The 10 Best Self Grinding Coffee Makers
10. Krups Grind-and-Brew
9. Cuisinart DGB-900BC
8. Capresso 465
7. Breville Oracle
6. Cuisinart DGB-650BC
5. Gourmia Barista Butler
4. Delonghi Magnifica
3. Breville Barista Express
2. Black & Decker CM5000B
1. Breville Grind Control
What's Actually Going On Inside My Coffee Maker?
Coffee making technology hasn't changed much over the past several hundred years. To this day, there are just a handful of simple processes used to brew most coffee, regardless of whether it's being made with a simple plastic funnel or in a fancy machine that costs thousands of dollars. Of course, there's plenty of subtle variation from one machine to another, but the basic processes don't change much from one coffee maker to the next.
The most common type of coffee machine is the electric drip brewer, which Gottlob Widmann invented in Germany in 1954. In a drip brewer, water is first poured in a dedicated chamber. It is then heated in small quantities, while thermally-induced pressure forces it to the next step, where it is fed through a spray head into what is called a brew basket. This chamber contains coffee grounds, usually in some sort of filter. The water is introduced gradually, steeps in the grounds, and slowly drips through them into a carafe.
The electric drip brewer was made to simulate the effect of manual pour-over brewing, but it did not supplant the practice, which remains popular today. Instead, it largely replaced the electric percolator, which had been in use since the turn of the century. Percolators use a heating element to boil a pot of water, which is forced into a brew basket where it mixes with the grounds before dripping back into its original pot. This cycle continues until the entire pot reaches the desired strength. By the 1970s, the electric percolator had largely fallen out of favor.
The oldest machines used for making coffee are vacuum brewers. Usually a larger apparatus designed for making large quantities of coffee at a time, the vacuum brewer uses pressurized chambers to get its job done. Water is heated in the lower chamber until the heat forces it into an upper section containing coffee grounds. Once the lower chamber is fully emptied and the water has had enough time to mix with the grounds, the heat is turned off. This creates a vacuum effect in the lower chamber, which forces the liquid back down, usually passing through a strainer on its way.
Before the 19th century, coffee was typically brewed in a pot of boiling water, either in an infusion bag or strained once brewing was complete. Other methods, like the moka pot, also known as the stovetop espresso maker, and the French press, weren't developed until the 20th century, despite their non-electric designs. Even the manual pour-over method wasn't popularized until after 1908, when German inventor Melitta Bentz developed the paper coffee filter.
The Benefits Of Brewing From Fresh-Ground Beans
For the vast majority of coffee drinkers who brew their own at home, the beans they're using were ground in a factory sometime long before they are used. There is a healthy market for coffee grinders large and small, manual and electric, in virtually every style you can imagine, but for most people it's a major hassle to buy a whole separate device just to crush up your coffee when it's so easy to simply buy pre-ground.
True coffee connoisseurs, however, know that nothing compares to a cup of joe made from freshly ground beans, regardless of the brewing process. Aside from elitism, there are plenty of more scientific reasons why freshly ground beans make the best brew.
While whole roasted beans have shells that keep everything contained therein relatively fresh, once ground they can no longer protect their contents. When the delicate oils in coffee are exposed to the elements, they are prone to a number of undesirable outcomes. They can easily pick up smells and flavors from other matter nearby. They are also water soluble, so any moisture in their environment can degrade them rapidly. Finally, they can be easily contaminated through contact with other substances. The beans' shelf-life also decreases dramatically, and they can easily go rancid if left unused for long.
Another enemy of ground coffee is oxidation. Once the insides of a coffee bean are exposed to the oxygen in the air, they start changing rapidly. It is said that coffee loses about 60 percent of its aroma within 15 minutes of being ground. That's probably the greatest benefit of a machine that grinds the beans immediately before brewing; it cuts down on the time between grind and brew as much as possible, while also limiting the grounds' exposure to air.
What To Look For In A Self-Grinding Machine
There are many key factors of self-grinding machines that are important to consider before deciding on which one is right for you. These include grinding method, brew settings, filtration, and storage.
There are a variety of grinder styles that you may use. Most machines use burr mills, which consist of abrasive surfaces rotating in opposite directions. While some machines will only have a single grind setting, if you're serious about your coffee, you'll want one that offers a bit more control. Even among drip coffee makers, there is a range of suitable grind-levels, and the finer the grind, the stronger the brew.
A machine that offers a lot of user control may also allow you to choose the water temperature for further fine-tuning of your finished cup. It's a good idea to experiment with these settings if you purchase a machine that offers them so you can find the one that best suits your tastes. You should also consider whether you want a coffee maker with a delay timer so that you can schedule your brew in advance.
Some machines require paper filters, while others use permanent ones, usually made of metal. Filter choice can affect the taste of your brew, so choose carefully. Remember that even if you choose a machine with a permanent filter, you'll have to remove and empty it between uses.
Finally, what kind of container do you want your machine brewing into? Glass carafes are classic and practical for seeing how much of your pot is left, but they do not retain heat well. If that's your priority, it's a good idea to go with something insulated.