Should You Buy a Coffee Maker With a Built-In Grinder?

Should You Buy a Coffee Maker With a Built-In Grinder?

four coffee makers with built-in grinders lined up on a kitchen counter
Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

The appeal of a coffee maker with a grinder is undeniable: with the twist of a dial and touch of a button, you can have freshly ground coffee brewed without having to measure anything. Because coffee always tastes better when it’s freshly ground, coffee makers with built-in grinders, on paper, seem to simplify the process. 

However, the more automation you add, the less control you have over the outcome. During our espresso machine testing, we noted that built-in grinders were restrictive (fewer grind settings) compared to using a standalone grinder. But coffee brewing is a simpler process compared to pulling a shot of espresso, so we were still curious how coffee makers with grinders worked (and if any were worthwhile). To find out, we selected four highly-rated models and put them through a series of tests. We then compared the results to our top picks for coffee makers and burr grinders to see how they measured up. While the overall performance of the coffee makers with grinders didn’t quite meet our standards, one machine stood out. 

The Winner, at a Glance

The Best Coffee Maker with Grinder: Breville Grind Control Coffee Maker

This is our top recommendation, albeit with reservations (as in: if you’re really set on buying a coffee maker with a grinder, this is the one to get). While this brewer wasn’t able to brew coffee as well as a standalone coffee maker and grinder, it has a lot of great design features. For example, it has a smart water reservoir that brews only the amount you select, adjustable grind settings, and adjustable coffee dosing settings. 

How Do Coffee Makers with Grinders Work?

The biggest selling point of coffee makers with grinders is that they can measure out coffee, grind, and brew your coffee with the push of a button. While every model is slightly different, the process is the same: a hopper feeds whole beans into a burr grinder, which deposits the grounds into the filter. Then, the boiler kicks on, feeding water into the sprayhead, and the brew cycle starts. 

There are a lot of moving parts in these sorts of machines, and they also require more programming, since they have to know when to start grinding, when to stop, and when to start the boiler. In order to evaluate how these machines tied all of their systems together, we developed a series of tests that broke each task down individually.

The Tests

a coffee brewer sits on a counter with temperature probes running to the filter basket
Serious Eats / Jesse Raub
  • Coffee Measuring Test: We ground coffee at a number of brew and grind settings, paused the brew cycle, and weighed the results to evaluate how consistently the brewers were able to measure out the amount coffee time after time.
  • Water Temperature Test: We placed dual thermocouple probes in the brew basket and recorded the results of brew temperature over time to evaluate each brewer’s capacity to meet ideal brew temperature standards. We performed the same test with the Ratio Six, one of our favorite coffee makers.  
  • Grind Consistency Test: We sifted through the grinds to examine how accurate and consistent the grind settings on each brewer were.
  • Usability and Cleanup Test: We evaluated each machine’s features and settings for brewing coffee as well as how easy each machine was to brew a batch of coffee. We also cleaned each brewer thoroughly, paying specific attention to the chute where the coffee grounds were delivered into the filter. 

What We Learned

Timed Coffee Measurement Was Inaccurate and Inconsistent

a coffee filter full of coffee sits on a scale reading 47.5 grams
Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

Measuring the right amount of coffee is key to brewing a great tasting cup. That’s why we recommend using a scale to weigh your beans before grinding. Coffee makers with grinders, however, rely on a built-in timer to determine how much coffee is metered out per batch. None of the brewers delivered the correct dose of coffee on their standard brew setting.

The Gevi ground 14 grams more than it should have for a 20-ounce brew volume, nearly 40% more coffee than the ideal 36-gram dose. The Capresso and Cuisinart models both dosed on average around eight grams too little coffee. Only the Breville Grind Control, set to its highest brew strength level, was able to deliver the target 36-gram dose. 

The Breville Grind Control was also the only machine we could calibrate. In this mode, you use a scale to weigh the grinder’s output, then enter that number into the machine and it will adjust its dosing timer accordingly. But because grinding finer takes longer, and grinding coarser is faster, you’d have to recalibrate the machine every time you want to make a grind adjustment.

Another major issue with these models was their inability to measure out coffee consistently from batch to batch. The Capresso had a 6-gram variable range, while the Cuisinart had an 8-gram range. The best performing grinder, the Breville Grind Control, still had an 11% variance level in the amount of coffee ground from batch-to-batch. That might not seem like much, but back-to-back brews tasted sour, then bitter, and never tasted the same twice in a row. 

Boiler Design Was Key to Quality Extraction

a thermoprobe shows a temperature of 185ºF next to an app on a phone graphing temperature rising
Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

The ideal coffee brewing temperature is between 195ºF-205ºF (brew temperature was a key testing metric when we reviewed drip coffee makers). None of the coffee makers with grinders were able to reach that range. The main flavor components in roasted coffee are fruit acids, fruit sugars, caramelized sugars, and bitter plant compounds. Sugars tend to only dissolve in the ideal brew range, while acids can dissolve at cooler temperatures and bitter compounds extract easily in high temperatures. Without stable brew temperatures, coffee will taste predominantly sour or bitter. 

Most of the coffee makers with grinders we tested topped out at around 185ºF and took at least three to five minutes to get there. Near the end of the cycle, most of the brewers temperatures started to spike, essentially steaming the coffee. This extracted fruit acids and bitter plant compounds while leaving the sweeter flavors stuck in the filter. 

In comparison, our top pick for automatic coffee makers, the Ratio Six, reached the ideal brew temperature range within 30 seconds and held that range for 95% of its brew time. To learn more about why these brewers performed so differently, I reached out to Ratio founder Mark Hellweg. 

