Commercial machines (like the Franke Flair) offer the option of using two types of whole beans but most home espresso machines only offer one bean choice. There is hope however, in the bypass doser! (Cue heavenly music and shining lights.)
In some super automatic machines, you can use pre-ground coffee in what is called the bypass doser. The bypass doser is actually a process - you must indicate to the machine that you want to skip using the grinder and use pre-ground coffee instead. Many machines have a button that looks like a spoon or scoop with little circles falling from it (Many people describe the circles as "grapes"). Some machines, especially newer digital models, have an aroma selector (resembles a coffee bean) which you can use to indicate to the machine to use the pre-ground option. Make sure you read your manual for machine-specific directions on using the bypass function on your make and model.
Your pre-ground coffee does need to be appropriate for espresso, meaning it must be a fine grind. It should not be too fine or it will choke your machine and cause a very slow brew. It can also cause the machine to go into a ventilate mode.
Be aware of how much pre-ground coffee is appropriate for your machine as well. Some Jura-Capresso machines can hold up to 15 grams of coffee in one brew. Some smaller machines can only handle 8-9 grams. If you do use too much coffee, the machine will simply dump the ground coffee dry and go back to its ready mode with no indication that anything ever happened. If this happens to you, try doing a bypass dose without using coffee to make sure the bypass function is working. The machine will brew a hot up of water (usually a little brown in color) into your cup. If you can do this a couple of times in a row without issues, then your bypass function is working. Try using slightly less coffee.
Just a couple of other things before you brew your first bypass dose. You must repeat all of the bypass steps each time you want to brew a pre-ground coffee. The machine will revert back to its normal mode after it is finished brewing each bypass coffee. If you put pre-ground coffee in the bypass chute and then forget to indicate to the machine that you are doing a pre-ground coffee, the machine will grind using the beans, drop it into the brew group and try to go through a cycle. Most times this does not do any damage to the machine except make a mess inside. It is possible that doing this can damage your brew unit and strip the small gear that operates the machine.
You can only put one scoop at a time into the machine. You can not put three scoops in and brew a bypass coffee 3 times in a row. The machine will kick out the coffee and the extra coffee will spill out all over the inside of the machine. It will cause a big mess, and although it is easy to clean up, it's still inconvenient. This can also strip the brew unit's gear.
The little door, or chute, for the pre-ground coffee is just that- a chute. The chute leads directly to the top of your brew unit. Steam from the brewing process can travel up the bypass chute, making it sticky. Make sure that you periodically clean out the chute because some older coffee can get stuck in there. Use a vacuum and pipe cleaner to clear away the stuck on coffee.
The bypass can be used to brew ground coffee that is flavored, very oily or otherwise not great for your machine's grinder. With these "sticky" coffees, you can sometimes still choke the machine. Make sure you get them ground just slightly coarser than a normal espresso grind. Not too coarse though, or the coffee will be weak. Getting it just right may take some experimentation.
There is hope for those who like to have the occasional decaf, french vanilla coffee, or very dark roast. If you have any other questions on which machines have a bypass doser, please do not hesitate to call us.