Because Baratza pulled out all of the stops when designing their Vario, our Baratza Vario review will do just the same. Those familiar with the Baratza brand will find a lot of what they love in the Encore, the
But Baratza wasn’t shy about upping their game just a bit when it came to the Vario. So those familiar with the small upgrades that Baratza tends to do when it comes to their products might be more than a little surprised by just how much of an upgrade the Vario is over its younger (and much less expensive) siblings.
Whether you’ll find yourself liking or disliking those changes is something we’re here to help you figure out.
We’re also here to help you determine whether you’re looking for the Baratza Vario or the Baratza Vario-W. Yes, Baratza decided that one version of the Vario simply wasn’t enough. There had to be two.
Why two? Because Baratza just can’t seem to stop themselves when it comes to nitpicking on details. Most of the time, this is to the benefit of its customers. Just look at what they did with the Virtuoso.
The upgrade on the Virtuoso from the 885 to the 886 version was the mark of a company that refuses to stop tinkering with its own designs, even when those designs are already proven and effective.
Below you’ll find we’ve given a Baratza Vario review and a Baratza Vario-W review with heavy emphasis on features and grind settings, as these are the primary ways you’ll want to distinguish between the two devices. We’ve also given a nod to aesthetics, build quality and price. Aesthetically the two devices are similar, and their build quality is up to Baratza’s usual standard, but the prices do vary between the two devices due to the subtle differences.
Our Baratza Vario review will start with a look at the features
With the Baratza Vario grinder, the company throws that tradition out the window. While we will get into grinding a little later, the most interesting non-grinding addition is the digital control panel. The control panel is designed specifically for timed grinding and repeated grind settings. The timer can store 3 profiles, so you’ll be able to have 3 specific doses available at a single touch. The Vario also features an increased grounds bin size (6.3 ounces, over the 5 ounces typical of Baratza’s other grinders) while maintaining the same hopper size (8 ounces). Baratza also ups the size and material of the burrs. Whereas their previous models use a 40mm steel burr, the Vario uses a 54mm ceramic burr, with grind times between 1.6 to 2.2 grams per second. Interestingly, this
Beyond these new features, the Baratza Vario grinder has the same features you’ve come to expect from other Baratza-designed grinders. Perhaps the biggest feature change on the Vario is the removal of the grind adjustment dial from below the hopper, to on the sides of the front panel. In a way, this makes the Vario look like it could be designed by a completely different company, as the dial has become somewhat of a calling sign on Baratza’s grinders.
The Baratza Vario-W shares most of the same updated features that are found on the Baratza Vario grinder, with one small difference: The replacement of the grind timer with a real-time weight measurement system. The designs between the two products are the same, but the internal mechanism is slightly different. You’ll find on the front panel, where the Vario reads “Preset Grind Time” the Vario-W says “Preset Grind Weight”. The weight can be
Baratza upgraded both the Vario and the Vario-W a few years ago by changing out the burrs. While the conical burrs on both devices are still 54mm, Baratza switched from a steel burr to a ceramic burr for both devices. If you’re looking for the older version, you’ll want to look for the Baratza Vario 885, and the Baratza Vario-W 985. These two models still carry the steel burrs by default, and can actually be purchased for less money given that they are the older models.
In crafting a Baratza Vario review, we’ve found that the build quality on the Vario is top-notch, but there are some differences between the Baratza Vario and the Baratza Vario-W that you’ll want to be aware of. The first is the lack of a portafilter holder on the Baratza Vario-W. The Baratza Vario includes the Portaholder that is found on other Baratza products. The Baratza Vario-W does not have this feature.
However, Baratza compensates for this difference by allowing the Baratza Vario-W to be sold with the steel burrs. Baratza specifically points this out on their website. If indeed you are a fan of the steel burrs (as some are), and you do not prefer the quality found with flat ceramic burrs, the Vario-W is going to be your choice. Outside of this, both the Baratza Vario coffee grinder and the Baratza Vario-W are crafted with high-quality materials.
