The Comandante has long been seen as perhaps the ultimate manual grinder.
However, the model has been out for a few years now, so in this review, I’ll take a close look at whether it’s still worth it in 2021.
I have been using this grinder almost daily for more than three months now, so I have a pretty good idea of the pros and cons.
Read on to find out whether it’s worth getting.
The famous version of the Comandante is the “C40 Mark 3”, but the first model (the C40 Mk 1) came out around 2013.
The grinders look pretty similar on the surface, but actually, the burrs were completely different on the first model.
The mark 1 was never a big success, so when people talk about the Comandante, they are most likely referring to the C40 MK 3, which has the now-famous ‘nitro burrs”.
The Comandante looks pretty minimalist and more or less like the platonic ideal of a manual coffee grinder.
There’s a bunch of different colorways. You can also get it wrapped in a wood veneer, but I was never really into that look personally.
The matte black model I’m using in my test is by far the most rad version.
I’m not sure about the logo. It has this slightly militaristic look, and the name was also used by Latin American revolutionaries such as Che Guevara and Hugo Chavez.
It would be a bit weird with an “Il Duce” hand grinder, so I’m not why sure this is much different.
One of the most unusual things about the Comandante is that it has a glass ground jar instead of plastic or metal. The good thing about glass is of course, that it’s easy to wash, but it’s also easy to break. However, it’s very cheap to buy a new one if you needed.
The brand has also started to sell colorful plastic catch jars recently.
The grinder’s body is made out of steel, but the internal stabilizing structure is made of plastic.
I do not doubt that it’s a sturdy plastic that will last a long time, but somehow it just feels a little bit cheap.
Well, you don’t feel it directly, but the sound from the grinder when you are using it is just a bit jankier compared to grinders with a steel or aluminum unibody design.
The capacity is rather good at 40 grams of coffee. The volume is actually the reason behind the name “C40.”
The handle is very nice, good ergonomics, nice to hold, and spins smoothly.
The body of the C40 is a little bit too wide, in my opinion. If you have small hands, I think it’s not the ideal grinder. Grinders like the Timemore C2 or even the 1Zpresso Jx or K Plus are a lot easier to hold.
There’s also another thing that I find a little bit annoying, and that is that it’s pretty easy to get a small bean or a tiny chip caught down in that space where the handle locks in. It’s not easy to get out, especially if you have already loaded the grinder with beans.
The adjustment of the Comandante grinder is quite intuitive and straightforward. It follows the same principle as many other hand grinders where you have a knob underneath the burr. So the more you loosen up the knob, the coarser you grind.
The way Comandante users communicate grind settings is by talking about “clicks.”
So if you have, for example, ten clicks from zero, you twist the knob until it can’t be moved any further and then go backward while counting ten clicks.
This system can also be a little bit annoying at times. If you don’t know what setting you’re at, you have to go back to zero and then back out again to your desired setting.
The clicks for espresso are also quite large, so there’s a massive difference between setting 10 and 11, for instance.
So if you’re not counting accurately, you might make a big mistake that can ruin your shot.
It’s not that easy to find the correct setting for espresso because when you have the dial close to zero, the clicks are much more challenging to feel and hear. You have to pay close attention here. Some numbers instead of the branding on the adjustment dial would solve this problem.
Suggested grind settings 👇
Grinding speed: Comandante vs timemore
Okay, now let’s talk a bit about the grinding itself.
I find the Comandante is only in the middle of the pack when it comes to speed.
In my speed test, it took 50 seconds to grind 20 grams of coffee for Aeropress. The standard Jx grinder took care of the same amount in just 23 seconds.
This means that the Comandante is also quite a bit slower versus the Timemore C2 and Slim Plus, which are almost as fast as the Jx.
The Comandante is probably the slowest premium manual grinder, also being beaten by the Lido 3, Kinu, and Helor 101.
If you’re grinding for one cup of Aeropress, it’s not a deal-breaker, but for espresso, which is a lot harder, I wasn’t looking forward to grinding a shot.
With a 58 mm basket, it would take around 1 minute and 10 seconds to grind an 18-gram dose, so that’s a bit of exercise.
Comandante Grind consistency
So how consistent does the Comandante grind? In my sifting tests, it did quite well.
Compared to the Timemore Slim, it was significantly better.
Compared to the Jx, it also had a slightly more uniform distribution.
