Timemore has developed a bit of a cult following among budget-conscious coffee enthusiasts for making products that greatly outperform their modest price tag. The Black Mirror scale is one of their most popular products, closely followed by the excellent Chestnut C2 grinder. So can the C3 live up to the hype of being a big upgrade? That’s what we were testing for in this Timemore C3 review.
While the new C3 is slower than the C2, it’s definitely an improvement in terms of cup quality and accuracy. You can now actually grind for espresso and, whilst not good, it is possible. It’s another much-loved hand grinder in the coffee community thanks to its great results for a bargain price.
They may look almost identical on the outside, but the C3 is very different where it matters: the burrs. We spent a week testing out if the C3 should be the latest addition to your coffee setup. Let’s see what we found out:
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In Brief: Timemore C3 Review
The Timemore C3 (also called the Chestnut C3) is a slight upgrade on the excellent C2.
When it was first released, it was wildly more expensive and didn’t quite justify the price jump. But, now they’re basically the same price, it’s a great choice for budget-conscious drip coffee or French press lovers.
Timemore made a big fuss about the new burrs. And yes they’re good, but they’re not the huge step forward the marketing team would have you believe. Having said that, the C3 can also grind for espresso – something the C2 couldn’t do. But you may only have one or two usable settings to choose from.
Overall, it’s a good-looking manual grinder that’s small, light, durable, and cheap. Another really good budget coffee product from Timemore.
- Great grind consistency, especially at coarser settings
- Relatively fast
- Excellent value for money
- Easy to hold and grind
- Not good for espresso
- Only 25g capacity
- Feels a little cheap
1. 38mm Spike to Cut Burrs
Timemore first introduced their proprietary “Spike To Cut” burrs, or S2C burrs for the cool kids, with the Chestnut X and have now included them in the Chestnut C3. They feature a serrated edge, or little teeth, designed to “spike first, cut later”. In reality, this means better grind consistency and speed.
The ones in the Chestnut C3 are different from the Chestnut X though as they’re just 38mm (as opposed to 42mm). They also have a slightly different geometric profile.
At the end of the day, you can expect the S2C stainless steel burrs to provide more consistent particle distribution and a sweet, bright taste in the cup.
The Chestnut C3 weighs only 1lb (430g actually), which makes it one of the lighter manual coffee grinders available. Even our favorite travel grinder, the 1Zpresso Q2, is slightly heavier at 16.5oz (465g)
To achieve this, Timemore has used thinner aluminum walls and some plastic stabilization parts in place of stainless steel ones.
This shouldn’t have any effect on the durability of the C3 as the plastic parts aren’t put under great strain during grinding. It may be more likely to dent if you drop it though.
3. Smoother Grinding
The new bearing system makes the handle easier to turn and an overall smoother grinding experience.
The body is also only 2 inches in diameter so even people with small hands should have no difficulty gripping it. Having a textured design also helps with grip.
4. 36 Grind Settings
The C3 has 36 clicks from closed burrs to the coarsest grind.
That said, the first 7 clicks or so are too fine even for espresso. And the bottom 8-10 are too coarse to get a good French press or cold brew. So you’re looking at around 20 usable settings with the best performance falling in the drip to French press range, though espresso is possible.
With the C3, the physical process of cranking the handle to grind your beans is surprisingly easy and very smooth. The upgraded bearings in the grinding mechanism combined with the slightly slimmer body have made it a more ergonomic process, which is always a plus.
OK, it’s not the fastest hand grinder in the world. But it’s not the worst either.
The drawback is that choosing your grind size is not quite as straightforward:
There are no numbers on the dial underneath the Chestnut C3’s burrs. You simply twist the knob clockwise for finer settings and anti-clockwise for coarser (there are little arrows to keep you right).
Whilst there are some guidelines for how many clicks you need for each grind setting, there’s no way of knowing what setting you are at other than counting from 0.