He explained that high-end brewers use a coil-shaped heating element, which wraps around the entire flash heating chamber. “The cheaper models use a horseshoe shaped heating element, which is much more inefficient,” Hellweg said. He also explained that a machine’s power rating was key: “The important thing is high-wattage, which is a fast and efficient transfer of energy from the outlet into the water.”

All our top picks for automatic coffee makers, including our top coffee maker under $150, have a 1400-watt rating. The highest wattage of the coffee makers with a built-in grinder we tested topped out at 1100, which meant that none of these machines had the sheer power to brew a balanced cup of coffee.

Grind Consistency Was Spotty, But Ultimately Didn’t Matter

an open filter basket on a coffee maker shows ground coffee in a filter
Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

While the Breville and Capresso’s built-in grinders did a decent job, the grind quality from the Cuisinart was abysmal. There was no adjustment dial, and when we looked at the ground coffee in the filter, it looked like someone had taken a hammer to a zipper-lock bag of coffee; there were huge chunks of coffee beans amongst powder-fine coffee dust. But, in the end, grind quality didn’t really matter since all of the machines failed the water temperature tests.

Do You Save Money Buying a Coffee Maker with a Grinder?

If you’re set on buying a coffee maker with a built-in grinder, the Breville Grind Control was the best one we tried. However, we strongly recommend investing in a standalone coffee maker and grinder. While it may take more effort and countertop space, the jump in coffee quality is stark and allows more freedom for other brewing methods. Above, we laid out the price differences between the Breville Grind Control and our recommendations for coffee makers, coffee grinders, and coffee scales.

If you went with our budget-friendly picks, you’d spend a little more ($10), but brew way better coffee. And while our splurge picks are certainly expensive, you can, of course, mix and match our budget and splurge recommendations.

The Best Coffee Maker with Grinder: Breville Grind Control Coffee Maker

What we liked: If you’re set on buying a coffee maker with a built-in grinder, the Breville Grind Control was the only machine that came close to delivering a good cup of coffee. It also had some excellent usability features. We found the smart water reservoir to be particularly impressive: it allows you to select how many cups you’d like to brew, even if you filled the reservoir to the top. It also featured a number of adjustable grind settings and strength settings, letting the user dial in coffee to their taste. Finally, if the amount of coffee the machine delivered was off, it offers a calibration setting to reset it. It was the only machine we tested that had the ability to calibrate its coffee measurements. 

What we didn’t like: Even with all the available options to customize your brew, the brewer was underpowered. It was never able to reach the ideal brewing temperature range, and the coffee fell flat. Plus, based on a number of online reviews, this brewer, (along with all of the coffee makers with grinders tested), seems prone to breaking down—at least according to customer reviews. It makes sense: there are a lot of moving parts inside of these types of machines. Lastly, this brewer is expensive, and it’s hard to recommend a product that costs as much as a standalone coffee brewer and grinder that perform better.

Price at time of publish: $330.

Key Specs:

  • Materials: Stainless steel and plastic
  • Dimensions: 13 inches x 9 inches x 17 inches
  • Weight: 16 pounds
  • Water reservoir capacity: 60 ounces
  • Grinder hopper capacity: 1-pound
  • Number of brew strength settings: 8
  • Number of grind settings: 6
a coffee maker with a built in grinder sits on a counter with a white background
Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

The Competition

  • Capresso CoffeeTEAM Pro Plus: The built-in grinder on this machine showed promise: the coffee grounds looked fairly consistent, and the adjustable settings were a nice touch. Unfortunately, this brewer struggled to heat water, leaving the brew cycle at low temperatures that took up to 10 minutes to brew a batch—twice as long as it should. The grinder also measured coffee so inconsistently that it was hard to gauge if any of the brew strength settings were close to a proper dose. Every brew on this machine was thin, bitter, and unpleasant.
  • Cuisinart Burr Grind & Brew Coffee Maker: The first time we examined the grind size on this machine, we swore we had been shipped a model with a built-in blade grinder by accident. The grind quality was so poor, we immediately ruled it out from contention. It also failed the brew temperature test as poorly as the Capresso did, and every batch brewed was thin, bitter, and unpleasant. 
  • Gevi 4-in-1 Smart 10-Cup Drip Coffee Maker with Grinder: The main issue with the machine was the way the water is delivered: the water spout featured three vertical streams that rotated to cover the outside edges of the pourover brewer. But, because the pour over dripper is conical, the outside edges of the filter are oversaturated and the inside part of the coffee bed isn’t evenly wetted. At the same time, the drop from the spout to the top of the coffee bed allows the water to lose temperature rapidly. Even with the brewer programmed as high as it goes—210ºF —the temperature in the coffee bed rarely rose above 190ºF. For the amount of money this machine costs, you could buy our top pick grinder, coffee maker, and scale, and still have enough leftover to buy few high quality bags of coffee

FAQs

Do most coffee machines have a built-in grinder? 

Most coffee machines do not have a built-in grinder and will require you to grind your coffee in a separate coffee grinder or buy pre-ground coffee. There are machines that do come with a built-in grinder, but in our findings they did not meet the quality standards we were expecting. 

Are coffee makers with built-in grinders worth it?

Based on our testing, you’re likely better off buying a standalone grinder and coffee maker. Most of these coffee makers with built-in grinders made compromises to the grinder and brewer in order to make both fit into the same appliance, and the quality of the coffee they make doesn’t match the high price point. 

How do you make a good cup of coffee?

Great quality coffee requires a few things: the proper ratio of coffee to water, a brew method that can hit ideal brewing temperatures, a consistent grind quality, and a proper brew time. You also need high-quality coffee, and fresh, filtered water. There are a few solid tips for brewing with automatic coffee makers you can find here, or there is also an in depth explainer on pourover brewing you can read here.