Grinder Tech

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

Postby goalerjones » Nov 24, 2017, 8:20 pm

As I read more about grinders I see that my current model, Baratza Vario, was once "all the rage". Now it seems, when it's mentioned it's treated more as a red-headed stepchild.

As I consider new grinder discussions and research, I have to wonder has grinder tech advanced so far that my model is like owning a tricycle, while others race around on Cannondale 950gm bikes? Or is it that Upgrade-itis has overtaken the industry and made yesterday less appealing?

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TomC
Team HB

Postby TomC » Nov 24, 2017, 8:30 pm

As you go up in price, convenience and longevity increase. Not always grind quality.

Paroxysmalism

Postby Paroxysmalism » Nov 25, 2017, 1:42 am

goalerjones wrote:As I read more about grinders I see that my current model, Baratza Vario, was once "all the rage". Now it seems, when it's mentioned it's treated more as a red-headed stepchild.

As I consider new grinder discussions and research, I have to wonder has grinder tech advanced so far that my model is like owning a tricycle, while others race around on Cannondale 950gm bikes? Or is it that Upgrade-itis has overtaken the industry and made yesterday less appealing?


Disclosure: I've never used a Vario.
I'll say that your use of the bicycle simile is spot on, but I think your execution is off -- it's a bit exaggerated. The Vario is still a competent grinder, especially at its price. If you're comparing the Baratza to contemporary European grinders, I'd say it's more like an aluminum Trek from 2006 2009 versus a carbon Bianchi from now. Both Trek and Baratza are value-oriented companies that design products which attempt to deliver results above their price range. This comes at the cost of cache, always, and sometimes perceived quality, sometimes functional reliability.
At the time the Vario was released it caused a stir because it offered great grind quality, decent adjustment, and a home-friendly housing all for a price well under the commercials. At that time there wasn't as much competition in the high-end but strictly-home espresso grinder segment. It's chief competitor, I'd imagine, was the Rocky, a great and more solidly-built all arounder but inferior espresso grinder.
Nowadays I think the market has caught on and caught up with the Vario, even including Baratza themselves with the Sette 270. Then as now there has always been the option to buy used commercials but for some these don't meet space/appearance criteria. I think the Vario is still a relevant grinder, but I do think the Sette, if the bugs can be worked out, will be its spiritual successor. The only reason I'd say you should upgrade to another grinder is if you believe it worth the price. If you're happy with the look and feel of your Vario and, of course, the coffee it makes, then who cares about state-of-the-art grinders?
Just my two cents :mrgreen:
Adam
Single-Origin Alchemist

namelessone

Postby namelessone » Nov 25, 2017, 6:09 am

In my experience Vario with steel burrs is still the best small home grinder for brewed coffee at home. It performs better than hand grinders and the only real upgrade would be bulk/retail grinders with much bigger burrs, which are typically 4-5x the price and size.

Paroxysmalism

Postby Paroxysmalism » replying to namelessone » Nov 25, 2017, 6:39 am

Judging by what I've read here, I think some hand grinders have an up in terms of grind quality over the Vario. I admit that I do use such a hand grinder. That said I'm probably going to sell it when the Zenith arrives. That-that said, I think there are grinders in the 2x price range, like the above, that are significantly or noticeably better than the Vario, in-cup. It's all heresay though.
Adam
Single-Origin Alchemist

moomooranch

Postby moomooranch » Nov 25, 2017, 7:59 am

Using bike tech as an analogy, burr size might correlate to frameset weight while burr design might correlate with aerodynamics.

There seems to be a shift away in focus from sheer burr size to unimodal burr designs ever since the EK has gained popularity, and as the benefits of higher overextraction potential is better understood. Likewise, the aero advantage of bike components are now understood to outweigh, well, weight in the bike world, with manufacturers moving away from trends like squoval downtubes, narrow V shape rims, and leading edge/rim brakes.

Looking forward to 2018 as there appears to be a movement towards low-retention, on-demand specific unimodal burr grinders such as the Eureka Atom Brew Pro 75 and Compak PK 'High Yield Extraction' burrs.

BaristaBob

Postby BaristaBob » Nov 25, 2017, 8:01 am

Yes, sometimes we get caught in the latest, greatest quest for grinder perfection. It's always and forever will be the pursuit of the god shot. I own the Rocky, once the "darling" of home grinders. It works for me, even though I'm at 3 on my settings (55 are no help when it comes to espresso), the clumping I overcome with WDT and a distribution tool. My espresso still tastes great...but it could always be better. My machine is light years ahead of the Rocky, so the future holds a new grinder for me, it's just a matter of when.
Bob "hello darkness my old friend..."

Mbb

Postby Mbb » Nov 25, 2017, 8:11 am

namelessone wrote:In my experience Vario with steel burrs is still the best small home grinder for brewed coffee at home. It performs better than hand grinders and the only real upgrade would be bulk/retail grinders with much bigger burrs, which are typically 4-5x the price and size.


After buying 2 or 3 cheap consumer grade grinders that dont last 10 yrs, people may recognize that the $$$$ commercial grade wasnt such a bad deal after all. Particularly given resale value, its actually.........cheaper. while being far more pleasureable to use. Size is a concern ......

Upper end isnt for everyone, but theres a progression thru gear usually in hobbies. Many people spend 2x-3x or more by starting cheap and upgrading repeatedly, than if just bought really quality items to start with up front. Its just peoples nature.

Paroxysmalism

Postby Paroxysmalism » Nov 25, 2017, 8:24 am

moomooranch wrote:Using bike tech as an analogy, burr size might correlate to frameset weight while burr design might correlate with aerodynamics.

Agreed, both logically and, to a certain degree if-you-stand-on-your-head-and-squint-really-hard, physically.
Adam
Single-Origin Alchemist

namelessone

Postby namelessone » Nov 25, 2017, 8:55 am

Paroxysmalism wrote:Judging by what I've read here, I think some hand grinders have an up in terms of grind quality over the Vario. I admit that I do use such a hand grinder. That said I'm probably going to sell it when the Zenith arrives. That-that said, I think there are grinders in the 2x price range, like the above, that are significantly or noticeably better than the Vario, in-cup. It's all heresay though.


We did attempt to do some objective comparison using Kruve (see the thread Kruve coffee sifting for drip/pourover) and Vario had more uniform grind than the hand grinders we tested (Feldgrind, Lido, Kinu M47 and so on) and I also noticed the same in the cup. Strictly talking about the steel burr set though.