How Does It Compare?
We’re comparing 2011’s hottest grinder, the Baratza Vario-W, to this year’s anticipated Baratza Sette 270. What has changed and improved in Baratza’s grinders in that five-year gap? The Sette 270’s reimagined design helps eliminate wasted grounds thanks to the horizontally mounted motor and outer rotating burr that creates a direct shot from the bean hopper through the burrs and into your brewer. The Vario-W features a scale mounted on the bottom and only worked with the dosing container—you can’t balance portafilters or a V60 on that tiny scale. Fortunately, coffee friends, the Sette 270’s arms can hold brewers like a portafilter or V60. And, when the Sette 270W comes out, those arms will have a scale!
With over 270 steps in your grind, the Baratza Sette 270 has earned its name. The Sette 270 features 31 stepped adjustments from fine to coarse markers and a second adjustment that’s actually stepless. Yep, you read that correctly. Baratza features ABC markers on the second adjustment that act as a guide—Battleship, anyone—but it offers infinite settings. These markers guide beginners back to their ideal grind and create over 270 setting options. It’s actually quite satisfying to be able to get back to your dialed-in grind if you lose your place—almost as satisfying as sinking your opponent’s Battleship.
The Baratza Vario-W offers 230 steps of adjustments and it’s all stepped here. There are 10 macro settings and the second set from A to W. Within each macro step, you can adjust the ABC settings to dial in your grind. That’s still an impressive amount of options, even if the Sette 270 beats it—only by a little. The Vario-W has been a solid grinder for home brewers and offers them an easy way to click back to their grinder setting.
Steel or ceramic burrs? This is another topic debated in the coffee community. The Baratza Sette 270 is equipped with 40mm conical steel burrs that produce even particles and fewer fines. However, steel burrs can create more friction and heat, which can cause the beans to heat up and potentially burn. The Baratza Vario-W features 54mm flat ceramic burrs that transfer less heat. Ceramic burrs are also sharper and can have a longer life in your grinder if properly cared for. One downside to ceramic burrs is that they are more fragile than their steel counterpart—chipping can be an issue. In a quick match against grinders, we compared the ceramic versus steel grounds and noticed the Sette 270’s steel burrs produced better consistency. The Sette 270 didn’t burn our beans, however, if you’re grinding through a lot of coffee you could noticed warm grounds. In our taste test—the best part—we think both produced phenomenal coffee that wasn’t burned.
Baratza knows that flexibility for different brew methods is important and in the last five years that’s been on the forefront of their mind. That’s why the Baratza Sette 270’s new design features two adjustable arms and a third arm to steady different methods…like a portafilter! The Sette’s unique shape offers additional space for large containers or swing those arms around to grasp your 58mm portafilter (or any size portafilter, let’s be honest). The updated holder trumps the Baratza Vario-W—sorry, Vario-W. While we love that the Vario-W could grind from French Press to espresso, you needed some sort of flat-bottomed container to balance on the sensor. AKA, you had to scoop your grounds from a container into your portafilter. If there’s one thing we don’t need more of at Seattle Coffee Gear it’s coffee grounds all over our counter.
As we know, that Sette 270’s seven-shaped design also creates less coffee waste, but more importantly, how’s the consistency? It’s excellent. On the finest setting, we produced beautiful, even grounds perfect for a non-pressurized portafilter. We’re even pleased that the Sette 270’s coarsest setting was still so consistent! The further away the burrs get, the less consistent the grind tends to be, so it was a welcomed sight to see nice, symmetrical grounds. While the Sette 270 is great for most brewing methods, we’re on the fence about it producing big enough grounds for French press. Baratza does market it for coffee presses, so give it a go and tell us what you think about the Sette 270’s performance!
The Vario-W might be a better option for someone who’s a frequent French press brewer. Of course, Baratza has designed these products to accommodate all types of brewing, so we encourage our coffee friends to branch out and try new methods! And the espresso consistency is so beautiful on the Vario-W, it would be a waste not to use it. Between the Vario-W and Sette 270’s espresso grind, we couldn’t see any difference in consistency. Honestly, you could take either one of these grinders home and it would complement any home barista with an extensive coffee bar.
We’re digging the Baratza Sette 270’s modern design to boot! It’s a style that’s fashionable and functional. The angular structure is breaking away from Baratza’s boxier grinder styles and most other grinders in the market. We’ve noticed a swing with other manufacturers designing trendy products—we’re thinking about the Rocket Espresso Appartamento and its retro dots—and it’s no surprised that people are also onboard with this! The Sette 270’s colors are also complementary to modern taste and easily assimilates into a home brewer’s kitchen—it’s no surprise to us that the Sette 270 is in high demand.
The Baratza Vario-W is designed similarly to the rest of Baratza’s grinders lineup and it’s a style that’s worked for Baratza. The one feature that makes the Vario-W stand out is the combination of the digital LCD display and tactile grind settings. The interface is displayed front and center and is extremely user-friendly for beginners with the marked adjustments. While the Sette 270 is also user-friendly, the adjustments are angled in a downward tier that is a hair more difficult to see. Both interfaces, though, are a snap to navigate for new home brewers.
When we first unboxed the Sette 270, we were so enamored by its style and features that we forgot to note the noise level. After grinding our morning beans, it was hard to block out how loud this guy was. The noise level is partly due to the fact that there’s no metal casing around the Sette 270. And you’re probably thinking, why not add the sound-proofing, the metal case would have driven up the price, coffee friends, and we’re happy with the low cost of this caliber of a grinder. Grinders are notorious for being loud and you’re likely to always be on your neighbors hit list—fear not! There are grinders like the Vario-W that are a bit quieter. The Vario-W has a metal casing that helps control the noise level.
In the five years since Baratza revealed the Vario-W, the demands have changed in the coffee community. The demand has gone up for a grinder that’s flexible for different brewing methods and Baratza has answered that demand by supplying us with the Sette 270. For many home brewers, we can see the highlight of this grinder is its flexible design that can hold a V60 or a portafilter. And as the coffee community grows, so do novice brewers. Both the Vario-W and Sette 270 offer user-friendly settings that are easy to learn how to dial in your grind. We wouldn’t call these entry-level machines, no sir, these are definitely for mid-level and experienced home baristas. What do you guys think? Watch our crew review comparison video and let us know what grinder you’re leaning towards!