It's that time of year again, and time for an annual tradition at CoffeeGeek - us finding the coolest coffee products on the planet for you to give (or receive) this holiday season!
As a regular visitor to CoffeeGeek, you're most likely the person in your social circle that everyone looks to for advice on great coffee. And when the holiday season rolls around, most of your friends think a coffee related gift is what you'd like the most. And as we all know, the thought is what counts the most in this holiday season, but for those who want to make sure they're choosing the very best the specialty coffee and espresso market has to offer, we're here to help!
Over the course of this holiday season, CoffeeGeek will try to help you and your loved ones out by providing a few suggestions on great holiday gifts that suit a true CoffeeGeek. Most of these products are things we've had first hand opportunities to test and use in the Lab, and we're only recommending the top products. First up are gift suggestions to find under $35! In the coming days, we'll be posting additional lists at other price points and new this year, a few dedicated lists just for espresso equipment and coffee subscriptions!
Many of these products are linked to CoffeeGeek's Amazon Affiliate Link, which helps offset the costs of running this website. For the third year in a row, for the entire month of December, we've donated 100% of the income generated from these holiday gift suggestion links to our favourite charity - CoffeeKids. This December 2013, we raised $2,400 via our affiliate link. And even better, we found a wide variety of companies to match what we raised, to specific dollar amounts. Thanks to these companies - Espresso Parts, Baratza, Bonavita, 8 Ounce Coffee Co, Batch Coffee, Craft Coffee, and Clive Coffee, we were able to raise $8,400 for Coffee Kids in December, 2013.
Now in January, 2014, CoffeeGeek is donating 50% of our entire site wide Amazon Affiliate revenue, and we have three companies - Batch Coffee, 8 Ounce Coffee, and Baratza on board to match our January donation. Last year this donation was $750; we hope to match that this year, but with the aid of our three dollar for dollar matchers, that means $3,000 possible for January!
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 these important messages and thanks out of the way, let's get onto our handpicked selection of coffee and espresso gifts under $35!
Possibly the coolest espresso cups ever made and sold.
A few years back, I recall seeing an art / design student post photos of prototypes of these cups, and he even went so far as to get some high end CAD / Design company to create a few of them, and sell them for over $100 each.
Well now, FRED, that fun company that likes to do things like Space Invaders ice cube trays, saw the design and bought it from the creator. For all of us, this is fantastic news because you can now buy a pair of these for under $21! I own a pair myself and they never fail to make me smile when I drink espresso from them. On top of that, they're very well made with really good quality ceramic porcelain.
Here, just in time for Christmas, is the Chemex-designed and made glass coffee cup!
Only a few weeks before this list went up, Chemex teased this product on their Instagram page, and lo and behold, it is now for sale just in time for Christmas, direct from Chemex' own e-commerce store!
The cup measures 10oz to the rim, and is handmade (or as Chemex puts it, handblown). Made from the same non-porous borosillicate glass as their brewers, this cup presents your coffee fantastically well, allowing everyone to see the coffee top to bottom.
I'm not quite sure how these cups are to use yet - the angles may make accidental "accelerated" drinking moments as the coffee clears the middle bend, but I doubt there's a better looking way to drink your Chemex-brewed coffee!
This year Hario released a brand new decanter and filter set based on their V60 filter design. It's beautiful and functional, but at around $38-$40, it wasn't going to make our list this year. But... we found it for between $27 and $33!
This features a 700ml brewing vessel based on Hario's Buono soft ripple design. It has a collar made of silicone that easily unwraps so you can put the decanter into the dishwasher. Teh filter assembly sits on top and floats in the cone area of the brewer. The decanter is made in Japan.
It uses #2 Hario V60 filters, and bonus - this set we've linked to comes with 10 #2 Hario V60 filters to get you started off right.
It's an elegant looking, nicely designed all in one decanter and filter, and at around $30 or less, is a bargain to boot!
Here's a variety of coffee books we heartily endorse and recommend - every single one of these is in the CoffeeGeek Library. Click the images to get to the book on Amazon. All the books are priced below $35, with some as low as $5!
The Art and Craft of Coffee Kevin Sinott is very famous in the world of coffee and this is his most recently updated book on the subject.
Uncommon Grounds Fantastic history of coffee as seen through Americans' eyes. It is US-centric, but an extremely detailed historical view.
The Coffeeist Manifesto A consumer's journey into finding what really good coffee really takes to achieve.
A History of the World in Six Glasses Another great history piece that looks as the six key beverages that have influenced hour our world evolved, including coffee.
Home Coffee Roasting Still regarded as the "bible" for home coffee roasters, this edition was last updated in 2003.
Joe. The Coffee Book Book written by NYC cafe owners giving the perspective of the indie cafe, interacting with everyone from consumers to coffee farmers.
Coffee Life in Japan Fantastic book delving into the history and culture of coffee in Japan going back to the 19th century.
The Social Life of Coffee A look into the history of coffee in Britain, going back to the 17th century.
