The Comandante C40 has been called the gold standard of hand grinders. Is it worth all that hype?
This grinder strikes a sweet spot between affordability and capability while maintaining all the best parts of a hand grinder. It’s precise and versatile, and also portable and cost-effective. However, the grind settings are somewhat limited, and tricky to switch between settings.
In this Comandante C40 review, I’ll explain the workflow and use and how this grinder stacks up to its electric counterparts. I’ll also explore a few hand-grinder alternatives to the C40.
Note: This Comandante C40 review will focus on the latest model, the MK4.
Comandante C40 Overview
The Comandante C40 is a hand coffee grinder with 39mm stainless steel conical burrs. It’s about 6 in. long, putting it on par with most hand grinders in its class. The 2.4 in. diameter makes it more unwieldy than its slimmer competitors, but it’s still a compact hand coffee grinder.
Comandante C40 highlights:
- 39mm conical burrs
- Stainless steel body
- Micro-teeth burrs
- 35 grind settings
Most of the parts on the Comandante C40 MK4 are stainless steel. Notable exceptions include the internal stabilizing arms and grind chamber lid, which is plastic. The grinder’s body and grind handle is covered by a wood veneer that gives the C40 MK4 an elegant look.
The MK4 comes with two catch cups – one glass and one polymer. The polymer jar is clear, while the glass jar is amber. These jars fit neatly into a 58mm portafilter or Aeropress, making for a tidy way to brew coffee.
This Comandante grinder is also a versatile hand grinder. It can grind for Turkish coffee, espresso, filter coffee, and French press. The grind size distribution is even and consistent, but switching between grind settings can be a pain (more on that later).
The C40 MK4 is the fourth iteration of this coffee grinder with new improvements from its predecessor. However, the MK4 retains the same core construction, so parts designed for earlier models can be installed into the MK4. If you liked the clear glass grinds catcher on the MKIII coffee grinder, for example, it will seamlessly screw onto the grind chamber of the MK4. That backward compatibility lets you mix and match your favorite parts from each comandante grinder.
Versatile grind settings
Great value for its performance
Slow grind time
Adjustment dial can be confusing
Requires upgrade kit for expanded grind settings
Comandante C40 Feature Breakdown
The 39mm stainless steel burrs on the Comandante C40 deliver impressive grind consistency. This is in part due to the C40’s unique burr design. The teeth on C40’s conical burrs have an extra set of cuts in addition to the standard grind teeth. These cuts create a layer of micro-teeth that help with grind consistency, especially on finer grind settings. This helps the Comandante C40 achieve uniform grind consistency from French press to espresso.
The grind teeth also run the entire length of the central burr, meant to maximize grind efficiency. Many conical burrs have only a single row of teeth near the bottom of the burr. This design feature is supposed to improve grind speed, but in practice, the Comandante C40 is a moderately slow hand grinder.
It can take upwards of 40 seconds to grind 20g of Aeropress coffee, and for espresso settings, it can take over a minute and a half. I don’t mind these long grind times, but it does exacerbate a common pain point for manual coffee grinders.
That’s the tradeoff for such impressive grind consistency. The Comandante C40 will deliver uniform coffee grounds no matter the setting, but it might take a while to grind them.
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Range of Grind Settings
The Comandante C40 has a stepped grind adjustment system that grinds everything between Turkish coffee and French press. The base C40 MK4 has 40 click adjustments, and there’s a guide on Comandante’s FAQ page for what settings work best for different brewing methods.
Here are the settings for different brewing methods (in clicks):
- Turkish: 0-10
- Espresso: 5-15
- Filter: 20-30
- French press: 30-35
- Cold brew: 35-40
Those settings are from the manual; they can differ depending on your taste.
There is an upgraded axle and grind dial called the Red Clix system, which doubles the number of grind settings available. It would have been nice to have this level of precision on the base model. However, even the 40 click settings allow for some flexibility in dialing in precise espresso.
The adjustment settings work on a “clicks from zero” system. This means that you have to turn the grind adjustment dial to its finest setting until it can’t turn anymore. Then, you manually count the number of clicks as you turn the dial to determine the setting.
There are no numbers on the dial, so the setting is impossible to determine just by looking at it. This can get very annoying if you switch between brew methods regularly, like me. Changing settings on manual grinders is already difficult, which is a big reason to choose an electric grinder. It’s frustrating that it’s made even more complicated by the C40’s lack of reference numbers.
However, once you do find the right setting, you won’t be disappointed by the quality of the grind you get.
Design and Ease of Use
The Comandante C40 is both sturdy and simple to use. The stainless steel body gives it decent durability. That’s important for a coffee grinder that may encounter its fair share of bumps during travel. There are plastic stabilizer arms inside the body, but they’re protected well by the stainless steel shell.
Those stabilizer arms are also an upgrade from the MKIII coffee grinder. Its arms would often make coffee beans bounce out of the grind chamber as it was being filled. The MK4’s arms are tapered in to allow coffee to fall into the grind chamber without bouncing out.
