Review: Never be far from a great cup of Joe with the Cafflano Klassic coffee maker
This portable all-in-one pour over coffee maker is a near perfect balance of form and function.
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Before I was a U.S. Marine and before I became a backcountry expert, I was a student of architecture. The best architectural design, and the best industrial product design for that matter, is the art and science of seeking perfection in the combination of beautiful form and outstanding function. Whether the product is a skyscraper, automobile, or coffee maker, it needs to solve human problems (e.g. office space, transportation, or stimulation) efficiently while simultaneously being aesthetically pleasing to the senses. I recall the great American architect, systems theorist, and futurist Richard Buckminster Fuller, who said, “When I’m working on a problem, I never think about its beauty, I just think about how to solve the problem, but when I finish it, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it’s wrong.”
That’s where the designers of the Cafflano Klassic portable all-in-one pour-over coffee maker really got it right. They’ve created a sleek, sophisticated solution to portable coffee brewing that’s also very efficient and intuitive at a fair price. At a $70 price point, the Cafflano Klassic is one of the more expensive portable coffee devices we’ve reviewed so far, but we believe it is a good value considering it is an all-in-one unit that includes a well-made coffee grinder, kettle, and insulated cup.
Despite the wonderful product design, the Cafflano Klassic arrived in a crappy, flimsy-looking single-use (boo!) non-recyclable plastic box. I was immediately dubious of its contents. The cheap, non-environmentally friendly marketing on the package boasted of the Cafflano Klassic’s achievements: winning the New Product of the Show Awards in 2015 in the category of Best Domestic Coffee Equipment and the Out Door Gold Winner for Industry Award for 2016. Another side detailed the four components contained within the design: a drip kettle, a hand mill grinder, a filter dripper, and a tumbler. The second and third sides of the awful plastic box contained four-step instructions on how to use the device: 1) grind whole beans, 2) pour hot water, 3) remove filter dripper, and 4) enjoy fresh coffee. It seemed so simple even a caveman — er, Marine — could do it.
Out of the box, my impression changed. This was my first encounter with Cafflano products and when I pulled the midnight black, scarlet, and chrome device out of the crappy plastic box, several things stood out. First, I thought of one of my favorite bands from the late 1990s and early aughts, the White Stripes, and their obsessive and powerful red, black, and white branding. Second, I thought of those outrageously expensive and striking black and red stiletto shoes by French Egyptian designer Christian Louboutin. Both the band and the shoe company, through their effective use of color in branding, created a powerful effect — as does the Cafflano Klassic. From an industrial design perspective, it is a work of art.
The quality of the craftsmanship is immediately apparent. The black plastic drip kettle with its removable red cap is smooth to the touch. The cap has a concentric ripple design reminiscent of dropping a pebble into a still pond. Near the lip of the drip kettle is a diamond-shaped hole to control the rate of flow of hot water out of the kettle and onto the coffee grinds in the filter dripper. I discovered the red part of the cap unscrews to serve as a lid for the drip kettle. The purpose is twofold: to keep the hot water hot and to prevent steam from burning your hands.
The grey plastic hand mill coffee grinder and metal mesh filter dripper are nestled inside like Russian dolls. The grinder handle is made from chrome-plated steel and has a hinge in the middle to allow it to fold into the body for storage and extend for mechanical advantage when grinding. The grinder is fully adjustable and contains ceramic burrs within. The plastic filter dripper has a fine stainless steel screen.
Finally, the bottom of the cup serves as a tumbler to catch the brewed coffee from the filter dripper. It is made of double-walled insulated stainless steel and has a textured swirl pattern on the exterior. On the bottom, the designers placed a bit of soft rubber to keep the device in place when grinding coffee on hard surfaces. Again, the industrial designers really paid close attention to detail. Bravo.
The device isn’t exactly compact, though. It is 7.75 inches tall and 3.5 inches in diameter. While it’s well built, it’s not exactly light either at 459 grams, or just over a pound.
