There are basically three things that make for delicious home-brewed coffee; good method and equipment, fresh and quality beans, and grinding your own coffee on demand. And that is why we are so excited about the range of decent grind-and-brew coffee makers on the market; because it is introducing another generation to the advantages of home coffee grinding.
Grinding your own beans on a decent grinder is often the single easiest way to upgrade the taste of your coffee. Grinding on demand retains more of the unique flavour of the coffee keeps the beans from going stale as quickly, and perhaps best of all fills your kitchen or workspace with the enticing aroma of coffee!
In this article we will seek to help you figure out if a grind-and-brew coffee maker is the best choice for you and if so then which one will best suit your needs.
Our recommendation is that the Barista Express by Breville is the single best grind-and-brew coffee maker for price, quality, and the coffee it produces. This is an excellent espresso maker with a quality grinder by a company that has shown that it knows how to make good coffee gear.
Grind and Brew Coffee Makers; A Great Idea or a Waste of Money?
There is some controversy in speciality coffee circles about grind-and-brew coffee makers. Especially among coffee purists there is a fair bit of skepticism about the quality of grinders in grind-and-brew machines and whether inbuilt grinders are actually a good idea at all. There is some truth to these suspicions as inbuilt grinders to date simply cannot compare with decent external grinders. This is largely due to the quality of the burrs and the number of available grind settings.
So for example, the grinder in the high-end Breville Oracle Touch has 45 grind settings which is the most we have found in any inbuilt grinder. However, the grinder that we usually use at home for espresso has more than 55 grind settings. Similarly, while most inbuilt grinders now use burrs instead of blades (which is a very good thing), these burrs are often of poorer quality than in external grinders. So while it is a bit more expensive it is probably worth at least considering opting for a decent external grinder like the Baratza Encore and then a cheap coffee maker like the Breville Duo Temp or the Bonavita Connoisseur rather than a grind-and brew.
So are grind-and-brew makers just a waste of money? Well, despite the above comments, our answer is no, they are just for another kind of coffee lover. The advantages of grind-and-brew machines are basically convenience and cleanliness. There is no denying that these machines are simply a lot more convenient that buying, maintaining, and using an external grinder. You simply push a button and the beans are ground on demand and then usually transferred to where the coffee will be brewed. There is no coffee grinds all over your counter, no bulky grinder taking up too much of your bench space, and one less thing to clean after brewing your morning hit. Also, while inbuilt grinders can’t compare to external grinders they nonetheless are a marked improvement to using pre-ground beans!
So if you currently use pre-ground beans for your coffee, love a tidy kitchen, and don’t want the cost or effort of buying an additional grinder then a grind-and-brew machine may well be just right for you! So if that is you then which one should you get? Let’s get into it!
Different Types of Grind and Brew Coffee Machines
Drip Coffee Makers
Both the Grind Control and the Cuisinart below are drip coffee makers which mean that the coffee is extracted by pouring hot water over the ground beans and through some form of filter. In mouthfeel and taste this produces quite a smooth and light cup of coffee. The real advantages of drip coffee makers is that they tend to do bulk amounts of coffee well and are often able to keep the coffee hot for hours after brewing. This is great for either a work setting, a family of coffee lovers, or just someone who consumes a lot of the good stuff! The other advantage of these machines is that they are fully automated and literally require no input beyond the pushing of a button from the one brewing the coffee. They also tend to be cheaper than espresso makers which is rather nice. So if you are intending on brewing larger quantities of coffee and don’t want the effort of having to do much then a drip coffee maker like the Grind Control might be a great option.
Espresso Coffee Makers
Espresso machines brew coffee by pushing water through finely ground coffee at high pressure in a short time window. This produces a very rich, heavy and sometimes intense coffee which many people have come to love deeply. Within the grind-and-brew category there are both semi-automatic coffee machines such as the Barista Express and super-automatic machines such as the Magnifica and the Oracle Touch. Semi-Automatic, as the name suggests, are less automated and require a more hands on approach than super-automatics. Espresso Machines are really intended to make coffee one cup at a time which may be a strength or weakness depending on your coffee needs. They do, however, allow you to play with a range of different coffees from milk-based cappuccinos and lattes to black drinks such as Americanos and ristrettos. It is also worth noting that espresso machines tend to be more expensive than drip machines. An espresso machine is great for someone who loves espresso-based coffee and is happy to make his or her coffee one cup at a time.
