Both the Vario and Forte grinders from Baratza are marketed as commercial grade grinders.
What does this mean for your home experience?
Basically, their powerful motors and flat burr grinder design have been engineered for a cafe-level experience, with finely tuned grind settings, minimal noise and serious reliability.
So what should you expect to be different from the grinder you’re using now?
Certainly a wider range of grind settings, heavier, larger machines and higher-grade motors with a faster grind speed. These models are for professional baristas – so you should consider them if you’re serious about home brewing. If you’re just getting your feet wet, you may want to start smaller.
Comparing machines within the same brand can be tough, so we’ve put the Baratza Forte and the Baratza Vario us against one another to understand one has the edge.
|Name||Baratza Vario||Baratza Forte|
|4.5 x 7.2 x 14.5 in||7.09 x 5.12 x 14.17 in|
|13.5 pounds||12.35 pounds|
|8 oz||10.6 oz|
|Flat Burr||Flat Burr|
Both of these grinders come with a 54mm flat burr grind mechanism inside. The benefits of larger burrs include a range of grind settings, ease of maintenance (since bigger burrs are generally easier to clean) and a quieter grinder.
Both the Baratza Vario and the Baratza Forte BG are flat burr grinders. What does that mean? Basically, the coffee beans are passed through two abrasive burrs that grind the beans into uniform grounds, to give you and consistent granule size and flavor.
Professional-grade grinding is offered by both of these machines. So even if you aren’t shopping for home, they won’t be out of place if coffee is your business.
Both of these models offer macro and micro adjustments- each macro adjustment can be further adjusted within 10 different increments- offering ultimate precision for great taste across a range of beans and brew methods. This is especially useful for espresso brewers.
Both machines have a compact footprint (13cm x 36cm x 18cm) so they’re slim enough for home or a small cafe.
Their repeatable grind options mean that you can enjoy the taste of great grind consistency as it’s easy to duplicate grind settings for your favorite beans using the digital displays on both models.
The Baratza Forte grinds directly into a grinds bin. This means that, although the machine can grind for espresso, it may be more suited to grinding for method like press-pots, chemex and other drip style methods.
Since you need to grind first into the grinds bin, and then transfer to your portafilter for espresso making, aside from the added time this takes, there’s a good chance some of the coffee will get spilled along the way. It’s messy.
The Vario on the other hand, includes a handy portaholder, which supports the espresso portafilter and grinds right into the filter basket, giving you hands-free grinding. This is a big plus if you’re a solo barista at home, or in a cafe setting and need to multi-task.
The Vario offers ceramic burrs as opposed to the Forte’s flat steel burrs.
The difference between these two burr materials is hotly contested and much of it comes down to the flavour profile you prefer in your coffee and the brew-method you’re hoping to grind for.
Many coffee experts believe that less heat is created through a ceramic grind process as the material is not a great conductor of heat. They also have found that extra heat generated as the coffee passes through the grinder may burn off some of the oil contained in the coffee, affecting its final flavour.
This can be hard to test and isn’t really definitive.
Unless you’re a coffee drinker with a sensitive palate, you might not notice the difference between coffee ground with steel rather than ceramic burrs. Nevertheless recent testing has shown that ceramic burrs offer a more authentic flavour profile and if you’re investing in a grinder like this, that should be a concern.
So what does that all mean? Basically, this means that ceramic burrs are a good choice for grinding for espresso, and can produce more complex cup flavours. The steel burr will also get the job done with a great level of consistency, but might be better suited for batch and pour-over brewers.
When it comes to durability, the ceramic burrs will retain their original sharpness longer than the steel burrs. But keep in mind, steel burrs are sharper to begin with. Ultimately both are great options, but the ceramic may have a slight edge.
The Baratza Forte is almost twice as expensive as the Baratza Vario. A solid investment when it comes to a grinder is priceless if you want to offer your friends and family, your employees or your customers the best grind, but I definitely recommend the upgrade for a committed user only.
The Vario is a featherweight in comparison to the Forte, weighing in at 9 pounds in comparison to the Forte’s 13. This could be a factor if you don’t plan to leave it in a fixed spot on the counter, or if you’re planning to use this grinder at events where your gear needs to be unpacked and repacked fairly regularly.
The Baratza Forte has an extra 2 ounce capacity in its hopper over the Vario. This means beans need to be refilled less often, which although not as large of an issue for home grinders, is an important factor to consider if you’re purchasing a grinder for commercial use.
If you’ll be using it constantly, frequent refills to your grinder’s hopper can be an annoyance, so if this is the factor that pushes you over the edge, it’s a fair consideration.
The Forte also has a more powerful engine than the Vario.
The 60 extra watts in this machine’s engine mean that it grinds at a much lower volume than the Vario- a feature flagged at the beginning as something to look out for. The Vario’s 180 Watt engine gives it a maximum grind speed of 1.6 seconds, where the Forte’s 240 watt engine’s lowest speed is as little as 1.2 seconds with its greater power making the engine quieter.
This is ideal if you are looking for a little peace in the morning or are trying to maintain a relaxed atmosphere in a professional setting.
When it comes to comparing these two grinders they come head to head on a lot of points. Selecting the right machine depends ultimately on what you’ll be using your machine for.
In the case of the Vario, users love its consistency when grinding for espresso and the great tasting coffee that results. The ceramic burrs in this model are suited to achieving an authentic, truly traditional tasting espresso.
The Forte really comes into its own when it comes to aeropress and french press style coffees. It’s greater power means it’s both quicker and quieter to grind thanks to the greater wattage of the motor inside. The convenience of a quieter grinder means your staff (or you) will be able to maintain their customer focus, without excessive grinder noise impacting on the atmosphere you’ve worked hard to cultivate.
Remember, both these grinders are professional quality, and as their wide array of grind options suggest, they’re intended for commercial use. If you’re shopping for the home, think of them as an upgrade if you’re serious about your coffee experience.
All things are considered, while the Vario has the edge for the traditional espresso, if you’re a coffee business that likes to remain on-trend, the great quality of the coarser and batch grind options on the Baratza Forte will enable you to stay ahead of the latest brewing trends.
Chatting about coffee is my passion! Leave me a question in the comments, I answer each and every one and would love to get to know you better.
I am a die-hard espresso fan. I love every form of the drink from straight espresso shots to lattes and cappuccinos. I currently use a Breville BES870XL Barista, it is an awesome machine. BUT, my dream machine is definitely an Italian Quickmill Andreja. Those bad boys make badass espresso. I love answering your questions, leave a comment or question below!