‘Tis the season of giving, to monetize your feelings for those closest to you, and to say, “I love you this much. Here’s the receipt to prove it.” I like to consider myself a thoughtful gift giver, so coming up with the perfect present for each individual gives me the absolute vapors. Thus, I sympathize with those well-meaning aunts and uncles who know you really, really like coffee but don’t know any better way to show their support than with a little green gift card or with another v60 (the 5th or 6th in your collection by this point).
If you are reading this right now, oh fair patron of Sprudge, there’s a strong chance you are a dyed-in-the-wool coffee nerd and are incredibly difficult to buy gifts for. In order to help you help others shop for you, we’ve put together a list of gift ideas that you will absolutely want—nay, need. Please feel free to forward this list to any befuddled family members; I’d suggest printing it out on a nice hefty card stock (it lets them know you are as serious about gift getting as they are about gift giving). If you received a link to this site from your favorite barista-niece/nephew, you’ve stumbled into a weird and magical world of coffee appreciation; you’re officially through the looking siphon, welcome! We’ve got 10 surefire gifts that the special coffee geek in your life will absolutely love.
1. Water For Coffee by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood & Christopher H. Hendon: $40
Water comprises somewhere in the ballpark of 98% of a cup of coffee, which is to say it is an important component in making a really excellent brew. It’s generally accepted amongst the coffee community that completely purified water isn’t best for brewing; you need a few PPMs (parts per million) of various other minerals in your H2O. But how many PPMs and what minerals? The new book by renowned barista (who has dedicated entire competition routines to water) Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood and chemist Christopher H. Hendon explores the effects of water composition on coffee and how to predict a brew’s outcome based upon the water used. The subject matter may seem a little dry (get it?) to the casual coffee drinker, but this book is sure to make the barista-academic on your list giddy with excitement.
2. Optipure BWS100 Water Filtration System: $1000+
Knowing about PPMs and TDS (total dissolved solids) is only half of the battle for great water. The other half is getting the exact desired composition. A reverse osmosis water filtration system is a great first step to that end, but to truly achieve peak water constitution, you need to be able to also re-introduce certain dissolved solids back into the final product. Optipure’s BWS100 not only meets this need but allows the user to control the exact amount being re-introduced in order to achieve the ideal TDS. And sure, this system is commercial grade, able to produce up to 80 gallons of sweet, sweet water a day, but it’s one of the smallest models with this level of customization. Besides, the avid home user isn’t one to limit themselves to only consumer-level products, so this addition will fit in quite nicely.
The ability to identify a scent is crucial in evaluating a coffee, but honing this ability is often a very long and difficult process. Le Nez Du Café makes it a whole lot easier. This handsome kit contains 36 vials of aromas commonly found in coffee; earth, blackcurrant, apricot, lemon, and even rubber make up part of the collection to help train the ever-important sense of smell. Made by Le Nez, the French company behind similar wine kits for sommeliers-in-training, Le Nez Du Café was made with the serious coffee aficionado in mind. If the hefty $300 price tag is a bit too much, a $40 Temptation kit containing six aromas is a more reasonably priced alternative. I guess Jimmy John’s is wrong, smells AREN’T free.
4. Re:Co Specialty Coffee Symposium Tickets: $1100-$1300
Re:Co (or, Regarding: Coffee) is the premiere destination for those truly looking to advance not only their own coffee knowledge but the specialty coffee industry as a whole. This annual event (kind of, various countries host annual Re:Co’s) normally coincides with the national barista championship here in the United States, and this year’s takes place in April in Hotlanta. The lists of speakers, topics, and events has yet to be posted, but past subject matter has included everything from farm-level practices to café design to sensory science with presenters and panel hosts ranging from doctors, scientists, baristas to even the occasional Sprudge editor. The price of admission into those hallowed Symposium halls is steep, but well worth it for those fortunate enough to attend.
