Baratza Vario Grinder - Second Look - Page 2

Behind the scenes of the site's upcoming equipment reviews.
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shadowfax

#11: Post by shadowfax »

Marshall, I apologize for the confusion; I meant to say 'I don't know much more about this grinder's cup quality than previously reported.' Rest assured that we'll cover the grinder's taste profile, but as Dan has mentioned already, it takes time and effort. Expect this to be developed over the next couple of months.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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another_jim
Team HB

#12: Post by another_jim »

Marshall wrote:Then shouldn't this review have waited until you do? Baratza has a lot riding on this product, and many prospective buyers will Google their way to your Second Look.

Instead of a lot of random, largely negative, observations about secondary features, didn't the manufacturers ultimately deserve that it be tested in the cup with fresh coffee you feel competent with?
Marshall, these bench threads are usually preliminary to a review. Their whole point is that the reviewers post their unvarnished and immediate reactions. If a product is good, but has human factor, quality control, or learning curve issues; this will be immediately, albeit unfairly apparent in these bench threads. If there were a review, it would be based on more mature consideration and be more balanced. In this case, the process will end with the bench thread. So it will work out like the Titan Grinder review: a whole raft load of information, some bad, some good, much of it premature, with a consensus about the grinders emerging only late in the day.

If you think this is unfair or uninformative, you should wait for Nicholas and Dan to post their final impressions. However, a manufacturer of consumer products might be better advised to be very attentive to the early posts of a bench thread, and not pay too much attention to the final conclusions, since it's usually the first impression that makes or breaks a product.
Jim Schulman

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HB
Admin

#13: Post by HB »

The last three days I've been focusing on French press prepared with the Vario. I follow Sweet Maria's Recommended French Press Brewing Method, which calls for shorter steeping time and finer grind, though I prefer a slightly longer steep time (*) than Tom advocates. My test coffee is the delightfully sweet and juicy Klatch Ethiopian Wondo Bonko.

It took several presses to get the grind right, finally arriving at midway between the "Filter" and "Press" setting on the macro adjustment (I left the micro adjustment in the middle). One area that the Vario really excels is clean delivery: According to a 0.1 gram accuracy scale, everything that went in came out. I've read a number of reports of static problems in the pre-production models, but it was neat and clean for me IF the grounds catcher was snapped in place. That is, don't make the mistake of setting the grind setting for French press and then running some test coffee through without the grounds catcher in place; otherwise you'll discover, as I did, that your countertops are covered in coffee grounds extending for one foot to the left and right of the Vario. :oops:

I have a Le'Lit PL53 at work that I would like to compare with the Vario for French press. In terms of ergonomics, the Vario is much more civilized than the PL53 on several fronts: quieter, faster, less grounds retention (zero), less mess. The Vario is also more attractive. On the other hand, the PL53 has a stainless steel wraparound shell and simple on/off switch that appears more sturdy than the Vario's mix of steel, plastic, and electronics. I admit that mine is treated roughly at work as I shuffle the PL53 back and forth between my cubicle storage closet and the breakroom. The Vario's plastic adjustment levers feel delicate in comparison and I would not subject this grinder to such daily jostling for fear of breaking it.

(*) Specific French press brew parameters: water 30 seconds off the boil, 15 grams of coffee for 8 ounces, 3.5 minutes steep time, swirl at 1 minute mark.
Dan Kehn

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Bluecold
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#14: Post by Bluecold »

HB wrote: PL53 has a stainless steel wraparound shell and simple on/off switch that appears more sturdy than the Vario's mix of steel, plastic, and electronics.
I'd like to post the comment that electronics don't break. I've read multiple times here that electronics don't live long, but they do. I'm listening to my Pioneer SX434 solid state receiver right now and it works great after 30< years and a new set of capacitors.
LMWDP #232
"Though I Fly Through the Valley of Death I Shall Fear No Evil For I am at 80,000 Feet and Climbing."

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HB
Admin

#15: Post by HB »

Sorry Roeland, I don't know the mean time between failures (MTBF definition) of the Vario's electronic components. My point was that a simple on/off switch is as reliable as it gets.
Dan Kehn

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HB
Admin

#16: Post by HB »

Cliff asked in another thread:
cai42 wrote:Mazzer= 2 controls. On-off switch and one adjustable metal ring. New kid on the block= 7 assorted buttons and levers. Why is more better?
Since it's relevant to this review, I've copied my response into this thread for easy reference:
HB wrote:More is sometimes better, sometimes it's just different.

