Baratza Vario Super Alignment owner experience

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
pcrussell50

#1: Post by pcrussell50 » Sep 25, 2019, 11:06 pm

There was this thread I started a year and a half ago:

Nearly nine years with a Baratza Vario

It's locked now, but it's worth a read for preliminaries.

Now my Vario has entered a new phase, plenty of new developments.

1) Since then, I have obtained a new style Monolith Flat with SSP burrs

2) In the mean time, the Vario has gotten the important bits from the Forte, which are, the metal grind chamber and lower burr carrier, and the threaded metal upper burr carrier. Pretty big news.
BUT
... nowhere near the biggest news...

2a) It now has a Kafatek level, "hyper alignment", which ostensibly means that any performance differences in the cup are down to burr differences
2b) And it's easy. Almost a joke, it's so easy. Two of this family in a row, didn't even need shims to obtain 5 microns of runout. Even double that runout is world class alignment.

Some pics:
This is a coffee that in the words of the guy who aligned it, requires "a brutally fine grind". How many grinders can grind this fine, this fluffy straight out of the grinder?
Image


Another view of it for fineness:
Image

If this were an ordinary home barista shot of a typical coffee like RedBird, you would say, "meh". But it is not. For those of us who bought our Kafatek's to push them to the limit for super fine ground, super light roasts, you will know that to obtain this look on the surface of an ultralight roast is a dream. Yet this is with a hyper-aligned Vario:
Image






-Peter
LMWDP #553

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Shenrei

#2: Post by Shenrei » Sep 26, 2019, 5:08 pm

You've got my attention.
- Tim

pcrussell50

#3: Post by pcrussell50 » replying to Shenrei » Sep 26, 2019, 5:27 pm

I promise you, I have my own attention, too. Two grinders in a row now, a Forte and a Forte'fied Vario both got world class alignment with no shims, and in minutes. Once you have that, then the difference between these grinders and the ones famous for world class alignment are down to only the burrs.

For completeness, you should read this, too:
The Alicorn: Achieving Precision Alignment with the Baratza Forté/Vario

I personally know the guy who owns the Alicorn, and you wouldn't believe the praise he has for it as a brew grinder. Things along the lines of "much better than my Monolith Flat" (for brew).

I have a Monolith Flat with SSP burrs. It's fabulous for super fine grinding of super light roasts I flow profile with. But that's no surprise. It's a benchmark machine. It's made to do that.

Back to the hyper aligned "FortArio"... It's no longer a surprise how good this animal is for brew. And in some other testing I know about, it's no surprise how good it is for traditional old skool "espresso porn" espresso. A good and meticulous tester, also with a Monolith FlatSSP, could not tell the difference as roast level approached medium and darker. But that is not my interest here. What I am eager to dig deeper into is just how good a world class aligned "FortArio" can be for fine grind espresso, light roasted, and pulled with a Slayer style profile. Is it good enough that an ordinary taster couldn't tell the difference?

More to come...

-Peter
LMWDP #553

ben8jam

#4: Post by ben8jam » Sep 26, 2019, 6:49 pm

I'd love to upgrade my Vario to Forte bits and pieces and use for brew. How can I get all those Forte parts? Is it easy to swap them out?

Then I read the pages of the alicorn thread?

baldheadracing
Supporter ♡

#5: Post by baldheadracing » Sep 26, 2019, 7:06 pm

Ceramic or steel burrs?
What I'm interested in is my worst espresso being fantastic - James Hoffmann

pcrussell50

#6: Post by pcrussell50 » replying to baldheadracing » Sep 26, 2019, 7:28 pm

I'm the OP here with the shimless 5micron alignment... I have both burr sets. I've never tried my Vario with the new alignment as I had bought a Monolith before I sent off the Vario. But word on the street is that the Ditting steels will not grind well for espresso unless the machine is well aligned. So that in addition to seeing how the ceramics fare for ultra-fine Monolith class espresso, is something I will look at.

