this is the original 2018 version; also see my 2019 holiday gift guide
You can do better than a Starbucks gift card.
Here are a few suggestions for showing a little holiday love to the coffee drinker in your life. Prices are as of this date and, like much in life, subject to change. Shop around for best deals.
Coffee on the Go
KeepCup makes a great gift if your coffee lover takes their java on the road.
So, so many options. Different sizes, glass or plastic body, cork or plastic ring, a wide range of colors. All of that plus the ability to design your own cup means there should be a way to satisfy anyone. A better alternative to the boring metal coffee travel tumbler, and more likely to be used instead of collecting dust in a kitchen cabinet. Baristas seem to appreciate and remember the cup, which is nice.
Fair warning, though, while the lid is spill resistant it is not leak proof, but if a klutz like me has managed to own for over a year without breaking it (I spoke too soon – Ed.), or ruining clothes or the contents of a briefcase, there’s hope for all of us. Replacements for all the component parts are available on their website, as are reusable metal straws for use with the cup.
Starting at $9. https://us.keepcup.com/ also see my review
Foolproof Home Coffee
It’s hard to beat a Nespresso machine for its combination of consistent quality, flexibility to make long or short drinks, and a variety of coffees with different strengths and flavor profiles. My favorite machine is the Citiz.
This is the current version of the red machine I had for six years. I love the small footprint, and it looks great in any kitchen. Never had an issue with it, it was easy to figure out which capsules we liked, and a breeze to operate. Gives you a one-machine solution to make coffee or espresso.
This is just one example of the wide firmament of Nespresso’s pod-based machines, which include options for milk frothing, traditional capsules (like the Citiz uses) or pouch-like Virtuo coffee pods. Other manufacturers such as DeLonghi make their own versions.
Nothing’s perfect, and in this case the issues center mainly on the capsules. They aren’t easily found in retail, though if like most people you do most of your shopping online that shouldn’t be too tough. And this is a single cup machine, so if you have guests or a big family it can take a while to get everyone served.
There is also the question of environmental impact of the Nespresso capsules. There are a variety of third-party options, including biodegradable pods and reusable pods, which give you more environmentally friendly choices. The pods, both original and Virtuo, are recyclable, and Nespresso offers different ways for you to recycle your pods.
So why the Nespresso instead of a Keurig? Higher grade of coffee, ability to make espresso (with crema!) in addition to regular coffee, better quality machines. You’ll pay for it, though, as both the machines and the pods are more expensive than in K-world (though the Keurig is no better). And here is a very detailed and damning take down explaining why nobody should buy a Keurig, ever.
Nespresso machines start at $99. The Citiz is available in four colors and priced at $162 https://www.nespresso.com/us/en/order/machines/original/nespresso-citiz-cherry-red-refresh
A high-end gadget for the home barista
No, this is not a pitch for my wife to get me a new toy. But a great way to help your favorite home barista up their game is the Acaia Lunar scale.
Small enough to fit on an espresso machine drip tray, this little beauty allows the amateur barista to use a bit of professional-grade kit to weigh and time shots. I used one when I took the home espresso class at Counter Culture, and I almost wish I didn’t because now I really want one. The price, however, is not for the faint of heart.
For another scale in the same family, Acaia also makes the Pearl. Similar to the Lunar, it’s also a very attractive, industry standard scale, but larger. It’s better than the Lunar for weighing out coffee in a portafiller but too big to be used on the machine to fine tune your shots. It is priced a lot less, too.
Acaia Lunar, $220 (youch!) https://acaia.co/products/lunar
For the home pour-over champ
When I was a wee lad with no appreciation of or taste for coffee, my mother made herself coffee at home using a basic Chemex carafe and paper filters. Little did she know that decades later a global army of hipsters would lounge about cafes, waiting for the barista to prepare them a ‘pour over’.
I don’t favor this method myself, but if your coffee lover is making pour overs at home, get them the Bonavita Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle.
Why bother when you already have a perfectly good kettle resting on the stove? A couple reasons, which your giftee will greatly appreciate. A gooseneck spout is the preferred implement for making pour overs, allowing for more control on the rate of water flow and more precision in where the water hits the grounds. The Bonavita also gives the home pour over-er the ability to set an exact temperature at one degree increments. Let’s face it, if someone is going the pour over route at home, chances are they are already so deep in their coffee goonery that the ability to heat water to, say, 203 degrees rather than 202 or 204 will be very meaningful to them.
If your person already has a gooseneck kettle that they love, maybe they could use a scale that is right for the job. Try the Hario V60, which is designed for making pour overs. It has both weight and timer functions wrapped into a nice looking form.
Bag o’ Beans
If your coffee lover has all the gear they need, they would love to receive a bag of great coffee beans. This works no matter what method they use to make their home java. Options are endless, from the local cafe to online ordering directly from roasters, even to the supermarket. You will easily find something awesome for under $20, so this makes for a much more economical way to spread some joy.
There’s been an explosion in quality roasters, and you’ll find their beans at your local coffee shop, the roaster’s own outlets, or else order directly from their website. An option is to gift a subscription so fresh beans show up on a regular basis. Many of these companies also sell branded accessories and swag, which can be a nice add-on to your order or the right place to shop if your person already has a favorite roaster.
Roasters worthy of your business, in no particular order:
A Real Keeper
Those nice beans are going to need a home, preferably one that will keep them fresh for as long as possible. They might as well reside in something that looks great in the kitchen. Get the Airscape.
Available in two sizes – the medium is best for coffee storage – and a variety of colors. But come on now, that candy apple red, mwaaaah! The secret to the Airscape canister is its lid, which features a one-way valve to push air out and set an airtight seal. I have one (red, of course), and it’s perfect.
From $24.50 https://planetarydesign.com/shop/airscape-kitchen-canisters/ Also available in glass, plastic and ceramic models.