The holidays are right around the corner, and like it or not, that means buying gifts for your loved ones. Personally, I prefer giving gifts to receiving them. It’s not that I’m some selfless individual who likes spreading joy to others. Far from it. In fact, most things I buy are for me, little gifts for my favorite person in the world.
It’s that shopping for me is really difficult.
Potential gifts for me fall into two categories: things that are prohibitively expensive and thus I don’t own them, and things that are reasonably priced and I have already purchased for myself because I’m a grown-ass adult who can do what he pleases with his money, okay? Needless to say, buying a gift from either group is no good for me, either because I already have it or because you undoubtedly spent waaaaay more on me than I will on you over the course of the next decade, which makes me feel like a shitty friend/relative and no one likes feeling that way.
There is a third option, though, and it is without question the best: the gift I didn’t know I wanted until I unwrapped it. It’s rare, but when it happens, it’s magical. Not only is the item itself something I want and don’t have, but the sentiment behind the gift is far more meaningful than the actual thing itself. It’s a sign that someone in the world truly knows me and my interests and (GASP!) actually cares enough to get creative.
Chances are you are like me and your “third option” gifts are all coffee things, making it even more difficult for friends and loved ones (who presumably aren’t as into coffee as you are) to come up that singular magical present. But I’m here to help. I’ve compiled a list of gifts that you (or the coffee geek in your life who forwarded this article to you) are sure to love. Because Nana shouldn’t have to know about refractometers or RoR in order to show she cares.
This is the newest addition to the Baratza lineup and it comes highly lauded, even winning Best New Product at the 2016 SCAA Expo. If the 40mm conical steel burrs, stepless grind setting, and handsome design weren’t enough, the 270W also allows for weight-based dosing thanks to built-in Acaia scale technology, making it one of the best home grinders on the marker. Even at $499, the Sette 270W, punches above its price tag. If that’s a little steep, there’s a $379 option that comes without the weighted dosing, but that’s a pretty clutch feature, so I say pony up the extra $120; it’s well worth it.
Across all coffee brew methods–from espresso to French press–evenness of grind size is crucial for flavor clarity. We’re talking micron-level differences here making a huge impact on the end flavor. And even the best, most precision-engineered grinder is still just a glorified crushing machine creating a spread of coffee ground sizes. That’s where the Kruve Coffee Sifter comes in. After a successful Kickstarter campaign under the name Rafino, the newly-rebranded Kruve uses interchangeable screen sizes to remove any unwanted particles—both fines and boulders–from the coffee grounds. It allows users to achieve grind size evenness down to 100, sometimes even 50 microns.
Price for the Kruve varies based on the number of screens in the set: $49 for two, $89 for six, and $129 for 12. Not to sound like a broken record here, but I’d pony up the extra cash and get the 12.
Roasting is kind of the last frontier for most coffee professionals. They have a general idea, they know a few of the key concepts, they may have even read a book or two on the subject. But nothing compares to actual hands-on experience working the curve. A home roaster is the key to unlocking that final world of coffee knowledge.
The Ikawa is the newest home roaster to hit the market and it is without question the most stunning. Most smaller roasters are a little clunky aesthetically. My HotTop for instance, while a superb machine, is on the bigger side and lacks the visual appeal required for my wife to allow it to be displayed in our minimalist, Scandinavian-influenced kitchen. So it gets relegated to a drawer. The Ikawa, on the other hand, is beautifully sleek and has a small countertop footprint. It would not only get to stay out, it would be a showpiece.
As a corollary to the above gift, a selection of green coffees from Royal will make sure your favorite home roaster is all ready to get started. And this is a gift that gives back. As the person who gave what would probably be the best gift ever, you’d be entitled to received lots of freshly roasted coffee in return. By ordering the first 22 pounds of green coffee, you’re dictating what they’ll be roasting and thus, what you’ll be drinking. I’d go with the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Surafel Birhanu Double Washed, but maybe you’re more of a Panama Boquete Horqueta Caturra Fully Washed sort of person. As the person buying the green, it’s up to you.
