My neverending search for the perfect cup of coffee

<span>Photograph: Alikaj2582/Getty Images/iStockphoto</span>
Photograph: Alikaj2582/Getty Images/iStockphoto

I’m about to go holiday, and though the prospect is delightful, one thing is worrying me: the coffee situation. For the last few years, a group of us have rented a big, old house somewhere in deepest France. It’s a place I love as much as anywhere I’ve ever stayed: you will know what I mean when I say that it’s the kind of house where you want only to read Colette, and eat apricots, and lie in the bath with a large glass of rosé while listening to Francoise Hardy (you might want to pretend that you are Francoise Hardy, I couldn’t possibly comment). However, there is a problem, and that is the aforementioned coffee situation.

The house has an old-fashioned percolator, but only one. There are no cafetieres, no stove-top devices, and no Nespresso machine. (I can no more imagine a Nespresso machine on its ancient kitchen counters than I can a go-go dancer.) But we are 10, at least. How to make sure there is enough coffee for everyone? In the past, we have used the percolator to fill a huge teapot with Costa Rican, after which we then immediately run it again for a second round.

In these anxious times, such kitchen rituals are nothing short of a life raft

This, however, is both unsatisfactory, and un-chic. Should I pack my own cafetiere this year? I have considered this. But we’re travelling easyJet, and I think I would rather use my baggage allowance for another pair of sandals than a coffee pot. (Earlier today, I experimented, and tried to put a pair of sandals inside a cafetiere - alas, only one shoe would fit.)

Thinking about this leads me to consider the problem of coffee-making generally. The perfect cup of coffee is like the perfect lipstick: a quest that will end only with your death. I disapprove of Nespresso machines and their ilk, and I don’t particularly like the coffee they make either. Cafetieres are so messy and gritty, and I never seem to get the coffee-to-water ratio quite right; also, the coffee gets cold so quickly. I love my blackened stove-top Bialetti for reasons to do with nostalgia and all-round stylishness, but it makes pretty mud-like coffee: good for days when you’re knackered, but very bad indeed when the last thing you need is to be wired like Frankenstein. The huge, orange Italian espresso machine that I bought at vast expense some years ago looks fantastic. But working it is such a performance, and the coffee it makes always tastes of its metallic bowels to me.

I think the best method at home is the most simple. Drip, drip, drip: like a percolator, only without the stewing effect of the hotplate. I have a china filter and I line it with a (recycled) paper filter, and that’s my morning cup – just as my dad used to make his in 1976. (His beans, incidentally, were roasted by Pollards of Sheffield, a business, established in 1879, that is still going strong and which now has a website, should you, too, be an exile.)

This is no good for large numbers – unless, of course, you set out 10 cups and 10 filters – but the coffee it makes is at once rich and gentle, and the grounds are so easily dealt with. It takes a little while, but this is a good thing: as you wait, you can stare out of the window, pause for a moment before you begin your day. In these anxious times, such kitchen rituals are nothing short of a life raft.

Of course, I’m not the only dripper around. Our numbers are growing exponentially, this being, I gather, the hipster’s method of choice. But in the 21st century, nothing is allowed to be simple for long – or at any rate, a thing’s simplicity must always be augmented; made more refined. A company called Kinto makes what it calls a brewer stand set. It comprises a wooden base, a brass pole at the top of which is a brass filter, and a glass jug that holds four cups of coffee. Naturally, it is made in Japan. It costs – wait for it – £180. Yet even as I laugh at this, a feeling comes over me that is all too familiar. I might as well be at an Apple counter, about to buy yet another shade of matt rose. This bit of kit could be life changing … couldn’t it? Answers on an old bag of Ethiopian mocha Djimmah, please.