This device - the Scandinavians love it (they hold the Aeropress World Championships) - and the pros in the US and Canada are huge fans too. There's even coffee bars that use Aeropresses almost exclusively for non-espresso coffee. We have our own love-hate relationship at CoffeeGeek with the Aeropress. We love using it. We love that you can "hack" it to brew different ways. We love how it can produce a beautiful cup of coffee in under a minute.
We don't necessarily agree with the packaging, marketing and instructions for this product: it doesn't make anything closely resembling true espresso, and you should not brew your coffee with water heated to only 175F. Also, using different ratios of ground coffee to water would probably be to your benefit. There's plenty of sites out there showing how to get the most out of the Aeropress (Brewmethods lists a dozen choices). Regardless of how the product is pushed, we can say this: it makes damned fine coffee and it's cheap!
Want to really pimp out your gift receiver's home espresso setup for under $35? Why not take one of the best-shaped steaming pitchers out there in terms of design, and powdercoat it?
Here's the Rattleware 12oz steaming pitcher with a gleaming red powdercoat! All the benefits of the regular Rattleware design which most pros feel is the perfect shape for frothing milk and pouring great latte art, but with some bling attached.
If red doesn't suit your fancy, other colours are available too at the Visions website - check them all out!
Who doesn't like cute and fun informative info posters? And especially when it involves coffee! Or beer!
Ryoko Iwata, who has the great coffee blog I Love Coffee.JP website and does some great and informative infographics on the subject of coffee, has decided to do one up as a physical print poster this year.
Here "Your Brain on Beer Vs. Coffee" Poster is informative, well laid out, and shows that there''s true partnerships between beer and coffee. If someone on your holiday gift list loves beer and coffee, this would make a great gift!
A lot has been said about the precision filter baskets for espresso developed by VST under an agreement with La Marzocco. CoffeeGeek even covered these baskets extensively with an exclusive article just prior to 2011's SCAA show. Suffice to say, these baskets developed by Vince Fedele are some of the hotest things to hit the espresso scene in 2011.
A under $25 (under $30 in Canada), they aren't cheap by any stretch, but they will fit pretty much any espresso machine with a standard 58mm portafilter, and in most cases, will improve the espresso you produce. How can they do this? The primary feature of the baskets are a uniform hole shape and pattern. Most of the holes in the basket are within a few microns of each other in their shape and size. The holes also extend almost to the edge of the flat bottom filter basket. And the filters are made with a thicker, more resilient steel than almost every other basket available today.
Bonus: these are now $5 cheaper in the US than last year!
Wow - a 2 cup drip brewer system - in porcelain ceramic no less - for under $14?!!?
Yep. This is a little 20 ounce brewing system that uses #1 Melitta filters (you can even buy permanent filters in this size). Not much to say about it other than it's nice, simple, elegant looking, comes with a lid, and should be capable of brewing as good a coffee as any other 20oz pourover coffee system that uses paper filters.
Perfect for the dorm room, at your desk at work, in the RV, while travelling, you name it. Small, brews two cups, and gets the job done. Seriously, you will not find a cheaper manual drip brewer system in porcelain than this.
The iconic shape of what a press pot is supposed to look like is realised in the Bodum Chambord press pot. The design, originally created by a company called Mellior back in the 1920s, was bought by the Bodum Company in the 1960s. Bodum has been producing (and subtly improving) the Chambord press pot design ever since.
The most recent incarnations of the Chambord feature a new collar on the top lid for better securing in the press, and a slightly revised filter. It still retains it's classic, legendary look. The Chambord is an iconic, classic design for the press pot. CoffeeGeek uses 1.5l versions of the Chambord in the Lab for their community coffee samplings (those are $70 a pop!)
The great little 4 cup model of the Chambord can be found under $30 this year, which rarely happens. And the 3 cup model is just $20!
Let me introduce you to another of our excellent Coffee Kids supporters this Holiday season. It is a company called Batch Coffee! They will be matching CoffeeGeek's fund raising dollar for dollar up to the $500 limit this holiday season.
Batch Coffee is a partnership between a 10 year coffee industry vet and a fellow with a great business sense. They are evolving their new business to sell a wide variety of really top end coffee and espresso gear, but their main focus is a coffee roaster: the Gene Cafe.
The Gene Cafe has been around for a while, but Batch Coffee became the exclusive importer last year and they want to continue to develop and improve the product while providing really first rate support for this roaster to customers in the US and beyond. We've had a Gene Cafe roaster since the early 2000s and it's quite intriguing - this is a combination fluid bed and rotational drum roaster, with advanced controls letting you the home roaster, control your roast profile. Able to roast up to 12oz at a time, this is no small, popcorn popper sized roaster! Check it out at their website!
The last few years have seen a serious Chemex craze going on in the specialty coffee world. And you probably know CoffeeGeek prefers cloth filters over any other type of filter.
So how about a nicely handmade cloth filter designed to be used in a Chemex? For $10? Or better yet, how about two of them for $10!
