If you are currently in the market for a new super-automatic espresso machine, you may have noticed that they are generally classified into 2 distinct categories. There are espresso machines with built-in grinder and those without. In today’s article, we will explain all you need to know and consider before you make your purchase.
Before you start to contemplate on whether you should buy an espresso machine with built-in grinder, you would first need to know what are the various type of grinders and the pros & cons of each.
Burr Vs Blade grinder
Burr grinders are made up of 2 revolving plates that moves in opposite direction. This creates a grinding effect to ground your coffee bean into uniform sizes. As compared to blade, it is much easier to control the fineness of your ground. Although Burr grinders are by far the most popular option among coffee fanatics, grinders made from blade tends to cost lesser.
Ceramic Vs Steel
- Ceramic is harder and you would almost never see your blade go dull. Steel on the other hand, are more subjected to bluntness over pro-longed use. A ceramic can last almost twice as long as a steel blade.
- However, it is important to note that ceramic is somewhat more brittle compared to its steel counterpart. You will risk cracking your blade if tiny bits of stones accidentally slipped within your beans.
- In terms of flavour profile, ceramic burr is less susceptible to heating than steel. Overheating can considerably alter the flavour profile of your grind and sometimes produce and undesirable burnt after taste.
Now that you have a better understanding on the different types of grinder, it’s time to consider whether you should be getting a separate coffee grinder or just get a do-it-all espresso machine with inbuilt grinder.
Here are the 4 main factors you may want to consider before making your decision:
- Do I already have a grinder?
First thing to consider whether you should buy an espresso machine with a built-in grinder is that do you already have an existing grinder seating somewhere on your kitchen top? Some of you may already have an existing set of coffee grinder for your hand-dripped or pressed coffee. So, you are only in the market for the best coffee maker that produces the finest espresso. If that is the case, spending the extra money to buy an espresso machine with built-in grinder feature might not be all that practical. We would rather you focus your attention on other features such as the milk steamer or boiler.
- What are the cost of each option?
For espresso machines that brews coffee of similar quality, one with built-in grinder is usually considerably more expensive compared to one without. For comparison purpose, we will look at the Breville BES870XL Barista Express & BES840XL Infuser Espresso Machine as both machines offer similar features and brews exceptional coffee with the main difference being that the Barista Express has a built-in grinder whereas the Infuser does not.
Although the Barista Express is about a hundred dollars pricier than the Infuser, which is generally the case for espresso machine without a grinder to be cheaper, don’t forget to factor in the price to buy a separate grinder. A top quality ceramic grinder such as the Baratza Encore Conical Burr coffee grinder can cost upwards of $300.
If you are working on a tight budget, you can always opt for a manual hand grinder such as the KONA Manual Coffee Grinder. Manual hand coffee grinders are just as capable of producing an amazing grind at only a fraction of the cost! The trade-off is that the manual grinder would require a little bit more time and effort. I personally would sometimes prefer manually grinding my coffee bean as it can be a very calm and meditative experience. Not only that, the feeling you get when you sip on your coffee that is hand grounded by yourself is much more rewarding.
- Do I have enough Space?
Another huge consideration we should take in mind is space. It is obvious that an espresso machine with built in grinder would typically be much bulkier than one without for example, a Barista Express is 12.5 x 13.25 x 15.75 in while the Infuser without built in grinder is only 12.5 x 10.25 x 13.25 in. The Infuser also weighs significantly less at 17 lbs compared to its big brother at 23 lbs.
However, most people would ultimately save more space with the built-in grinder option as it does not require 2 separate machines occupying precious kitchen real estate.
With that said, there are still people who would be more suitable with non-built-in grinder espresso machine. Some of you might have kitchen top with a specially designed shelf that is not big enough to be able to accommodate espresso machines that are too bulky. You would probably be better off with a more ergonomic design espresso machine with a bypass doser meant for pre-grounds.
A manual coffee grinder also takes up much lesser space than an electric grinder with a coffee bean housing tank and it can be easily stored in your drawer whenever you are not using it.
- Do I frequently use pre-ground over whole beans?
It’s no secret that we are strong proponents of grinding your coffee beans only right before your brew, as we believe this will ensure maximum flavour retention and freshness of your espresso. However, we have absolutely no qualms with using pre-ground beans. To be honest, the difference between the 2 would probably be unnoticeable to most of the people. Put me on a blind taste test and I will pick out the right coffee 50% of the time.
we understand that under some circumstances the luxury of grinding your beans for every brew may not be possible. One major constraint would be time. I don’t think anyone would find it pleasant to take the extra time to grind your coffee beans just to have your daily dose if you are in a rush.
Another major consideration of whether to grind your beans would be the noise level. Unless you are using a manual hand coffee grinder, a high speed electric grinder would generate a considerable volume. Doing so might not be appropriate in certain settings. For example, imagine you are in an open office environment. Or, you may have a new born baby in the house that you just spent the last hour coaxing to sleep. You probably wouldn’t want to wake the little monster up due to the sound of your grinder.
So, if you find yourself using pre-grounds often, it’s probably best to save the money and opt for one without a built-in grinder.
Example of built in
SAECO HD8954/47 Philips Xelsis EVO Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
DeLonghi ESAM3500.N Magnifica Digital Super-Automatic Espresso/Coffee Machine
Gaggia Brera Super-automatic Espresso Machine