Sure, you could use a Chemex to serve coffee to your guests, but it kind of lacks the same level of detail you put into the brew itself, don’t you think? Fancy coffee for fancy guests deserves fancy serving ware. Custom fancy serving ware. A set of plum bottom snifters and the Filibuster dual wall decanter from Saint Anthony Industries should do that trick. Add the pièce de résistance—a walnut or maple serving tray with your own logo engraved on it—and you’ve created a memorable coffee experience for all parties involved.
The pieces are bought a la carte and the plum bottom snifters are currently on backorder until Christmas, but the good folks at Saint Anthony should be able to get enough of the serving ware under the Festivus Pole that you should get a little leeway on the entire set not being complete under the New Year.
You wouldn’t want a chef jamming his fingers in your food all willy-nilly, would you? It’s the same with the coffee bed for your espresso. Historically, baristas have used a variety of finger moves—swipes, stars, and stockfleths (oh my!)—to distribute coffee inside a portafilter as evenly as possible with varying success. Designed by 2015 World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic, the ONA Coffee Distributor solves both pre-tamping problems. The OCD (as it is painfully referred by those into the whole brevity thing) allows for even distribution time after time without getting all that schmutz on your finger (and vice versa), leading to less channeling in the espresso bed. It’s a must-have for the consistency and cleanliness obsessed.
Let’s face it, if you or the person you are shopping for is a coffee-obsessed barista, there’s a better-than-average chance you/they have a denim jacket or backpack or what have you that has been adorned with enamel coffee flair. And Caffeind, the new sub-brand by the Department of Brewology, have all the cheeky pizzazz your little heart desires. Batman memes, Jurassic Park mashups, anti-decaf sentiments, these soft enamel pins allow you to let the world know that you’re “absurdly obsessed with coffee and proud of it.”
Ben Medansky is a Los Angeles-based ceramist that makes some of the most sought-after hand thrown mugs in the specialty coffee world. Refined and elegant, no two ceramics are the same. A Medansky mug makes a great gift, especially if the giver doesn’t know much about coffee, if only to include in the card, “these are the mugs they use at Go Get Em Tiger,” and totally blow the mind of the coffee person receiving it.
A fire at Medansky’s studio over the summer has all but halted production and there are currently no mugs available directly through his website. But it does list stockists around the nation where they may still be available. The shock value is well worth the hunt.
Be it around a campfire or in a hotel room, making good coffee is of the utmost importance to the sojourning coffee geek. And the new AeroPress travel kit from Onyx Coffee Lab is one of the most handsome portable coffee setups in recent memory. Made in collaboration with Authentic Sundry, the unbleached canvas (or selvedge denim) and tan leather kit is the first product from Onyx Origin Supply–the coffee roaster’s new line of travel-related paraphernalia—and is reminiscent of a chef’s rollout knife bag. But for coffee.
Contained within the kit is an AeroPress, Onyx campfire mug, Porlex grinder, and four tubes that can each hold 15 grams of coffee (and come pre-filled with Onyx’s Sugar Skull blend). No scale is needed since everything is pre-weighed, and a cloth-printed brew recipe is stitched directly into the bag. The entire travel kit is available for pre-order for $200 with an estimated ship date on or before December 22nd. If the person you are buying for already has an AeroPress and hand grinder, a version of the travel kit with only the bag and the coffee tubes is available for $110.
Granted, this beauty probably falls in the “prohibitively expensive” category, but sometimes you gotta shoot for the stars. Even with the introduction of the Linea Mini, the La Marzocco GS3 is still king of the home espresso machines. It’s basically a commercial machine with a smaller counter profile. And if you’re trying to wow someone with a $7,000+ gift, why not add a few G’s to it and go for this customized showstopper? Designed by Australia’s Specht Design, this functional work of art features American oak accents and an Acaia Lunar scale built directly into the drip tray.
