Baratza Vario Super Alignment owner experience - Page 2

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
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#11: Post by Jake_G »

Creating another Alicorn;
A step by step guide with pictures:

  1. First, gather your typical 10 year old Vario (preferably one that is coated entirely with DynaMat) and prepare to remove the rear case.
    1. Remove the hopper:
    2. Then lay the grinder on its side and remove the two rear rubber feet to expose the screws securing the back cover; they pull out easily:
    3. With the feet out of the way, remove the two Phillips screws:
    4. And slide the rear case away from the grinder (note the metal grind chamber and drive pulley):
  2. Next we remove the top casting from the grinder base.
    1. Remove the two smaller screws from the front of the top casting, on either side of the grinds chute:
    2. Then remove the two larger screws from the rear of the top casting (the screw on the left has already been removed):
    3. Carefully unclip the safety switch from the top left of the circuit board:
    4. Then remove the 4 pin connector (with 3 wires) for the control panel from the top right of the circuit board:
    5. Remove the 2 pin motor connector from the lower right of the circuit board:
    6. With the wires and screws removed, you can lift the upper casting off of the grinder frame and remove the right grounding screw from the grinder base, which should be all that remains holding the upper casting to the grinder frame:
  3. Now we are ready to remove the grinding assembly from the upper casting.
    1. Begin by gently rocking the lever knobs to the side to remove them:
    2. Next there are two screws securing the motor plate at the front followed by the two screws in the back. The right front screw has already been removed and the left rear screw secures the ground wire:
    3. From here, you can lift the grinding assembly out of the front casting:
  4. I flipped the flapper between the grind chute and the grind chamber, so I slid the chute straight down to remove it:
  5. This is the money shot. All four grind chamber screws are visible. Note the lever arrangement. The coarse lever is on top and has a barrel in which the cam is located. Moving the coarse lever swings the cam up and down. The fine lever is on bottom and turns the eccentric cam within the barrel. The cam pushes up on the adjustment plate, loading it against the fine calibration screw on the far left. The brass block in the adjustment plate is a wedge that the base of the lower burr carrier shaft rides on. I had to loosen the primary calibration screw as mentioned in a previous post and slide the brass wedge to the right to get the lower burr carrier riding on a thicker portion of the wedge. It's a pretty well-engineered system:
  6. To set the alignment perfecly, all you have to do is loosen those four screws enough that the grind chamber wiggles freely and gently press the grind adjustment levers downwards while you snug the screws back up. You'll also need to loosen the motor mount screws to ensure that the belt tension is set properly as the chamber is tightened. Depending on how the chamber was installed at the factory, the lower burr carrier will be tilted one way or another. When you correct this by using the levers to load the burr faces squarely against one another, the burr carrier will want to stand straight up, but if the belt is too tight, it can't. I loosen the belt, let the levers load the burrs together (gently) and then snug the belt back up before tightening the chamber.
  7. Assembly is the reverse of disassembly :P

- Jake
LMWDP #704
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#12: Post by pmark »

Thank you Jake for this detailed guide.

I would like to try this in the future as my Vario is severely unaligned (described the issue here: Baratza Vario bad axis alignment (video)) but first I need to source the Forté parts.

Would anyone know a tool that can be used to measure the alignment (to the microns precision)?

pcrussell50 (original poster)

#13: Post by pcrussell50 (original poster) replying to pmark »

Yes Jake, the Dynamat is important :oops:
(By the way, the Dynamat was only a little effective with noise, not a lot.)

Anyway, based on two out of two Vario/Forte family grinders having better than world class runout (the unofficial benchmark is ten microns and even the worse of the two had half that), it might be worth considering that you might not have to measure it. Still if you want to anyway, a Chinese one that is good enough for this purpose can be had on Amazon for between $30-$40. ... b_ss_i_1_7. Obviously a professional machinist can or will spend much more...

LMWDP #553


#14: Post by Quester »

pcrussell50 wrote:But word on the street is that the Ditting steels will not grind well for espresso unless the machine is well aligned.
I love threads like this.

I have the Forte with steel burrs. And now that it's seasoned, it rocks. I've been comparing shots on my Decent DE1Pro with the Forte versus the EG-1. Although I wasn't able to grind fine enough for long, profiled shots when the Forte was new, I can do it now.

