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Thread: Best grinder for convenient home espresso: Baratza Sette vs Mahlkonig Vario vs ???

  1. #1
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    Question Best grinder for convenient home espresso: Baratza Sette vs Mahlkonig Vario vs ???

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi Snobs,

    I want to buy the best grinder I can for my purposes (which is low volume, mostly espresso, flat whites and long blacks), but I'm not sure that simply means buying a really high-end grinder.

    I'm currently using a Mazzer Mini and that has really opened my eyes to the differences between shop grinders and home grinders. None of these things would be a problem in a shop:

    • grind retention means I spend ~1 minute each time I make coffee, cleaning out the chute. The chute holds around 3g of coffee, and there's more I can't get to around the burrs.
    • grind retention also means I spent weeks chasing the perfect grind back and forward, with occasional surprises when (I assume) old grinds pop out and change a cup
    • lack of consistency with weight delivered after cleaning means I have to weigh every shot
    • micrometric adjustment means I'm not game to grind for plunger or pourover coffee, so I have to use a second grinder for that. I'm already using a separate grinder for decaf so that has to live in the cupboard!
    • I like to change beans a lot, and the above problems conspire to make that really inconvenient.

    Inconvenience leads to mistakes, which lead to bad coffee, which makes me sad.

    So, I'm (reactively?) considering a Baratza Sette Wi.
    Simonsk8r loves his: https://coffeesnobs.com.au/grinders/...tte-270wi.html
    Practically zero grind retention might allow me to use a single grinder for everything!

    But I want to make the best coffee I can, and I have budgeted to spend more money if it will get me a better result.
    Also I have seen talk about the Sette breaking (but maybe the Sette Wi is better?)
    And, maybe everything is so much better than the Mini that I needn't worry about grind retention. WholeLatteLove have a test on YouTube where the Mini retained 3+ grams and nothing else retained even close to 1 gram.

    Level3Ninja recommended a Mahlkonig Vario over the Sette. Sounds like good advice. Do I lose the ability to weigh beans though? Should I care? There is a Mahlkonig Vario W sold in NZ (and the Baratza version elsewhere) but I don't see it anywhere in Aus. The Vario W can't weigh directly into a portafilter at any rate.

    Should I forget about the built-in scale, and grind retention? I want to make my coffee process more foolproof but perhaps I'm getting carried away?

    What about the Baratza Forte? This old thread would suggest it's not worth the bother. Would people still agree with that?
    The Eureka Atom seems well-liked at a similar(ish) price point. Other than grinding for plunger coffee, would it be a better choice? Quieter, which would be nice. Better coffee too? Still convenient for my use?
    I am OK with paying ~$1200, but I probably can't afford a Super Jolly Electronic (for this scale mod).
    There are dozens of other grinders about. Does anyone have a different recommendation?

    Thanks all.

  2. #2
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    Google has helped me find a thread I missed before:
    https://coffeesnobs.com.au/grinders/...nd-weight.html - suggests the Vario is perfect for my needs for espresso but I'll be changing burrs if I want decent plunger coffee. (Or practically, I'll need to keep a second grinder for plunger.)
    I'm still unsure how much I should care about the built-in scale.

  3. #3
    Senior Member topshot's Avatar
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    Have a good look at the Niche Zero grinder!
    You will find it will tick most if not all the boxes.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    I have just upgraded to the Vario from the Baratza Sette W and it was indeed an upgrade. Whilst the grind by weight feature of the Sette was convenient, the Vario does almost everything else better and hopefully it will last longer*.

    The improvement in grind quality is measurable (increased extraction at the same profile) and IMO easily tasteable. That being said I don't drink filter, pourover or milkydrinks so I can only comment on how it works with espresso.

    I find setting the grind on the Vario easier and I seem to have to fiddle with it less.

    When SO permits the hopper to be left empty, I get good results single dosing through the Vario.

    The hopper design is IMO the letdown on the Vario: it lacks any means of stopping the beans falling out if you want to remove the hopper while there are beans in it (see above re SO and single dosing). Also the safety interlock is a bit fiddly on mine, it often takes three or four goes to get it to click in without applying undue force.

    No matter which grinder you buy, get yourself a Tiamo dosing cup, it makes grinding by weight / single dosing supremely easy. I had to bend the Vario portafilter arms a little to make it fit: I just took them off and mounted them in a vice to achieve this.

    *My Sette died at less than 2 years old and the repair cost quoted by the local distributor (once they actually got back to me after several calls and emails) was completely OTT. I have given the grinder away to someone who is replacing the faceplate to make it a plain Sette (non -W) and it is good riddance.
    Last edited by Lyrebird; 6th February 2019 at 04:39 PM.
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  5. #5
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    Thanks! Good info about the Vario and the dosing cup idea, and the Niche Zero. Single dosing might be a good/appropriate way for me to make coffee.

