A user-friendly, top-tier grinder, with a grind quality of the big boy$z without either the price tag or behemoth size.
Positive Product Points
Grinds consistently for espresso.
Easy adjustment to dial in grind and as beans age over days to get desired grind.
Also a good drip or press grinder (though I usually don't use it for this).
AWESOME customer service and support.
Small footprint but substantial weight.
No doser to thwack/clean/waste grinds/deal with when filling the portafilter
Wide range of adjustment -- grind can be adjusted way down below the choke point.
Controls are easy to reach and see.
Great grind distribution in a commercial-size portafilter.
Built in timer and programmable
No static (I am in NorCal).
Negative Product Points
Portafilter "holder" about as useful (read: not) as with any other grinder that offers this feature; maybe less so, as there is not much extra room where it's a commercial size pf. But with the Vario, like with other grinders, it can be removed.
I had issues with the levers moving on my Gen 1 Vario --but Kyle replaced it without hassle.
LCD is a little hard to read when it's down on the counter (I'm tall; LED would have been better, or backlit LCD).
I have had the Vario in use for about 10 months now, with a professional Hx machine in an office environment, using high-quality fresh roasted beans. Talk about easy to use! Yes, not as sexy as that beautiful hunk of chrome m4, but a lot smaller, easier to use, and with the same great results if not better. And it is sleek and substantial (it does not move when grinding due to a heavy metal base). The timer lets me approximate what's going on, while the chute sends all that coffee love right into the portafilte,r with the only waste being from overspill when I'm overdosing.
No popcorning when beans get low due to hopper design.
Great for our office because novice baristas can easily get the hang of it; and more importantly for me, I can see what has been adjusted via the grind markers (if someone has been adjusting it). This would not be possible with a worm gear or unmarked dial/knob.
Bonus: Baratza stands behind its innovative products. When I had slipping (mine was an early Vario, where I know a few had this issue), Kyle offerd to send me a new one or the parts to repair it. I opted for the latter, and he sent me the parts to fix it and explained to me over the phone how to do it, but I was not satisfied with the fix, perhaps due to my skills, so he shipped me a brand new grinder with a shipping label to return the old one.
What I'd like to see: 1) to take advantage of the instant grind change ability of the Vario, a hopper that provides the ability to choose between two types of coffee beans; 2) a hopper that is a little teeny bit bigger to more easily fit a 3/4 pound bag (it is probably designed for that, which like, but I can't quite get the full 3/4 lb in); 3) numbered grind marks.
Since this time, I have purchased a Maestro for my press-loving mother, and she loves it (six months in). I will likely buy another Baratza for home. No question I would buy the Vario again.
I got it in a package from Seattle Coffee Gear -- nice folks, shipped timely, great customer service.
Three Month Followup
Still rockin' and rollin' one year later. Incredibly easy to use and consistent. (Incidentally, I have zero static problems, and also don't have any problem with flying grounds unless I use overroasted or very old beans.) I just bought another Baratza for home, and have given them as gifts as well, as I am very impressed with both the product and the company.