Need a last minute gift idea for a coffee lover on your list? I've been asking around about best items for making quality coffee at home, and apparently, if you have $200 to spend on somebody, all of my most geeky coffee friends (and I mean that with the utmost love and admiration) are telling me that the Baratza Virtuoso grinder is the number one most affordable must-have for the coffee lover's kitchen.
For the most part, I think it's safe to say that a $200 coffee grinder is a tall order for a last minute stocking stuffer. (Mind you, should you wish to purchase one for me, I would in no way object. I've been hand grinding my coffee lately, which I always love for the challenge, but less often for the results.) But there definitely are a few essentials that fit the bill neatly, beyond the ever-classic gift card.
So, for your last-minute shopping enjoyment: here are five of my very favorite coffee-brewing discoveries from 2010, to help you help somebody else start their new year off right.
1. As it turns out, coffee is best measured by weight rather than by approximation. Essential to making good coffee is a reliable kitchen scale. Escali makes a great option in the $20-30 range if you don't know where to start looking. But any good, consistently accurate gram scale will work just fine.
1b. Since there is no point in measuring your coffee precisely if you're not also planning to time it precisely, the scale is best paired with a simple kitchen timer. Anyone may argue that they have a timer on their phone and don't need another one, but in all honesty, while the coffee is brewing, you know you're going to want to tweet about it. Better to have a timer separate from your social network!
2. Should you have a friend or family member who drinks quite a bit of coffee and has perhaps gotten into the habit of buying it in bulk and letting it sit around (or live in the freezer) for months at a time, a container to store that coffee in is a great way to hint to them that coffee's peak flavor probably has a shorter shelf life than they think. A small, airtight container (such as the ones from AirScape) will discourage them from buying too much coffee at once and will also help extend the life of the coffee itself. Plus, the kitchen counters will look more organized. I suggest pairing this gift with a packet of sticky notes that can be used to temporarily label the container with -date purchased- and -kind of coffee-.
3. For the French Press addict in your life, the Coffee Catcher remains my favorite press pot gadget of the year. Usable either as a way to make cleaning the press easier, or as a way to get the grounds out of your coffee and double filter it (allowing the pot of coffee to last a little longer without becoming sludge). Locally designed, you can find them for sale online, or go check them out in person at Street Bean Espresso in Belltown.
4. Never underestimate the value of simply giving coffee. With a little shopping, you can find fantastic specialty coffees, well worth sharing with family and friends. Something uniquely Seattle from a one of our many small, local roasters (ex: Kuma Coffee's excellent Guatemala roast) makes an excellent gift, especially if you find a great mug to gift it with. If you want to think on a grander scale here, some roasteries offer "coffee of the month club" memberships which will send you different coffees to try on a monthly basis (in case you didn't pick that up from the name).
5. Finally, one of my favorite books encountered all year was titled, "Tall, Skinny, Bitter: Notes from the Center of the Coffee Universe." Presenting a look at the Northwest's independent coffee scene from the other side of the bar, it's like a coffee blog, but in book form, with great pictures and an excellent sense of humor.
5b. More academically, Mark Pendergrast's history of coffee, "Uncommon Grounds", has received high praise from many, and went into its second edition this year, so you can find it with a shiny new cover. It's still on my "to read" list, so I can't say for certain, but I'm guessing that if you know a coffee lover who also loves history, this is the gift for them.