Are you giving your espresso machine everything it needs to feel self-actualized?
A good grinder is like a flea collar for your coffee maker — okay, this metaphor is getting out of hand, but the right grinder DOES matter. More than the barista in me can ever tell you.
So you’ve heard the Baratza Vario is all that. But does it deliver the kind of consistent results your coffee maker needs to be happy?
I’ve laid the good, bad, and all the hairy details on this popular coffee grinder.
You’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s the best friend your coffee machine needs by its side in this Baratza Vario review.
Baratza Vario Coffee Grinder Summary
The Vario electric grinder is another top-notch burr grinder from Baratza.
- 54 mm flat ceramic burrs
- Dual cam grind adjustment
- 230 total grind settings
- Large in size
The Vario burr grinder is a solid coffee grinder capable of accommodating all brewing methods.
It grinds at a rate of about 1.6 — 2.2 grams per second and has a bean hopper capacity of 230 grams (which is pretty average for Baratza).
The dual-cam grind system has two adjustment levels for a total of 230 grind settings. The high torque DC motor is fast and effective, grinding at an average of 2 grams/second, depending on particle size.
Baratza coffee grinders are popular for good reason. Developed initially for the specialty coffee market, Baratza models are well made with quality materials and produce exceptional results.
Although built to last, Baratza products come with replaceable parts, so any investment you make can be stretched further — which is good for your wallet, time, and the Earth.
Note: The Baratza Vario also comes in the Vario-W model, which is a weight-based grinder rather than time-based like the 886 (linked to here). The Vario and Vario-W are basically the same machine, though some users find the Vario-W to be even more consistent.
This coffee grinder offers a truly consistent grind. With the Baratza Vario, you can grind directly into your portafilter, just like a commercial grinder. That saves on mess and hassle.
The electric burr grinder has three presets for automatic dosing which you can reprogram to your preferences.
They grind specified amounts (by grinding time), so you can dose ground coffee to your espresso shots, drip coffee, and French press — or whatever brew methods you use most.
Manual grinding is still an option if needed.
A great feature of this electric grinder is its hands-free grinding.
It’s not just automatic; the Baratza Vario grinder comes with a “portaholder,” or portafilter holder, which holds your portafilter in place so you can grind directly into the grounds basket and pop it straight into your espresso machine. Just like a commercial grinder.
Also like a commercial grinder, the Baratza Vario has a shutoff hopper that can be sealed off at the base so you can remove the hopper when it’s full.
If you want to switch out your roast or want to store unused beans, you can pour them back into your storage container.
On the other hand, Baratza also offers a hopper extender that fits the Vario grinder, which nearly doubles the capacity (adding 275 grams).
There’s even a thermal cutoff switch that will keep the motor from burning out when it’s overworked and overheating.
The Baratza Vario can be used in light commercial settings — so naturally, it’s a hefty guy.
Unlike many electric home burr grinders, that means the Vario has to take up room on the counter; you won’t be able to tuck it easily into the cabinet or drawer.
Even for the home coffee enthusiast, 10.5 pounds and 14 x 7.1 inches might be a bit much to work with.
When cleaning, you will need a special tool (which is included) to get the top burr off for cleaning. It’s not obnoxiously difficult to use, but it means the Vario is not as easy to clean as other coffee grinders.
Since it’s important to clean the burrs often, that’s one little thing you may not want to deal with.
Finally, the Vario is expensive, even for a high-quality, fast electric grinder. For home use, you can find other burr grinders that perform well in your preferred grind size range.
Baratza Vario Review
Vario Ease Of Use
As an electric grinder, the Baratza Vario is certainly easy to use. Yup. Pretty much on par with the Baratza Encore.
With pre-programmed dose settings, making coffee each morning is simple. Even without presets, grinding coffee with the Vario is as simple as pressing a button.
And the dual cam adjustment system is basically full-proof. You’ll easily be able to adjust the grind and recreate your results.
The Grind Deep Dive
The Baratza Vario is a burr grinder, which means it has two sharp rotating surfaces to cut coffee beans down between them.
This grinder is a flat burr grinder, meaning both burrs are shaped like flat discs (as opposed to a cone).
Flat burrs are more consistent and popular for an espresso grinder. However, they can also heat up too quickly (which can affect taste if you’re not careful), and can be a little louder.
The Vario also features 54 mm ceramic burrs, which is another reason it makes such a good espresso grinder!
Ceramic burrs are also cooler than stainless steel burrs (which makes up for the fact that flat burrs heat faster); that’s important when you will be grinding longer to get finer settings for brewing methods like espresso.
However, ceramic burrs tend to be slightly less sharp than steel burrs.
Specifically, the Baratza Vario grinds coffee at 1.5 grams/second (finest) and 2.5 grams/second (coarsest). The high torque dc motor rotates at 1350 RPM (load burr speed).
A note about static: One flaw in many Baratza grinders is they seem to generate more static in the ground coffee, especially in the grounds bin.
Because the Vario grinder has ceramic and not steel burrs like other grinders from the manufacturer, and because the grounds bin is also made of anti-static plastic, static electricity should be less of an issue.
(But if you run into trouble, you can always ever so slightly wet the coffee beans before grinding by stirring them with a wet spoon.)
