Should you buy Baratza’s tried and true Vario or Baratza’s newest grinder in the lineup – the Sette 270? If you have a larger coffee grinder budget, you’ve likely looked at these two excellent coffee grinders from Baratza. While either grinder would make a good choice for a café or home barista, there are some key differences in build and features.
Let’s start with an overview of the two coffee grinders and then dive into their differences, so you can decide which of the two is the best option for you.
If you’re an extreme coffee enthusiast, you’ve likely already heard of Baratza. Founded in 1999 and now owned by the Breville Group, Baratza is known for innovative, high-quality, user-friendly coffee grinders, such as the Vario, the Forte, and the Estatto. Many of their grinders feature weight-based grinding and easy-to-use macro/micro-adjustments.
Based in Washington, Baratza delivers great products and excellent customer service. Buying a Baratza grinder will give you access to their customer support team and an extensive catalog of accessories and parts to keep your grinder performing for years to come.
Baratza Vario Features and Specs
The Baratza Vario was first introduced in 2008. Originally marketed as a lightweight commercial grinder, the Vario features timed-based dosing, 54-millimeter flat ceramic burrs, and 220 stepped settings.
The Vario is an all-purpose grinder – grinding coarse enough for french press or drip coffee and fine enough for espresso. In 2021 Baratza introduced the Vario+, refreshing their classic design with the addition of a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), a metal grind chamber, and updated looks. Baratza also offers the Vario W with weight-based dosing.
If you’re not already familiar with the Vario, check out our complete product review.
Baratza Sette-270 Features and Specs
In 2016 Baratza launched the Sette 270 – an espresso grinder also featuring timed dosing but equipped with smaller 40-millimeter conical steel burrs. The Sette has a revolutionary burr design in which the outer burr rotates around the inner conical burr, allowing for high-speed grinding and almost zero grind retention. The Sette has 31 macro grind setting steps and an additional stepless micro adjustment, allowing for limitless grind settings.
The Sette has a much more sleek and modern design. It is named “Sette” or seven in Italian because of its unique shape – look at it from the side to see what we mean. Like the Vario, Baratza also offers the 270 Wi, which also includes weight-based dosing.
The Vario and Sette are very compact burr grinders. The Vario is slightly larger, weighing 9 pounds and measuring 13 x 36 x 18 centimeters. But it’s a marginal difference – the Sette is 7 pounds and measures 13 x 40 x 24 centimeters. Neither of these machines will take up a ton of counter space in your kitchen.
Build Quality and Design
Unfortunately, both of these machines feature a lot of plastic parts. The metal grind chamber in the Vario refresh is excellent for added durability. But both of these machines have a primarily plastic build which could pose an issue for long-term reliability.
The Sette and the Vario are controlled via the LCD Display. Each machine has an option for manual grinding or timed dosing. They both have three programmable buttons that save dosing times when switching between brewing methods and make your workflow easier – you could have a favorite setting for espresso, one for drip, one for french press, etc.
If you pay a little more for the W models, you’ll have the option to grind coffee by weight. The 270 Wi and Vario W models automatically and accurately measure your dose to a tenth of a gram using a built-in scale.
Anti-Static Grounds Bin or Portafilter Holding
Included with each grinder is a plastic anti-static dosing container. The Sette also comes with adjustable portafilter holding arms, and with the recent refresh, so does the Vario. You can easily grind into the included bin or directly into your portafilter.
So both of these grinders have a similar footprint, similar build quality, many grind adjustments, and similar accessories out of the box. So what makes these grinders different?
Burr Size and Materials
Perhaps the most significant distinction between these two grinders is the type of burrs used. The Vario uses a flat burr design with 54-millimeter ceramic burrs, while the Sette uses 40-millimeter steel conical burrs.
Ceramic burrs and steel burrs have their advantages and disadvantages. Ceramic burrs generally stay sharper for longer than steel burrs and heat up less. Steel burrs generally won’t get too hot if you’re grinding for one cup, but you might heat your coffee beans if you’re preparing large quantities of coffee. The Vario’s larger burrs also help reduce friction when grinding, ensuring that your coffee grounds won’t heat up in the process. However, ceramic burrs tend to be less durable than steel burrs, and they may chip.
The Vario’s flat burrs produce a slightly more consistent grind than the conical burrs in the Sette, giving a more balanced extraction. The Sette produces bi-modal particles, giving your coffee a more complex flavor.
It’s worth noting that the Vario W comes standard with steel burrs. Baratza sells each burr material for the Vario as an accessory so that you can customize it to your preference!
Grind Adjustment and Range
Both of these popular grinder models offer macro and micro-adjustments for grind size, but the Sette slightly outperforms the Vario. The Vario has 10 macro steps and 23 micro-adjustments for a total of 220 grind settings. The Sette has 31 macro adjustments and a stepless micro-adjustment for infinite grind settings. If you’re an experienced barista that really wants to fine-tune their recipes, the stepless micro adjustment gives the Sette an edge.
The Vario is an all-purpose grinder with a larger grind range of 230 – 1150 microns. It can produce grinds for any brewing method, from French press to espresso. The Sette grinds only from 230 – 950 microns, so it really only shines when making espresso. However, Baratza does sell a BG burr as an accessory to allow the Sette to grind coarser.
The Sette’s conical steel burrs grind at some of the fastest speeds on the market. The Sette grinds at a rate of 3.5 – 5.5 grams/sec compared to 1.6 – 2.2 grams/sec in the Vario. This might not make a huge difference for a home barista, but if you’re in a cafe or preparing coffee for a large group of people, you’ll notice the Sette is faster than the Vario.
Hopper and Ground Bin Capacity
The Sette has a 10-ounce bean hopper, slightly larger than the 8-ounce coffee hopper in the Vario. It isn’t a huge difference, but you’ll have to add coffee beans more frequently in the Vario. The Vario has a large ground coffee bin with a 6-ounce capacity compared to the 5.5-ounce bin in the Sette. The extra space in the Vario dosing container will help when you’re preparing drip coffee.
The Vario+ and Sette 270 are at very similar price points, so cost shouldn’t be the main focus when comparing these grinders. Deciding between the Vario and the Sette will come down to how you like to prepare your coffee and your preference between the burr design and burr materials in each grinder.
Which One Should You Buy?
The Vario and the Sette are excellent grinders for your cafe or home setup. Since they’re so similar in price, the choice will depend on your specific needs and preferences.
If you’re looking for an all-purpose, quality burr grinder, you should choose the Vario. The Vario has the most extensive grinding range and grinds coarse enough for a French press coffee and fine enough for espresso. The stepped presets will make it easier to remember your recipes, especially if you’re using many different brewing methods. It’s the best choice if you love making all types of coffee and not just espresso.
If you’re looking for a high-quality espresso grind, the Baratza Sette 270 is right for you. The addition of stepless micro-adjustments gives the Sette endless grind settings. The Sette will allow coffee lovers to precisely control their recipes and pull excellent espresso shots. It’s the best option to pair with your espresso machine.
If you’re looking for an espresso grinder for espresso at a more wallet-friendly price, Baratza also offers the Sette 30 AP. It is an entry-level, affordable grinder that lacks the micro-adjustments in the Sette 270 and the Vario+ but is a great coffee brewing tool for a lower price.