The most fragile part of the Comandante C40 is the grinds jar, which was glass on all previous models. The MK4 solves this problem with a polymer option in addition to the glass jar. A stainless steel container would have been even better, but the polymer jar is good enough.
The C40 is intuitive to use. Choose your grind setting, pour your desired weight of coffee into the grind chamber, and spin the grind arm. The Comandante doesn’t require much force to turn, at least not compared to other manual grinders.
Once the coffee is ground, the grinds jar fits into a 58mm portafilter and Aeropress seamlessly.
Capacity and Portability
The grind chamber on the Comandante C40 can hold 40-50 grams of coffee at a time. That’s more than enough for almost any brew method unless you’re trying to brew multiple cups at once.
The C40 is also very compact. It can fit in a kitchen drawer if it’s part of your home setup and is ideal for travel. I’m an avid camper, and I love being able to bring a coffee grinder like the C40 along on my trips. Its larger diameter makes it bulkier than some other hand grinders, but not enough to bother me when I’m packing it up.
Cleaning this Comandante grinder is easy, but there are a couple of complications worth noticing.
The C40 is simple to disassemble for maintenance. The adjustment dial unscrews past its coarsest setting and allows for easy access to the grinder’s burrs and internal mechanisms.
The first thing to be wary of when cleaning the grinder is that the burrs are easy to cut yourself on. The micro teeth that run the full length of the inner burr create a lot of sharp surfaces. Be careful when handling it.
In addition, there are two washers that have to be reinstalled with the correct side facing the ball bearings inside the axle assembly. Putting them backward will prevent the grinder from working properly, and it’s an easy mistake to make if you’re not careful.
The Comandante C40 is more expensive than many hand grinders in its class, but it’s still cheaper than nearly all electric alternatives. It’s a high-end hand coffee grinder, and the price reflects that.
It costs a few hundred dollars more than something like the 1zpresso Jx but a few hundred dollars less than a Baratza Sette 270. The Comandante does grind with the consistency and versatility you’d expect from high-end electric grinders. However, some cheaper hand grinders are smaller (and more portable) and have a sturdier grinds jar than the C40.
It is a good value as an alternative to a motorized grinder, but there are more budget-friendly options if you’re after a manual grinder.
Alternative Coffee Grinder Options
I think it’s best to compare the Comandante to grinder with high-performance burrs, yet are more suited to pour over brewing with limited settings.
- Heptagonal 48 mm steel burr set
- 30 to 35 g capacity
- Internal adjustment with 30 clicks per rotation
The 1zpresso Jx is the budget alternative to the C40. It has comparable grind precision to the C40 but at about half the price. The C40 has 40 grind settings, and the 1zpresso Jx has 30. This makes dialing in espresso more difficult, but it’s still possible to get a good shot with the Jx.
The C40 has the Red Clix upgrade to add more grind precision, but the Jx doesn’t have this option. However, the grind adjustment dial has number labels on the standard Jx, which makes adjustment easier than the C40.
The Jx grinder is entirely aluminum, including the grinds container and stabilizer arms. This stands in contrast to the C40’s plastic components and glass grinds catcher.
The Jx is a commendable hand grinder for its price and is a better budget option than the C40. The Red Clix addition elevates the C40 above the Jx in its grind precision. That upgrade makes the C40 the superior option for dialing in balanced, sweet, clean espresso shots.
Kinu M47 Simplicity
Kinu M47 Simplicity highlights:
- Steel cylinder on grinder body
- Micro-stepped grind adjustment, 50 clicks per revolution
- Steel burrs
The Kinu M47 Simplicity is a simpler tool than the C40 (pun intended). The grinds catcher is attached to the grind chamber with magnets for easy attachment and removal. The grind adjustment dial is on top of the grinder rather than at the bottom, like the C40. This stepless adjustment dial is also labeled with numbers to help you locate your grind setting, unlike the unlabeled C40.
There’s a thumb stop at the top of the M47 Simplicity to prevent slipping when turning the grind crank. Overall, the build of the M47 Simplicity makes for an easy-to-use grinder, but it’s about twice as heavy as the C40. This makes it less ideal for travel.
It’s a comparable price to the C40, and the stepless grind adjustment allows for the same kind of precision the C40 offers with the Red Clix upgrade. If you prefer a travel-friendly grinder, the C40 wins out over the M47 Simplicity. Otherwise, the differences between the two are a matter of preference more than quality.
Should You Get the Comandante C40 MK4?
As a budget alternative to an electric grinder, the Comandante C40 is a great option. With the Red Clix upgrade, it’s capable of precisely dialing in espresso. If you don’t mind manual labor and longer grind times, the C40 will perform as well as most electric coffee grinders.
If you’re looking for a budget hand grinder, there are cheaper options than the C40. However, if you’re willing to spend a little more, I highly recommend this Comandante hand grinder as an alternative to an electric conical burr grinder.
Manual vs. Electric
For a more detailed breakdown of the tradeoffs between an electric and hand grinder, check out our article on each grinder type’s strengths and weaknesses.