Baratza Vario Grinder - Second Look - Page 6

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

#51: Post by IMAWriter »

Nicholas, great that you could bring the Vario.
I'm thinking that another factor in sizing up these grinders is the time fact. That is, with the slower grind of the Vario, one's dosing technique would have to be altered somewhat (the B-Vario has got to be at least twice as slow as all the others, no problem for me)
To me, this point out that the B-Vario was able to "get along" with everyone, so to speak.
On the Orphan Espresso website, Doug's demonstration video shows mounds of fluffiness. I'm not sure that isn't just Idaho thin air! :lol: Was it the same in Houston's somewhat heavy air?
Good work, fellows.
LMWDP #187

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#52: Post by JonR10 »

IMAWriter wrote:Was it the same in Houston's somewhat heavy air?
I have never been to Idaho, but I can say that the grinds from the Vario were not unusually fluffy compared to the other grinders we tested. It was easy getting the 20g dose into the standard basket with the Vario but with the Macap M7KR it was a challenge to make sure I had enough headspace in the basket with 20g the dose.

And Nicholas - my K30 is an older (2006) model but it is completely rebuilt with new burrs and brains. If we had not pitted that against the Macap right off we could have judged it against the Super Jolly....but I liked the idea of pitting the venerable Super-J against the newcomer Vario.
Jon Rosenthal
Houston, Texas

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#53: Post by RapidCoffee »

Slightly OT clarification, please:

On the CG writeup, JonR* states the M7K "edged out" the K30 in round 1. Nicholas uses terms like "smashed" and "spanked", which mean something quite different to me. Comments?

* Thanks for the great report, and congrats on your new toy. :D

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#54: Post by JonR10 »

RapidCoffee wrote:On the CG writeup, JonR* states the M7K "edged out" the K30 in round 1. Nicholas uses terms like "smashed" and "spanked", which mean something quite different to me. Comments?
According to my notes from the judges' comments from the first round:

1 picked the K30 ("slight preference")
2 picked the M7K ("slight preference")
1 picked the M7K ("strong preference")

I suspect I know who had the strong preference......
And now I wonder how it would have gone if round 1 had been M7K vs. Vario :shock:

RapidCoffee wrote:* Thanks for the great report, and congrats on your new toy. :D
Thank you sir. It will be even nicer when I can finish the "Vario" upgrade.
(That's a story all by itself!)
Jon Rosenthal
Houston, Texas

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#55: Post by shadowfax »

JonR10 wrote:I suspect I know who had the strong preference......
Guilty as charged. IIRC, Bill and Mitchell were slightly in favor of the M7K, and Andrew preferred the K30.

Indeed, my short write-up/highlights were written mainly from my own perspective. Jon was score-keeper (and, as he said, less caffeinated), so I defer to him entirely. We'll have to shoot out the K30 with the M7K for real, sometime. After all that TGP buzz and spending a hefty sum on a Robur, I am still yet to partake of a real blind taste test against a big flat burr and big conical. Let us know the date, Jon. :mrgreen:
Nicholas Lundgaard


#56: Post by IMAWriter »

JonR10 wrote:I have never been to Idaho, but I can say that the grinds from the Vario were not unusually fluffy compared to the other grinders we tested. It was easy getting the 20g dose into the standard basket with the Vario but with the Macap M7KR it was a challenge to make sure I had enough headspace in the basket with 20g the dose.
Geesh. Even when I had my Anita and the wonderful Synesso triple basket you scored for a bunch of CG'ers (had to give you props there :) )I NEVER had the never, or the inclination to use 20 grams in one shot.
Imagine if that was Dolce?
I'd have been swinging from a chandelier :lol:
I will admit, I'm more of an average dose kind of guy, so according to Jim, the B-Vario may be an option for me. (just a nice KyM manual grinder at present)
Slightly OT...
How would you compare the B-Vario with your K30 as far as a nice even drop into the PF/basket?
LMWDP #187

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#57: Post by another_jim »

I've finished testing the Vario provided by Dan ("ddr"). I'm not one of the official HB testers, more the prize in the crackerjack box tester; but for what it's worth, here are my conclusions. Other testers have had quality control issues; so the caveat is that the production must achieve consistent quality.

Bottom Line: Bartaza wanted to put out a grinder that had the form factor and friendly ergonomics of a home grinder, and the quality of a commercial one. I think they have achieved this perfectly.

Grind Quality: My feeling is that the quality is similar to the Trespade conical grinders or the Super Jolly, and slightly better than the Mini or other 50mm to 60mm flat burr grinders. This is surprising, since the Vario burr is in this latter class. Perhaps the ceramic adds some quality. Certainly, the grind adjustment is a lot less finicky and frequent than the Mini, and more comparable to the once a day adjustment I get out of the Trespade grinders or the SJ. The combination of fine and coarse also makes it easier to adjust than the small flats. My feel is that the taste has less of the boom box quality of the Mini, and is clearer and more grown up. But this gets into very subjective territory.

