all vario-w

Published on May 1st, 2012 | by Greg


Baratza’s Vario-W: Top-Of-The-Line Coffee Grinding

We en­joy mak­ing great cof­fee at home. Not ev­ery­one does- plen­ty of folks are fine with their freeze dried, pre-ground, bit­ter brew. There isn’t re­al­ly an ex­cuse any­more- most ev­ery cor­ner on the plan­et has been touched by the rise of the cof­fee house and de­cent ja­va is now pret­ty uni­ver­sal. This ar­ti­cle, and the love­ly piece of gear we’ve got on-hand to­day, are meant for the con­nois­seurs, the se­ri­ous caf­feine ad­dicts, those who aren’t us­ing a drip or perk pot and in­stead swear by Chemex or cold brew or pos­si­bly French press. That’s be­cause we’re work­ing with the smartest, fastest, sex­i­est cof­fee grinder that we’ve seen- but it’s al­so the cost of at least one of our writ­er’s first car.

The Baratza Vario-W pro­fes­sion­al-grade grinder is the sec­ond mod­el from the com­pa­ny that we’ve tried out. The sib­ling mod­el, the Vir­tu­oso, still gets heavy use in our kitchen. And we still love the look and feel, which is fair­ly sim­i­lar- sol­id mat­te plas­tic feed­er and hop­per, black and met­al col­ors. As you’d ex­pect, this is a burr grinder (much bet­ter than a blade grinder), and they aren’t just any burrs, ei­ther. These are Ger­man-made ce­ram­ic burrs, sep­a­rat­ed from the mo­tor to avoid heat­ing, and grind be­tween 1.6 and 2.2 grams per sec­ond with con­sis­tent re­sults in a broad range (230 mi­crons to 1150 mi­crons). There are about 230 grind set­tings, al­low­ing you to di­al in the pre­cise mea­sure­ments you want- this is overkill, of course, but you can’t help but ap­pre­ci­ate the sheer lev­el of ad­justa­bil­i­ty.

Now, we didn’t get our calipers and mea­sure. We did try a range of sizes, and a va­ri­ety of beans as well- some roasts are dry­er than oth­ers, some can even be a bit sticky, and we want­ed to see how the Vario-W would han­dle them. With a few bags of fresh­ly roast­ed cof­fee from com­pa­nies like The Roast­ing Plant and Think Cof­fee in Man­hat­tan (both of whom we high­ly rec­om­mend), we ran sev­er­al pounds of cof­fee through. And what we found was great news for se­mi-pros out there who have been look­ing for the holy grail of burr grinders- this is com­mer­cial qual­i­ty at a fair price, and can han­dle even fine espres­so with aplomb, and the re­sults were per­fect­ly even and pre­cise at ev­ery step we tried.

Clean­ing still isn’t easy, but it’s no worse than any oth­er grinder, and at least ev­ery­thing is durable. The burrs are fair­ly hard to re­move, though we man­aged with some ef­fort. The foot­print is small, con­sid­er­ing the pow­er of the grinder- it’s fair­ly tall, but not very wide, so works well even in a small kitchen where coun­ter­top space is at a pre­mi­um. A good burr grinder is not go­ing to be whis­per-qui­et, and this one will prob­a­bly not sur­prise- it’s not loud, but def­i­nite­ly runs at a vol­ume that’s like­ly to wake up some­one in the next room. The LCD screen and front pan­el would prob­a­bly con­fuse a first-time us­er, since the con­trols are di­vid­ed in­to macro and mi­cro ad­just­ments and there are but­tons for weight. Which is the oth­er nifty things about this one that adds to the “cool fac­tor” but al­so to the price- the built-in scale that is ac­cu­rate to .1 grams.

The idea is sound: you sim­ply en­ter a de­sired weight in­stead of turn­ing a knob and guess­ing on an ap­prox­i­mate of time to grind, which of­ten re­sults in wast­ed grounds or need­ing to fid­dle with the timer re­peat­ed­ly. In prac­tice, it does take some get­ting used to, but for those look­ing for pre­ci­sion and con­sis­ten­cy, this is def­i­nite­ly the grinder of your dreams. Set­tings are saved, so you can fig­ure out your pre­cise amount of grounds, at the ex­act de­sired size, and then hit a but­ton. The Baratza Vario-W runs about $550, and is avail­able wide­ly on­line and in stores now. We wish the grounds wouldn’t stick to the hop­per, but we’re hap­py to end ran­dom­ly guess­ing at our morn­ing brew and run some re­peat­able ex­per­i­ments.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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