If you’re looking for a long-term solution that will raise the level of your coffee game, store-bought pre-ground coffee just won’t cut it anymore.
Sure, buying pre-ground coffee is convenient, but it’s never going to be comparable to freshly ground coffee from a top-of-the-line coffee grinder.
To help make your grinder selection process a bit easier, we've tried out some of the best coffee grinders on the market. This time, we’re going to take a look at one of the game-changers in the in-home line of coffee grinders, the Baratza Vario Burr Coffee Grinder.
also known as Baratza's titan coffee grinder
the price is better than its contenders in the industry
our rating, based on our sound and impartial assessment
Check out what this powerful grinder is capable of and find out if this is the right tool for you.
That’s right. If I had to find a word that would best describe the Vario in just one word, it would be ‘Titan.’ With 230 settings, the Vario has it all.
The powerful DC motor, which was upgraded from the Baratza Virtuoso’s 450 RPM to 1350 RPM, will give you an easier – and quieter – time grinding beans.
Baratza also delivered when it came up with the classic design for the Vario. It definitely looks, feels, and performs like the Virtuoso’s bigger, older brother. The package itself already includes hopper, grounds bin, lid, grinder, the portafilter holder, and an instruction manual.
As is expected of commercial-grade coffee grinders, the Vario is on the pricier end. But if you want a first-rate grinder suitable for everything from French press to espresso, then this one is definitely worth considering
It has 54mm ceramic flat burrs, which is optimal for accuracy. Unlike the Virtuoso, which grinds quite well but is not perfect for espresso – the Vario makes up for some of the Virtuoso’s shortcomings (particularly regarding the grind quality for espresso).
In order to examine just how much better, let’s take a look at some of the features the Vario has to offer.
Unlike most grinders that use steel burrs, the Vario has a 54mm ceramic set. The burrs are manufactured by Mahlkönig, a world renowned German-based company.
The use of ceramic burrs can go a long way if you consider the fact that steel heats up much faster than ceramic. Some coffee experts also argue that it has an effect on the overall taste of your coffee grounds, while others don’t share the same notion. Baratza has stated that their ceramic burrs produce fines that are ideal for making a more authentic-tasting espresso, whereas steel burrs don’t have the capability to match the same quality. Also, it’s worth noting that while steel burrs are sharper, ceramic burrs are more durable. Most high end grinders manufactured nowadays have ceramic burrs.
Do not let the looks of the Vario fool you. It’s not a difficult machine to operate. In fact, the 230 settings make it all the more ideal for coffee grinding novices.
Unlike with the Virtuoso, you get a portaholder with the Vario, so you can grind coffee hands-free. The settings are also programmable, so when you do find that ideal setting, it’ll be very easy for you to duplicate the next time around.
There are three timed doser settings that will let you freely choose how you grind your coffee beans. The overall interface of the Vario is very straightforward, and the buttons are self-explanatory. It’s also quite lightweight at around 11 pounds, much lighter than it looks.
After we’ve discussed how easy it is to use the Vario, let’s tackle what exactly it is that you’ll be getting out of the 230 settings that you can play with.
There are two levers, one on each side of the Vario grinder. The one on the left adjusts the micro settings, while the one on the right adjusts the macro settings. These two, combined with the grind time adjustment, will provide you with room for experimentation, depending on what kind of beans you’re using and how fine or coarse you want the beans to be.
Part of the fun in using this grinder lies in tinkering with the levers and the buttons until you get that perfect combination. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to get to know the Vario.
If you don’t want to play around with the controls every time you use it, there’s an alternative for you. You can program a desired setting and leave it at that. You can set up a total of three pre-sets for your three most commonly used combinations.
Just a piece of advice if you are new to this: adjust the settings as you are grinding. This will save you precious time. (Thank me later.)
As it is a burr grinder with a top-notch ceramic burr set and high-torque motor, you can depend on the consistency of the grind quality that it produces. This is obviously designed with the coffee aficionado in mind.
The Baratza Vario’s got your back if you’re adventurous enough to try making different kinds of coffee, from Turkish to French press.
Another feature we liked about the Vario is that, unlike our experience with the Baratza Virtuoso, it makes little to no mess in the kitchen.
Furthermore, it runs quietly. It’s a great add-on if you’re sharing the house with a roommate or if you’ve got neighbors who are light sleepers.
One of the main differences between the Vario and the Rancilio Rocky is the number of grind settings that you can use. With the Rocky, you get 50, which is quite a bit less than the Vario’s 230.
While ‘more’ doesn’t always equate with ‘better, we think the Vario beats the Rocky, as it’s more ideal for users who intend to grind for different types of coffee beverages. When it comes to durability, however, Rocky wins it with its metal casing. The Vario’s shell is made up of a combination of plastic and metal. It’s still good quality, we just prefer the casing on the Rocky.
The interface of the Rancilio Rocky is very user-friendly and much more ideal for those who are new to coffee grinding and don’t want a lot of guesswork with the settings. The Vario gives you more room to really get to that perfect consistency, but you’re going to have to work for it. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you.
Here we have the Vario going against the famous Mazzer Mini. Both of these flat burr grinders offer a hands-free coffee grinding option and have a nice variety of grind settings. They are both also quite easy to clean because you can pop the burrs out of them quite easily.
At first glance, you’ll notice that the controls are quite different. The Mazzer Mini offers something more simplistic and straightforward, whereas the Vario gives you the option to set up grinding pre-sets for repeatability. That can be an important factor for people who are looking for convenience.
As for the capacity, the Mazzer Mini, despite its name, takes up more countertop space and is considerably heavier than the Vario. The hopper alone can hold more than 20 ounces of beans, compared to the 8-ounce capacity of the Vario hopper (although you can get a larger hopper from Baratza).
The Mazzer Mini is a tremendous grinder, but it might be a bit overkill if you’re just looking for a home grinder. It’s also more expensive than the Vario because it’s a larger, more powerful device.
The myriad of features on the Baratza Vario grinder make it a buyer favorite, and it’s why this titan of a grinder definitely makes it on my list of the best, all-around burr grinders that come at a fairly reasonable price.
You get commercial-grade coffee at the comfort of your own home. What more could you ask for? Just keep in mind, this machine takes some time to get comfortable with. If you have the patience for it, it’ll surely be worth your while.