Baratza Vario vs. Forte

Many coffee fanatics have a bit of a passion for Baratza’s products and when placing the Baratza Vario vs. Forte, it becomes incredibly clear that the somewhat high asking price for both devices is a direct result of this intensely detailed craftsmanship. Baratza emphasizes high quality among all their devices and these two are no exception.

Both devices have a host of features that are hard to find on less expensive devices and even devices from other, competing brands. Both devices have very attractive aesthetic appeal, despite having slightly different design features. Most importantly, both devices have a wide range of grind settings and features related specifically to the grind.

This makes a Baratza Forte AP review and a Baratza Vario 886 review a fun and interesting experience. Here we look at both of these devices, put side by side in order to determine which one comes out the overall winner based on features, build quality, grind settings, price, and aesthetics.

Our Overall Winner:
Baratza Forte

If you are looking for a commercial grade grinder, the Baratza Forte will be your new best friend. 

The Forte has the finest grind setting, longest durability (given its intended use) and is just a solid chuck of steel easily capable of grinding day after day.

If you think spending almost $1000 on a grinder is a bit too much, then you can't go wrong with the Vario. Just use it at home only.

Baratza Vario vs. Forte: Quick Overview

Comparison metric

Winner

Features

Baratza Forte

Build quality

Baratza Tie

Grind settings

Baratza Forte

Price

Baratza Vario

Aesthetics

Baratza Forte

Overall winner

Baratza Forte

Features: Baratza Forte vs. Vario

When it comes to features, a Baratza Vario vs. Forte comparison is fairly interesting. Baratza went with very different design concepts for these two devices. The Forte features an easy-to-use digital display for selecting several options that impact the grind. These include weight, time, dosing, tare and of course start and stop.
The Baratza Forte even allows for manual grinding in the case that you want to pay a bit more attention to the grind you’re getting.

The Baratza Vario shuns the high-tech functionality for a simpler grinding approach. The device has buttons and a very small display screen for setting the grind time and includes three buttons making grind time presents, handy for when you have varying between using different beans and types of brew. The Vario also includes a “Start/Stop” and a “Manual” button.

Both devices include a holder for a portafilter and both make dosing possible. Both devices feature the 54mm ceramic burr as well.

One of the biggest differences between the two devices is the hopper size. The Baratza Vario features a smaller, 8-ounce hopper while the Baratza Forte features a 10.5-ounce hopper. Another key difference is in the grind settings.
We will get into that a little later, but the difference here is stunning. The Vario’s settings allow fine tuning of up to 230 different individual grinds, while the Forte allows for 260 different setting combinations.

Looking at the mixture of features, it’s clear that a Baratza Forte vs Vario comparison on features has to come down on the side of the Forte. The grind features alone place it on a completely different level.

Build Quality: Baratza Vario vs. Forte

As stated earlier, Baratza puts a lot of attention and detail into the quality their devices. Both of these devices are made with a steel construction. A Baratza Vario vs. Forte comparison on build quality becomes a bit difficult, considering that Baraza includes the same basic construction for both devices.

Taking a look at the outer casings, we see that both the Baratza Vario and the Baratza Forte utilize a steel housing. The coloring is different on these, with the Vario taking on a more metallic look, but the material is still the same. Both devices have a plastic hopper with a 54mm ceramic burr. Both have dark and hard plastic catcher for the fully ground beans as well.

What stands out between the two devices is the size and the technology. The Vario lacks the large screen, and it therefore also lacks a lot of the internal equipment located on the Forte. This helps to make the Vario a lighter weight machine. The size differences on these two devices is also significant. The Vario is a somewhat tiny 7.2 x 4.5 x 14.5 inches and somewhat light at 9 pounds. Meanwhile, the Baratza Forte AP is much larger at 15.4 x 13.1 x 7.4 inches and a hefty 13 pounds.

These size and weight differences do not affect the overall quality of the build, but may indeed affect whether or not you have the space for one or the other device. Because both devices meet the same general standards for quality, a comparison between the two for build quality ends in a tie.

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Baratza Forte Review

If you want to learn more about the winner in this comparison, check out this detailed review. 

Grind Settings: Baratza Forte vs. Vario

The grind setting/coarseness is where the Baratza Vario and the Baratza Forte really become distinguishable from competitors. As stated earlier, a Baratza Vario vs. Forte comparison on grind settings is immense.

Any Baratza Vario review would be remiss if it didn’t focus on the sheer number of grind settings available on this device: 230 fully repeatable grind settings. The Vario is able to achieve this by having two tuning dials. On the right side of the device, one can choose a setting between 1-10, with 1 being fine and 10 being coarse. On the other side of the device, the coarseness can be even further tuned with a lettering system between A and W (23 steps in all). The math here is simple: 10 x 23 = 230 possible grinds. That kind of fine-tuning for the grind is hard to find.

The Baratza Forte, amazingly enough, includes the same features but takes this up a notch by including 3 more steps to the left side dial. In all, this means that while the Vario can produce 230 unique grinds, the Forte can produce 260. Just as with the features, the winner for this category has to come down to the Baratza Forte. Both devices have excellent grind features, but the Forte simply one-ups its smaller competitor.

Price: Baratza Vario vs. Forte

As with most comparisons, a Baratza Vario vs. Forte comparison on price comes down to the all-important question: is it worth the price?

Truth be told, both of these devices have rather high price points. This is not uncommon for Baratza’s devices. The Vario has an asking price of $579, which can be brought down to $479 on Amazon.com. The Baratza Forte AP has a list price of $999, which comes down to $899 on Amazon.

Discounts are fluid however, so even the discounted prices via Amazon are not always going to be there. Price-wise, these two devices are much higher than most competitors and even vary significantly between themselves.

Feature-wise, the two devices are not that dissimilar. The Forte adds in the digital screen and 30 extra grind settings. Baratza wants you to believe that those two distinguishing features are worth adding over $300 to the asking price. That alone a bit of a tough sell, based on home use. As such, the Baratza Vario has to take the gold for pricing.

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Aesthetics: Baratza Forte vs. Vario

Baratza is nothing if not good at design. Both of these grinders are very attractive, and would likely look good on any kitchen or small coffee shop counter top. When making a Baratza Vario vs. Forte comparison on aesthetics, it all has to come down to coloring.

The Forte has a bit of a lighter tint to it in the metal casing, but it also features more metal and less plastic. The Vario, on the other hand, has a more metallic look to its metal parts, but has a lot more plastic, particularly on the front facing grind selector. This undoubtedly adds to the cheaper cost, but also makes it look like the cheaper device that it is.

That aside, physically speaking, the two devices have the curves in all the same places, even if those curves are cased in different materials. For looks, however, the Forte takes the win for this category. It looks as expensive as it is, and for a device with that asking price, this is almost a necessity.

Overall Winner – Baratza Forte

Despite its very high asking price, the Baratza Forte wins in a competition between its little brother, the Vario. Both devices have much better grind features than most other burr grinders on the market.

However, the Forte simply increases these settings to an incredible level. The digital display adds a nice technological touch to the grind and makes for a bit more fine-tuning of the grind than you’ll find on the Vario.

If, however, price is the bigger factor for you, you’ll likely end up going for the Vario, as its asking price, while still high, is much more reasonable considering the only small differences between the two. If you want to know more about the Vario, please read the more detailed review.

Overall Winner: Baratza Forte