In terms of market segmentation, the new kid on the block was clearly designed with home enthusiasts in mind. Mazzer designed the Mini as a cafe secondary grinder; years later, home enthusiasts discovered it worked better than the typical consumer grinder. It would be interesting to see what Mazzer would create today if they started with a blank sheet of paper and home enthusiasts in mind. I bet their grinder would have the Baratza Vario's form factor, less buttons, and more metal. And probably 2x the price.
And...
HB wrote:In my opinion, the Mazzer adjustment collar is a simple, bullet-proof design, but isn't the pinnacle of adjustment mechanisms in terms of finesse. Worm drives like the one on the Cimbali Junior or Macap M4 are easier to adjust with a twist of the wrist versus the Mazzer's two-handed grip-and-turn, but worm drives are impractical for multiple coffee preparations like espress/presspot. The Vario's micro/macro adjustment mechanism deftly threads the needle between long and short range adjustment. It's too early in my experience with the Vario to comment on how well it works, but I think the idea is very smart.
We'll cover the Vario's adjustment mechanism in due course. In the meantime, see K.I.S.S when it comes to grinders for comments/opinions of other forum members.
Dan Kehn

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ddr
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#17: Post by ddr »

Edited for clarity:

I received my Vario ten days ago. I tried it a couple of days later and found that it was grinding way too fine for espresso. I decided not to form any opinions at the time as I was in the middle of a move, was using Chicago water vs. Seattle water, could not find my Super Jolly to compare it to, etc. Yesterday I unpacked the Super Jolly and this morning I made a double using grinds from the Super Jolly as a baseline. On the Super Jolly I left the grind setting to my default, and had a nice double in 27 seconds with 14 grams.

I then tried the Vario on the 1st notch down on the right (macro) side, and middle notch on the left (micro) side. 14 grams of coffee filled my basket 1/2 way with large clumps of very fine grinds. I adjusted to the filter setting on the macro side and the grinds were probably OK, but I did not continue as I would prefer to have obvious issues corrected before trying workarounds and forming taste opinions based on less than optimal conditions. I will call the support desk and see if they have an idea. Perhaps something slipped during shipping.

Edit: Here is the fix, a simple adjustment of the grinder burr zero point: Recalibrating the Baratza Vario [photos]

Take Care,
Dan
Dan
LMWDP #242

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shadowfax

#18: Post by shadowfax »

Dan, do I understand correctly that your issue is clumping? I've used 5 or 6 different coffees in the Varios that I've used by now. They both clumped on some, hardly at all on others. Currently I am using Ritual's Vitamin D Seasonal Espresso, and I am using the WDT after dosing. In my experience thus far, again, the grinder does clump, but at least the clumps are, as you say, very fine, owing to its tiny exit chute from the grinding chamber. If clumping is what you're worried about, I don't think you have a problem.

However, if you call them, it will be interesting to read what they say.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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ddr
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#19: Post by ddr »

Sorry, I did not word that well. It is not clumping that is causing me to worry, I can break up the clumps, it is having to set the macro adjustment to filter in order to get espresso grinds that is bugging me. With the macro lever one notch coarser than the top setting (with the micro setting in the middle) I get clumps which are so fine that my machine delivers no espresso after 30 seconds and I cut it off.

If I grind on Filter settings it looks OK, and in fact the first time I tried it a few days ago I did make a shot with coffee ground at the filter setting and it was OK, but I would rather not spend time dialing it in on a filter setting and then swapping it out for one which works properly. My guess is that somewhere inside the beast there is a set of pulleys and my belt is out of whack. Hopefully they will tell me to pop it open and have a look :) but I suspect they will just ship me a new one.
Dan
LMWDP #242

greatphotos

#20: Post by greatphotos »

Sounds like it might be adjusted correctly to me. I do mine on the filter setting for espresso. I posted earlier on how to check the grinds calibration. This grinder is very capable of doing turkish grind.

With both levers all the way down empty out the coffee, move the right lever all the way to the top, turn it on, move the left lever gradually upwards. You should hear some loading at the mid point and more loading at the top but it shouldn't halt. There is an adjustment screw near the exit chute for the burrs which Baratza support can guide you through doing. Or they can send you a new grinder. The belt doesn't slip as it is toothed.