Following on from my review of the Rancilio Rocky Doserless Burr Grinder which is a huge favorite amongst espresso purists and is probably the most popular espresso burr grinder for the home that there is, i’m now going to take a look at what is arguably the best espresso burr grinder for the home and see if there are any faults or shortcomings with the machine. The burr grinder i’m referring to is of course the Baratza Vario Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinder and you can see this impressive machine here!
If you’re a big fan of espresso then i’m sure you’ll know that many enthusiasts including myself strongly recommend investing in a high quality burr grinder and we put more importance on that than having a high quality Italian espresso machine! The reason for this is that you can have delicious espresso with a high quality grinder and a cheap espresso machine, but creating drinkable espresso with an expensive espresso machine and a cheap grinder is next to impossible. The grinder should come first and then you can upgrade to a better espresso machine later on when your tastes advance.
For now, let’s take a look at the Baratza Vario Grinder and see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be!
What is the Baratza Vario Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinder and how does it work?
It’s a high end for the home ceramic burr coffee grinder! The Baratza Vario is German designed and German built and uses a belt attached to the motor to turn the burrs. This gives it a slightly more silent operation over the Rancilio Rocky which has its burrs attached directly to the motor.
I shall now go into each of the Baratza Vario grinder’s features and give the pros and cons of each:
Adjusting the grinds on the Baratza Vario Grinder
The Baratza Vario has 200 settings ranging from espresso to French press. To change the settings there are two adjusters. The macro adjuster is on the right hand side of the panel and allows you to make adjustments from espresso at the top, to filter coffee in the centre and French press at the bottom. Getting from an espresso grind to a more coarse French press, there are 10 settings using the macro adjuster on the right. Then on the left is the micro adjuster. The micro adjust has 20 settings. The full 20 settings of the micro adjuster is equal to one setting on the macro adjuster. So this is for fine tuning your grind down to the smallest detail.
The adjusters slide up and down with total ease, in a stepless design. This is in contrast to the Rancilio Rocky where you need to use two hands to turn the bean hopper at the top in order to alter your settings. Placing the two side by side, the Baratza Vario wins hands down on simplicity and ease of use when it comes to changing your grind setting. Also the Rocky has only 50 settings, compared to the Vario’s 200. One of the complaints with the Rocky was that you couldn’t get a coarse enough grind for French press, clearly this is not the case with the Vario.
Grind quality on the Baratza Vario Grinder
One thing about the Baratza Vario Burr Coffee Grinder that everyone seems to agree on is the grind consistency. For espresso you really need to have consistent grinds, which the ceramic burrs are easily able to do on this machine. The Rocky also comes out on top with grind consistency but many people have noted how the Rocky does not always perform as well as the Vario with more oily beans. The ceramic burrs on the Vario should also last a lot longer than the stainless steel ones on the Rocky. The Vario is also that little bit faster than the Rocky, but the other advantage is that because the burrs are ceramic and not stainless steel they will not heat up. This fact ensures the flavor is not compromised in the Vario.
Baratza Vario Ceramic Burr Grinder – Digital Control Panel
This is a lovely design and gives you very close control over the end result. This is where you can set the grind time to within 1/10th of a second if you know precisely what you want. Otherwise, there are three buttons; espresso, filter and press. Each button is pre-programmed and will give you the correct amount of grounds for each. So in my case, i would simply press espresso and then start and it would grind. There is also a manual button in case i want to override the factory settings. It really is very simple! The only down side to the LCD panel, which a few other reviewers have noted is that you need to stoop down and get to within eye level of the display to see what it says. This is a major design fault and an inconvenience. Having said that, Baratza have now made an upgraded model with an H2 display! However, i have not personally seen this model so cannot vouch for it!
Baratza Vario Portaholder
This is another clear advantage the Baratza Vario holds over the Rancilio Rocky! The Rocky was made so that the portaholder would only accommodate the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine porter filter. If you had the grinder but a different espresso machine with a different shaped porter filter then you had to remove the portaholder and hold the filter with your hand to catch the grounds. With the Baratza Vario, the portaholder is shaped differently and can accommodate most porter filters. You can simply rest it on there, turn the machine on and walk away while it does it’s work. Just in case you do have an awkward shaped filter then the holder does remove as well. It also comes with a grounds bin, so you can grind much more than the 7 grams for the filter.
One complaint about the Baratza Vario, which I have noticed is there is a little bit of espresso grounds splash once the filter approaches its full capacity. I’ve seen this on many grinders though and isn’t considered to be a major problem.
The Baratza Vario Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinder does indeed beat out the Rancilio Rocky in most departments and is in my opinion the best affordable coffee grinder for the home that you can get without having to go for a commercial grinder. However, the Vario does cost a little over $100 extra than the Rocky so you’ll have to make up your own mind whether the price difference is worth it for the superior machine. The Rocky does do its job, and very well indeed, however the Vario is the better machine and should last you a lot longer too.
What Others Are Saying About The Baratza Vario Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinder?
Well, it has received an average of 4.5 stars out of 5 on Amazon.com by people that have bought and used the machine. Here are a few of the comments:
– Seems to grind pretty much flawlessly, without jamming. I think beans have stuck in it twice in the year I’ve been using it, and I like a nice oily roast. Other grinders jam constantly.
– The first grind with this machine has produced perfect crema from my Gaggia Baby Twin machine.
– This perfects my home espresso set up – could not be happier.
– The grind consistency is perfect. The machine is well built, and it seems like it’s very durable.
– The Vario is so new that I didn’t find any meaningful reviews but I took a chance based on its specifications. I’m very satisfied with it.
Where Can You Buy The Baratza Vario?
There are many online stores you can purchase it from including from the official website for $469 plus shipping. However, there is a place you can get it for even cheaper than that and you should also be able to get free shipping from there too. Enjoy your espressos!