I found the Baratza Vario W grinder while scrounging around researching another topic. It all started with the following scene.
Tell me if this is familiar.
You go into a busy coffee shop or bakery that sells premium coffee. You start to place your order and then all of a sudden, it sounds like a weed whacker went off in the barista area.
You’re nearly screaming at the counter person to place your order.
That noise is one of the things you’ll always hear in a busy shop. It’s the coffee grinder or grinders.
The loud coffee grinder.
I know that when I’m sitting in the dining area eating my sandwich or dinner, a noise like a jet landing on the ceiling certainly doesn’t make for a very pleasant dining experience.
And it’s not something I want to bring home with me either.
I’ve been searching for a quiet electric coffee grinder.
Now, you can certainly find them in the manual and hand crank variety but that’s not what I’m looking for. See, I’m lazy. I’d rather have an electric model to do the work so I can get my coffee faster.
Or as one reader wrote, “you’re taken in by the marketing blather that an electric is better than a manual.” Hmm, no, I didn’t say better, I said faster as I sit here drinking my coffee while he’s probably still grinding…
Onward, shall we?
I found some units on the market that are worth checking into. I hope to have a roundup of the quietest coffee grinders that I could find for you in the coming weeks.
I didn’t want to wait on this grinder though. It’s been around, but I think it’s well worth looking at now.
Use the links below to skip ahead if there’s something in particular you need to find out. Otherwise, enjoy the rest of the article.
The Baratza Vario W 986
The Baratza Vario W 986
So, What Did I Find That’s so Interesting?
I found the Baratza Vario W. Which is a quiet coffee grinder, but is also a very cool and interesting unit that I thought I should make you aware of.
The interesting thing about the Vario W is that it’s what Baratza calls a weight centered grinder. In other words, instead of using a timer to figure out how long to grind the coffee for a certain amount of grounds, it has a built in scale to weigh the ground beans to get an exact amount.
So, here’s a scenario. A wild one I know, bear with me. You’ve decided you’re going to do the coffee bar at a party. With a timer controlling the grind, like on the standard Vario, your coffee is going to be somewhat variable. A little weaker; not enough coffee. A little stronger; too much coffee.
Let’s swap it out with the Vario W. Weight-based grinding means you’ll get the same measure of coffee each and every time. So if you’re going to grind 20 batches of coffee for 20 drinks, each of those grinds is going be the same weight and amount.
That will mean the coffee will taste and smell the same. Weight-based grinding really makes a big difference in the quality of your coffee. It’s even more important in your espresso where a portion of a gram could make or break the shot.
A Caveat on Using a Portafilter
You can’t. In order to not throw off the weighing mechanism, the Vario W doesn’t offer any option to use a portafilter. If you’re going to be making espresso, you’ll need to pour the grounds from the bin into the portafilter.
You have to experiment a little, you may end up having to grind just a gram or two more of coffee in order to balance out any spillage from the portafilter.
What Else Does It Have?
- The Vario W also offers up to 230 distinct and repeatable settings. This gives you a ton of control over the grind quality.
- It’s got a high torque belt driven DC motor that turns slowly. This means a quieter and cooler operating grinder. This also increases the grinder lifespan.
- 3 programmable buttons let you can personalize the settings to get exactly the amount of coffee you desire. You can even set them up for different coffee making methods.
- It measures 5 1/2 inches wide by 5 inches deep and 14 inches tall with the hopper. Giving it a small footprint for your kitchen.
- Ceramic flat burrs mean consistent and cool grinding. Heat’s a coffee bean taste killer. Burr grinders keep it cool.
- A shut off hopper means the hopper can be closed at the bottom so that you can pull it off and change beans quickly.
- The weight based grinding helps you cut down on waste and coffee grounds mess as well.
What Are the Differences Between the Baratza Vario 886 in the Baratza Vario W 986?
Ok, I mentioned the standard Vario so I should bring up the differences just to be clear. The Baratza Vario and the Baratza Vario W are the same machine in terms of what they offer in all features except the following.
The difference is that the Baratza Vario W is a weight based grinder with the scale built in.
