I. Need. Coffee.
In 2012, my morning coffee was changed forever.
Dan and I bought a Keurig machine.
We always had a problem brewing coffee in a standard drip coffee maker. It would never taste right unless we made a full carafe. I like coffee as much as the next person, but there was no way we were drinking 12 cups of coffee between the two of us just because it was there. We were groggy in the morning, not comatose.
As a result, we were making a trip to the coffee shop every day. Like not just “on the way” to work, or before a drive – but even if it was Saturday morning and we were staying in, Dan would go out and grab two double-doubles from the cafe down the street. Not very economical.
So in comes the Keurig. We were discovering new flavours and made lots of yummy single serve coffees that we were able to brew straight into our travel mugs. We latched on to an 80-pack box of Van Houtte medium blend as our go-to and it would add an extra $39.99 to our Costco bill every month.
Then, my green guilt started to kick in.
What is happening to these little plastic pods? You can’t recycle them, so they’re all ending up in the landfill. I’m trying to reduce my footprint as much as I can (hence the cloth diapers and constant lightswitch flipping) so this was really weighing on my conscience.
Apparently, even the inventor of Keurig regrets making it and doesn’t even own one.
Not to mention family gatherings where more than two people want some coffee. That’s a lot of pods. Have a party and *poof*… did we really just spent $40 on one afternoon of normal, regular coffee?
Keurig came out with the Keurig 2.0 with the capacity to fill a carafe of coffee, but you can’t even use the same pods. What if they discontinue making the regular pods? Will everyone be forced to upgrade to the Keurig 2.0?
We started using the reusable pods for ground coffee, grinding our own beans in the Magic Bullet (sacrilege, I know), but again, making coffee for more than 2 people was a long, drawn out process that often resulted in burnt fingers trying to empty and refill a scalding hot coffee pod.
When I had the opportunity to review the Breville Grind Control BDC650BSS, I jumped on it right away.
First of all, I didn’t even know such a thing existed. Let me do the honours of informing you just a little of what this machine is capable of:
Built in burr grinder
Single cup servings between 7.5 and 21 ounces
Full 12 cup carafe capacity
So now, this machine already replaces my Magic Bullet (or a grinder, for the people grinding coffee the sensible way), Keurig, and a standard drip coffee maker, (and saves you 3 hours if making K-cup coffee for a party). Not bad, Grind Control.
Similar to Brevvy, Grindsy (you bet I’m naming him too) has a beautiful stainless steel body that would go well with any kitchen decor. The design is robust and almost feels like a mini commercial coffee maker you’d see in a restaurant or banquet hall. I could see how it might seem boxy for some tastes, but if you look at it straight on, it loses about 10 pounds – just like my favourite LBD.
If the silhouette isn’t enough to get you going, you’d be happy to find out that the Grind Control is full of sexy details. To access the water tank, you press down on the lid and it glides up by itself automatically as if it were a mermaid coming up for air. To get to the coffee filter, press the “Open” button and the top carriage swings out like the Batmobile.
The LCD display is illuminated by a gentle blue-grey backlight – not a jarring cyan that ruffles up your rods and cones – so you can brew your morning joe in the twilight of morning without feeling like you’ve just been blasted by the paparazzi.
While filling up the water tank to flush out the machine for the first time, I used the carafe just to make sure that I wouldn’t go past 12 cups. The water tank isn’t visible so there is no way to see how much water is still needed.
I was pleasantly surprised that as I was filling up the tank, the display was showing me how many cups of water were in there. Once it reached 11, a red flag labelled “Full” slowly started to float upwards until it hit a 12 cup marker. As soon as everything pointed to 12 cups, Grindsy sounded an alarm – a little “hey there, I’m good to go.” There are a total of four different indicators to let you know if you’re about to max out the tank. There is literally no reason for you to overfill the machine.
Next I added the beans to the hopper. I lifted up the lid, poured in some beans until it was full, then locked it back into the machine. At this point, I feel like a freaking barista. I’m pouring in coffee beans, and the next time I touch them, it will be coffee. Upon learning more about how to use this machine and reading the manual, it’s apparent that this ain’t your standard coffee maker. The Grind Control means business.
