I’m amazed at this grinder with its minimalist aesthetic design, the workmanship that’s gone into its build, the symbol, and the clever features and accessories that enhance your grinding experience. Varia has done an incredible job and should be commended for this, as the VS3 feels premium like it’s worth more than it is, and offers that same added value in its performances.
I needed clarification on what to compare it to within its price range for value. Think about it. It’s a single-dosing, low retention, 38 mils, six-core conical burr grinder that predominantly does espresso but can easily do the filter. It has yet to include bellows and an RDT bottle. There’s nothing like that out of the box for $600.
Features of Varia VS3 Coffee Grinder
So let’s smooth over the features that make the user experience on the Varia VS3 so enjoyable. And we’ll take a look at the specs and all, and then we’ll compare other grinders after that.
The Varia VS3 has a 30-gram bean capacity, both in the hopper and the magnetic catch cup below the magnetic hopper lid up top. This grinder can be used as is, or what I imagine will be the default for most Varia VS3 owners taking full advantage of the bellow system, allowing you to minimize the retention within the grinder.
Looking down the hopper, you have a removable finger guard that acts like an anti-popcorn screen. I find that beans regularly get caught up on this, and then I wonder where the rest of my dose is. It’s not that much of an inconvenience, though, to push them down further. Just be careful not to injure yourself.
The burrs are a 38-millimeter conical, high nitrogen stainless steel lasting up to 150 kilograms, a six-core set. It has an extra cutting burr to the standard five-core set, and it turns out a low 160 RPMs. So this grinder isn’t built to grind very fast, but those low RPMs help with the grind consistency, which we’ll look at shortly.
The other added benefit to low RPMs is it’s relatively quiet compared to other grinders of the same size. So let us test to grind out a 20-gram dose of espresso. It’s set on three, and see how it performs for its speed and the noise it produces.
It is very quiet indeed and nice looking grind consistency. The only downside is that that dosing cup is incompatible with 58 mil baskets, and you would probably want to get a dosing ring if you were transferring grounds into the basket that way. You might have known I used a little spray bottle to dose my beans, and the Varia comes with an RDT bottle.
RDT stands for the Ross Droplet Technique, and in short, this little spray bottle of water will reduce common static issues you see with most grinders. Overall, this reduces the mess in grinding and lowers the retention of the ground stuck in the grind.
And on the Varia VS3, it’s down to a very reasonable margin of 0.2 to 0.3 grams each time you dose out being retained inside this grinder. So long as you’re also using the bellows RDTing. It isn’t anything particularly new, but it is great to see that it’s not so much of a trend now as something taken seriously by manufacturers who see the benefits.
Like Varia, they’ve taken these steps to include a little RDT bottle as an accessory to the grinder. You also get a brush, a replacement set of four burst springs, and a tool to remove the burrs to keep your grinder in tip-top shape. Varia VS3 grinder will grind for all brewing methods, including espresso up to filter grind size. It has an easy-to-read and turn dial calibrated to zero from the factory as a stepless grinder.
Each movement between the numbers moves the burrs 0.02 millimeters each time, and this refers to 20 microns of grind size adjustment within each movement. The grind size is also magnetic and adjustable, and Varia recommends anywhere from zero to three for espresso grinding.
Four to six for mocha pot brewing and a more extensive range of seven to twelve for pour-overs and then further on down the line of adjustment to French press and cold brewing, which is upwards of 18 on the grind dial.
Comparison With other Coffee Grinders
As a conical burr grinder, I remain skeptical whether the Varia will brew that clean and transparent filter coffee we all love. I’ve aligned a comparison with the Varia VS3 and a near neighbor in price and those features of low retention and single dosing with a flat burr Eureka Mignon Manuale, which has an aftermarket hopper and bellows placed on it. However, it’s still within that same price range. I also did go in and throw a Niche Zero as that conical burr comparison.
But I also want to make special mentions to the grinders that made that short list, like a Baratza Sette 270, Kinu hand grinder, the Lagom Mini, and DF64. However, here we are with the Eureka Mignon and Niche Zero. Now, in terms of a grinder, that is the standard for a single-dosing grinder.
We talk about low retention; it grinds for both brew methods. The bellows, the Varia, have little indirect competition in that price range. So let’s go ahead, and we’ll cup all three grinders and see how they perform.