We’ve noted in some of our other Baratza reviews that the company tends to increase the amount of metal they put on the outer casing as the price goes up on their devices. This is only partially the case with the Vario and Vario-W. These two devices do not contain any more metal housing than what you’ll find on the Preciso, with steel covering the main grinding area and the area housing the grounds bin. Nonetheless, the internals
The Vario is together with the Forte on the top of Baratza's product range. As it has commercial qualities as well, they make for an interesting comparison.
Our Baratza Vario review finds that both the Baratza Vario and the Baratza Vario-W 986 include some heavy-hitting grind functionality. Whereas all of Baratza’s previous models utilized a 40-setting grind wheel, the Baratza Vario 886 and the Baratza Vario-W 986 both use two side
This staggeringly high amount of fine-tuning is achievable due to the mixture of the two settings. On the right side, you’ll find a 10-setting fine-to-coarse adjuster. On the other side, Baratza places a 20-step micro adjustment arm that separates the grind into even smaller steps. Mixing and matching these can net some interesting possibilities.
The flat ceramic burrs on both of these devices are designed to produce an efficient, static-free grind that heavily reduces fines and that also minimizes the amount of grounds left on the burrs themselves. The burrs are removable for cleaning, but cleaning will be required much less frequently. In case you were wondering, the two previous models, the Baratza Vario 885 and the Baratza Vario-W 985, each
If you're willing to spend a bit more, the Baratza Forte is probably the best grinder you can get.
The Virtuoso is an upgrade from the Encore, in terms of better build quality and burr set, at a higher price tag.
Our Baratza Vario Review finds the prices on these two devices to be fair for what you’re getting, especially compared to similar devices. The Baratza Vario 886 takes more than a $150 price leap over the Preciso, coming in at around $500. Meanwhile, the Baratza Vario-W 986 ups that price even more, to around $150. The Vario is more specifically designed for professional coffee shops, so it is not quite the best-valued device for those looking to get a good quality coffee grinder in their home.
That said, it is also more than possible to both fit and use this grinder in your home, particularly if you do a lot of grinding, or if you have a very precise grind that can only be accomplished with a more expensive coffee grinder. If you’re prone to buying more expensive beans, you’re likely going to want a more expensive grinder as well, as you won’t get the most value out of those beans as you would with a grinder with limited options for creating the right grind.
When we crafted this Baratza Vario Review, we went into it know that we’d have mostly good things to say about the Vario’s design. Baratza has created a long line of sleek-looking machines, and the Vario only adds to that great line-up. They choices of where to include metal over plastic, and where to go for silver over black, show a great eye for visual pleasure, inasmuch as one can get visual pleasure from a coffee grinder. Which is quite a lot, if we’re being honest with ourselves.
The only gripe we have is that Baratza ditched their iconic under-hopper dial, which has always been a very appealing design feature. The need to ditch it was understandable, however, as achieving the fine tuning that they have on the Vario and Vario-W would hardly have been possible with the dial. Still, it’s sadly missed on an overall visually appealing machine.
Our Baratza Vario review hopefully covered the bases for those looking to check out this device. Both the Baratza Vario 886 and the Baratza Vario-W 986 are solid grinders that continue Baratza’s known emphasis on grinding features. Even the inclusion of the LED digital display is about as minimalist as it gets. There are no features on this device that we can say are “unnecessary”.
There are some things we wish could be included, such as a Portaholder on the Vario-W, or the option for steel conical burrs on the Vario 886. Nevertheless, Baratza has certainly crafted a powerful device that, while far more expensive than their other devices, could easily be a favorite for those who own or manage a coffee shop. And for the home barista who chooses to spend a little (or a lot extra) on a more precise grind, we applaud your dedication to coffee fandom
The Baratza Vario is already capable of serving in a commercial setting. However, sometimes you need just a bit more power, and this is where the Baratza Forte comes in. If you are looking for a premium grinder to use at home, the Baratza Vario will do more than just fine. If you're interested in checking out the Forte, please check out the comparison we did.
The Mazzer Mini is in the same price class as the Vario, with the Super Jolly being on par with the Forte. Definitely worth a read if you're looking for a superb grinder.
The Rancilio Rocky is a range of commercial grade grinders at a very affordable price. Worth looking into if you don't want to spend more than $500 on a grinder.
The K30 and EK43 are pure coffee grinding beasts. Their price is in a class of its own, but these are for commercial grade grinders that simply won't let you down