    This thread suggests the Eureka Atom is not the grinder for someone who likes to change beans often. So I think that's out.

    Two follow-up questions:
    1. Is the Mahlkonig Vario here different from the Baratza Vario overseas? Reason I ask is that the Baratza Forte is just an upgraded Vario (right?) and has a nice shutter on the bottom of the hopper, so perhaps that would be a good one to get.
    2. The Niche Zero looks a little "Silicon Valley" to me, exciting new ideas but not yet proven in practice. Can anyone comment on how well it works in real life? (I have read roughly 20 pages of this thread on coffeeforums.co.uk...people seem happy...maybe I'll give it a try...)
    Last edited by MichaelB; 7th February 2019 at 03:00 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member noonar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelB View Post
    Can anyone comment on how well it works in real life?
    A single dosers ally. Suits my work flow and so consistent, simple to adjust (although rarely have to), clean, quiet, just does the single dose thing very well indeed. I switched from a mini e which has now grayed into insignificance. Good Luck MB. I was a first adopter via the funding site, never done that before - no regrets. Not a fan boy BTW, just like things to perform as per the label and expectations.

  7. #7
    Senior Member topshot's Avatar
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    I purchased my Niche Zero through the funding site.
    I was using a Compak K10WBC for over 8 years, the Niche is now my full-time grinder.

    The single dosing, ultra low grind retention and small unit size make this the ideal grinder for me.

    The ground coffee produced is the same as the K10, with a lot less noise.
    It has actually made my workflow quicker and simpler.

    Another bonus is I can adjust it for a V60 grind or back to an espresso grind in less than a second without loosing a previous setting.
    My wife uses it grinding for her Aeropress, finally stopped using her hand grinder.

  8. #8
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    Sounds like the Vario and Niche Zero are both good options for me. I'm going to go with the Niche Zero. I think that gives me a better chance at being able to use one grinder for espresso and plunger, and using a variety of beans including decaf.

    I will report back once I have it working.

    Thanks again!
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  9. #9
    Coffee+carbon=heaven Mono's Avatar
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    Don’t believe you will be sorry with your choice. Went from Macap M4D to the Niche and my only gripe is it’s looks which is a personal call. I have the Macap that I will get around to listing in the sale section eventually but can’t see me ditching the niche in the foreseeable future. The first grinder or machine that Mrs Mono has complained that it is f##n huge. I always said that I didn’t want a grinder to be the first thing your eyes were attracted to when you enter our kitchen. The niche is anything but that. No frills FA to go wrong with it and a large conical in a small flats body. Ok it may not be going in a hundred years but neither will I. Happy adopter here.

    SM
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  10. #10
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    Those with the Niche.... any issues with "popcorning"? I watched the video on their website as to how it works and there is serious popcorning obvious. I have had this issue with my Compaq when I single dose and it has affected my shots and reduced Crema, due to the inconsistent ground size. Just wondering whether anyone else has considered this.

    Cheers,

    Mark

  11. #11
    Senior Member noonar's Avatar
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    RE popcorning, posted this back in December 18 and is a non-issue in my experience, still using the "temporary" paper cup cut off, works great:

    "8 Weeks in with the Niche and yes its grind has improved - if that is possible as the starting point for me was a remarkable improvement in workflow and grind consistency over the mini e. No regrets at all. As mentioned elsewhere popping beans during grinding can case shards to find their way onto the workbench, currently and temporarily, I am using the cut off top of a paper cup (think of egg rings shape) that very snuggly fits between the lid and the bean entry chute and forms a loose seal when the lid is down - this has stopped escaping shards. Still very impressed with the Niche and actually enjoy using it!"

  12. #12
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    I went from a Smart Grinder to a Sette and I can't say I'm overwhelmed with the Sette. Everyday usage is a bit of a lottery.

    It often doesn't grind up to the specified weight (You asked for 20g but you're only getting 16 and you're going to like it). I thought I'd fix that by making the third setting 4g but it jolts when you use such a low setting, which shifts the group handle which disturbs the scales which stops the grind. It's *really* frustrating.

    I was kind of hoping that the drop was longer too so I could put one of those sleeves in to stop ground coffee going everywhere, but it's quite short which means if the grinds don't fall away into the basket, it stops the grind.

    When it works, it's great, but I think a well set-up Vario will be less frustrating. I really like the Sette concept, but the execution is wanting.

  13. #13
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    Best grinder for convenient home espresso: Baratza Sette vs Mahlkonig Vario vs ???

