Nearly nine years with a Baratza Vario - Page 2

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

#11: Post by trapperkeeper »

For espresso use, I would not recommend the Vario to anyone. I have been vocal about this before and negativity aside, I'm just trying to save newer espresso enthusiasts some frustration, because like many, I've been there and done that.

The Vario is a fantastic coffee grinder, probably the best multi-purpose grinder on the market. It has good grind quality, replaceable parts, and my favorite - anti-static bin. However, there is way too much flex in the plastic lever system and housing to be precise enough for espresso duty. I always felt like i was chasing my tail with the Vario - I dreaded changing the grind settings once i got a coffee dialed because the steps were never linear going either way. It was very hard to make fine adjustments, which is half the battle. Multiple coffees on the same grinder? forget it. This was a new grinder with no slipping levers/shims.

Going from a plastic lever style adjustment system to literally any other grinder with an all metal threaded adjustment system makes dialing shots so much easier. For espresso, any Mazzer, Compak, Eureka, etc would be just fine. I don't consider this an "upgrade" in the least - it's a requirement. Once you go this way, you'll instantly see why and wonder why you didn't start with it, or do it sooner.

If your Vario is working well for you - fantastic! - but I donated mine to a family member for drip duty - it's great - just not for espresso.
LMWDP #600

pcrussell50 (original poster)

#12: Post by pcrussell50 (original poster) »

trapperkeeper wrote:For espresso use, I would not recoommend the Vario to anyone...snip... there is way too much flex in the plastic lever system and housing to be precise enough for espresso duty.
Can you flesh this out a bit? I'm not seeing where flex necessarily leads to shot-to-shot inconsistency. Don't Mazzer grinders (or certain Mazzers) have their adjustment mechanism set in springs? A sprung tension between the burrs might lead to a tendency to over or undershoot an adjustment if you make the adjustment in the direction of more tightness AND the machine is not grinding when you do. Baratza recommends that when you need to tighten the grind, you do it while the machine is running/grinding, to stabilize the tension between the burrs before you grind for real. I single dose, so that has never been an issue for me. Every time I tighten or loosen, I have no beans between the burrs, so tension is always stabilized. The only thing I will add is that the fine adjustment clicks are so close to stepless, that it's rare that you can detect a change with just one or two clicks. I usually need three before I get big enough changes to see in the pour, unless I'm using really challenging really light, pro roasted beans... Then sometimes one click on the fine adjuster might make three seconds difference in achieving target extracted mass.

LMWDP #553


#13: Post by trapperkeeper »

Adjusting the Vario doesn't (at least for me) provide a proportional increase or decrease in grind coarseness. Eg. A shot would run too fast, adjust x amount finer, now too slow. Back off by 1/2 x amount, still too slow. back off by 1/2 x amount (now at same setting that was running too fast a minute ago), still too slow. Back off my 1/2 x amount, way too fast (again). Basically, the same settings would not produce a similar grind. The lever system provides a large range of grind adjustment and is therefore not very precise at the fine end, which is what all espresso is. The second i went to a grinder with a metal grind chamber and threaded adjustment system it became instantly easier to dial in shots and make grind changes when necessary, which is all the time. Once the Vario is set for a given bean it works well. I'm not talking about flex while grinding, the grind quality is fine.

I would follow up by saying that if you're using a manual lever, there is so much variability in creating a shot anyways, that perhaps you won't notice the adjustment issues with the vario, compared to a more consistent machine, but in this case a more consistent grinder may help the most!

All things considered, I think a used super jolly or equivalent is all anyone really needs
LMWDP #600


#14: Post by thirdshifter »

I've often wished the Vario just had a "normal" adjustment collar like most other grinders. The levers seem a bit too clever, and though I'm guessing they're supposed to be a feature they turn into more of a bug for people around here. BUT the Vario is a fantastic single-doser! I bought mine refurbished 6 years ago and have been single-dosing ever since (I just replaced with a M3 a month ago). I get almost zero retention and no static, and have done no mods whatsoever. Also, pouring from the grounds bin into the portafilter can result in nearly perfect distribution if you're careful.

It's true that the Vario grind settings seem to shift when you change them -- if you change back to an old setting you'll find it's not exactly what you remember. But IME the grind settings are stable until you change them, meaning it's easy to keep a coffee dialed in as long as you're not switching back-and-forth. If you are switching back-and-forth you just have to anticipate a bit of dialing in even if you return to the exact setting you used before.

But IMO it's totally worth it for an affordable low-retention single-doser that produces fantastic grinds. I would recommend it to anyone for espresso.

pcrussell50 (original poster)

#15: Post by pcrussell50 (original poster) »

This ^^^ has pretty much been my experience, and I single dose, too. I think we agreed that once it's dialed in, it stays dialed in for that bean pretty well. I dunno, maybe nine years with mine, I can usually re dial it at bean change time within two or three. It never bothered me that it takes that. And I never even considered trying switch back and forth to use it for drip or Aeropress as well as espresso... I have other grinders for drip and Aeropress. In retrospect, the 83mm conical burrs on my HG-1 might dial in a wee bit easier... But it's hard to say for sure since I use that one with a direct pull lever machine where I control the flow.

LMWDP #553

pcrussell50 (original poster)

#16: Post by pcrussell50 (original poster) »

john_ertw wrote:This site is great for getting real user feedback on new products, but the downside is it encourages upgradeitis even if there was no need to begin with. I have been using my Vario for years and keep wondering what I am missing with some of the "better" grinders. Unfortunately I don't know anyone with a better grinder I can use on my setup to compare, and I sometimes wonder if the upgradeitis is another form of the grass is greener on the other side. I don't doubt that there are differences between different levels of equipment, but is there a bias to suggest new, more expensive equipment is better than old?
You bio doesn't say, but you speak with the rationality of a scientist or engineer. I am educated as an engineer too (though I've spent my whole career as a pilot). In the prime of my earning years now, I can afford pretty much anything I want, but I keep thinking the same thing as you. Distilled down a different way:

1) I'm very in tune with adjusting my Vario and can get it dialed in within two shots
2) Once dialed, it stays that way until you mess with it
3) I am able to make visually perfect shots
4) I don't know anyone with a Monolith, with which to do back to back blind taste comparisons, but tasting legends like Jim Schulman rated the Vario in titan class, taste wise, so that's all I have to go on regarding taste. That plus I like the shots I get from it. The only way to justify an "upgrade" for me would be if a Monolith crushed it in a blind taste test. I don't know how to bring that about, and I'm not going to blow $2700 on a "well it might taste better, so I'd better do it", kind of scenario.*

*That doesn't mean I'm immune from the appeal of a badass grinder like a Monolith. It's just that my rational engineer mind is keeping my wallet prisoner until I know for sure it will taste better in the cup. The mechanical reliability of the Vario is beyond reproach... Nine straight years without a single failure to grind.

LMWDP #553

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#17: Post by Chert »

S/N 3973. Daily driver at work for my away from home Pavoni alternating with V60.

A stone wrecked the belt in 2010, but since that repair, no real issues. The espresso it helps produce is astonishingly good, 8 years on.
LMWDP #198
aromas remain enticing, and I intrigued, ah coffee!