Say, didn't you upgrade your Vario with the metal Forte bits too? The previous poster asked about getting the parts to do his. The only wildcard is that Jake sez that the metal grind chamber for the Vario has an ever so slight difference vice the same part on the Forte. And he's done both. So he would know.

-Peter
LMWDP #553

baldheadracing
Supporter ♡

#7: Post by baldheadracing » Sep 26, 2019, 7:49 pm

I have the Forte Grind chamber, but with the original Vario lower burr carrier.(?) I have only had the steel burrs in since the change. It grinds fine for dark Pacific Northwest-style espresso, but I haven't ground any light roasts yet.

Re: parts, etc. I sent mine in for Baratza's refurbishment. https://www.baratza.com/grinder-repair-program/ I talked to a person at Baratza first and linked the conversation to the online/paper repair order attached to the grinder.
What I'm interested in is my worst espresso being fantastic - James Hoffmann

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Jake_G
Team HB

#8: Post by Jake_G » Sep 26, 2019, 8:52 pm

baldheadracing wrote:Ceramic or steel burrs?
Those shots are with the ceramic burrs.

I used the steels to align it purely for the contrast of the marker on the burrs (hard to see black dry erase on the ceramic burrs) and then swapped the ceramic burrs back in for testing.
pcrussell50 wrote:The only wildcard is that Jake sez that the metal grind chamber for the Vario has an ever so slight difference vice the same part on the Forte. And he's done both. So he would know.
It's the lower burr carrier that is different. The grind chambers are identical. I'm still in the process of evaluating the performance but so far it is hanging neck and neck with SSP equipped SJ.

The first Forté I did, the original "Alicorn" measured 3 microns TIR when turning the lower burr carrier by hand. This one was maybe 6, but I turned it with an 18V drill battery and the needle was bouncing because I did a poor job of ensuring everything was well fixtured. Suffice it to say that an unsecured part rotating under its own power isn't likely to lead to reduced runout when measured by a fixed dial indicator...
pcrussell50 wrote:2b) And it's easy. Almost a joke, it's so easy. Two of this family in a row, didn't even need shims to obtain 5 microns of runout. Even double that runout is world class alignment.
Yes.

All that is needed to get the Forté/Vario into a ridiculous state of alignment is to gently apply pressure to the levers when securing the grind chamber to the motor plate. That's all Baratza would need to do to dominate the market with these grinders. It's very odd to me that only 3 days before I got the grinder, someone else followed a simple procedure and shipped out a grinder that is "fine" when a slight alteration to the process makes it exemplary.

So far off was the grind chamber when I received it that when I loosened the screws to center the chamber, I lost calibration. What I mean is that the grinder was calibrated with about 72° of the lower burr in contact with the upper burr. Centering the grind chamber took the tilt out of the lower burr and with the levers all the way up, the lower burr didn't touch the upper any longer. I set the levers where I wanted the calibration point to be, loosened the primary calibration screw and nudged it backwards until I could feel the levers bringing the burrs together and snugged the calibration screw .this sounds complicated but it took me more time to go grab my 3mm hex key than it did to make the adjustment. After that, I slowly snugged the grind chamber screws back tight while managing belt tension and maintaining light pressure on the levers. That's all.

Before:
Image


After:
Image


I took pictures of the process. I'll try to post them in a simple step by step guide soonish.

Cheers!

- Jake

new2espresso

#9: Post by new2espresso » Sep 26, 2019, 9:17 pm

Looking forward to the guide! Thanks for all the information!
Kind regards,
Karan

pcrussell50

#10: Post by pcrussell50 » Sep 26, 2019, 9:38 pm

Jake_G wrote:I'm still in the process of evaluating the performance but so far it is hanging neck and neck with SSP equipped SJ.
...snip...
That's all Baratza would need to do to dominate the market with these grinders.

- Jake
Well now you've heard it from the horse's mouth, but this ^^^ is why I was so excited yesterday. This is my TEN year old Vario that Jake is talking about, BTW. S/N 855.

Yes, (dead horse) I have a "standard bearer" Monolith FlatSSP and yet I'm still immensely excited by this. I think everybody should be.

-Peter
LMWDP #553