    Quote Originally Posted by slugga View Post
    I went from a Smart Grinder to a Sette and I can't say I'm overwhelmed with the Sette. Everyday usage is a bit of a lottery.
    Was there a noticeable improvement in shot quality (when the Sette is behaving itself)?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by dischucker View Post
    Was there a noticeable improvement in shot quality (when the Sette is behaving itself)?
    Oh, absolutely. As I said, it's really good when it's working properly, it's just too sensitive to any movement - if you drop something on the floor it stops. I'd be quite happy with one that didn't have the scales and perhaps should investigate some sort of metal cup to grind into and then tip it into the group handle. It would be much cleaner, too, with less ground coffee flying around.

    I didn't mean to be *quite* so hard on it :-D

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by slugga View Post
    Oh, absolutely. As I said, it's really good when it's working properly, it's just too sensitive to any movement - if you drop something on the floor it stops. I'd be quite happy with one that didn't have the scales and perhaps should investigate some sort of metal cup to grind into and then tip it into the group handle. It would be much cleaner, too, with less ground coffee flying around.

    I didn't mean to be *quite* so hard on it :-D
    Sorry if you answered this already but do you have the 270W or 270WI? The WI seems like it fixed quite a few issues similar to the ones you described.

    Having asked that, I'm thinking of getting either the 270 or Vario, as I can live without the built-in scales and there are reports both grinders can be used in "single dosing" mode anyway. 270 seems great value at ~$450 so I'm leaning that way.

  16. #16
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    Niche Zero

    Well my Niche Zero arrived two weeks ago and I'm really happy with it.
    In the last ten years I've gone from a cheap Sunbeam, to a Breville Smart Grinder Pro, to a Mazzer Mini, to the Niche Zero, and this is the first time the taste of my coffee has improved dramatically. (I'm still on my Gaggia Classic for brewing.)
    In addition to that, my workflow is waaaay easier than with the Mazzer, and I only need one grinder to grind three varieties of beans for any kind of coffee I want.

    More thoughts.

    • I got it in white, and IMO it looks significantly better in real life than on the website.
    • The burrs are from a Mazzer Kony. Not just similar to Mazzer Kony burrs, they are literally made by Mazzer, stamped with the Kony part number.
    • It's relatively quiet, and the noise is lower pitched, more rumbly than any of my previous grinders.
    • It's simple to use and clean. Taking the top burr out only takes a few seconds. Recalibrating is completely straightforward too. (Not that I've actually needed to clean it yet.)
    • There's no mess when grinding.
    • The dosing cup is the biggest thing to learn. Getting the coffee out of the cup and into my basket has to be done right so it sits evenly, or removing the cup and tamping can be messy. It's just technique though (mostly just a whack on the bench) and I think I have it figured out now.
    • The dosing cup is probably responsible for some of the change in flavour too. I'm sure it changes the way the coffee ends up compacted in the puck.
    • The dosing cup needs washing occasionally as it gets sticky. Makes me wonder how much my older grinders would benefit from some detergent wiped around in their chutes.
    • The cord storage is excellent. Spare cord just vanishes inside the base of the machine.


    Complaints (very minor)

    • I wish the shiny funnel shape on the top was slightly steeper. About one shot in three I wait for some popcorning to slide back down into the burrs, and it would get done faster with a bit more slope.
    • I wish the clear plastic lid fit snugly against the top of the shiny funnel instead of going right over it. As it is, the only place I lose any coffee (and it's a tiny, tiny amount) is when a shard pops out and goes between the top of the funnel and the clear lid, and ends up sitting on the dial where the numbers are.
    • I wish there were different pips on the number scale at the '5' marks. As it is, with numbers at every ten, then 9 identical pips in between, it's sometimes tricky to read.
    • I wish I had better scales. I have the Decent Espresso scales and I no longer believe they are anywhere close to 0.1g accurate. Dropping beans in one at a time causes the weight to go 17.6, 17.6, 17.6, 17.6, 18.3. Still, the coffee tastes good anywhere in that range.
    • The timber pieces are not as nicely finished as I hoped. Everything else looks as good or better than the photos, but the timber looks worse.
    • The shipping company tried to slug me with GST and a processing fee because the Niche people had included the shipping cost in the value of the unit on the shipping paperwork, which pushed it over $1000. It only took one email to sort it out though.


    Thanks for all the good advice, coffee snobs!
    Last edited by MichaelB; 4th April 2019 at 02:28 PM.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by dischucker View Post
    Sorry if you answered this already but do you have the 270W or 270WI? The WI seems like it fixed quite a few issues similar to the ones you described.

