For a long time, I wanted to test the El Comandante C40 MKIII coffee grinder. In truth, I had already spotted it during my research to acquire my first high-end coffee grinder but I could not buy it because at the time I lived in Canada, the C40 was not available in this country.
This coffee grinder is presented by many forums as being one of the most reliable on the market. What is it really? To be able to try it, I ended up buying it on Amazon. You will understand, this test was done by passion and in a completely objective way.
Presentation of the coffee grinder
The packaging of the El Comandante C40 is beautiful. You can view it in the image gallery below.
The items provided in the box are:
- A crank, integral with the cap
- A coffee grinder, available in several finishes
- Two glass containers. One in smoked glass the other in transparent glass
- A cap to close the container not used with the grinder
The video below shows my first impressions of the El Comandante C40 coffee grinder (in French for now, I will add English subtitles soon).
Let’s go to the detail of each part of the coffee grinder.
The crank consists of a very ergonomic wooden knob. The essence of the wood used is made according to the general color of the body of the coffee grinder. A very good point, its shape is really thought to make the crank turns pleasant.
On the other side, a cover secured to the crank. It is made of plastic and it allows the coffee grinder to be closed during use. The plastic used is of good quality but I would have preferred a metal cover, much more solid. The plastic is certainly transparent but it remains impossible to watch inside the grinder the grains grind during its use. In addition, in my case, the cover is smoked which makes any internal visual of the coffee grinder almost impossible. The crank is fixed to the body of the coffee grinder (more precisely to the central rod) using a strong magnet. This system is practical and efficient. I liked it personally and I found it convincing.
The body of the El Comandante C40
The design of the coffee grinder is very simple: a stainless steel tube with several possible finishes which are all of good quality. The so-called “wood” finishes are made with real wood, veneered on the C40. I preferred, for my purchase, to take a black finish. It is a beaded paint adding adhesion to the holding of the grinder.
The grip of the C40 is good, however for small hands I find it a bit big. But it does not slip when you brew coffee which is essential.
The central rod is directed by a set of ball bearings held by a good quality plastic support. As you can see on the videos I posted, the ball bearings used are very fluid.
On the bottom of the coffee grinder, just before the grinding wheel, there is a kind of plastic rounding which has the function of directing the coffee beans towards the grinding wheel whose diameter is smaller than the stainless steel tube.
The burr and its adjustment
Its adjustment is made by screwing or unscrewing the adjustment wheel according to the indications which have been marked: turning to the right tightens the burr and turning to the left spreads the burr. The adjustment burr contains 3 small balls which will “click” well when turned. The setting I found for using the C40 with my La Pavoni Europicola is: 9 clicks (from the tightest) for 16 g of coffee.
It is possible to fine tune the El Comandante C40 by replacing the adjustment burrs and the central rod with a kit sold separately.
Supplied in number of two (one transparent, the other mat), the collecting container is made of glass. The glass is brittle and can be broken by dropping it on the floor. Fortunately, El Comandante offers this item for retail sale, which ensures rapid replacement in the event of breakage.
During use, I noticed a very slight retention of the coffee on the thread that holds the container. To avoid this retention, you just have to tighten the container enough to the body of the grinder (I’m not talking about tightening to the death, just screwing it properly).
Using the El Comandante C40
Now that the C40 has been presented to you, we will be able to test it.
I only tested the grinder to make espresso (because it is the only extraction method I use to make my coffees). So I can’t tell you too much about its compatibility with other ways of making coffee (such as the French press for example). But from what I read on various forums, this coffee grinder is doing well with the larger grinds.
I managed to marry the C40 well with my La Pavoni. In a cup, we feel the good quality of the grind, therefore of the coffee grinder. You can view the photos / videos below.
How long does it take to grind coffee with the El Comandante C40
16g of coffee and an adequate setting for an espresso brews in about 1 minute (you can refer to the video below). This time is a little longer than for the two other coffee grinders that I tested in my life (compared to the Apollo grinders from BPlus or the Kinu M47). However, this difference comes down to a few seconds. Nothing fatal for the preparation of a good coffee.
I draw your attention to the way the test was carried out. I tested the C40 to make espresso coffees (i.e. the grindstones are closely spaced). The coffee being ground extremely fine, it is all the longer to grind. For other extraction methods that do not require such fine grinding, the time to grind is much shorter.
The quality of the grind
The grind obtained with this C40 coffee grinder is of very good quality. Fine adjustment, extremely regular grind, very good taste obtained in a cup with my La Pavoni. In short, the C40 can meet the requirement demanded by professional espresso machines. As I explained at the beginning of the article, I have not tested it with other extraction methods but I have read in various forums that it is doing very well with larger grinds.
Cleaning of El Comandante C40
To clean the El Comandante C40, nothing could be simpler. Simply unscrew the adjustment burrs and remove the grinding wheel. Then, using a toothbrush or a small brush, we have to remove all the debris. Important, do not use water.
In the video below where I show how to clean the El Comandante C40, I tried to dismantle the second part of the grinding wheel (the one that is stationary) by unscrewing three screws. They are very very tight, impossible to loosen them. So I don’t think the manufacturer allowed to dismantle this part during regular maintenance. Despite this, it is possible to clean the inside of the C40 body from the top because the grinder body is sufficiently wide.
To conclude, the only remark I have to make on the C40 is that I find that it takes longer to grind than my other coffee grinder: the Apollo from BPlus. You saw it in the article, it is not much time extra: a few seconds. But if I have a remark to note it would be this one.
However, the rest of the C40 is very good with many successes. Therefore, if I am asked the question of whether or not I recommend this coffee grinder, I will answer “without any doubts, yes!”. Yes the C40 is a good coffee grinder.
If you like its design, don’t hesitate, go for it, it will satisfy you..
My rating would be as follows: 4/5
- I loved
- Its design
- Its manufacturing quality
- The holding (of the crank and the body of the coffee grinder)
- That the container is screwed (much more durable than other systems)
- Precise adjustment
- The quality of the grind perfectly suited to a professional espresso machine
- The possibility of buying the elements separately in case of breakage (containers, crank …)
- I did not like
- The plastic cover
- The slightly small grinding burr which generates a slightly longer time to grind than other coffee grinders
So Thomas, is the BPlus Apollo still the king of hand grinders? Up next, I hope, is the 1Zpresso JE Plus?
For me, the Apollo is one of the best. but it is a personal opinion. It’s a compromise, like When you choose a car, there are compromises to be made.
1Zplus, I never tested it. I can’t talk about it.
I just started using the Comandante with my La Pavoni Europiccola and I’m quite negatively surprised by the results. Up until now, I’ve been using the Aergrind.
All the rest being equal (coffee, coffe weight 14g, water, water pressure, tamping, lever pressure):
– When using the Aergrind, I need to keep a setting that’s considered good for filter coffee (1 full round + 9 or 10, often indicated as 1.9) not to choke the machine;
– When using the Comandante, I need to keep a setting that’s considered good for turkish (4-5 clicks), anything bigger than that makes a mess.
Extraction times being equal (I try to keep it around 45s), the coffee I get with the Comandante is consistently bitterer and generally, tastes bad.
I tried 3 different coffees and the results are the same.
I cannot understand what I am doing wrong here and especially, why do I need such fine grinds to have enough piston resistance.
Can it be that the Aergrind produces an amount of “dust” that chokes the machine even at coarser grinds? Why is the Comandante’s coffee so bitter in comparison?
The burr distances are are effectively far apart, so the settings are far apart, but why do I need to set them that way to obtain the “same” result?