Manual coffee grinders can be a slippery slope. It only takes about $70-$80 to find one that will do your specialty coffee justice, but as the price creeps upward, so too do build quality and grind consistency and overall refinement.
At some point, you’ll hit diminishing returns. So the question becomes: what does it take to find a grinder that works excellently for all your brewing methods, and is simply a pleasure to use?
For me, the answer is about $250, or the price of the 1Zpresso K-Plus. After nearly three years of twice- to thrice-daily use, I’m highly impressed.
If it suits your intended use—more on that later—then it may be one of the best values among premium manual grinders on the market today.
For those who preview video, here’s a YouTube companion to this article:
Note: Not long after I purchased this grinder, 1Zpresso released the K-Max. It’s essentially the same thing for essentially the same price. The K-Max merely lacks the “blind shaker” (more on that later) which infrequent espresso drinkers probably wouldn’t miss anyhow.
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What makes the K-Plus impressive?
Remarkable grind quality and speed
First things first: the K-Plus’s grind quality is terrific at filter coffee and espresso grind settings. Boulders increase at coarser French-press settings, as expected, but no more than on any other high-end grinder I’ve tested, and less than on most.
It’s hard to make a meaningful 1Zpresso vs. Comandante comparison without owning the latter, but by all accounts I’ve seen, they’re comparable in terms of grind quality at medium and fine settings.
A brief grind comparison
The best comparison I can make is to my previous daily grinder, the Timemore Chestnut (reviewed here). In brief, the K-Plus grinds more consistently at the medium to medium-fine settings I use every day.
I’m reluctant to describe flavor differences, since they’re subjective through and through, but I will say the K-Plus results seem less variable from cup to cup. (Exactly as expected, if it really is the more even and consistent of the two.)
Here’s the K-Plus (left) alongside a roughly comparable grind setting from the Timemore (right):
It’s less clear in the photo than in reality, but the K-Plus has noticeably fewer boulders—and took about 60% as long to grind through the same amount of coffee at a similar setting.
Speaking of speed, the 48mm conical burrs, long handle (with a comfortably large wooden knob), and apparently aggressive feeding from the hopper all add up to very efficient grinding.
For instance, it takes me about 20 seconds to grind 15g of a full-city roast at a setting of 6.5 or 7 (pictured above, and appropriate for V60).
The hopper will hold roughly 30g—perhaps a bit more—so you’ll crank through a full load in just 40 seconds at a medium setting.
The best adjustment mechanism I’ve seen
Between switching brewing methods and coffees, I’m always tweaking the grind size. One day it’s a full-city roast on the V60, the next day an espresso, and later an AeroPress with a lighter roast.
There’s a certain range of grind sizes that work best for each of the above. What those are is beside the point, but once you find them, it’s nice to be able to return to them easily.
Many grinders make it frustratingly hard to tell where you left off. You can always tighten it to zero and count the clicks back out, but that feels like an unnecessary nuisance.
For the K-Plus and its K-series sibling, 1Zpresso solved this with a numbered, external adjustment ring. Not only can you see your setting at a glance, but you can do so without even removing the catch up to check the burr itself.
This is surprisingly unique among hand grinders. Off the top of my head, the Knock Aergrind has something vaguely similar, but not quite as quick or precise to use. Others also provided clearly numbered steps, but only inside the grinder (i.e., surrounding the burr). 1Zpresso, on the other hand, simply knocked it out of the park in this respect.
Ingenious catch cup with blind shaker
The magnetic catch cup is quick and intuitive. It takes a split-second to attach and remove, but holds more firmly than I expected. Grinding while your hand overlaps the catch may dislodge it, but the grip area is spacious, so that hasn’t been a problem even with my fairly large hands.
But the coolest part by far is the so-called “blind shaker” that 1Zpresso bundles with the grinder. You simply install the alternative catch (the one with a plunger) before grinding, then remove the plunger to fill the espresso basket. No need for the mess and waste of pouring fine-ground coffee out of the top of the catch.
