1ZPresso K-Max vs Comandante C40
Hand grinders are a great way to maximize bang for your buck in the world of home coffee. By doing away with the cost associated with electronics and motors, manufacturers are free to invest money where it matters most, the burrs, and build quality.
Today, we’ll be comparing two of the biggest names in this space, the 1Zpresso K-Max, and the Comandante C40. These two companies have a bit of a tense relationship in their quest to be the top hand grinders on the market, and I don’t think that this video is going to help that… because in my experience with both, there is a VERY clear winner… and it might not be the on you expect.
In the Box
In the very large box of the Comandante, you get the grinder, two catch cups, one glass, one plastic, and a rubber grip in case you find the body of the grinder slippery (which we’ll touch on later on).
The 1Zpresso comes in a cylindrical protective case which is nice if you plan to take this grinder out of the house, and it also includes a cleaning brush, and air blower.
Moving on to grind quality, the Comandante is a grinder that needs very little introduction. It’s widely considered to be the gold standard in hand grinders by many. Now on its 4th generation, it has a cult-like following, and for that reason, I had pretty high expectations.
And I wasn’t disappointed. The Comandante is able to produce delicious cups, with great clarity, sweetness, and overall balance. I can see why people like this grinder so much, and why it has such a reputation. If I had to live the rest of my pour-over days with just the Comandante’s grind quality, I’d be perfectly happy.
However, there’s only one problem. In my review of the 1Zpresso, I felt the exact same way. That grinder also has excellent grind quality, and I HAVE been happily living with it for the better part of 6 months now….
What was surprising, is that when put head-to-head, there wasn’t a whole lot in it for me. The cups produced by these two grinders are pretty difficult to distinguish even when direct A/B testing. I found the K-Max to have slightly more body, while the Comandante might have had a subtle edge up in overall clarity and delineation of flavours, but I’d be lying if I said I’d be confident going into a blind taste test between these two.
Grind Steps / Dialing In
When it comes to dialing in, each step on the K-Max is 22 microns, while the Comandante’s steps are larger at 30 microns, making the 1Zpresso better suited for espresso straight out of the box.
Comandante do sell the Red Clix system, which cuts each step in half to a very respectable 15 microns, but that will cost you an additional $45 on top of the already higher price tag… making the total system 30-35% more expensive than the K-max… which is a tough pill to swallow considering how close they are in grind quality…
Build Quality / Functionality
Where these two grinders start to really diverge is in their build quality, and even more so, the user experience.
Holding both grinders in your hands, I would bet that 10/10 strangers would pick the 1Zpresso as the better built, and more expensive grinder. The K-Max is very well made, and feels more luxurious and robust overall.
The body and glass catch cup of the Comandante are not far behind, also clearly very well made, but certain areas like the flimsy plastic on the grinding arm caught me a bit off-guard for such an expensive grinder.
The user experience is really where this comparison was won and lost though. The K-Max is simply a MUCH nicer grinder to use on a daily basis in almost every functional way.
The K-Max has grind adjustments that are numbered, external, and hugely satisfying to use. In comparison, the Comandante’s adjustment is on the bottom of the grinder, and it forces you to re-zero and count the clicks if you want to go back to a previously used position.
The catch cup on the K-max is magnetic, while the Comandante’s is threaded.
The grinding is faster on the K-Max, and it’s also easier thanks to the longer grinding arm. (comandante wants to charge you for that feature as well). (SOUND SAMPLE)
And finally, grinding is also more comfortable on the K-Max! It’s slimmer, grippier design will suit a wide range of hand sizes, whereas the thicker slipperier Comandante resulted in even my hands getting a little cramped during longer grinding sessions. And I think they know this because of how they include this grippy ring in the box…
Having owned and used the K-Max for many months now, I was shocked by the fact that for the first time in a long time I had a genuine sense of buyer’s remorse after my first couple uses of the Comandante. This is not at all how I expected my experience with it to go.
Don’t get me wrong, it is still a great grinder. It’s robust, has a variety of good looking finishes, and makes excellent cups of coffee. But for the price, and compared to what else is out there, I find it a hard one to justify or recommend, especially when you start stacking on upgrades like the Red Clix, and longer grinding arm on top of the already elevated price tag.
I understand the value of a brand name, and I also respect brands that pour their whole budget into the burrs and functional parts instead of fancy finishes. But having tasted both and used both…. I was left scratching my head.
I think that somewhat like the Niche Zero, Comandante have become a BIT too comfortable as the market leader, and because of that, cheaper and BETTER options have been allowed to catch up.
In this comparison the winner is clear for me. The 1ZPresso K-Max is simply the superior overall package, even if the prices were reversed and it were more expensive. And for that reason, the K-Max is still the mid to high price point grinder that I recommend you purchase.