Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker review: a work of art that works beautifully

A work of art that works beautifully, this coffee maker also has a coffee bean grinder and makes single cups and carafes.

Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker being reviewed in writer's home
(Image: © Future)

Top Ten Reviews Verdict

The Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker is about as perfect as a coffee maker can get. The ridiculously beautiful design features a separate water tank that looks more like a vase or a handleless fancy water pitcher than a water tank. Café also continues the tradition of adding copper accents, which further contribute to the beauty of the coffee maker. But, although it looks like a work of art, thankfully, the machine isn’t just aesthetically pleasing. It also works beautifully. There’s a built-in coffee grinder (and adjustable grind sizes) on top for grinding whole beans, but this feature can be bypassed by using pre-ground coffee grounds instead. The coffee maker can also brew single-serve coffee and a full carafe, and it’s Gold Cup Standard certified by the Specialty Coffee Association. However, like most high-quality coffee machines, this one costs a pretty penny – although considering the built-in grinder, the price seems justified.

Pros

  • +

    Built-in bean grinder

  • +

    Brews single serve and carafe sizes

  • +

    Wi-Fi enabled

Cons

  • -

    Brew basket swings out, drips and is fidgety when closing

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Café is known for its premium coffee and some of the best espresso machines – each one is more gasp-worthy than its predecessor. That’s the case with the new Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker. A few years ago, I thought the Café Specialty Drip Coffee Maker (in the matte black finish) was the sleekest coffee maker I’d ever tested, and it was also loaded with features. However, the Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker is even more of a surprise and has even more features.

For starters, it has a built-in grinder – a game-changer. Fresher coffee always results in better-tasting coffee, and the ability to pour coffee beans in a hopper and grind them on demand is a feature I don’t take lightly. The grinder has six grind sizes, so I can select the right grind for the beans. However, it’s as simple as pressing the Grind Off button when I want to brew pre-ground coffee.

Another feature that I appreciate is the single-serve coffee maker function. When I’m on the move, the single-serve selection (6 to 24 ounces) lets me brew directly into a travel mug, which I can grab when running out the door and place in my car’s cup holder.

When I’m at home, I prefer to brew into the thermal carafe, which keeps coffee hot for hours. The coffee maker is programmable and has several adjustable features. For example, in addition to adjusting the grind size, I can adjust the brew strength, brew temperature, and brew volume and program it to start brewing at a certain time.   

The Café Specialty Grind and Brew is $329, so it’s not economical. However, it is SCA Gold Cup-certified, includes a built-in grinder, and brews both single-serve and 10-cup carafes of coffee. It’s less expensive than some models on our best coffee makers list and comparable to others we’ve selected for inclusion. Keep scrolling to see how I fared with the Café Specialty Grind and Brew. 

Terri Williams freelance writer
Terri Williams

Terri is a freelance writer living in Birmingham, AL. She has tested hundreds of products, including kitchen appliances, vacuums, bedding, furniture, luggage, and tech gear. Terri has bylines at Architectural Digest, Forbes, Popular Science, CNN Underscored, NBC News, The Daily Beast, USA Today, US News & World Report, Tech Radar, Homes & Garden, and Tom's Guide. Follow her adventures @Territoryone.

Terri drinks (decaf) coffee daily and tested the Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee maker on and off for several months, evaluating design, user-friendliness, flavor, and consistency. She was allowed to keep it for ongoing use.

Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker: Key specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Row 0 - Cell 1
Type of coffee makerDrip
DimensionsH17.5 x W14.5 z D10.5 inches
Programmable?Yes
Capacity75 ounces
Brew size options2 cups through 10 cups
Noise level46 to 50 dB

Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker being tested in writer's home

(Image credit: Future)

Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker: Price & availability

The Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker is $329. It’s available at Amazon, Williams Sonoma, and other retailers. Sometimes, the machine is on sale for $299. 

Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker: Setup

I’ve had the Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker for four months but no longer have the shipping materials. However, the coffee maker was well-packed and arrived securely in a large cardboard box. The components were also packaged firmly and thoroughly to protect them from breakage, scratches, and other damage.

I love the look and feel of this coffee maker, and it certainly elicits comments from visitors. The design is one of the best I’ve seen - and I’ve tested several dozen higher-end coffee makers; regarding looks, the Ratio Eight is probably the nearest competitor, although I also love the OXO 9-Cup.

The separation of the water tank from the rest of the coffee maker creates an elegant machine that’s a pleasure to look at – and that’s why I tested it off and on for four months! When I finished testing another coffee maker, I would return to the Café Specialty Grind and Brew. However, the design is also functional.  Since the water tank is removable, it’s easy to fill and empty. In addition, the water tank can hold up to 75 ounces of water, which, technically, allows me to brew a carafe and a half of coffee before the reservoir needs to be refilled. However, I tend to only fill the tank with as much water as I plan to use in one brewing cycle.

