Now it's time for our under $75 Holiday Gift List at CoffeeGeek for 2012! If you haven't already checked it out, also have a look at our Under $35 gift suggestions for the coffee lover.
We mined the Internet to find you a wide variety of unique and innovative coffee and espresso related gift suggestions for Christmas this year. No more gift packs from Costco! No more powdered coffees! No more $65 steam toy espresso machines. Everything here is "CoffeeGeek" approved and sure to please even the most discerning coffee and espresso lover.
Many of these products are linked to CoffeeGeek's Amazon Affiliate Link, which helps offset the costs of running this website. For the entire month of December, we'll be donating 100% of the income generated from these holiday gift suggestion links to our favourite charity - CoffeeKids.
UPDATE: We've managed to raise $2,000 for CoffeeKids via these links in December (2012)! CoffeeKids will be getting this donation in late March once we get the funds from Amazon. And to continue the donation drive, we're leaving the Holiday Gift Lists up for a while, and in January 2013, we're donating 50% of all link proceeds to the charity. So if you use these lists and buy your items from Amazon in 2013, a portion of our link proceeds will continue to go to CoffeeKids!
We encourage all our readers to make CoffeeKids your charity of choice too and consider donating money directly to this great organization. More than ever, they need your help.
With that important message out of the way, let's get onto a wide selection of coffee and espresso gifts under $75. We also plan on updating this periodically over the holidays, so check back often!
One of the big things in drip coffee in 2010 was the original Kone coffee filter designed for Chemex and other manual pourover devices.
In 2011, based on feedback from professionals and coffee consumers, Able Brewing rolled out the Kone V2 model. And now a year later, Able Brewing has released their most definitive filter - the Kone V3 Almost everything about the Kone has been improved: a tighter hole pattern, smaller holes, a complex and varied hole pattern, better metal used, better welds, and the new top foodsafe plastic cap and flat bottom.
It is designed to fit standard 6, 8 and 10 cup Chemex coffee makers but also works okay with #2 size Hario V60 pourovers. This is pretty much the ultimate in manual pourover coffee.
Another rare find of a discontinued product - Hario's CafePresso insulated glass press pot. Hario discontinued this press and then reintroduced it for a short while. It might be gone by Christmas!
I was very fortunate to get this in two sizes; I even bought two of each because I knew Hario was going to be discontinuing them. They are slightly on the fragile side, but they brew a fantastic press pot of coffee, and much like the Espro Press, do a great job in slowing down the temperature cooldown while the brew takes place: more stable water temperatures during brewing equal a better tasting cup.
Hario's filter is much better than Bodum's standard models: the Hario press pot filter is made up of a finer mesh and does a better job of keeping the sediment out of your cup (though there still will be sediment).
If you're into press pot coffee, this is a unique, and soon-to-be-gone item.
I wanted to recommend at least one auto drip coffee maker under $75, which was proving very difficult to do, until we stumbled upon this unit - the Capresso MG600 auto drip coffee maker. We've had much success with this machine's twin brothers - the MT500 and MT600, both thermal units. The MT600 can cost as much as $200, making this model even more of a bargain.
it is, for all intensive purposes, identical to the MT600 except for two ways - it has a glass carafe (the MT600 is thermal carafe) and a heating plate. Otherwise it performs identically. We've temperature tested the MT500 and MT600 and determined they brew at SCAA approved temperatures of 200F for most of the brew. In addition, they do a fairly decent job of saturating the bed of coffee in the filter for good extraction.
The machine also comes equipped with a built in water filtration system and a permanent filter which is based on the Melitta #4 size cone filter. Of course, you can spend a few bucks to get a gold plated permanent filter for even better coffee.
If an auto drip coffee maker is on your must have list this holiday season, you could do much worse than this machine. CoffeeGeek recommended!
To this day, the man who started the custom tamper market is still the king and leader - Reg Barber. His tampers have become the industry standard, the one everyone else looks up to, and in many cases, copies. While there are other great tamper manufacturers doing great things (like another listed product - Cafelat), A Reg is a Reg is a Reg.