These filters are made with organic cotton and designed specifically to be used with a variety of Chemex models (though not the Chemex 3 cup model). The Etsy business also does cloth filters to fit the Hario V60, and in the Melitta #2 cone and #4 cone style.
I'm sure if you contact them, they probably have an option for your manual pourover brewer (including the Chemex 3 cup).
This is most likely the best stovetop kettle you can buy for manual drip coffee preparation; certainly it is the best bang for the buck out there. At less than half the price of most competing gooseneck kettles, our tests at CoffeeGeek prove it is also the fastest when used on a induction range, even when going head to head with the Hario and other models.
In fact, it is about 20% faster, and will do a full 1.2l water boil in under 3min30sec. It's secret is the maximum contact surface on induction ranges that transmit as much heating power as possible to the water. The long gooseneck provides you with good control when pouring all those intricate patterns you want to do during manual coffee brewing, and we've found the flow rate just nearly perfect.
The quality of construction is really good, and small attention to detail here and there, like the nice vibration-free fitting lid and the contoured handle make this a fantastic purchase.
If you buy one of the manual brewing stands we're featuring on a variety of this year's Gift Lists, you're going to need a coffee decanter to go with it. Many folks go for the Hario decanters, especially the Buono design, but at over $25 each, that can really add up.
Well this year, you have more choices, and one of the best deals out there is the new 20oz decanter from Yama Glass!
It's not as nice looking as some of the more expensive 20oz sized decanters, but it still looks great, and at this price, you can buy two of them compared to one of the Harios, and still have money left over! It doesn't come with a lid however; if you want that option, there's a slightly larger 27oz version with a lid for $16.
The carafe is made of borosilicate glass, has clear markings on it for volume, and an easy to grip handle - perfect for any pourover system.
Able Brewing has a few really cool t-shirt designs - most of them limited and all are exclusive - but we really like this one as a shirt of symbols and codes that show just how much of a pourover geek you or your gift recipient might be ;)
In short, this shirt shows the steps of making coffee using the Able Brewing KONE + Chemex. Definitely geeky. And like all Able Products, made in the US of A.
It's available in sizes from S to XXL Unisex, and if this one doesn't strike your fancy, visit Able's website to see their other shirt designs.
While every man might dream of their woman sleeping in corsets and stockings, every woman knows the traditional nightie is one of the more comfortable ways to sleep!
I found this great one at Whole Latte Love! It's a one size fits all model, white with a black lined collar, and has the Whole Latte Love name on the left sleeve. Comfortable, cute, and really expresses how important coffee is in your life! Seriously boys, if you want to buy a coffee related gift for your coffee-loving spouse or girlfriend, this will be appreciated much more than some bullet bra! :D
We absolutely love the entire product range from Cafelat, but will only be featuring a few products of theirs in this Holiday Gift Guide (we recommend you do check out the entire lineup!).
First up is this fantastic little design for a tamping mat - something to protect your counters when you're doing a headstand-tamp of several thousand pounds down into your portafilter with your tamper: it's the Splat Mat from Cafelat. It's a great design; meant to mimic a spill of inky black liquid on your counter. Whimsical, functional, and very well made: the rubber is quite thick and stands up to a lot of use.
We have two of these in our main espresso machine testing area, and after a full year of use, they don't look any worse for wear. These should last you several years of heavy abuse!
This year, we even managed to find this at a cheaper price than last year! ($15 in US, $16 in Canada).
Is someone on your Christmas gift list both a coffee lover and a huge lego fan? Here's the perfect gift!
It's a coffee mug and construction set all in one! Bring along a handful of your favourite building blocks - it's compatible with Lego, PixelBlocks, Mega Blox, K'Nex Bricks and more. As the site says, "tinker with a creation while your upper management drones on about things they think are important."
If you do buy one of these, or buy it for someone else, make sure you post your creations in our forums!
Lower Price This Year! To this day, this style of pitcher, from Rattleware, remains the best pitcher for steaming milk and pouring latte art.
The shape is what makes it so good to work with. Specifically the spout. The double lip shape helps control your pour, and also makes the pour smooth; a slight tip of the pouring hand and the foam will start to flow, allowing you to make detailed shapes and patterns.
It is also one of the least expensive steaming pitchers available today. This one listed is the 12oz model which is perfect for most home espresso machine setups, and will allow you to steam (just barely) enough milk for 2 traditional cappuccinos or up to 4 macchiatos or cortados. Get the 16oz or 20oz models if you are into lattes at home.
Bonus - this pitcher is $3 less than last year in the US!
Reduced Price this Year! Hario's got several hand grinders on the market now - the much-talked-about Hario Skerton (around $38ish), the Hario Canister Grinder, the Hario CLEAR suction cup grinder ($60), and this one - the Hario Mini Slim model.
Functionally the Skerton and Slim are almost identical, and the burr groups are the same. Where the differences are is that the Skerton comes with a glass jar base, and this one is polycarbonate and smaller. It makes this one the better travel companion by a long stretch.
