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whole-bean or capsule machine for kitchen?
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diablo1024
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Apr 2013
Posts: 4
Location: New York, NY
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 9:12am
Subject: whole-bean or capsule machine for kitchen?
 

Hi all.  I am a new member and I'm considering getting a built-in coffee machine for my kitchen.  As a new member, it is my understanding that I can't mention specific products, but I am thinking about either a whole bean system or a capsule-based system from a mainstream high-end consumer appliance company.  This is a major purchase for me, so I really want to get the right machine for my situation.

I will probably make around 4-6 cups per week on average, and prefer a system that is easy to use and maintain.  My understanding is that the whole bean machines give you more control in terms of how finely to grind the beans, and several other parameters.  But I'm concerned that with such light use, the beans may get stale or go bad before I can use a whole bag, which would make the individual capsules more convenient for me.  So my questions are:

-If I only make 4-6 cups on average per week, will fresh beans go bad before I can finish using them?
-Does freshly ground coffee taste significantly better than capsule-based coffee if they are made from a similar machine?
-Are whole bean systems typically much more work to maintain than capsule based ones?

I'm happy to provide more information or answer any other questions...  Thank you for your help!
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,947
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 9:46am
Subject: Re: whole-bean or capsule machine for kitchen?
 

diablo1024 Said:

-If I only make 4-6 cups on average per week, will fresh beans go bad before I can finish using them?
-Does freshly ground coffee taste significantly better than capsule-based coffee if they are made from a similar machine?
-Are whole bean systems typically much more work to maintain than capsule based ones?

Posted April 14, 2013 link

I'll go out on a limb here, and assume you are looking at a superautomatic machine, built-in with your cabinets, so that it looks gorgeous and impressive.  Yes, it'll look great...so you won't have to worry about that part.

Let's take your questions first.  If you store fresh beans properly (let's also assume you have no desire whatsoever to get into roasting), you won't have to aorry about staling before you use them up.  What you will need to do is read about bean storage.  Most of us here who store beans use a freezer bag/jar system.  Not a mechanical system, but a logistical system (like techniques to minimize air, for instance).  There's just too much written about it, but in short, we divide large bags (think 1-5 pounds) into small canning jars and/or ziploc freezer bags, and place them in the freezer.  The goal is to have portions about the size of a couple of days worth in each vessel.

question 2...fresh ground versus pods...yes, definitely a difference.  You won't find anyone who posts here regularly recommending using capsules or pods.  But if you're determined to use them, you will find people who can give you advice how to make the most of them.

I don't know about your third question.  I would suspect the difference isn't that significant.

Now that that's out of the way.  The standard recommendation here is to have a separate free standing grinder.  Only a few of the regulars on this site have much experience (or desire to gain any) on superautos.  The coffee is just too far inferior to what we can make using separate components (machine, grinder) and personal technique for us to go that path. However, I realize not everyone wants to get into the craft to the extent of us geeks, and that not everyone cares enough about what they're drinking to get into to it to the extent that us geeks do.  To some degree, that may merely be that what one is used to is acceptable.  Certainly, having a machine at home that uses fresh beans (selected to your liking) will be far superior than the swill served at the house of mermaids...so if that's all you need/want, you should be happy with a superauto.  However, if you're used to great espresso from an artisan cafe, you will likely be disappointed with a superauto.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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barkingburro
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barkingburro
Joined: 23 Nov 2011
Posts: 176
Location: Irvine, CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Vac Pot: Trifecta MB, CafeSolo,...
Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 9:50am
Subject: Re: whole-bean or capsule machine for kitchen?
 

Hi, diablo!

You're talking about a super automatic vs. a capsule machine, and the machine is not just sitting on the countertop but "built-in"?  This is a high-end consumer system? What exactly is your price range?

Freshly roasted beans should last you approx. 2 weeks, if kept in an airtight storage container.  If you buy no more than 12 oz., and keep them in something like an Airscape container (my favorite), then you will get the best out of those beans during that time.  Keeping them in an automatic means they will go stale quicker.

Whether you would appreciate slightly old just-ground beans prepared in an automatic over stale capsule beans depends on your choice of whole bean coffee, coffee capsules, and the two machines you have in mind.  Without knowing the "similar" machines, it's almost meaningless to attempt a comparison. That is, quite literally, a stalemate (pun intended).  But assuming you not only use fresh ground coffee but freshly roasted as well, your results should be much better on an automatic than using a capsule machine.

