The Cafflano Kompresso really delivers
If there’s one thing I know how to «cook», it’s espresso. My cooking ambitions don’t exceed pasta with sauce – but I’ve been experimenting for several years with coffee beans, degrees of grinding and manual lever machines. I don't have enough space for a large portafilter. I like small devices and have fallen in love with the design of the ROK. It works in the same way as the Cafflano Compresso I'm testing today: Add coffee and hot water and push the water down through the basket of coffee using nothing but your own muscle power. After several disgusting shots of espresso, I now quite reliably manage to produce a double espresso that’s to my liking with the ROK. So the ROK is my reference model and I’m curious to see whether the Cafflano Kompresso can keep up.
The Cafflano components
The Cafflano Kompresso, which is financed by Kickstarter, isn’t beautiful. But it’s constructed in a clever and handy way with all parts screwed into each other. These are the components:
Piston: made of polypropylene, glides over the chamber and has two handles that allow you to build up pressure. Closed off with a red silicone head.
Chamber: seems a bit yellowed, is made of bioplastics and has a scale marked in 30-60 millilitres, which comes in handy when pouring hot water into the chamber. Has a wide finish. According to Pascal's law, pressure in resting liquids is transmitted equally in all directions. By applying pressure on a small surface, as the top of the piston, higher pressure is achieved. The Cafflano Kompresso is said to achieve a pressure of nine bars.
Shower screen: it’s made of stainless steel and has a silicone ring around it that acts as a seal between the chamber and the filter basket. It sits at the bottom of the piston and distributes the water evenly.
Filter basket: it’s made of polypropylene and features a stainless steel strainer. Holds 10-15 grams of ground coffee and is screwed on.
Tamping scoop: the name says it all. Used to spoon coffee powder into the filter basket and tamper, i.e. press down the coffee powder to make it compact. It stamps the Cafflano logo into the powder at the same time.
Cup: if you don't have a nicer cup at hand, this is what the black gold flows into. The bioplastic cup is also screwed on, which reduces the risk of accidents.
Test under lab conditions
The Cafflano is designed for outdoor use, but I’ve decided to test it at home first. I proceed almost as I’m used to from ROK. I use Stoll (Oraganic Brasil) coffee beans and grind them with the continuously adjustable hand mill by ROK. This produces a very fine degree of grinding – so fine that my second portable machine by Staresso can’t handle it. I give it a go with 14 grams of beans. I don't heat the machine up by pouring hot water through it before I make coffee, as most components are made of plastic. I just rinse out the «portafilter» aka filter basket with hot water before I dry and fill it. With a hand-measured diameter of 47 millimetres, the basket is a good size, while the tamping scoop has a diameter of 45 millimetres.
While I’m happy with the filter basket, the tamping scoop bugs me. Sure, the brand logo that’s stamped into the coffee powder looks cool, but I'd rather have a smooth surface. No chance. I have no other choice than screwing it with Cafflano branding. Next off, I need to boil water. My kettle has a temperature gauge. I wait until it says 95 degrees, pour 60 millilitres into the chamber of the Kompresso and put the piston in place. The manufacturer recommends waiting five to ten seconds, so I count to five slowly and the press down.
This takes more strength than with the ROK with its long levers, but the device feels sturdy and the piston moves down silently. After 20 to 30 seconds, I unscrew the cup and am surprised. My espresso has a decent crema and a round, strong taste. Just as good as what my ROK produces – and in my first attempt! The next few shots are just as good. This portable machine outranks my large one.
Cleaning the machine turned out to be a bit challenging: I had to be careful not to get burned by the hot residual water, which is still in the piston and comes splashing at me when I pull out the piston or unscrew the filter basket. Having said that, the filter basket is very easy to empty and rinse. All done and dusted. Time to test this machine in its intended surroundings: outdoors.
The outdoor test
Before I take a trip into the unknown, I grind 30 grams of coffee beans and stow the powder in my backpack together with the Cafflano Kompresso. We’re heading into the mountains. Photographer Thomas Kunz and I are visiting adventurer Ruedi Gamper in Appenzell. Whatever happens, at least I’ll have a good cup of espresso at hand.
My big moment comes during our descent from mount Schäfler. We’re sitting in the fog in front of the deserted mountain inn Berggasthaus Mesmer. Behind us are a few gazing donkeys, in front of us is a sea of fog and in our heads is afternoon tiredness. Instead of sitting around a campfire and boiling water, we the landlady what our plan is and buy a pot at the inn. There’s no time to lose. I put powder into the Kompresso, tamper, add water.
I might have gained a bit of practice with this machine at home, but I’m missing scales and a temperature display. I use a bit too much powder and the water’s probably too cold by now. Whatever. I push down the piston. It takes a lot of strength and takes too long.
What I end up with is a bitter, over-extracted espresso that could awaken the dead – who’d then immediately wonder if this life is worth living. Whatever. Ruedi grins and bears a bad espresso. And I realise that things aren’t as easy out here. Not that this is the Cafflano Kompresso’d fault. But it’s worth knowing.
If you’re looking for perfection, the Cafflano Kompresso espresso «machine» isn’t the right choice. You won’t get consistent results, especially if you're using it outdoors. But I’m surprised what the Cafflano Kompresso is capable of. I enjoyed amazing espresso and found its design and components easy to handle and clean. Should my little Staresso break, the Kompresso is my ideal choice of replacement.