Baratza Vario Super Alignment owner experience - Page 45

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

#441: Post by Jnthhk »

That's really helpful to see.

It looks like my belt tension is about right now, but still not aligned. Maybe a full re-do tonight is called for.


#442: Post by Jnthhk »

Final update.

I tried again with the clamp technique, and after spending a lot of time really trying to understand how the process works and why, I think logically did the right things to make it aligned. I seemed to get a clean wipe disassembled and maybe a better than before one together (ceramic burrs make the marker test hard to see!).

This morning I managed to get a shot from Square Mile's red brick with a ton of flavour and far more clarity and flavour separation than I've had before. And the shot was a 20:40g in 50 seconds, so not exactly an ideal pour.

So, I'm not sure if it worked, but it's certainly time to cut my losses and enjoy the espresso (with one eye on a DF64 or Mignon Single Dose).

Thanks for everyone's help :-):

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#443: Post by leterell »

So, long first post but i think it's warranted. I bought a Vario in 2015. Thought that my grinder troubles are over, and at the time the investment was quite extravagant for me. As it turned out, mine was one of the units where lower and upper burrs do not align at all. I tried to troubleshoot the issue back then and saw that the wear area on the upper burr was just at one small edge, but the german vendor did not really seem interested, and i was not ready to even void warranty by accessing the small calibration screw, let alone open the unit up. I got mostly complete gushers, maybe some way too fast coffee that i could then use for cappuccinos with a triple basket filled to the brim. But i ground espresso with my Hario, eventually my whole espresso hobby died down because a 400€ grinder didn't grind fine enough. I thought i was to blame in the end.

However now i found out that this issue has since been recognised even by the manufacturer, and to be honest, i'm baffled that there really is such a flaw in the design in a 400€ grinder. Then again, maybe mostly the plastic parts were up to spec and most grinders were able to grind fine espresso also?

I went thru some of the thread, and had a look at baratza spares, but their shop is down, and shipping from the US to EU + taxes is expensive for a grind chamber anyway. So i thought i'd try to cope with the plastics, marked the upper burrs with some black felt pen, had a look at the wear pattern, and ended up using a file to better align the aluminium housing of the upper burrs. I filed one of the three protrusions which lie on the plastic ring around the lower burrs until i had a wear pattern appear on both sides of the upper burr. That is, i am letting the opposite side of the initial wear pattern get lower to even things out. It's still not engaging everywhere but way better. Any amount of fiddling with the belt tension, loosening and tightening of the screws holding the grinder assembly in place did not significantly change the wear pattern.

I calibrated so that i can not move the fine adjustment all the way up to 1A, and as far as i can tell by the ground product, the finest end is really fine and uniform. I'm also thinking that i'll prob need to hear the motor starting to labor a bit to get to the fineness necessary to get ristrettos with less than 20g in the basket, so maybe the ceramic burrs will eventually wear enough so they are engaging is uniformly? No idea how long until then though.

I like to have of control over things up to the point of being able to choke the machine with fresh beans. Dunno if that's practical, but over the couple of years i coped with the Vario I'd gladly rarely see a gusher anymore. Sadly it's too late for coffee, I'll try to follow up with shot quality later on.


#444: Post by Jonk »

With the ceramic burrs, choking the machine should not be a problem, unless the calibration is way off. But by your description perhaps there was a bigger underlying problem with your unit.


#445: Post by leterell » replying to Jonk »

yeah, hard to say if the plastic parts are off spec more than normal on mine since it's the only one i've ever had my hands on. i'll have to grind a few kilos to see where things go.

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#446: Post by ronner »