The upside is that there are only 36 clicks you can use. So it’s not a huge issue to 0 your grinder and then count up to where you want when changing settings.
Where Timemore has invested most of their energy in terms of upgrading from the C2 to C3 is in the burrs.
The new Spike To Cut burrs, or “S2C” in marketing speak, were clearly something Timemore was very excited about when they were first launched on the Chestnut X. The original version (S2C880) can still be found in the newer Chestnut X Lite.
But they don’t quite live up to the hype.
The 38mm version found in the C3 (S2C660) are actually slightly slower at medium to coarse settings than the C2. But they can grind your beans easily enough and it’s not like they’re actually slow. In fact, they’re a lot faster in the espresso range.
Choosing the Right Grind Size
There aren’t a lot of settings to choose from, but this is what we found worked best for us when testing for our Timemore Chestnut C3 review:
|AeroPress / Moka / Drip Coffee Maker
|Siphon / Pour Over
|French Press / Cold Brew
For espresso, 8 clicks was the only setting we could get a decent shot from. And even then, only with good-quality dark roast beans. But this is still better than the C2 where we couldn’t get espresso grinds on any setting. You’ll need to dial in with your dose size and tamping pressure as micro-adjustments just aren’t possible. So it’s not great but it is doable if you’re in a pinch.
That said, for less than $100, we’ve not yet come across any coffee grinder (manual or electric) that really excels for espresso.
Where the Timemore C3 really shines is in the pour over into French press grind range.
We were really impressed with the bright, sweet, and complex cups we got from our medium roast Yirgacheffe at 14 clicks (brewed as pour over). Whilst it doesn’t perform as well as our (much loved) 1Zpresso J Ultra, it’s also half the price so we have to be realistic.
If something’s not broken, don’t fix it.
This is definitely the mindset used for the design of the C3 which hasn’t been updated from the C2. The textured body looks nice and helps with grip and you can choose between black or white.
The plastic handle looks a little cheap compared to other manual grinders that have wooden ones (like the 1Zpresso range or Comandante C40. But this is a budget-friendly grinder so the materials have to be cheaper in some places.
I also wouldn’t be so harsh to say it looks bad. It’s a good-looking, minimalistic grinder and, most importantly, it doesn’t look cheap.
When shopping at the budget-end of coffee equipment, the more important aspect is the build quality. We’re not in the business of recommending “buy cheap, buy twice” products.
The aluminum body is quite thin and Timemore has added some plastic parts to the stabilization of the burrs. This cuts down on weight (and probably the price too).
But they won’t make much difference to the grinder’s durability as the plastic inside the C3 isn’t put under great strain during grinding. All the parts that do come under strain are made from stainless steel.
The thinner aluminum body might be more susceptible to damage if you drop it. But you’d probably still need to be pretty unlucky to make it unusable by dropping it once or twice.
It’s also worth remembering that highly regarded grinders with significantly bigger price tags like the Comandante C40 MK4 also have plastic internal parts. I know some of my fellow coffee snobs like to get a little sniffy about their coffee beans coming into contact with plastic.
Weighing just under 1lb (430g) and with a diameter of 2 inches, this is a truly lightweight, compact grinder that you can take hiking, camping, or backpacking. The thinner body also makes it easier to grip if you have small hands like my wife, Katie.
Compared to the Chestnut C2, the C3 is a very small step up in grind consistency. The particles are more even and the flavor profile in the cup suggests that more of them are in the ideal zone.
But I wouldn’t say it’s a significant enough improvement to gush about. And many people may not even notice or be able to taste the difference. So it’s certainly not a big leap forward from the previous generation of grinders.
For the price though, the Chestnut C3 offers excellent grind consistency.
You’ll be able to brew great-tasting coffee using numerous types of coffee makers and beans. Whilst it might not blow you away, it won’t let you down either.
Brewing Espresso with the C3
One of the biggest differences between the Timemore C3 and C2 is that the former claims to be able to grind for espresso. It’s certainly not designed as an espresso grinder but it does have some recommended settings for espresso brewing.
