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There’s a secret to always having an amazing cup of coffee, no matter what type of brew you love.
The best cup of coffee always starts with a superior grind. The grind is what allows the water to permeate the roasted bean and release those delicious aromatics and flavorful notes. The coffee grinder that gives you plenty of options for grind settings will ensure that you’re starting with the best possible materials to craft your ideal cup of coffee.
The Rancilio Rocky and the Baratza Vario are two of the most popular grinders on the market. People who are looking for a more affordable grinder than some of the commercial grinders on the market often gravitate toward these.
There are some similarities between these two, which are primarily espresso grinders but are capable of other coffee styles as well. Let’s explore what makes each one unique and which one might be right for you.
The Rancilio Rocky features a modern design with a stainless steel finish. This gives it a more pronounced footprint on your countertop, but also a more stylish and durable look.
Let’s take a closer look at what this grinder is capable of.
The Rancilio Rocky is a metal coffee grinder known for its durability. Here are the key features that make the Rocky stand out:
- 55 grind settings
- 50mm stainless steel burrs
- 10-ounce, UV light-resistant hopper
- slow motor
If you prize design, you can’t go wrong with the Rancilio Rocky. This grinder was engineered with style in mind. The sleek metallic outer casing not only adds some extra strength to the grinder, but also gives it a much more modern look that isn’t out of place in any kitchen.
The UV-resistant hopper adds a pop of color that make this model a bit more eye-catching than more mundane espresso grinders.
Style shouldn’t be the only factor you weight when choosing a grinder, though. We also have to talk about performance.
The flat burrs are the first thing coffee aficionados will notice about this grinder’s performance. While many home burr grinders use conical burrs, both the Rocky and the Vario boast flat burrs similar to commercial grinders.
This Rocky has 55 grind settings, which might seem like a lot, but we’re going to be talking about the Baratza Vario later.
This grinder also comes in two variations: one with a manual doser and one without.
It also has a portafilter stand that you can use to grind directly for espresso.
The use of steel burrs may hamper the long-term performance of this grinder. Steel burrs tend to heat up much more quickly than ceramic burrs, which not only causes them to wear down faster, but the heat can also singe your coffee beans and change their flavor if you’re grinding for a long time.
- A more durable design
- A sleek, modern look
- Superior performance when handling coarse grinds
- A continuous grind selection that is easier to manage
- Fewer options when it comes to grind settings
- No programmable settings or timer
- The hopper requires some care to get aligned properly when inserting
Now let’s take a look at the competition.
The Baratza Vario is a relatively unassuming coffee grinder. Its simplistic looks hide a really smart design that packs tons of presets, programmable features and grind settings.
Here’s your introduction to the Baratza Vario.
The Baratza Vario sets itself apart from the Rancilio Rocky with a broader selection of features. While they ultimately have the same objective and are in the same cost ballpark, they really are two very different grinders. Here are the key features of the Vario:
- 230 grind settings
- 54mm ceramic burrs
- 8-ounce hopper
- programmable settings
- slow grinding motor
This coffee grinder has a decidedly different design.
The Baratza Vario was designed to take up a much less space on your countertop. It’s also made out of different materials. Other than the ceramic burrs, most of the grinder is made out of plastic.
Because of all the extra options, the front of the Vario is loaded with screens and buttons. It definitely has that contemporary kitchen gadget style.
The Vario is capable of creating a much finer grind than the Rocky, making it great for experimenting with espresso or Turkish coffee.
Its 230 programmable settings should cover just about any type of grind you’re looking for. You can make all the micro adjustments you want when trying to dial in your espresso.
The ceramic burrs, provided by the highly regarded folks at Mahlkonig, should also hold up better over time than steel.
The Vario has preset options that automatically dose out the right amount of coffee for your chosen brew. The automatic doser can help ease the home barista into the world of coffee brewing techniques.
Users will need to take some time to get acquainted with all of this machine’s settings.
The Vario also comes with a removable portafilter.
- Countless coffee settings so you can dial in the perfect grind
- Programmable options
- Presets for common coffee brews
- An easy-to-use hopper and portafilter setup
- The all-plastic design does feel a little flimsy
- It’s going to take some time to puzzle out all those different settings and options
- Switching between grind sizes can be a bit of a pain
What the Rancilio Rocky and Baratza Vario have in common
You’ll get certain things out of either the Rancilio Rocky and the Baratza Vario, whichever you choos.
Both grinders have a wide range of settings that are sure to please the vast majority of coffee enthusiasts. Both are also widely respected in online coffee communities. You’ll definitely be able to find people arguing for either one, but at the end of the day it seems like the coffee drinking masses are divided about which one they prefer.
Both models also have a high-end feel to them for everyday home grinders. Whether you want to experience high-end design or high-end features, both carry that luxury quality.
And there are some important differences.
Differences between the Rancilio Rocky and Baratza Vario
The biggest difference between these grinders is the range of grind settings. The Baratza Vario is capable of a much wider range of grinds (although the Rocky’s 55 is still quite significant).
Having said that, many people feel the Rancilio Rocky does a better job when handling coarser grinds, so if you lean toward Chemex or other pour-over brewing methods more often than espresso, you might want to go in that direction.
The bean hoppers of these two machines differ slightly in volume, with the Rocky able to hold 10 ounces while the Vario holds only eight.
The Baratza Vario is more fully packed with features. This includes a timer and the ability to let you select the brewing methods you use the most.
For some users, these features might be undermined by a design that relies on a lot of plastic switches and components. The Rancilio Rocky is all about durability and solid metal.
Despite having fewer options and stainless steel burrs that may have to be changed sooner, the Rancilio Rocky might outperform its counterpart in the long run.
Now that you’ve learned a little more about the Baratza Vario and the Rancilio Rocky, let’s get to the heart of the matter: Which one of these two coffee grinders should you bring home?
Should you get the Rancilio Rocky or the Baratza Vario?
Picking the winner comes down to choosing what matters most for you, and how you make coffee.
The Rancilio Rocky is going to be the right choice for the majority of home baristas. To be honest, 55 settings is more than enough even for the experienced barista. If there is one drawback about the Rancilio Rocky, it might be those steel burrs.
The Baratza Vario will definitely get the job done when it comes to grinding your coffee. All of those different selections might be overkill for your average home coffee station. With that said, more options just means you can take full control over how you grind your coffee.
If budget is a concern, the Rancilio Rocky comes in with a significantly lower price tag.
Choosing the right coffee grinder is all about thinking through how you like your coffee. In addition to that, it’s also about where you see yourself going as a home barista. Think about what a good cup of coffee means to you and how you can expand your brewing skills, and the choice between the Rancilio Rocky and the Baratza Vario should become more clear.