It’s beauty on the outside and beast on the inside. It’s hard to argue that it isn’t worth the price, assuming you have an extra five figures to throw around that is.
In the world of hand grinders, there are more compact (the Porlex), there are less expensive (the Hario Skerton), and there are some (arguably) nicer options (the LIDO II), but Handground is the best combination of all three. It may be a little big for most folks to use as a travel grinder, but this is for the coffee geek–the sort of person most people who travel with a hand grinder would say is a little obsessed—so a little extra bulk isn’t a problem for them. The Handground precision grinder can outperform many electric grinders, so it would make a great gift for someone in need of a home grinder as well.
Coffee table books should be about coffee or be able to be made into a coffee table. Those are the only two acceptable modes. And though it lacks foldout legs, the 2016 World Aeropress Championship Annual is pretty high on my list of “books I’d want displayed on my coffee table.” Replete with posters from every national competition, winning recipes, interviews, and beautiful photography, the 2016 WAC is 300+ pages covering every inch of the grassroots contest that Sprudge’s intrepid co-founder Jordan Michelman calls “a kind of free-wheeling ‘fuck-off’ to the all-too-serious world of coffee competitions.”
There are a lot of espresso-on-the-go products on the market, but the brand new Aram manual espresso maker is easily the most visually striking. Designed and built in Brazil, much of the visual appeal comes from the sleek lines created by the repurposed Imbuia wood body.
But the Aram is more than just looks. Using a crank design similar to that of a hand grinder, the Aram can easily produce nine bars of pressure (with claims of creating up to 14 bars), allowing for the creation of crema, something most on-the-go products can’t do.
The Aram clocks in at around a cool $500, so it’s definitely not for everyone. A $30 Aeropress makes a pretty serviceable espresso—though the Aero-espresso is probably best used in a babycano—and most people might not want to pay 15 times as much just for better crema. But if the person you are buying makes any sort of normative statements about Aero-presso vis-à-vis canos (either baby- or ameri-), then they are probably the sort of person that would think the mark was a small price to pay.
In last year’s gift guide, I may or may not have made a few choice comments about folks who are too cool to receive Starbucks gifts cards as gifts from well-intentioned family members, perhaps referring to them as “fake-ass busters” and not “truly the coffee geeks they professed to be.” From these comments I will not equivocate, I will not excuse, I will not retreat a single inch. But this year there is another option for the coffee geek on the go, one that won’t force me to use such inflammatory rhetoric.
Co-founded by two-time Finnish Barista Champion Kalle Freese, Sudden Coffee is the just-add-water alternative to airport coffee, break room swill, or any time there isn’t a specialty cafe for miles. Coming in single-serve packets, Sudden is dehydrated coffee made with high-quality single-origin coffees roasted by top-notch roasters. Their current offering is an Ethiopia Biftu Gudina roasted by Vancouver, BC’s 49th Parallel as part of their Holiday Stocking Stuffer: eight servings of coffee, a holiday card, and a tree ornament all for $32. All orders placed by December 16th have a guarantee of being delivered in time to make it under the Christmas tree.
If you are or are buying for a bona fide coffee geek, then you/they gonna need swag. And nothing is swaggier and coffee geekier than Sprudge merch. I mean, wearing a coffee shop’s shirt to a coffee shop is a little on the nose, don’t you think? It’s like wearing a band’s shirt to their concert. Big no-no. But wearing a shirt for your favorite place to get all your coffee news and culture? Woo doggie, you’d be the coolest kid in the coffee shop; patrons will want to be you and baristas will want to be with you. Guaranteed*.
And boy do we have shirts! Cat shirts, metal shirts, guinea pig shirts, there may even have been a llama in there! If you can’t find a shirt to suit you, you were never meant to be suited. We’ve got hoodies, we’ve got sweatshirts, we’ve got onesies. We’ve got KeepCups, books, totes, and bumper stickers. Stuff your stocking with swag from Sprudge, the worldwide leader in coffee news.
Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.