Modern Coffee Series | S1. Ep4. Comandante Grinders
Brodie Roberts | Head Barista Spitalfields.
As coffee worshipers and craft professionals, we express the truth and importance of investing in the right tools to produce a great cup of coffee. Whether you’re a beginner at homebrewing or a Q grading, coffee obsessed individual, this is not an optional piece of equipment, it’s just as essential as the coffee brewer, the kettle, water and the scales.
The fresher the better when it comes to coffee. These flavour-packed little stimulants are sensitive and will only relinquish their best if handled properly, we need those delicate aromas and oils.
Another important issue is grind size. The grind size of your coffee affects the extraction process. To try and produce the most focused cup, in which the coffee is perfectly extracted, the grinds need to be as close to the same size as possible. When grinding coffee for any kind of brew there is an optimal point or a ‘sweet spot’. This is why there is no one grind size that fits all (coffee); we call this process “dialling in.”
There are two styles of grinders used in specialty coffee, blade and burr. Only burr-style grinders have the mechanical capacity to grind coffee uniformly, so despite more significant investment, burr-style grinders are what we recommend. Thankfully, the machines that we like are made well, will last a long time, and will definitely upgrade your coffee routine.
We were fortunate enough to chat with Joe McTaggart from Comandante. We recently had Joe as a guest on our Instagram live Modern Coffee Series. So naturally we thought there is nobody better to offer us some insight on the topic.
1. Why do hand grinders matter?
Hand grinders are generally more mobile, compact, and quiet than their motorised cousins. The simplicity means entry level hand grinders can be an accessible and affordable way for people to get into coffee, which is important for us all. But the magic really happens when a hand grinder is built for quality and performance, like our C40 Nitro Blade: here, your investment is spent on the parts that really matter, without any money wasted on electrics and so on.
2. What are your key focuses when brewing coffee?
Good water, good beans and a good grinder are the foundation. Brewing builds upon that, and for me the most important thing is focussing on consistency. First, I stick to a tried and tested recipe. Then I taste my brew and think if I need to grind finer or coarser next time, keeping all other variables the same, down to the last detail. By doing the same each time and only using the grind setting to adjust flavour, it means I only have to really think about two things: taste & grind setting. If I feel I’ve got to know a coffee and want to play around more, only then do I start experimenting with other variables.
3.What is the basic operation of a Comandante grinder?
First, choose your grind setting using the dial on the bottom of the burr cone (turn it clockwise to go finer, anticlockwise to go coarser). From super-fine to super-coarse, all brew methods are easily taken care of. Next, Remove the crank, load beans into the chamber, reattach the crank, turn the crank, and let the burrs slice your beans down to size, ready to use. Your coffee grounds land in the glass Bean Jar on the bottom of the grinder, which you can simply unscrew from the body. Bonus Round: the Jar is 58mm in diameter and therefore fits perfectly onto your AeroPress or onto most Portafilters, for those making Espresso!
4. How are they manufactured?
A few years or so ago, we painstakingly made a handful of pieces a month in the garage behind a coffee roastery just outside Munich. Now of course, we’re lucky enough to need to operate on a larger scale, but priority number one has always been to maintain and continually improve strict quality standards. To do that, we produce everything within a small distance from Munich and still finish and assemble every single piece by hand at our HQ, one minute around the corner from that garage behind the coffee roastery!
5. What are the key focuses for the company when talking about sustainability?
Too many products these days have short lifespans or built-in obsolescence, and in the long-term you would likely spend far more money in small instalments on replacements. Our planet can’t handle that wastefulness much longer.
That’s why our whole philosophy is centred around quality materials and design, which culminate in a product built to last: the very special Nitro Blade steel used for the burr will last you a lifetime of making coffee; the stainless steel used for the body and driveshaft is super robust; where we have to use plastic for functional reasons, we use the very durable and safe Tritan® from Eastman; all wood is from FSC-certified partners; the glass Jars are both hygienic and recyclable. Sustainability is also why we offer spares. If your bike’s brakes wear down and need replacing, you don’t buy a new bike...
6. Are Comandante grinders for everyone?
For everyone that is interested in delicious coffee and making delicious coffee themselves, I would say yes!
7. Why are they so expensive/ why should we buy it?
The price tag is high relative to other hand grinders. But unlike most other hand-grinders, your Comandante is a pleasure to use and the grind performance you get from your Nitro Blade burr at the heart of it matches and often outperforms even the best professional equipment - machines costing 10x the price or more! The last two World Brewers Cup Champions, Emi Fukahori and Douzi Du Jianing, both used a C40 Nitro Blade to win, basing their choice on the grind consistency and the flavours they could achieve. Your current UK Brewers Cup Champion Matteo used a Comandante to win the UK nationals this year too (congrats!). Imagine if you could buy a Ferrari for the price of a Fiat? Only we at Comandante aren’t about being lavish, we just want to build something that works really well, lasts a long time, and helps you make delicious coffee!
Hand grinders are easily portable. You can grind anywhere, no electricity required, from sunning park sessions to hiking and fishing. With the investment, they are reliable and key to producing the freshest cup of coffee possible. Blade grinders may be a lot cheaper than burr grinders, but buy once and buy right.