How we tested the Cafflano Klassic coffee maker
I established five basic criteria for evaluating the Cafflano Klassic:
- Ease of use
- Delivery – could it produce a delicious cup of coffee?
I used the Cafflano Klassic exclusively for a week to make my morning brew and tinkered with various coffee grinds, coffee and water ratios, water temperatures, and brew times. I always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to a T on the first test, and then tinker to dial things in to get the best brew.
Before we start any coffee device evaluation, it’s essential to ensure you have the right stuff to craft your brew. Great coffee comes down to several key elements:
- High-quality, properly roasted beans (fresh ground preferred)
- Pure water (no chlorine!)
- The right grind for the technique: in this case, we used a dark roast and a medium fine grind
- The right water to coffee ground ratio: one to 17 is a good rule of thumb for pour over style coffee
- The right water temperature: we like about 195 to 200 degree Fahrenheit, just off the boil
Test 1: Portability. I carried the Cafflano Klassic around in my backpack and leather shoulder briefcase for a week when I left the house. At just over a pound in weight, it’s easily portable. In fact, the size and morphology reminded me of the thermoses that used to come with grade school lunchboxes. While it is fairly compact as a unit, I wouldn’t take it everywhere. It’s a bit bulky and heavy for multi-day backpacking trips. In those instances, I’d prefer a much smaller and lighter solution like the AeroPress Go. Where weight and cube in a backpack aren’t an issue, the Cafflano Klassic is up to the task for camping, kayaking, or vacation travel (as most hotel coffee sucks).
Test 2: Ease of use. The Cafflano Klassic is Marine-proof. Despite its beauty, it does have a few flaws that need adjustment for the next iteration. While the hot water kettle, flow control pour hole and cap are well-considered, when filled with near-boiling water they become uncomfortable to hold. Additionally, the cap doesn’t seal as firmly as I’d like on the kettle which allows water to seep out if you’re not super careful about the pour. This could be improved with either threading on the inside of the kettle to receive the cap or a silicone O-ring. I loved that the hand mill grinder had visual marks to indicate gram levels and that the ceramic burr grinder is fully adjustable which allows you to dial in the right size grinds for your needs and tastes.
I highly recommend burr grinders over the ubiquitous cheap electric blade grinders. With a conical burr grinder, two separate blades work against each other to produce a uniform grind size that you can control – from coarse to super fine. Blade grinders are a shit show. They’re akin to throwing your coffee grinds into an airplane propeller to be sliced and diced indiscriminately, and uneven grinds result in inconsistent brews.
Conical burr grinders are typically made out of either ceramic or steel. Ceramic burrs, like the Cafflano Klassic’s, are longer lasting. While they’re not as sharp as steel burrs, they retain their sharpness for a longer time. Some coffee nerds prefer ceramic burrs because they claim they don’t produce heat during the grinding process like steel burrs and don’t affect the oils in the coffee beans. I’m dubious about this claim. Friction is friction and friction produces heat. It’s physics. The other advantage of ceramic burrs is that they won’t rust, which is important for travel devices that you might use outdoors. (It’s important to note that hand grinders require some dexterity and physical effort. It’s not a fast process and will take a few minutes to complete the grinding process.)
Cafflano’s printed directions were easy to follow: Put 15 to 20 grams of coffee beans in the grinder, grind, remove the hand mill grinder, start brewing with the drip kettle, remove the filter dripper, enjoy the coffee, or use the red cover as a tumbler lid to keep the coffee warm. I played around with the recipe a bit and found 20 grams of coffee per 270 grams of water worked out best.
Once the hot water passed through the drip filter, cleaning up was a snap. I found holding the basket face down towards the trash with one hand and smacking the back of my hand holding the filter with the palm of my other hand to work best in ejecting the grounds. A quick spray of water in the sink finished the job.
