Struggling with Baratza Vario...

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
gp
Posts: 1
Joined: September 10th, 2016

Postby gp » Sep 10, 2016, 2:29 pm

For a long time, the espresso niche in my kitchen was filled with a PID-controlled Rancilio Silvia and a Baratza Vario. The espresso was okay, but a bit hit or miss. Sometimes I could get all the stars to align and get a good shot, but mostly it was just acceptable. I was doing it mostly by feel and my innate Italian sensibilities.

Recently I upgraded the Silvia to a GS3. Now, I am no longer willing to put any blame on the machine at all. (Aside: This is why I love having good tools. I hate not knowing whether I am screwing up or whether the tool is letting me down. Now I know.) When everything is dialed in and the stars are aligned... absolute brilliance. The rest of the time, meh, it's okay. Better than the Silvia? Sure. Good? Maybe not.

Time to act like an engineer and figure it out. So I spent a lazy morning and a pound of beans last weekend getting the Vario set up again. Reset the alignment, pulled a ton of shots that went directly into the sink, converged on a sweet spot in grind setting: a very consistent 19 gram dose (in an 18 gram VST basket) that pulled a luscious 30 gram shot in 29 seconds. Delicious, balanced, wonderful espresso. Great baseline. Three days later? Eh... getting kind of off. Grind settings maybe slipped, I tweak it a bit and get something acceptable. Today? Nope, 30 grams takes 18 seconds at the most. Beans (type and age) are consistent weekend to weekend.

I can go back to the beginning and recalibrate the Vario again... or I can throw up my hands, figure that the Vario is just outclassed and the weakest link here, and get a new grinder. The new crop of high-end grinders (EG-1, Monolith, etc.) look spectacular, but it may be a long wait to get one. Pick up an HG-1 and try hand grinding for a while?

Or am I missing something with my poor little Vario? Tips? Advice?

User avatar
Hudson
Posts: 133
Joined: July 9th, 2014

Postby Hudson » Sep 10, 2016, 2:35 pm

If you're up to hand grinding, the HG-1 I is awesome. Incredibly consistent and well built. Note that with a single dosing grinder you'll have to do some more prep with the dose like wdting
LMWDP #534

cmin
Posts: 849
Joined: August 2nd, 2012

Postby cmin » Sep 10, 2016, 3:58 pm

Sounds like your Vario needs the shims if the grind settings are slipping like that. I had a problem recently and couldn't figure it out, ended up being something wrong with the calibration plate, Baratza fixed it, been solid since.

Vario is more than fine for pulling shots on a GS3, but there are a lot of grinders above it that will allow you to get the best out of the machine. Just depends on what you want to spend.

SAB
Posts: 382
Joined: May 16th, 2014

Postby SAB » Sep 10, 2016, 9:51 pm

I would contact baratza directly. Their service and assistance is great. I don't get that kind of variation with my Vario, and I've had it for about four years. I find that for a given bean, I just have to adjust a few notches (on the fine side) for aging. I'm able to stay in a consistent range, even when changing coffees.

RyanJE
Posts: 1173
Joined: June 25th, 2015

Postby RyanJE » Sep 10, 2016, 10:21 pm

Reliability is the Achilles heel of the baratza grinders. You get what you pay for..

If you can shell out the dough for a GS3 , a high quality Titan class grinder should pair with it!
I drink two shots before I drink two shots, then I drink two more....

amh0001
Posts: 161
Joined: August 18th, 2016

Postby amh0001 » Sep 11, 2016, 1:42 am

I recently bought a refurbished Vario from Baratza, and I think I am having the same issues as you. I keep having to re adjust it. If it happens again I will contact them.

User avatar
Dooglas
Posts: 64
Joined: August 1st, 2006

Postby Dooglas » Sep 11, 2016, 2:12 pm

If you like the Vario when it is "on", then the Forte is certainly an alternative to consider. More rugged controls that stay put.

avid
Posts: 79
Joined: May 17th, 2016

Postby avid » Sep 11, 2016, 2:45 pm

SAB wrote: I don't get that kind of variation with my Vario, and I've had it for about four years. I find that for a given bean, I just have to adjust a few notches (on the fine side) for aging. I'm able to stay in a consistent range, even when changing coffees.


I am a newbie and have only had my Vario for six months or so but my experience mirrors yours. If I need to vary my grind it is in a very small range. Plus I go from Chemex grind to espresso on a daily basis and the Vario handles it. My beans (Ethiopian, Guatemalan and Colombian mostly) are all home roasted using my Behmor.

User avatar
IMAWriter
Posts: 2790
Joined: May 9th, 2005

Postby IMAWriter » Sep 11, 2016, 2:50 pm

The shims (free) might be the solution.
Rob
LMWDP #187
www.robertjason.com