People like the Skerton because it can more or less directly fit onto an Aeropress while grinding. But we like this model because it is lighter overall, works just as well, and is smaller and more compact for travel use. We also feel the grind adjustment is easier and more precise because unlike the Skerton, the Mini Slim lets you adjust the grind with a big adjustment nut at the bottom of the grinder mechanism. The Mini Slim does a full range of grinding, from press pot and drip, all the way to espresso, albeit without much control over the super fine adjustments you need to brew great espresso. A great gift for the coffee lover who travels a lot! Last year this was $33; this year we've managed to find it for under $29!
Another Cafelat product we want to list this year: their awesome awesomesauce cappuccino cups.
Personally, I love these cups. Both my spouse and I use them pretty much every single day. The handle is awesome. The weight is awesome. They're a perfect bowl shape inside. They are thick enough that they will wick away some initial heat from your coffee or espresso beverage, but then retain that heat quite well.
They're also very strong. Though I do not recommend you try this - I had the misfortune of dropping one of these once about 4 feet down to our kitchen's ceramic tile, and maybe partially because of luck, maybe partially because of the angle they hit at, nothing happened - they bounced, and came through the fall unscathed. (nb - do not try this at home lol!
Size is about 7 to 7.5oz to the rim inside, so they're slightly on the big size for true "cappuccino cups" but they're just... awesome. Get a pair.
One of the best improvements you can make to your aeropress is getting a well made aftermarket filter for it. Able Brewing has had their DISK for some time, but last year, they introduced the DISK FINE latest version, and it's the best yet.
A lot of thought and engineering has gone into this filter and the result is a fantastic brewed cup with the big fat plastic syringe we all know and love as the Aeropress coffee brewer. This is one of those must have choices if you have an Aeropress or plan to get one.
Because the holes in the DISK FINE are so small and spaced, you may have to adjust your grind accordingly, but we think you'll love the results.
These are some of the most sought after and popular espresso and cappuccino cup designs available today. They are the NotNEUTRAL porcelain cups and much attention has been put into their design, handle shape, even the saucer style.
Previously only available as branded cups for a few coffee roasters, you can now get these sought-after cups in plain white porcelain.
The quality of these cups, from the super high fired porcelain, to the finish, glaze and weight, is all first rate. They are perfect frames for the cappuccinos you pour. They're also available in espresso cup sizing, and latte cup sizes as well. Highly recommended!
We're not big fans of using non-coffee designed drinking vessels for coffee here at CoffeeGeek, but when something is designed to convert a non coffee drinking vessel into one, and it looks this good, how can we resist!
Here's the Holdster, a product that converts certain sized Mason jars into a full blown coffee mug. This is the premium cross-stitch model, and it still comes in at under $31! This hand stitched, saddle leather style finish accessory will really class up your morning coffee beverage, and thanks to mason jar lids, makes it leak proof for quick commutes as well.
The website has a wide range of these kinds of sleeves, so make sure you check them all out!
A fully complete, cloth filter brewing set for under $25? Just add a manual grinder and you got a complete and awesome home brewing setup for around $50 or $60!
The site owner's a huge, huge fan of the Hario Dripper cloth brewers, but they can be a bit pricey, getting up to $50 for some sizes. Not the case here with this great Yama brewer - under $25 includes a nice glass carafe, the cloth filter and its assembly.
This is a small 2 cup brewer - it can brew around 18 ounces (20 if you push it), but once you've used cloth filters to brew your coffee, you may never go back - cloth gives you all the clarity and sediment free brewing paper does, but also allows more flavour oils to make it into the cup.
Pro tip: Cloth filters must be kept clean to work right; we use OxyClean to clean our cloth filters at CoffeeGeek.
We've got espresso cups made out of glass. Out of porcelain. Out of ceramic. Out of steel. Heck, even some made out of plastic. How about a pair of elegant, classically shaped espresso cups and matching saucers... made out of stoneware with a hard enamel coating?
La Crueset, the super-well known brand name for cookware, also makes things like espresso cups and saucers, and we found them for $30 for the pair, in either black or La Crueset's signature smokey red colour. Heavyweight, elegantly shaped, and absolutely perfect for espresso, this would make a perfect gift for the coffee geek in your life who's also a foodie.
Borrowing from the Eva Solo idea of wrapping neoprene around a press pot to keep it warmer during brewing, here's a great under $10 gift.
This particular model fits most of Bodum's 8 cup presses, and works particularly well with the Chambord line of press pots. Heat retention is quite good and well suited to press pot coffee - it will keep the brew warmer, but not sizzling hot for hours; instead, it just draws out the cool down by about 50% more time. You should never leave a press pot steeping on its spent grinds for too long; that said, sometimes presses just cool down too quickly. This one strikes a nice balance.
We like the red one the most, though there's a colour to suit almost anyone.
Great idea from Able Brewing - a nice travel cap designed to fit the Aeropress and keep your whole bean coffee fresher and more secured while travelling.