    Having asked that, I'm thinking of getting either the 270 or Vario, as I can live without the built-in scales and there are reports both grinders can be used in "single dosing" mode anyway. 270 seems great value at ~$450 so I'm leaning that way.
    I have posted a few times about this, so rather than repeat the whole thing at length, this is the summary.

    Espresso quality in the cuppa - Mahlkoenig Vario wins hands down over the Sette. An embarrassing comparison.

    Coarser grinds - Sette all the way unless you fit the $30ish optional steel burrs to the Vario. Then the Vario does hopeless espresso but great(er) coarser grinds. FYI, coarser grinding improvement in particle spread does not affect the flavour quite as much as espresso - so whether the Vario is value for money is debatable. Personally, I have three Varios, so for me converting one to the steel burrs is a no brainer. YMMV.

    Scales vs timer - the "standard Vario" timer on gen2 and gen3's is so accurate (within 0.1g!) that weighing by scales is a waste of time. Although every time I change roasts I need to work out the correct grind and the work out the matching timer setting so I suppose scales may be faster on the "roast changes".

    Enjoy your cuppa


    TampIt
    PS: No Vario reliability issues for any of mine, oldest one is Nov 2013, done well over 200Kg of coffee (used in a cafe for a while when their SJ needed yet another set of burrs - twice). It is still on the original burrs and they are still pristine under a microscope. Impressive lack of wear.

  18. #18
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    I can count busted and poorly performing Varios and Settes I know of on one hand...

    Actually, no I can't. I can't count them even if I try all of the fingers and bring in all of the toes as well.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    How long does it take to replace a set of SJ burrs?? Less than an hour after service has finished for the day??
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  20. #20
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    I can buy three sets of OEM burrs for the Mini @ $52.30 a set, and get $23 change, compared to the Vario $179 a set.

    In 10 years I've replaced 2 x sets.
    Last edited by Yelta; 8th April 2019 at 11:47 AM.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member Erimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    I can buy three sets of OEM burrs for the Mini $52.30 a set, and get $23 change compared to the Vario $179 a set.



    You're compairing apples with oranges.

    1: The Vario has ceramic burrs and 2: They seldom need replacing. Ask Tampit.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erimus View Post
    You're compairing apples with oranges...They seldom need replacing..
    Perhaps...Only the grinders need to be replaced when they die.
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  23. #23
    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erimus View Post
    You're compairing apples with oranges.

    1: The Vario has ceramic burrs and 2: They seldom need replacing. Ask Tampit.
    Maybe the grinder should be available as a spare part? Ask Simon.
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  24. #24
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erimus View Post
    1: The Vario has ceramic burrs and 2: They seldom need replacing. Ask Tampit.
    At $180 a throw that's probably a good thing, ask Yelta.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chokkidog View Post
    Maybe the grinder should be available as a spare part? Ask Simon.
    Hahaha touché :P.

    'Tis still goin fantasmically strooong ;P
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  26. #26
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    ... ask TampIt

    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    At $180 a throw that's probably a good thing, ask Yelta.
    Hmm, twice in ten years for your mini... Probably close to the same 80Kg or so the SJ does on a set of steel burrs as a guess (IMO). Also roughly the same burr life as a Sunbeam 480 or Breville Smartgrinder.

    My oldest Vario is "only" 5+ years old but has now done well over 200Kgs. I say "well over" as one cafe owner forgot to get accurate figures for the last 6 weeks, so I didn't count it at all. Adding another 40+ Kg per week (their "normal" but they were actually a lot busier than usual) would take it over well 400Kg with no burr wear (or any other wear for that matter). FYI, I keep giving them the older one to see how long it takes to break - so far so good. Having said that, the Vario is not really good for high volume cafes as emptying the chamber every hour is pretty tedious.

    I reckon the Vario problems (especially gen2 or later) stem from lack of cleanliness. Filling the (small) chamber takes a while however, like most grinders, it will nuke the reliability pretty thoroughly if not cleaned out.

    That sounds like commercial vs domestic espresso machines - the main failures are from lack of maintenance irrespective of brand. Lack of quality from some makers simply reduce the time it takes to break anyway. Add user carelessness and, for example, you get a mountain of dead Silvias purely because they did not bother to keep the water tank filled. I had my Miss S for 9 years with minor routine maintenance only.

    What I look for performance in a grinder is an even particle spread, accurate grind texture and minimal grind retention. Then I look for decent engineering - and i would back a Swiss made (by Ditting) Vario gen2 (or later) against ANY Italian grinder in terms of that...

    Enjoy your cuppa and don't get too carried away with the gear - until it breaks and needs something.


    TampIt
    Last edited by TampIt; 9th April 2019 at 09:15 PM.
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