There are many suppliers of Reg Barber tampers out there, and we've chosen a CG supporter, Venia Coffee, to link to for this review as well as Reg Barber direct, in Canada. Venia allows you to really customize the tamper to the size, shape and materials you want, and most configurations come in at $74. Even more customization options are available from Reg Barber direct, including personalization for additional costs.
Once you've owned a Reg Barber tamper, you will really understand why people love this tool for their artisinal crafting of espresso in the home or at work.
For as much as $10 less than Hario's stovetop Buono kettle, you can get a fantastic Gooseneck style kettle that is a cordless electric style with super fast heat up times: the Bonavita Electric Gooseneck Kettle!
These kettles are considered "de rigueur" for any kind of manual pourover coffee preparation because they allow considerable control over the flow of water onto the bed of coffee. Four years ago, everyone loved the Hario kettle because it was the most readily available model in North America, albeit for a price (as much as $70 a few years ago!); but Hario didn't invent the gooseneck kettle design (it was invented over a century ago for controlled pouring over tea) and today, there's so many more choices.
This kettle heats up extremely quickly, on par with an expensive induction range stove with a stovetop kettle, but in a convenient, electric and cordless format. It can heat up to 1.2l of water (though 1l max is recommended) And takes approximately 4 minutes to go from tap to boiling. It also features an auto shutoff after boil and a 2 year warranty. A great gift choice for any serious coffee nerd.
So every year, CoffeeGeek wants to find you very unique and stylish (and functional!) espresso cups to give to the serious coffee and espresso lover in your life. This year, I found this gem.
Ritzenhoff is a very famous European designer of stemware, glassware and porcelain. This year, they've produced a line of stylish espresso cups, cappuccino cups and latte cups that are also very functional in that they are double walled glassware for better insulation of your beverage's temperature.
These are the amazing looking espresso cups. They come complete with a saucer and spoon. At $43 per cup/saucer set, it may seem expensive, but are a steal as far as Ritzenhoff designs go and the detailed construction that make up the glass. There is also a latte cup and saucer set available for $50.
For CoffeeGeeks there are more than a few hand grinder choices you can make but this is the one I own and the one I know CoffeeGeek's Mark also uses - the made in Japan Porlex hand grinder.
What's great about this grinder is its size and its ability. It fits inside an Aeropress plunger tube when not in use. It is durable and heavyweight in construction while still being small and light for travel. The burr set is ceramic, and is easily adjustable via a knob on the bottom of the burr stack. The grinder will easily do 20g of coffee in less than a minute and give you a quick workout while doing it.
The grind quality is good enough to also serve as an espresso grinder, which is how I use it - when I travel, I take a Mypressi with me as well as an aeropress. Thanks to this grinder, I get authentic espresso every morning, no matter where I am.
This is probably the best (portable) hand crank grinder you can buy today. (ed.note - well, there is the Pharos and the massive HG One... but I'm not sure if either is truly portable)
Manual pourovers like the V60, Kalitta and the Kone filters for Chemex brewers might be all the rage today, but my own personal all time favourite slow drip coffee brewing comes from one of these - the cloth-filter Hario Drip Pot Brewer.
They come in two sizes, and in some ways, mimic the look of the Chemex, including a formed wood collar around the middle of a glass beaker, and a leather cord keeping the two halves of the collar in place. But what makes this different is the filter itself: the Hario Drip Pot uses a cloth filter to do its brewing.
For me, the taste from using a cloth filter (as long as it is absolutely clean) is many times better than paper. And unlike permanent filters like the Kone, there's absolutely no sediment or grit - you just get pure liquid coffee with all the flavour because essential oils from the beans make it through the cloth. Just keep it clean between uses!
A chopped (naked, crotchless, whatever lol) portafilter is almost a must these days for the serious CoffeeGeek, since it allows an unprecedented ability to evaluate the process of making espresso and the ability to diagnose problems.
