Posted Sat Dec 27, 2008, 9:50am Subject: Re: Baratza Vario Grinder
OK, its not an in depth review, but surely you know by now whether or not this unit is capable of producing a decent espresso when paired with a good machine. Regardless of any quirks the grinder either can or cant.
Posted Sat Dec 27, 2008, 1:44pm Subject: Re: Baratza Vario Grinder
I hope to see more of this review as quickly as possible. I would like it compared in a stepwise fashion to more and more expensive grinders....maybe start with the Lelit, go to Rocky, then Mazzer mini and SJ, etc.
How high can this Baratza go? I will stop searching for a used SJ until I find out.
-Scott Coffee smells like freshly ground heaven. ~Jessi Lane Adams
Endo Senior Member Joined: 26 Jun 2008 Posts: 804 Location: , location, location. Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: machine is < important than... Grinder: !
Posted Sat Dec 27, 2008, 1:53pm Subject: Re: Baratza Vario Grinder
My new Super Jolly takes up a lot of room. I'd switch to the Vario if it ground espresso just as well and produced less waste. But if I have to compromise the slightest bit in taste, I'll stick with the inconveniences of the Super Jolly.
I do think the Vario has a good chance of making the Rocky obsolete. In one month a Rocky may be as difficult to sell as a $1M Florida home.
While the grinder is designed for home use, I think (have to confirm this) it has some tier of commercial testing (re UL, CSA, CE) done. And it was designed partially from the get go as both a cupping (pro use) and press pot grinder (for restaurant use).
A lot of people want to know how it grinds for espresso, so I'll do my best to give early thoughts on that, bearing in mind that this is based on this test model and a previous preproduction model I had in October. I should also note that there could very well be tweaks and final changes for the production run, and most likely will be - Baratza has asked me for my private feedback on the two models I've been using for a month now.
I wrote in the first look this: in fact, during my initial testing, I did come across some challenges I haven't written about, and won't write about until I fully review this product.. Well, I guess I have to write about them, but hopefully you'll see why I didn't want to bring this stuff up publicly:
In very short, it does a very fast and even grind for every espresso machine I've used it with so far... but, it can only go as fine as to produce a slightly short double, even when slightly updosed, on a La Marzocco, a Silvia, or the Ascaso Steel Duo.
I can produce a stalling grind on a LM or Silvia, if you updose. But when I test these grinders, I look for it to produce a grind fine enough to stall these machines with a normal 14-15g double dose. This grinder's finest setting, using Intelligentsia Black Cat as the sample coffee, cannot do that (but I know it can be easily changed at the factory - hence my feedback to kyle at Baratza). (see my next comment in this thread about this)
I'm hesitant writing the above two paragraphs because I believe this will be remedied when the first units ship to N. American vendors in January.
On to the pluses: This grinder will produce, at its finest setting, approximately 18g of coffee ground in 14 seconds. That's more than 1g per second, and faster than the Rancilio Rocky, Anfim Best and Haus, and even the Mazzer Mini, by about 0.2g per second according to my last Mazzer Mini test (I've since sold the Mini). 18g at the finest setting (using BC Classic) will produce a >45ml short double that is on par with the best espresso grinder I've tested in this classpoint - the Anfim Best. I've done some limited side by side testing, and I cannot tell the difference between the shots.
It produces a very even grind as well, if the samples I've done (and photographed at 1.6:1 (bigger than lifesize) with my 100mm macro lens) at press and drip grinds are any indication.
The grinder will produce about 1.7g per second at drip grind, and over 2g per second at press grind. The grind quality at the press settings is very similar to my $1200-$1500 Ditting KF804 grinder, but in all honesty, I expected it to be better than the Ditting - the Ditting has pressed burrs (though I have milled burrs on order). The grind quality and fines amount is quite adequate for press and drip, and I'd say better than any other sub $400 grinder I've used in the last 10 years, but that statement is based on memory, and not side by side testing.
The coarsest setting is too coarse for drip. The grinder needs a factory adjustment by one "macro" selection to finer overall, and I think it will then be capable of producing a true stalling 14g sample, and still be slightly too coarse for press at the coarsest setting.
Grind settings I've been running specific tests to see if the grind settings are repeatable - that is, if you dial in an ideal espresso grind (and set the appropriate time on the preset button), then move the sliders to a press grind, grind several samples... then dial it back to your previous espresso grind setting (running the machine while doing so - don't adjust it finer without running some beans through it during the adjustment).
So far, early indications are it is quite repeatable, with a variance of about 0.5-0.75g (based on grinding for the same amount of time).
My preproduction model had problems with the levers "slipping" - ie going coarser as the grinder would operate. It's been mailed back to Baratza to find out what caused this. The current production model does not have this problem, and is rock solid.
I don't have all my notes in front of me, and most of the above is from memory - please keep that in mind while reading this ;)
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