Paul's passion for making and consuming coffee extends back over thirty years. An extensive traveler, he currently lives in Florida.
I've been an enthusiastic brewer and drinker of coffee for over thirty years. One of the first things that I learned was the importance of grinding the beans immediately before brewing. This captures the maximum amount of flavor available and produces the best beverages.
Buying pre-ground coffee, or grinding the beans too far in advance, will always sacrifice flavor and fragrance and is never recommended—unless it's a situation where there is no realistic alternative.
This article looks at the main different types of grinder and the best grind and brew makers currently available.
3 big benefits of a coffee maker with a built-in grinder
While it is entirely possible to buy separate machines to perform the grinding and brewing, a single coffee maker with a grinder built-in (also known as a grind and brew maker) provides a number of advantages, such as:
- It is generally faster, easier and more efficient than using separate machines
- You use up less storage and counter space
- It is often less expensive to buy a single, combined unit, rather than two separate ones.
The only real disadvantage that I've found is when one function stops working and you are left with only the grinder and no brewer, or the other way around. In that case, you can end up having to replace the entire unit.
Top 3 Grind and Brew Coffee Makers
Here are my recommendations:
- Durable and Easy to Use: The Capresso 488.05 Team Pro Plus Coffee Maker
- Attractive and Affordable: The Cuisinart DGB-800 Burr Grind & Brew Automatic
- Quality and Excellence: The Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine BES870XL
I will explain my experiences and the reasoning for my particular selections below.
Durable and Easy to Use: The Capresso 488.05 Team Pro Plus Coffee Maker
My experience of Capresso machines over the years has always been extremely positive, so when it was time to upgrade the maker in my office, I opted for a Capresso 488.05 Team Pro Plus Coffee Maker.
The great thing about this model is that as well as grinding and brewing, it also has a thermal carafe, which is very useful when I'm busy working and there can be multiple distractions. In the past, I'd sometimes end up wasting brews because the coffee went cold when I was attending to something else, but not anymore.
I've had this machine for the better part of a year and experienced zero issues of note!
Capresso 488.05 Pros
- I love the thermal carafe. Not only is it able to keep the coffee nice and hot for long periods, it's comfortable to hold and pour. Carafe's that leak or spill are a liability in an office setting.
- The carafe is also very solidly built and not easily broken, as often happens with glass carafes.
- There's a grind & clean cycle, which I run regularly. It does a great job of dealing with the build-up of oily residues.
- If there are any clogs or a deeper clean is required, this model is so easy to disassemble and put back together afterwards. For example, one design feature that I particularly like with the Pro Plus is that you're able to remove the upper element of the burr grinder. This makes cleaning so much easier.
- The machine is straightforward to use and has clear and intuitive settings.
- The taste of the coffee produced is full of flavor, a key requirement for me.
Capresso 488.05 Cons
- The grinder is fairly noisy. That's not an issue for my office, but could be more of a problem if there were people trying to sleep nearby. That said, I've louder noisier machines.
Attractive and Affordable: The Cuisinart DGB-800 Burr Grind & Brew Automatic
I bought a Cuisinart DGB-800 Burr Grind & Brew for my daughter when she started college and she absolutely loves it. As well as drinking the brews that she's made, I've used this brewer many times myself.
It's priced at the more affordable end of the scale, and I would recommend it for use in the home, or an office area.
Cuisinart DGB-800 Pros
- Maybe appearance isn't high priority for everyone, but I do like this machine's modern and elegant look.
- The Cuisinart is super straightforward to use. There are three settings to control the strength of the coffee: regular, bold or extra-bold.
- Sturdy construction and well designed. It's built to last.
- The grinder produces very consistent grounds.
- Though it's not the best machine out there, it's difficult to beat for the price.
Cuisinart DGB-800 Cons
- The grinder certainly isn't the quietest that I've used. The noise doesn't bother my daughter, but it may put off some people.
- It does require regular and thorough cleaning.
Quality and Convenience: The Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine BES870XL
For those looking for high quality combined with convenience, it's difficult to go wrong with this grind and brew espresso machine.
For sure, the Breville BES870XL Barista Express is not the most affordable model on my list, but don't let that put you off. I've been using this machine at home for nearly five years to make my espresso and I would describe it as an excellent investment.
Breville Barista Pros
- This coffee maker is as automatic as it gets, using state-of-the-art digital technology to give you complete control over your coffee.
- It's well designed and an easy machine to keep clean. There's a "clean me" light that comes on periodically. When that happens, you will need to purchase and use cleaning tablets, as recommended.
