Baratza Vario Super Alignment owner experience - Page 4

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

#31: Post by Jake_G »

Since I've received more than a question or two regarding what exactly the "Alicorn" procedure does, I thought I'd post a few images of a simple system I drew up that represents the motor plate, grind chamber and lower burr carrier. I do have a day job, so forgive the omission of certain non-mission-critical components.

So, I've mentioned before that the belt tends to pull the lower burr carrier out of alignment. This makes sense to me, because I've witnessed it first hand and had more than one grinder apart to see the mechanisms at work. Here is a little representation that grossly exaggerates this misalignment so you can visualize what we're trying to correct. In this image, the grind chamber is shifted towards the rear of the grinder, which is towards the right in the picture:


When I first got my hands on the original Alicorn, I thought of how I could strategically shift the grind chamber forward to straighten the lower burr carrier. When I had it apart, I got the idea of using the levers, which works a charm:



But there is one caveat: There is slop in the bushings from the factory, and there is no guarantee that when you level the burrs, the grind chamber will be in the optimum position. That is, it could be slightly out of position in any direction within the slop of the bushings in the motor plate and grind chamber. In fact, when I first aligned the Alicorn, I thought the method didn't work because when I applied tension to the belt, I still had the same type of misalignment from the belt pulling the lower burr carrier to the back of the grinder. As it turns out, fixing this is trivial.

Here is a shot with the chamber shifted too far to the rear of the grinder, but the burrs are still parallel with no belt tension:

When the belt is snugged up, the lower burr will look exactly like it did in the first picture, but the tilt will be limited to what the slop in the bushings will allow, so it will likely be better than it was from the factory. But not good enough :twisted:

To solve this, all you need to do apply belt tension before you tighten the grind chamber to cock the burr carrier out of alignment and then use the levers to again square the burrs. This will shift the slop in the bushings to be away from the direction the belt is pulling and the belt will keep the shaft loaded against both bushings and in alignment. Below is an image showing what the lower burr carrier looks like when the belt is used to load the journals against the bushings prior to tightening the grind chamber into position:


By doing this, the belt and the bushings work together to ensure that the grinder stays in alignment for a very long time. Excessive belt tension could lead to bushing wear and eventual misalignment, so I suggest that folks apply gentle belt tension along with gentle pressure on the levers to get the grinder into a precise and reliable state when all is said and done.

I hope this helps explain the madness behind the method :)

Cheers!

-Jake

nuketopia

#32: Post by nuketopia »

iBrew wrote:I'm surprised if correcting the Vario and Forte alignments is this easy why they aren't doing it at the factory.

It takes time and several tries to get it aligned nicely.

That's a lot of time on a production line and that means a lot of cost, plus it needs a more skilled operator at the position to do the alignment.

Most people who buy the grinder wouldn't know the difference and would be happy with it as they're made. Just us enthusiasts are into that much detail.

Part of the reason that a grinder that's carefully aligned at the factory costs more. Part of why my Monolith Conical costs more than the Vario, not to mention all the metal vs. all the plastic. :)

pmark

#33: Post by pmark »

@Jake, thanks again for such a detailed explanation. I think what you describes on post #31 is what caused the issues with my grinder. I'll try your method to see if it improves the alignment

pcrussell50

#34: Post by pcrussell50 »

nuketopia wrote:Part of the reason that a grinder that's carefully aligned at the factory costs more. Part of why my Monolith Conical costs more than the Vario, not to mention all the metal vs. all the plastic. :)
For completeness it should be pointed out that the price of entry for making complex shapes out of engineered plastics like the GRP in the FortArio would be way beyond the means of a typical family business/small scale manufacturer.

I am also not sure that the right plastic in the right places is an automatic negative, performance-wise.
1) If it can be easily aligned
And
2) If is engineered to stay aligned, then the use of plastics appears not to be a downside (except in the aesthetics of personal preference)*

So if it is aligned, performance differences with other aligned grinders comes down to the burrs.

*Me? I'm more aesthetically drawn to plastic F1 cars and fighter jets than I am to tanks and transports. Though I find that in espresso, the "tank" aesthetic is appealing to a lot of people. It's not unappealing to me either. It's just that so much of my preferential bias is on performance, leaving less emphatic requirement for aesthetics.

-Peter
LMWDP #553

ben8jam

#35: Post by ben8jam »

So to upgrade my Vario to Forte bits, how can I get those? Do I have to mail it to Barazta for the service and ask they replace with Forte parts? I looked on the website and don't see anything available in the Forte section for lower burr carrier or anything like that.

pcrussell50

#36: Post by pcrussell50 » replying to ben8jam »

In a bit of a hurry right now, but...

1) I got mine done that way by sending it in to Baratza. Since my ten year old Vario was still working perfectly, I had to ask them to do the mod for me
BUT
2) If you google around bit, you can find the actual .pdf of Forte parts, with part numbers (this is as different from the spare parts they show on their regular web site). There are only two parts you need. The metal chamber and the metal upper burr holder that screws down to the chamber.

Also, there is a fairly recent thread on here where someone lists the specific part numbers and photos that may be of some help... "baldheadracing"?

-Peter
LMWDP #553

hnns

#37: Post by hnns »

If someone is uncomfortable to do this: I'm NOT handy whatsoever and managed to do this easily.
However, the instructions say "gently press the grind adjustment levers downwards". Since I'm not sure just how gently that is, I don't know if it actually worked or if I pressed too gently..

User avatar
Jake_G
Team HB

#38: Post by Jake_G »

Knowing whether or not it worked is as simple as pulling the upper burr, drawing a ring around the outer circumference with a dry erase marker, reinstalling it and spinning the lower burr by hand as you use the levers to bring the lower burr into contact again. Spin the lower burr a few revolutions like this and then pull the upper burr and see if all the ink is wiped off.

If it is, you're good to go. If you have a lopsided wear pattern, you need to press a little harder on the levers.

Does this make sense?

Cheers!

- Jake

ben8jam

#39: Post by ben8jam »

pcrussell50 wrote:In a bit of a hurry right now, but...

1) I got mine done that way by sending it in to Baratza. Since my ten year old Vario was still working perfectly, I had to ask them to do the mod for me
BUT
2) If you google around bit, you can find the actual .pdf of Forte parts, with part numbers (this is as different from the spare parts they show on their regular web site). There are only two parts you need. The metal chamber and the metal upper burr holder that screws down to the chamber.

Also, there is a fairly recent thread on here where someone lists the specific part numbers and photos that may be of some help... "baldheadracing"?

-Peter
Thanks I'm emailing them now.

MattHowell

#40: Post by MattHowell »

Jake_G wrote:Since I've received more than a question or two regarding what exactly the "Alicorn" procedure does, I thought I'd post a few images of a simple system I drew up that represents the motor plate, grind chamber and lower burr carrier. I do have a day job, so forgive the omission of certain non-mission-critical components.

......

I hope this helps explain the madness behind the method :)

Cheers!

-Jake
WOW. Threads like this are why I love the coffee community.

Jake, sincere thanks!

- the owner of a likely very misaligned Vario