One of the first tips they give you is to pre-warm the carafe to maintain the optimal temperature of the coffee. I guess this makes sense if it’s a bit chilly in the morning, since stainless steel can be cold to the touch and I doubt you’d be swaddling Grindsy with a blanket before going to bed every night.
…Or would you?
The manual also recommends the use of fresh whole beans and lets you know that peak flavour potential is 5-20 days after roast. That you should always look for a “Roasted On” date and not a “Best Before”, and to only buy coffee beans in small batches – no more than one week’s supply – to reduce the storage time.
Well, don’t I feel like a coffee amateur. I’m now just as intimidated with my coffee as I am with my wine.
Hold on, there’s more. Breville named this the Grind Control for a reason…
Grindsy is equipped with a calibration function, used to “adjust the grinder output times to compensate for coffee beans of different origins, age, and degree of roast and grind size.”
What does this mean, you ask?
It means that your coffee is about to get its ass kicked.
The difference between fine and medium coarse grind makes a difference if you’re only brewing a single serving, or a full carafe. But, with all the different settings available, it helps Grindsy help you if he knows what kind of beans he’s dealing with. He just needs you to start the Calibrate function which will grind coffee beans for 10 seconds. Afterwards, take out the basket, weigh the grounds on a precision scale, then enter that amount into the machine when it asks. (You know, as you do.) Now, when your settings call for 20 grams of coffee, Grindsy knows exactly how much to send through the burrs.
This is like drinking wine from the vintages section. I have no idea what I’m looking for, but dang it tastes good.
As I’m thinking about this, I commit to yes.
Yes, I DO want to drink better tasting coffee! After cutting out juice and soda completely from my diet, I literally only drink water, coffee, and wine. (In no particular order. Hah! Kidding.) Why not make it amazing and customized to how I like my coffee, not just relying on the default capabilities of whoever or whatever is making it? I know I have some kind of palate for coffee as I can differentiate between a cup I like and a cup I don’t, but it’s time to step up my game.
Now that I have my barista pants on, I get back to making my new and improved snobby java. I love how I just have to make sure the hopper has enough coffee beans and water, press a few buttons, then leave it be and it’ll make my coffee. The problem with single serve machines like the Keurig is that it makes single servings. If you’re not by yourself then you’ve automatically doubled the amount of work that needs to go into your coffee, and if you’re busy making breakfast for a bunch of people, it can really mess up your timing (cold omelette, anyone?)
But what if you don’t want to use beans? What if you were gifted a bag of gourmet grounds, or have a favourite blend that you just can’t give up yet? Grindsy isn’t going to leave you hanging – all you have to do is fill up the filter basket with grounds, select the “pre-ground” setting, and cycle will bypass the grinding stage. I found this particularly handy as I had a bunch of
chopped ground coffee waiting to be consumed.
From start to finish, it takes about 11 1/2 minutes to brew a full carafe of coffee. If you think that’s too long, the convenient Brew Pause feature lets you remove the carafe and pour a cup mid-brew without interrupting the process. (What!!!) A single serving takes about 4 1/2 minutes from start to finish. You can also lift out the middle portion of the drip tray to increase the clearance if that single serving happens to be going into a tall cup or a standard travel mug.
Remember when I said that we always had trouble making coffee in a regular coffee maker unless it was a full carafe? That it never tasted right if we wanted to make 3 or 4 cups between two people? Breville knows this is a problem, which is why they’ve included the infusion stage.
When you start a single serve cycle, it goes through three stages post-grind:
- Preheating the water to the optimal temperature
- Infusing as the water is delivered to the ground coffee
- Brewing as the coffee is dispensed
The problem with only making 3 or 4 cups previously is that the water passes so quickly through the coffee because it’s only made to do just that. With the Grind Control, it takes a few minutes to steep the water and coffee together so that it actually becomes coffee. Win.
One thing that I found a bit awkward about the carafe is the mess you could make while trying to pour out the very last bit of coffee, and here’s what I mean: this is the pot without the lid, and you can see that it has a pretty large “lip” around the circumference.
When you have a full pot, pouring is no problem. If you really want the last half cup or so, you pretty much have to turn it upside down because that giant lip is preventing the coffee from reaching the spout (you know, with the whole gravity thing and all…).
Or is this like some kind of beer situation where you’re not “supposed” to drink the last sip for some reason? Is this carafe designed to teach us it’s not classy to drink the last bit of coffee? That getting to the point where you have to turn it upside down is the crossroads between being a coffee connoisseur and a decoction-smack-addict?
