I have been documenting my experiences with the Hario Mini Mill that I obtained for over a month ago.
Before the arrival of the Hario Mill, if I want to have coffee at school, I would have to pregrind the coffee using my Baratza Vario; this was fine but the freshness of the coffee really suffer. Now that I have the Hario Mill in my arsenal, I'm extremely happy when I travel because the aeropress, a big mug, the Hario grinder and the container for bean all fit neatly into my book bag (still have some spare room for laptop, and some lecture materials. However, as I have stated before, it is also my intention to compare the Hario to my other grinders. The comparison today is of course between the Hario and the famed Baratza Vario! However, I must note that my comparision would not be a "profesional" with blind tasting and such but rather from a home user perspective. I will be addressing the convience issue, grind quality, grind retention, and cup result!
One question that did come up in my mind before I have the Hario Mini was how slow would it be in making coffee? The answer is not at all. Of course grinding manually will take time (12 gram of bean grinding for Aeropress take a little more than one minute) but I grind during the time period that I wait for the water to heat up in the microwave (which is more than two minutes. With the vario, I would have this two minutes just waiting and doing nothing, with the Hario, I would be actively grinding away (which is kinda fun anyway). So in this catagory, I would consider it is a tie between the Hario Mini Mill and the Baratza vario.
Grind quality is something that can be subjective (without some high tech measuring device, i.e laser difractometer) and grind quality is ultimately linked to cup result. However, I would say that the Vario beat the Hario hand down in this category. The grind from the Vario is extremely consistent, fluffy while with the Hario Mini Mill, there are visible particles that are way too fine. Vario Win!
Low Grind retention is something I consider a very desiable propety in a home grinder, and thankfully both grinders the Vario and the Hario (they rhyme!) deliver in this catagory. The vario and the Hario will both give you back the amount of coffee that you put in (input= output); this eliminate waste, cleanup, and stale taste in the cup!
Finally the cup result! I dialed both grinders in so that it will produce a brew of aeropress at around one minute (dialing by taste and also by feeling of grind). As I have said before, this category is not evaluated by blind tasting so you have to trust my taste on this. I feel that with most coffees that I brewed, the Vario ended up tasting very smooth, emphasizing the chocolate and the dried fruit notes; the Hario taste less chocolatey, less dried fruit note, it has a bit more rough acidity and in general, the cup is less coherent and less pleasurable. So the Vario win hand down in this category. However, people should only take my result with a grain of salt as it is possible that my mind unconciously bias the cups from the Vario. I'm hoping that others can verify my result!