Crew Comparison: Baratza Forté AP vs Vario-W

How Does It Compare?

Baratza never ceases to amaze us with their range of grinders available for home brewers and commercial cafés. We thought we’d compare the Baratza Forté AP with the Baratza Vario-W to see which of these two would be best in different environments. The Forté AP is Baratza’s commercial grinder series that can grind from espresso to French press—the AP, as it turns out, stands for All Purpose and we’d agree with that naming! The Forté line is currently the only commercial series available but Baratza does offer more home grinders like the Vario series.

The Baratza Forté AP features an intuitive digital display and 260 stepped grinder settings. The Baratza Forté AP features an intuitive digital display and 260 stepped grinder settings.

The Vario-W has all the features of the other version, the Vario, but uses weight-based grinding (hence the W in Vario-W) for better accuracy. Where the Vario-W can only grind using weight, which means you’ll need to grind directly into the grounds container, the Forté AP can use weight, time or manual for more applications.

The Baratza Vario-W is a weight controlled version of the Baratza Vario. The Baratza Vario-W is a weight controlled version of the Baratza Vario.

With all the features considered, the Forté AP is a commercial grinder and graded for a café, office or a small restaurant. If you’re a home brewer, the Vario-W was designed with you in mind and has the capabilities to make coffee you love from your kitchen.

Grind

The Baratza Forté AP features weight, time or manual dosing options that open the possibilities for different brew methods (and the intuitive digital display makes it easy to select which method you prefer). In a commercial setting, the three options create a quick turnaround for changing dosages. As a bonus, the Forté AP has three programmable buttons that you can set by weight or time. The Baratza Vario-W also has three programmable buttons, but you can only program it by weight.

The Forté AP features time, weight and manual grinding controlled by the digital display. The Forté AP features time, weight and manual grinding controlled by the digital display.

With 260 grinder adjustments, the Forté AP easily grinds from espresso to French press with the consistency we’d expect from a commercial grinder. While both are stepped grinders equipped with hefty 54mm ceramic flat burrs, the Forté AP has 30 more grinder settings than the Vario-W, an important feature for small cafés or restaurants that want more flexibility in brewing. It’s also equipped with a bigger motor that’s nearly 70% more powerful than the Vario-W, smoking the competition—but not literally thanks to the ceramic burrs that keep beans from burning. All that sounds great, but when we think about the Vario-W at home, a steady 1350 rotations per minute (RPM) for the motor is enough speed to grind for a shot of espresso or a pot of coffee.

The Baratza Vario-W offers 230 grinder settings using two stepped adjustments. The Baratza Vario-W offers 230 grinder settings using two stepped adjustments.

Grade

The Baratza Vario-W features weight-based grinding using a sensor at the base where the grounds bin sits. While it produces a more accurate dosage than time-based grinding it limits you to dosing directly into the bin. That's a downside for us since it can grind for espresso, and unfortunately,  the weight sensor isn’t compatible with portafilters. That's an option we would have liked to have. On the bright side, the bin is great for a coarse drip (notice that we didn’t say press), so we can get our big pot of coffee on the dripper. Sometimes you can’t have it all.

The Baratza Vario-W has a weight-based sensor for grinding. The Baratza Vario-W has a weight-based sensor for grinding.

Or can you? The Baratza Forté AP has a portafilter holder and grounds bin, while offering a greater range of grinds than its home-designed counterpart.  Even though it’s Baratza’s commercial machine, the Forté AP is one of the smallest grinders on the market and is perfect for a small café, restaurant or office. That said, we’d never discourage home brewers from taking home a commercial machine as the quality stands for itself.

The Forté AP comes with a removable portafilter holder and a grounds container. The Forté AP comes with a removable portafilter holder and a grounds container.

Glamour

Both use stepped grinder adjustments—with macro and micro settings on either side of the case—to dial in the grind. One of the Baratza Forté AP’s features that we prefer over the Baratza Vario-W is the LED digital touchscreen. In a commercial setting where this grinder is being used a lot, the clear and intuitive display would be highly beneficial. The Vario-W has a small screen that displays weight and uses buttons to save your preferences.

The Vario-W's mainstream style seamlessly fits into modern kitchens. The Vario-W's mainstream style seamlessly fits into modern kitchens.

Surprisingly, even though the Forté AP is a commercial grinder, it’s no bigger than the Vario-W with less than a quarter of an inch difference. The Forté AP has more style with the all-over stainless steel casing that helps reduce noise but when we tested their noise level, in our opinion, there wasn’t a significant difference between the grinders. Perhaps that is because the Vario-W features a metal casing where the motor sits to help reduce noise.

With 260 stepped adjustments, it's easy to dial in the grind. With 260 stepped adjustments, it's easy to dial in the grind.

Conclusion

Considering the Baratza Forté AP's features, size and style, we could see it in a home brewer's kitchen. It’s small enough to fit on a counter and offers more adjustable settings than the Baratza Vario-W. If you were interested in using a grinder for a small business, we would recommend looking at the Forté AP. However, the Vario-W has its perks. It also has three programmable settings, 230 grind adjustments and, frankly, the price point is there for people interested in brewing at home. Which one is better suited for you? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

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