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Thread: Mahlkonig Vario Grinder and Compak K3

  1. #1
    Senior Member coffeechris's Avatar
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    Mahlkonig Vario Grinder and Compak K3

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi all.

    To state my intentions from the start I'm wanting to know if I should go for a Mahlkonig Vario for something different over the Compak K3 which I already have for the below reason.

    As I said I currently have a Compak K3 however my sister is looking at getting a better machine than she has and I have informed her that having a decent grinder is of the up most importance. In saying that I have agreed to sell her my Compak K3 (for a fair family price) so I may get a newer one as she is not willing to spend the amount you would pay for a brand new Compak K3. On saying that I am asking for peoples views on the difference, pros and cons of the Mahlkonig Vario vs the Compak K3? I love the K3 and I'm willing to get another one, however do those in the know or have had the Vario feel they are a good grinder if do im willing to look at getting a Vario.

    Kind regards,

    Chris

  2. #2
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Hi Chris,

    Might help if you are able to shed some light on why its the Vario that seems to be the only option?
    I was recently looking for a 2nd grinder (to go alongside my K3), and had narrowed it down to the Vario and a Macap M2M (and maybe an M4D). Decided I really didn't wan't/need the programability of the Vario, and for <$500 opted for the M2M. It gets more business on my bench than that K3 at the moment. Nothing at all against the Vario....but I couldn't split it and the M2M in the cup when I played with them (could just be me).
    Cheers
    BOSW

  3. #3
    Senior Member coffeechris's Avatar
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    Thanks Barry, I have to say i have looked into the M2M and i know this sounds strange and a real head shake. But if i was looking at getting one of the M2M i would look at the double priced M4D. I know this sounds silly given the price. On the other side im glad you have said you thoughts and brought into light the M2M.

    When you say you use the M2M more do you have reasons for that and how is it different to the Compak K3?

    Cheers,

    Chris

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    Stick with the Compak , its far superior in every way .
    Iv seen the insides of a vario and they are not so flash.

    For the price range I dont know of anything thats as good as the Compak.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeechris View Post
    Thanks Barry, I have to say i have looked into the M2M and i know this sounds strange and a real head shake. But if i was looking at getting one of the M2M i would look at the double priced M4D. I know this sounds silly given the price. On the other side im glad you have said you thoughts and brought into light the M2M.

    When you say you use the M2M more do you have reasons for that and how is it different to the Compak K3?

    Cheers,

    Chris
    I initially had the same plan as you Chris re the M4D (and maybe it's worth going in to see the other Chris or one of the other Melb sponsors)....I could have spent the money...but didn't. M2M v K3: M2M looks like the K3's little brother, and is stepped (which I don't care about either way). I'm crap at describing flavours etc, but I get slightly sweeter notes from the M2M, which work well in a flat white. I haven't run a fair trial with beans roasted for the aeropress. The M2M seems to grind 20g quicker than the K3 (why....I have no idea). The M2M probably needs more beans in the hopper to avoid 'popcorning'/ inconsistency thought.

  6. #6
    Senior Member coffeechris's Avatar
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    I love your honesty about being crap describing flavours It sound like me im not the best but i know when i like or dislike the taste. My eyebrows are raised when you say improved sweetness though. Maybe i should be looking at this as an option. Im always open to opinions on other grinders so i thank you for give me yours. I will problem message or go down and see Chris over the weekend and see what he thinks about it.

    Cheers Barry

  7. #7
    TC
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    Hi Barry,

    In all honesty, I'd have an M4D over both of them. They are truly a brilliant grinder. Not cheap, but worth the spend in my opinion.

    Cheers

    Chris
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    Someone should set up a comparison test using the "new" version of the K3 T.
    I suspect the adjuster lock will take the play out of the thread and keep the burrs in better alignment .
    that , together with the repositioned timer adjuster and PF holder should make an already good grinder even better.

  9. #9
    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    +1 to the M4D! Great grinder!

  10. #10
    Senior Member coffeechris's Avatar
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    I expected you to chime in Chris And Chokkdog, Glad you did It is alot more expensive but i have thought of the M4D in the past and noticed someone just in the last few days posted something regarding there first couple of weeks/months with it.
    Im sure this is hard to put in words but if money wasn't an issue or consideration what benefits does the M4D have over the other two in your honest opinion?

    Kind regards,

    Chris

  11. #11
    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    Hi Chris,

    I am unfamiliar with the other two grinders from a 'hands on' experience perspective.

    But the Macap?......Great design, really well built, lasts for years, never seen one on a bench in bits.

    Probably a better entry level commercial than the SJ and would do nicely in a cafe, on decaf duty ( or more), next to a Robur-e doing the heavy lifting.

