Kitchen & Cooking

Should your espresso machine have a built-in grinder?

We spoke to a coffee expert to find out.

Popular makers of coffee and espresso machines,  like De’Longhi and Breville, are rolling out products with built-in grinders—are they actually good? Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

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Regardless of what route you’re taking with your morning coffee routine, using a coffee grinder is highly recommended. The hard work that goes into precisely measuring and grinding the beans will reward you with the most flavorful cup of joe, whether it’s pour-over or cold brew. But designating an area for a seemingly bulky coffee grinder isn’t for everyone—what’s the best solution for people who want to maximize their coffee quality while minimizing space?

Brands like Breville and De’Longhi have launched their own drip coffee makers and espresso machines with built-in grinders. Although the opinions on this kill-two-birds-with-one-stone design differ among experts, some of the top-ranked espresso machines that we’ve tested all have this convenient feature. So is it truly worth it to spend a little extra on an espresso machine that can also grind your beans?

Should you get an espresso machine with a built-in grinder?

Breville Barista Touch
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

This sleek looking Breville espresso machine has a built-in grinder.

We took the question to the experts at the Specialty Coffee Association, whose coffee expertise can help us understand what differences a coffee grinder can make.

“If the choice is between no grinder and a built-in grinder, the answer is definitely yes to the built-in grinders,” says Peter Giuliano, chief research officer at SCA. “The espresso machines that come with built-in grinders are from trusted brands that really know about coffee and pay attention to their designs.”

Giuliano also cautions that taking good care of your coffee grinders is as important as having one. The best practice to maintain a coffee grinder—whether it’s a built-in or a standalone one—is to keep it clean.

“As you use your grinders on a regular basis, the residue coffee oils from the beans will build up and eventually leave an unpleasant smell because of oxidation,” Giuliano explains. The smell can be similar to expired sesame oil, which can ruin the coffee grounds.

How to properly care for your coffee gadgets

How to take care of your grinder
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Coffee beans may leave oils in the hopper so you should clean it regularly.

To clean the grinder, simply detach the hopper from the base and rinse it with soap and water. “I clean the hopper once a week and the grinder performs better that way,” Giuliano says. “You can also use a brush to brush out the residue grinds in the serrated steel plates.”

Although making sure your coffee grinder receives good care is crucial to the quality of your coffee, don’t forget there are other factors that can ruin your coffee if you don’t pay enough attention. If you use unfiltered water to make the coffee, chances are that the residue materials can clog up your machine and ultimately bring the metallic flavors to the pour.

There are two ways to solve this problem—first, use filtered water to avoid mineral buildup in the machine. If you don’t have a water filtration system set up, you can also try to descale your machine once in a while with the descaling solutions that are widely available online.

Many coffee machine manufacturers, like De’Longhi, sell their own descaling solutions, too.

Brewing the perfect coffee involves many moving parts. Whether you can’t live without cold brew or you are on the hunt for a new pod coffee maker, we’re here to help.

Get the Breville Barista Touch Espresso Machine for $999.95

Get the De’Longhi La Specialista Espresso Machine at Sur La Table for $800

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