I think there are many questions others would ask you, just to entertain their curiosity and maybe even try to help you.  You have clearly indicated you want convenience and a built-in system implies you will be partaking of the best that stale beans have to offer.

So I have just one more question:  Have you ever tasted really fresh coffee?  If you had to measure and grind the beans for 30 secs., and add water (another 15 secs.), but the results completely eclipsed anything you could produce on your built-in machines of choice, would you still want the convenience over quality of brew?  Oop--make that two more questions.

 
- Michael
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diablo1024
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Apr 2013
Posts: 4
Location: New York, NY
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 7:13pm
Subject: Re: whole-bean or capsule machine for kitchen?
 

Thank you very much for the feedback!

emrad: You are right, I am looking for a machine that is built-in with the cabinets and other appliances in the kitchen.  I appreciate that advice about bean storage and will read up on this topic.  Dividing a large bag into smaller portions to store in the freezer sounds like a great idea.

I don't want to get into roasting my own beans yet, and would prefer not to have a separate grinder.  There does seem to be some level of control over the grinding process on the built-in machine, but certainly not what you would get from a separate component.  Maybe this could be my "gateway" into the craft of coffee, and I could start grinding (even roasting?) separately later on.  The machines that take whole beans also can use ground coffee, so that would still be ok.

In terms of my level of sophistication with coffee...  I find the cheapest stuff like McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts undrinkable, Starbucks ok but not great, and my local specialty shops like Stumptown, Birch, and Fika to be excellent.  As long as I'm able to make something better than Starbucks, easily and reliably, I will be happy.

burro: The products I am currently looking at are made by Miele (hope it is ok to say this - not advocating these products, just seeking advice) and cost around $2500-$3200. I am open to the possibility of grinding on my own, but would like to be able to use the "superauto" when I'm in a hurry...  Since these machines can take ground coffee or whole beans, maybe that would be a good way to go...  "Superauto" grinding for when I'm in a rush and grind my own if I have a little more time for preparation?
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barkingburro
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barkingburro
Joined: 23 Nov 2011
Posts: 176
Location: Irvine, CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Vac Pot: Trifecta MB, CafeSolo,...
Posted Mon Apr 15, 2013, 5:27am
Subject: Re: whole-bean or capsule machine for kitchen?
 

Patrick, I took a look at the site.  Those are some sexy machines.  But admit it, you were persuaded because of the "Complimentary Welcome Gift Box"!  :)

There's no doubt that the added value of the Miele built-in is its architectural aspect.  Hard to weigh kitchen design (and convenience) vs. flavor.  Will you be using the dairy capabilities as well?

Have you had a chance to sample coffee made on either type of machine?

 
- Michael
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calblacksmith
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calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,670
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Mon Apr 15, 2013, 6:02am
Subject: Re: whole-bean or capsule machine for kitchen?
 

Hi and welcome to the board.
A super auto machine will always be a step or two down on the quality scale from a semi auto or an automatic machine and a stand alone grinder. The only reasons for going with a Super auto is that the quality of the drink is second place to ease of use or how it looks in your cab.

Starbucks and Mc Donnalds both use superauto machines, granted they are commercial quality but they are super autos none the less. Your local Sumptown uses a full auto machine or semi auto. They craft the drink while it is a push button operation at Mc D or Starbucks.

A Super auto machine has a much higher level of break downs and they require more tinkering to keep them going and to keep them at their best and even at their best, you will not get the quality.

A pod or capsule machine is even lower on the quality scale.

There is no perfect answer for every one and you need to decide just what your priority will be. The highest quality drink available to you or ease of use or how well it blends with the other appliances.

There is no shame in the latter, it is just what you want to place in priority. We here, tend to place quality of drink first so you will  not get much support for superauto or capsule machines.

I hope this helps a little!

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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diablo1024
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Apr 2013
Posts: 4
Location: New York, NY
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Apr 15, 2013, 6:55pm
Subject: Re: whole-bean or capsule machine for kitchen?
 

burro: Ok, I confess, I am mostly in it for the gift box.  How did you know?? :)

The decision to go with one of these built-in machines vs. a standalone unit is mainly aesthetic, as you mentioned.  There is a small space in my kitchen, under my microwave and above my dishwasher, that is the perfect size for one of these machines.  And that space is not very useful otherwise, since the microwave is directly above it, so you can't really use it as a food preparation area.  The previous owners of my apartment had a giant toaster oven in there, but I have no need for that...  I'd much rather have a coffee machine!