    Can't say anymore......if it fits in the budget, it's royalty on the kitchen bench.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member coffeechris's Avatar
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    Thanks for the thoughts Chokkdog, It fits the budget in my mind but in the wife's mind im going to have to do some explaining...Im sure i can work on her. I must say i have looked at these many times and thought "you know you want one" but have never come through to buy one. Now i have a good chance to off load the K3 and work on getting one. Some may say its jumping the gun a little since i was originally looking at the two other ones but it doesnt take much to twist my arm. I respect the opinions of all those who have had an input into my thread.

    Now i just have to twist the bosses arm

    Thanks,

    Chris

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeechris View Post
    Hi all.

    To state my intentions from the start I'm wanting to know if I should go for a Mahlkonig Vario for something different over the Compak K3 which I already have for the below reason.

    As I said I currently have a Compak K3 however my sister is looking at getting a better machine than she has and I have informed her that having a decent grinder is of the up most importance. In saying that I have agreed to sell her my Compak K3 (for a fair family price) so I may get a newer one as she is not willing to spend the amount you would pay for a brand new Compak K3. On saying that I am asking for peoples views on the difference, pros and cons of the Mahlkonig Vario vs the Compak K3? I love the K3 and I'm willing to get another one, however do those in the know or have had the Vario feel they are a good grinder if do im willing to look at getting a Vario.

    Kind regards,

    Chris
    Hi Chris

    I have been making espressos on various mainly commercial gear since 1970.
    I have now been using Mahlkonig Vario gen 2's mainly at home for the last 6 months or so. I bought a second one “just in case” as the first one was so impressive. The gen2 is a vast improvement over the “gen 1”, no comparison between them. Got rid of 15 of my 17 old grinders (inc. various Mazzers and Compaks) a few weeks ago. The following is a modified cut and paste from some other posts I have written.


    Vario good points: Far quieter (hard to hear one room away: "SWMBO uber friendly"), smaller (minute may be more accurate), grind retention usually around 0.2 to 0.5g (not my measurements, Mark Princes) and so fast to adjust micro settings to fine tune it for different humidity / roasts it is amazing. It also leaves nothing scattered on the bench (now that is a first for me). No clumping, static or any other anti-social issue to create shot problems. For espresso, it also has superb particle size variation. As I use VST baskets & a naked p/f, I am actually grinding it a lot finer than what be considered normal for espresso. At that grind, it is actually far better (much less fines) than any of the “standard commercial grinders” from my past (which to be fair were only designed for espresso and coarser). Oh, it is surprisingly heavy so it does not move around on the bench. Easy to clean out: one quick puff of my airline to reach pristine status. That makes it the fastest grinder to clean (by a huge margin) that I have ever come across.

    Annoying points: If you do not fit the hopper in fully, it will not grind at all: more of an initial learning curve, as the hopper is initially quite stiff to insert fully. I had to mutilate the p/f holder to get it to fit a naked p/f properly. It now "sort of" fits. It does not have a microswitch so pushing the p/f in does not turn it on. You actually need two hands so you can press "start/stop" to get it to grind whilst holding the p/f. Timers: they are based on time, and the grind settings directly affect the time & therefore dosing. If you change the setting in a major way, the timers will have to be recalibrated to match the new dosing. Coarser plunger grinds are merely an average particle distribution: to the point I still use my RR45 or EM480 for that, and I feel they make a slightly better fist of it. Ditto a Mahlkonig Preciso I used for a while. Changing the Vario from plunger to espresso & back again not only wastes coffee, it takes a while to bed into the new setting. It is probably no worse than most other grinders in that way, however the macro / micro adjustments are so fast & easy to use within espresso that I may be spoilt...

    Other thoughts: Changing the grind finer: it must be running (which I do not care about one way or the other).
    Far too early to comment on medium to long term reliability first hand, although they are travelling well so far. Both of mine are made in Switzerland. Ditting makes the long life ceramic burrs, and perhaps the rest of the unit. Both units are unmarked in terms of wear, one is actually doing 2 to 4 Kg of decaf a week at a cafe and has done approx 50Kg now without a quibble.

    FWIW, I would regard the gen2 as unbeatable for a home user until you get to the mega dollar budgets (or get a manual HG1).

    Back to this thread:-
    The posters who reckon an old italian design and build is "better in every way" must be into something illegal in their brew. The only way their performance is vaguely similar to a gen2 is if you never grind finer than "medium espresso", in which case the Vario is probably overkill and a waste of funds. For coarser grinds (i.e. plunger) the Vario is mediocre AFAIAC. That is why Mahlkonig have a steel burr option for coarser grinds. Having replaced the burrs in almost every brand of commercial grinder I know of at some time or another, the gen2 burrs are likely to outlast the Italian ones by at least a factor of three (Mahlkonig's specs compared to their own steel burrs: which tend to run a lot longer than the Italian ones anyway).

    Hope this helps.