The most popular upscale home consumer espresso machine is the Rancilio Silvia, and Espresso Parts makes a nicely finished chopped portafilter specifically for that machine, using Rancilio stock 58mm portafilters.
The finish on these chopped portafilters is very nice and they maintain most of the portafilter's structural integrity which is important for long term use. This product barely squeezes into our Under $75 category at $74.95, but is highly recommended as an ultimate gift for any Rancilio fan.
When I ran a cafe, these were the thermal carafes we used in our shop. The reason was pretty simple - they did a fantastic job of keeping beverages hot (or cold) for a long time, and stood up to a lot of wear and tear from our customers. The lid control is dead simple to use, and we never had one fail.
These Thermos Nissan jugs are vacuum insulated, meaning they are lightweight but durable and nearly breakproof (unlike glass interior thermal containers). They are also commercial rated.
We're including these in our holiday gift list because there's many brewing situations where you do not want your coffee to stay in its brewing device - be it a press pot or any kind of immersion brewer. You want the coffee to get away from the grounds but still stay hot, and this is the near perfect choice for that.
(ed.note - we reviewed these carafes way, way back in the day and loved them so much, the two TGB models we have we still use to this day, almost 8 years later. They've never failed).
At CoffeeGeek, we love to explore all aspects of coffee and espresso, including the history of both beverages and the methods used to produce it. It's also fortunate that we still can own and enjoy centuries-old brewers (or at least their modern day equivalents). One such brewer is the Neapolitan Flip brewer, which was one of the most popular brewing methods of the 19th century.
The way these work is pretty straightforward. Ground coffee is put into a filter assembly on one side of the pot. Water is added to the other side. You assemble, then put the device on a heat source (stovetop, etc). Wait for the water to boil. Once it does, you remove from heat, and flip the entire brewer, so the heated water starts to seep through the enclosed bed of coffee. A few minutes later, and the entire thing is ready to start pouring out coffee.
There aren't that many Neapolitan brewers out there these days - this 3 cup model makes a unique gift, and can brew a nice cup of coffee.
We already chose Able Brewing's DISK Fine as the ultimate Aeropress accessory for our under $35 list, but we're adding the totally blinged out DISK Fine gold plated filter here. Why?
Because it's awesome.
But also because of this - gold is pretty much 100% neutral to the taste and flavour of coffee. Steel can impart some tastes that some people are sensitive to. Paper of course can impart a lot of flavour changes and withhold oils from getting into the cup. Gold does neither - it is the near perfect metal to use in filters (except, I guess, for the price of gold!).
Able has only a few of these available at any time. They initially made them for the winners of barista competitions but there was enough demand that they produced a limited run. This is a seriously highbrow gift for the serious coffee nerd. I'm a coffee nerd, and I own one.
This is a brewing method that definitely doesn't get enough play amongst the most vocal pros and enthusiasts these days - myself included: the turkish method of brewing coffee using an ibrik. But, I wrote a How To on Turkish Coffee a few years ago (full of crazy mistakes too!), and it remains a popular article on CG to this day, so it's obvious that consumers take an interest in a centuries' old method of making coffee.
This is a very traditional ibrik, copper plating tin, made in Turkey. It comes with beautiful painted ceramic turkish coffee cups and saucers. Brewing turkish coffee is an entirely ritualistic experience with coffee, and having the right tools makes it that much more special.
If you already have the Kone filter, or if you don't already have a manual drip coffee setup (or your special other doesn't have one), this in some ways is the holy grail for many. Paired up with the Kone, it is one of the most ideal manual pour coffee setups favoured by coffee professionals.
Chemex is an iconic symbol in the world of coffee. The shape of the brewers is timeless and is featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The handle Chemex is well made, and can stand up to a lot of abuse. It also showcases coffee beautifully.
if you don't have the Kone filter, you can also choose to use Chemex' own square paper filters which need to be folded in a very specific way to be used in these brewers.
It's no secret we love siphons at CoffeeGeek, and while the typical Hario models range $100 or more for the standalone versions, Yama out of Taiwan does faithful reproductions of 19th century siphon designs with modern glass and parts for a lot less.