The Best Grind and Brew coffee makers 2020
In the world of grind-and-brew drip coffee makers the Breville Grind Control stands in a league of its own. This elegant looking machine from Australian company Breville is a 2-12 Cup drip coffee maker with stainless steel flat burrs. Probably the single best thing about the coffee maker is the amount of customisation possible. There are 6 grind settings to change the coarseness of the grind, 8 strength settings to alter how strong or weak you want the coffee, and it can either brew into the carafe that comes with it or into a cup or travel mug. Things that users have really appreciated include the easy-to-use LCD screen, the Auto Start feature which allows you to preset the machine to have your coffee ready by the time you get up, and the ability to use pre-ground coffee if you need to.
However, it does have to be said that not everyone has loved this machine. In particular there have been recurring complaints that cleaning this machine can be a fair bit of effort especially if you use dark and oily beans. Similarly, somewhat expectedly for any grind-and-brew machine, there have been complaints of the grinder malfunctioning. So while there are mixed reviews we still feel that this is an excellent machine from a company that has a good track record of quality coffee machines.
This machine from Cuisinart is a great option for those who love the idea of grind and brew coffee makers but are on a tighter budget. It is similar in many ways to the Breville above but with a few less features and a cheaper price tag. It can also brew up to 12 cups, has a permanent charcoal water filter, has three different brew strength options, and is also fairly easy to operate. Its large volume and double walled stainless steel carafe makes it a great option for either a workplace or family setting.
There are a few downsides however to this drip coffee maker. The downside of a stainless steel carafe as opposed to glass is that it must be hand washed which can be a pain. Also, like the Grind Control many customers have complained about the cleaning process which is finicky and requires the purchase of a separate fines brush.
Unlike the machines above the Barista Express is a semi-automatic espresso machine that requires a steep learning curve for the inexperienced. This machine is a good option for the coffee lover who enjoys the rich flavour of espresso-based drinks and loves the process as well as the final taste of good coffee. As a semi-automatic machine it does require more than simply the push of a button to get your morning hit. Instead, it will require you to place the portafilter under the grinder, tamp the ground coffee, and then steam the milk. However, while this is more effort it is well worth it. This machine by Breville is almost identical in features to its younger brother the Breville Infuser with the additional of an inbuilt grinder and is capable of brewing some delicious cups of coffee. You can see our full review of the Breville Infuser here.
The grinder on this machine has conical steel burrs with 18 possible different grind settings. It also has a stack of fantastic features including a PID controller to control water temperature, a very capable and easy-to-use steam wand, and a pre-infusion function for consistent extraction. If you are looking for a home coffee maker that can make great coffee and you are willing to learn how to use an espresso machine then I can’t recommend this machine highly enough!
The Delonghi Magnifica is a super-espresso machine which simply means great coffee with no effort at the push of a button. Basically you push a button and then the machine grinds the beans, tamps them, and extracts them. You then steam the milk with the attached steam wand and add for whichever coffee you are going for (Cappuccino, Latte etc). It also has a stainless steel burr grinder with seven possible grind settings. Another great thing about this machine is that unlike some of the others on this list it is also easy to clean. It comes with an automatic descaling indicator and easily removable parts. It can brew coffee at five different strengths and in three different sizes.
Some of the downsides of this machine are that the pannarello steam wand is not of the highest quality, the machine is definitely on the bulky side, and it is fairly expensive. But if you are willing to pay the cash and are looking for a coffee maker that makes good coffee and requires little effort then this is a good option.
Finally, I couldn’t help adding this superb machine to the list. It is almost definitely both the highest quality and the most expensive coffee maker that you will ever consider buying. Like the Magnifica it is a super espresso machine and it will literally make a coffee to at least compete with if not beat your local cafe. This is a top-of-the-line coffee maker that requires no skill and makes a delicious cup of coffee. You simply push a button, move the pre-tamped portafilter, place the milk jug under the steam wand and you are away laughing.
Perhaps the best feature of this high end machine is the automatic steam wand. This piece of advanced technology means that you simply put the milk jug under it and it will automatically steam the milk perfectly for you, allowing you to make some great latte art on your drink. So if you love really good coffee, have the money to spare, and don’t want the rigmarole of making the coffee yourself, then this may be the last coffee machine you will ever need!
Overall the Barista Express is our pick for the best grind-and-brew coffee maker. It is a superb espresso machine in its own right, is made by a company coming to be known for excellence in coffee makers, and can make a fantastic cup of coffee.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a coffee maker with a larger brew capacity and cheaper price tag then we recommend that the Grind Control also by Breville is a great option with a high level of customisability to meet your coffee needs.