A high-quality coffee grinder can make a big difference in the taste of your coffee.
Why has the Baratza Vario coffee grinder remained a popular choice for so many years? We suspect that it’s because it’s a high-quality machine with the ability to produce 230 different grinds. But we’ve given it a detailed look to help you decide whether or not it works for your purposes.
Find more choices in our commercial coffee grinder guide!
Things to Consider
If you’re thinking about a grinder that’s nearly $500, you’re serious about the quality of your coffee. But you also want to know you’re getting a high-quality machine for that price.
The Baratza Vario is a professional-level machine. It is an excellent option for either a coffee shop or a home coffee enthusiast.
It features many of the components you’d want in a professional grinder: flat ceramic burrs, a strong motor, 230 fine-tunable grind settings, a programmable timer, and a removable portaholder for an espresso machine portafilter.
Baratza has been making high-quality grinders since 2001. Their engineering and design team is in Seattle, Washington, home to some of the world’s most notorious coffee devotees.
The Baratza engineers take pride in designing ever-better coffee grinders that should last you a lifetime. They also believe in the sustainability of their machines as opposed to planned obsolescence. They have a “don’t dump it–fix it” philosophy and provide email and phone support, troubleshooting guides, and videos to help you repair any issues yourself.
A Quick Look at the Baratza Vario
The Vario has a lot of features to love.
Things We Like
- The Vario has a low profile so that it doesn’t take up a tremendous amount of space on your countertop.
- It has 230 micro-adjustment settings so that you can achieve very distinctive grind grades. These are great for everything from perk or drip coffee to espresso.
- Three programmable timing buttons make it easy to grind the right amount of beans for oft-repeated grinds.
- It includes a removable metal portaholder to grind directly into your espresso portafilter.
- The design features sleek, metal components.
- Baratza is a company dedicated to sustainability and product repairability.
- Because the Vario is a flat ceramic burr grinder, it will produce coffee with a superior taste and aroma.
Room For Improvement
- The grinder can’t grind finely enough for Turkish coffee.
- Some reviewers have needed to buy replacement parts within a few months. Others have had problems with the unit right out of the box.
Features That Make the Baratza Vario Stand Out
The Baratza Vario has many features and benefits that help make a great cup of joe for your customers or your friends and family.
Since I know you want to make the best cup of coffee or espresso possible, there’s no question about it; you’re going to want a burr grinder. Burr grinders preserve the taste and aroma of your coffee beans far better than blade grinders.
Blade grinders cut coffee beans to pieces, but burr grinders grind your coffee beans together. With less heat from friction, your beans won’t lose as many oils or decrease in taste quality.
You can get more uniformly-sized coffee particles from burr grinders than blade grinders. Uniform coffee grounds give you a better flavor and prevent clogs in your machine filters.
If you want a coffee grinder that will last a lifetime, you want one with ceramic rather than stainless steel burrs. Baratza’s 54 mm ceramic burrs come from the German “king of grinders,” Mahlkönig.
Stainless steel burrs can oxidize and become dull with time. However, ceramic burrs aren’t susceptible to corrosion from humidity and will keep their original sharpness indefinitely.
Ceramic burrs also produce coffee with more body than coffee ground with steel burrs or blades.
If you are contemplating this machine for home use, keep in mind that a grinder with ceramic burrs shouldn’t be moved around or jostled a lot to avoid damage.
A lot of commercial-grade grinders use conical rather than flat burrs.
Flat burrs are noisier and produce more heat than conical burrs.
However, the advantage that you get with flat burrs is that the way the beans move through the burrs results in a unimodal distribution of the grounds. Flat burrs produce coffee grounds with one shape instead of the different shapes you get from a conical grinder. Studies show that having uniformly-shaped coffee grounds helps prevent over-extraction for better taste.
Digital Timing Control Panel
The Vario allows you to set a grind time or grind manually. Once you’ve determined your ideal grind time, you can lock it into one of three programmable timing buttons so that you don’t have to do it manually every time. #1 could be for an espresso shot, #2 could be for a Chemex, and #3 could be for a French Press.
The Baratza Vario can grind 1.6 to 2.2 grams of beans per second, depending on the grind setting.
Just how much of a grind nerd are you? If you’re not yet, the Vario will turn you into one.
You can adjust the fineness of your grind on a scale of 1 to 10. You can then fine-tune within those adjustments on a scale from A to W. This gives you 230 fineness options from which to choose.
The Vario has a grind grade range of 230 to 1150 microns, which works fine for most coffee and espresso-grinding needs. It almost reaches the extra-fine Turkish coffee grind range of 200-100 microns, but not quite.
PortaHolder & Grounds Bin
Not only does the Vario come with a 180g grounds bin, but it also comes standard with a metal PortaHolder. These are interchangeable so that you can choose to grind into the grounds bin or straight into your espresso maker’s portafilter.
The Vario has a short chute between the grinder and the container. Having almost no lag time at the end of a grinding cycle is especially helpful for filling your portafilter without making a mess. Plus, it doesn’t leave a lot of extra grounds in the grinder.
The Vario comes with an 8 oz hopper to hold your beans.
You can buy one or connect several 9.7 oz hopper extenders if you need a larger-capacity hopper.
Baratza also has a 10.6 oz shutoff hopper option available that allows you to switch out bean varieties while keeping beans in the hopper. Being able to keep beans in the hopper will enable you to switch between regular, decaf, and the flavored coffee of the day seamlessly.
You don’t have to worry about overheating the Vario’s high-torque motor if you need to grind several pounds of beans. It has a thermal cutoff switch, just in case. But you can usually count on your grinding cycles being cool and quiet.
Baratza includes a calibration tool that you can use to make sure your machine remains adequately calibrated.
The burrs are easily removable for washing. You will want to wipe away any excess grounds or oils with a soft cloth. Never use water or soap.
What We Think About the Vario
The Vario is a high-quality professional-level grinder that has been around for about ten years and has made lots of coffee enthusiasts very happy. Because it’s reasonably small, it fits well in both a small business and home environment. The flat ceramic burr grinder gives your beans a robust flavor. We also like that the Vario has so many grind settings and can grind straight into our espresso portafilter.
However, we are concerned about some new owners’ reports for the last five years that say that their machine arrived broken. These could just be anomalies (like the one that was missing a screw), but it doesn’t sound like the type of quality Baratza usually produces.
Instead of the Vario
If the Baratza Vario doesn’t seem like the right fit for your needs, you might consider some higher-end options.
To Grind By Weight
If your coffee shop grinds bags of beans for your customers, you might consider the Baratza Sette 270 W. This conical grinder was the first grinder to ever grind by weight with no external bean measuring required. It has bluetooth ability, three programmable dosing buttons, and 270 grind settings for your convenience.
For a Touch-Screen All-Metal Option
For a sleek-looking, all-metal, flat burr option with a touch screen, you might consider the Baratza Forte AP. It has a built-in scale for weight-based dosing and three programmable timers for time-based dosing. The motor can only handle 5 pounds a day, so it might not be the best option for a shop that sells a lot of ground coffee by the pound.
For High-Volume Grinding
If you’re looking for a high-volume steel burr grinder with a no-fuss visual grinding dial that takes the guess-work out of which grind for which machine, then you might consider the Bun G3 HD Coffee Grinder. It can hold up to 3 lb of coffee and grind a pound of coffee in 30 seconds flat.
Baratza Vario Review: The Low-Profile, High-Quality Grinder
Thinking about buying the Baratza Vario? Man, you're serious about your coffee! Get our opinion on this professional-level grinder!
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