Why You Shouldn't Buy Anyone A Coffee Plunger

Like a lot of folks, you might be considering buying a loved one some fancy coffee gear to make fancy coffee as a Christmas gift. By which I mean, you're probably thinking about buying somebody a coffee plunger. Please don't.

It looks classy. Neatly sculpted glass or metal or both. It often does not make very classy coffee, though.

Used as typically directed, the coffee it produces is kinda dirty. Or as coffee ronin Mike White puts it, "The relatively porous filter lets a lot of particulate and sediments into the cup that normally remain behind. What you end up with is a cup full of body and texture, but lacking delicate clarity." Meaning if you're buying fancy coffee for your folks to put in their fancy plunger, the fancy taste isn't going to come through very well. With a plunger, it's also relatively easy to underextract the coffee -- for a discussion of coffee extraction and strength, click here -- even for a former world barista champion.

It's not impossible to make good coffee with a plunger -- you can pull out some serious skills to produce some serious coffee, like world barista champions Tim Wendelboe/Jim Hoffman's cupping-style technique or this French "Pull" jazz or a handful of other techniques. Mat Honan really loves plunger coffee, for instance.

Of course, you could skip the plunger and get your folks a lovely but tricky manual pour-over setup that's in vogue in the fanciest of fancy coffee shops. But you're trying to give them an easy way to make awesome coffee, right?

Buy them a Clever coffee dripper. It's cheap. $US15. It's portable. Most importantly, it's really, really easy to make good coffee with a steep-and-release device, easier than almost any other manual method. Throw in coffee. Throw in water. Let it sit for a few minutes, like a plunger. Then put it on top of a cup. The coffee draws down into the cup, through a paper filter -- which means more flavour clarity and no gritty coffee. Easy, right?

If you don't take my word for it, listen to Scott Rao, author of fancy coffee books for fancy coffee people. In his book Everything But Espresso, he lauds Clever-like brewers because "they produce high-quality, uniform extractions more easily than do manual pour-overs."

Or you could just get them a very nice tea set.

Image: The Pumping Station.

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