This is a 5 cup model, complete with ornate stand, glass and metal alcohol burner with a cloth wick, cloth filter system, and of course, the heat safe glass bottom and top.
Using the cloth wick will take a while to heat up water, so it's always more convenient just to start up the unit with boiling water from a kettle. But sometimes I like to go all "non electric" with these units. Once dinner is almost done, fill with water, bring it to the table, place the cloth wick burner, and let it do its job. I hand grind coffee in a Porlex grinder, and when the water starts to rise, I add the coffee. The process takes about 15 or 20 minutes, but is entirely satisfying.
If the CoffeeGeek in your life doesn't have one of these, get them one for Christmas!
We've listed this as a favourite pick in past CoffeeGeek Holiday Gift Lists for several reasons: The Capresso H20 Kettle is awesome looking and very fast. And it makes the listing again this year for the same reasons!
We've had used the H20 extensively in our old Lab as cupping kettles - two of them in fact. This is one of the most beautiful and functional kettles we've ever seen or used. It's made of Schott glass which makes it very durable, and it's small size and unique design make it stand out.
Capresso redesigned the kettle slightly to address a problem with steam hitting your hand as you pour the hot liquid, and this updated design just adds to the overall package. It's a fast kettle, but small (48oz capacity).
Cafelat is one of our favourite tamper makers, and they offer serious precision made tampers in unique designs with some great options.
There's so many designs to choose from, but I'm listing the one I actually use everyday (albeit branded to a local cafe): the Cafelat Nikka Zebrawood flat bottom model. At less than $56, this tamper screams high quality, is very durable (I can attest to that, having used one for almost two years now, every day) and very elegant looking.
New this year, all the current models of Cafelat tampers come with the newly design "tamper seat" which also doubles as a tamping mat for both chopped portafilters and spouted models.
In past Holiday Gift Lists, our "go-to" immersion brewer was the Eva Solo brewer, but this year, we've found something different for you, and something a lot less expensive: the Sowden Oskar Softbrew coffee brewer.
Made with extremely high grade porcelain and a engineered filter with thousands of micropores, this is a modern yet classic approach to immersion brew coffee. It works like any other immersion brewer: grind your coffee, add to the large filter, insert the filter into the ceramic brewer, and add hot water. Let steep for a set time, then pour. The filter occupies the majority of the brewer's interior, so ground coffee is in touch with the brewing water for the entire brew.
The filter's design is such that a wide variety of grind sizes can be used, from near turkish grind to a more coarse drip or even press pot grind. Sowden has experimented with this brewer extensively and found it suitable for a wide variety of brewing styles, including cold (toddy) brewing. And a bonus - it's great looking!
There are a variety of sizes available in this brewer, from 2 cups up to 8 cups.
This fantastic, innovative press pot first came out two years ago. It is a one of a kind, dual filtration press pot method that leads to better tasting, less sediment coffee.
Developed in Vancouver by Espro, this press has so many innovations. It is fully vacuum insulated (most presses, including the Freiling models, are not vacuum insulated), meaning it retains heat better and it is much lighter. This also leads to a slower, better controlled cool down during the brewing process.
But the real magic is inside with the two stage filtration system. The first filter to hit the coffee and brewing water is basket shaped; the coffee slurry will form around this and be pushed down by it. As the brew passes through this filter, it comes against a flat disc filter that has a finer mesh and further filters the coffee, delivering a cleaner cup.
This press is small - it will brew about 240ml of coffee (8oz). Espro also has developed an even larger version of this press pot with a different (but similar process) filtration system, which you can see on their website.
The Kalita brewing system is making a big splash in some specialty coffee circles. Vancouver's iconic 49th Parallel cafes use them for by-the-cup service, and the flat bottom paper filter brewing device is winning many converts in the US. You can purchase Kalita Wave brewing devices for less than $30, or you can go the whole nine yards and by something extremely stylish and iconic: The Kalita Wave Style set.