Other than that little trifle, they’re both very good, quiet grinders. If you’re not concerned about being that precise with your coffee, then you may prefer the standard Vario. It goes by the number designation of 886. The Vario W is the 986.
By the way, the W stands for weight. Just sayin’…
How Do You Adjust the Grind Settings?
The macro adjustment on the right-hand side moves from fine to coarse in 10 steps. You’ll use the 23 micro adjustments on the left-hand side to further divide each of those settings for more precise control.
Both levers moving up produce a finer grind and moving down, produce a coarser grind.
You can start with the following settings:
Now, to make use of those 230 adjustments to further zero in, here’s what you do:
Grind just a small amount of coffee. Then, take a look at it and see if it’s near what you’re looking for. If it’s pretty close, use the micro adjustments on the left-hand side of the machine to hone in on the grind.
If you need a large adjustment, use the macro settings on the right-hand side. Then, repeat the process and see if you need to make a further micro adjustment.
Note: The full range of micro settings from A to W is equal to one click/position of the macro setting.
The final grind setting for a particular bean will vary on things like: roast, oiliness, and type of bean.
It’s possible that there might still be some partially ground beans stuck between the burrs when you turn the grinder off. Baratza suggests that you have the grinder running when making adjustments to keep those fragments clear.
How Do You Make the Adjustment for the Amount of Coffee to Be Ground?
The three programmable settings come factory set at 15, 30 and 60g. Good for following:
- 15 to 17g is good for your espresso shot
- 28 to 30g is good for pour over cup
- 60g is good for drip coffee pot
Before doing any grinding, you need to tare out the grinder and the bin. What this means is that you need to tell the scale not to count the weight of the bin to keep it from affecting the weight of the grounds.
To do this, slide the bin onto the scale in the grinder. The scale is built into the bottom of the grinder and you can see the squarish nub when you have the grounds bin out. Don’t press down on it, the scale is sensitive.
- Press the tare button and this will change from the weight that’s showing to 0.0.
- Now you’re ready to start grinding.
- Put your beans in the hopper.
- Press one of the programed buttons and press the start/stop button.
Once it reaches the desired weight, bingo, it stops grinding. The grinder really does give you the ability to create a real precise grind for your best shots of espresso.
How precise? Within 0.2 g of the actual weight as it’s grinding. Good enough?
✅ It is for most professional espresso judging competitions.
What if you want to change the amount of grounds?
The buttons can easily be adjusted in 0.10 gram steps ±.
- To program the buttons, you press a button (either 1, 2 or 3)
- Change the grind weight either up or down by pressing one of the Grind Weight arrow buttons.
- Once you’ve gotten to the grind weight that you want, press and hold the programmable button for three seconds to set it.
It stays at that setting until you change it again.
How Difficult Is It to Clean?
Cleaning is this easy:
- Run the grinder until all of the beans have been passed through and there are no more inside. Then remove the grounds bin.
- Pull the plug from the power outlet so you have no power going into the machine.
- Take the hopper off by turning it counterclockwise about a quarter of a turn. Be careful here. The hopper is kind of stiff to remove for the first few times.
- Empty the hopper if it’s full of beans.
- When you have it off, you can get to the burrs. That’s coming up in just a minute.
- You can then clean the bean hopper, the hopper lid, and the ground coffee been in warm soapy water. Then just go ahead and rinse and dry.
Note: None of these parts are dishwasher safe. Hand wash only.
Sorry, it just has to be said.
Be aware when you go to clean the burrs for the first few times, they’re pretty stiff to turn and remove even when using the supplied wrench.
You turn the burrs clockwise and pop the top one off. Now you can clean them out with a brush and/or compressed air.
You’ll want to also do a full cleaning of the burrs on a regular basis and it’s actually pretty easy to do as well. I have some instructions for you in this article right here.
But for quick, in between cleans, Baratza says you can use Grindz grinder cleaning tablets. These will help clean out the coffee oils that normally get left behind on the burrs.
I Said Quiet, Right? Here’s How Quiet.
I’ve mentioned a few times in the article that the Vario W is quiet. The only real way to determine that is to run one and listen. But, even then, it’s a bit hard to tell unless you can compare the noise between two grinders. Even better when the test is in a common setting.
