Becoming more discerning about your coffee doesn't necessarily mean that your morning routine has to become any longer. My portable French press, a four-minute affair, would seem treacherously drawn-out next to other brewing toys now on the market, but none of that would make any difference if the beans going in the pot were second-rate. So in the hopes of making freshly ground beans a part of my routine, I've introduced Breville's Smart Grinder* ($199.99 at brevilleusa.com) into my life.
In comparison to other burr grinders, the Smart Grinder's biggest selling point is its highly customizable interface. Rotate the wheel to set the machine to any of 25 settings from course to fine grinds. For those of us who aren't coffee whizzes, the display marks off the ideal range for various brewing types from press to percolator to espresso, letting you customize from an informed perspective. With the push of a button, you choose how much coffee you're making (measured in cups for press/percolator and in shots for espresso, cleverly), and how strong you like it on a scale of 1 to 10. It sets the limit at 12 cups or 8 shots, which is probably for everyone's own good.
With those two-second settings, the machine calibrates to your preferences and dispenses the perfect amount of coffee. It comes with two portafilter cradles (a smaller one for 50-54mm and a larger one for 58mm) that slide in and out, making it compatible with basically all espresso machines. For press/portafilter grinds, there's a handy container that magnetically aligns itself with the machine and comes with an airtight seal for later storage. Granted, you shouldn't need to store grounds when your machine is automatically dispensing the right quantity.
I like that the machine shuts off automatically when not in use, but also stores your settings. It means that if your coffee routine is constant, all you need to do is push the "start" button in the morning, and the rest is all set. This is convenience—and consistency—that make me feel spoiled, and that's definitely a nice thing to rely on each morning.
* This product was solicited as a sample on behalf of Breville. Though they supplied the gadget, this review is based only on first-hand experience and unbiased opinion.