Make Coffee You Love!
The Round Up
Shopping for a coffee grinder on a budget? We’ve got you covered! We picked out our top three budget grinders under $200; the Breville Dose Control Pro, Baratza Encore and Hario Skerton Coffee Mill. First on our list is the Breville Dose Control Pro as our favorite entry-level espresso grinder. It’s one of the cheapest grinders we have that’ll grind fine enough for a non-pressurized portafilter. For every day grinding from French press to drip, the Baratza Encore impresses baristas with its intuitive controls and consistent grind at a great price point. Lastly, the Hario Skerton Coffee Mill is a hand grinder that offers the best value on a budget. Lets check out the features and functionalities of these budget grinders.
Espresso Grinder: Breville Dose Control Pro
For under $200, the Breville Dose Control Pro blows us away with its grinding capabilities. It grinds consistently and fine enough to work for non-pressurized portafilters. Even at coarse settings, the Dose Control is consistent! This is hands-down our SCG Pick for a budget espresso grinder. With only 60 grind settings, we were excited over how easy it was to dial in on a Rocket Premium Plus (not to mention the delicious shots)! For even more control over your grind, Breville included additional adjustment settings beneath the hopper.
Another feature we love on the Dose Control is the adjustable timer that grinds for up to 50 seconds. With the start/cancel button, you can also pause or manually grind when you need to. Breville continues their focus on crafting a great user experience and included two portafilter holders in 54mm and 58mm sizes. They’ve even included an adjustable dosing tool that levels off loose grounds in your portafilter for an even tamp—now that’s great service!
Everyday Grinder: Baratza Encore
For general use grinding, we turn to the Baratza Encore. Built with 40mm conical steel burrs and a steady 450 RPM motor, the Encore turns out consistent grinds without excess heat—an excellent feature with steel burrs! This stepped grinder features 40 settings consistent even at French press settings. This grinder can also work for an espresso machine with a pressurized portafilter—sorry coffee friends, it’s just not fine enough for non-pressurized. That said, the Encore would be the perfect entry-level grinder for beginners or casual coffee drinkers.
One of our favorite design elements on the Encore is the bidirectional power switch. No matter which way you turn the switch, it’s either on or off. The overall style of the Encore is complementary to its entry-level price-point. It’s all plastic, which creates some unwelcome coffee static. However, its compact design makes it an easy fit in any home barista’s kitchen. If you’re on a budget, the Encore’s affordability and features make it a strong choice.
Budget Friendly: Hario Skerton Coffee Mill
The Hario Skerton Coffee Mill is the perfect companion for in the kitchen or on the road! It’s compact, reliable and user-friendly design makes it our go-to budget grinder. The Skerton features conical ceramic burrs ideal for pour over or drip brewing. However, we did notice that the coarser we went, the less consistent the grind got (French press fanatics beware). And while the Skerton is able to go fine enough for espresso, its burr locking mechanism makes it difficult to set at a just-right grind. And, in our opinion, it takes more time and effort to grind for a shot than we’re willing to spend.
Still, the Skerton’s lighter weight and ergonomic shape make it a comfortable fit in your hands. The Skerton also has a glass container that helps reduce coffee static and limits the mess—a blessing if you know what we mean! Pro tip: if you’re an Aeropress brewer, you’ll find that the upper portion of the grinder fits almost perfectly over the Aeropress’ brew chamber! Speaking of, the upper portion is built with plastic, but we see that as a positive feature since it reduces the overall weight and makes it less likely to break. The hopper holds up to 80 grams of coffee (or four Aeropresses worth) to get the day started with a couple of fresh cups of coffee.
That’s it for our top three budget grinders! Each grinder has affordable features and functionalities that offer home baristas much-needed options. If you’re looking for an espresso grinder, then the Breville Dose Control Pro is our recommended pick for you to take home. For everything else from French press to pour over, the Baratza Encore and Hario Skerton Coffee Mill are both great options.
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How Does It Compare?
