Baratza Vario Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinder Review

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Bottom Line

The Baratza Vario Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinder is included in most of the professional coffee grinder roundups we saw, and is often at the top of those lists. Experts and owners all agree that it's a top performer across the board and is extremely durable. It has some ease-of-use issues, however, though the many available presets help in that regard and grind consistency is considered excellent. This model, the Vario 886, replaces the Vario 885. The two grinders are identical, the only change is the upgrade to a metal portaholder.

Pros230 grind adjustments, Small footprint, Versatile, Well-built, Good repeatabilityConsExpensive

Breaking it down

Performance

Top of the line. The Baratza Vario is a ceramic flat burr coffee grinder. Although it is a stepped grinder (meaning it has presets for grinds), experts and users say the sheer number of presets -- more than 230 -- means this performs like a stepless model. It gets top marks in professional tests and from owners for the uniformity and consistency of its grind at any setting. It's versatile too, producing fine grinds for espresso and Turkish brews, as well as coarser grinds for drip makers and French press (also known as press pot). However, there is very little hold up in the chamber -- what you put in is what you get out in ground beans

Ease of use

There is a learning curve. While the many presets on the Baratza Vario make this grinder very easy to set for grinding, it gets less positive feedback in other ease of use areas. In one professional test it received the lowest score for ease of use because of a confusing front panel. The hopper is not removable, so you have to empty it fully to change beans; you can't just swap it for another. However, the Vario is highly repeatable on any setting, reviewers say, so it doesn't need much tweaking in between grinds.

Appearance/durability

Big performance in a small package. High-end coffee grinders are often big and bulky, not so the Baratza Vario, say reviewers. Many note that it's a professional-grade grinder without either the high price or the large footprint. The grinder gets nothing but praise for its sturdy build, high-quality components and stability when in use. Experts and owners both say it will last for many years. It's covered by a one-year warranty and Baratza customer service is reported to be excellent. The Vario gets mixed reviews for its appearance, with some saying they love it, others saying it's boxy and unattractive.

Our Sources

1. CoffeeGeek.com

Baratza Grinders Technical Paper, Mark Prince, Not Dated

Mark Prince reviews the entire line of Baratza coffee grinders, giving the Vario the top score when compared to four other Baratza grinders. The Vario earns an overall rating of 4.13 out of 5 in an averaging of 15 categories. This is the 885, which was recently upgraded to include a metal portaholder and changed to the 886. The two models are otherwise identical.

2. GearPatrol.com

Grind It Out: 10 Best Coffee Grinders, Scott Packard, Feb. 25, 2013

Scott Packard consults with the experts at Clive Coffee to recommend 10 top coffee grinders, including the Baratza Vario. This is the W version, which includes a scale but is otherwise identical to the basic Vario. He notes that it has more than 200 presets and a small footprint.

3. Amazon.com

Baratza Vario 886 - Flat Ceramic Coffee Grinder (Retail), Contributors to Amazon.com, As of October 2015

In around 25 reviews, the Baratza Vario earns an overall rating of 4.6 stars out of 5. Users say this is a great grinder and they love the small footprint. It gets particular praise for its consistent grind and variety of settings.

4. CoffeeGeek.com

Grinders: Baratza Vario, Contributors to CoffeeGeek.com, As of October 2015

More than two dozen reviewers give the Baratza Vario an average rating of 8.4 out of 10. Many say it's a great, reasonably priced grinder, although some consider it entry-level and suggest upgrading to a better machine for espresso.

5. SeattleCoffeeGear.com

Baratza Vario Burr Grinder with Metal PortaHolder, Contributors to SeattleCoffeeGear.com, As of October 2015

At this coffee lovers site, the Baratza Vario earns 4 stars out of 5 in just under 10 reviews. Most love it, saying it's the best grinder they've ever owned. The overall rating is brought down by one complaint of inconsistences; and it gets lower ratings too for its high price.

6. CoffeeGeek.com

Espresso Machine Buying Guide - Don't Skimp on the Grinder, Mark Prince, Dec. 26, 2009

Although this is an older review, it's still highly relevant as it's informative and the majority of the products are still current (or are available in essentially similar models) and are best-sellers, including the Baratza Vario. Mark Prince calls it a "top of the line" grinder, saying in blind testing it bests grinders costing upwards of $2,000.