I also had the Forte next to the Niche I got for my daughter. It may not have been a fair comparison because the Niche was new and not seasoned, but the Forte shots were better-for my palette anyway. I'm going to ask her to bring the Niche home from college next week now that it's seasoned and do some more comparisons.

Peter and Jake, do I mess with my Forte or leave it as is because it's so good? Could it be even better? I'm medium handy, so it seems the alignment would be easy. Is it possible the Forte could be aligned even better than the EG-1 currently is?

Thanks for this thread. Fun.

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#15: Post by Jake_G »

Quester wrote:Peter and Jake, do I mess with my Forte or leave it as is because it's so good? Could it be even better? I'm medium handy, so it seems the alignment would be easy. Is it possible the Forte could be aligned even better than the EG-1 currently is?
Only you can decide!

You can always do an ink test to see how it "performs" to give you an idea if it could be better, but a tighter distribution may not actually lead to better espresso flavor with the steel burrs unless you like EKspresso... (just my opinion here).

I've been using the ceramic burrs daily for profiled shots and the workflow is so much better than my Jolly and I feel like I'm getting a broader range of good flavor out of the particularly finicky beans I'm using now with the vario than I get with the Jolly. I think the ceramic burrs are producing more fines than my SSP burrs in the Jolly on account of needing to reduce the dose for headspace on the vario for similar pour times. This makes me think that the average particle size must be a tad bit larger on the vario, and I'm getting less compaction during puck prep. This was leading to channeling, but dropping the dose a half gram has restored headspace (got to love that obnoxious center bolt on the GS/3 :wink: ) and the grinder is doing great. I'll be getting some medium roasted beans to try out the coarser end shortly and will report out how things are going.

I also need to recruit a local to come help with some blind triangle tests to see if we can really put this grinder to the test. Bonus would be if someone had a vario or Forté that we could run head to head and maybe even try ceramic vs steel burrs in a head to head.


- Jake
LMWDP #704

pcrussell50 (original poster)

#16: Post by pcrussell50 (original poster) »

@Kevin/Quester you are not the only one to have noticed better tasting shots from a "FortArio" versus the Niche. Another associate of mine and Jake's noticed the same thing. And consistently too. He has a MonolithilFlatSSP and in his words, the further you get from super light roast profiled shots the harder the Forte was to distinguish from even his Monolith, much less the Niche, which was bested at every phase. And this was before alignment. No head to head data vs Monolith, post alignment yet. But I also have the Monolith Flat SSP. Once Jake is done testing I will have him send it to Ryan for more test vs his Monolith before I get it back and do the same.

Jake is a gentleman, a diplomat and a scholar. I'm little rougher around the edges so I will say that there is more overall win in having good alignment than not. True the better aligned, the more all the same size the grind will be with unimodal steel Dittings. And also true that that size may not be best for a particular bean or extraction method: IOW flow profiled or not flow profiled. BUT a set of ceramics is cheap and swapping between them should not affect alignment. The ceramics look more bimodal and that seems to be jiving with Jake's observations and testing. So the ceramics may have a wider sweet spot even if the peak isn't as high.

LMWDP #553

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#17: Post by baldheadracing »

Jake_G wrote:... try ceramic vs steel burrs in a head to head. ... mic-burrs/
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

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#18: Post by Jake_G »

Seems about right! :P
LMWDP #704


#19: Post by nuketopia »

Some months ago, I sent my old, first production run Vario in for repair and Baratza upgraded it to the Forte metal grind chamber, burr carrier and so on. They fixed all the other worn out stuff too, and I had them install the steel brew burrs in it.

When I got it back, I found the burr alignment wasn't all that great, so I leveled it out with metal shim stock and whiteboard marker to level the burr faces with each other. (parallelism).

The thing is a fantastic brew grinder now. Works great with pour over and AeroPress. I can get espresso out of it, too. But since I have a Monolith for that, I don't use for such.

The Vario was my first good espresso grinder, but I wore it out over the years I used it. It owed me nothing when I sent it in for repair, so was very happy with the results.


#20: Post by guydebord »

This is really tempting but I don't feel comfortable disassembling my Forte, I wish Jake was closer to NYC. Is there a simple video tutorial on how to align the burrs with shims and chalk? I must confess, I have never done anything remotely close to that....

Also, both the grind adjustment levers are terribly tight and difficult to move, every time I want to adjust I have to use considerable force... is there a way to correct this?
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