I encountered an odd sight at a gallery once. So, there was National Artist BenCab, fresh off a car from Baguio, bringing his own coffee beans from Tam-Awan Village. Assorted guests gathered around him, as would anyone if a National Artist suddenly popped into your gallery. Then he whipped out his mobile phone and showed us photos of himself harvesting the coffee beans in the early morning northern fog. In the next photo, he was roasting those beans in a massive roaster, cranking it up all by himself—he is in pretty good nick for a 78-year-old man, possibly healthier than anyone in the room.
To add to our luck that day, BenCab brought a bag of his own hand-picked, National Artist-roasted coffee beans for everyone to enjoy. And so, the folks at the gallery decided to brew it for the guests. Everyone was excited, especially BenCab. But then he had to watch in calm amusement as five grown men tried to brew a single cup from a giant espresso machine that was the size of a small car. We ended up drinking instant coffee while the thing was brewing (it was very good instant coffee by the way, I think it was Japanese—sadly, I didn’t stay long enough for the final BenCab brew).
The whole surreal incident made me sigh in relief over my preference for simplified coffee making. I have many friends who saved up for coffee machines that are about half the price of the downpayment of a modest condo unit, and I would never be able to afford such a luxury in my lifetime.
Aside from cost and complicated operations, I also have a thing about coffee waste. I know there are now coffee pods that are completely recyclable, but its single-use packaging makes me veer away from these types of machines, regardless of how affordable they have become. I have also stopped using my two drip coffee makers, because of the thought of buying (and tossing!) those filters, and reusable filters can become yucky-doo (in my son’s words).
So about eleven years ago, I started using a French Press. It’s the simplest, most affordable, eco-friendly, coffee-making equipment my time-hungry lifestyle could take. It conserves all of the coffee beans’ oils, making your cup more flavorful. Others would say it’s a lazy way to make coffee, but I beg to differ—French press coffee making is an art form of sorts. Serious Eats even alludes choosing a French coffee press to picking the right man (as if that were simple). Here’s an excerpt:
“A French press is often treated like Jason Segal’s character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He’s actually the one you want, but people tend to flock blindly to the flashy, temperamental types like coffee-siphon-somethings or Russell Brands. The French press is definitely a potential coffee happily-ever-after, but as with all things coffee, it ain’t rocket science… but it is science!”
Enough said, haha. I have been happy with my daily-coffee-via-French-press, and I am now on my third Bodum press; I call her Red. The last one was named Clunker, an eight-cup version, and the first one, long-gone, was Bo. They have all withstood my daily abuse and clumsy kitchen-keeping. Le Creuset came up with its own French press two years ago in its flashy stoneware casing in a bevy of ombre colorways. Nice to dream about, but Coffee Review said underneath the dazzle, the filtering equipment was just the same as your regular press! Get the significantly cheaper Bodum Chambord instead.
If you don’t want the hassle of cleaning out a French press (though I’ve grown used to it, and the act itself I find meditative), there is the other eco-friendly option of the Moka Pot. This coffee classic is the Italian New Wave Sexy Film cousin of the French Press, and just as delicious. I also love seeing the coffee bubble up from the tiny spout in the middle, but of course, you’d still need a hotplate for this.
Or you could try pour-over coffee or aeropress method, the processes of which I find terribly mesmerizing. My friend Tala, who is one of the local bean purveyors at Go Brew, always treats us to aeropress coffee at our product shoots. I love watching her make it—from the weighing of the beans, to the slow pouring of fresh hot water, to the careful aeropress plunging. The whole process takes about 15 minutes to brew a single cup, and if you are fourth in line waiting for the coffee, you’ll get yours after an entire hour. But it is totally worth the wait.
Now that is satisfaction! 😊
Main photo by Anshu A for Unsplash; pour-over photo from Go Brew; Le Creuset is from Sur La Table; other photos are my own.