The filters are held in a glass form that itself sits on a steel form inside the heat resistant glass carafe. The "handle" portion is white plastic. This brewer uses the #185 Kalita filters. It can brew up to a litre or more of coffee.
The set also comes with a package of 60 brown #185 Kalita Wave filters, though the US importer recommends you buy the white filters for better tasting, less paper-influenced brewed cups.
One of illy's most famous, most sought after (of all time) espresso cups was the original Art Collection crystal espresso cup. The collectors' version of that cup, sold in sets of four, now routinely sell for hundreds of dollars through the used market - that's something like $50+ per cup!
Well, illy revisited the crystal espresso cup with a more recent design: new materials, a new design, and while no longer a "art series" cup, it is still very singular and unique! This one differs in several ways over the original collection cup: the material is a bit thinner but much more durable; it features a frosted coating with a vertical clear stripe of crystal on each side of the cup to really highlight the espresso, and the saucer has a beautiful frosted image of a coffee flower in the centre.
You can get these cups direct from illy for $40 for a set of two (with saucers).
I own a lot of espresso and cappuccino cups - over 1,400 at last count.
But there is one set that I've been using, almost consistently, for over 10 years now (in fact, this photo I'm using is one I took in 2001). It is my set of Saeco Aroma Romeo and Julliet Cappuccino Cups. I've long lost the saucers, but the cups have been on top of literally dozens of espresso machines I've tested, and they're sitting on top of my Speedster Espresso machine. Why?
Because these are fantastically designed espresso and cappuccino cups, and I've never come across another set that is designed quite like these ones. What makes them special? It's the handle - especially the one on the espresso cups. You can actually fit your finger through it! Not only that, but these are comfortable, solid cups. You never feel like you're going to drop them. But if you did, they'd probably stand the abuse: they are very high fired, thick porcelain. I've actually (accidentally) bounced one of them off a tile floor once with a 3 foot drop (don't try this at home).
I've probably had over 1,000 cappuccinos and maybe even twice more that americanos through these cups. They last forever. And they're beautiful (neither my photo nor 1st Line's photos do them justice). Saeco long since stopped making them, but 1st Line still has some in stock.
Hario has designed a scale from the ground up for manual drip coffee preparation and after demo-ing it at the SCAA show in April this past year, it's finally available for sale.
This scale packs a ton of innovation. It is accurate to 0.1g (accuracy is 1g over 200g, which Hario says was done for a fast scale readout). It has a maximum weight of 2kg, and has an automatic timer / count up function for brewing to very precise times and weights.
In addition, the scale is designed to slot into a new coffee brewing stand also designed by Hario to work efficiently with their V60 filter brewing system. The entire setup can work as a consolidated unit, with the scale measuring accurate brewing weights for both the receptacle pitcher and the filter portion of the brewing device.
It also uses AAA batteries (most small scales use harder to find button batteries) and while the normal "auto off" is 5 minutes, the display will stay on for up to 99 minutes if you have the timer function active.
Along with the new Hario Scale listed right above, Hario has also designed a fantastic new Drip Station stand for their V60 brewing system.
Made of plexiglas and steel, this stand is designed to work in concert with the Hario Scale or on its own. It features something unique in most manual drip stands - a drip tray. The system works great as a home brewing station or in multiple units in a commercial environment. It fits almost any V60 brewer, including the porcelain models designed to fit on top of large carafes or cups.
This is still a brand new product, and I'm sure eventually we'll see the stand and scale sold as a single unit, but for now, at $53, this is a really good buy for a quality, well thought out product. Note, it does not come with a V60 filter holder or beaker, you will have to buy those separately.
Column Description Whether it's up to the minute, happening this day, this week, or in the recent past, this column's goal is to present coffee and attempts to make the experience truly culinary. You'll find short reviews about past events, interesting coffees coming on the market, new and different ways to enjoy espresso and other brewing methods, and give an insight into efforts around the globe to make coffee a truly culinary thing. Column written by Mark Prince.