When I met, fell in love with, and married a former barista, we became the kind of household that bought really good coffee. And as any barista will tell you, if you’re going to spend that kind of money — and attention — on fancy coffee, you should really grind your own beans (air and oxidation are enemy number one when it comes to preserving the coffee’s subtle flavors).
All this science is lost on me, but thankfully I have a machine that does all the work for me. Unlike regular grinders that simply blitz the coffee into a coarse meal, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro lets me adjust the fineness based on popular brew methods like French press, espresso, stovetop percolator, and drip. This is a game changer because your typical $20 coffee grinder really only grinds for a drip coffee machine. If you’re brewing for a French press, for instance, you should have a coarser grind, but with a low-end grinder you can only sort of just eyeball it, blitzing the beans for slightly less time. More sophisticated machines like the popular Baratza Encore also let you adjust the grind size with a numbered dial, but for amateurs like me, I can never remember if the big number is coarse or fine. With my Breville, however, rather than looking up the grind size each time or paying close attention on a single-setting coffee grinder, I can see it all clearly spelled out (in words instead of numbers) on the digital screen. Sure, the Breville costs a lot more than a Mr. Coffee or Cuisinart grinder, but that’s because it uses conical burrs rather than blades to grind beans, making the machine much more durable and the grind much more uniform. For $60 more than the Baratza (which also uses conical burrs and is what you’d find in many coffee shops), you get a lot more bells and whistles that are friendly for the home user, too.
For instance, the wonder machine does all the weighing and measuring for me. Usually I’d pour the beans into a cup on a scale and shake them into the hopper, but with the Breville, I can select the number of cups I’d like to brew, dump the coffee beans in the hopper, press start, and it will magically stop grinding once it’s created the right amount of ground coffee. While I haven’t graduated to pulling shots on an espresso machine, by popping in an insert, the device can even cradle and grind directly into a portafilter. The only thing it doesn’t do is fill up my coffee machine with water and press the start button — but I have my husband for that.
More Strat-approved coffee accessories
Writer Kat Odell recommended the Capresso coffee machine with its built-in burr grinder, in our selection of best coffee machines: “On mornings when I don’t make a pour-over (weigh out the water, the beans, all that fun stuff), the Capresso drip machine yields the cleanest-tasting cup that brings out beans’ floral flavors, without burning the grinds or yielding an overly acidic cup. It’s also got a built-in, conical burr grinder, which saves you from having to buy a separate gadget, too.”
Writer Andrew Parks, in his guide to the best way to brew coffee while traveling, told us about the Porlex mini stainless-steel coffee grinder.
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