A friend of mine affectionately refers to this time of year as “the holiday slide” –a high-speed toboggan ride down from mid-October through the end of December. Some of us have been on the holiday slide for the long haul, and others didn’t realize that we were nearing the finish line until they heard Michael Bublé playing at the grocery store this week. Whichever group you identify with, we’ve got you covered with some surefire ideas for your holiday gifts this year.
With a little help from our roaster friends, we’ve compiled a gift guide that encapsulates the tools the coffee lover in your life actually needs, the gadgets they yearn for, and the items they’ll value most.
Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice to give useful gifts. Of all the coffee gadgets out there, there are a few exceptional devices that our roasters swear they can’t live without. First and foremost: a good grinder. Baratza gets high marks in this category and is a reliable option no matter where you fall on the coffee lover spectrum. Nick Brehany at Utopian Coffee told us “things have never been the same” since he got a Baratza Vario, while Steve Cuevas at Black Oak Coffee Roasters assures us that the Baratza Encore is a solid entry level grinder that gets great TDS and flavor from your beans. “You can use any type of brewing method and device, but if you don’t have the right grind, you ain’t got nothing!” Spoken like a true Cup Tasters champ.
Taking a step back, Ryan Vaxmonsky at Evermore Coffee Roasters stresses the importance of a solid digital scale for weighing your beans and recommends checking out Acaia’s selection. “Precision is everything when it comes to making a consistently great cup of coffee, as is time. Our Acaia Pearl is my favorite right now because it’s incredibly responsive and allows us to very easily experiment with different ratios and extraction times.” The scale also has a super sleek, Apple-like design and its own iPhone and Android apps that connect to your phone via Bluetooth and allow you to develop “brewing prints.”
Derek Smith at Darkstar Roastery uses his Quickmill Lucca espresso machine as a tool for roast profiling new greens, and emphasized that he couldn’t survive without the machine’s thick syrupy output. Peter Shankland from Mission Coffee Co, on the other hand, has gotten the most use out of his Hario V60 (Size 01 to be specific) and told us, “Over the years, it’s ended up being the only way that I brew coffee for myself.”
As someone who works in specialty coffee, but doesn’t spend my days roasting and cupping, I am indebted to my YIELD Design French press. The press has a minimalist design and is constructed from durable borosilicate glass that can withstand extreme temperatures—an attractive quality given how many I’ve already broken in the dishwasher. It also satisfies most of Dieter Ram’s 10 principles of good design, a checklist I always like to consult before making purchases.
As you start to consider the coffee accessories that you don’t really need, imagination tends to run wild. Many roasters mentioned that they are welcoming anonymous donations for the latest versions of big ticket items like the EK43, “…Preferably the new one coming out next year with the shortened body. This grinder can be seen in any serious lab or cafe for a reason. It does a great job! Anyone want to buy me one?” asks Laura Perry from 49th Parallel coffee.
In essence, most roasters are after devices that grant maximum control. Steve is wishing for a Yama Glass 5 Cup Tabletop Siphon with a butane burner, which offers better control than the alcohol burner it comes with. Peter has his eyes on the Fellow EKG Stagg Kettle, which has made some important improvements since its last iteration. “The variable temperature option and the stability of the hold temperature seem really solid.” He also points out that Fellow, “added a counterweight in the handle to increase pouring stability. I think it’s definitely one of the best pieces of coffee equipment on the market this year, for home or commercial use.”
Maciej Kasperowicz at Gregorys Coffee is hoping for a Mazzer ZM on account of, “An actual readout that tells you how far apart the burrs are instead of randomly assigned number settings.”
Ryan would love nothing more than an IKAWA sample roaster for Evermore’s shop to roast small batches and experiment with their profiles without worrying about eating up inventory. The Tonino Roast Color Meter, which was designed to make roast color classification easy and accessible for small roasting companies, is at the top of Derek’s wish list. “I’m a chemist by training, and I love the additional quality control that this equipment adds to my analytical tool kit.”
Keith Lilja at Tala Coffee Roasters is most excited for the incoming crop from Burundi, but is also hoping to stay prepared over the holidays with some Third Wave Water, “because you never know when you are traveling to relatives houses what kind of water situation they will have. We love you grandma, but your egg-smelling well-water is going to destroy our coffee.”
On the top of my radar is a collaboration between the 90’s TV show Twin Peaks and clothing company Habitat. Earlier this year they released t-shirts featuring the show’s main character, Agent Cooper, and his infamous reaction whenever he takes a sip of coffee. What better way to pay tribute one of TV’s most iconic coffee-obsessed characters?
The Thoughts that Count
We also asked, “What is the best coffee-related gift you’ve ever received and what made it special?” As expected, things got sentimental.
Keith says his Hario Skerton hand grinder is among the best gifts he’s received. “It was the gateway into really understanding how great coffee can taste at home when its ground fresh. The effort, muscle fatigue, and time it took to grind enough coffee all played into the romantic experience and connection I had with preparing my morning coffee. I appreciated that coffee so much more because I had worked for it!”
Derek’s most memorable gift was his Behmor 1600+, the “gateway drug” that got him into roasting. “…it completely opened my eyes to how amazing coffee can be, and gave me the confidence that you don’t have to be a commercial scale roaster to make great coffee!”
A few years ago, Maciej was gifted The Flavor Bible and The Flavor Thesaurus separately by two friends. “They’re not strictly about coffee, but they’ve been extremely useful to me in understanding flavor combinations to both describe coffee to customers and baristas and create new coffee cocktails.”
Ryan’s most memorable gift was the old Fresh Roast SR700 home roaster his wife gifted him a few years ago. “In comparison to my 2 kg Mill City Roaster, it was incredibly challenging to roast consistently on, but it did the job and I’ll always remember the days spent crouched over the kitchen stove (the only area with ventilation and decent light) roasting 90g batches at a time.”
One of Peter’s favorites was a Mistobox subscription along with a vintage Cincinnati Reds coffee mug his fiancé found him at a thrift store. “I think the thoughtfulness of these gifts make them special, which actually is a great representation of the inherent ability of coffee (or coffee related items) to act as a catalyst of human connection.”
Near and dear to our own hearts this season is Seedling: A Blend for Relief. Roasted by Black Oak Coffee Roasters, this coffee is a blend of our Ethiopia Kayon Mountain Natural and Guatemala Palo Blanco. 100% of profits will go toward helping those affected by the North Bay fires, and the coffee is specially designed to uplift and aid in recovery.
I think we can all agree with Steve when he tells us, “The best gift (just warning you this is going to be straight cheese, on that extra Sharp cheddar level) was finding a roasting company that makes it feel like it’s our home.”
A big thank you to the coffee roasters who contributed to this guide.