The Travel Cap is made in the USA (like all Able Brewing products) and, as the designer says. "The plunger seemed like a great solution to store coffee, filters or anything else you can think of. So we designed a simple cap made of food safe elastomer that fits nice and secure. It also provides a comfortable grip when using the press."
Perfect stocking stuffer for an Aeropress owner, or to go along with the Aeropress as a Christmas Gift!
Hey, we like the KeepCup as much as anyone, but I love properly made glass cups for coffee even more.
And JOCO has designed (finally!) a range of 8oz sized takeout cups for coffee that are just simply awesome. These cups are dishwasher and microwave save, and modelled after standard takeout cups.
The JOCOs are made from strong borosilicate glass, are nice and thick and are completely BPA free. They do 12oz sized glass cups as well, but the 8oz cup is where it's at, since no fantastic coffee beverage should ever be bigger than this volume. Love the coffee? Buy a second one!
We picked the sky blue cup as the one to showcase because the colour looks awesome, but JOCO has a wide range of colours to check out.
One of the most popular guides we have on CoffeeGeek is the Beginner's Guide to Cupping. In that guide, we run you through how the professionals cup coffee, but also how you can cup coffee at home with your friends and family. We recommend tools you can use straight from your cupboard, but it's also nice to have tools designed specifically for this method of evaluating coffee!
And now you can - 8oz Coffee sells starter cupping kits featuring 3 bowls, 2 cupping spoons and coffee trays for just $25. A larger 6 bowl / 3 spoon set is just $41. These are good prices and better than dedicated cupping sets we've seen in the past. The bowls are the standard design used by most roasters and coffee evaluators, and the spoons are specific to the task.
If you coffee lover seems to have everything coffee related, chances are he doesn't have this!
We love the Turkish coffee brewing method at CoffeeGeek (and sidenote: we're still waiting for top shelf quality cafes to discover and really try to make the most out of this brewing method, in the Pacific Northwest).
We found this fantastic, hand hammered copper Ibrik at an equally fantastic price - $18 for the 10oz version. It's got a copper exterior (copper's great for heating because of its fantastic heat retention and spreading properties) and tin inside (to keep your coffee taste neutral).
Want to know more about brewing coffee the Turkish way? We published a How To on it a few years ago, and if you follow the link below, Seattle Coffee Gear has their own how to video.
The Hario pourover steamroller shows no sign of stopping! A range of ribbed, V60 class brewers are available, but we really like the ceramic models, which range from $18 to $30 in price, depending on the style and size. Our link below is to the $18 small size model, which is fine for brewing up to 250ml of coffee.
What sets the V60 apart from your typical Melitta pourover is the ribbed design of the cone shape, and the special cone - with point - paper filters. Entire websites are dedicated to this brewing method and how to best pour your water to ensure a great cup of coffee. Prices range from $5 to $23 for the various V60 models, and don't forget to pick up some of the paper filters as well.
Tired of going over to your friends house, having them offer you some espresso, and all they have to serve it in is a coffee mug, or worse... a water glass?
Here's how you can fix that problem and give their lonely espresso machine a touch of class, all for under $20. We found a very nice set of porcelain espresso cups and matching saucers that are very traditionally sized, designed and made. No logos, no weird shapes, just the traditional espresso look.
These cups are durable, microwave and dishwasher safe, and will look great on top of any espresso machine!
We really tried to find a cool knockbox for under $20. We did find some, but they were definitely not cool.
These Grindenstein knockboxes, on the other hand, are very nice to look at! But more importantly, they're well made and have some very good features, including a no-slip bottom design and while they are very small, they still easily accommodate the use of a 58mm portafilter.
Their small size is a plus as well, especially in today's crowded kitchen space. They're also dishwasher safe, and can handle about a half dozen banged-out espresso pucks before you have to start thinking about emptying it.
Intelligentsia stocks several colours, so visit their website to see what's available!
Go to the best coffee and espresso bars out there, and your espresso will be served proper - nice ceramic / porcelain demitasse, a saucer, and a spoon. Some feel that stirring the espresso is an essential part of the beverage (some don't of course, but some do). To do that, you need a spoon, and most household teaspoons don't fit in espresso cups.
This is a great looking spoon that will complete your home espresso in a nice, elegant way. The price is also fantastic as well. In past years, we've featured demitasse spoon sets that cost as much as $7 per spoon - not this year. At Espresso Parts, there's some fantastic spoons, and this one's only $2 each!
We'd like to introduce you to one of the companies that has decided to join us in donating money to Coffee Kids this year. That company is called Eight Ounce Coffee and is based in Canada.
Eight Ounce Coffee is a still new company, founded by a couple of expat Brits, and started in Calgary, but soon expanded to Toronto. Their core passions are specialty coffee and bringing a wide range of specialty products to the Canadian marketplace, including many products that were missing from Canadian specialty coffee etailers. Make sure to visit their website to see their ever-expanding line of coffee and espresso products.
If you're like some of our members at CoffeeGeek, you don't like paper filters for coffee, and cleaning cloth is a pain in the butt.