The beginning of every home brewers coffee journey starts with finding the perfect entry-level espresso machine. Naturally, we chose the DeLonghi Dedica EC680 and Breville Duo-Temp Pro as our two picks! These are two fantastic semi-automatic machines that have all the right features to get you started. The Dedica’s programmability creates a consistent user-friendly experience for baristas and not to mention convenience if you want quality espresso without the fuss. It has programmable espresso buttons and a panarello-style steam wand that froths milk for you.
On the other hand, the Duo-Temp Pro is designed for beginners to grow with. It comes with pressurized portafilters to assist pulling your first shots and non-pressurized portafilters to master your craft. The Duo-Temp Pro is a manually operated machine, which means you’ll need to learn to time shots yourself—if you want to learn, this is an added bonus for you! If you’re ready to start making coffee you love at home, then check out these entry-level espresso machines to see which one will be your first!
If you’re looking to hone your coffee skills, then we recommend the Breville Duo-Temp Pro. Equipped with non-pressurized portafilter baskets, you can learn how to dial in your grinder. When you’re feeling lazy, switch over to the pressurized portafilter and let it do all the hard work for you. As an added bonus, the Duo-Temp Pro’s baskets are stainless steel—high-quality for an entry-level espresso machine! On the opposite end, the DeLonghi Dedica has a pressurized portafilter, which is better for those want to make great coffee without practice.
As an entry-level espresso machine, the Dedica excels with programmable features! You can program two time-based espresso buttons, temperature, water hardness, auto descale and auto shut-off time—whew! Did you catch all that? It’s nice to have some control over your espresso in this small machine! We say some because the programmability is limited to a set amount but it still offers more options. This is great for beginners who want to add some customization without getting technical. The Duo-Temp Pro is completely manual using a turn knob to start and stop for brewing and steaming. This is great for improving your barista muscle memory—soon you’ll just know when you’ve hit between 20 and 30 seconds for your shot.
Another reason the DeLonghi Dedica is a perfect entry-level espresso machine is the panarello-style steam wand. For those you don’t already know, the panarello automatically froths milk by drawing in air from a hole at the top. This gives you foamy cappuccino froth every time. If you were interested in practicing latte art, then you’d want a traditional style steam wand like the Breville Duo-Temp Pro has. It’s like we’ve been saying—the Duo-Temp Pro is designed to help you learn! With the Duo-Temp Pro, you can learn how to texture your milk for latte art or dry cappuccino foam.
Since both machines have thermoblocks, we recommend steaming first and then brewing. Of course, that means the thermoblock is at steam temperature and too hot to brew coffee—a dilemma if you want your coffee quick. That’s why we love the Duo-Temp Pro auto-purge feature which reduces the temperature! After steaming, you can hear the valve release hot water behind the drip tray, so you can brew your coffee in a snap. We’re stoked that this feature is offered on an entry-level espresso machine. With the Dedica, we can easily bring the temperature down to brewing by pulling hot water through the steam wand. The Duo-Temp Pro’s auto-purge is an amazing bonus!
It’s great to see that the Breville Duo-Temp Pro features the same sleek style as the rest of Breville’s impressive lineup. Encased with brushed stainless steel casing, the Duo-Temp Pro integrates effortlessly into modern kitchens. If you’re considering size, the Dedica is one of the narrowest semi-automatics we’ve seen! It’s nearly 3-inches narrower than the Duo-Temp Pro. The Dedica’s slim body easily cozies up to kitchen appliances and saves valuable real estate on home barista’s counters. Like the Duo-Temp Pro, the Dedica has a polished stainless steel casing that adds an extra touch on an entry-level espresso machine.
Breville maintains their high-quality design on the Duo-Temp Pro and outfitted it with a user-friendly interface that we mastered in a few shots. We mentioned the centered turn knob controls the espresso and steam; likewise, to operate the hot water or steam, all you need to do is click the adjacent button and flip the knob. With the Dedica though, there are several programmable options that you can learn by referencing your manual—the slight learning curve is worth the extra rewards! Once the Dedica is programmed, your coffee is just one push of a button away.