Like the kitchen.
Well, here ya go! The video compares the Vario W with it’s cousin the Sette 270. I figured the Vario would be very quiet without the beans and it was. But the advantage really steps out when the beans are being ground.
I was impressed. Let me know what you think in the comments. Turn your volume down just a bit before clicking on the video.
Anything to Be Concerned with?
A few complaints have registered that the Vario W won’t give a real consistent or good coarse grind for your French Press or automatic drip. There is an option to make that work if that’s what you need. It’s inexpensive and pretty quick.
You’ll just need to order a set of the optional steel burrs. These are precision designed to get a better coarse grind and enhanced flavor for the styles of coffee mentioned above.
An increase in static had also been mentioned a few times. Several users said that when they contacted customer support customer, the problem was fixed quickly with help by the tech.
Also another problem that had been mentioned was that the belt tended to slip for at least one user. That’s an easy problem that the customer can fix. And again contacting customer support will get you the information you need.
Not to be concerned about, but a weirdness. When you’re watching the screen as the unit is grinding, it occasionally will get up to within a gram or two of the weight and stop counting.
Give it just a second or two to allow it to adjust to the proper weight. Not sure why it happens, it’s probably just dropping the last few bits of grounds into the bin.
Troubleshooting Your Vario W
The grinder isn’t running when it switched on.
Check to make sure that the bean hopper has clicked back properly in place. There is a sensor that engages when the hopper is on properly.
The grinder is running, but the weight isn’t displayed or counting up properly.
Pull out the grounds bin and clean out any coffee that could be on the weighing platform. Just use air, don’t use any tools as the scale is sensitive.
The grinder is operating normally but just stopped abruptly.
Turn the grinder off and check to make sure something hasn’t gotten jammed between the burrs. The usual culprit is a little pebble or a green unroasted coffee bean.
Do I Need to Change the Burrs?
Eventually, yes. They do wear, but the interval is pretty awesome:
- Ceramic flat burr (standard on Vario W) – 1000-1500 lbs. of coffee. Yes, you read that right.
- Steel flat burr (optional) – 500-1000 lbs. of coffee.
Figure about 7 years, give or take. In general, it’s hard to really know when they need to be replaced. One flag is when they can’t get the coarse grind anymore.
What Kind of Warranty Does the Vario W Have?
The grinder comes with a one-year warranty and is serviced by Baratza. For warranty service, contact them at 877-701-2021 or via email.
If you think your grinder needs repair, Baratza has a web form that you can fill out for service.
Where Can I Buy It?
The Vario W can be purchased at several large kitchen/housewares stores as well as on the Baratza site. It’s also available on Amazon which gives you their additional perks of free shipping, a solid return policy and their great customer service.
Who’s It for?
It was originally designed to be used in manual brew coffee bars so that they could knock out the step of having to weigh the beans beforehand and stay precise. In busy shops, it’s said, you will see several Vario W grinders in a row that are loaded with different styles of coffee.
But, it’s also for the person who really gets into their coffee and/or espresso and wants the very best quality with almost no hint of variation. This grinder will easily do the job.
The unit is also great if you’re using any of the pour over coffee or any other slow coffee method. The ability to take one step out of the equation makes it more convenient as well as repeatable.
What’s the Conclusion?
The Baratza Vario W is small, stylish, and fast. If you’re looking for a grinder that will fit your kitchen, the office, or your café, if you should own one, this grinder is a very good pro summer choice for those applications.
Oh, and did I mention it was quiet? That’s because of the belt driven motor. It’s strong and powerful and will zip through the beans quickly. And a lot more quietly than similar units.
There are some considerations that happen in some situations as noted above. But by all indications, buyers are very satisfied with Baratza’s customer support and turnaround.
So if you’re looking for precision and quality in a stylish package with a small footprint, without making your house sound like the local coffee shop, the Baratza Vario W is well worth your consideration.
What Do I Do Next?
The Baratza Vario W grinder makes
your grinding task consistent and
precise. Weight based grinding is
repeatable which means great
flavor and taste.
Cup after cup.
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