We were hoping that Hario would release their all metal and silicone siphon filter in time for this year's HGL but they have not. But don't despair, we still have options! And one of the better ones out there is this filter assembly from Yama for just about any siphon on the market.
Yama developed a super fine steel mesh insert to use in their metal filter assembly designed for paper. It's easy to clean, very durable, and the super-fine mesh pattern helps keep sediment at bay and properly restrict the flow of coffee.
Bonus - replacement parts are easily available and unlike the forthcoming Hario filter, this one won't break the bank!
New Lower Price! $3 cheaper than last year! If you're not only a CoffeeGeek, but true geek, we probably don't even have to tell you about ThinkGeek and the Molecule shirt, but we're going to anyway. It's one of the very few products to make our list every single year, and this year's no exception. And we can add that this shirt has been featured on the TV Show Big Bang Theory more than a few times!
In a super deep blue colour with neon green for the imprint, this shirt shows the actual caffeine molecule structure, right up high, loud and proud. The shirt is a regular feature in the CG Lab, and it's also been seen on Big Bang Theory, so it is definitely geek-approved from all circles!
Do you or your gift recipient own a Baratza Encore, Maestro, Maestro Plus or Virtuoso grinder? This is the perfect add on gift for these grinder owners - the Baratza Portaholder insert!
Designed to accommodate a variety of portafilter designs from 49mm Elektra lever PFs all the way up to 58mm La Marzocco handles, this portaholder has adjustable bars for the rests. Once seated inside the grinder, you can insert a portafilter, hook it into place, and let go as the grinder does its job. The hook and mount are also designed to position the filter basket in an optimal way under the grind chute. We also like how the base is designed to catch some stray grounds.
Big Price Reduction this Year!We're always on the lookout for unique single cup brewing devices that work well and look great. This one came via Twitter and also our forums.
This MiniBru looks fantastic. But does it work great? We found one CoffeeGeeker who owns one and he loves it, but points out it doesn't work well with milk or cream. He takes his coffee black and it works perfectly for him at work. Big bonus this year - it's $5 less than last year, and as of this writing (Nov 28), ThinkGeek has it on for $10!
ThinkGeek also has a video showing how this brewer works:
Many espresso purists consider the Nuova Point ceramic porcelain espresso cups to be the gold standard when it comes to traditional, well made, and exceptionally durable espresso cups.
I also love the traditional look of the art series cups that Nuova Point puts out every few years. Fresh recently is the "Italian Scenes" cups, and this price is $10 cheaper than last year's art set! Considering that Nuova Point espresso cups and saucers can run as much as $40 or more for a set of six, this beautiful, traditional set at $30 ($5 per cup and saucer!) is a steal.
These are well made cups that hold just over 2oz to the rim. The inside is what's called an "egg shell shape" which is extremely popular in Italy as the ideal espresso cup shape for enjoying aroma and retaining heat.
You know the coffee world is currently Chemex crazy, right? So much so that Chemex themselves, for the first time in decades, is ramping up their advertising (not here on CoffeeGeek, sadly lol!) updating their logo and even designing new products!
Getting a Chemex under $35 is pretty hard... but we managed to find the 3 cup model on for $33! Keep in mind, this version is not compatible with the KONE filter - you have to use Chemex papers with this one - but all in all, it's a pretty brewer that does a really good job.
It tends to brew a bit differently than the 6 and 8 cup Chemex models because of the much more narrow filter area - not better or worse, just different. We've had really great success using the half moon Chemex filters with this unit.
We've already listed one filter for the Aeropress, but we're also listing this one because some argue this actually brews better and lasts longer than the other filter listed. We've had both at CoffeeGeek for some time now, and while I personally give a very very slight nod to the Able Disk Fine for overall brew, I do have to say this S-Filter is lasting and wearing better over a full year of use. It also tends to leak less than the Able Disk.
The S-Filter is the result of several years' refinement and testing of permanent filters for the Aeropress, and this latest version is really their best effort by a long stretch. It creates a very minimal sediment brew, is built very well, and I rarely, if ever have any kind of side leak problems with this filter. Highly recommended.
Illy designer cups and saucers for under $35! Impossible! But wait, not impossible this year!
Illy introduced this great looking set of Live HAPPilly cups this year and they're exclusively sold on the illy USA website. You can get the set of two espresso cups and saucers for $34, a set of two cappuccino cups and saucers for $36, or a set of two 8oz mugs for $38.
If you've never used an illy cup before for espresso, you are seriously missing out: these are in the top of the charts when it comes to cup designs for holding that precious little 30ml of liquid. Made by one of the top porcelain makers in Italy, these are sure to be a hit with any espresso fan on your gift list.
Looking for an under $10 for the espresso geek in your life who has everything? I bet he or she doesn't have a stand for their tamper!
Cafelat makes this great little tamping stand, designed to keep a tamper clean and dry (especially when the barista gets a bit sloppy with water or coffee spilled everywhere). It comes in a range of colours too, and fits all tampers, 58mm or smaller.