The dual-cam (two level) grind adjustment system offers 230 total grind settings using two adjustment knobs.
The right knob has you choose from one of 10 brew methods to set your approximate grind size range. (These are your 10 macro adjustments.)
The left knob has another 23 settings (micro-adjustments) to let you fine-tune your grind to fit your taste.
That’s a great range of grind settings for an electric grinder, offering you plenty of room for fine-tuning your grounds.
Most importantly, those 230 settings are all repeatable. You won’t have to memorize how many ‘clicks’ you need to fine-tune your grind as you need to with many manual coffee grinders.
Although not listed, the jump in grind size from one micro setting to the next is around 23 microns. That’s also a pretty small jump size — which is essential for fine-tuning your grounds and reaching a better cup quality.
The Vario burr grinder has a grind range of 230-1150, meaning coffee grounds will vary in size from 230-1150 microns.
For perspective, espresso should be ground to 200-400 microns in size, which makes the Baratza Vario a reasonably good espresso grinder.
French press, at just about the opposite end of the grind spectrum, needs grounds about 1,000-1,200 microns large.
Manual brewing methods fall in between; most drip methods use 600-800 micron size ground coffee.
That means you can get a consistent grind with the Baratza Vario burr grinder for pretty much any brew method, though you probably would have to adjust your brew time for cold brew or other immersion brewing methods.
The Baratza Vario, like Baratza grinders in general, is known for its grind consistency.
Since flat ceramic burrs are known for producing consistent results, this isn’t a surprise. High-quality, lasting materials, and design make grind consistency pretty much guaranteed.
Plus, with the fairly large burr size (54 mm), there’s more surface area to grind quickly, which means there’s less time to overheat grounds. That equals a more consistent cuppa!
How Loud Is It When Grinding?
On the one hand, any electric coffee grinder is pretty loud.
On the other, the Baratza Vario is pretty loud, even for a coffee grinder.
Flat burrs just aren’t quiet. They tend to produce a high-pitched din while grinding your beans to dust, and that will be more obvious at finer grind settings.
On the bright side, ceramic is quieter than steel burrs, so your Vario grinder should be quieter than other Baratza models.
It’s also worth noting that if your grind sound starts to sound like a banshee, it’s time to open ‘er up! Give the burrs a good clean if it’s been a while, and check the belt/all parts are still in place.
Sometimes noise = problem, not a flawed design!
Honestly, the Baratza Vario is an expensive grinder. It’s also a great burr grinder, offering excellent grind consistency at a broad range of grind sizes, but you pay for that quality and perhaps even the brand name.
If you’re willing to pay the price, you’ll get a solid grinder and great results, but you can find other high-quality grinders for a little less.
How durable are the materials?
The Baratza Vario features those same high-quality ceramic flat burrs mentioned above, housed in a metal grind chamber. So the part of your grinder that matters most is durable and well made.
Baratza says their ceramic burr sets should last about 750 pounds of coffee. Even if you grind and use a whole pound of coffee a week — and you probably don’t — the Vario grinder’s burrs could last over 10 years.
But you’ll want to take care of them and clean them regularly.
The Baratza Vario Is Not For You If…
You Live For French Press
One of the great things about the Baratza Vario is its versatility. It delivers good grinds for a wide variety of grind sizes.
But the Vario performs best for finer to medium grind settings and offers the greatest range for this end of the spectrum. For coarser grinds, the Vario loses a little in its performance.
It’s best for those who use their espresso machine regularly but still want a pour-over or immersion coffee once in a while. If you live for the press or a cold brew, you’re better off with something simpler.
Related Read: Grinders For French Press Coffee
You’re On A Budget
The Baratza Vario is genuinely a great grinder, delivering consistent results for nearly any brewing method. It’s well made and made to last.
Plus, Baratza is a reliable brand known for longevity and quality, so if anything should go wrong, you and your grinder will be in good hands.
But at the end of the day, the Vario is expensive, even for a well-made electric grinder.
It’s a lot to spend on home equipment. But if you want it for light commercial use, then the expense — with its time-saving and longevity-preserving extras like the portafilter holder, metal grind chamber, and thermal cutoff switch, could be worth every penny.
The Final Verdict
If your espresso machine is lonely, the Baratza Vario might be just what a serious home barista needs to seek the perfect doppio.
This electric burr grinder is well made with ceramic flat burrs and delivers consistent results, especially for the medium to fine end of the grind spectrum.
If you’re willing to make a serious investment in your home coffee, the Baratza Vario will reward you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Mahlkonig Vario The Same As The Baratza Vario?
Yes, essentially the Mahlkonig Vario and the Baratza Vario are the same grinder. They look the same, perform the same, and have almost the same name.
The difference is primarily in the manufacturer/seller. Baratza offers tools for maintaining the Vario as well as replacement parts.
Mahlkonig does not. Also, the Mahlkonig Vario has a sealed calibration port, but the Baratza Vario doesn’t.
Can Baratza Vario Grind Espresso?
Yes, the Baratza Vario makes a good espresso grinder.
It’s capable of producing coffee grounds as fine as 250 microns in size, fine enough for espresso, which typically uses grounds 200-400 microns in size.
The Vario is consistent and offers enough grind settings to fine-tune grounds to dial in shots properly within a broader grind size.