I did the Super Alignment over a year ago. My Vario grinds seem to be drifting a bit, so I decided to realign. Try #1 I saw the new clamp method and did that. did the alignment and checked did the marker test with the belt ready to go. after putting the Vario back together I next set the burr touchpoint (I am using ceramic burrs). the burrs did not sound like they did when I did the alignment a year ago. Sure enough the grind seems to be off. I have now re-aligned 3 times. Still same issue.. Well, having thought about this considerably here is what I think may be issue. Have not had time to check it out yet. When I tighten the chamber screws there was one screw in particular that seemed to get 'sort of..' tight early, but not come to an abrupt "tight" like the others. And yes I do not tighten them fully all at once. I go little by little in a cross pattern. so here is what I am thinking. I cleaned the grinder with my air compressor, but before I took it apart. Perhaps some grounds are between the upper / lower burr chambers (where they meet)? I will try again but cleaning after loosening the chambers. Thankfully I have a good hand grinder to hold me over. I probably wont be able to get to this till this weekend. When I did this last year it was with a new Forte chamber....
>> follow up after re aligning this weekend. I cleaned the nooks and crannies like a madman. I suspect the problem may have been one of these areas.
1. the top and bottom burr chamber - Last year when I added the Forte parts and aligned, I used loctite on these screws... One of these locations seemed to tighten early but not really get full tight as quick as the others. I cleaned out the threaded screw holes in the chamber thinking maybe some loctite was causing premature tightening, or coffee got in hole. DONE
2. I cleaned the burrs extra well. There was some powder left in the indent for the burr screws (hard to see on ceramic burrs) Cotton swab got into the bottom of the screw hole and cleaned it well. DONE
One other change I made because I really did not like the stock Burr chamber screws, so I got some SS button head socket cap screws (m3 12) and added a flat washer. these made the alternating tighting sequence easier (for me anyway).
BOTTOM LINE: It works! thank goodness the grind is back to what it used to be!


#447: Post by Ge$ha »

Lever alignment method on stock Vario (steel burrs) didn't get me there. First and only attempt so maybe I'm not that good at it. However, it wasn't that far off and going several micro clicks past chirp wiped clean. First chirp showed a left/right pattern as opposed to front/back so I assumed not a belt tension issue. Instead of repeating process or upgrading to metal, I decided to try all of the upper burr position permutations followed by shimming (if necessary). It was somewhat tedious marking all of the positions and charting the patterns, but eventually I was able to get a clean wipe with one layer of foil in one location. Still clean at two months. Also getting zero retention most days with flipped flapper and RDT.

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#448: Post by leterell »

So still one alignment attempt and some sanding later, my burr wear pattern suddenly became worse than ever, after just once getting a clean wipe (as well as that smooth feeling of even contact between the burrs, won't forget that!). Just taking the upper carrier out to inspect it was enough to misalign the V. I decided to see once more if flipping the upper carrier around to each of the three possible orientations changes things, and that misaligned it even more. Now it just barely scratches the edge of the upper burr, even though assembled the way i got my first clean wipe just moments before.

So, maybe i didn't tighten the burr chamber screws enough? I tried to make them as snug as I dare with the nylon on the other side though, and i think i have a pretty good feel for such things...

What also came to mind: when i flipped the V, the calibration screw (the one which one loosens and moves front and back) and the rest of that apparatus move quite freely in their slot, assuming that the coarse lever doesn't press the burrs together. the screw itself is snug enough but there's play sideways, and it's also possible to somehow dislodge the whole thing so that it doesn't seem to elevate the lower burrs at all. Should this be more positively affixed or is it a floating system of some sort? Might explain some of my wildly wandering alignment situation also?

I'm at a loss what to try next. The more i think on it, the more i feel something is loose on the calibration side of things.


#449: Post by Jonk »

It is kind of floating. I remember reading somewhere that flipping the grinder over isn't recommended, to give you a notion of how sensitive the whole thing is. I'm always worried that the grinder will break or pull out of alignment or calibration.

Still, as long as I keep away from trying to grind for espresso with the steel burrs it keeps going strong even with the nylon chamber. For the price it's not easy to beat the quality of grinds and extremely low retention without RDT and mess. Very much a love-hate relationship for me though.

Just to reiterate, you shouldn't need a clean wipe with the ceramic burrs to be able to pull acceptable espresso.


#450: Post by leterell »

Yeah, i know a clean wipe is not necessary to satisfy my taste buds. But it's pretty hard to compromise for less once one starts optimising it 8) and I've since then read about the perceived difference in taste with a good alignment. but I've been down enough rabbit holes to know that at least my senses are not to be trusted judging the results of 30+ hours of hobby time...

I suspect that acquiring a sweep of 30-50% with little force on the burrs must mean single-digit microns in alignment error, and I'd be happy with that. But it got too out of whack so fast without me knowing at all what happened. Right after seeing that 100% sweep :cry: