Timemore recently unveiled the Chestnut C3 grinder – meant as an improvement on the previous C2. The C3 comes with a higher price tag, and it’s worth asking if the cost is worth the upgrade.
After using the C3, the C3’s upgraded burr improves the quality over the C2 in every way. Also, the price difference is small enough that it’s easy to justify buying the C3, even on a tight budget.
I’ll explain the added functionality of the Timemore C3 vs C2 and how impressive those improvements are considering the C3’s higher price.
Timemore is a Chinese-based manufacturing company that produces all kinds of coffee equipment. They were founded in 2012 with a focus on pour-over gear, but they’ve expanded their lineup within the last few years. Now, you can find everything from kettles to scales, syphon brewers, and French press gear.
Timemore products are defined by their balance of affordability and functionality. The Chestnut C2 and C3 are two Timemore grinders designed to be both powerful and portable. Their other two notable grinders – the Nano and the Chestnut Slim – market themselves as more travel-friendly versions of the C2 or C3. The Xlite, on the other hand, has a larger burr set that targets high performance.
The Chestnut lineup offers several great affordable hand grinder options. Chief among those choices is the Chestnut C2 and C3.
There isn’t much to distinguish the C2 and the C3 from the outside as the design is similar. Both are compact and minimal. They stand about 7.5 in. tall and have a diameter of about 2.5 in. Each has a sturdy aluminum alloy body that weighs just around a pound, so they’re both light and easy to carry. The C2 and C3 are both built with a textured body that allows for additional grip during grinding.
The base model of each grinder has a stainless steel crank handle that has to be detached from the grind chamber for easy packing. However, there is a Pro model with a collapsible handle for both the C2 and C3. This gives both a similar weight, size, and profile in both the standard and Pro versions.
There is one significant difference between the base C2 and the C2 Pro: the adjustment dial. The base C2 has a plastic dial for adjusting the grind size, while the C2 Pro has an aluminum one. You’ll be changing grind settings a lot since these are best used as all-purpose grinders. That makes the adjustment dial one of the most important parts of this grinder, and you’re better off going with an aluminum dial.
The base C3 features the same aluminum dial as the C2 Pro. This gives the base C3 a significant edge over the base C2. The C3 was envisioned as an improved version of the C2, and little design fixes like this showcase that well.
Both the C2 and C3 use stainless steel conical burrs. The kind of burrs in each grinder is the biggest difference between the two.
The C2 uses a standard 38mm stainless steel burr set. They do their job well, even if there’s nothing exceptional about them. The C3, however, has 38mm S2C (spike-to-cut) conical burrs, patented exclusively by Timemore. The inner S2C burr has an extra set of cuts that run the whole length of the inner burr. Those on the C2, by contrast, only have a set of cuts along the bottom of the inner burr.
The design of the S2C burr set is aimed at improving coffee grinding efficiency and consistency. The C3’s unique burrs do have a substantial effect on the way coffee is ground, especially in finer settings.
Grind Quality and Consistency
The S2C burrs on the Timemore Chestnut C3 create a more consistent grinding experience over the C2. It’s also a noticeable improvement of the C2.
The extra cuts on the C3’s S2C burrs mean that coffee beans begin to break up slightly earlier in the grind chamber. Any inconsistencies in the coffee grounds have an extra opportunity to be smoothed out by the lower cuts on the burr. Since the C2 only has one set of cuts on its burrs, there’s more potential for variability in grind size. This means that the C3 creates a more uniform grind size than the C2.
That uniform grind quality is important for finer settings, where small differences can have a big impact on taste. This makes the C3 a better grinder for brewing consistency, especially on espresso.
Both C2 and C3 have a stepped grind setting adjustment. The espresso settings begin at 7 clicks on the C3 and 6 clicks on the C2. The coarsest recommended French press settings end at 20 clicks on the C3 and 24 clicks on the C2.
The C2 is more versatile than the C3 with extra settings, although both have less than two dozen usable settings. The few extra clicks of the C2 don’t add much performance, especially since the C3 creates a more consistent grind.
Note: Some places claim the Timemore Chestnut C3 has stepless grinding adjustment, but this is not true. It may be an error in translation, but the C3 is also a stepped adjustment hand coffee grinder.
Ergonomics and Ease of Use
The C2 and C3 are pleasant and simple to use. The supports inside the grind chamber make it easy to load up the grinders. I didn’t have any beans bounce off the edges and not make it into the grinder.
The C2 and C3 both have a decent capacity of about 30g. Each also has vertical lines on the body to provide grip when grinding coffee beans.
The C2 grinds faster and with less effort than the C3, but not by much. The extra cuts on the S2C burrs of the C3 mean there’s more of a cutting surface that the coffee has to move through. Without those extra cuts, the C2’s burrs have an easier time moving coffee through them.
As I’ve already mentioned, the tradeoff for the C2’s speed is grind consistency. The C2 may be easier and quicker to use than the C3, but it comes at the cost of uniformity.
The coffee produced by the Timemore Chestnut C3 is marginally cleaner than the coffee produced by the C2. That’s because of the more consistent grind of the C3’s S2C burrs (are you sensing a trend?). The fewer fine particles produced by the C3 keep the coffee from getting too muddy, but that muddiness is more pronounced by the C2.
The flavor differences between the two are especially noticeable in espresso. Pulling a good shot with the C2 is a challenge. The minute inconsistencies in grind size lead to huge variability in flavor shot to shot. This is a problem for the C3 also, but it’s much worse with the C2. The grind inconsistency would be noticeable in Aeropress and even V60 brewing as well.
Timemore is known for its budget-friendly gear, and the C2 and C3 are both great values. Each is several hundred dollars cheaper than most manual grinders in their class. The C2 is even more affordable, costing about two-thirds as much as the C3.
For that price, the C2 is an impressive hand grinder. However, the S2C burr on the C3 is more valuable than its price tag suggests. You get a much more powerful and capable grinder for a small price increase (that still punches above its weight).
If you’re hamstrung by a razor-thin budget, the C2 is one of the best grinders you can get at such a low price. If you’re willing to spend just a little more, you can get a much more durable, capable manual grinder while still being kind to your wallet.
Recommendation: Timemore C2 Vs C3?
I comfortably recommend the Timemore C3. The upgraded burr set on the C3 is worth far more than the price difference would suggest. The burr is the most important feature of any grinder, and you want the best option with the most consistent grinds.
Timemore C3 highlights:
- 38mm S2C conical burrs
- Aluminum construction
- Textured body provides grip
- Compact design
The only scenario where I can recommend the C2 over the C3 is if you need the absolute lowest price possible for a good manual grinder. In that respect, the C2 is the most capable grinder in its price bracket that I know of.
Timemore C2 highlights:
- Adjustable in about 36 steps
- Stainless Steel Burr
- SKID-PROOF and comfortable gripping
However, the difference in price between the C2 and C3 is small enough that the C2 isn’t the best value between the two. The S2C burr makes the C3 a more consistent and versatile grinder than the C2, and the coffee it produces is cleaner.
If budget is the only consideration, then the C2 is a great buy. However, the C3 improves on the C2 in nearly every way while still being affordable. I’d recommend the C3 if you want excellent grind consistency and more flavorful coffee from an accessible, low-cost manual grinder.
If you want to go for a more premium hand grinder, see our selection of the best 1zpresso grinders.