Personally, I'm a pretty sloppy barista myself, and I can tell you, using one of these things has definitely kept my tamper dry and out of the splash zone. And at $6, it's a pretty good no brainer for that coffeegeek who has "everything".
It's never too early to plan for the warmer months! One of the more popular how-tos on CoffeeGeek is the Vietnamese Iced Coffee How To and here, for under $6, is you chance to get one of these little brewers as a stocking stuffer idea.
They are pretty basic filters - a steel enclosure with perforated filters in the bottom and a push down top. But they do get the job done and result in a fairly strong brewed coffee. Follow the recipes in our How To, or experiment with different grind, doses and more. One of the smallest portable filtering brewers you can buy as well!
Want to geek out your fellow coffee geeks? This mug will do it.
A compendium of the varied ways--from Chemex contraptions to French presses to the simple automatic drip--to produce wondrous, life-giving coffee, as well as the drinks one can concoct by combining coffee with mixers like steamed milk and chocolate.
A fantastic info chart showing almost every brewing method and its associated group, grind required and a lot more. Use it as a reference. Use it to drinks coffee from and look like the biggest coffee nerd on the block ;)
Besides a great grinder and fantastic technique, one of the most important factors in great coffee and espresso is the best quality water your can get. Sure you could go Brita... but how about going even better? How about a filter system that has been described as "the world's most sexiest water filter pitcher"!
The Mavea Elemaris XL water filter is German designed and has a built in computer that keeps track of your filter use and informs you when it's time to change filter. The lid design is very advanced, and it even has a rubberized handle and feet for no slip usage.
Three packs of the filters for this pitcher run $22, and are available here.
If you want to make stovetop espresso the way 98% of Italian families do in their homes everyday, a stovetop moka pot is how you go about it, and we only recommend the stainless steel versions. Problem is, finding a good quality stainless steel moka pot for under $35 is proving harder and harder to do these days!
But we found this excellent model - the super-long named Vev Vigano Carioca Stovetop Espresso Maker - from Espresso Zone. In fact, a few years back, I reviewed this very model for Consumer Reports and found it very capable for the job.
Made in Italy, this moka pot is all stainless steel including the filter, and with a brass pressure relief valve. It is modern, stylish and works well on induction ranges as well as gas and electric stoves (with a trivet). The 3 cup model is under $35 (and $1 cheaper than last year!), and the 5 cup version is under $40.
This is the scale to get for almost all of your coffee and brewing needs. Here's why:
The price is cheap! At $19 (and sometimes much less), this is almost throwaway pricing; you can stock up should you ever damage the scale with liquid (and you probably will).
The scale is small! It fits on almost all espresso machine drip trays, not to mention most other surfaces where you might brew coffee. The weighing pad is small, but big enough for you to delicately balance a portafilter on to zero-out the weight before dosing coffee into the filter basket and re-weighing. The weighing pad can hold up to two espresso cups at once.
The scale is accurate to .1g with a 2kg maximum weight! There's almost no other scale on the market (at least near this price) with those two features - big capacity, small .1 accuracy. This is very important for weighing anything espresso related.
We use this scale almost exclusively in all our product testing and coffee evaluations. Highly recommended. Just put some no-skid rubber feet on the bottom of it.
There's something about drinking espresso from a beautiful demi cup; you've provided the perfect frame for your artistic labour. These cups definitely fit the bill. They're normally around $50 for a set of 6 but the yellow glass streak model can be found this Christmas for under $24.
The cups are well made, with porcelain bodies and acrylic handles and bases. The bowl inside the cup is nicely suited for espresso, and the handle works well with your thumb and forefinger when drinking. Other colours are available including blue, red, green, grey and white, and we prefer the blue and yellow models.
We'd like to introduce you to one of our premier sponsoring partners: Baratza.
We probably don't have to tell you who Baratza is. They make grinders - darned good grinders - and have been doing it for a while. They're also known for legendary, unparalleled customer service.
But did you know that Baratza is also a company that prides itself on good education? For instance, they put up a page recently of grinding tips with questions and answers culled from years of great customer questions.
Recently, Sarah Dooley joined Baratza in an educational and promotional role for the company, and they're expanding their videos, articles and other multimedia information about their grinders. Have a look at the brand new Baratza Forte Grinder overview video - both versions of the grinder! The Forte grinder is Baratza's latest and greatest, and recently won the SCAA award “Best New Product-Coffee or Tea Preparation and Serving Equipment (Commercial)" Award.
While the Forte is designed for cafe use (or the be-all, end all home grinder), Baratza hasn't forgotten about those folks just getting into really good coffee, because as we preach on CoffeeGeek all the time: the grinder is the most important element in good home coffee! Baratza's answer for the budget / beginner market is the Encore, priced under $150 and very capable of doing every grind from espresso to press pot.
We're very thankful Baratza has decided to also come on board as a charity sponsor, matching CoffeeGeek's overall December donation to Coffee Kids, up to $1,000.
