The 2009 Guide to Festive Coffee giving - Chapter Two

Giving out a holler on less than one hundred dollars!

This is that time of year when everyone is experiencing that frenzy of giving - it starts at some point in November and seems to last well into December. Sometimes people do not even lose momentum then and keep going right into the New Year. So far be it from me to discourage anyone from how they spend their money - But it you are here on this website looking for some ideas on what to get your caffeine addled family members, you have some to the right place.

A little nag and PSA first. For all the giving we do for each other, let's not forget those truly in need - so for every ten bucks you spend on your friends and family, try and get a buck or two into that donation tin on the street corner (Salvation Army) or make a pledge to the United Way or the Red Cross - want to make it coffee themed? Consider Coffeekids.org - a donation of $100 can literally change a life. Think about it.

In Chapter One I went all potty over grinders. They are my true obsession and if the truth were told, you may well spend more money on the coffee grinder than you spend on your other accessories - even your main brewer. That is because the grinder is the most critical item. But enough about that. Let's get down to business and start into the gift ideas, from the least expensive (and fun) to the most expensive (and most fun!)

Going Cheap when you want to steep:
When I was just a slightly postadolescent coffee drinker of 15, I had 2 coffee brewing methods; the percolator and a ceramic #4 filter holder - that sits on top of a glass carafe or big fat mug.
No noone perks coffee anymore. I do get the odd e-mail from folks who claim that this is the superior method of coffee-brewing - Each to their own I guess.
My point is: One of the very best ways to brew a great cup is, in reality, the cheapest method of all! The single plastic Number-Four coffee filter holder by Melitta - for a little more than 5 bucks you can turn someones life around. 5 bucks and a bag of coffee beans, ground or no and you have a complete package of coffee brewing pleasure.
The number-four coffee holder and a box of filters is the one kit that has been with me the longest. Talk about longevity! That is heading on 35 years! Where? A broad selection of of filter fixtures are available from the wonderful people at SweetMaria's.

For the roadie and camper:
I first met Alan Adler a few years back when he was visiting Victoria B.C. on a mini-vacation with his wife and grand-daughter. We sat in a restaurant on the scenic Inner Harbor in Victoria adjacent to the Empress Hotel and talked about where ideas begin and how they end up as mega-successful products... like the Aeropress coffee maker. Alan, a former instructor at Stanford, has always been an inventor and engineer. He gave the World the Aerobie flying disk (a great gift too!) and we have found that the Aeropress coffee maker is great for the camper, traveler and anyone that wants a slightly more potent cup of coffee - it actually brews coffee "with a push" much like the stove-top Italian coffee maker - without the need for a heating element... and we review it over here. You can buy the Aeropress from a variety of vendors online - like EspressoTec.com and Sweet Maria's.

When in France, Press it! My third coffee maker I bought myself (way, way back in the eighties...) was the French Press by Melior - it was simply a Dow Corning glass carafe that holds around 16 fluid ounces of water, a plunger and a triple filter screen... and a stand or handle assembly for holding it all together. They are marketed under the names of Bodum or Press Pots quite frequently and are generally well made and priced between 22 and 62 dollars - sometimes a bit more. Mine was $50 back then - considered quite steep at the time but it was the best of the best... and I still have it. And how does it work? The French Press is simply a cup or carafe for holding your coffee and hot water and allowing them to infuse in intimate contact - for 3 to 4 minutes. A filter attached plunger separates the coffee grinds from the brewed coffee when it is pressed to the bottom of the "pot" or carafe when the brew is complete. And what does it taste like? Well, for some it is an acquired taste. It has more suspended solids (or sediment to some) - not necessarily a stronger cup but a cup with more mouth-feel to it. You can buy a good press almost anywhere - most department stores have them, but the online store at Fantes.com has a staggering collection of presses as well as lots and lots of other things. They are located in Philadelphia and are awesome folks!

A little Romance in your cup:
If you polled the Globe right now what the sexiest method of coffee brewing is, I hazard a guess that it would be the little Italian stove-top coffee maker. Yup, it is from Italy (and that is a pretty sexy place), it is unique and slightly foreign and, what the heck, 100 million Italians cannot possibly be wrong. That is how many are currently in use in Italy alone. Once again, Fantes.com has a great description of what the Italian coffee maker is and how it works - and they sell a lot of them!

Why the Fifties weren't that fab! In a perfect World there would be no percolators. They boil the heck (and the flavor) out of coffee and if you have one last gift to give that person that (you are pretty sure) does not have the worse coffee maker ever made - well, why not buy them one. They might use it (once) and then turn it into a planter - the ultimate irony... growing a coffee plant in a percolator... Payback Baby Yeah! Perks are available at places like Fantes.com and other equally respectable vendors.

Turkish Delight, Alright! I was given one of these... direct from a cafe in Istanbul, Turkey - and a bag of pre-ground Turkish coffee (which I can also buy locally if I ever get a Jones on for more...) Turkish coffee (personal experience) is the caffeine equivalent of being fired through a jet engine without warning. I hate it when that happens! Turkish coffee is finely ground coffee mixed with water near the boil. But it is brought to a near boil three times. And then you drink it out of impossibly small cups - and then you strap yourself in for the ride. It is a wicked kick and I do not suggest you drink it at night... or anytime after about 3 PM. They cost about $14 and you can get them from a variety of cool places online. The grinder is critical with Turkish coffee... Coffee freshness not so much... because the overall experience makes the subtle flavors of fresh Turkish irrelevant!

Through the brewing glass.
Invented more than 50 years ago, the Chemex is an amalgam of simplicity and purity. Hand blown and individual works of art, the Chemex is built to last a lifetime. It represents the simplest form of coffee brewing taken to a new asthetic high. They start at about 39 dollars and are often the last coffee maker a lot of folks ever buy. Check them out over here.

A Vacuum state device. If you are ready to be blinded by science and taken to a new level of coffee perfection, then the Vacuum-Siphon brewer might be for you. You can buy the Yama Siphon brewer for about $39 dollars but that (buying it) is only the beginning of your adventure. The Yama siphon involved the use of open flames, vacuum conditions, glass and the potential for implosion. Once you are past the risk (and there is risk) you can flirt with the cleaning tasting coffee in the Universe. So you have to ask yourself one question - Do you feel lucky, well do you? Once again, the Yama Siphon is available here and other places.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a Bellman!
I get asked: What is the least expensive method for brewing an "espresso" and making a cappuccino. Well. You are looking at it (upper right photo). It is a stove top coffee maker with a steam arm and enough valves and gaskets to launch it 40 feet into the air if you are not careful. It can make stove-top style coffee (not real espresso) but can actually froth true latte and cappuccino foam and steamed milk - so you are half way there! Get one. 69$ from EspressoTec.com in Canada.