    TampIt

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    I have been making espressos on various mainly commercial gear since 1970.

    Coarser plunger grinds are merely an average particle distribution: to the point I still use my RR45 or EM480 for that, and I feel they make a slightly better fist of it.

    TampIt
    You know...coming from someone with that amount of equipment experience and choice of (17) grinders,.. that would have to be ane of the biggest recommendations an EM480 could ever get !
    ..even if it is only for plunger grinds .!

  15. #15
    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    Ha .....yeah! And to remind the Chris, the OP, that there are others on the forum with just as much, or more experience with various

    grinders, both commercial and domestic who have a differing view to post #13. I would also question whether 6 months is long enough

    to give a grinder such a big tick.

    Although it could be argued that some manufacturers are 'resting on their laurels' when it comes to R&D and completely new, cutting edge technology, (pun intended)

    it is certain that a solid reputation and market share has come through reliability and performance.

    There is nothing essentially new about any grinder on the market. They are either planar or conical, metal or

    ceramic burrs, plastic or metal construction and more, or less, bells and whistles. The newest innovation is the inclusion of a heater

    for temp stability, no-one has challenged the current method of the actual grinding.

    In my years of experience with Macap M4's I never had to deal with the (alleged) limitation of "medium espresso" grind. That statement

    is simply too much of a generalisation to have any real worth. Nor do I put anything illegal in my coffee, ...you can put that comment where the sun don't shine.

    For your benefit Chris, here is some reading on basics of steel vs. ceramic burrs:

    Quoted from the Baratza blog:

    "Thermal conductivity of the burrs (i.e. The material they are made from) has NO BEARING on the root cause of heat build up in grinders which comes from a combination of internal friction as the coffee bean is crushed, and from minor friction in the actual cutting of the bean by the burrs. The sharper the burrs, the less heat is created in the cutting of the bean. The majority of heat creation comes from the crushing of the bean.

    One could actually argue that the higher thermal conductivity of steel burrs can actually decrease the heat of the ground coffee in small batches. This is because the heat is created IN the bean and is then transferred to the burrs. If the burrs are steel, they will do a MUCH better job of transferring this heat away from the coffee and to the housing of the grinding mechanism.

    The actual surface temperature of the grinding surface will be similar whether the burr is steel or ceramic, except for that heat which is able to transfer through the burr and away from the coffee. In large industrial coffee grinders, the burrs are mounted to a plate that has water cooling running through it.

    The burrs conduct the heat away from the beans (and the grinding surface) to the water. A secondary source of heat in ground coffee comes from heat that is stored in the burrs and grinder housing (from coffee ground earlier or immediately preceding) and transferred back into the coffee being ground in the moment."

    Ceramic is also very brittle, if a hard stone or piece of metal gets into the burr set, chipping, or even shattering, may result.

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    I too am in the same sought of boat as OP Chris.
    The varying stance people have with the Vario are polar apart. It seems you either love it hate it. The lovers have their reason and the haters theirs. It really has been the only issue I have had with this forum. The Vario grinder seems to bring such differing view points that if you were to stand back, none of the views are applicable and you start from scratch again.

  17. #17
    Senior Member coffeechris's Avatar
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    Because of this I am personally leaning towards spending more and getting the Macap M4D. Some may say silly some may say best decision you can make.

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  18. #18
    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    I say .... do what is best for you!

    Keep us posted when you have your new grinder, with some pics.

    Good luck!
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  19. #19
    mds
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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeechris View Post
    Because of this I am personally leaning towards spending more and getting the Macap M4D. Some may say silly some may say best decision you can make.

    coffeechris
    Did you get the Macap?

  20. #20
    Senior Member coffeechris's Avatar
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    I didnt at this stage... Came close to just buying one though. I am still using my K3 however my brother in law came up with a nifty little funnel that fits on the shute of my Ditting KR804 grinder which effectively makes it less messy to grind into a basket than the K3 does. I also find the grind on the Ditting to be better IMHO. So to sum it up i have been using the Ditting more than the K3 and don't see the need right now to get Macap. Thats not to say the "WANT TO HAVE ONE" wont get the better of me though in time.


  21. #21
    mds
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    coffeechris

    It's been 2 weeks since I moved from the K3 to the Vario and I'm glad I did. The first thing I noticed was the coffee I was using with the Dalla Corte/ K3 combination was very acidic whereas with the Vario it was balanced, smooth and with lots of flavours I had not noticed before. And as others have mentioned before did doesn't make as much of a mess, no clumping, easy to use and you have more control of the grind.

    However, it works best with darker roasts and takes a while to work out how to best adjusts the grind.

    I am not sure of quality of the innards of the Vario but I can't complain about the grind.

    I had the K3T for seven years but I prefer the Vario and, with the Dalla Corte, makes a lovely cup of coffee.



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