Another Cafelat product we really like is their line of knockboxes. They are designed for absolute abuse but also super easy cleanup. We use the full size plastic and rubber knockbox while testing machines, but also have a few of the smaller Tubbi models around for a small footprint, heavy duty knockbox that can handle any size portafilter.
These knockboxes feature a very durable, textured (and thick) plastic shell that also has some flex to it. The bar itself is a thick piece of rubber wrapped around a plastic core, and it will take everything you throw at it. Our main Lab knockbox as probably been 'hit' over 5,000 times or more, and with a quick rinse under the tap, looks nearly new!
The Tubbi models come in a variety of colours to choose from, and have a solid rubber pad on the bottom to help prevent it from sliding around the countertop.
A quality espresso tamper for under $30? You betcha. Seattle Coffee Gear has you covered with this Rattleware stainless steel tamper.
It features a textured handle and its shape is suited for a wide variety of hand shapes. This is a much, much better choice than the cheap plastic tampers that come with most espresso machines. A great stocking stuffer for the starting espresso geek at home.
This may seem like a boring choice but to be honest, it shouldn't be. One of the most important things you should be doing in your day to day espresso brewing is cleaning your machine. If your machine has the ability to backflush (as in it has a 3 way solenoid valve that immediately flushes out back pressure after you brew a shot), you should have a regular stock of espresso machine cleaner to use.
This is our choice - we've been using this in our home and in the CoffeeGeek lab for years now - the Full Circle cleaner line from Urnex. Espresso machine cleaning suds are not terribly great for the environment by any stretch, but the Full Circle line is probably the most environmentally friendly cleaners you can buy today. And they work really well. It makes a great stocking stuffer for that guy who has a total man-cave of an espresso area, or even a Rancilio Silvia sitting on the kitchen counter.
This is not a frothing pitcher for the "pros". This is a frothing pitcher for the rest of us! I asked Mark to include this on the Holiday Gift List because this pitcher made a hopeless milk steaming person (me) into a milk steaming pro. I'm able to do some amazing textured microfoam milk steaming, and it is all because of this pitcher: the Espro Toroid Milk Steaming Pitcher.
It works for me because of the shape and design. It has a pronounced bell curve inner shape, and the middle of the pitcher is dimpled upwards. As long as you point your steam wand directly into the centre of this pitcher, you will get amazing milk froth - the kind latte art dreams are made of!
I liked it so much, I bought one for my mum, who also had bad problems steaming milk - this made her a microfoam wizard too! The 12oz size is under $32 this year (and you can also find the 20oz size for around $35).
Cafelat is a company that is constantly creating new and intriguing products for espresso consumers and professionals alike. Here's their take on the grouphead cleaning brush.
Designed to work with almost any 58mm grouphead on any espresso machine, with one quick insert and twist, this brush will clean all the gunk and built up coffee, oils and other nasties from a normally difficult-to-get-to area of an espresso machine.
Each brush comes with 2 sets of removable brushes, and it's easy to buy replacement brushes down the road. Great tool for turning a 5 minute cleaning job into one taking only seconds.
A great little book that will provide all the starting knowledge you'd need to get into home espresso.
Clive Coffee worked on this 48 page book for a while, and finally released it earlier in 2013. The Craft of Espresso pairs the writing of Hanna Neuschwander (author of Left Coast Roast) with the illustrative work of Ben Blake (DrawCoffee fame).
The book covers the beginning basics of espresso preparation and milk foaming; but also touches on some advanced home espresso techniques. Makes a great stocking stuffer!
At CoffeeGeek we've been fans of the Bodum Pavina espresso cups for some time now, though not everyone is a fan of the super-heat-retention ability of the Pavina double wall glass cups.
Now Bodum has come out with a new Pavina Glass espresso cup design - single walled, and with a silicone sleeve to keep your fingers cool. Glass, when designed for espresso use, can be awesome in terms of zero flavour impact and the nice visuals it presents, showing you exactly what the beverage looks like top to bottom.
At $12, for a set of two, this is a killer price. We're showing the red cups, but they're available in a wide variety of colours.
Last, but not least, here's our suggestions for some great books on coffee to pick up for your favourite CoffeeGeek this holiday season.
Espresso Coffee - Professional Techniques David Schomer's revised version of a book that many, many pros cut their teeth on for more than a decade. $30
Home Coffee Roasting Many point to this book as the bible for the revival of home roasting - everything from using popcorn poppers to more recent techniques is covered. $12.50
Everything But Espresso A look at thoroughly modern brewing methods for everything except for espresso $35
Espresso Coffee - The Science of Quality For me, this is an absolute must have book if you are into espresso. More espresso science between two covers than any other resource. Out of this normal price range, but we have to recommend it. $90
The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee James Freeman and crew from Blue Bottle talk about their philosophy and concepts behind good coffee. $16
Java Trekker - Dispaches from Fair Trade Dean Cycon's grand tale of coffee and the development of the Fair Trade program. Quite enjoyable read! $13.50
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.