If you’re looking for your first espresso machine, then check out the Breville Duo-Temp Pro and DeLonghi Dedica. The Duo-Temp Pro offers beginning barista’s a chance to grow with their machine and gain the experience to use advance semi-automatics down the road. On the other hand, the Dedica features two programmable espresso buttons and a panarello steam wand to make grabbing a homemade latte a cinch. We’d love to hear what you think about these two entry-level espresso machines! Share your thoughts in the comments below.
How Does It Compare?
Whether you’re in the mood for French press or espresso, there’s one's grinder that can handle it all: the Baratza Forté AP. With time, weight and manual grinding accessible on the touch-activated digital display, the Forté AP (All Purpose) is the perfect companion for small cafés, offices or even coffee aficionados! Even though it’s in Baratza’s commercial lineup, it has none of the bulk at just over 14-inches tall—almost the same height as the Baratza Vario-W! Baratza designed the Vario-W for the home brewer with 230 grinder adjustments and weight-based grinding—which you shouldn’t dismiss at all! However, the Forté AP has feature and functionality upgrades that support the high demand in a commercial setting. If you plan on using your grinder continuously throughout the day, we’d recommend checking out the Forté AP.
The Baratza Forté AP is equipped with all the right features and equipment to support a bustling café. The programmable and user-friendly digital display makes sure baristas can quickly grind the right dosage and spend less time dialing in the beans—that’s essential when you’re in a rush! Save up to three favorite settings under both time and weight-based grinding for anything from espresso to French press. To grind using the weight button, use the grounds container to balance on the scale located at the bottom. We recommend using the weight-based setting for pour over or drip brewing. Then use the portafilter holder and time-based grinding for espresso.
While we’re praising the Forté AP as Baratza’s commercial grinder, it's packed with features we think home baristas would love! With 10 macro and 26 micro stepped adjustments (all marked for your convenience), home baristas will have no problem finding the sweet spot for new brews! And the Forté AP quickly grinds through beans thanks to the 54mm ceramic flat burrs—we know, those are some big burrs. That said, those larger burrs produce an average of 2-grams per second for espresso—a feature home and café baristas will love!
Thanks to the 260 grinder settings, the Baratza Forté AP can easily grind from French press to espresso. In addition, it a removable portafilter holder and grounds bin, which we love to see on a grinder at this caliber! It’s one feat for a grinder to be able to grind for espresso and French press and even better to provide the accessories to make it effortless. The portafilter holder snaps into the front of the grinder, but unfortunately, doesn’t interact with the scale, so we can’t use weight-based grinding with espresso. That said, it’s easily overlooked since the Forté AP also has time-based or manual grinding as options for different brew methods.
The Baratza Forté AP’s intuitive display makes grinding smooth sailing from the moment you take it out of the box. The touchscreen actives at the touch of a finger with all the functionalities out in the open—nothing hidden here! And it’s easy to save your favorite settings; simply select the method, number and make the adjustments, then press and hold to save—just know it won’t save the macro or micro adjustments. Luckily, Baratza has each stepped marked from one to 10 and A to Z to make finding your grind setting a breeze each time!
All these bells and whistles of the Forté AP are packed away into an attractive, sleek stainless steel case—even the portafilter holder is thick and sturdy metal! The metal casing also serves reduces noise, which is a welcomed feature since the motor has 70% more power than the Vario-W. We also mentioned earlier that even though the Forté AP is a commercial grinder, it’s only 14.2-inches tall! We expect it will clear kitchen cabinets and with its slim profile, it will slip onto the smallest café or home counter.
Whether you’re a small café, office or home barista, the Baratza Forté AP has something for everyone! Featuring 260 stepped settings and an intuitive display, it’s easy to dial in this grinder to make a cup of coffee you love. Tell us what you think of the Baratza Forté AP in the comments below.
