Bean to cup or machine & separate grinder?

With all of the massive improvements in technology in the past 30 years, it’s bound to happen that some of this new technology would wind up in the coffee world.

Coffee nowadays is easier to brew that it ever has been, with users able to get coffee within a few moments of pushing a single button; thanks to a built in grinder in a bean to cup machine. But while machines like this are convenient, how do they stack up to a more traditional setup of a coffee maker, or espresso machine, coupled with a capable grinder?

Bean to cup coffee makers

As far as convenience goes, espresso and coffee machines that have a built in grinder, dubbed as super-automatic, will be much easier to use, especially as a beginner. All one needs to do is load the bean hopper, add water, and hit a button.

Though, convenience does come with a couple drawbacks. Unless the user has a side coffee grinder, they will be unable to use the built in grinder to brew other forms of coffee. Maintenance could also be a bit of a pain, if either the grinder section or brewing part of the machine break, the user is stuck with the inability to brew anything.

Though, if using a grinder coupled with an espresso or coffee machine, there is a bit more work involved. As opposed to just pushing a button for coffee, the user must grind their beans separately, either into a portafilter or grounds bin, tamp, and then brew.

Separate grinder and coffee maker

With a separate grinder, the user must also measure the ideal amount of coffee grounds, which can add time and even frustration to the brewing time. Though, if either the machine need any kind of repair, the user is able to just use a different grinder or machine, to avoid being stranded without the ability to brew.

Another advantage of having a separate grinder is that it can be used for more than just one brewing style, meaning the user can not only brew espresso, but drip coffee, and several other kinds, all with one grinder.

As far as costs, there isn’t much of a difference when comparing all-in-one bean to cup machines to a grinder and brewer combo.

While of course this depends on the manufacturer and the quality of machinery, a good grinder and brewer can cost less, just as much as, or more than a super-automatic machine.

If considering a separate grinder and brewer setup, it is always better to put more money into a quality grinder than a better espresso machine, simply because the best espresso machine will always pull bad shots if the coffee grounds are not consistent.

Overall, it’s really a matter of personal preference. Grinder and machine setups are more traditional than super-automatic machines, and do give the user more room to play around, but they are not as easy to use as a super-automatic bean to cup espresso machine.

The portafilter mechanism on bean to cup machines is often a cause for complaint requiring regular servicing or cleaning, so we recommend you buy a good quality one or you’ll be wasting your money.

Cafe’s across the world use both setups, depending on their needs. Starbucks is known, in most stores, to use the Mastrena, which is a very high end super-automatic espresso machine, while smaller third-wave cafes are notorious for using a grinder and machine setup.