The Baratza Vario Burr Coffee Grinder Review
Ever wondered if you could brew cafe-quality coffee at home if you had the same equipment as your local coffee shop? Do you wish you could tinker with every aspect of your brew to perfect it?
You, my friend, are in danger of achieving the ‘home barista nerd’ status.
Here’s the review of the Baratza Vario Flat Burr Grinder to help you decide if this is the first piece of professional-grade equipment you should buy.
Summary: The Baratza Vario Flat Burr Coffee Grinder
Vario’s intuitive macro/micro adjustments make it easy to get the grind for a perfect espresso finish.– Baratza
The Baratza Vario Review
Baratza opened shop in 1999 and quickly became a well-known name in the coffee equipment industry. It took them nearly 10 years of making and servicing their Maestro grinders before they introduced the Vario. (1) And their expertise clearly shines through in the grinder.
Let’s dive into this review to see what makes this grinder a knock-out competitor in the electric burr grinder space.
Design – 4/5
One look at the Vario, and you know it means business. The design language is definitely function-over-form. And that philosophy is built right into this grinder’s heart.
Burr & Motor Design: The Baratza Vario boasts of 54 mm flat ceramic burrs. Most other grinders in this range use steel burrs, so as per the Coffee Technicians Guild, Vario has an advantage over them (2):
…ceramic burrs will cause less damage to the coffee during especially heavy traffic hours.
To ensure that these burrs run cool and quiet, Baratza equipped the Vario with a high-torque DC motor with belt drive transmission. This setup ensures that burrs spin at a steady 1350 RPM. Despite this, the machine isn’t as loud as you’d expect.
Additional Features: Like all Baratza grinders, the Vario has an automatically resetting, thermal cutoff switch to prevent the motor from burning out. It also has a microswitch that ensures the grinder won’t run until the hopper is locked in properly.
Hopper & Grounds Bin: The plastic bean hopper has a decent 8-oz bean capacity, and the collector bin can hold up to 6.3-oz of ground coffee.
This machine also comes with Baratza’s metal portafilter holder, which can accommodate a portafilter of any size.
This attachment can be fixed in place of the grounds bin, making it easy to grind directly into your portafilter.
Aesthetics: The front of the grinder is dominated by a black plastic control panel that gives it an old-school air. The rest of the body is a mix of steel and plastic that lends an elegant look to this high-performance machine. The Baratza Vario isn’t what we would call good-looking, but it means business and its appearance clearly conveys that.
Storability/Portability: Despite being an extremely capable grinder, the Vario maintains a small footprint. It measures 5.1 x 7.1 x 14.2 inches, which means you could stow it away in your cabinet. But at 9 lbs of weight, it’s probably best to leave it on the countertop, next to your home espresso machine.
Ease Of Cleaning: Like most home grinders, Baratza ensured that you have access to the Vario’s burrs for regular cleaning. However, unlike its other grinders, you will need a special tool (included in the box) to remove Vario’s top burr. It might not be the most convenient system, but for a precise instrument like the Vario, we don’t mind it. To find out how to clean your burr grinder thoroughly, read our article on the topic.
Durability – 4.5/5
The Vario has been around for ages, and for a good reason — it’s a solid machine that’s built to last. You can find evidence of it forums where several users report being happy with nearly a decade-old Vario (3).
Sure, there may be more plastic than metal on its casing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t take a beating. Baratza even made sure that this grinder is durable enough to be used in a commercial setting. That’s why a lot of cafes use a Baratza Vario as a secondary or back-up grinder. If you’re going to be using it at home, you have nothing to worry about.
Baratza is also known for its quick and efficient customer support. So if you do face any problems with your grinder, you can rest assured knowing that the manufacturer will take care of it.
Ease Of Use – 4/5
All Baratza Vario reviews claim that the grinder has 230 grind settings. And that’s true. It takes a bit of getting used to, though. First, you set the selector switch on the right at one of the 10 major settings. Then you can adjust the selector switch on the left to fine-tune in 23 stepped settings. That might sound like a straightforward procedure, but it is a hassle if you’re changing grind settings frequently.
However, to balance out the complexity of its settings, the grinder comes with 3 programmable buttons. They’re time-based dosing buttons that you can customize as per your needs. The digital display in the center will count down the dose time until it reaches zero, and the machine stops. However, you will need to set the grind size for each manually. You can also press the “Manual” button and press “Start” to grind manually.