The Round Up
Are you looking for the best cold brew system? Then you’re in the right place—we’ve rounded up our top three favorite cold brew systems: the Toddy Cold Brew System, Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Pot and the Cuppow Mason Jar Cold Brew. For those not in the know, cold brew is a popular summer treat that’s best served chilled with a splash of your favorite mixer. Cold brew coffee is incredibly easy to make; simply add medium-coarse ground coffee, water and time! Let it steep in the container until you’re ready to filter it! The process is even easier with these systems purpose-built to reduce coffee oils and silt for a clean, easy drinking cup.
Staff Pick: Toddy Cold Brew System
We asked the Crew what their favorite cold brewer was and it was near-unanimous for the Toddy! The Toddy has been our trusty office coffee maker through the hot summer months. A couple of reasons the Toddy comes out on top is due to its reusable felt filter that removes a lot of the oil and silt from our coffee—in fact, we’d say it makes the cleanest cup of cold brew (of our favorites)! The filters require a bit of maintenance; they need to be stored in the fridge and eventually tossed and replaced, but overall the expense is worth a deliciously smooth, clean cup.
Another reason we adore the Toddy is its size—48-ounces of coffee concentrate, coffee friends! It comes with a filter, the container to steep coffee and a carafe for the final product. The only things we’re missing is a lid for the brew container and a sturdier handle to move the Toddy. It’s small enough for a counter, but it’s the biggest cold brewer on this list, so if space is a consideration, we’ve got something else for you.
Best Value: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Pot
The Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Pot is one of the best values we’ve seen for a cold brewer (about the price of a bag of coffee). It uses a fine-nylon filter that traps grounds but leaves a little silt and oil—sort of like a French press. However, the filter is easy to pop out and rinse off with water (although it looks a little yellow after a few uses). The Hario is also the perfect size to store in a fridge door, saving you valuable real estate.
Bonus for tea drinkers—the Hario is super versatile and can brew tea or coffee with cold and hot water! When the cold weather sneaks up, you can use your Hario as an immersion brewer. That’s a win-win in our books!
Ease Of Use: Cuppow Mason Jar Cold Brew Kit
Out of all three, the Cuppow is hands-down the easiest clean! The CoffeeSock Cold Brew Filter is, yep, a sock-like filter made of organic cotton that you can toss in the washing machine or dishwasher. Best of all, you make this cold brew in a mason jar, which is not only on-trend but easy to replace if the unthinkable happens.
Making coffee in the Cuppow is also a breeze. Add 3 ounces of coffee into the CoffeeSock and use the tie and plastic ring to secure the end and keep the grounds out of your coffee. Then add 21 ounces of water and allow it to steep for 12 to 24 hours. When you’re done, all you have to do is remove the sock and your coffee is ready!
We've gathered our top three cold brew systems; the Toddy Cold Brew System, Hario Cold Brew Pot and Cuppow Mason Jar Cold Brew, and compared their features for you to decide which one is best for you. There are so many coffee makers on the market, but finding the right one doesn't need to be difficult!
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How Does It Compare?
It’s a Saeco showdown! We paired two of Saeco’s most popular entry-level superautomatics, the Saeco Intelia Deluxe and the Saeco Xsmall, to show you what each has to offer; espresso at the touch of a button, removable brew unit, easy steaming options—we’ll get to the differences in features and functionalities. Right off the bat, you’ll notice the Intelia Deluxe’s digital display is packed with more customizable options such as coffee temperature and stand-by mode! If you’re a big latte drinker, the Intelia Deluxe features a cappuccinatore to automatically froth milk right into your glass and, of course, programmable espresso buttons. The Xsmall can also offer you two programmable espresso options, but it’s all manual steaming with the panarello! Honestly though, we think the Xsmall’s simple controls and smaller footprint offers more appeal to the casual coffee drinker. Both machines offer the convenience and ease-of-use you’d expect from a superautomatic—find out which one best suits your coffee needs!
