You could say there are only two essential elements to making a good cup of coffee, the quality of the bean and the coffee maker itself. What is sometimes overlooked is the coffee grinder. You can purchase ground coffee in a can, like nearly everyone used to do it, you can purchase and grind the beans at the supermarket, you can buy your own grinder, or you can purchase a combination coffee grinder/coffee maker. The latter approach is becoming quite popular, since coffee can begin brewing seconds after being ground.
A Blade Grinder is OK. A Burr Grinder is Much, Much Better.
There are two basic types of grinders, the blade grinder and the burr grinder. A blade grinder is less expensive, but it has a major disadvantage in that it cannot produce a uniform grind. If you like French press coffee or espresso, the blade grinder is a poor choice. If you just want a good cup of coffee from a drip coffee maker a blade grinder will often do, but if it’s a great cup of coffee you want, go with the burr grinder. Burr grinders produce a uniform grind and almost all models are adjustable.
The Better Burr Grinders are Expensive. But you may not need “Better”.
The really good burr grinders tend to be rather expensive, but there are a few on the market that sell for around $100. If you are constantly searching for the “perfect” cup of coffee, expect to pay $300 and up for a high-quality burr grinder. The Baratza Vario Ceramic burr grinder, which sells at $450 is one of the best, but you won’t go wrong with the Baratza Virtuoso or the Breville Smart grinder, both of which retail for about half the price.
You can realize significant savings, and have good coffee, by investing in a combination grinder/coffee maker, with many excellent choices on the market. On these appliances, the grinder sits atop the coffee maker. It is an integral, though removable, part of the coffee maker, so the footprint on your kitchen counter remains unchanged. Some of the smaller one- and two-cup models featuring grinders can even be described as being compact.
Many Combination Units to Choose From
Breville, Cuisinart, and Krups all produce coffee grinder/coffee maker appliances in the low to mid-price range, and all three brands have a good reputation for selling quality products. If you want a larger machine, you might consider the Krups KM7000, with its 10-cup capacity. Krups has been making kitchen appliances for over 150 years, and they know what they are doing. You’ll want to read the reviews first however. This machine produces great coffee but Krups quality assurance program could use some tweaking to prevent shipment of defective units.
The Breville YouBrew model is, on the other hand, more mixer grinder compact, a little more stylish, and appears to have fewer problems with defective units. The YouBrew can deliver 12 cups, a single cup, or anything in between. The grind and strength are completely adjustable, and its LCD control panel is user friendly to the extreme. It is a little noisy, but no more than most other grinder/brewer combinations, and it is of course the grinding that makes the noise. YouBrew comes with either a glass or a thermal carafe.
Cuisinart has been making kitchen appliances for 40 years, and coffee makers for the past 10. Their five top-of-the-line models (all carrying a DGB designation) grind and brew between 2 to 10 or 2 to 12 cups. The Model DGB-550BK is a favorite, no doubt due in part to its sleek Italian design.
Owning a combination coffee grinder/maker makes a lot of sense. You can save space, money, and even clean-up time. The Krups, Breville, and Cuisinart brands are discussed here because they are fine brands, and are widely available.