Quite frankly, I don’t make espresso frequently enough to get much use out of this. But it’s been a pleasure to try, and if I drank espresso daily, it’d quickly become one of my favorite features.
Attractive yet sturdy construction
To my eye, the K-Plus is a beautiful piece of industrial design. It’s a different aesthetic from the Comandante, to be sure, and I can understand why some would prefer the latter’s beautiful wooden upper and more varied colors.
One unique difference from most 1Zpresso models is the K-Plus’s narrower grip section. My (very petite) wife still finds it a bit difficult to grasp, but it’s unlikely to be a problem for most users. To get it any slimmer would have reduced the already limited capacity of ~30g of beans, or required making it exceedingly tall and top-heavy.
The bearings remain silky-smooth, and I can’t detect any play in the assembly whatsoever, even after dis- and reassembling it out of sheer curiosity. The supports between the grind shaft and the outer wall are sturdy, and set just deeply enough that beans seldom bounce out when loading it.
Who might not like the K-Plus?
I dislike and distrust reviews that don’t mention any negatives, so it’s a little ironic that I find myself in that position.
With the K-Plus, 1Zpresso has produced something so effective and refined that it’s not really a question of flaws so much as trade-offs that might suit some customers but annoy others.
(To be extremely nitpicky, it retains slightly more grounds than my Timemore Chestnut, but that could simply be due to larger burrs that produce more static. Frankly, I don’t care, since the Ross droplet technique solves the static problem anyhow.)
Anyway, on to the trade-offs you need to know about.
It’s a bit bulky
Just about any hand grinder (Orphan Espresso notwithstanding) is kind of, sort of, basically a travel grinder.
That said, if you’re a one-bag type who packs minimally, the K-Plus may pose a problem. Not only because of the grinder’s heft, but because of the large travel case that accommodates the second catch cup and a few cleaning accessories. Consider buying 1Zpresso’s cylinder case as a space-saving alternative.
For a truly travel-friendly alternative, there’s the smaller Q2 from 1Zpresso, and a number of alternatives from Timemore and Knock. I expect that none grind as quickly nor offer the same, delightful adjustment mechanism, but road warriors may simply find them easier to live with.
Adjustment is too wide for dedicated espresso use
Each click is 22 microns apart. That’s exactly halfway between a stock Comandante (30 microns) and an espresso-friendly Comandante + Red Clix (15 microns).
This is plenty fine for dialing in anything but espresso. Actually, I find it adequate for espresso with a pressurized portafilter, and I assume it would work decently with a lever machine, too.
You may find it frustrating to dial in a pump-driven machine with an unpressurized portafilter. I just can’t say firsthand. But seeing as 22 microns is at least twice the movement per step of most popular espresso grinders, I suspect you’ll wish for something more precise. Within the 1Zpresso line, that would be the JX-Pro, for instance.
Bottom line: Buy or pass on the 1Zpresso K-Plus?
The K-Plus is the most pleasant overall experience of any hand grinder I’ve tried. To me, the adjustment mechanism is perfect, and the impressive grinding speed is a terrific bonus. I find it aesthetically appealing (but to each their own) and have yet to find fault with the build quality.
While I imagine some grinder out there grinds more evenly for certain beans in certain size ranges, it still compares favorably to my already excellent Timemore.
I give the K-Plus my wholehearted recommendation, on two assumptions:
- Espresso isn’t the majority of your brewing (or if it is, you use a pressurized portafilter)
- You aren’t willing to sacrifice speed of grinding or ease of adjustment for a smaller, lighter build
All in all, It strikes me as the threshold before diminishing returns. There are no issues or shortcuts left to improve upon, and any grind-quality improvements would probably get exorbitantly expensive without much consistent difference in the cup. I can’t say for sure, of course, but it’s hard to imagine that a larger price tag could buy an appreciably better grinder.