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Baratza Vario vs Forte Coffee Grinders Comparison Review 2018

Baratza Forte vs Vario Comparison Table


Which Is Better?

Baratza Vario

vs Baratza Forte

Last update: August 14, 2018 2:53 am
Last update: August 14, 2018 2:53 am

Overall Rating

Capacity

Grind Settings

Ease of Use

Extras & Options

Summary

A beautiful blend of form and function, featuring well-implemented technology.

A scaled back, less advanced (and less expensive) version of the Forte, geared more toward home than commercial use.

Recommended For

Anyone, but it’s especially kind to novice baristas, and has enough capacity to handle most small business needs.

Anyone. Like the Forte, it’s kind to novice baristas, just not quite as robust. Great for people on a budget.

Note: There are two variants of both of these grinders. The Vario and the Vario-W, as well as the Forte AP and BG. For the purposes of this review, we’re comparing the Vario and the Forte AP, but toward the end, we’ll have a few words to say about the variants of the two models.

Are you in the market for a great “prosumer” grinder, made by a legend in the industry?

If you love a great cup of coffee, but the standard consumer grade grinders have all left you wanting, then you’re going to love our in-depth Baratza Vario vs Forte comparison review.

Both of these are fabulous grinders, but the Vario is designed with more of an emphasis on household use. While the Forte is a more robust design built with the commercial end of things in mind. 

Another way of saying that would be as follows: While both of these are “prosumer” machines, the Forte is a PROsumer model, while the Vario is a proSUMER model.

In any case, we’ll review both of them side by side and feature by feature so you’ve got all the information you need to make an informed purchasing decision. Let’s’ jump right in and see what they can do!

Form Factor, Footprint & Aesthetic

There’s not much to talk about in this section because the base Vario and the Forte AP have the same dimensions, both being 5.5” x 5” x 14.”

There is a slight difference in weight, with the Forte weighing in at 13 pounds and the Vario weighing in at just nine. These differences are, by and large, explained by the fact that the Forte’s case is all metal, while the Vario utilizes much more ABS plastic in its construction.

That gives the Forte a nod in terms of overall aesthetic and durability, but with proper care, there’s no reason that the Vario can’t provide you with years of reliable service, given the quality workmanship that the manufacturer is known for.

An image of the Baratza Vario with an espresso machine

Hopper Capacity & Speed

An image of the Baratza Vario with its optional hopper extension

This is an important component of our Baratza Forte vs Vario review, because capacity matters, especially in a commercial environment, and especially when combined with decent grinding speed.

In this case, the differences are slight, but they are present. The Forte AP’s hopper holds 10 ounces of beans, versus 9 for the Vario, with both getting an additional 8-ounces of capacity from the optional hopper extension you can buy separately.

The difference here isn’t large enough to lose any sleep over either way, though it should be noted that in a commercial environment, both models are somewhat undersized without the optional hopper extension.

Where grinding speeds are concerned, the Forte clocks in at an average of 2g per second, versus 1.6g per second for the slightly less robust Vario.

On both machines, your freshly ground coffee can either be dispensed into a small collection bin at the base of the unit or directly into the portafilter, whichever makes the most sense for your operation or for that particular grind.

Grinding Burrs

This will be a short section because the burrs themselves are identical 54mm ceramic. If you have a preference for stainless steel burrs, then that’s going to count as a strike against both of these models for you. We like ceramic burrs better, so that suits us just fine!

Grind Settings

Another important component of our Baratza Vario vs Forte review is the total grind settings on offer.

There are two approaches a company can take on this front. They can either offer a stepless grinder, which offers infinite possibilities and gives total control to the user; or provide some preset, predefined number of grind settings.

Interestingly, Baratza has found a middle path here. Both of these machines have two different kinds of grind settings: Macro and Micro. This allows you to broadly set your grind using the Macro setting, then fine tune it with the Micro settings.

There’s not a huge difference in the total number, but there is some, with both machines having 10 Macro settings, and the Forte offering 26 Micro settings, versus just 23 for the Vario.

A close up image of Baratza Forte AP's macro and micro grind settings

One of the biggest complaints that coffee purists have about grinders with predefined settings is that there simply aren’t enough to choose from. You can certainly see this limitation in action when you look at the superautomatic espresso machines being sold today. The grinders on those machines only have an average of six different grind settings.

In this case though, with 260 different settings for the Forte, and 230 for the Vario, that complaint is largely rendered null and void.

No matter which model you choose, you’re going to find more than enough settings on offer to make your taste buds very happy, and that’s going to make you, the coffee drinker, and all your customers very happy.

Use and Cleaning

An image of Baratza Forte AP's removable grinding burr

This is probably the single biggest point of differentiation between the two models.

The Forte has more high-tech bells and whistles and comes with a touch screen LCD used to operate the machine, while the Vario offers a much more simplified design, utilizing only a small LED panel to display grinding time, and simple push-button controls.

There’s more of a learning curve on the Forte, but it can also do more. For instance, you can choose to grind by time, weight, or manually. With the Vario, you’ve only got time and manual options. It cannot grind by weight. Again, this highlights the different segments of the market that the two machines are targeting.

Both models are very easy to clean, because the burrs are easy to get to and remove if needed, but also because you can buy cleansing tabs that make periodic cleaning as simple as loading a tablet and pushing the button.

Note that if you opt to use the cleansing tabs, then you’ll want to grind a few beans after and dispose of them in order to eliminate the possibility of an unwanted aftertaste the next time you grind beans for your customers.

What About the Vario-W and Forte BG?

At the start, we mentioned that both of these grinders came with a variant. At customer request, Baratza created the Vario-W, which is identical in almost every way to the baseline model, with one important difference. It offers weight-based grinding instead of time-based.

The Forte BG is simply the Vario-W on steroids, offering the same basic capabilities, but on the Forte’s frame, so the basic differences between these two models (Vario-W versus Forte BG) will be as outlined above for the base models.

Baratza Forte vs Vario Pros and Cons

There’s almost nothing we don’t like about these machines. In our view, they’re the best grinders in their class, and whichever one you pick, you won’t be disappointed.

Baratza Forte

Strengths

  • coffee
    Robust, full-featured grinder with high tech features
  • coffee
    A tremendous number of grind settings (260)
  • coffee
    Very forgiving of novice baristas
  • coffee
    Can grind by weight, time, or manual

Weaknesses

  • coffee
    Pricey
  • coffee
    Has a bit of a learning curve, owing to its robust feature set

Baratza Vario

Strengths

  • coffee
    Very easy to master (simple interface)
  • coffee
    Quite forgiving of novice baristas
  • coffee
    Surprisingly inexpensive
  • coffee
    Offers a generous number of grind settings (230)

Weaknesses

  • coffee
    Time and manual grinding options only
  • coffee
    Less robust than the Forte

Baratza Vario vs Forte Review Conclusion

In comparing the Baratza Vario vs Forte, we find two highly similar machines, aimed at slightly different segments of the market. The Forte is a prosumer grinder designed with small coffee houses, busy offices and B&B’s in mind.

The Vario is a prosumer machine designed with large households in mind. As such, it’s not quite as robust or as capable as its big brother, but it’s close, and it’s offered for significantly less money.

Overall, we favor the Forte, but we readily acknowledge that the significantly lower price tag on the Vario makes it an outstanding value for the money.

Ultimately, it’s going to come down to how you plan on using the grinder, and in what setting, but again, no matter which of these two you opt for, you’re not going to be disappointed. Either would make a stellar addition to your home or office.

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Sources & Resources

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