Test 3: Capacity. The Cafflano Klassic is a single cup, single-serving device. The kettle will hold about 270 grams of water (about 9.5 ounces) and that’s all you’re gonna get per brew. While the tumbler will hold more, the filter basket hangs down into the tumbler preventing more than about 9 ounces from brewing through the basket. If you want another cup, you’re back to grinding and pouring.
Test 4: Speed. If you’re used to an AeroPress Go or Delter coffee press, you may experience a bit of speed rage with the Cafflano Klassic. It’s not fast. From start to finish, you’re looking at an eight-minute evolution. Conversely, I can make a cup of coffee in about two and a half minutes with an AeroPress (my stove is induction electric and boils water super fast).
Test 5: Delivery. I was able to make a decent cup of coffee using the manufacturer’s directions of 15 to 20 grams of coffee per 270 grams of water. I like more robust coffee profiles, so I personally prefer immersion brewing to pour-over techniques. With that said, I did enjoy the coffee I was able to produce with Cafflano’s pour-over method at 20 grams of coffee to 270 grams of water. Since the grinder is adjustable, it’s super easy to tinker with the grind size and amount of coffee to dial in the flavor profiles you prefer.
What we like about the Cafflano Klassic coffee maker
There’s a lot to like about the Cafflano Klassic.
First, it’s super convenient to have a grinder, brewer, kettle, and drinking vessel all in one integrated unit. It’s a luxury, actually, and a great design for travel. Second, it’s beautiful as an artifact in the material universe. From the colors to materials to design and construction, the Cafflano Klassic is a very well-thought-out and well-built device. It’s the best combination of form and function I’ve come across so far. While my AeroPress functions beautifully, it’s kinda ugly. While I throw my AeroPress in a drawer when not using it, I’d leave the Cafflano Klassic on the counter. It’s nice to look at. Third, it is capable of producing good coffee. Fourth, it’s easy to clean. Fifth, the double-walled stainless steel tumbler keeps your coffee hot for a good long while. Sixth, the high-quality filter minimizes sludge in the bottom of the brew. Seventh, at a $70 price point, I feel this is a value buy for what you get. Lastly, I really liked the adjustable ceramic conical burr grinder. Well done!
What we don’t like about the Cafflano Klassic coffee maker
While I generally liked the Cafflano Klassic, it’s not a fast process. If you are looking for speed in brewing, you’ll want to look for something like an AeroPress or Delter. Manipulating the grinder requires considerable effort and people with smaller hands might find holding the unit while grinding problematic. I also wish the grinder handle was a bit longer. It was a bit small for my fingers. Cafflano also needs to improve the kettle to lid interface to prevent water leakage when executing the pour-over process. Lastly, I detest when people interchange Ks with Cs and vice versa, although I realize this is pedantic; ‘classic’ is spelled with a C, not a K.
I really liked the Cafflano Klassic. It’s a beautifully designed product that is capable of producing an excellent cup of coffee. In terms of portability, ease of use, capacity, speed, and delivery, it’s an absolute winner in our book.
FAQs about the Cafflano Klassic coffee maker
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the Cafflano Klassic cost?
A. The Cafflano Klassic costs about $68 on Amazon.
Q. Are burr grinders better than bladed grinders?
A. I’m about to pick up the heaviest thing in this room and throw it at you. YES. They are. It’s impossible to control the size or uniformity of coffee grinds with a blade grinder. With the burr grinder, the grind is controllable and consistent. They are also generally more expensive, but you are so worth it.
Q. Is the Cafflano Klassic dishwasher-safe?
A. Absolutely. It’s also easy to wash off in the sink.
Q. What’s the body made of?
A. The body of the Cafflano Klassic is made from stainless steel and plastic.
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Joe Plenzler is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1995 to 2015. He is a backcountry expert, long-distance backpacker, rock climber, kayaker, cyclist, wannabe mountaineer, and the world’s OK-est guitar player. He supports his outdoor addiction by working as a human communication consultant, teaching at the College of Southern Maryland, and helping start-up companies with their public relations and marketing efforts.