Kickstarter has been a decidedly mixed bag when it comes to coffee. On one hand, it’s given us success stories like Acaia, whose Bluetooth-ready scales have become a fixture in quality-minded cafés. On the other hand, the failures have been numerous– perhaps none more disastrous than the ZPM espresso machine, which after years of delays failed to come to market. The outcry that followed garnered the attention of the New York Times and even motivated Kickstarter to change their policies.
With such disparate possibilities, when Handground emerged on the scene almost two years ago it was hard to know what to think. On one hand, the central people behind the project were industry outsiders- rarely a good sign when it comes to understanding the intricacies of the specialty market. The coffee industry, however, is no stranger to second careers. Plus, Handground’s crowd-sourced design promised that each major decision would be decided in part by hundreds of coffee professionals spread around the globe. The concept intrigued many, including myself, and at over $300,000 in funding the Kickstarter campaign was a run-away success. Having long been a hand grinder advocate, I was optimistic that this product might finally fill the gap left between entry level and professional burr grinders. So I backed the project and settled in for numerous, though expected, production delays. Twenty-seven email updates later, and I have a grinder in hand, complete with the brushed nickel finish.
The real innovation on the Handground is the use of a gear drive to allow for a side-mounted handle. This feature is coupled with a non-slip pad on the bottom of the grinder to offer a more ergonomic grinding technique. Instead of awkwardly holding your hand grinder between your legs, you can simply place it on a table or counter and crank away.
The rest of the specs include a 40mm ceramic conical burr, markings on the side to approximate dosing, a triple-mounted axle for increased stability, and 15 different easily-adjustable grind settings. On paper, it’s a grinder that should offer similar performance to high end models like the Feldgrind or the Lido 3 at a fraction of the price.
Per the instructions, I seasoned the burrs by grinding a significant amount of coffee on a fine setting (2). Immediately I noticed the surprising range of particle sizes. Although most of the grounds were the size I would expect for a filter grind, a significant portion of the grounds I would consider too coarse for French press. The first couple of brews yielded the sort of flavors I would expect from such an inconsistent particle size distribution: sour notes from the boulders coupled with dry bitterness from the fines and not a lot of sweetness in between. Clearly the triple mounted axle was not as stable as advertised.
I began to wonder if inconsistency could be improved by recalibrating the grinder. And after watching a 15 minute instructional video, I disassembled the grinder to add a spacing washer to bring the burrs closer together. This certainly succeeded in allowing for a finer grind
In all, the Kickstarter version of Handground offers scant improvement on entry level hand grinders. Although the side mounted crank arm allows for more ergonomic grinding, the consistency and quality of the grind leaves much to be desired.