But we’re only talking about a slightly better distribution.
I also put it up against a new hyped electric flat burr grinder from China, called the DF64, and once again, the Comandante took the victory.
However, against my modified Wilfa Uniform with SSP burrs, the Comandante was less uniform.
If you look at all four grinders, you can see that the one that stands out is the modded Wilfa, rather than the Comandante.
The Jx, DF64, and C40 are all within the same ballpark.
The two electric grinders are pretty expensive at around 500-600 USD, so the Comandante is pretty good value compared to those at around only half the price.
In terms of cup quality, there’s not a massive difference between the grinders either.
The DF64 was slightly more muddy than the other three grinders, but it’s still a new grinder that hasn’t been fully broken in.
The three other grinders all taste a bit different, but it’s hard to say that one is superior to the others.
I know many of you will be interested in how the Comandante performed against the Jx, so I ran a few tests with the Gabi Master A side by side to minimize any variance in the brewing technique.
A few times, I couldn’t taste any difference. Other times I would have one favorite when the coffees were hot and a different one as they cooled down.
I would probably say the Comandante was the most “analytical” tasting of the two grinders. As the coffees cooled down, the acidity of the comandante tasted a bit more neutral, whereas the Jx had a sweeter acidity but a bit more detached from the rest of the cup.
However, we’re talking about a minimal difference here. It will be hard to notice unless you have the two cups right next to each other.
And, of course, the brewing style here also has a lot to say. I’m grinding very fine with both grinders and using the Gabi Dripmaster A. If you want to tone down the acidity and get a more “clean” and transparent cup with the Jx, you can grind a bit coarser and use a different brewing technique.
Comandante C40 for Espresso ?
The biggest surprise to me when I was testing the Comandante C40 was that it performs admirably for espresso.
Once you find the sweet spot and get a good extraction time, you get some quite flavorful shots.
Here it was a lot easier to notice a difference compared to rival grinders from 1zpresso and Timemore. I think many conical burr grinders can have a little bit of astringency to the shots. Still, the Comandante has a lovely flavor profile that never goes into that unpleasant direction.
Of course, you need to dial the grinder in properly, which can be pretty tricky since the steps are so big.
In my testing, the espresso range mainly was down in the 9-12 clicks range, depending on what kind of machine and bean I was using, and shots could change with around 10 seconds just by going a click coarser or finer.
Comandante has an add-on called Red Clix, which will give you double the amount of granularity. So that’s good for espresso, but I presume that it will be a bit annoying for filter coffee because now you have to keep track of a lot more “clicks”.
If you are drinking a lot of espresso I think an electric grinder is definitely the way to go, but if you just get a quick shot now and then, the C40 might be what you’re after. It does have the advantage of taking up minimal counterspace and being portable.
Conclusion: Comandante review
The idea of this review has been to see whether the Comandante is still worth it in 2021. And I think it’s only fair to say that it’s still a great grinder all these years after it’s been released.
Today, some grinders can beat it in certain areas, but in the end, the Comandante is just a good allrounder that can put in a reasonable effort in most categories. Overall, I think it’s better value than grinders like Lido 3 and Helor 101.
However, it’s getting some serious competition against new grinder darlings such as the Jx and Timemore C2.
I have previously compared the Comandante to the iPhone, and I still think that’s an accurate description; an allrounder that is easy to use but slightly overpriced for the specs.
You do get a rather polished experience when it comes to branding and packaging. You also buy into an ecosystem, where you can most likely find an easy solution online if you have any problems. If anything breaks, it should be easy to get a replacement because Comandante has suppliers all over the world.
On the other hand, I think there are also a few compromises with the grinder.
It is pretty slow, which is something I don’t love. For me, it wouldn’t make sense as an everyday espresso grinder. I’d either go for a much faster manual grinder or an electric grinder instead.
If you’re mainly brewing manual coffee for 1-2 persons, I think it’s not that big a deal, so I could see it work well for that.
The ideal person for this grinder is probably someone who brews mainly pour over and then pulls a shot now and then. If you have an espresso maker like the Flair Classic or Pro, you can grind a bit coarser, and then it’s less of a pain.
If you have an actual 58 mm basket, then you have to add some extra grinding time, and then it becomes a bit too much.
The Comandante C40 Mk3 is a solid choice, but it would be interesting to experience an Mk 4-version with a few tweaks and upgrades.