Waking up in the morning just got easier with the Saeco Intelia Deluxe! Equipped with customizable brew options, it’s easier to find that perfect sip. Does your morning coffee taste weak and need a boost? Try adjusting the Aroma Strength button from one bean (mild) to five beans (extra strong)—a quick trick to increases the amount of coffee per shot. You can also adjust the grinder settings located in the 10.5-ounce bean hopper, or manually dose through the bypass doser! For extra customizability, you can even adjust the brew temperature to one of three pre-set levels. While we’re still limited to what Saeco allows in each setting, we adore how easy it is to find a brewing sweet spot.
On the other hand, the Saeco Xsmall is simplicity at it’s finest. This little machine features two programmable time-based espresso buttons that adjust the water volume. We set up our Xsmall as a single shot and lungo since there’s option for a double shot—or is there? Push either button in rapid succession and you’ll get a double portion! We can’t call it a true double shot since it will grind, brew and repeat, but it’s pretty close! While we can adjust the coffee strength on the Intelia Deluxe, the Xsmall doesn’t have aroma settings or a bypass doser. We can, however, manually tweak the grind setting to one of five options! It doesn’t take long to find a decent shot from the Xsmall for those who need a quick jolt of java in the morning.
The Saeco Intelia Deluxe features a cappuccinatore that makes steaming a breeze. Simply add the hose to any container with chilled milk and it’ll froth it right into your glass. Unlike a fully automatic one-touch system, you get manual control over your steamed milk length. Still not enough customizability?, Saeco’s made the cappuccinatore interchangeable with their panarello wand attachment—putting your milk’s temperature and texture under manual control.
That said, the controls on the Saeco Xsmall are definitely more natural to use. The turn style knob turns left for steam or right for hot water and is a style we see more often for manual steaming. The only downside is the Xsmall’s tiny 33-ounce water reservoir. It runs out of water much quicker than the Intelia Deluxe—which sports a 53-ounce tank—and no one enjoys refilling a water tank multiple times. The Xsmall is suited for a small environment with light traffic like an apartment or small studio.
The Saeco Xsmall’s rounded corners create a smaller footprint and make it easier to slip onto counter spaces or even an office desk (we dare you to)! But surprisingly the Saeco Intelia Deluxe isn’t that much bigger! If you measure from corner to corner, the Intelia Deluxe is only about two inches taller and an inch wider than the Xsmall. The Intelia Deluxe’s extra inches give it more room for a larger drip tray, water tank and a cup warmer.
The Intelia Deluxe also looks sharper with the stainless steel face and digital display. The Xsmall’s different models offer more color options, but none have the digital display or the option to customize your coffee, which is honestly enough to get us excited about the Intelia Deluxe. At the end of the day, these machines offer different features that coffee lovers will have to decide what they can and can’t live with for themselves.
If you’re looking for more control over your espresso and lattes, then look no further than the Saeco Intelia Deluxe! This superautomatic features the basic programming you’d need to dial in your espresso. The Saeco Xsmall is the ideal caffeine companion for those craving a quick cup with minimal effort. And with the option to add a panarello to the Intelia Deluxe, both machines are capable of frothing milk the way you want it.
Check out these Saeco superautomatics and tell us what machine you’d take home in the comments below!
How Does It Compare?
Today we’re talking espresso on-the-go, but we’re not talking about grabbing a shot from your superautomatic before you run the door! Nope, in this Crew Review we’re talking about the Wacaco Minipresso Portable Espresso Machine. The Minipresso is compact—its longest dimension is 7 inches—and, yes, it truly makes espresso! The Minipresso is designed perfectly for outdoor enthusiasts looking to take their favorite morning beverage wherever they go. And it’s got everything you need; shot basket, pressurized system, cup—check! This convenient single shot espresso maker has everything on-hand and ready to go. Check it out and tell us what you think about the Minipresso.
