When shopping for automatic espresso coffee makers, there are pretty much two categories you can sort the options into those with attached burr coffee grinders and those without attached burr coffee grinders. Of course, that’s a pretty simplistic method of sorting and ignores all other features these coffee maker machines may have. However, it’s a good place to start to make that perfect espresso shot. A lot of people ask themselves whether they need to purchase a machine with an attached grinder such as a conical burr grinder. The espresso machine models with conical burr grinders are typically more expensive than models that do not have that same feature. Is the added cost worth it or not?
A lot of people looking at automatic espresso machines already have some experience with brewing their own coffee at home. For most people that experience is basic, trusty drip coffee. Therefore, a lot of people already have a coffee bean grinder at home and can achieve the correct grind size for the perfect espresso shot to get them going each morning. They have used it for years and it has always produced a good cup of drip coffee so surely it is good enough for espresso, right?
Well… not so fast. Drip coffee and espresso have just as many differences as similarities. The grind that you use for your drip coffee is not the same grind you want to use for espresso. Basic grinders that you would use for drip coffee don’t allow you to control the size of the grind which is necessary for producing the best flavor when making espresso. If you are going to spend money on an espresso maker and quality beans then you need a good grinder—period.
The correct grinder to use for making espresso is a burr grinder. With many burr grinders, you can control the grind to make all types of coffee from basic drip coffee to espresso. These are the grinders you will find at coffee shops and if you have ever asked them to grind beans for you after purchase then you will usually hear them ask which type of coffee you plan to make. That’s because they will grind the beans to the correct size to ensure you get the best cup of coffee possible.
There is simply no debating it… freshly ground coffee beans make for the best-tasting coffee. Choosing to buy an espresso maker with an attached grinder makes the process of getting freshly ground beans for your espresso much easier. When you grind your coffee beans you expose the oils inside the bean. The less time between grinding and brewing, the better.
There are ways to get freshly ground beans at home without having a grinder. For example, if you buy your beans at a coffee shop you can ask them to grind the beans for you. However, once they grind those beans the timer begins on using the ground beans. Ideally, you will use your ground beans in a few days. Any longer and you will begin to lose flavor. This is fine if you don’t mind making frequent trips to your nearest coffee shop. However, having your own grinder at home can cut down on a lot of unnecessary trips to the coffee shop.
If your new espresso machine is going to be one part of your kitchen coffee setup then perhaps an attached grinder is not needed. In cases where you may use your coffee grinder to make espresso as well as drip coffee or French press, then you may want to look at purchasing a separate grinder with adjustable grind settings to meet all of your needs.
Having a grinder attached to your espresso maker is definitely handy for making espresso but it does not do you much good if you want to use those grinds elsewhere in your kitchen.
Of course, you still want a real quality burr grinder for making great espresso but you will likely want to look at a standalone model that can meet your needs and budget.
You will notice that espresso makers with attached grinders are more expensive than those that do not have attached grinders. However, don’t let that initial sticker price shock you into choosing a less expensive model that will just cost you money down the road.
We have established that you need a proper burr grinder for making espresso. If you do not own one already then you will be buying one no matter what. There are two ways to look at this cost: either it is included as a part of your espresso maker purchase or you will be buying a standalone model. If you are choosing an espresso maker without an attached grinder then you should add the cost of a grinder to the purchase price to get a true comparison. You may find that the difference between models with attached grinders and those without is not so great after all.
Consider how you will use your espresso machine, your coffee grinder, and what your budget is and then make the right decision for yourself and your own personal use cases.