Baratza Vario 886 Review: Complete Buyer's Guide

buyer's guide for vario

Quality coffee grinders span a wide range of features and have price points to match. While there are solid choices in low to mid-range prices, the higher end grinders are where the competition gets fierce and features need to make a huge impact on versatility and consistency.

The Baratza Vario 886 offers an affordable gateway to the high-end world of professional-grade coffee grinders for coffee lovers who take their beans seriously. If you're ready to spend big bucks for a better brew, this could be the grinder for you.

We'll break down every consideration along the way so that as you read our Baratza Vario review, you'll learn what we love about the grinder and where we feel it might miss the mark. 


Baratza as a brand is known for their selection of burr grinder models that target the market across different price points from affordable to expensive, as well as functionality from simple to complex.

The Vario 886 sits comfortably close to the top of their line with a foot in the door towards the more costly and intricate models you might find in a boutique cafe. 

The Vario model is still just as suitable in the home or office environment and is designed for easy operation by even newcomers to the grind-at-home game.

Take a look at the following specs and features for an overview of how the Baratza Vario performs, but be sure to read our notes on which coffee works best with this grinder so you can see if it's a good fit for your favorite kind. 


Specs: 

  • DC motor and belt drive transmission 
  • 54mm ceramic flat burrs 
  • 230 grind settings
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    8-ounce bean hopper
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    6.3-ounce grounds catcher
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    Digital control panel with pre-programmable buttons 
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    Timed and manual operation 
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    Weight: 10 pounds
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    Countertop dimensions: 7.2 x 4.5 x 14.5 inches 

Best Features 

With Baratza's Vario model, there are a lot of details to unpack. We've found there's a lot to love with this grinder and its feature-rich build.

Many grinders that boast a lot of fancy knobs and settings often look like they're trying to hide something that's lacking in their manufacturing. However, with the Vario 886, every add-on seems thoughtfully composed and incredibly useful for the at-home coffee lover. 

Take a look: 

  • Micro and macro setting steps
    Standard grinders for home use typically offer grind adjustments between 12-40 different steps, but the Vario blows them all out of the water by offering 230 through a mixture of macro settings that can be fine-tuned with micro-level tweaks. 
  • Hands-free or manual grinding
    Use the digital display to set a timer and press start to grind and let the magic happen on its own, or use the manual button to pulse grind by sight when you're experimenting or grinding just enough for one cup or shot. 
  • Grind directly into a portafilter
    The Baratza Vario offers up an all-metal portafilter holder so that you can grind directly into the recess without fussing over fine grounds lost to the static cling of plastic bins. Plus, it's one less piece to clean if you can cut out the middle-man bin.
  • Program presets to repeat grinds perfectly
    The Vario lets you experiment until you find the perfect settings--and then locks them in with three pre-programmable buttons. You could have espresso, pour-over or press pot grinds ready at the push of a button. 

 It's almost too good to be true, right? While the Baratza Vario's best features are undeniable in their quality, we take a hard look at some of the details that don't work for us a little later on. 


What type of coffee is best suited for the Baratza Vario? 

suitable coffee type for baratza vario

With 200 grind settings, it's easy to assume the Baratza Vario can get it right for any type of coffee. That's more or less case for this grinder, but its high-torque motor and ceramic burrs do provide truly excellent consistency for a few specific types that many others can't seem to manage half as well.

Outside of a two-step grinder built for dedicated espresso use, there aren't many on the multi-step market that can nail it as the Baratza Vario does for pulling perfect shots at home. We think this is a huge selling point for this grinder. 

The same is true for the medium grinds of pour-over styles, especially a Chemex device or the more finicky AeroPress set-up. Because these two brewing styles focus on drawing out the most flavorful extraction, the quality and size of the grind play a crucial role.

The Baratza really delivers that necessary element on all counts.


Making the most out of the grinder 

With all of these features to consider, the best way to make the most out of the Baratza Vario is to experiment freely with different roasts and brewing methods.

This is a grinder that has so much versatility, it will truly change your coffee-drinking lifestyle if you let it.

Don't be afraid to play around and see how many different kinds of coffee you can brew with the multitude of grind settings a premium appliance like this provides. Even if you're a dedicated drip-brew drinking, try out a simple pour-over routine and then graduate to the more complex espresso. 

