single-dosing?

If the former, I wonder if your previous grind setting / old grounds are frustrating the dialing-in process. My workflow is to keep the hopper empty and weigh out (my desired dose) + (.3g) in one cup, and throw maybe 1.5-2g into another cup. I first grind the little "palate cleanser", throw it out, then grind my actual dose through and weigh the results.
Evan

LMWDP #678