I’m not knocking the carafe just yet. There may be a method to their madness. At first glance, I thought, “oooh a stainless steel pot. That’s new – I guess its sturdier than glass.” I remember the caveats of being ever so careful with a glass carafe, making sure it doesn’t crack or chip in the sink amongst the other dishes. This one is hearty enough that I could hand it over to Sweet Pea without worrying about her smashing it to pieces.
But then I realized something as it took some time before the family came down for breakfast: this coffee is staying hot. On its own.
There is no element at the bottom of the machine heating up the carafe. This means no burnt coffee. This means no rushing back home 5 minutes after you left the house because you weren’t sure if you had shut off the coffee maker – super helpful since this machine doesn’t have an off button. It will enter Power Save mode after 10 minutes of inactivity – but if you want it off off – you’ll have to unplug it using it’s freaking genius Breville Assist Plug (really… this needs to be on everything).
We used over half the carafe at breakfast. I made the coffee at 7am. At 9am, everyone was going about their business and was done with coffee, so I started to clean the machine. I opened the lid to the carafe so I could empty it, and a cloud of steam burst out from inside.
Then I thought, “whoaaa… how long will this stay hot?” so I replaced the lid and left it there in the name of science.
I opened the carafe again at 2pm. It wasn’t “mushroom cloud” steam, but tiny wisps were there indeed. About as hot as it would be if you got a coffee from the drive through and forgot it in your car for 30 minutes or so (don’t you hate that?). Not hot, definitely not cold – but still very drinkable. Impressive for something that’s been sitting out for seven hours without a warmer.
I decided to pour the coffee into a tall glass and stick it in the fridge for later since Dan has recently become obsessed with iced coffee, and this would be a perfect surprise since having an iced coffee at home requires plenty of planning ahead. This is something that would have never happened if we were stuck with single servings.
For the record, the coffee was delicious.
Cleaning the machine is a bit easier than I anticipated. Using the included gold tone filter feels exactly like using the reusable pods with the Keurig. It’s made out of this fine micro mesh that lets a minuscule amount of coffee grinds fall into the cup or carafe. The manual says this is normal. To me, this is just a gentle irritation, but when I used a paper filter in place of the gold tone filter, it’s no longer an issue. The coffee basket and carafe just need a gentle hand wash, and not in the dishwasher.
When the grinding burrs and grinds chute need cleaning, the LCD screen will display a reminder. It is recommended to do this every two weeks or so, and a brush specifically for that purpose is tucked away beside the grinder. Can you find it…?
It helps you get into all the nooks and crannies that need clearing.
Grindsy is tall. 17″ to be exact. If you have standard height countertops and cupboards, this will fit comfortably under your cabinets, but if you have a valance underneath, you might have some trouble accessing the coffee grinder straight on without doing some kind of fancy maneuvering. I’m pretty short as well (at a towering 5’2″) so if you’re any more vertically challenged than I am, you could find yourself unable to see the display. But of course you probably already have a step stool anyways (like I do) because shelves.
I know it’ll be hard to resist, but try not to get too handsy with this thing as the finish on the stainless steel seems to attract fingerprints easily. Or maybe I just need to wash my hands more often. Either way, don’t say I didn’t warn you oily handed folk out there. It’s got a lot of body.
The Breville Grind Control goes for $349.99 CAD retail, or $297.49 at Amazon.ca at the time of writing. It may sound a bit pricy for someone who just wants a pick me up in the morning, but we’ve already established that this is not your standard coffee maker. For the more discerning coffee lover who’s been wanting to tinker with their flavour profiles, this may be just what you’ve been looking for.
If you’re currently already on the hunt for a new coffee maker, the Grind Control can offer you a built in grinder with extreme customization capabilities, programmable auto start, 7.5 ounce all the way to 12 cup capacity, and a heavy duty stainless steel carafe that keeps your coffee warm on its own. Great for those mornings where you just can’t seem to catch a break after all the crying, diapers, mishaps, and unexpected interruptions – it’s nice to know that there’ll be a piping hot brew made to your exact specifications waiting for you right where you left it.
full disclosure: I was provided with the Breville Grind Control to test and review. All opinions are honest and my own!