The coffee maker includes a charcoal water filter, charcoal water filter cage, and cartridge. This is designed to remove any deposits, like calcium and magnesium, from the water so the coffee performs optimally. There’s also a descaling function to remove mineral deposits further, along with a descaling alert to indicate when it’s time to descale the machine.

I love the controls because they’re so simple that I almost didn’t need a manual. In addition to the power button, there are Hour and Minute buttons to set the time, a Brew button, and a Delay Brew button for programming the coffee maker to start at a future time. I can also select a Mug for 6 to 24 ounces of coffee or a Carafe for 4 to 10 cups. The Temperature button lets me increase or decrease the temperature (from 185 to 205 degrees F), and the Strength button provides 4 options: light, medium, bold, and gold (the SCA-certified strength setting).

The coffee maker beeps when the brew cycle is over, but the Strength button (when pressed and held) can turn the sound off if you don’t like audible alerts. There’s also a button to toggle to turn the grinder on or off.

On top of the coffee maker is the hopper with a grinder. There’s a knob that can be turned to adjust the grind size from 1 (for fine) to 6 (for coarse) – although Café recommends a setting of 3 to 4 since these two settings will balance flavor and extraction.

The brew basket, mesh filter basket, carafe, and carafe lid can be rinsed under running water and washed in soapy water. However, the parts are not dishwasher safe. I prefer ground coffee most of the time to avoid cleaning the grinder. It’s not difficult, but it requires a brush to clean out the grounds in the chute and then removing the burr to clean it with a brush as well.

The Café Specialty Grind and Brew also has WiFi capabilities. Downloading the SmartHQ mobile app allows you to customize the bloom time remotely and start or schedule a brew time.  

The coffee maker doesn’t take up much space on the countertop, and I love that it doesn’t have a bulky design. It’s available in three finishes: matte black, matte white, and stainless steel. All three include copper accents on the carafe’s handle, a single-serve switch, a grinder size selection button, and the bottom rim of the coffee maker.

Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker being tested in writer's home

(Image credit: Future)

Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker: Performance

After unpacking the coffee maker the first time, I washed all the parts and inserted the charcoal water filter in the bottom of the water reservoir. Café recommends changing it every two months or when the Water Filter is displayed on the control panel after 25 gallons of coffee have been brewed.

My first test was to grind some coffee beans and then make a carafe of coffee. First, I filled the water tank and put the lid back on it. Then, I poured some beans into the hopper, put the lid back on, and chose my settings on the display panel. (Note: in the photo above, the bean hopper lid is off, so you can see the inside of the hopper, but it should be on when using the grinder.) The lid has a vacuum seal, which helps to keep the beans fresh.

One feature I like about this coffee maker is that the display provides real-time status updates. So, the GOLD button is displayed in large letters to confirm my selection. When the beans are being ground, GRINDING is displayed. Next, HEATING is displayed. The process continues for the other steps in the brewing cycles: INFUSING, BREWING, READY. A countdown clock also alerts me to how much time is left before the brewing cycle is over.

The noise level is around 48dB, so it’s not necessarily a quiet coffee maker, but I wouldn’t say that it was particularly loud either. (However, you might disagree with me if you have a sleeping baby nearby while making coffee.)

My next test was to bypass the grinder function and use pre-ground coffee in the brew basket. This was as easy as opening the brew basket, inserting a filter, and pressing the GRIND OFF button on the display before pressing the BREW button. As mentioned, the brew basket opens by swinging to the right. If you plan on using this in a tight area, ensure you have enough space to fully open it.

Also, if you open the brew basket immediately or several minutes after the brew cycle ends, the basket will leak on the countertop. It doesn’t leak badly, just enough to be irritating. So, you’ll need a kitchen towel or some paper towels handy. My solution is to just leave the basket closed and wait several hours until the filter is slightly damp and doesn’t leak.  Also, sometimes, the brew basket doesn’t close completely on the first try, and I have to swing it open, press down firmly, and attempt to close it again. Those are the only two complaints that I have with this coffee maker.

I like the other display messages that appear if there’s a problem. For example, Add Water, Empty Brew Basket, and Add Beans are just some messages that will display on the control panel if you forget a step.

Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker being tested in writer's home

(Image credit: Future)

Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker: Taste test

I used coffee beans and ground coffee when testing the Café Specialty Grind and Brew, including the Bluestone Lane Barista Collection, Zend Decaffeinated Blend, Big Island Swiss Water Decaf Coffee, and Bellwether Obata Honey Coffee.