So, do they work?
Yes…. and no.
Of the 3 recommended settings (7, 8, or 9) we were able to use just 1 setting to grind for espresso with dark roast beans. Making micro-adjustments to dial in an espresso is simply out of the question though. As is using anything lighter than a dark roast.
We found that:
- On 7, the lowest recommended setting, the grind was too fine and clogged our espresso machine
- 8 was ok. With some tamping adjustments, we were able to produce a decent shot of espresso
- Using setting 9 was far too coarse, and resulted in a watery espresso that went straight into the sink
If you’re specifically looking to make espresso, there are some videos on YouTube detailing how to change your C3 into a stepless grinder with modifications. Most require very little knowledge or equipment though we didn’t try it as we were planning to sell it after completing this review (our kitchen would be overrun if we kept every grinder we tested!)
Just be careful not to damage those precious burrs in the quest for better espresso grinding.
Once a week you should disassemble your Chestnut C3 to give the inside and burrs a good brush. This removes any residual grounds and small particles that may be hiding in there and takes less than 15 minutes to do.
Keeping on top of the cleaning will keep your coffee tasting great and your grinder in good condition for a long time.
Just don’t use water as it can damage the grinder. Instead, use the brush that comes included with the C3.
Day to day it’s best to give the catch cup and bottom of the grinder a brush down after use. We’ve never had a problem with static buildup using the Timemore grinder, but it’s still best to keep it in as good condition as possible.
Since there’s no numbered dial, there’s no need to calibrate your grinder when you put it back together. The only thing you’ll need to worry about is keeping track of all the little parts when you take it apart.
In terms of aesthetics, you’d be forgiven for thinking these two grinders are exactly the same. Clearly Timemore didn’t feel like there was anything wrong with the looks of the C2 so didn’t change anything for the C3. And I’m not going to argue with them about that – the C2 looked good so why change?
The only visual difference is that the C3 is only available in Black or White; they’ve dropped the C2’s dark gray color.
Where the real change occurs is in the burrs:
The new burrs on the C3 are very different from those on the C2. It’s the Spike To Cut burrs that Timemore seems to think are a big deal though we’re yet to be completely convinced.
‘Upgrading’ the burrs is both a good and a bad thing:
The good is that we did prefer the flavor from the C3 brews. Plus you can now brew for espresso, even if you’re limited in its abilities here.
The bad, however, is that it’s a good bit slower than the C2. Maybe not enough to write it off, but still slightly annoying.
As they’re usually found for the same price, the Timemore C3 is the better choice. It’s more versatile and delivers better flavor which makes up up for the slight loss of grinding speed for us.
Read next: Timemore C2 Review
This Timemore C3 review has focused on the original and most basic model, but the following breaks down what to expect from the other grinders. Use this quick overview to see how they differ from the original and determine which one is best for you:
- Chesnut C3 Pro: Has a foldable handle that sits flush against the body when not in use, making it much easier to pack away.
- Chestnut C3 Max: Bigger capacity of 30g meaning it’s a little bulkier and heavier to compensate.
- Chestnut C3S Max Pro: A combination of both the above – it features a foldable handle, has a larger capacity of 30-35g, and has also upgraded the internal plastic parts for stainless steel.
- Chestnut C3 ESP: The best option for espresso lovers as there are 30 clicks per rotation.
- Chestnut C3S: A newer version of the original C3 model and is even better for pour over lovers.
It might only be a small step up from the C2, but we were really impressed during all the tests we ran for this Timemore C3 review. The improvements in grind consistency, range, and flavor quality are good. Especially considering they’re pretty much the same price.
While it is possible to use this manual grinder for espresso, you’ll struggle to dial in shots accurately. It’s best suited to drip and French press drinkers with maybe the occasional espresso thrown in.
For the price, its a really good option and does what all Timemore products do: outperforms its price tag.
Don’t forget to Buy Your Timemore C3 today
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