Baratza Vario Coffee Grinder Review

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baratza-vario-coffee-grinder

Introduction

If you are really into being a home barista, I don’t have to tell you that a burr coffee grinder is a must-have. Contrary to my usual shopping habit (frugal), I’d encourage you to save enough money to get the best model you can afford as one built with quality materials and smart design features will most likely last for a lifetime. By the time, you add up the expenses for multiple entry-level grinders, it should be more than enough to pay for a great one such as Baratza Vario. Vario offers 230 setting adjustments that resemble a stepless grinder without costing you a ton of money.

Table of Contents
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1. Introduction
2. Grinding
3. Hopper Size & Material
4. Controls
5. Dispensing
6. Housing Material
7. Additional Features
8. Clean & Maintenance
9. Included Accessories
10. Dimensions & Weight
11. Warranty
12. Pros & Cons
13. Consumer Reviews
14. Price
15. Summary

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Grinding

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To start off, the Vario is equipped with a 54-mm diameter ceramic flat burrs that will remain sharp twice as long as stainless steel burrs. The burrs are manufactured by MAHLKONIG which are the same used in commercial grinders. The motor rotates at 450 revolutions per minute connected by a belt for smooth and quiet transmission. The disconnection between the motor and the burr casing is designed to minimize the heat and static generated, keep the coffee beans cool, and retain the maximum flavor characteristics. An auto thermal reset circuit is to prevent overheating from overheating.

There is not much difference in the speed of grinding at 1.6 to 2.2 grams per second. The amount of coffee ground is controlled by the time in second. The factory setting is at 10 seconds and you can customize the time based on the coffee strength you like.

Hopper Size & Material

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The bean hopper made of ABS plastic, can hold half a pound of coffee and the same capacity for the ground coffee container. Generally speaking, the size is more than enough for home use unless you are entertaining a large crowd. If that’s the case, you can always grind the coffee ahead of time before the guests arrive.

Controls

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The most distinct feature is the ability to adjust the settings in two ways with a total of 230 adjustments. On the right hand side with the grinder facing you, there are 10 Macro adjustments marked by Espresso, Filter and Press. These are just three major markings and you can certainly adjust it in between these grind sizes. On the left hand side, a secondary Micro adjustment lever lets you fine tune in between each macro setting. The entire range on the Micro scale is equal to one click on the Macro.  For example, if you set the macro to Espresso, then dial in between the finest (upper) and most coarse (lower) on the micro to make it even more refined.

Remember the grind size is determined by many factors such as the degree of roast, freshness, humidity, oil content in the beans and so on. With a few tests and a bit patience, you will find the perfect setting for your brewing method and taste.

In essence, the Vario is a “stepless” grinder without the hefty price tag. The difference between a stepped vs. a stepless grinder is that the latter adjusts on a gradual and constant movement without set marks on the dial which allows incremental and minute changes.

It’s recommended to recalibrate the settings initially after a few shots. Do this a few times and the need will be waned once the setting is stabilized. A special Allen key/screw is provided for calibration.

Dispensing

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You may dose the ground coffee into a portafilter basket directly or to a ground coffee container. The portafilter holder is universally sized to fit any size of baskets. The dosing amount is programmed by time such as 10, 20 or 30 seconds.  The longer the time, the more coffee is being dosed. The auto-stop function frees you from having to monitor the grinding.

If you’d like to have more coffee than the programmed setting, use Manual and then Start button to dose more. But there is an upper limit up to 90 seconds. You can stop the grinder during the manual operation by pressing the Start button.

The three buttons can be reprogrammed from the factory settings to suit your preference. The beauty of this feature is that it saves you time and tweaking for major brewing methods. Once the right dose amount is achieved for a double shot of espresso as an example, store it in one of the buttons. When it’s time to brew coffee, all you need to do is to push a button.

Housing Material

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While there is still considerable amount of ABS plastic, stainless steel is added to the front panel and critical parts. The compact profile fits under most of the cabinet without taking up much horizontal space.

Additional Features

The small LCD display window lets you watch the grind time in case you’d like to do a manual adjustment. You’ll have to tilt to the right angel to be able to see the display and there is a battery backup if the power is out.

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How to Clean

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Clean the grinder every few weeks if using on a daily basis. If you take care of the grinder, it will serve you better with more consistent grind. Under no circumstances should you wash the burrs. Remove the top burrs and use a brush to clean the residue and coffee oil.

An easier and faster way to clean is to use the Grindz grinder cleaner. This is a food-safe clean product designed to dislodge coffee particles, remove coffee oil and stale odor. Add 35 grams of Grandz in the bean hopper; adjust the grind setting on 5 and press Manual then Start until the cleaner has been fully ground. Then press Start button again to stop. Once it’s complete, grind some cheap coffee to remove any residue from Grandz and discard.

Included Accessories

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Included are User Manual, a ground coffee container, portafilter bracket, and an Allen screw.

Power & Cord

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  • Motor Power (W): Not available
  • Voltage/Frequency (V-Hz): 110/50/60

Dimensions & Weight

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  • Dimensions (W x D x H inches): 5.11 x 7.08 x 14.17
  • Weight (lbs): 9

Warranty

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1 year limited warranty

Pros & Cons

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Pros

  • “Infinite” grind size adjustments with macro and micro levers to refine the particle size for your brewing style and functions as a “stepless” grinder without costing an arm and a leg.
  • Well-designed and constructed with stainless steel and ABS plastic
  • Very consistent grind for most of the brewing methods, especially for making espresso
  • Very minimal static and heat and very little ground coffee stuck in the chute in quieter operation
  • Ceramic burrs boast much longer life than stainless steel ones.
  • Suitable for grinding a small or a large batch without worrying about burning down the motor
  • Outstanding customer service by Baratza

Cons

  • The LCD display is very hard to read unless looking at just the right angle.
  • It doesn’t excel at the two extreme grind sizes for Turkish coffee (finest) or the French press (coarse).

Consumer Reviews

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3.9 out of 5.0

72% of the reviewers were very pleased with the grinder because the consistent grind it produces for various brewing methods. It offers the user so much control over the grind size with the macro and micro levers and it’s done with ease.

The other extreme of feedback includes disappointing performance, inconsistent quality assurance and overprice.

Price

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Speaking of price, it was under $450 when this review was written. It’s probably more than many people paid for an espresso maker.

Summary of Baratza Vario Coffee Grinder

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Buying a Baratza Vario is surely a serious investment and commitment to coffee/espresso making. If testing and tweaking every variable in the brewing process is your “cup of tea”, this is a high caliber grinder that may rival some of the commercial-grade ones in the market.

Like so many things in life, price is a relative reference. While it costs so much for a Vario, it saves a huge bundle from buying a stepless grinder. It gives you so much power and control to adjust the grind size which leads to better and more satisfying brewing experience and tasting.

Vario lets you experience the total package from excellent design features, quality construction to exceptional customer service and replacement of parts or product, oftentimes beyond the warranty period according to some existing customers.

 

For current price information, click on the button below.

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