Ergonomics This is a ground up design doserless grinder, like all the Baratzas, and they have been learning with each new model. There is very little grind retention, and no need to sweep, bore, or burp. The PF rest is effective. The grind is not entirely clump free, but better than most doserless grinders I've tried. WDT is not necessary. Static can be an issue, but it is easily controlled by cleaning the burrs. The grinder is amazingly fast and quiet for a domestic.

Maintainability/Flexibility The grinder switches between coarse and fine grinding very quickly, and the espresso setting is fairly stable on return (not a sink shot, but not exactly the same). The burrs can be removed and the grinder cleaned in under one minute. There is no more than 2 grams of coffee remnants in the burrs, burr chamber and outlet - an excellent figure that makes this a standout for cupping or single dose espresso use.

How Long will it Last This is the big question mark. Commercial grinders and some domestic ones like the Rocky or Trespades have threaded rigid burr carriers. Grinders like the Virtuoso and Infinity have three plastic tabs that thread into the plastic case of the grinder. Over time, the grind quality deteriorates as these mounts soften, this is even worse with the old two tab carriers on the Maestro. The Vario has an aluminum carrier that has three metal tabs, and these screw into three plastic tabs that act as threads. The system is as easy to disassemble as the Virtuoso or Infinity, and a lot more rigid. However, whether it will stay completely the same as the metal or bakelite threaded carriers is anyone's guess. In home use, the Capresso Infiniti and Baratza Virtuoso show signs of loosening in about a year to a year and a half. It is obvious from simply looking at this grinder that it will stay tight longer than that. But how much longer is something I can't predict. Any materials engineers care to join the HB test team?
Jim Schulman

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#58: Post by shadowfax »

Well, it's been some time since I've given an update on my time with the Vario; I had originally planned a Vario vs. Robur E grinder shootout, but it was executed so poorly that the results seemed even more useless than they might otherwise have been. For what it's worth, however, that test resulted in the Vario beating the Robur by a small margin which, given the number of rounds, indicated statistically a tie (a very close win). However, in the test there was evidence of channeling and other problems which seemed to be the result of multiple shot preparers (1 per grinder) and inadequate shot grooming, and inadequately dialing in the grinders; I didn't think through my errors until it was over, and in the end both grinders lost big time--the shots were pretty poor, much poorer than the day-to-day experience with either grinder.

So, I intended to re-do the test, but after some private discussion and thought, I opted to do the shoot-out with a Mazzer Super Jolly instead: it's likely the more interesting and apt comparison grinder for prospective grinder buyers who are considering the Vario, and after Jim's tests and Jon Rosenthal's vs. the M7K, the SJ is in the "class" of grinders that we really haven't compared the Vario against.

The test was conducted using Coffee Klatch's WBC "World's Best" Espresso 'generously donated' by yours truly (after PT's Coffee donated the coffee for the Robur E test that we screwed up). The machine we used was Paul Jones' Synesso Cyncra, set at 201°F. After messing around with a lower dose, we settled on a 21 gram dose and a shot volume of around 1.5-1.75 oz. Jon Rosenthal joined Paul and me, thankfully, so we were able to easily conduct the test as a double-blind, with me preparing shots in the kitchen and shuffling baskets prior to pulling, and presenting Jon and Paul, the tasters, pairs of split shots in the dining room.

Anyway, the test went swimmingly, with consistency being no problem at all. We did a pair of dry runs while finishing in the dialing in process, and then completed 5 rounds before Jon bowed out due to suspected taste fatigue. The grinders were pretty neck and neck through the test. At first the Super Jolly was producing superior clarity and usually improved sweetness, but the 4th and 5th rounds, the Vario turned the tables on the Super Jolly. Paul (and perhaps Jon) guessed that the Vario shot was actually the Super Jolly shot (in keeping with the pattern). In the end it was a dead heat, even on paper. You can read the raw data we collected here: Google Spreadsheet of Results

You'll note that Jon and I traded places on the 6th and 7th round, but we didn't bother having Jon adjust the machines for his routine, so the results really weren't useful. As the spreadsheet explains, each shot was rated according to a 3-point scale, where 0 is a below average shot, 1 is an average shot, and 2 is an above average shot; the + appended by certain scores indicates which shot the taster preferred in the given round.

The final score (W-T-L) for our Vario vs. the Super Jolly test: 2-1-2.

I want to thank Paul and Jon for their help and their time. We had a lot of fun talking coffee and getting over-caffeinated with superb coffee.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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#59: Post by HB »

Split follow-on discussion to Owner experience with Baratza Vario.
Dan Kehn