Some were light roasts, while others were medium roasts that were sweeter. Other times, I tried a dark roast. When I used coffee beans, I followed Café’s recommendation to use a medium grind size (set on 3 or 4) to avoid the grind being too coarse or too fine since either could negatively affect the taste.

I also experimented with the strengths (light, medium, and bold) and temperatures, with mixed results. That’s not a flaw of the coffee maker—it’s a personal bias since I prefer gold strength. And every time I selected gold strength, the coffee was perfect. That’s because, in that setting, everything has already been taken into account (brew ratio, strength, time, etc.).

When I tested the coffee maker with the Mug quantity selected, the coffee continued to taste rich and full. I attribute this to the Café Specialty Grind and Brew’s ability to adjust depending on the coffee brewed. However, the container should be no taller than 7 inches to fix underneath. When I’m at home, I prefer to use the thermal carafe since I can brew more coffee, and it will stay hot for hours.

Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker being tested in writer's home

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker?

Buy it if...

You like the variety of using coffee beans and ground coffee 

Sometimes, you may prefer the freshness of grinding your own beans, but you just want to add a scoop of pre-ground coffee on other occasions. This is particularly useful if you like to try different brands and blends. It’s also convenient for households with more than one coffee drinker.

You like single-serve drinks and carafes of coffee

The Café Specialty Grind and Brew can make a 10-cup carafe of coffee. However, it can also brew single-serve drinks. Again, this can also be convenient when more than one person in the home drinks coffee. And since it doesn’t use pods, you can avoid the cost and waste accompanying pods.  

You like stylish, conversation-starter appliances

The Café Specialty Grind and Brew has a sleek and stylish design that impresses your friends, especially when you pull out your phone and adjust settings. 

You want SCA Gold Cup-certified coffee

The SCA only certifies a handful of coffee brewers, and this is one of them. So, it can make the perfect cup of coffee and requires no effort. Press the Gold strength button, and it handles everything else, from water ratio to coffee grounds, water temperatures, contact time, etc.   

You like to make adjustments

Although the coffee maker is SCA-certified, you can choose to make your coffee light, medium, or bold instead. You can also adjust the temperature from 185 to 205 degrees F. Your idea of the perfect cup may not match the SCA’s standard.   

Don't buy it if...

You don’t want to take those extra steps 

The Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker is as close to perfect as you can get. However, it’s not quite perfect. So, if you’re the type to blow a gasket if the brew basket leaks when you open it or don’t want to clean the grinder to keep it working properly, this may not be the coffee maker for you.

You want something simpler

This is not one of those push-a-button-and-the-brew-cycle-starts coffee makers. The options are simple and clear-cut, but if, for example, you unplug your coffee maker when you finish using it. Every day, you’ll need to select the quantity, strength, and grind on/off (and if you’re not paying attention or pressing the buttons too quickly, you might select something you don’t want. For some people, making a cup of coffee may be too tedious.

How Does the Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker Compare?

The OXO Brew 12 Cup Coffee Maker is another SCA gold cup-certified option, and it can brew both carafe and single cups (without pods). At $299.20, it’s slightly less than the Café Specialty Grind and Brew. However, it doesn’t have a removable water tank, and it doesn’t have a built-in grinder.

On the other hand, you may prefer for your coffee maker to do even more. The Breville Barista Touch has all the bells and whistles, including a guided menu with a touch screen, coffee bean grinder, espresso drinks, and milk frother. However, it has a bells-and-whistles price tag: $1,499.95,   

How I tested the Café Specialty Grind and Brew Coffee Maker

  • Tested for four months, alternating between single-serve and carafe quantities
  • Also alternated between using the coffee grinder and pre-ground coffee
  • Tested with a variety of coffee beans and ground coffee brands

I tested the Café Specialty Grind and Brew for several months, off and on. I have a massive kitchen island that can hold several appliances, so sometimes, I would put the Café Specialty Grind and Brew aside and then come back to test it again. When testing, I evaluated build quality, ease of use, performance, ease of cleaning, and, of course, taste.

Read more about how we test.

  • First reviewed: February 2024
Terri Williams
Freelance Writer

Terri is a freelance writer living in Birmingham, AL. She has tested hundreds of products, including kitchen appliances, vacuums, bedding, furniture, luggage, and tech gear. Terri has bylines at Architectural Digest, Forbes, Popular Science, CNN Underscored, NBC News, The Daily Beast, USA Today, and US News & World Report, as well as TechRadar, Homes & Gardens, and Tom's Guide.