Espresso Machines With A Built-In Grinder. Are They Worth It?
Technology has blessed us with devices that can do things we never imagined they could. Phones that can schedule appointments. A TV that can surf the internet. Watches that can track your sleeping pattern, for some reason.
But what we’re most excited for in particular are new and improved espresso machines. One of the most important advancements in the last decade was the built-in coffee grinder.
When they were announced, they were believed to be game-changers. They allowed you to have a grinder right inside your espresso machine, but not only that, they would grind the coffee right into the portafilter. Ultimate freshness.
In hindsight, was the hype justified? Are built-in grinders all that?
Built-in Grinders: Pros and Cons
To better assess whether built-in grinders are worth it or not, we’ve got to use one of the oldest tools at our disposal; The pros and cons list.
Built-in grinders, it should be noted, are not a feature that is reserved to super-automatic espresso machines. While virtually all super-automatic espresso machines do have a built-in grinder, there exist semi-automatic machines that also have this feature.
This is important to note because super-automatic machines tend to be more expensive, therefore creating the notion that espresso machines with built-in grinders are always more expensive. This is not always the case.
So let’s get to the pros and cons list. What are the advantages of built-in grinders, and what are the disadvantages?
ProsFreshness. There is no doubt that built-in grinders make a much fresher coffee. This is reflected in a better flavor and even more so in its aroma which tends to be more fragrant the fresher the coffee is.
The difference between pre-ground coffee and grinding coffee at home is abysmal. We try not to think about it, but the reality is that we can never know for how long that coffee’s been ground already. Odds are it is way past its prime freshness.
Another important point is that, even if you have a grinder at home, it can’t compare to a built-in grinder. Ground coffee is incredibly fragile, and a mere minute of sitting on your counter can seriously compromise its aroma and flavor.
The simple fact here is that nothing can compare, in terms of freshness, to a built-in grinder. It reigns supreme in this respect.
Convenience. Grinding beans at home? Yes, please!
Hardly any feature more convenient than having an actual grinder built into your espresso machine. This means that you can grind your beans whenever you want a coffee and, more importantly, that you don’t need to use another separate machine for this.
The convenience of a coffee grinder without all the hassle of actually owning a separate, chunky, counter-space-taking coffee grinder.
Economy. Grinders, for the most part, are costly machines. They might have one simple function but to perform it well they need sophistication, making them sometimes as expensive as the actual espresso machine.
Built-in grinders, because they use a lot of the space that is already in the machine, cut costs down quite a bit. In most cases it turns out to be more economical to buy an espresso machine with a built-in grinder than to buy the two separately.
Noisy. Get ready for some free white noise in your kitchen, because grinders are actually very loud machines.
Sure, there are some grinders that are way noisier than others, but even the quieter ones are noisy enough to be an inconvenience. There isn’t any way to go around this —yet— and all grinders are going to be noisy. It’s something we just have to live with if we want freshly ground coffee.
Size. You have to take into account that it’s actually two machines in one, so you have to expect an espresso machine that’s bigger than usual.
The problem with this is that espresso machines are already quite big and heavy, making them very difficult to transport, move around the counter, and clean. A built-in grinder only means even more difficulty in all those aspects.
Involvement. A grinder demands more involvement from the user. You have to learn what settings are the most appropriate as opposed to simply pouring store-bought, pre-ground coffee and pushing a button.
However, the reward is more than worth it. A grinder might be a complicated machine to properly take advantage of, but the payoff tends to be very big. A grinder allows you to customize the flavor of your coffee by experimenting with grind sizes, meaning that you can make coffee catered to your taste.
It might mean you have to get more involved, at least in the first few months of use, but it’s easy to see the benefit in this so as not to feel too inconvenienced by it.