This Baratza grinder is a durable workhorse for the kitchen, but any grinder should be thoroughly and properly cleaned frequently for the best results over time. We cover how to do just that in a step-by-step guide a little later. 


The downside of the Baratza Vario grinder 

It's fortunately not so easy to find that many flaws with a grinder built by a trusted manufacturer, but we do still have a few inconvenient facts to point out.

  • With such a sensitively calibrated motor that has a thermal shut-off to prevent overheating, we're disappointed there isn't a tension-triggered automatic stop. 

    Stones and hard particles can be the death of ceramic burrs, so if any should find their way into a dose of beans, it could really cause damage.
  •  All the features might be confusing for even the most veteran coffee lover, and they're also a potential waste of time for anyone who prefers a single type of brewing method. 
  • This makes the price, which is already on the high end, even more prohibitive despite the fact that it's a great fit for espresso drinkers. 

We've looked closely at competitors to the Baratza Vario to see what they offer in comparison to features and price, which you can read about down below. 


How to clean this grinder 

Cleaning a grinder with a digital display and sensitive internal components takes a little more consideration than less-expensive models. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's safety warnings as well as these basic cleaning steps.

1. Unplug appliance and remove hopper.
Be sure the hopper and bin are empty of beans or grounds and remove them. The hopper twists counter-clockwise to unlock. These can be washed with warm, soapy water or they can be brushed and wiped clean. 

2. Take out upper burr from inner assembly.
The upper part of the ceramic burr assembly should be turned clockwise until it aligns with tabular indents that then allow you to lift it out. Brush it clean or wipe it down carefully. 

3. Brush out inner assembly and chute.
Since this piece should not be removed, simply brush it vigorously and tap it out over a receptacle like a garbage can or a bowl. Pipe cleaners or stiff, thin bottle brushes can be used to clean recesses in the assembly and chute. 

4. Put it all back together.
Line up the burr assembly the same way it was taken out and turn counterclockwise to lock into place. The hopper likewise locks into place and the machine will not engage unless it is properly attached. 


Main competitors to the Baratza Vario 886 

Competitors in this range really go toe-to-toe with one another while trying to match feature benefits to the price point. Some are able to bring that number down a bit while others try to pack more bang in the buck.

Breville Smart Grinder Pro 
At a glance, the Breville looks like it offers just as much as the Vario for almost half the cost--but we think it lacks a little in terms of consistency, especially when it's dealing with the ultra-fine grinds necessary for espresso and Turkish coffees. 

Eureka Mignon Instantaneo
This Eureka model sits in the same price range as Baratza's Vario and we think it handles an espresso grind setting especially well, so is a comparable alternative if that's your main brewing method.

However, the lack of versatility and the simplicity of its design means it's too specialized for many other types of coffee. 


Baratza Vario vs. Rancilio Rocky 

comparison with rancilio

The Rancilio Rocky is probably the closest competitor to the Baratza Vario in terms of quality and consistency of grind across a range of settings, but there are some key differences to consider between the two.

1. Settings and how they work.
The Rancilio Rocky uses manual dial settings at the base of the bean hopper to adjust the grind--no fancy digital interfaces, here. As well, it has far fewer stepped adjustments available than the Baratza Vario's impressive 200 choices. 

This can be a comfortable alternative for those who need simpler settings or those who are worried a technical breakdown could derail their coffee grinder permanently. 

2. Build and design details.
The internal build of the Baratza is made with certain realities of coffee grinding in mind. Namely, that beans and grinds will travel if the casing is not built to prevent it. 

The Rocky, on the other hand, uses recessed screws so close to the interior of the bean hopper that it can catch and hold these on occasion. That's inconvenient at best, possibly damaging at worst. 

3. Ease of use.
The Rocky is certainly more hands-on than hands-free. Without any pre-programmable features, you'll have to make sure you get the calibration right every time. 

The Baratza's portafilter holder and bin also fit more snugly than what you can achieve with the Rancilio Rocky, which means there's less mess as well as better hands-free use. 


Final Verdict 

It's hard not to love a grinder as modern and conveniently designed as the Baratza Vario 886.

After looking through every technical detail and considering every stream-lined angle of this solidly built appliance, we're confident that it's worth every penny and will prove itself a worthy addition to any kitchen.