- It's well constructed and built to last. I envisage it will last me many years. I've read some reviews where the buyers say that their Breville was amazing when they first bought it, but it went downhill over time. I suspect, from the symptoms mentioned, that in most cases, the issues are cleaning-related. I've had zero issues.
- It makes really great tasting coffee.
- This Breville really is a nice looking machine, everything about it says a high-end quality. I consider it to be a thing of beauty.
- Some basic investigation online tells me that there are replacement parts for this machine available for reasonable prices, I'm talking about things like the filters, tray pieces, shower head, and frothing tip. I've not had to replace much in the years since I bought mine, but it is always good to know that if anything does wear out, I can just swap out the parts myself without paying someone to fix it, or having to buy a brand new machine.
- I've seen reviewers describe this machine as the best grind & brew out there, and I would have to agree.
Breville Barista Cons
- The pressure gauge can sometimes go a little off and show readings that are too high or low. When this happens, I would recommend cleaning out the grinder, it never fails to fix the problem for me.
- This Breville is not cheap, but worth every penny in both my opinion and experience. It's a high-end machine and you get what you pay for.
The Two Main Types of Coffee Grinder
If you are new to grinding your own coffee, you may not be aware that there are two main types of grinder: blade and burr.
- Blade grinders work by cutting the coffee beans up with a spinning blade, which looks a bit like a propeller. This type of grinder tends to be the most affordable, but they are generally noisier and less precise than burr grinders.
- Burr grinders work by crushing the beans against a static surface with a grinder wheel. They are split into two sub-types: those with flat grinder wheels are named: “wheel burr” and those with conical grinder wheels are called, “conical burr”. Wheel types are usually the more affordable out of the two, but the conical version is generally accepted as being the best, mainly because they are quieter and less messy than other types.
In summary, burr grinders are generally superior to blade grinders in pretty much every respect, but they are also more expensive.
Why Grind Your Own Coffee?
Grinding your own coffee is an essential component of coffee-making for those who want to maximize the taste and aroma of their brew.
The two main reasons to grind are:
- Freshly ground coffee is simply better than ready ground when it comes to flavor. For best results you should grind right before you brew.
- Grinding your own beans gives you full control over the process and enables you to get the perfect grind size for your maker, which is vital for a delicious cup of Joe.
What Are the Main Grind Sizes for Coffee?
Each type of coffee maker generally uses a specific coarseness of grind. This is because they each brew and filter the coffee in their own way.
Below is a rough guide to the various ground sizes needed by each maker to make a perfect brew:
- Extra fine: Turkish coffee uses the finest grinds.
- Fine: This coarseness is needed for stovetop espresso makers (also known as moka pots), plus AeroPress makers with a one-minute brew time.
- Medium-fine: Cone-shaped pour-over makers, plus AeroPress coffee makers with a two- to three-minute brew time use this size of ground.
- Medium: This grind is required by cone-shaped pour-over makers, siphon coffee brewers, flat bottom drip coffee machines, plus AeroPress makers with a brew time of over three minutes.
- Medium-coarse: Clever Coffee Drippers, Chemex brewers, and Cafe Solo makers all use this coarseness.
- Coarse: This coarseness is required for French presses (also known as a cafetières, press pots, or coffee plungers), and percolators.
- Extra coarse: The largest grinds are used for cowboy coffee and cold brew coffee.
How to Store Coffee and Keep It Fresh
Below are the four main issues that can cause coffee to lose its flavor, along with what you must do to protect the beans:
- Exposure to air and moisture. This can be minimized by storing the coffee in a sealed container. Glass and ceramic vessels are often best, but a stainless steel container can work well too.
- Exposure to excessive light or heat. To avoid this happening you should keep the coffee away from bright places, especially if you are storing it in a glass jar. Instead, keep the coffee somewhere relatively dark and cool, away from heat and direct sunlight.
- Freezing and refrigeration. Excessively cold temperatures can damage the coffee's flavor.
- Grinding your own coffee makes a difference. It is recommended that you buy your coffee in bean form, rather than pre-ground. The beans should be ground immediately before brewing to extract maximum flavor.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: I'm looking for a coffee machine that makes both espresso and a regular cup of Joe? Do you have a recommendation?
Answer: As far as combination coffee makers go, your options are fairly limited. I've not found a machine that I'm entirely happy with, but you may want to consider the KRUPS XP1500 or the DeLonghi BCO320T.
© 2011 Paul Goodman