6 gifts for coffee lovers looking to up their game
You know what I miss most about working in an office environment? There is nothing more important than having access to a fancy espresso machine. Even keyboard warriors working from home can enjoy the magic of liquid black gold. A hot, delicious hot beverage can be your ticket to jittering throughout the day without spending a fortune.
Do you have any coffee-lovers or caffeine addicts in your life? These are our top six gift options, from the most affordable to the most expensive.
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1. Start with the beans
It’s rare to find a great holiday gift at a fair price. But in the coffee category, it’s possible. Go to a specialty coffee store near you, and you can get a great, high-end holiday gift in the $12-$25 range. If your recipient has a grinder, high-quality beans are the first step in making great coffee at home. You can also buy ground coffee if they don’t have one. However, it will go stale much faster.
I love coffee subscriptions that are focused on variety and many third-wave coffee roasters offer gift plans. Atlas Coffee Club is a favorite of mine. The bags are only available for subscription so the customer doesn’t have to worry how they look on the shelf. They always have new and interesting designs.
Each pack they send comes with a postcard and tasting notes. The company charges $109 for six months’ worth of gift subscriptions, including shipping. If Atlas doesn’t do it for you, Trade has a broader selection of choices, or if that seems too overwhelming and adventurous, the stalwarts of the industry such as Blue Bottle, Peet’s and Equator all have giftable subscription plans too.
Price: Varies depending on brand and subscription type
2. The AeroPress
is a great deal!
Launched back in 2005 and designed by a guy better known for inventing the Aerobie frisbee, the AeroPress continues to be one of the best devices for coffee making at home. It produces a rich, smooth cup of coffee that is somewhere between an espresso and a french press. At just $40, it’s by far the cheapest way to make a respectable cup of coffee. It’s almost indestructible (I’ve owned mine for more than 10 years, and it’s still going strong) and can make great coffee wherever you can get water up to a certain temperature. The trick is to use cooler water than you’d expect (175degF/80degC), which requires a kettle with good temperature control, but overall, it’s hard to screw up a cup of AeroPress. You should grind the beans a little coarser than you would for espresso. Espresso grind is fine if you buy ground beans.
Price: $40 from AeroPress
3. From beans to powder: Odebrew Grinder 2
This might surprise you, but if you want to make great coffee at home, your first upgrade should not be your machine but your grinder. Or, rather: Buy high-quality beans and grind them with precision. Fellow is perhaps best known for its high-precision EKG electric kettle, which has more or less become the industry standard for high-end baristas making pour-over.
In this guide, however I wanted to show the Ode Brew Grinder some love. At $345, it is astonishingly expensive, but it is one of the best grinders money can buy.
The original version was well-reviewed and the Gen 2 improves upon it by adding antistatic technology. This means less mess. It has a cup that fits under the grinder and is magnetically held in place. The grinder grinds just enough beans to make the amount of coffee you need. Once the beans have been shredded, the grinder will stop automatically. The major difference is that the grinding burrs have been completely redesigned; the Gen 2 brew burrs are capable of grinding as fine as 250 microns, while the Standard brew burrs that come stock in the original Ode Brew Grinder can grind as fine as 500 microns. If you love espresso drinks, Fellow warns that this isn’t the grinder for you, but if you’re more of a pour-over person, you can’t go wrong.
Price: $345 from Fellow
4. Acaia Pearl coffee scale
Bringing science to the table
Is it sane to pay $150 for Acaia’s specialized set of Pearl digital coffee scales when Amazon will sell you a just-as-accurate scale for a tenth of that? Acaia’s scale can do more than measure coffee grinds; it can also show you how much you are pouring for your pour-over brews. This will help you fine-adjust your brews and make them more consistent.
Accurately measuring the amount of coffee you put into espresso is a crucial part of fine-tuning your coffee recipes: A double shot of espresso, called a “doppio,” requires 14 to 18 grams of coffee and produces 60 ml (2 fluid ounces) of coffee. You can then experiment with the pressure of your espresso machine, your tamping, and the coarseness or grind of your coffee.
All I’m trying to say is that if your coffee-loving friend doesn’t use scales for espresso making, it’s either because they don’t care or they don’t know how important it is. Whether you pick up the $150 Acaia, the $50 Timemore, or the $17 KitchenTour scale, a precision set of scales is a crucial step toward coffee nirvana.
Price: $150 from Acaia
5. For the tinkerers: Gaggia Classic
If you love espresso drinks and are a serious coffee nerd, then you will eventually learn how to make your own espresso drinks. You will need a grinder, scales, and a quality machine. The Gaggia Classic wouldn’t stand up to the intense requirements of a busy cafe, but for home use, at under $500, it is a remarkably affordable machine for anyone wanting to make coffee shop-quality espresso.
The machine has the most important features that baristas look for: It cranks out up to 12 bars of pressure, and it’s been around for 30 years. YouTube is brimming with videos that show how to disassemble and repair the machine, as well as how to replace any damaged parts. Steaming milk can be used to make more creative espresso drinks, such as macchiatos, flat whites, and lattes.
Price: $425 from Amazon
6. Breville Oracle Touch
If the thought of measuring your grinds down to the nearest milligram makes your heart twitch and fine-adjusting the grind’s coarseness fills you with fear, there are also fully automated solutions. If you don’t mind a little bit of hassle and want to save some money, Keurig’s K cups and Nespresso pods can be a good choice. For the lazy aficionado, however, there’s the $2,800 Breville Oracle Touch. Although it is quite expensive, it can make any kind of coffee drink you can think of. The Oracle Touch is perfect for you if you are a person who can’t make coffee. Simply add some beans, water, and milk to the container, and then use the touch screen on the touch screen to find the right drink. There’s no hassle, no mess, and no skill required. The machine grinds and doses, stamps heats, pumps, steams, heats, heats, and pumps. There are cheaper bean-tocup machines, but they are not what we are optimizing here. We want ease of use and a quick jolt of caffein while involving as few brain cell as possible.
Price: $2,800 from Breville
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.