The net have been buzzing about this lately: a completely new burr set for the Baratza Vario that suposedly can grind as good as the big boys! This had been drawn to my attention a little while ago by EricBNC who blogged about the the new burrs that is available for the Vario; his original blog can be found here: http://www.roaste.com/CoffeeBlogs/EricBNC/My-New-Coarse-Grinder .
Baratza had designed the Vario to be a multi-purpose coffee grinder, that have the ability of switching from grinding for espresso to grinding coarse for french press and anything in between. While the mechanism is there for doing that easily (course lever to switch quickly and fine lever to fine tune the grind particle size); there are problem in the execution! When I first decide to get the Vario, I very much wanted that multi-capabilities of the Vario but I was a little disappointed with what I eventually find out. Make no mistake about it, the Vario deliver excellent grind quality for espresso and distribute the grind beautifully in the porta-filter. The shots produce from the Vario is on-par with those from the Mazzer Super Jolly which speak volume about what the Vario can do. However, coarse grinding department is where the Vario suffers! One problem is the switching of the grind setting itself. If you have dial in your espresso grind and calibrate the grinder for it, switching to coarse grind for french press means that you will still be grinding quite fine at the coasest setting. I find this a bit anoying because then I would have to brew using shorter time with the french press.
Brewing with a shorter time with the french press is not such a big deal but another thing about the Vario is there are still quite a bit of fine when making french press coffee. Does not bother me too much when I'm drinking coffee at home in a normal coffee mug as I would just avoid taking that last sip, but when I'm travelling and drinking the coffee from a travel mug, I tend not to be able to see the coffee level and many time have taking that last sip which is full of coffee fine!
So supposedly, Baratza had commisioned Ditting who is well known for making big commerical grade shop grinders to make them burrs set for the Vario!
It have been reported that these burrs in the Vario produce much superior quality of grind for non-espresso brewing method. I would be very much interested in trying these burrs out in my Vario because I'm finding myself preparing coffee using non-espresso methods more and more (aeropress, french press, siphon, and soon, will be adding manual drip to my repetoire). However the one thing about it is the price, these burrs cost $60 which is twice the amount asked for the normal ceramic burrs ( and cost even more than commercial grade burrs such as those for the Mazzer Super Jolly).
Another major disadvantage is as mention, it can not grind for espresso using these burr set. Although I have other grinders for espresso, I think I would miss the Vario espresso grinding capability. It is so easy to do espresso with the Vario, just insert the portafilter and hit grind and it will do the rest of the business for you. However, I would love to try this new burr set for the Vario at some point to see what all the fuss is about, may be after I get the new Vario-W then I can deligate my old Vario for non-epresso grinding only :-)