Filter Brewing Comparison
Tasting the same coffee, three different grinders, how different everything changes. For filter coffee, Varia offers very transparent and clean coffee. For Niche Zero, the coffee is juicy, but it doesn’t have a lot of body. It’s that real fruit juice of a cup. In comparison, Eureka Mignon coffee is a heavy body that carries through the middle and has a nice lingering juicy flavor. I love all this coffee, but Niche Zero would be the most body out of all three cups. And then the Eureka Mignon is the all-rounder because it has enough cleanliness, brightness, acidity, and sweetness. Still, it has enough body to carry through a pleasant, enjoyable lingering aftertaste.
So Eureka Mignon would be my all-rounder, and it stands out with its clean, bright, sweet, acidic fruit cup of a coffee body. A lot has to do with the burrs, like if we look at the burrs and the motors, the RPMs that these grinders are running at, you’ve got the Niche Zero. So it’s 68-millimeter conical burrs, and it runs at 330 rpm, but the burr is half as slow as Varia VS3 at 160 rpm. Also, it’s only using 38 mil burr, so a smaller burr means a slower motor. And then we’ve got the Eureka Mignon, which are flat burr, so not conical. I expected the coffee from Eureka Mignon stands out amongst the rest in terms of brightness and acidity, but I needed to be corrected. The Varia VS3 grinder gives the coffee almost the same taste as the Eureka Mignon.
I want to point out that what’s cool about the VS is that it gives you that vertical burr movement, the actual movement of the burr, and then the microns between each step.
This is the first time I’ve encountered that in any particular home grinder. Indeed, hand grinders, but electric grinders give you that precision in precisely what change you’re. It’s fantastic. It is like I had to make a single incremental change to the grind dial on my espresso while dialing in.
And I knew now that as I was dialing in for this particular coffee, that 20-micron change made a three-second difference to my espresso flow. So that was just perfect. Knowing how your espresso flows, you can now pinpoint it to a micron size. So I loved that about the Varia VS3 when dialing in; it was relatively easy and precise on the dial. Much the same to like a Niche Zero, which is very precise and very easy to follow. In contrast, it is more difficult on the Eureka Mignon, but once you get into that ballpark, you can adjust it relatively quickly.
Let’s now do an espresso taste test for all three grinders, Niche Zero, Eureka Mignon with the dosing hopper, and the Aria VS3. For the espresso test, I used a lovely Costa Rican coffee. I love Costa Rican coffee. I feel like it’s such a characteristic coffee. It’s always vibrant, juicy, bright, and flavorful, full of tropical fruits.
It seems to carry over in flavor profiles between burrs and grinders, which is excellent. The first espresso I tried from Niche Zero tasted heavy and full-bodied. No brightness or acidity pops out and gets the juices flowing in your gum. There’s nothing like that on this one. It’s rich, intense, and has the most texture.
This one from Eureka Mignon jumped out at me more in brightness and acidity. It had a touch of bitterness at the end, on the finish. Like, I just got that just before I drank my water. I was like, what is that? But otherwise, it’s okay. It’s nice, and It’s not the same as the full-bodied shot from Niche Zero. It’s way more bright and juicy but has the slightest texture.
The espresso shot from Aria VS3 was light, floral, and fruity, not a whole heap of body, but that clean sort of shot that’s transparent in its flavors. This shot has the most sweetness and acidity. You could put it down to the burrs themselves, but I think those RPMs are coming in and making such a big difference to the grind consistency.
When I’m grinding into the portafilter and using the RDT tool, the grinds are fluffy, like they’re coming out and stacking up. And then when I dump them into the portafilter, they’re just deliciously fluffy, which I like.
Cleaning Varia VS3 Coffee Grinder
Let’s now check out cleaning. After switching off and unplugging the barrier, remove all the components that make up the hopper lid and then adjust the hopper all the way coarse until it unscrews and pops off.
Remove the large ball bearing the hopper sits on, and then give it a good wipe-down with a dry cloth. You can remove that top burr carrier on the four springs. This is done relatively quickly, and then, using the brush supplied, you can scrub out any retention around the burrs and the rest of the grinds chamber.
Place it back together again the same way you took it off to continue grinding with Varia VS3.
My Verdict on Varia VS3 Coffee Grinder
It provides a good choice for filter brewing and espresso brewing, and I wouldn’t say that it is just for the budget conscious as it does perform consistently and does fit in nicely within a price range that doesn’t have that much in the way of single dosing, low retention filter, and espresso grinders.
However, it no doubt will only stay like that for a short time. I’m looking forward to the VS3 as Varia has put forward their intentions to bring out upgraded burr sets for this grinder, which will completely change the flavor profile of this grinder and its performance as well, so it’s only bound to get better.