I used to scoff at it. The humble Cafetiere sits in nearly every kitchen in the country, pulled out by weary heads on Sunday mornings to squeeze the life out of lifeless grounds. Its prevalence and cheap cost reinforce the common misconception that the humble plunger is a waste of time and suitable for those who want only a step above a jar of freeze-dried. How wrong I was.
The truth of the matter is that a Cafetiere is a valuable tool in deconstructing the flavours in coffee and refining the palate to enjoy the finer aspects of good extraction. In the long run however this is more of a curse than a blessing in that once you experience a higher level it’s impossible to go back. Those closest to me who before now had only a passing interest in coffee now often berate me for having drastically narrowed their lunch time cafe choices. Such is life.
The cafetiere is one of those wonderful culinary devices that is good enough for the pros yet costs very little. I liken it to the Pulltap corkscrew that is used worldwide by any Waiter or sommelier worth their salt but yet costs no more than a tenner. if your ever tempted to buy an expensive hydraulic wall mounted corkscrew from a boutique wine store save your money. Instead, merely learn how to use a Pulltap properly and spend the smart money on the wine.
The main problem with the cafetiere is that they are so common and everyone’s seen it done before. Very few take the time to learn how to do it correctly. Add coffee, add water and plunge. Simple? Yes; but not that simple. The proper way to use a cafetiere is an accurate process, not a difficult one.
An excellent video posted by James Hoffman of Square Mile Roasters in London outlines the basics in the preparation of a perfect Cafetiere, with the added bonus of a new method of scooping out the slime for a cleaner taste (and cup!). If these methods are carefully followed then the result is not only just as rewarding as an expertly pulled espresso based drink, but infinitely more achievable.
It may not be as sexy as a 1500EUR espresso machine but investing in a decent grinder, a cheap cafetiere and a reasonable scales is an excellent way to improve your knowledge and appreciation of coffee.
So instead of spending big on an entry level espresso machine that will frustrate you and ruin kilo upon kilo of beans, why not just go for the cafetierre and spend the smart money on the coffee.