5. Volumetric Doser for Mahlkonig EK-43: $475
Not sure if you are shopping for a true-blue coffee geek? Well, if that special someone has a hulking spice grinder on their counter and they REFUSE to let you grind a single clove in it, then there’s your answer. The Mahlkönig EK-43 is the grinder du jour for the progressive coffee-minded, and this little accessory is going to step up their grind game in a major way. Created by Berlin’s Five Elephant Coffee, the volumetric doser allows for accurate dosing down to .2 grams even after repeat uses in a high-volume setting. Now, you may be asking, “why would they need to worry about high-volume consistency for a home grinder?” It’s a reasonable question, but you obviously don’t understand a coffee nerd’s love of gadgets. And if you don’t want to wait 30 minutes for that expertly made espresso while your family’s barista has to slog through every aunt’s, uncle’s, and grandma’s order during those holiday gatherings, then this gift makes a lot of sense for all parties involved.[ed. note: Sprudge.com is proudly partnered with Mahlkönig and Five Elephant Coffee]
6. Gift card for Coffee-Related Tattoo: Varying Prices
It’s safe to say your favorite coffee geek has tattoos. Nothing shows them you both support their lifestyle and appreciate the permanence of their decision by helping fund their next coffee tattoo. Sure, they probably already have a “death before decaf” inked somewhere on their person (if not, you can score major bonus points by suggesting this as the subject matter), but there are a host of coffee plants, cups, brewing devices, portafilters, etc. that would make for great body art. Hourly rates vary, but plan on gifting around 3 hours worth. It’s not going to get a full sleeve done, but it’s more than enough time for a good-sized piece. And go to a parlor specializing in American Traditional tattoos. For some reason, baristas love American Traditional.
The key to a good-looking shot—much like a good-looking face—is grooming. And this 40-piece espresso dosing tool set makes some pretty damn good-looking espresso beds. But more than just looks, these little mustache combs (but for coffee!) deliver precise distribution of espresso in the portafilter, promoting consistency and evenness in extraction. This rather large set of tools will ensure that the barista in your life is in full control of their output, regardless of tamper style or basket shape and size. Kits are also available in the 3, 15, and 30 count varieties, but come on, 40 just seems necessary.
8. Refractometer Bundle: $729-$1379
Used in the best cafes around the world to measure TDS/extraction percentages in espresso and brewed coffee, the VST Refractometer is the tech gadget every coffee geek needs—or thinks they need. Does pouring counterclockwise concentric circles increase the overall extraction past that of the run-of-the-mill clockwise concentric circles? Did accidentally kicking the table during the cupping create extra agitation that caused the coffee to overextract? The VST Refractometer will tell you. And while you can buy just a standalone refractometer, we suggest ponying up for the software package and a few syringes. No one likes getting a gift that requires extra purchases in order to use. You wouldn’t buy someone an iPad without a charger, would you?
9. Espresso Machine Customizations: Varying Prices
It goes without saying that buying an espresso machine is out of the question for most of you. Beyond the $5000-$7000+ sticker price, we are presuming you are buying for a real-deal coffee nerd who already owns the espresso machine of their dreams. But, you can help them customize that fine piece of machinery with a host of fanciful flourishes. Custom wood paddles and portafilter handles, personalized side panels, the world is your oyster (maybe some sweet mother of pearl inlays). There are a ton of custom shops out there, but Pantechnicon Design is just killing it right now. Whatever mod you want, Jacob Ellul-Blake—the man behind the Seattle-based company—can make it happen. Or if you're based in Australia or thereabouts, Specht Design is another excellent option (we've featured them previously on Sprudge), and Zink out of the Netherlands also does good custom work. The lucky recipient of this gift will be the envy of their personal coffee geek circle, and you’ll never have to pay for coffee in your life ever again.
10. Starbucks Gift Card: $20 should do the trick
Here’s the deal: sometimes you just need coffee. Maybe you are about to get on an early morning flight or you’re road tripping to the middle of nowhere and specialty coffee just isn’t going to happen. But the ubiquitous mermaid is. $20 to Starbucks is the “in case of emergency, break glass” sort of gift that let’s the giftee know, “when the chips are down, I got you.” And if your loved one says they wouldn’t drink Starbucks even in dire straits, they aren’t truly the coffee geek they professed to be. For them, a hand-written note stating, “you’re a fake-ass buster” is much more appropriate. Sometimes the greatest gift you can gift someone is calling them on their shit.
Zac Cadwalader is a Sprudge staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.
This feature is part of our 2015 Festival Of Guides.