We have a super-auto at my office (a standalone machine made by Jura) and I find the quality of the coffee, with fresh beans from Stumptown, satisfactory for my taste buds.  We don't really use the dairy feature much, as it seems to be more hassle than it is worth.  The machine goes through this whole routine of rinsing out the supply tubes, which I guess makes sense because you don't want any old milk to get stuck in there...  But it seems easy enough to just microwave some milk and add it later.  So based on that experience, I would probably not use the dairy capabilities very often - maybe just occasionally if I have guests over and they want to try it...

Unfortunately I have not found a local place that has the Miele machines up and running.  Aside from the Jura machine at work, I have tried coffee from super-automatics at stores (Williams Sonoma, I think?) and found it pretty good.

cal: Thank you for the information...  It definitely was helpful.  I realize that members here are very serious about coffee, and are more interested in the art form than just getting a machine that does it all for you (and not as well).  I think the Miele machine is flexible enough that I can potentially grind/roast on my own, and just use the machine for brewing...  In case I get more into the craft later!  For now I am mainly looking for a machine that makes good coffee easily and looks nice in the kitchen.

Thank you guys for your feedback and overall positive attitude.  You can tell a lot about an online community from the way they treat their newbs!  Much appreciated... :)
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emradguy
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emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,947
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Tue Apr 16, 2013, 11:12am
Subject: Re: whole-bean or capsule machine for kitchen?
 

There have been a few threads started within the past several months regarding superautos. In particular, you might want to read the discussion that took place on what level of roast works best, as it has an effect on grinder life.  Unfortunately, I don't remember enough of what was said to paraphrase it here (since it doesn't affect me), but it shouldn't be too difficult to find using the search tool.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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GVDub
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Joined: 25 Jan 2008
Posts: 849
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Londinium I, Arrarex...
Grinder: Gaggia MD85, Dienes Mokka,...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Abid Clever
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Tue Apr 16, 2013, 1:44pm
Subject: Re: whole-bean or capsule machine for kitchen?
 

The biggest reservation I would have about a built-in system, especially a super-auto, is service issues. Super-autos have a far greater tendency to break down, as they are mechanically much more complex, and if, as it sounds from a couple of your posts in this thread, Miele service isn't local, you'll either want one heck of a on-site warranty service contract, or be willing for the system to be down for extended lengths of time.

Because of the nature of their construction it's difficult to do the type of routine maintenance that keeps semi-auto and volumetric espresso machines and stand-alone grinders viable for long-term use. Mostly in super-autos, you  aren't aware of potential problems until something breaks (speaking as a former owner of a mid-range super-auto, the Gaggia Synchrony Digital), where subtle changes in behavior are more evident with a more hands-on machine.

Just tossing that in the mix. I certainly understand the desire for both convenience and aesthetics.
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MJW
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Joined: 25 Jul 2012
Posts: 179
Location: Silicon Valley
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat Apr 20, 2013, 1:37am
Subject: Re: whole-bean or capsule machine for kitchen?
 

You have no reason to trust me... but I will tell you the truth.  It's better to set aside 3 minutes of time to brew a mug yourself with a manual pourover, than to get a grind-n-brew.  What I mean is that you should make time.  Forget the fiction that you're short on time, and enjoy that 3 minutes.

My friend has a grind-n-brew (not a superautomatic) and he spends so much time opening it up, cleaning out the plastic pieces, and scraping out beans from the grinder.  In the time it takes him to get his machine ready to start brewing, I could've finished a brew.  He doesn't know how it doses or what the temperature of the water is, so if something's wrong he's stuck.

The disadvantage of the manual is that you can't multitask while you brew for 3 minutes.  But I think it's better to spend that time brewing, than take care of an auto machine.  With the best autos you can get consistency, and control, but not with the ones you're thinking of!

I believe in robots, but brewing is too simple a task, it apparently can't be made simpler by automation.  Buy a ceramic drip cone and a grinder, and save up for a vacation in southern France.
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