Straight to the Point
While we don’t think most people should buy coffee maker with a built-in grinder, if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution and want to avoid pods, the Breville Grind Control has the best functionality. For around the same price, however, you could also buy the OXO Brew 8-cup coffee maker and Bartaza Encore grinder. These are the top picks from our coffee brewer and grinder testing, which together brew much better coffee than any of the coffee makers with grinders we tested.
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.
- 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
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
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
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.