When you first open the packaging, its compact, cylinder shape (perhaps resembling a submarine if you ask Gail!) makes you wonder, how in the world do you make a shot from this? Start twisting off each end and you’ll see the mechanics behind this machine. On one end, you have the brew chamber with a pod-like basket where you’ll add 8 grams of ground coffee. On the other side is the chamber for hot water—just be careful; if you overfill the chamber, it’ll overflow hot water! When you’re ready to brew, fill the pod with coffee and gently pack in with the back of the scoop (yep, it’s designed that way, but it’s not tamping). Once you’ve got everything secured, unlatch the piston and start pumping! Hold up—just don’t pump it too fast! Wacaco recommends one pump per second.
It doesn’t really feel like an espresso machine but man it certainly makes espresso! The shot is a bit weaker than we're used to, but for a compact espresso machine with one shot, it’s pretty impressive! That’s in part thanks to the semi-automatic piston that extracts with 8 BARs—that’s on par with real espresso machines, coffee friends! No need to worry about your fingers either,the Minipresso has minor resistance when extracting while still being easy to pump.
Slip the Wacaco Minipresso in your backpack’s side pocket for the perfect caffeinated camping companion (ten bucks says you’ll be everyone’s favorite person in the morning)! While it’s not as lightweight as the AeroPress, its compact, sleek design makes it easier to pack last minute. The Minipresso weighs 12.8-ounces and we think backpackers might forgo the extra weight (we know every ounce counts). But camping out of your car? Yep, take the Minipresso! Tired of weak hotel coffee? You get the idea.
One maintenance tip we’ll leave you with is to thoroughly clean and dry the Minipresso before storing. Wacaco only recommends cleaning with hot water and it’s not dishwasher safe, so clean it before it gets gunky—yeah…we didn’t clean it and were welcomed by thin fibrous mold all over the brew chamber. But we forgot so you don’t have to!
If you’re out in the wilderness and in need of a pick-me-up, the Wacaco Minipresso Portable Espresso Machine has got your back! Its sleek, cylinder body fits in small pockets and it weighs less than a pound (so you can bring more coffee). For an espresso machine packing 116 PSI and 8 grams of grounds, it makes a more-than-decent shot that’ll satisfy your caffeine needs.
Would you take the Minipresso camping? Take a look at the Wacaco Minipresso and tell us what you think in the comments below.
How Does It Compare?
How does a heat exchanger compare to a single boiler? In this Crew Comparison, we’re looking at the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II and the Crossland Coffee CC1. If you’ve been wondering what type of boiler is right for you, then this is your review! The Oscar II features a heat exchanger that can brew and steam—let’s not forget the Nuova Simonelli is famous for their impressive steam power—at the same time. While single boilers can’t simultaneously make a latte the CC1 compensates with a programmable PID, pre-infusion and shot time for three dedicated coffee options. So the Oscar II can make quick work of a latte, but with the CC1 you can program your perfect drink—how can a coffee lover choose?
How Does It Compare?
A new twist on immersion brewing has found its way into SCG’s coffee collection—meet the Fellow Duo Coffee Steeper. How do you make coffee from this tall, handsome brewer? Simply fill, twist and watch it pour! OK, so there’s a little more to it than that, like letting it steep for four minutes—sound familiar? It’s similar to a French press but this new coffee maker has reimagined immersion brewing with style and ease of use. Instead of a plunger, the Duo Steeper uses gravity to drain your freshly brewed coffee into the carafe, which of course stops extraction! And it looks pretty sharp if you ask us. Check it out and tell us what you think in the comments below.
How Does It Compare?
Who says you can’t have it all? If you want the control of a semi-automatic and the programmability of a superautomatic, then you’re in the right place! We have the Breville Oracle here ready to change the name of the game for semi-automatics.
Let’s walk through making your morning cup. The Oracle has a built-in grinder and tamper—you heard right, this machine tamps for you—that are both adjustable using a digital display. What makes the Oracle a hybrid machine are the automated features like the steam wand. You don’t see this sort of programmability in a semi-automatic and that makes it easier to brew a quality shot and spend less time dialing it in. While Breville Barista Express also features a built-in grinder, the Oracle’s set up is more advanced with digital programmability and automatic tamping. There’s really no semi-automatic machine that compares to or impresses customers like the Oracle.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!