One of the most impressive things about the world of coffee and espresso equipment is the degree of innovation that goes into it. There are constantly advancements in everything, including coffee and espresso grinders.
The Niche Zero is an example of innovation at its finest. To demonstrate, we’ll be comparing it against a classic home grinder, the Baratza Vario.
These are the topics we’ll cover in this Baratza Vario vs Niche Zero comparison:
- Features that both grinders have.
- Which qualities are different between them.
- How to decide which one is better for you.
Let’s get started.
Budget-friendliness is one of the Baratza Vario’s best features. You’ll get its intuitive macro/micro grind adjustment system, sleek digital display panel, and generously sized hopper for an affordable price. We recommend it for home baristas that want an inexpensive commercial-quality grinder.
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Funded by a massively successful Indiegogo campaign, the Niche Zero has made a real splash in the coffee grinder community. It promises its users a uniquely beautiful and compact grinder. This is one to look out for if you want something that looks totally different from your average coffee grinder.
Imagine if every time you wanted to grind fresh coffee, you were stuck holding a bin or portafilter underneath your grinder’s dispenser the entire time it was on. This would be a major inconvenience, especially if you’re preparing some coffee to help energize you in the morning before work.
Fortunately, it’s an inconvenience you won’t need to deal with if you choose either the Vario or the Niche Zero. Either one of these grinders is hands-free, so they’ll hold your grinding vessel sturdily in place for you the entire time.
You wouldn’t want to use a grinder if it took a long time to prepare enough coffee for you. That’s why the Vario and Niche Zero were designed to dispense a dose of espresso or coffee quickly.
Either grinder can crush up to around two grams of coffee per second. These aren’t the fastest grinders out there by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re more than fast enough for use at home.
Let’s put it this way: the Vario or the Zero could make a single shot of espresso for you in just over six seconds. That’s not a long time to wait at all.
Read Also: Baratza Forte vs Niche Zero
Another quality that might make you avoid your grinder at all costs is noise. If your grinder is loud enough to wake your entire household every time you use it, you’d probably find yourself grinding fresh coffee as sparingly as possible.
You won’t need to fear the volume of the Vario or Zero. These grinders were specifically designed to run quietly, so you can use either one without worrying about disturbing others in your household.
Stepped vs Stepless Grind Adjustment
Dialing in the grind is something you’ll have to do regularly when you’re grinding your own coffee fresh. In other words, you’ll need to make corrections to the fineness of your grind often.
Grinders typically offer one of two ways to achieve this: a stepped or stepless grind adjustment system. Each grinder in this comparison has the method opposite from the other.
You’ll have a stepped adjustment system on the Vario. The manufacturer has created a set amount of options for texture for you to select in this system.
The Niche Zero has a stepless grind adjustment system. Instead of being restricted to a number of premade options, you’ll be able to turn its adjustment wheel to any point, giving you a greater degree of settings from which to choose.
While their sizes aren’t too far apart, we thought it was important to mention that these grinders do have a few differences in their dimensions. We’ll start by looking at the Baratza Vario.
The Vario is 5.50 inches wide, 7 inches deep, and 14.25 inches tall. In comparison, the Niche Zero is 4.8 inches wide, 8.3 inches long, and 12.24 inches tall.
Overall, the Zero is a little smaller than the Vario. If you’re in a situation where every single inch of space counts, then you may find the Zero preferable.
Further Reading: Baratza Vario vs Virtuoso
Grinding burrs are essentially the teeth of your grinder – they chew up the coffee beans, producing coffee grounds of various fineness levels. Your grinder wouldn’t be able to function without them, so it’s important that we discuss burrs.
Like with grind adjustment systems, there are two types of burrs: conical and flat. Once again, each grinder in this comparison has the opposite type from the other.
Within the Niche Zero, there are conical burrs. These cone-shaped burrs grind your coffee into bimodal particles, which is another way of saying that the resulting particles are varying sizes. The result is a light and zesty flavor in your coffee.
On the other end of the comparison, the Vario has flat burrs. Flat burs are excellent for creating perfectly uniform coffee grounds, which leads to a richer flavor.
After their shape, there’s the material of the burrs to consider. Burr material can have a huge impact on your grinder, and we’ll illustrate how by talking about the burrs in the Vario and Zero further.
The Vario’s burrs are made from ceramic. Ceramic burrs don’t get dull as quickly as metallic burrs, and they are also often considered quieter. What’s more, they don’t transfer heat like metallic ones do, which indirectly protects your coffee beans from being burnt.
If you were to open the Niche Zero up, you’d find that it has metal burrs. Metal burrs are oftentimes sharper than ceramic ones, and they will not crack from an impact, such as if you were to accidentally drop them.
There’s yet more to talk about when it comes to burrs. Let’s take a look at the size of the burrs in the Vario and Zero.
