The Baratza Vario is a premium electric grinder aimed at having the flexibility to grind for both espresso and manual brewing. Like the Baratza Forte, the Baratza Vario utilizes ceramic flat burrs for durability and grind consistency.
While the Baratza Vario is advertised as being able to deal with light commercial use, this would be a stretch. Instead it excels as being a high quality coffee grinder for the home coffee enthusiast. As opposed to an espresso grinder like the Mazzer Mini, the Vario is an all purpose coffee grinder which is designed to have the capacity to grind for both espresso and filter. The Vario has been on the market for some time now and so has gained its fair share of both followers and critics.
The Baratza Vario is a high quality flat burr grinder for the home coffee enthusiast. It’s strengths include its 54mm Mahlkönig burrs, single dosing, an impressive 230 grind settings, and its reputation for longevity. This is a grinder not for the beginner, but instead for the coffee lover seeking a high level of grind consistency.
Specifications of the Baratza Vario
Baratza Vario Review
Grind Settings on the Baratza Vario
One of the clearest points of difference between a premium grinder and an entry level one is the number of grind settings. Many beginner grinders have 25-60 different grind settings which is enough to play around a bit, but not nearly enough to fine tune grind size for different brewing methods. By contrast, premium grinders tend to either have upward of 200 different grind settings or else are stepless (unlimited potential grind sizes). The Baratza Vario has an impressive 230 different grind settings. So the first tick for the Vario is in terms of grind settings.
This fits Baratza’s intention for the grinder. As Baratza says on their website, the goal was that this would be a grinder in which you could ‘fine tune your espresso shots or brew a Chemex or French Press for all your friends and family.’ This is an all-purpose coffee grinder that should be able to cater to both espresso and manual brewing methods.
The Baratza Vario uses a rather unique grind adjustment system that can take a while to get used to. On the front plate of the grinder, there are two levers, one of which numbers from 1-10, and the other which numbers from a-w. The 1-10 lever gives you the macro adjustments to put you in the general ballpark for your given brewing methods. The a-w lever then gives you micro adjustments which help you fine tune and dial in to the precise intended grind size.
This is considerably different from many other common grind adjustment systems and has met with a mixed reception. On the one hand it is actually fairly easy to use and means that it is easy to come back to a specific grind if you are switching brew methods. On the other hand, some customers have complained that there is some slippage with this system. This seems to happen more often with very fine settings. So if you are dialing in and then leaving the grind setting stable it won’t be a problem. But if you are often switching between espresso and filter, you may find that for espresso you do have to fine tune each time.
However, this slippage isn’t something that many users would notice. It is more for those comparing this with say the Mazzer Mini or the Niche Zero grinder.
Grind Consistency of the Baratza Vario
The next point of consideration is grind consistency. The Baratza Vario 886 boasts 54mm ceramic flat burrs. This choice of burr material may come as a surprise as many beginning home baristas associate ceramic burrs as lower quality than their steel counterparts. However, these burrs are anything but low quality. They are manufactured by grinder manufacturer Mahlkönig and are exceptionally well made. The advantage of ceramic burrs is that they tend to stay sharp for twice as long as steel burrs. Similarly, Baratza has done extensive taste testing with ceramic and steel burrs and concluded that for espresso, ceramic often actually tastes better and produces more mouthfeel than their steel counterparts .
In technical terms the Baratza Vario has a grind range from 230 microns to 1150 microns. Basically, overall the grind consistency is excellent across a range of particle sizes. Although this will not grind coarse enough for traditional French Press, it is designed to be an all purpose grinder as opposed to an espresso grinder. Also due to popular demand, Baratza has released steel burrs which can be used with the Vario. As a premium electric grinder, the Baratza Vario gives excellent grind consistency. The difference between the Vario and say Baratza’s entry level Encore is considerable.
Build Quality of the Baratza Vario
Overall, the Baratza Vario is made of high quality components. The electric grinder is powered by a high torque DC motor that ensures the burrs rotate at a steady 1350 RPM. The casing of the grinder is mainly plastic which is unfortunate. It is certainly sturdy and can deal with a beating but undeniably plastic does just feel and look less premium that metal. Similarly, when released there was some controversy as the burrs are mounted in plastic which is unconventional for a high-end grinder.
However, as mentioned earlier, this is a time-tested all-purpose grinder. In fact many users boast that their Vario’s are still operating well 10 years down the track.
General Usability and Extra Features
In general, the Baratza Vario is a pleasure to use. It is a very quiet grinder which is immensely helpful in a domestic setting (think spouses/partners at 6am…). It has a small footprint and so can easily fit into most kitchens and coffee stations. In addition, the Vario has been intentionally designed to have a very short and direct grind path. This means there are less places for all ground coffee to accumulate in the grinder and so less retention.
The grinder also comes with the ability to set up to three time-based presets for automatic dosing. Although you will still need to manually set the grind size, this does help workflow and is a nice feature. This can be set within an impressive 1/10 of a second. Also like other Baratza grinders, the Vario has an automatically resetting, thermal cutoff switch to prevent the motor from burning out. It is also worth mentioning that Baratza has a well earned reputation for customer service. So if your Vario does play up you can be sure Baratza will have your back.
Who is the Baratza Vario For?
So in summary, who should consider purchasing the Baratza Vario? And the answer we would give is the home brewer looking for a high quality grinder to cover a range of brewing methods. If espresso is your main game then the Vario is not for you and you would be better off with the Mazzer Mini. The genius of this grinder is its versatility and flexibility. It is a good grinder if you are regularly changing between brewing methods and looking for a single grinder to cater to your needs.