Grinding Capability (Settings, Range, & Consistency) – 4/5
The Baratza Vario has gained a reputation in the industry as a machine capable of delivering a highly consistent grind, thanks to its flat ceramic burrs. Add to that its ability to produce coffee particles from 230 to 1150 microns, and you get one of the most versatile grinders on the market. And if you’re not happy with the factory calibration, you can use the provided calibration tool to set it as per your needs.
The Vario is also fast when it comes to producing ground coffee and can grind at a rate of 1.6 – 2.2 grams per second. And due to its unique construction, it doesn’t retain a lot of grounds.
This burr grinder works brilliantly when it comes to micro-adjusting doses for an espresso, and is equally good at grinding for filter brews.
A few users reported some clumping at the finer settings, but that issue usually resolves itself after the machine has been used for some time. However, the only sore point is its inability to reach a true French Press grind, even at its coarsest setting.
Value For Money – 3.5/5
We can’t deny that the Baratza Vario is an expensive grinder, especially as it’s meant for home use. It is priced well above other multipurpose grinders with comparable grind consistency. And at this price point, you might even be able to find dedicated espresso grinders with stepless adjustment to help you dial in your perfect shot.
That puts the Vario in a difficult spot. It’s not as flexible as an espresso grinder, neither does it have the range that other grinders have. But it has one thing going for it — this grinder could last you for more than five years. And for its price, that’s a bargain.
Do Not Buy The Baratza Vario If…
You want a burr grinder with dose-by-weight functionality
If you want the Vario’s commercial-grade grind quality, but aren’t happy with timed-dosing, the Vario W is the answer. The “W” costs a few dollars more, but gives you the ability to dose by weight! If you’re looking to achieve the perfect dose, then pick up a Vario W instead of the standard model.
You want a burr grinder that’s not as intimidating to use
Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of settings on the Vario? Then the Rancilio Rocky SD is the one for you. It gives you a more manageable 55 settings to choose from and can grind for everything from espresso to French Press. If you don’t care for micro-adjusting your espresso grinds, then the Rancilio Rocky will save you some money. Read more about why we love this coffee grinder.
You want a dedicated espresso grinder
If all you want to do is pull shot after shot on your espresso machine until you get it perfect, then you might need the precision and stepless adjustment of the Fiorenzato F4. It is one of the best and most affordable espresso grinders on the market. When we reviewed it, we struggled to find any serious downsides to the F4 E Nano.
You are looking to buy your first burr grinder
Then, we recommend the Barataza Virtuoso Plus. It costs almost half as much, but it offers a very similar grind consistency despite a different motor and burr setup. If this is your first foray into a burr coffee grinder, you can’t go wrong with the Virtuoso Plus. Read our full review to find out why it is our favorite grinder of 2020.
The Verdict On The Baratza Vario Burr Coffee Grinder – 4/5
The Baratza Vario is a machine that’s built to deliver highly consistent grinds for a range of brews. That’s why you’ll find this grinder in the homes of many professional baristas.
If you’re just getting into home brewing, don’t be daunted by its myriad settings. You’ll soon get the hang of it. That’s part of the fun of it — you get to play around with your toys to perfect your brew.
We highly recommend the Vario if you’re ready to step up your home-brewing game and start experimenting with micro adjusted grounds.
Have we convinced you to go for the Vario? Then you can check it out on Amazon.
The Vario will pair well with any espresso machine available in the market. With 230 settings to choose from, you will be able to find a grind size that is perfect for your shot. Irrespective of whether it’s a home espresso machine or a commercial one. To find out which espresso machine we recommend, read our roundup of the best espresso machines.
Baratza offers multiple accessories for the Vario, which you can purchase separately. You can buy a hopper extender that will let you load an additional 10 oz of beans into the hopper. But our favorite is the shutoff hopper. It has a capacity of 10.5 oz and lets you swap beans easily.
You can recalibrate your Vario burr grinder by removing the bean hopper and top burr and using the provided calibration tool. It’s quite easy to do. Baratza even made a video to help you troubleshoot and recalibrate your machine:
- (n.d.). History Of Baratza. Retrieved from https://www.baratza.com/history-of-baratza/
- Lemos, C. (2018, July 17). Espresso Grinder Burrs: What’s the Difference?. Retrieved from https://coffeetechniciansguild.org/blog/2018/7/17/espresso-grinder-burrs-whats-the-difference
- (n.d.). Nearly Nine Years With A Baratza Vario. Retrieved from https://www.home-barista.com/grinders/nearly-nine-years-with-baratza-vario-t52121.html