The Zero has generously sized 63mm burrs, while the Vario has 54mm burrs. Why is this important?
It may not seem like much, but that nine-millimeter difference can be vital. Burr size contributes to the speed of the grinder, since a larger burr has more surface area with which to crush coffee beans.
Related Article: Baratza Forte vs Vario
The larger the hopper your grinder has, the longer it can grind for before it needs to be refilled. Hopper designs in the Vario and Zero drastically vary from each other.
On top of the Niche Zero, there’s a single-serve hopper. You add as many beans as you want to grind every time you use the Zero, and the Zero will grind them all.
The Vario has a more traditional hopper that can hold up to eight ounces of coffee beans. As a result, it can grind for a longer period of time at once than the Niche Zero can. This could be important for you if you will often need to prepare several shots of espresso in a row for a group of guests.
Niche Zero Wood Accents
As often as we’ve been told not to judge a book by the cover, the truth is that appearances matter. We spend our lives decorating our homes, picking out clothes we like, and making other cosmetic changes to ourselves and surroundings.
For that reason, it can be important to some that the appliances in their home look appealing. This is something the Niche Zero excels at. Aside from its elegant silhouette, it has real wooden accents that give it a touch of visual warmth.
We think the Niche Zero is perfect for anyone who’s into vintage décor or even in rustic settings.
Baratza Vario Digital Display Panel
All of the Vario’s settings can be reached through one simple panel on the front of the machine. The first benefit is obvious: you don’t have to struggle to find buttons hidden on the grinder somewhere. Everything you need is front and center.
Another benefit to this, though, is that it makes repairs easy. If there’s an issue with some aspect of the panel, you can replace it all at once with minimal effort.
Niche Zero Direct Grind Path
While both grinders are designed to make grind retention minimal, the Niche Zero has a unique feature that helps it reduce retention: a direct grind path. You can picture it as a short and straight path that goes from the grinding burrs to your cup.
With grind retention reduced, you can be sure that each beverage you brew is as fresh as possible. This is because there are no leftover stale grounds stuck in your grinder that get mixed with fresh grounds.
Read Also: Baratza Sette 270Wi vs Vario W
Baratza Vario Programmable Buttons
The Niche Zero may have a minimalist appearance that makes it seem easy, but the Vario has a trick up its sleeve that makes it beginner-friendly, too. It has three programmable buttons.
You can input a specific duration into each button. For example, you can program the proper amount of time necessary to grind a single shot of espresso. Then, when you want a shot of espresso later, you can just press the button on the grinder and let it take care of the timing for you.
Niche Zero Cord Storage
Have you tried to move an appliance and gotten frustrated from the cord hanging in your way? It’s annoying having to wrap the cord around the appliance in question, too. Cords are just an unfortunate hassle we have to deal with.
At least with the Niche Zero, this hassle is a little smaller. It has a cord storage compartment on the back that the cord retracts into. If you ever need to reposition the grinder, this handy little compartment will keep the cord out of your way.
Baratza Vario Portafilter or Grounds Bin
Most baristas who are grinding a single shot of espresso prefer to do so directly into their portafilter. Grinding in your portafilter helps evenly disperse the grounds in the basket. When it comes time to extract the espresso, the water is then able to reach all grounds easily.
You don’t get the options of grinding into a portafilter with the Niche Zero. It only holds a grinding cup. However, on the Vario, you can choose to grind into a large capacity grounds bin or a portafilter.
The first question most buyers will ask is, “how much does it cost?” This is likely one of the first questions on your mind, too.
We’re pleased to say that Majesty Coffee has the best prices online for the best coffee and espresso equipment. That being said, our Baratza Vario is in the store for $479.
Unfortunately, we do not currently have the Niche Zero in our store. You will have to check online for a seller.
Which One Should You Buy?
Are you still wondering which grinder you should invest in? It’s time to clear up your confusion by looking at specific situations in which either option would be best.
Are you going to prepare lots of espresso shots? We think the Vario would be easier to prepare them on, since it can grind directly into your portafilter.
Those who are looking for a grinder with a unique appearance to match their home, however, may prefer the Niche Zero. We’ve never seen a grinder like it; its looks are sure to make it a centerpiece in your home.
If you’re worried about the size of the grinder, you may also want the Zero. It’s a tiny bit smaller than the Vario, which will make it easier to accommodate on your counters.
On the other hand, you may also want to think about hopper size. Those who are going to prepare numerous drinks in a row for guests and family will get more from the Vario’s increased hopper capacity.
Here’s our suggestion:
The Niche Zero is the choice for you if you want a grinder with a style that puts it in a class all its own. It’s also excellent for those looking to reduce waste, thanks to its minimal grind retention.
We’d recommend the Baratza Vario, though, if you want to make drinks to share with multiple people or if your focus will be on brewing espresso.